Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly(ish) post featuring five things that caught my attention. I know that February is the shortest month of the year, but how is it that this is the last Friday in February?
1) I took one entire afternoon to reorganize my extensive book collection. There are three sections to the built-in bookcase my husband had built for me, and it took me over six hours to pull every book out, decide what should stay, what should sent to friends and family, and what will be donated to the Book Cellar, the used bookstore in my local Webster branch of the NYPL where I volunteer. (I have four big bags to bring to work.) I had a cheering section of two who gave me encouragement as the day went on. They also asked for a count, and the final count was 662. The first photo is section one after I pulled out all those books ( I had to stand on a stepstool to get all the books in the photo), the second one the "After" photo.
|The finished product|
3) I absolutely loved the February Read With Jenna pick, Jessica George's amazing novel Maame. Jenna hosted a virtual event with Jessica on Tuesday that I was able to join in. Jessica George took many of the scenes directly from the diary she kept at a time in her life when she was caring for her father who had Parkinson's Disease. After hearing that, it made sense to me. Her novel is a coming-of-adult story and her voice is so authentic and jumps right off the page at the reader. The discussion was wonderful, and Jessica is a captivating person.
Maame tells the story of Maddie, a 25 year-old Ghanian woman living in London, working as an assistant for a difficult boss (who has mental health issues) and caring for her father who has Parkinson's. Her mother spends most of her time running a hostel back in Ghana, left to her by her family. Maddie's older brother James works for an entertainer and is constantly traveling so that gives him an excuse as to why he can't help out more.
Maddie has a lot of family responsibilty on her shoulders, and has little time for a social life. She wants to be like all of her friends, hang out, and find a boyfriend. At work she is often the only Black face, which is exhausting as well.
When her mother returns home, Maddie moves into an apartment with two women she doesn't know. She lands a new job as an assistant at a small publishing company, which excites her as she wants to be a writer. She also begins to date, something in which she lacks experience.
I'm much older than Maddie, but Jessica George has created a character that brought me right back to that time in life when you are searching for yourself. Maddie is beginning to confront her resentment at always being the responsible one in her family, but she feels stuck when a tragedy strikes that completely upends her.
Jessica George has created an utterly unforgetable character in Maddie, and her voice comes through loud and clear in Maame. I highly recommend Maame, and I'm looking forward to George's next book and the TV series that will be made out of Maame, coming soon from Jenna Bush Hager's new production company.
4) I'm watching the first season of Poker Face on Peacock. Natasha Lyonne stars (and executive produces) as Charlie, a woman who is a human lie detector. She can tell whenever anyone is lying and she used that talent to make a lot of money at the poker tables, which ran her afoul of a casino owner. She gives up poker, but ends up waitressing at the casino where she was caught.
When she witnesses a murder at the casino she ends up on the run, and each week she is in a different town hiding out. Of course, a murder happens in each town and Charlie has to solve to the case. Poker Face is a terrific old-school crime show in the tradition of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. The opening title sequence is even an homage to Columbo.
Natasha Lyonne once again is fabulous (as she was in Russian Doll and Orange Is The New Black) and I love the guest stars in each episode. Chloe Sevigny in Episode 4- Rest in Metal, Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson in Episode 5- Time of the Monkey, and Ellen Barkin in Episode 6- Exit Stage Left are the standouts for me. This is one to add to your Must-Watch List.
5) I read two wonderful nonfiction books this week. Rob Delaney's A Heart That Works is the heartbreaking story of the life and death of his two year-old son Henry. Rob, his two young sons, and wife (pregnant with Henry) move from the United States to London for Rob's Amazon TV's comedy series Catastrophe. When Henry is one years old, he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. A Heart That Works chronicles their journey through various hospitalizations with all its painful procedures, the stress of dealing with it, trying to have as normal a life for their other two young boys, and Henry's death two years later. Delaney writes with honesty, anger, sadness, love, and yes, even humor, about every parent's fear. He describes Henry with such care that the reader feels how special this little boy was, how he lived his short life on earth to the fullest. While you may think that this book is too sad to read, it somehow feels more like a tribute to Henry and the resilience of people who have to deal with the unimaginable. Rob Delaney leaves it all on the page.
Going in a different tonal direction, Helen Ellis's upcoming book (June) of humorous essays, Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions of a Happy Marriage continues her streak of making me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. (American Housewife, Southern Lady Code, and Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light also my stomach hurt.)
In this book, Ellis shares essays about her happy marriage to her husband Lars, which survived the pandemic, where they binge-watched Dynasty in their "lounge" room painted bright coral. Helen and Lars are now middle-aged, but he still makes her heart "go pitter-patter" when he walks into a room.
Of course when all her middle-aged friends get together, they talk about their husbands and their loud and incessant "snoring, and skin tags and prostates and knees". (A Bear Walks Into...) She shares that her grandparents had separate bedrooms her grandmother's bedside with "a hardback like The Shell Seekers", and a 1970s brass princess phone as heavy as an anvil". Granddaddy's bedroom "smelled like Old Spice, and next to his bed was a pack of cigarettes and a police scanner."
"An Email to our Cat Sitter" will be recognizable to anyone who has left their beloved, older, persnickety cats with another human who needs to understand all the intricate details of how to feed and care for the delightful beings. It is pages long, much longer than the notes I used to leave for people who babysat my young children.
In Two Days Before My Wedding, Ellis shares everything that went wrong on her wedding day, including that the Greek restaurant where the reception was to be held burned down two before the wedding. She says that weddings are memorable for what went wrong, like while viewing a friend's wedding video where "his stepmother appears without panties as he says "doing the splits standing up" or as my friend in Florida would say, "showing everyone her fine china."
There are countless essays that I highlighted including We Are Not That Couple (who runs marathons or signs up for dance lessons) and "May I Hold Your Grudge For You?" (about how its not appropriate to hold grudges for yourself buy perfectly acceptable to hold them on behalf of friends.)
Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge will make you laugh and remind you of why you still love your spouse. I'm laughing now just remembering all these essays. If you have a June or later anniversary, buy this and share it with your spouse.
Stay and healthy everyone, until next time.
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