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Books With a Car as a Character–or almost a character

I spend a lot of my time in the car. I live where there is no public transportation and, once again, I have my 70–80 minute (one way) commute twice a day (but only 3 days a week now). So, cars are kind of a big part of my life. From my first little mini Honda wagon to my current mini-SUV my cars have all had character. I got to know them before there were things like “check engine” lights. I knew their “healthy” and “unhealthy” sounds, smells and shudders. My recent change in vehicles promoted this post.

The best of them all–The Empress

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“The Empress” as the 1938 Packard Super Eight convertible was named, not only carried the crew of Harvard friends and their girlfriends, it became scholarship boy George’s prized possession. This book is so fabulous I cannot put truly into words all that it is to me. I love it–I’ve read it several times and it makes me want to know and hug all of the characters including that car. The Last Convertible By Anton Myrer is very, very sadly (and wrongly) out-of-print but widely available used for a reasonable price. The tv mini-series was good, too.

The Family Car

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“Foolish Carriage” was the name efficiency expert (industrial engineer) Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr., gave to the family’s cantankerous touring car. He alone could start the engine. The others had to just hop in and hold on for dear life. Foolish Carriage has a role throughout the first book, Cheaper by the Dozen, and a cameo at the start of the second book, Bells on Their Toes, both by two of Gilbreth’s twelve children (11 of whom lived to adulthood), Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The original Cheaper by the Dozen movie with Clifton Webb is good. The Belles on Their Toes movie is also good, but takes more liberties with the story. Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

The Magical, Flying Car

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James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who wrote the original James Bond novels, became a father fairly late in life and by today’s terms he pretty much sucked at it. He and his wife left their son in London with nanny while they went to Jamaica each winter so he could write the new book. Their son tragically died of a drug overdoes. The one moment of parenting greatness that Fleming had was writing Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang for son Caspar. Today, it has been bastardized into a series–like so many once great stand-alone children’s books. That always makes me sad. If the original author had wanted a series he or she would have written a series. I like this cover best for it echos the vintage sports car Fleming owned and loved. Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang The Magical Car by Ian Fleming.

The Other Magical, Flying Car

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Seriously, did anyone NOT love Ron and Harry’s joy ride in The Chamber of Secrets? Mr. Weasley’s car was the star of the show to me. The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling.

 

The Original Mom-mobile that became an Icon

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Not every car gets an actual biography written about it. Confession time: I am a VW bus freak. I own this “biography” and have dipped into it from time-to-time. It is surprisingly readable. I will finish, and review it, eventually. [See the bottom of this post for more on my love of the VW bus]. The VW Camper Van: A Biography by Mike Harding.

The One I Want to Read

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This is likely much more about the drivers, but….. Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler’s Best by Neal Bascomb.

Do you have a favorite book with a car as a character–or almost a character? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

Other Car Posts

Bussed [My Obsession with the VW Bus]

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Life Magazine cover found here

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Review: The Mountains Sing: A Novel by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

I received an audiobook version of this book free from Net Galley in exchange for a fair review. I make no money off this blog, not even from the links I post to Amazon.

My Interest

Some of my earliest memories involve seeing the Vietnam War on the nightly news. I was born during the Kennedy administration so Vietnam has been a part of the American lexicon my entire life. My parents did not try to distract us when watching the news–instead, they let us join in and talked with us about what we saw. We grew up politically aware and advanced for our age. In the early 1970s, my mother’s cousin went to Vietnam as an officer, resigned his commission, and finished his tour as an enlisted man. Later, he made his career as a psychologist specializing in the care of Vietnam vets with PTSD. Later still, I worked in a library with a large number of Vietnamese employees–all refugees of the war. Knowing a few of their stories fueled my desire to begin learning more about the war in the 1980s.

The Story

What my uncle said made me think. I had resented America, too. But by reading their books, I saw the other side of them–their humanity. Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.”

“What my uncle said made me think. I had resented America, too. But by reading their books, I saw the other side of them–their humanity. Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.”

In the 1920s what we know as Vietnam was part of the French empire. French culture, architecture, education, Catholicism, and language dominated especially the southern part of the colony. The story features Trần Diệu Lan, a woman born in 1920, and her family is the focus of this multinational look at Vietnamese history. From the land reform movement to the war to beyond. The stories of the different family members “humanize” the struggle to survive under each regime, and throw the forcible taking of wealth, the reduction, the after-effects of Agent Orange, and much more.

My Thoughts

I don’t know why I put this one off so long. It was really engrossing. This is the kind of multi-generational saga I loved before I let social media devour my attention span. Listening to it brought back all the joy of reading those big books of family sagas. I admired the resourcefulness of each generation in this family. There were true heartbreaks, joys, and moments when I wanted to hurt someone–all sings of a very well-told story.

My Verdict

4 Stars

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Where I Read in 2020

Thank you to blogger, The Book Stop, whose post inspired this one! And also to the original blogger, A Year of Reading the World, who inspired me to  start keeping track of the countries I read several years ago. I am also working my way around the world in books. I’ve tracked my progress for years in a simple composition book. This year I also participated in several reading challenges that pushed me to read books in translation or books set in a certain country. So, my list has grown. Also this year, in January, I completed my Reading Across the U.S.A. journey! I had to research books set in North Dakota, Rhode Island a few other states, but the rest just happened in the course of my reading during the last several years.

The Countries I Visited This Year & The Books That Took Me There

 

2020 books are in purple. Past years are in purple or red. I marked the UK but I no longer track all of the books I read set in the USA or the UK. I forgot to mark Chile and Haiti and maybe another one or two places.

Newly “visited” countries are in bold. I am working on a list by country like several other bloggers keep. It is very helpful to find such blogs when you are trying to travel around the world by book. I am also trying to update the tags in my reviews so you can locate all of them by country. Meanwhile, in the word cloud on the left side, you can click on any of the various names for Reading The Globe or Reading Around the World, etc., to see all the boos that way. Not all that I count are in this blog–I have counted those read at any time in my adult life.

 

  1. Australia
  2. Cuba
  3. Denmark
  4. Dominican Republic
  5. France
  6. Ghana
  7. Germany
  8. Haiti  Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat
  9. Hungary
  10. Iceland
  11. Ireland and Northern Ireland***
  12. Japan
  13. Mexico
  14. Pakistan Unmarriageable: A Novel by Soniah Kamal
  15. Spain  This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets
  16. Suriname   The Boy Between Worlds: A Biography by Annejet van der Zijl and trans. by Kristen Gehrman
  17. Syria
  18. Zambia

***  I know this is not right! Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but I’m simplifying for this list!

The Others–I’m not linking to all the reviews, but nearly all are reviewed on here. I do not generally review series books.

Where did you visit by book this year? Do you track your reading by state in the USA or by country? Leave me a comment or link to your post!

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Review: The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake

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My Interest

This is my pretend add-on book to the box from the Bibliophilic Excursions box I’ve been reviewing this week. I chose it because it went with the Danish theme and was on my Kindle not being read. That it sounded similar to Beth O’Learys books made it even more appealing.

The Story

“She’d changed Louisa’s sheets, the new cream duvet cover smelling of lavender washing powder, the duck-feather pillows impossibly soft. She had unearthed the softest grey cashmere rug [throw] from the top of the wardrobe and had it draped over the duvet. She lit a candle by the side of the bed, pulled out a dog-eared novel from her rucksack and nestled down under the covers. Despite the heaven she’d created, however, she barely slept….” (p. 52)

“He looked at the table set with placemats and napkins, a glass filled with spidery branches and curling leaves in the middle, candles dotted around. ‘I don’t normally….'” (p. 116)

“He thought about her explanation of hygge and knew that was a philosophy for the way she lived her life. He had paid so many professionals to help him find a way of being happier with his lot. Had he missed something so simple?” (p. 154)

Clara Kristensen has arrived in Yulethorpe and lands at the only place in town that has a room to rent–the pub, of course. There she meets some of the locals including Louisa, owner of a nearly dead toy store and the one in the village best known for starting wild schemes and not finishing them. When Louisa makes good on her threat to just go to Spain and enjoy the sun she suddenly decides to let Clara house and toy store sit for her. Oh, and pet sit–she has a cat and an parrot who doesn’t filter.

In the background is a town that has slowly died. The joy is gone. Even the mothers of toddlers have to make do with the nursery school gate and a pilates class. No place to gather and talk and enjoy their expensive coffee drinks. Also looming is Louisa’s driven London high-flying son, Joe. Danish Clara has a cure for all of this: Hygge, the Danish form of cozy, heart-warming, love-draping atmosphere. She sets out to hygge the toy store, hygge and village, and maybe even hygge herself a guy!

My Thoughts

While there was one single line that stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the book–one line probably put there for that seemingly mandatory list of things that are required in a book today even if they do not fit the story. The conflict seemed unnecessary–again as though put in to meet some arbitrary requirement. I do not understand why conflict is so necessary.

This was a sweet, fun book. I loved the emphasis on homey details–the homemaking notions and atmosphere creation that are essential for that hygge-feeling. Ok, it’s not too believable that someone would dump their home and business on a stranger, but hey, who cares, right? It’s a story and a well-told one. And, what’s not to love about building a vibrant community where once there was only defeat? Or eating cake. Or draping soft blankets and lighting candles and enjoying being with good friends and doing fun, ordinary things?

My Verdict

3. 5 Candles

The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake currently $2.99 for Kindle

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Review: Often I Am Happy: A Novel by Jens Christian Grøndahl

51No0KeGq5L._SY346_My Interest

Obviously, my interest was related to the Bibliophilic Excursions subscription box. Of the three books, this one interested me the least. It sounded painful.

The Story

 

“There are times when I cannot hold his absence, and the feeling is a physical one…it is not a metaphor.”

“His body next to me in bed, the sound of his steps, the familiar timbre of his voice in the familiar rooms. Without him, they’re just somewhere.”

“…I didn’t change the sheets for several weeks. I slept in them until I no longer felt his smell. That is one thing I would have liked to talk to you about, [his] smell. How can you know someone so well without having words to describe how they smell. His smell is a fact in my remembrance, and it stays there, undescribed. It was, and is no longer but as a speechless recollection.”

Anna’s husband has just died. The story is what she tells her dead best friend as she comes to terms with her loss. Through Anna’s self-therapy of telling her late friend about her loss, she reveals her life and its secrets.

“It has dawned on me that human beings were never meant to reconcile their longing with reason, not at the expense of longing. As if I could love him in a lesser way just because he’s dead.”

“He had really believed that love and repetition could turn anyone into the right one.”

As she goes over her memories, the emotions sometimes still so raw even many years later, we come to know Anna and come to understand Denmark as a place of more than Tivoli gardens,  more than a 6 foot tall Queen, more than open- faced sandwiches, and even more than bikes with child-carrying buckets on the front. We come to see the manners and mores of daily life, of national secrets and shames.

Her observations on the suburbanites are fascinating and biting. She prefers the city, and following her husband’s death she returns to the city neighborhood of her youth.

“{She] has to go to the bakery in their Range Rover, just to make sure that people in their neighborhood know that she has one.”

“Apparently, noting is more purifying for people’s self-esteem than to place themselves at the very edge of someone else’s grief and show that they are not at all dizzy.”

“I cannot comprehend that the rich are unable to free themselves from their wealth.”

Her other vulnerabilities, not just those related to her husband’s death, come to the fore as well.

“I’d never known the prototypical estrogenic fermentation of motherhood….”

“You must pick the more suitable pain….”

“I always disliked answering the phone without knowing who it was. It frightens me a little, I don’t know why, as if someone wants to hurt me….cell phones….Not right now, is what I think when I see the name on the display, and the guilt is offset by my relief at evading the communicativeness of my surroundings.”

 

My Thoughts

Was I ever wrong! This was a captivating story, told exactly the right way. There were a few wonky phrases that must not translate perfectly into English, but that’s a minor detail. This was a fresh perspective to me and I devoured it. My Commonplace book will soon have pages of quotes from this very slim, but amazing, book.

My Verdict

4 Stars

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Jens Christian Grøndahl

Read more about the author here.

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Review: Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking and a Bonus Review

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Trendy I’m not! Nothing like reviewing a book four years or so after it was a “thing.” Nonetheless, this little book packs a good punch in terms of the information presented. I listened to the audio, charmingly read by the author himself. I learned so much!

First, what I was already getting right. Cook good food at home and enjoy it with those you love. Done. Have cozy blankets. Got ’em, complete with warm purring cats. Enjoy a good book. No problem.

Second, what I could do better at or start doing. Get outside and not just to get into the car or get the mail. Enjoy the outdoors again. Hmmmm. That will take work. Get together with people more often. COVID is affecting this, but I miss my Sunday School class so much. We should be having our Christmas party in a week or so, as well as the ladies fun sock-swap party at church. Those are big events in my calendar, by the way. Candles. I’m not anti-candle and I am glad to hear that for hygge non-scented is the way to go. That helps a lot. And at 12 (2 of them) and 13-years old my cats are not likely to knock one over and burn the house down. I do have a fireplace, so I could buy some wood. I’d need a couch first though–I threw it out this year due to the state it was in.

My Conclusion? Everything about this resonated with me much more today than when it was at peak trendiness. It always takes me a while to like new things. My only regret was the recipes were a bit hard to follow on audio and they are apparently not on the author’s website, which I thought was odd. [See my review of Invisible Women. Probably the men at the Happiness Institute didn’t think of women listening to the book and wanting to cook the hygge-ish dinners, LOL.]

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This is one of the books in the Bibliophilic Excursions subscription box that I am reviewing this week.

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Who doesn’t want to be happier?

Here’s what Danes do that most Americans don’t–and the Danes are happier:

  • Bike to work
  • Eat dinner nightly at home with their family
  • Work a 30 hour week with weeks of vacation
  • Have affordable childcare
  • Have free medical care

Oh, and be sure to light candles!

Ok, I’m joking. The Danes just do not settle for anything but a decent work-life balance. Dinner at home with the family is almost sacred. Workaholic hours are scorned. People care about being with their families and friends instead of just their boss and coworkers.

Denmark and it’s near Scandinavian neighbors are often held up to Americans as models of what we should “have” in terms of bang for the buck from the government. I’m not sure how a nation as vast as hours, where nearly everything runs 24 hours a day anymore could do that. Aside from the obvious such as how do I bike to work if my job is 73 miles away? Or how do you work a 30-hour shift as a nurse and the surgery you are assisting on goes into emergency mode and you can’t leave. I’m sure Danes have jobs that DO require overtime, but I imagine it is paid and extra leave allotted.

I’ll leave the political part to the new Congress, but I liked the sound of all of this even if it is done with an American 40 hour week being held to 40 hours or vacation time that can be taken without snarky comments, side-eye looks, or a coworker trampling you when you are off. Those would be great for nearly everyone.

Have I mentioned how soothing it was to listen to the two little audiobooks? Light a candle, snuggle under a soft blanket, pour yourself a drink or brew some tea or coffee, open up some fine chocolate, and just listen and dream.

The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking

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Bibliophilic Excursions Subscription Boxes

A lot of people are discovering the fun of curated box subscriptions. Makeup, candles, snack, books–you can find a subscription box right now for anyone! One of the ones that piqued my interest was Bibliophilic Excursions–think homeschool unit studies for grown-ups, but without the lapbooks. I looked at the display of past boxes and really liked them. I saw many books I’d already read. I decided first to try out a past box for free–that is to read the books and maybe an add-on “extra” book purchase. Fun! I chose the box from Denmark with lots of hygge to it. Hygge was all the rage a few years ago. (On the Bibliophilic Excursions site they do not say when this box was offered). I figured I could drag out a few of my Mom’s annual Danish commemorative plates, print out a map and a picture of the Danish Royal Family–maybe look at Queen Margarethe’s Tolkien illustrations on-line and have some blue cheese and sour-creamed herring to give a little ambiance. Since it’s Christmas I could drag out the adorable sweaters from Denmark my brother and I wore, his kids wore, and my kids wore too. Plus I could enjoy the scrapbook pages of my kids wearing them on Christmas day! These boxes spark that kind of joy!

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, I’ll be reviewing the two included books from my chosen box and my add-on book.

Coming up this week: The Book Reviews

The Signature Journey box offers both a novel and a nonfiction title, along with other things to enhance the reader’s virtual “journey.” This would be a fun way to tackle some countries on a “reading the world” journey. This box offered a blue and white nightlight. There was also a cute pair of socks for keeping warm ala hygge. I had The Hygge Holiday sitting unread on my Kindle so I made it my pretend “add-on purchase.” Add-on purchases are a big deal in subscription boxes and I didn’t want to miss out on that fun. This company also “gives back” to local communities. You can see examples of their giving here.

Image: https://www.biblioexcur.com/whats_inside 

First The Numbers

Currently, the yearly subscription to the Signature Journey Box is $45.00 per month.  There is a fiction-only version or a nonfiction-only version as well–both of which are slightly less per month. There are other boxes than these–Ladies At Lunch is a fun one and Mystery and Mixology, which includes the stuff to mix -up a classic cocktail, well except the booze–there are a host of laws on shipping booze to deal with,  to drink while you read and solve your mystery. [I would like to have been able to include pictures, but their photos are not set up to be shared even with due credit given.]

The Books Chosen for the Boxes

Whoever chooses the books seems to have a good eye. For Ghana, they’ve picked Maya Angelou’s classic All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes and Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi, which was an Amazon’s Editor’s pick. Other books shown in sample boxes include Behind the Beautiful Forevers and the God of Small Things (India). The Mystery box featured the Agatha Christie charmer, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, while Ladies At Lunch has had Miss Buncle’s Book and  Olive Kitteridge. Very decent selection all. Nonfiction selections include We Two about Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert.

My Thoughts on Bibliophilic Excursions

Judging by what’s shown on the website of past boxes, I’d say this would be a wonderful box to look forward to each month. Is there really value for money? No. Not if you are just counting up the prices of a few fun extras and the cost of a likely remaindered paperback. But someone put it all together, mailed it out in a hopefully attractive package, and it comes right to your door. You get to open it and discover the surprises. In the year of Covid, that’s a bright spot. And, since Covid seems to have been renewed for Season II, why not sign up and enjoy it? Plus, through your purchase, you are helping a worthy charity or two. Win-win.

Interested? You can reserve a 2020 Holiday Box now.

NOTE: Bibliographic Excursions has no clue I wrote this. I did not seek a sample box. Did not subscribe. I just thought it would be fun to try it and share the fun without my debit card needing to be involved.

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Review: The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe for Aus Reading Month

My Interest

I was almost late to the Aus Reads Month party so I knew I had to pick carefully to get it read in time. [I still failed.] I have a couple of friends I could have asked for their own recommendations of what to read from their country, but I felt that was almost a silly question. I imagined myself sputtering to someone requesting a “typical” American novel to read. I dug around on the internet, finding lists of Australia’s best or newest or shortest or longest reads. I looked at the Amazon previews and then chose this collection of short stories that are somewhat related.

The Story

Here is how Amazon describes this collection:

Set among the surf and sandhills of the Australian beach – and the tidal changes of three generations of the Lang family – this bestselling collection of short stories is an Australian classic. The Bodysurfers vividly evokes the beach, with the scent of the suntan oil, the sting of the sun and a lazy sensuality, all the while hinting at a deep undercurrent of suburban malaise.
From first publication, these poignant and seductive stories marked a major change in Australian literature.

Various stories were related, it is true. A few (Body Oil being one) were mostly related. One did not “work” to me (Looking For Malibu). Most told slightly depressing tales of weary people who did not seem real but who were surrounded by often vividly described scenery, scents, or feelings. Many, I’m sure, would earn the sobriquet “gritty” even if no one was killed, overly drunk, or similar at the time of the scene.

Here are two passages that did not leave me depressed or weary:

Just beyond the Gosford exit warm spring whiffs of eucalypt pollen and the fecund muddy combustion of subtropical undergrowth suddenly filled the car with the scents of the holidays. (The Bodysurfers [title story])

The electric cleansing of the surf is astonishing, the cold effervescing over the head and trunk and limbs. And the internal results are a great wonder. At once the spirits lift. There is a grateful pleasure in the last hour or softer December light. The brain sharpens. The body is charged with agility and grubby lethargy is washed away. (The Stingray)

An occasional worthwhile observation helped to move a story along, such as this one in After Noumea:

Brian picked her at once as a nosy bourgeois person.

This was possibly the most astute judgment in the collection.

My Thoughts

The people felt like worn-out factory workers. The place felt worn out. Both of these seem wrong in a post World War II setting in a young country with vast natural resources and gorgeous coastline. Was this intentional? Most of these stories were actually good reading–just not very happy or uplifting. Such stories have their place. They did evoke, I suppose, the time and place of their setting. I could hear and feel the see–just couldn’t get to know the people. I could sense the emotions of the flat, unreal characters which sounds contradictory, but isn’t. The characters lacked a personality but still had emotions. I think that must be a talent for a writer. I imagine he did not want the personalities to overwhelm the stories which were, after all, supposed to be about their time at that place.

The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe

My Verdict

3.0

Click here to read my earlier Aus Reading Month post

#ausreadingmonth

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Review: His Only Wife: A Novel by Peace Adzo Medie

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.com

Afi Tekple has grown up with a widowed mother who is “beholden,” as we used to say, to wealthy woman in the community for her home, her job, her daughter’s education. When “Auntie” [as the lady is known] needs a wife for her well-off, son to tempt him away from the “foreign” woman who is the mother of his child, her gaze falls on Afi. No matter that the son cannot show up for the [traditional] wedding–it goes on with a brother as his proxy.

Afi is then parked in a luxury apartment in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, a modern city with all the normal upper-class diversions.  Only one problem–Elikem  or “Elie” as he is known, rarely visits the apartment in the same luxury development expatriates and his own brother’s current girlfriend live. How can Afi be a wife without a husband?

I did not like Afi. That is not to say I like Elie, either. Afi was no naive American marrying a Ghanaian hotshot. She knew the score. She knew the men of her area and ethnic group. Elie just did what men do there. I found her whining to be about as tone deaf as Meghan Markle’s. I thought she was very spoiled and tried to hard to feel put-out over everything.

As for Elie, if Afi had bothered to listen, he was as upfront as most men would ever be about his situation. Malawi, where I lived, is a world away from Ghana in most ways, but traditional culture is very much the same in many places on the African continent. One successful person supports several villages worth of relatives. Men have their ways. Women accept them–or not.

Afi’s friend was basically right. By all that he knew, Elie WAS a good man. And, yes, many women would have–and willingly. So what was up with precious little Afi? She no longer lived in the dreary shack of a house her mother rented from Auntie. She had the career she wanted in the city to have it in and her son would grow up with almost unlimited privileged. It wasn’t enough.

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I’m sure I’m supposed to side with Afi and see her as a champion for women. And, she was a champion for women. But, again, like Meghan Markle, she’d have nothing without the guy having provided it! It’s not that no other Ghanaian women think like Afi–I’m sure there are millions who do. To be the only wife is every woman’s dream. In no culture is plural marriage or the “bit on the side” taken without insult. It was just the WAY Afi whined about it. I did not hear maturity in it. I heard only “I want, I want, I deserve,” yet never a reason for it. Why was she worthy? Why did she and not the other woman deserve this commitment? That is what was truly lacking in this story.

In spite of my feelings for Afi, the story was well-told. I did not like having an American voice read the book. When a book is set elsewhere, I want to hear the accent of that country in the audio book.

His Only Wife: A Novel  by Peace Adzo Medie

3.5 Stars

Sunshine

Other Titles I’ve Read From Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club

 

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Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat

 

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The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

 

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Next Year in Havana: A Novel by Chancel Cleeton

 

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Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 

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Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

 

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Review: Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski

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Thank you to Liz Dexter for bringing this  book to my attention.

If you are a horse lover, you may already know that one of Iceland’s greatest natural resources are it’s horses. Short and sturdy, Icelandics are somewhat like the Fell Ponies we’ve seen Queen Elizabeth ride in recent years.

Tory writes vividly of the trail rides, which for me were the highlight of the book:

“The horses pick up the pace. They vie to be in the front of the pack. This is what horses are like in Iceland because they aren’t coddled like pets. They are brought up in semi-feral conditions: the young and the mares are set free for many months, driven into the mountains to live off the land with no human care. Since they are left to forage for food and water on tier own and figures things out for themselves, they grow to be healthy, sturdy, and for the most part, sane.”

The horses have four or even six gaits. The six gait horses are from a genetic mutation. Riding a horse through all of those gates must be a bit like getting a Semi through a short, uphill intersection for the first time. It takes practice to for the horse and practice for the rider to not only post properly, but to get the horse to agree to the different gaits.

I gotta go Iceland

Author Tory and friends, one of whom was among the first to import Icelandic horses into the United States, began going to the same horse farm in Iceland as an annual get-a-way, recharging mission, and gal-pal road trip on their favorite breed of horses. Horses that even swim them places! Now, that is my kind of road trip!!

 

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Photo source: Wikipedia

All of the women are in mid-life, in the 40 to late 50-ish years of yo-yo-ing young adult children, aging parents. The marriages are settled and allow for alone time. The jobs are a now not stressful from inexperience but are now routine. “Going Iceland” is what they think of when the stress gets to them. In Iceland the worries are on another continent and for a week life is reduced to riding amazing horses in the beautiful natural world surrounding them.

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Icelandic Horse  photo credit

The trips are not without problems–one year it’s a mean girl clique, another year its a visit to a new touristy horse farm where anyone, even a novice, can ride Icelandics with a German, Norwegian or other hired guide working for the farm. This causes the ladies to see how truly blessed to have “their” farm to visit all those years.

There are fun side-trips to Iceland’s many quirky museums–a cod canning museum that recreates the workers living quarters is on–there are others celebrating folk lore, fishing and maritime history among other subjects (I actually knew of this–a professor of mine at I.U. wrote a book on the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War). Then there’s the horse show where they are rescue by Iceland’s answer to George Clooney and the ladies imagine one of their own being swept off her feet by him!

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As Game of Thrones and various movies put Iceland on the tourist map, changes come to Iceland. The capital city, Reykjavik, goes from town to city, albeit a still-small city and suburbs begin sprouting around it. What changes are coming for the nation and its horses? The ladies start seeing writing on the wall, but choose to turn their heads–exactly s I would do! Your own version of paradise is just that–your own. Tourists, movie stars, McDonald’s–they can’t take it from you.

Wild Horses of Summer: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski

You can follow author Tory Bilski on Twitter @exploratoryish or on Facebook.

My other reviews of books set in Iceland:

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Names for the Sea by Sara Moss

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The Sacrament: A Novel by Olaf Olafsson