Every once in a while, I’ll unintentionally choose to read books that seemingly have nothing to do with one another, but somehow fit perfectly. This month has been one of those occurrences, where I’ll finish a memoir about growing up with an eccentric and dysfunctional family, only to pick up a fictional account about homestead in The Badlands, and be surprised about how well the two go together. Then after finishing the fiction novel, I’ll start another memoir by a 1960s rock star, which makes me want to re-read the dysfunctional family memoir to find out if I’m dreaming, because the authors could have been telling the same tale.
Which books am I talking about?
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – I finally read this, after the rave reviews from all my friends. It was a captivating read, even if I loathed the parents of this memoir with so much passion that I was getting angry. Yet, for as despicable as the father was, the author wrote him with so much love that I couldn’t help but *not* hate him. That takes a lot of talent to write that well.
- The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber – A book club pick that I never got around to finishing, but was intrigued by the premise. The story follows a black woman in the early 1900s who left her family and moved with her husband to The Badlands where they received a parcel of land under the Homesteading Act. If I ever complained of chores or feeling physically spent during pregnancy, I will never do so again (not really). This book, too, has a less-than-stellar male character, who from an outside point of view was just a plain jerk, yet because the protagonist loved and respected him so much, I had more sympathy. Another case where the writing was well done with making a not-so-great person not-so-despicable.
- Just Kids by Patti Smith – As of writing this post, I’m only halfway through, but it ties so completely with the last two books, that I don’t think I could have picked a better follow up. It’s a memoir by Patti Smith, during her formative years of developing herself as an artist, along with her partner Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith leaves her family and moves to NYC without a penny to her name, making a go of it, sleeping in Central Park, and relying on friends of friends for help until she gets her feet on the ground. Jeannette Walls writes of the same thing in The Glass Castle, leaving her family to escape to NYC to be a writer, and in Dupree, she leaves as well to start a new life.
I’m eager to finish Just Kids (as of writing this post I’m only halfway through), it seems like a good closure to the last few books I’ve read. At the same time, though, it’s serving as an inspiration for starting the next stack of books I have to read, most about writing and the art of writing. And then of course, there are my “beach reads,” which I can’t get to fast enough. The first on the list is Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. So excited.