August Book Report
In other news, I only finished two books in August, though I had plans for at least two more. I took the one I was reading as well as two additional ones to Puerto Rico with me. But as it turned out, we had very little "down" time, so I didn't even finish the in-process one until after we got home ...
Early in the month, I read The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty, which was one of my choices for the Southern Reading Challenge (which ended on August 15, but I still have one more book to finish for it). I really enjoyed this book, and have decided that part of what I like about reading Eudora Welty is that she does give you characters, places, and events that illustrate life in the South, but never in a sappy, too-sweet way. The characters in this particular book are so well done, I felt that I could actually hear them speaking the dialogue as I read it.
The story takes place during a short period of time, when a man dies while out of town with his second wife (a younger, "newer" model), and the second wife and grown daughter work to make arrangements for his body to be taken home to Mississippi from New Orleans. Once there, they need to set up for the viewing, and the funeral service, which is to be held in the family's home. The other people in the town, and additional family members (particularly the wife's family) are as interesting and as funny as the main characters.
The new wife is really worried about how much money she will inherit, and what the daughter may try to "steal" from her. The [optimist's] daughter has to deal with her feelings about losing her father, memories of her mother, and the fact that she no longer has someplace to come home. Little details, such as the way the dresser in the master bedroom was arranged, or the way a little boy eats an ice cream, make you feel as though you are in the room as well, watching small, personal, and intimate moments of people you only just met.
It's a wonderful book and I would highly recommend it.
In Sunshine or in Shadow : Stories by Irish Women, edited by Kate Cruise O'Brien, and Mary Maher, is a collection of short stories written by women from Ireland, and those of Irish descent. They are contemporary stories, many of them about women at the time of the referendum to legalize divorce in Ireland in the 1990s. This was my final choice in the Short Story Challenge.
Like any short story collection, there were some stories I liked much more than others. As a whole, the stories are all at least interesting. My particular favorites were "Taximen Are Invisible" by Maeve Binchy, "The Orphan" by Mary Dorcey, and "Bishop's House" by Mary Gordon (who is one of my favorite authors anyway). Many of the themes are universal, but with an Irish sensibility, which added a different aspect to them. I am always interested to read a story or a novel where I can identify with a basic theme or character, but some part of the whole is literally or figuratively foreign to me.
The editors did an excellent job of choosing what stories to include, in my opinion. There was a good balance of the serious, funny, poignant, ironic, and surprising. I would say that it is worth giving at least one or two of the stories a read, if you enjoy short stories.
Two more pictures
I haven't posted many more pictures from my niece's wedding, mainly because there are approximately eleventy bazillion from that and our vacation, and I haven't gone through them very systematically yet. But these two were ready, so here you go.
Here's another shot of Biggie the ringbearer, this time so you can see the front of his tuxedo. (He was the only one wearing a tux, by the way):
And here are Julie and Keith after the ceremony. Actually, I didn't take this one, my niece Annie (Jules' youngest sister) took it with her iPhone, but it's one of the only ones of the two of them where they are standing still and you can see both of their faces well!