Sixteen, Sixty-One by Natalie Lucas

4/5 stars.
(ARC) ebook, 320 pages.
Read from September 11 to 15, 2013.

Firstly, I would like to thank Netgalley for allowing me to get my hands on this extremely intriguing, tragic, horrifying and inspiring memoir. So far out all of the books I’ve read this year, this is the one I’ve had the most trouble putting down.

Natalie is a fifteen year-old teenager when she first meets Matthew, a sixty year old man. At this point in Natalie’s life she is feeling some of the emotional turmoils and insecurities that come with being a teenager, and like so many teenagers, Natalie wants to know where she fits in and who is. While Natalie’s family life is normal and healthy she is not close to her father, who was divorced from her mother and is distant at best. Matthew starts to become this sort of father figure(in a loose sense of the word) for her. He offers her the comfort of fatherly advice, love and the direction that she has been craving, along with philosophy, ambition, purpose and sense of belonging and understanding. He makes her feel special. Who wouldn’t want that?

They’re interactions at this point, while appearing innocent, were peculiar right from the beginning and it didn’t stay innocent for long. Matthew emails her often and has too much of an interest in seeing her. His topics of conversation start to become increasingly inappropriate. He asks her to lie to her mother so that their time together doesn’t start raising questions, he drops hints about his mischievous past of “Bunburying”, asks to read her diaries and leave them with him, as well as inquiring about her growing curiosity in her own sexuality. There are warning flags all over this behaviour but Natalie is fifteen and she has come to trust this man who has provided her so much comfort and insight.

Shortly after Natalie turns sixteen, she loses her virginity to Matthew, who is now sixty-one years old. Forty-five years… the two of them are separated by four and a half decades of an age difference. It took me a long time for that fact to really seep in. Forty. Five. Years…

Natalie does love Matthew and the relationship hints at romance during the first portion of the book it is quickly wiped away with the graphic scenes of their sex life and the appearance of Matthew’s true colours when she decides to go away to college. While experimenting in college, Natalie tries to find a way to define herself but her current identity has been built upon lies. She has to find her way out of the smothering embrace of Matthew’s control. As things escalate with Matthew, Natalie is sucked into an awful array of turmoil.

While I could never feasibly imagine being in the exact situation that Natalie was in, she described her story so well that I felt it. Their were moments in this book where I wanted to cry and scream and others where I just wished that I could cause Matthew mass amounts of pain. My biggest and only frustration with this novel actually has nothing to do with the novel itself but that <spoiler> Matthew didn’t get punished in the end. I wanted justice. He should have be jailed as a pedophile, beaten and shamed. With that being said, that likely would not have not done Natalie any favours in the end. Even though it would have been completely undeserved, she would have likely received some backlash from some small minded people if she or her family had taken retribution with Matthew. I still would have liked to have known what happened to him regardless, but it’s not his story, it’s Natalie’s.</spoiler>.

I wish I could meet Natalie. I wish I could tell her that she didn’t do anything wrong and that there was no way that she could have known that this was all going to happen. I wish I could tell her how amazingly strong she is and how much her story touched me. I hope that she has been told these things by those that care about her and that she has found peace (and her true self) by writing and sharing her story.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

4/5 stars.
ebook, 311 pages.
Read from August 29 to September 09, 2013.

This was an outstanding read. As a runner, this book was not only informative but inspiring. I definitely feel the need to ditch my running shoes now!

We are truly born to run. This book explains why we are and what we can do to get back to our running roots. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone practically tell me that running was bad for me and it’s because runner’s get hurt. A lot. This I knew, but I didn’t understand why so I found myself asking the same questions as the author in regards to the injury rates of runners and how something just didn’t add up. The author provides the reader with facts about our anatomy and how that make us running creatures and just how the creation of the running shoe has brought about most running injuries. The author also goes in the psychological aspects of running. Like why it is that runners crave to run and why the challenge of a marathon is becoming so increasingly popular.

Along with all of this information the author was also able to detail his amazing journey to find the answers to these questions with his pursuit of the world’s greatest runners, the Tarahumara. I found myself truly wishing that I knew how to run like these tribesmen so I paid close attention to the lessons the author received. At least I have one thing in common with them, that I love to run too.

I loved the personal flare that the authored added to this book and the information that he provided but I did not find that the transition between the two transitioned well. I found myself getting lost a bit and having to go back just make sure I didn’t accidentally skip a few pages as I felt so thrown into the next paragraph at times.

Overall, a must read for anyone who loves to run.

Bear by Marian Engel

4/5 stars.
ebook, 128 pages.
Read from August 27 to 29, 2013.

I could easily see how someone would struggle reading this novel due to the content but for me, I felt that I was really able to connect with what the story was trying to get across.

This story is about a woman discovering herself. Lou has come to stalemate with her life. It is lacking in substance and adventure. She has meanless sex with men and doesn’t allow herself to connect with anyone, especially herself. Lou does love what she is doing for work but has taken very little joy out of it recently so she agrees to take up an assignment in a cabin out in the middle of no where to document the history of the family that lived there. What she didn’t know was that during her stay there that she would be required to take care of a bear who has been living on the property for years.

The progression and building of her relationship with the bear is an exploration into herself and who she is. She learns to explore her own sexuality, get rid of the meaningless relationships and assert herself. She tests her own capabilities, reassess the things that are important to her and ultimately learns to take control of her own life. She finds so much clarity after leaving the cabin and the bear.

Overall the story is short, potent and phenomenally written. I would recommend this book to any female.