The Book Jam Blog
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This week each Lisa decided to pick just ONE book we are excited to tell EVERYONE to read. Surprisingly enough we did; we actually narrowed our reading lives and each picked only one book we think you should read ASAP. ENJOY! And, Happy Martin Luther King Day.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David Macdonald (2020) - I am so looking forward to putting this book in the hands of everyone I know when it is finally published next week on January 28, 2020. To sum, this book lovingly, and with great prose and plot, reminds us that we are all legends of our own making. The heroine, Zelda, has some significant health difficulties, and she knows they stem from fetal alcohol syndrome (even if she isn't exactly certain what that means). She also has a fierce determination to live her life boldly and an obsession with Vikings (the historical ones, not the football team) helps her in this quest. This book starts with her 21st birthday party and slowly unfolds to show how she and her brother Gert navigate, as young adults, the honestly crappy hand life has dealt them: dead mother, absent father, abusive uncle, and poverty - just to name a few obstacles. When Gert, who is trying to both take care of the two of them and keep his college scholarship, makes some pretty poor choices, Zelda rises to the occasion with help from a superb librarian (love a book with a helpful librarian), a great social worker, and Gert's strong-minded on-again/off-again girlfriend - AK47. You will cheer for Zelda every step of the way and be a bit sad when you leave her orbit at the end. I find it hard to believe this is Mr. Macdonald's debut novel; both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly agree. ~ Lisa Christie
Good Husbandry: Growing Food, Love, and Family on Essex Farm by Kristin Kimball (2019) - If you’re in the (farmer’s) market for a mid-winter read that inspires you to start thinking about the greener days ahead and picking up your farm share come summer, then this is the book for you. Kristin Kimball’s second memoir (which is as good if not even better than her first The Dirty Life - see a Book Jam review here from the days when we had a podcast) is a compulsively readable and an incredibly beautifully written account of her time growing a marriage, a family, and a CSA farm that feeds 250 people in New York State. When we initially met the author in 2011 with the publication of her first book, Kimball, then a city dweller and travel writer in her thirties, had unexpectedly embraced the rural life after meeting and falling in love with both farming and with Mark. Now almost a decade has passed and both she and the story have matured. She doesn’t shy away from sharing the challenges faced raising two young girls while trying to manage the increasing debt and the risky odds that come with farming. Nor does she ignore the building tension in her marriage as she and her husband adjust to parenthood and the never ending work of a diversified farm that leaves little time for their relationship. Instead, Kimball thoroughly explores these difficult topics with grace and wisdom, growing a story -and a life - full of awareness and insight. At certain points, Kimball’s prose and perspective on the natural world reminded me of the poetry of Mary Oliver. Her stewardship and environmental ethic called to mind Rachel Carson or Terry Tempest Williams. And at others, her food sense and the descriptions of heavenly meals around her farm table made me think of a rustic Ruth Reichl. But she is a brilliant voice in her own right. Don’t miss this book. Read it and Eat (local). ~Lisa Cadow