The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
I absolutely adored this glorious book. It’s the kind of writing that makes me feel ALIVE. Very reminiscent of another favorite — Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. The premise doesn’t sound overly exciting: two couples who meet in the sixties through the pastorate and their evolving friendship over the years. But, oh, I loved it. I can’t recommend it enough.
The Princess Bride came out when I was in eighth grade. I remember seeing it in the dollar theater and then going back the next day to see it again, it was so incredibly fun and wonderful and entirely unlike any movie I’d ever watched before. If you are a fan, this book is a delight! Cary Elwes (my sweet Wesley) walks us through the making of the movie. I was fascinated by the training that went into the fencing scene, the artistic competition and insecurities, the camaraderie on set, Rob Reiner’s deft hand at directing his actors (lots of parallels between acting / writing and directing / editing), and all the behind-the-scenes goodies that made me want to watch the movie again. Throughout there are insights by the rest of the cast and crew (minus Andre the Giant, who has sadly passed away), which I’ve heard are especially fun in the audio version.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This book came out a month after May B., and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since! Part fairy tale, part survival story, all lush and nature-y and beautiful.
“Jack wasn’t one to believe in fairy-tale maidens made of snow. Yet Faina was extraordinary. Vast mountain ranges and unending wilderness, sky and ice. You couldn’t hold her too close or know her mind. Perhaps it was so with all children. Certainly he and Mabel hadn’t formed into the molds their parents had set for them.”
The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider
I intended to read this last spring (but didn’t), and absolutely had to get to it before my writing retreat (so I could pass it on to the next reader). Perfect for witty middle graders. Fovea discovers she won’t, in fact, be going to summer camp but will be working in her parents’ cadaver lab. I’ll let her tell you a bit of her story (so you can experience the great voice and humor):
“I mean, sure, probably my parents weren’t going to make me dig up graves and drag body parts home for their creepy experiments. But these were the facts: my cadaver-appreciating parents were basically nerdy, married versions of Dr. Frankenstein. And now I was going to be helping them. For four months, everybody at school had been calling me Igor, and for four months I’d been counting on a clean-slate summer, a shake-it-off summer, a start-eighth-grade-with-no-obvious-baggage summer, and no way could I shake off the rumor that I was Dr. Frankenstein’s body-slinging assistant Igor if I WAS ACTIVELY BEING AN IGOR.”
Full of the weird and the gross and the ridiculously fun — including a couple of (bodiless) talking heads.
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya was New Mexico’s patron saint of books and Albuquerque’s greatest literary treasure. He passed away earlier this year, making his books eligible for my classics book club (the only requirement being the authors can no longer be living. This might sound tasteless, but it isn’t meant to be!)
Somehow, I made it through college without reading his most famous book, Ultima, and I’m glad I’ve finally read it. (As a fun aside, his goddaughter graduated with me from UNM’s college of education.)
Bless Me, Ultima takes place in on the eastern New Mexico llano (high, grassy plains) during World War II. It centers on a young boy named Antonio who is finding his place in the world. Will he be a priest, as his mother hopes, or a man of the llano, like his father? Throughout, the mysterious curandera Ultima almost haunts the story (you hear more of her than you see her on the page). This read like a forerunner to the magical realism movement in Latinx literature.