This week we’re looking at a strong tale of often under-explored topics. This week we’re looking at What’s Worth Keeping by Kaya McLaren.
And here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:
Strong Look At Often Unexplored Topics. Glancing through the other reviews (as I generally do before writing my own, fwiw), it seems that so many people miss what I happen to see as the overall point of the book: Exploring how individuals can find themselves again and discover what they feel is worth keeping in the face of overwhelming tragedy. Here, McLaren uses three primary characters: A mother who has “survived” cancer, including a mastectomy and radical hysterectomy, only to have to piece back together her sense of self and whether she is still attractive. (A battle, it seems, that the author herself went through in real life.) A father who began working as a cop in order to provide for his then-young family, and who was one of the first responders shifting through the rubble behind Timothy McVeigh trying to save as many people as possible after the bombing of the Alfred P Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City – a tragedy that still haunts him all these decades later, at the end of his career. And a daughter who learns that her mother’s cancer is to some degree hereditary, causing her to question any future she may have even as she graduates high school.
In these situations, McLaren points to tragedies and situations that are relatable to many of us, and paints a story that even across roughly 500 books read in under three years, I’ve rarely if ever seen. A story of survival (which is common, in and of itself) and of finding love (also common), but these particular wrinkles of the overall story have often been overshadowed in the stories by other, “flashier” topics.
While I am genuinely sorry that the author lived through at least some of this, I am exceedingly happy that she was able to use those real life experiences to craft this tale in this way. It is a story that needed to be told, and it is a story that needs to be read by far too many. And for that reason, it is a story that is very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a book that I’ve been talking about for weeks, one that made me cry unlike any this year. This week, we’re looking at Memories In The Drift by Melissa Payne.
Here, the Goodreads review below really does sum up my thoughts on the book quite well. It is a very well told, very visceral look at memory loss and pain, and it is so gut-wrenching it will leave you breathless. Truly one of the best books I’ve read this year for that very reason.
Prepare To Cry. Holy hell y’all. This book is one of the more tragic and yet also visceral books about memory loss I’ve encountered to date, bringing you into the mind of the person more than any other I’ve yet encountered. And it is also the one that made me *BAWL* unlike any since Barbara O’Neal’s 2019 WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS. Which was over 300 books ago for me. If you’re looking for a great story and a good cry, you’ve found one here. And just to be crystal clear, it isn’t like the things that make you cry are hidden – in both cases I picked up on them about a quarter ish of the book before Payne actually explicitly revealed them. And yet the execution on the actual reveal was so gut punching both times… wow. Very much recommended.
I got invited to work with another blog tour, this time working with a celebrity I’ve seen on my screens enough to be aware of the name and to have a generally good impression of. So for this tour, we’re looking at a book written by comedian Michael Ian Black talking about… well, most everything under the sun in what is truly a letter of love to his son on the event of his son leaving for college. This really is one of those kinds of books that so many fathers wish they could write to their own sons, and even more wish they had the ability to tell their sons their own thoughts on these topics and many similar ones. And that is the truest, brightest fact about this book: Black’s love for his son shines through in ways I’ve very rarely encountered in any other book. Which alone is more than enough reason to recommend picking up this book. Yes, I did in fact have a couple of quibbles with it as I discuss below in the Goodreads review. But even more than those, seriously, read this book just to see what so many sons wish their fathers could have told them and what so many fathers wish they could tell their sons. Truly a superb job, and you should absolutely go buy this book for yourself.
And the Goodreads review…
More Solid Than Jello, Less Solid Than Steak: Advice From Father To Son On The Event Of The Son Leaving For College. And with that long-ass title out of the way… 😀 Seriously, this is a near-perfect letter of advice about life, love, and other mysteries from father to son as the son heads off to college and happens to have a celebrity dad. His statements about mass shootings are 100% demonstrably incorrect in a couple of places (and I in particular once analyzed such data at a level *few*, *if any*, others have), and his statements about Ayn Rand and White Guilt are philosophically incorrect (but in line with expectations given his own liberal philosophy), but otherwise what Black writes here rings true. And nearly as importantly, the love for his son rings through even louder than any moral or philosophical point he makes here. This is a type of letter than nearly any man wishes his dad would have left him, and Black truly does an excellent job of showing his own thinking and philosophies about the various issues discussed. In the end, I personally would love a celebrity from the right – as well as one of the very few celebrity anarchists such as possibly Woody Harrelson – to write similar public letters for their own kids, as between the three one would likely get an even stronger overall look at the topic at hand. But for exactly what it is, this truly is a phenomenal work with a quibble here or there, and very much recommended.
This week we are looking at a generational tale of love, loss, secrets, and a mother’s enduring love for her children. This week, we are looking at Only One Life by Ashley Farley.
Structurally, this book was intriguing. The “normal” structure for these types of books that delve into stories in both past and present is to alternate chapters or sometimes even scenes within a chapter. This book takes a seemingly novel approach to the novel and instead opens in the present, goes back to the past to tell that entire story up to the present day, and then comes back to the present to finish out the overall story. For the story of this particular tale, this structure worked very well indeed – and even within this structure, managed to save some surprises for late in the book.
The tale itself was heartbreaking and yet also full of hope. The struggles that the primary mother and daughter go through are immense, but the ending gets to a happily ever after that manages to leave at least one key plot point resolved yet ready for a sequel, should Ms. Farley choose to pursue it. Overall an excellent tale, my first from this Lake Union author, and yet again not my last. Very much recommended.
And as always, the Goodreads/ Amazon:
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