We Should All Be Feminists

Thoughts wsabfbycna by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anchor Books 2015 (orig 2012), 48 pages

Read this or watch her Ted Talk!

“All of us, men and women, must do better.”


Four slices of pie.



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A Snowy Distraction

I feel like all my reviews lately have been negative and this makes me sad.    I really need to write a review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (TSCYaYFD) by Anne Fadiman and …   huh – I thought there was another but I guess not. OH!  I want to write a personal wrap up of my Women Unbound Challenge Experience and a Year End Overall Challenge Summary.  Someday soon.

So, please indulge me and

1)  go visit Bonnie’s Women Unbound post –> here <– She has some QUESTIONS to ask EVERYONE who participated and I think it also may help spur ideas on what to say in your wrap up post if you haven’t written one already (thank you!),

2) know that I really learned a lot by TSCYaYFD I have no idea how to review, I turned down so many pages (that most of you books-are-sacred people would be nauseous and appalled), and I enjoyed it very much.    See Kim’s Sophisticated (and not really) Dorky review – I had to link because she is possibly worried about my reaction and I want her to know I am working on it.   *wink*   OH – and if you are in my book club and read my blog — please go read Kim’s review.   Thanks,


3)   It snowed yesterday.   Here’s my abominable snowdog Esther enjoying her first snowy experience:

The photo doesn’t quite do justice to how snow-covered she gets!

Til I get all my $%& together and write more posts, enjoy.     Have you gotten any snow yet?    They say we got 6 inches…


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Short Reviews of Two Booklets


Feminism is for EVERYBODY – Passionate Politics by bell hooks, South End Press 2000, 118 pages.

This did not read easy.   For a booklet with ‘for Everybody’ in the title, I assumed it would be accessible but I found it highly academic, boring and dry.    It is a treatise but not one at all to win anyone over if they had any questions about what feminism is and how it could be related to or fit into an everyday regular-mill life.       Maybe (and I admit this fully), I have too perfect a life?     I am not that interested in getting highly and actively involved with politics and this book must assume I do.     Please forgive me if I expected the wrong things.

Per the title, it read the very opposite of passionate!   Not to say that she didn’t bring up many truths; she did make claims that I understand and support but she did not win me over to action.    Frankly, when I purchased this, I expected to praise it and sing out hallelujah with each essay but, alas, no.    I fully expect bell hooks fans to tell me which book I should read; and I invite this whole-heartedly!

Thank you.   My hope is that this is only a book that should be read further in to her oeuvre?

They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different:  Stalking the Second Tier, “An Occasional Paper on Neglected Problems in Science Education”   by Sheila Tobias, Research Corporation 1990

Back of the book blurb:   They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different is a study to determine why students abandon science for other disciplines.

Whatever possessed me to purchase this (for a dime) at a library sale in southeastern Nebraska?   Well, the fact that perhaps I was not a good candidate for the degree program in college that I signed up for.    Hmmmm.   Engineering wasn’t easy but I stuck with it.   Matter of pride, of economics, of belief that I was ‘smart enough’ but that doesn’t mean I found a good fit.

This booklet describes a study of placing students into pre-engineering and science classes to find out why they would or would not MAJOR in these programs.     I found it quite interesting.   It also stirred up memories of people I met as a freshman and why people chose to major in engineering.     I recall a girl who had a one-year full scholarship to the College of Engineering who fully intended to take the money and switch to Business since she couldn’t qualify for any dollars from that college!     She knew she was ‘smart enough’ to get an engineering degree but it was ‘boring’.

I also thought this book would address how we can encourage more women to study for  traditionally male careers.   It touched on it some but its focus was not gender-based.

Anyhoo, what I got out of it was that Engineering schools have (had?) no interest in wooing over anyone who ‘might’ be interested in sciences.  They prefer to scare new students and allow that only the tough should survive.    So if ‘kids’ abandon these programs are they stupid or was it the educational style?    Who says there is a shortage of engineers, anyway?     Supply and demand – if fewer engineers are graduated, than starting salaries remain high.   What’s the problem?    No problem.

Thus, professors need not concern themselves with being excellent EDUCATORS and students only just need to study hard and really want to be scientists and engineers.     All those who pass through this system subscribe to it, endure it and perpetuate it.  Thus,  we breed ‘typical’ engineers;  the stereotypes fit.       Smart kids who could do well if they had classes that appealed to their personalities or styles of learning are not being encouraged and thus miss out on what could be an excellent career choice.   Or not.

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to know much about whether or not this is still a problem nor if any schools addressed the idea of reform pertinent to the results of this study.   The document was published 2o years ago.   I found the study interesting, nonetheless.    And it was no help in my quest to grow up and figure out what I want to do with myself for the rest of my life.    I have a pretty good gig* right now , but I feel like I should ‘do’ something more…

* ‘keeping the house’, caring for and training the dogs, volunteering, reading & book-blogging, practising yoga, tutoring in math, and occasionally substitute teaching…    I am very thankful for my life and appreciate all that I have.  Happy Thanksgiving!


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Thoughts   Honolulu by Alan Brennert, St. Martin’s Griffin 2009, 368 pages?,Winner of Elle‘s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Fiction

MOTIVATION for READING:   For my real life book club, The Bookies, due November 29, 2010.   I downloaded to my iPad and read it on my annual trip to Kansas for Opening Day of Pheasant Hunting.   (I don’t go hunting; I read.)

FIRST SENTENCE:  “When I was a young child growing up in Korea, it was said that the image of the facing moon at daybreak, reflected in a pond or stream or even a well, resembled the speckled shell of a dragon’s egg.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    A fictionalized account of true events that happened in Honolulu between the first World Wars told through the eyes of a Korean woman who signed up to be a mail-order ‘picture’ bride.

WHAT’s GOOD:      It’s all good.   My attention was instantly caught and my interest never wavered.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    It’s never quite ‘great’.    It was almost TOO full of true stuff!    About half-way, I was curious if some of the characters were ‘real’ and I was astonished to discover just how many TRUTHs were shoved into this book!     By the end, I was getting the feeling that the author had a long list of people and events he wanted to capture and couldn’t cut from the narrative.    In that regard, I can’t say it didn’t work.  But it got a bit tiresome?   And then this happens, then this happens…. Sequential and memoirish.

I am so out of practice here!   I can’t think at all of how/what I want to say next but it’s something along the lines of emotional-manipulation but not that strong…   I felt that as a reader, I was told how to feel.    Is manipulation the correct word?    Maybe because I didn’t disagree with the emotions that it didn’t feel forced on me exactly but it was obvious that I was supposed to not agree with how the white people treated the ‘locals’ of Hawaii.   Yea, I get that.      Just more saying it than showing it, perhaps…   And one more thing – the narrator was TOO likeable, if that makes any sense.   She seemed too good.    That doesn’t even make sense to me, but I stand by it.

FINAL THOUGHTS:   So, I liked it well enough.   It was a fast read; I enjoyed learning about things I didn’t know; I would recommend this to many people if they like historical fiction. But I can’t in good conscience claim it to be great literature.    But hey!  Who says I have to only read great literature?!

RATING:   Three stars.     I do want to read Molokai, Brennert’s other highly-rated historical fiction novel set in Hawaii.

A road need not be paved in gold to find treasure at its end.


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The Yellow Wallpaper


I was fortunate to substitute teach for a High School English class this past week and one of the exercises was to read and discuss the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.     It IS short; I was able to easily read it during the lunch break and was eager to see what the students would bring up to discuss on the next day.     It was wonderful to have a bit of overlap, of continuity when I sub – usually it is a quick glimpse into a big work of literature and …   that’s it.

Since I had the next day to look forward to, I printed off Nymeth’s review and the article of CPG’s “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper”.   I read the last piece to the class before we dove into discussion.   The other part, I just left in the folder for the teacher.

Some of the class thought it was boring.    Some were confused as to the ending.   It was delightful to see the respect and acknowledgement given to classmates when one would share their thoughts and another would say ‘Thank you.  I hadn’t thought of that.”  or “Oh, I didn’t see that; now I get it.”    Can you tell I was very impressed with the quality and consideration that these ‘kids’ exhibited?    I got a big sense of how wonderful it is to be a teacher.

The word ‘creepy’ came up a lot.     They were a bit more sympathetic to her husband than I was.   “He was only a product of his times.”   I think they may be overloaded on the century-old female protagonist topic;   they had papers due on Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and we had a lively discussion comparing the two fates of these women.  What they had in common and what they didn’t.    [They offered that Edna had more control over her situation.]

OK, so if you don’t know [it’s available online for free at gutenburg] what TYW is about, I guess I better tell you just a bit.    It is the secret journal writings of a woman in Victorian times who has been advised to ‘rest’; she is suffering from ‘nerves’.   She should not stir her imaginings by writing, reading or doing anything ‘intellectual’ since, of course, we all know that woman shouldn’t do such things!   Her husband is her physician and she respects and trusts him as a good wife and patient should.  But…    Well, she really hates the wallpaper.      He won’t change it since they are only there for a short stay – she IS getting better, yes?   and she would only find something else that bugs her, anyway…

It is creepy.    It is light, sometimes humorous.   Wonderfully written, pacing is perfect, packs quite a punch!    Our narrator/protagonist both understands (or says she does) the treatment and revolts against it (and that is why she is said to be an unreliable narrator?)   If ONLY they had changed that awful wallpaper!!   It is an astonishing look at what women were put through back before anyone understood such things as mental illness and postpartum depression.     And it is an example of the spirit of Ms. Gilman for writing it.

So many terrific covers, too!   

REVIEWs:    Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot, SSM Guest Review at NextRead.co.uk, Aarti at BookLust, and MORE! results courtesy of Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search.

WORDS:   incipient – in an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop.     “Another physician […] wrote to say that it was the best description of incipient insanity he had ever seen…” From CPG’s “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper”

I thank the Women Unbound Challenge for introducing me to Charlotte Perkins Gilman.    I also read Herland for this challenge.


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The Bell Jar

Thoughts   The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2006 Foreword by Frances McCullough 1996 (orig pub’d in America 1971), 266 pages

I’m trying to recall when exactly I learned who Sylvia Plath was and what she was about.    I am inclined to fess up that I didn’t know a thing* about her until book-blogging;  specifically  learning about books I *should* have already read by now.   But I don’t know.   Perhaps, I knew the sensational stuff – – that she was a poet who killed herself young, as a mother of two little ones.   But I really can’t say;  it’s fuzzy.

I’ve had The Bell Jar on my to-be-read list for years (I’ve been blogging over 4 years already?   huh.)

I knew it was a novel and that she usually wrote poetry.    (Actually, she wrote children’s books, too.)   But I didn’t realize all that I would encounter in this short book.     It was everything I hazily imagined it would be (startling thoughts by a young woman when it was not the time (1950s) to expect startling thoughts by young women) and I thought it would showcase depression.   AND THAT IS ALL I KNEW.    So it was NOTHING like what I expected!

I read this in one day.  If I had realized how fast I would devour this, I would have read it a long time ago.

Or, perhaps, it was the perfect time for me to read?   Who can question when and why some books come into our life.    I am just glad that I didn’t read this during one of my darkest days of college when I hated school, hated my major, was devoid of hope and felt like the whole concept of what I was supposed to be doing was just a crock of s%&#.

Then again.   I think this book does has hope.   I thought the ending and/or the last line brilliant!    But, it’s knowing now that Plath didn’t hold on to her hopes to quite escape her bell jar that is frightening.

A big thank you to Frances McCullough for a fantastic Foreword and thank you to the publishers for including the bit about Plath in the back of the book.    These parts book-end the heart of the novel in such a wonderful manner.

I rarely read Forewords.   This one is perfect.

Five slices of pie.

* I had never heard of Virginia Woolf, either.    What were they teaching in my high school?!

* HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

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Fingersmith Update & Reminder

I completed my reading of Fingersmith last night – I was a bit bummed that I couldn’t get it into July’s book count but whatever.    I have quite a few page corners turned down, too!

So, rather than a review or thoughts post right now, I thought I would just list the few lines and quick impressions.    Ask away if you have any questions you would like me to answer.      I will hopefully post this weekend or Monday.

In the meantime, keep reading YOUR copy of Fingersmith and come back here on August 10!

Page 117 – is this foreshadowing or right out ‘foreTELLING’?

“We were thinking secrets.  Real secrets, and snide*.  Too many to count.  When I try now to sort out who knew what and who knew nothing, who knew everything and who was a fraud, I have to stop and give it up, it makes my head spin.”

Page 202 – on the status of women:

“Had they been gentlemen, and rich – instead of women – then they would have passed as scholars and commanded staffs.”

page 293 – How thoroughly fascinating is poor Maud’s ‘education’ –

“…  I thought desire smaller, neater;  I supposed it bound to its own organs as taste is bound to the mouth, vision to the eye.”

page 302  – I don’t quite understand the last line of Chap 10, Part Two.

“And so you see it is love – no scorn, not malice; only love – …”

Page 376 – on deadly fabric dye!   I read all about this in a book about the color mauve:

“Only a touch of arsenic in that green – won’t harm you at all, so long as you keep from sweating too hard in the bodice.”


* snide – Brit term for counterfeit.


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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Thoughts   A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, RiverHead Books 2007, 367 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I was eager to read this book based on the many fabulous reviews.   I was ready to read it now because I wish for more diverse settings in my reading.    This satisfies another read for ASIA for my Global Challenge.    It is also an excellent selection for the Women Unbound Challenge.

FIRST SENTENCE:   “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   This book is the intersecting stories of two orphan girls a generation apart in Kabul Afghanistan.   Beginning in the 1970s through today and set against the political wars of this country, we meet Mariam and Laila and are immersed in their dreams, their fears, their decisions, and the processes of survival.

I love literature like this set in a country often in the news and usually misunderstood, at least by me.   We are given images on TV of dust and drab, of soldiers armed, and citizens scurrying and we (I) don’t take the time to realize these are people!   People trying to make a life, having few choices, making the best of what is.    (WHY?!   How?   I don’t get why we fight.)     I am sad when I am presented (in print) with lush images of beautiful landscapes that may exist or existed once, that I am surprised that that part of the world could be lovely.    I am sad that the cultural and historical heritage has been so decimated by war.    A Thousand Splendid Suns gives a beautiful representation of lost Afghanistan and what has gone on ‘over there.’    War sucks.    This book may be fiction but literature makes the world come alive more than the news ever seems to.

Hosseini can write.    Easy but powerful prose, instant transportation into the world of the characters, palpable.   The most striking and memorable reminder I took away from this experience is that people are people.    The cruelty that exists in this world is just not understandable!   and we humans somehow can survive horrible conditions with goodness intact.    The human condition is multi-faceted.   The triumph of the human spirit is astonishing.

“In the coming days, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next.   Like an art lover running out of a burning musuem, she would grab whatever she could  – a look, a whisper, a moan – to salvage from perishing, to preserve.  But time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all.”

“I’m sorry,”  Laila says, marveling at how every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief.  And yet, she sees, people find a way to survive, to go on.

“And then, from the darkened spirals of her memory, rise two lines of poetry, Babi’s farewell ode to Kabul:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

– generally accepted translation by Dr. Josephine Davis of a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth-century Persian poet

This is Hosseini‘s second book;  his debut, The Kite Runner, was also critically received.   I look forward to more.

RATING:    Five slices of pie.

OTHER REVIEWS:     So many!!   So I will point to  the search results from Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search Engine.


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Sister Outsider

Thoughts   Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, The Crossing Press 1984, 190 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:    This is another nonfiction choice for my participation in the Women Unbound Challenge.    I checked it out from the library.     I would also like to count this for the GLBT Challenge if I can.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Audre Lorde describes herself with this sentence:  “I am a Black, lesbian, feminist, warrior, poet, mother doing my work.”    This collection of essays and speeches span from the mid 197os to 1983.    I wanted to know what she was all about.   Per a suggestion of authors to read for this challenge;  I wanted to explore a feminist perspective that would possibly be quite unlike my own.      We are treated to bookends of travelogues to Russia and Grenada, instructed with a call to break the silence, allowed into letters and conversations, enlightened by her defense of poetry, given her look at motherhood, and challenged by/to more.

WHAT’s GOOD:   In exploring my own bias and expectations to Ms. Lorde based on her self-description, I admit that I wondered if I would encounter militancy and anger.     Militancy is defined as “combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods”  and no, I did not find this in Lorde’s writings.   Anger, yes.     Anger so vivid, grounded and controlled that I was blown away by Lorde’s powers of expressing herself, her point of view, her work.     I enjoyed most of these essays – they represent a variety of topics yet all show her exquisite skills in sharing her feelings and experiences.    I appreciated her strength and her lessons.   I learned a lot and I admire her talents.

I was curious how this idea of reading something quite different from my younger white heterosexual non-poet, non-mother perspective could influence my experience.   I was intrigued if I would struggle with ‘relatability’.    Of course, we do share a belief in women’s rights.   Yet, Ms. Lorde DOES explain why I can’t know her experience and why this isn’t the point.   The point is that we each have to agree to accept and understand that these differences exist and because of this not despite this, to hold onto the humanity of each other’s perspective, to respect and allow opportunity, rights and life – the embracing of the right to have each other’s experience free from limits, of negativity and submission and even being ignored.   One’s right to live a full whole life does not require a dismissal or diminishing of another’s right to a full whole life.    AND we do have to seek out and embrace these ‘other’ perspectives, to recognize the fight is bigger than our little circle of personal concerns.   It’s not enough to know how I can work to make the world better for me, just to fight for my own issues – but to fight for the best for everyone.     I can’t know her experience – I can’t put her shoes on.    But I can read and respect her right to what she so eloquently shares in these essays and I encourage you to, as well.

I imagine that if I had had the opportunity to meet her, she would be one of those amazing awe-inspiring talents who can really look at you and see your very soul.    Don’t you love knowing people who can do that?   I’ve met some but not many.   I bet Ms. Lorde was one of those strong soulful soul-inspiring sages.    


I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.  It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized.  This is poetry as illumination , for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.  That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.    [read the entire essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury” here.]

And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives.  That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own.  For instance, “I can’t possibly teach Black women’s writing – their experience is so different from mine.”  Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust?”


The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of these differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.   And there are so many silences to be broken.

both from “Transformation of Silence“.

__  __  __  __

…, we still know that the power to kill is less than the power to create, for it produces an ending rather than the beginning of something new.

… as I learn my worth and genuine possibility, I refuse to settle for anything less than a rigorous pursuit of the possible in myself, at the same time making a distinction between what is possible and what the outside world drives me to do in order to prove I am human.   It means being able to recognize my successes, and to be tender with myself, even when I fail.

We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.

Above quotes from essay “Eye to Eye“.

__  __  __  __

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS of this book and the author:     The Eleventh Stack / Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,   (did I miss yours?)


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Ethan Frome

Thoughts   Ethan Frome, First pub’d 1911/Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition 2009, 99 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I had not yet read any Edith Wharton.    Just hadn’t gotten to her yet.      Awhile back on one of the lists/memes where people highlight books that impacted in some way, I saw Ethan Frome and didn’t recognize the title.     I believe it was Lisa of Books on the Brain (yes, found the post:  a Sticky Books meme from a year ago.)   Anyway, I got pulled to purchase this on an excursion to Borders; I was seduced by the cover.

Before anyone protests that I have in the past stated that I *NEVER* buy books for the cover, tis true.   I have said that and I rarely do buy books for a pretty cover.   But this one is so colorful and metallic and of cool paper.    It FEELS good and it has those bookmark flap things that I find really cool.

I can also count this as a book OLDER THAN ME for the Twenty in Ten Challenge.  

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    This is a mystery about what possibly could have happened in poor Ethan’s past to make him such a sad withered old man.    It’s a morality tale about dreams and happiness and these being totally denied.     It’s about life in brutally cold New England way back in the day.

Now that I reflect, I’m thinking this could also be counted for the Women Unbound Challenge – what happens to a poor girl whose father has come to ruination.   What choices does she have?      In that regard, not much has changed to describe the feelings of being trapped by a lack of cash…    And THAT is not necessarily gender-specific.    But what an interesting study in hypochondria and any/all ailments women suffered but never got specific about.

What choices does poor Ethan Frome have?    The silly idiot.   For marrying that woman because he felt desperate and she could be his way to push off loneliness.    And he thought he was rescuing her. Guffaw!

The suffocation of a life with no means of escape.     The grasping at tiny sparks of joy and happiness, the SCRAPs of a dream of a vibrant life!     oh, the suffering.

Honestly?     I don’t know why they all didn’t drink poison and end it all decades before.

WHAT’s GOOD:   I thought the writing spot on.    Spare, cold and yet vivid.     There is FEELING in this book; it’s an uneasiness and just barely noticeable unpleasantness.     Besides the damn cold and the back-breaking chores and the hard scrabble for a dollar.

and TENSION*!      tremulous, pit-in-the-stomach (gobnabbit, just kiss her already!   You haven’t done anything wrong except WANT A BETTER LIFE!    Except, unless, you count ‘thinking’ about sinning the same or worse as the sinning and I’m not here to get all technical about sin or anything…   It’s not (thank you!) MY morality tale – what a whopper this is, though, even as I wonder what I was supposed to learn besides be careful who you marry.)

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    (with ME, not the book.) OK, so I wish I had gone into this with a wee bit more preparation.    I noticed stuff like the red scarf but missed the red color of the pickle dish.   Sure, I recognized the weight of that darn important pickle dish but realized I wasn’t paying attention like I should.   So I stopped half-way through and read this online article on Ethan Frome’s Symbolism, Imagery and Allegory. I was much better prepared for the end of the book and no, I didn’t cry.    I was amused.    (I also read a hilarious snarky review on goodreads that had me laughing which also relieved my being overly emotional about it all.)

Thank you Christine of stacked (who mentioned Ethan Frome at the BBC panel – oh yes, I noticed it) for offering this link to a fun video retelling of Ethan Frome (~6 minutes).

RATING:    Four slices of Pie  

I’m very glad I read this.    Now I know what it’s all about.   Sometimes that’s wonderful regardless of liking or enjoying or not.

*  I read the Introduction AFTER writing this post.   Written by Elizabeth Ammons:   “stylistic elegance”, “perfectly calibrated mood of impending doom”. LOVE all the bio on EW – what a woman! Must. Read. More.


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