Book Corner 2020.4


Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Two stories going on at once, and as usually happens, I liked one much more than the other.  The protagonist of the modern-day story, Willa, is really a riot; a 50-something matriarch in a house that is literally falling apart.  Every other line that comes out of her mind is funny.  This story reminded me of The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver – in that case, the whole U.S. economy was falling apart; whereas Willa only has to deal with her own house and family.  But the sarcastic middle-aged woman trying to keep it all together is common to both.
In the other thread, a house on the same lot (though, we find out, not actually the same house) is coincidentally also falling apart – but over a hundred years in the past.  This story reminded me a bit of the Lydgate sub-story in Middlemarch – the ambitions of a man of science brought low by a pretty face.  Unfortunately I found this story mostly tedious and exaggerated.  The character of Mary Treat, the woman scientist, is intriguing; but the minor female characters (Polly, Selma) hit you over the head with caricature.  And the conversations just go on forever. 
Come to think of it, the conversations tend to drag in the modern-day story, too.  The characters are a bit better (though I disliked how Tig was always implied to be in the right).  And I really did look forward to getting back to their story – ceilings falling down; a tiny half-orphaned infant to tend to; and a hysterically funny, racist old father-in-law on life support.  Kingsolver at her best.


Couldn’t decide on one thing to talk about tonight, so you’re getting it all –

  1. Yarn came in for this year’s sweater project!



2. Multi-colored yarn is spun & resting on the bobbin!



3. Chicken Florentine was a success!  The Italian-themed fiestaware was strictly a coincidence!20200119_185252

Book Corner 2020.3


The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife by Connie Scoville Small

It’s funny how I got this book. My husband was telling his mother about the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland which we visited this past September, and how he found it to be a very haphazardly run place considering their impressive collection. Yeah, I piped up, and told a little story about how they had talked up this memoir written by a lighthouse keeper’s wife, and got me real excited and wanting to read it, and there wasn’t nary a copy of it in their bookshop. My mother-in-law said, oh, I think I have that book; and she fished it out. Sure enough, this was the very book!

“[A] life of people risking their own lives to help men and ships; a life of order and duty.”

This is how Connie Scoville Small describes her life of living in lighthouses along with her husband Elson, in the near-conclusion of her memoir, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S WIFE.

From 1919 to 1947 the Smalls tended lighthouses up and down the Maine coast. I myself have little experience with life on the sea, and little patience to read through long descriptions, along with little ability to place myself in long-drawn-out scenes of nature with which I have little familiarity. I don’t think it was just me, though; Connie often seems to drop us into scenes with little in the way of helpful background explanation.

That said, I kept reading because I love slices of ordinary life from early in the last century and beyond. I could not easily picture the lighthouse-specific and maritime and boat scenes, but I loved reading about the family’s cats and cows… and of course the food. Lots of baked goods!

Rarely does Connie give us deep insight into what she, or, perish the thought, Elson, are feeling about the big picture. But here is a glimpse:

“I put inside of me my desires, my longings, things I wanted to do, if they came in conflict with what he wanted. I felt what I wanted were selfish desires… I gave and I’ve never been sorry… I wanted to rebel, desperately so at times, but I didn’t… I filled my life with Elson… I’d be so busy making it work and doing things he wanted me to do… I forgot to be unhappy and found joy.”

So different from us today. That’s why I like to read old memoirs. ( )

Check out the title link for her obituary – she died at 105!