Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 247 pages.
Read from January 21 to February 05, 2013.

Forgive the brevity of this post, I’m in the middle of moving so my time is a bit short these days. I’ll be better for next week! Here’s a throwback review of the Pulitzer Prize winner, Gilead.

I’m still in some ways, not entirely sure what I want to say about this book. I never would have imagined that reading a journal about a minister’s life would be so intriguing. The book follows the memories  and experiences of Congregationalist minister John Ames who grew up in the town of Gilead, Iowa. He is recounting his life for his son so that he will have something to remember him by as he is dying of a heart condition.

The book touches on the human condition and the different relationships between a father and son  as well as tensions in regards to faith and religion. The book itself is a showcase of appreciation for beautiful ordinary things and learning to be grateful for them.

The writing style is extraordinary. Robinson is definitely up there with some of the classic authors with her style and voice.

I enjoyed the letter and journalistic style of this novel as well as the depth each character was portrayed. The sadness of a dying father writing a letter to his young son, in contrast with the contemplation of the John’s  own life, relationships and religion is really enveloping. I’m interested to see what the corresponding novels to this are like because while I enjoyed this book I feel as if I’m missing a piece of a puzzle in which I can make out the picture but I’m missing some of the details.

Phenomenal writing and definitely worth the award that it received I would recommend this novel to anyone in a pondering mood.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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3/5 stars.
ebook, 353 pages.
Read from April 04 to 14, 2013.

I read The Diary of a Young Girl, for the first time as an adult. Here is my throwback review:

Anne Frank happened to live in a devastating era. For 2 years, Anne and her family were hidden in away in a Secret Annexe in order to keep from being sent off  to concentration camps. Her diary is a depiction of this time. In so many ways, Anne is like a an ordinary teenager (though I don’t think teenagers these days write as well as her): Boys, struggles with her family, her self-image and explorations of her own sexuality, it just all happened to take place during the Holocaust. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to come of age during this time. I only wish that Anne had survived to further tell her story.

I’m thankful that I read this book as an adult because it allowed me to truly grasp how horrible Anne’s situation really was. If I read this as a teenager I might have connected and likely focused on her struggles with her parents and her craziness about boys rather than seeing the big picture of the scenario she had found herself in, as Anne often tried to focus on things that were not directly related to the sorrows of her family too much. In some ways, if taken out of context, the diary could just be that of a normal teenager to some extent. You almost forget to atrocities going on outside of Anne’s thoughts until she reminds the reader of her situation. Anne grows up so much through out the writing of this novel, in an almost tragic sense, and she realizes that. She comments on her nativity and realizes that she will never again be that innocent child. She even at one point finally acknowledges the cruelty she has displayed to her parents. I’m also glad I read the definitive edition and that the publisher added an introduction with an explanation of with how her father handled her diary as well as the tragic ending of most of the people in the Secret Annexe.

Speaking of the Secret Annexe, I can only  imagine the boredom! I felt claustrophobic just reading this diary! Not being able to go outside for almost 2 years?! Really, sit back and think about that for a second… They couldn’t go outside. No exercise. No sunshine or wind on their faces. They didn’t have a TV or anything like that. Just books and paper. I admire that Anne and many of the members were still committed to learning. It gave them hope that there was future and that they would continue on living. I also adore how headstrong Anne is. She always spoke her mind, voiced  her opinion and believed that women should be equal to men. A bold opinion in that day and age, especially for a teenager! I can imagine her, if she had lived, being a role-model and advocate to women’s rights and the survivors of the holocaust. I suppose her memory and the contribution of her diary does do this in so many ways. It’s just unfortunate that so many people like Anne were taken away from this world in such a cruel, unnecessary and horrific manner.

Another tragedy of this, is the extent that Anne distanced from her own family during this hard time. It sounds like each person in the Secret Annexe felt very alone. I suppose that it’s normal for a girl her age to want to distance herself but I can’t imagine how hard it was on her parents. The scene in which her mother is crying and sitting by her bed and says something about how Anne doesn’t love her broke my heart. Living in the Secret Annexe would have been inexorably hard; living in fear inside a cramped space without basic necessities sometimes and ultimately feeling alone and without comfort… it just makes me cringe. I also can’t imagine the inner turmoil they all must have felt too, as Anne describes at one point as well, about feeling miserable about their situation but knowing that they are still one of the lucky ones, as their friends and neighbours are killed and shipped off to concentration camps.

The people who assisted everyone in the Secret Annexe are remarkable human beings. The amount of times and the extent of how often they fell ill showed the extent of the massive amounts of stress that they dealt with trying to keep Anne and her family safe. Even at the risk of their own health and life, they still continued to protect the families in the Secret Annexe.

Overall, I’m thankful I found time to read this classic. It’s an important piece of literature that should never be forgotten.

The Complete Book of Running For Women by Claire Kowalchik

A throwback review from when I was still a newbie runner and this was one of the first running books I ever read.

A throwback review from when I was still a newbie runner and this was one of the first running books I ever read.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 416 pages.
Read from April 20 to June 26, 2013.

As someone who has been seriously running for almost two years I didn’t think that this books would have anything to offer me. I was thankfully mistaken!

This book provided helpful insight for runners of all levels and goals. What I found the most beneficial was the advice that was supplied in regards to maintaining running while staying busy with family and relationships. While I am not a married woman and I don’t have any children I strongly admire the woman who keep running involved in their lives. I struggle to keep up sometimes, so I don’t know how other women manage! Women who run are taking care of themselves and they understand the importance of taking the time for themselves, especially when juggling a career, family etc. Besides the physical benefits of running most women who stick with running, stay for the mental benefits. I know I do!

I also appreciated the scientific explanations that were provided on why men and women perform so differently. The most fascinating was how different our bodies carried oxygen to our muscles and differences in how we store glycogen.

As I mentioned, I’m no where near the married-with-kids sort of life but I actually really enjoyed the chapters in regards to running while pregnant. I wasn’t going to read the chapter as it doesn’t currently apply to me but maybe one day in the future it might. As long as a woman is active before becoming pregnant and cuts her activity levels in half the benefits of running and staying active while pregnant is remarkably impressive. I even appreciated that they stated that while it is beneficial it has to come down to the woman’s comfort level too. If you’re not comfortable exercising while pregnant, then don’t.

The chapter in regards to menopause was another one that I was going to skip but I’m glad I didn’t. My Mom is runner who is at this stage and reading this chapter gave me a good idea of what her body is going and just how important is it to continue to stay active.

The few annoyances I did find with this book was that some of the information was a bit out of date, as the book was published well over 10 years ago so that’s not overly surprising I guess. For example, some of the brands of supplements or clothing that they suggested no longer exist. The one that stood out the most for me was that they suggested that runners shouldn’t do yoga because runners needs some tension in their legs and even implied that their aren’t any professional runners that do yoga. While this may have been relevant when it was published it most certainly isn’t now! The other item that was a bit tedious was that all of race and reference information was for the USA only, which wasn’t helpful to me as a Canadian.

Overall I would still recommend this books for any woman looking to get into running or is already running.