March is here and with it comes my reading round-up for February (and hopefully some warmer weather). I hope you're all enjoying the excuse to hibernate as much as I have been. I always find that there is no better time to curl up with a book than when it is snowing and snowing and snowing outside. I am, however, happy to read on my porch anytime this winter decides to ease up a bit.
In his highly anticipated fourth book, Nickolas Butler does his best work yet. Little Faith is a beautiful book, full of love, patience, and forgiveness. Lyle, the protagonist of the book, and a character taken from, in my opinion, the best short story in Beneath the Bonfire - "Apples," is a grandfather with a deep love for his family, his friends, and his home. When his daughter gets involved with an extreme church, and the beliefs of that church put his grandson in danger, Lyle is forced to interrogate his own faith, and the faith that he puts in his family and friends. As I write this, I’m struck by how inadequate these words are for the way this book made me feel. I really loved it. I loved that it took place over a year, so Butler could take Lyle through each season in Wisconsin. I loved that some of the most important parts occurred in an apple orchard, a place that has always felt rather magical to me. I loved that I was allowed a glimpse into long-lasting, male friendships based on respect, generosity, and honesty. I loved Lyle’s relationship with his wife. I could keep going. Make sure that you read Little Faith - it really is wonderful.
Anyone who has been reading along on our blog knows that I personally struggle with the best way to read poetry. For the past year or so, I’ve been working to use poetry to slow down. Instead of barrelling through a collection in an hour, I’ve been trying to read two or three poems a day. The Carrying is the fourth collection I’ve made it through since I started this journey and I absolutely loved it. Ada Limón’s poems are full of longing, despair, anger, resignation, and exuberant joy at the lives we’ve been given and the natural world around us. Much of this collection deals with her struggle to become a mother and I found it to be both heartbreaking and inspirational. This collection has been nominated for both The National Book Critics Circle Award and The Pen/Jean Stein Award - and rightly so. If you enjoyed Limón’s previous collection Bright Dead Things, or like me, you’re working to incorporate more poetry into your daily life, don’t hesitate to pick up The Carrying.
I actually read The Atlas of Reds and Blues back in December. For me, it was one of those books that had to sink in a bit over the coming days and weeks. I didn’t immediately appreciate its power. Now, months later, I’m still thinking about it. The book is narrated from the perspective of a woman who has been shot in her driveway. Police, neighbors, and news crews surround her. In the moments after the incident, her mind darts between childhood memories, to the early happiness of her marriage, to the birth of her daughters. While we are given intimate glimpses into the racial micro (and macro) aggressions that she endures daily, much of Mother’s story is left untold. She is the American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, but she finds that when she answers the question “Where are you from?” with “Here,” people are not satisfied. This is an incredible debut novel about what it means to be a woman of color - a mother, a daughter, and a wife - in America.