Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Yes, another Liane Moriarty book because I am an adult and can read what I want [1].

This one was borrowed from the library and read in about 6 days. This one is also plot-driven: Something happens at a barbeque but you don’t find out what until halfway through the book. One thing I forgot to mention in the last write up of a Moriarty book is that her characters are usually very complex. That is definitely true of this book. In fact it is hard to really like any of them, but hard to really dislike them too. The only character I consistently liked was Vid.

After I finished the book this morning, I stood up, adjusted my clothes, stretched and smiled a huge smile. Partly because of the book, but also because I am reading again!

I wonder how many people get the title of the book. I cannot find it anywhere online, but I think, no — I am sure, the title is a play on the film Truly Madly Deeply in which Alan Rickman is a [dead] cellist.

  1. that doesn’t sound defensive at all, does it? []

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

When my book group read Big Little Lies a couple years ago I was a little embarrassed how much I enjoyed the book. I even enjoyed the HBO adaptation (and am rewatching it with Dean). Because I’d read Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty books kept being recommended to me but I resisted until last fall when I read Moriarty’s The Last Anniversary.

After that I made sure to check for Moriarty’s books on sale at Amazon on a daily basis and was rewarded on February 4th when it was on sale for $2.99 [1]. I downloaded it and read it within a week.

Moriarty’s books are definitely plot-driven [2]. She often begins  her books with the ending, but just enough of the ending to make you keep reading in order to find out what happened. In Three Wishes she begins the book with a scene at a restaurant in which a pregnant woman is stabbed in the abdomen with a fork by another woman at her table. The book then goes back and tells the story from the beginning. The author throws in the occasional viewpoint of a stranger.

I definitely loved this book and I don’t care that it is not high literature. It was a fun book to read and I plan on reading as many of Liane Moriarty’s books as I can. I already have four or five on hold at the library.

  1. maybe I need to revise my reading challenge to allow for deeply discounted books? []
  2. until a former intellectual-snob neighbor made a derisive remark about plot-driven books, I assumed all books were plot-driven, otherwise why read them? []

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso is our next book group book. I usually buy the book right away and then procrastinate reading it, to the detriment of my other reading (gotta finish book group book first!). This time I bought it the day after book group and finished it three days later.

It was a fast read and I got into it right away. The characters were well-developed and the storyline was compelling. I am looking forward to discussing it with my book group.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

This was a bookgroup read and a book I’d read at least once before. I actually didn’t finish rereading it in time for book group, but my memory of it was sufficient enough to be able to discuss it the night of bookgroup at Sharon’s house.

As often happens when you reread a book in a different stage of your life, the book felt different to me. I focused on different things in the book than I did as a teenager and young adult — although I can’t put a finger on exactly what I focused on this time.

I’ve already mentioned about my obsession with finding out exactly where the book took place when I read it the first time. I’d been to the general area a few times to visit Jeremy, and wondered if I’d been in the town where James Herriot (pen name for James Wright) practiced. I even fantasized running into him on one of my Yorkshire visits.

I finally finished the book a few months after the bookgroup meeting dedicated to it. I liked it, but not as much as I did the first time ’round.

While I did end up buying this book, I bought it in 2017 and it was on sale for $3.99 for 4 of Herriot’s books on Kindle.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I’d never heard of Susan Hill until Andrea, Clare’s boss, told me about Hill’s book Howard’s End is on the Landing [1] when I told her I really should not buy any books from her wonderful bookshop and concentrate on the books I already owned. Of course I bought the book in her hand. How could I not?

I started reading Howards End is on the Landing right away and my first thought was, what an insufferable book snob (the author, not Andrea). I’d never read her work and here she is going on and on about fancy-pants books unlike the kind I like to read. It wasn’t until her chapter on ghost stories that I began to take more notice (although I did buy a book she mentioned in an earlier chapter) and when she mentioned that she’d written a ghost story I looked it up and realized I’d heard of it: The Woman in Black.

The book was available as an ebook at the library so I promptly downloaded it and hesitantly began reading it after reading some reviews stating it was the scariest book some reviewers had ever read.

It was pretty good — a well-written, gothic ghost story, not unlike The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (ohhhh! I see that’s being made into a movie!) which I adored. I didn’t find The Woman in Black very scary at all.

As soon as I finished the book I watched the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. Very different from the book, completely different ending. I didn’t like the movie very much at all.


  1. which I am still reading []

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrick Backman

I read this book in a few hours shortly after I discovered the “Libby” app on my phone. I downloaded this book to try the app out and ended up being entranced by it. I read A Man Called Ove, also by Backman a few years ago (and blogged about it), so I was familiar with the author.

But to be honest I barely remember what this book was about — so, as much as I enjoyed it at the time, it doesn’t have staying power for me.

Lassies Reply to the Laddies’ Toast to the Lassies: #metoo version

Our friends, Alison and David, hosted another wonderful Burns’ Supper a few weekends ago and I volunteered to present the Lassies Reply to the Laddies’ Toast to the Lassies. Here it is:

Thank you, Dean, for that poetic and surprisingly woke toast to the Lassies.

I would also like to thank our gracious hosts, David and Alison. You never fail to blow me away with the feasts you provide your guests for the fun events you host.

Full disclosure here, I volunteered to give this reply to the Laddies after a couple glasses of wine. I really need to learn to not volunteer for things after a couple glasses of wine. The last time I had the honor of giving a lassies reply to the laddies toast to the lassies was 7 years ago. If I recall correctly, I replied to Scott’s toast which, as the saying goes, was a tough act to follow.

Before I begin, know that I appreciate each of the laddies in this room.

  • David – I love your sense of humor and have enjoyed being your friend for these past fifteen or so years. Also don’t be mad at me about my reply.
  • Scott – you have such a wealth of knowledge and I always look forward to hearing your stories.
  • Kumar – I don’t see you often, but when I do it is always a joy to talk to you.
  • Peter – I’ve enjoyed watching you grow up into a kind, loving, smart young adult.
  • Brandon – You are extra special to me for so many reasons. I am delighted you are visiting and are a part of tonight’s supper.
  • And Dean – yeah, you’re okay too (actually you’re pretty terrific and I am still glad that 38 years ago you were sitting all alone at that table in that bar when I walked in. With Marcia.)

It’s been a tough year for most of us here. We’ve had to watch as ideologies and values we’d taken for granted – like kindness, common decency, diversity, scientific evidence, etc. were devalued by the laddie who lives in the White House and his groveling sycophantic republican members of congress.

But let’s talk about other laddies:

It’s been a disastrous year for some laddies – not any of the laddies here, you are all true gentlemen. The laddies I mean are those laddies that were publicly called out for sexual harassment, and worse, by some very brave lassies (and a laddie or two).

But I imagine it has been an uncomfortable time for all laddies, even maybe for some of those in this room. Maybe you remembered something you said or did in your youth that could have been construed as harassment – or might be interpreted as harassment today. Or maybe you were just ashamed of your fellow laddies.

When I was thinking about what I would say tonight, and decided its theme would be hashtag metoo, I remembered the many informative Immortal Memory speeches that – usually Laura – has given over the years and it occurred to me (with Andrew’s input) that the laddie we honor tonight, given today’s mores, could be considered a champion sexual harasser – and worse.

So I asked Professor Google and depending on which article you read after searching “Robert Burns Me too“, you will discover that Burns’ was either a possible rapist, a “sex pest,” or simply a “ladies man.”

In a letter Burns that wrote to a friend he describes having his way with Jean Armour, his heavily pregnant (with twins), soon-to-be wife in a manure-filled horse stall. Yet in his poem “The Rights Of Woman” he assures women that he and his buddies are “well-bred men” who were glad that “those Gothic times are fled” “when rough rude man had naughty ways, Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot, Nay even thus invade a Lady’s quiet.”

In years past, listening to the Immortal Memory, especially the parts about Robert Burns’ sexual exploits, his illegitimate children, his many affairs, was funny – like a “nudge nudge wink wink” kind of funny. When I thought, this past week, about my reaction those stories, I was ashamed of myself because I was not thinking about the women in the stories – only about the randy laddie.

The articles I read were inconclusive – and as one article so wonderfully put it:

“So what should we make of this? If you’re like me, you have a hunch that the incident described was both painful and degrading. Certainly, if Jean Armour were my friend, I would not hesitate to suggest dumping her boyfriend. But in any case, the jury has been out on Robert Burns for 230 years. Armour, alas, never shall reach out of her grave and carve #MeToo upon her tombstone.”

So now, I don’t know what to think except that I really need to stop dissing Rabbie Burns or I won’t be invited to one of these again.

Thank you. To the Laddies!

Reflections on a Life

The first time I saw her she was 5-and-a-bit, exactly the same age as I was. We’d just moved out of the apartment on Mountain Street and into our new home on Heine Avenue. I didn’t pay much attention to her at first. She was just there. It wasn’t until the trouble years started that I began to take more notice of her.

The trouble years started when I was about thirteen. I was always a volatile child, at least as far as I remember or what I was told. But once I turned thirteen it got much worse. My parents laughed about it in later years, although the laughter always seemed to be tinged with caution. They never knew when I would fly into a rage, or what would set me off.

I don’t remember what made me go to her that first time, but I remember standing in front of her, talking to her about whatever (seemed) injustice I’d just been dealt. She had stories too. Her mother was demanding (so was mine!), she had few friends (me too), her father didn’t understand why she loved to read so much (same with me).

I’d look past her, though her doorway, into her house and think how much more calm and quiet it seemed. She said the same about mine.

Maybe her mother was not as demanding as mine was. Maybe we could change places, just for a while, just to get away from the anger (our own and the anger that was directed at us). Would anyone know? Would anyone care?

The first time we exchanged places it was like stepping into another world, at least for me. I don’t know what it was like for her. I saw her mother, who looked like my mother, in a different way than I’d ever seen my mother. Maybe it was because her mother was a stranger to me and strangers don’t yell at other people’s daughters.

The house felt brighter, more dimensional, happy, carefree, loving, kind.

That first time, we didn’t stay long in each other’s houses. We looked around, we talked to each other’s mother and young brother then returned to our own homes, refreshed, calmer than before the exchange.

Through the following years we did the exchange/switch scores of times, each time staying longer and longer in each other’s world even if we hadn’t just had a fight with our mothers.

Eventually, gradually, we no longer needed to switch. The fights with our mothers slowed down, our brothers quit annoying us so much. We got jobs, went to college, moved out of the house on Heine Avenue, and moved away from our hometown.

We forgot about each other. We forgot about our trips into each other’s lives. We became adults, married and had children.

One day, maybe 30 years after that first exchange, I was back visiting my childhood home. Something made me remember her (perhaps my own teenage daughter’s presence) and I started thinking about the switches.

Then I told my daughter about my time as a teenager, growing up in the house on Heine Avenue. I told her of the fierce arguments I had with my mother. I told her about the girl in the mirror. I explained how we switched places: the girl and I placing our foreheads together, then our fingertips, then pushing through to the other side.

Had we ever switched back that last time, whenever that last time was? Was I living the wrong life? Was she living the life I should have lived?

I decided to visit her again, to see if she could remember if we ever switched back that last time, if she remembered that last time. I walked to where I always met her…

She was not where I last saw her. I asked my mother where she went. What had she done with her? My mother heard me say, “Mom, what happened to the big mirror in your room? Did it break? Did you get rid of it?”

My mom replied that she’d only moved the mirror to the back of her bedroom door. She seemed to sense panic in my voice, but didn’t ask why.
“Thank God,” I thought, as I went to the bedroom, “she is still safe. I can still see her.”

We still looked alike and her house still looked more real than my own childhood home. She didn’t remember if we’d changed back, and asked if it really mattered. Weren’t we both happy right now?

She was right, I was happy. I had a husband and two children I loved very much. My daughter and I were much closer than my mom and I had been, and while my son had inherited my volatility, he was growing out of that (very long) stage.

Despite being a grown woman, each visit to my mother’s house after that trip included a visit to her bedroom mirror to remember the child, the teenager, the adult who looked just like me but was somehow a better version of me, who lived in a better place than I did.

We never considered changing places again, but I always still wondered what life in that other world would have been like and if it was really my life in there.

After my mother died, I assumed her mother died too; but did she die like my mother did, slowly forgetting words, places, people, how to walk, how to swallow? I hoped for both their sakes they were spared that nightmare.

Six months after my mother’s death I visited the mirror again while gathering memorabilia from my childhood home, but could not look directly at it, could not say goodbye to my friend from fifty-something years ago. I noticed she was absent too.

On the way back to Bethesda, hauling a U-Haul loaded with furniture, boxes of photos and childhood memories, I felt a pang of regret in my gut that I’d not taken the mirror with me. We surely could have found room for it in our house and it would have been safe. It would have been comforting to have her with me all the time. (You might be thinking that she’s in every mirror, but there you would be wrong. She is only in that one mirror. I have never seen her in any other.)

More recently I visited my childhood home for the last time. It was empty, the estate sale agents had done their job well. It was void of everything I knew from my childhood and teen years, from my visits as an adult. It was missing the people I loved, the furniture I sat in, the art on the walls. I walked around, taking pictures for a possible blog post. I went into every room, opened each closet, and peeked into drawers and cabinets. I expected to feel sadness, but instead just felt emptiness.

On the way home, this time on an airplane, I realized that when I was in that empty house, in my mother’s empty bedroom, I forgot to see if the mirror was still there on the back of the door or if the estate sale agents had sold it to someone wanting a sturdy mirror. Either way, someday someone else will look in that mirror. Will they see the shadow of a lonely teenage girl, angry at her mother about this or that injustice? She’s still there, I know it. I just wonder if it is me or her.

Declutter 2018: 32 Dan Bern posters

I went to see Dan Bern on Saturday. (That’s my head on the left!) Before I left I thought about the pile of Dan Bern posters [1] that were sitting under my office sofa. I didn’t need more than one each so I decided to take them to the show and give them away.

I placed them on the merchandise table. The table had a sign to pay what people wanted to pay for the items there, so hopefully Dan made some money on the posters.

Declutter 2018 count 50:

  • 32 Dan Bern Posters
  • 2 crystal unicorns, broken
  • 9 letters from Sue
  • 1 Loon Magic sweatshirt
  • 1 shedding scarf
  • 1 pair of fingerless gloves
  • 1 wool underlayer shirt
  • 1 birthday poster from Sue
  • 1 baby shower thank you card from Chris and George
  • 1 Christmas postcard from Auntie June and Uncle Harold
  1. many years ago I volunteered to put posters around town advertising Dan’s shows — I was a very bad rep since I had so many left over []