Book Review of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
by
Steven Callahan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve always liked survival stories and became totally engrossed in Steven Callahan’s first-hand account of how he survived for more than two months, alone in the North Atlantic after his boat sank. In 1980, Callahan entered the Mini-Transat Race from France to Antigua, but less than a week out, his boat was hit and destroyed by what he thinks was a whale. With only minutes to escape, he grabbed what he could and jumped in the inflatable life raft. His supplies consisted of a few items of food, minimal water, some tools and twine, desalination equipment, emergency flares, a signaling device with limited battery and a survival book he’d picked up at a used book sale.

Callahan endured blazing sun, huge waves, storms, shark attacks and a never-ending assortment of life-or-death situations, including the constant pressure to find food. His salt distillers malfunctioned, his raft leaked and he was hundreds of miles out of range for anyone to hear his signal. When he finally made it to the shipping lanes, ships didn’t catch the signal or see him, despite the flares.

Equally challenging were feelings of worry and hopelessness, but Callahan had a mental resiliency like no one else. He writes:

“Mountain climbing, camping, Boy Scouts, boat building, sailing, and design, and my family’s continued encouragement to confront life head on have all given me enough skill to ‘seastead’ on this tiny, floating island. I am getting there.”

Callahan speared dorados and trigger fish, journaled, drew, and calculated where he was with a sextant he made out of pencils, but over time, especially after the raft was punctured while he wrestled a dorado, he questioned if he had the strength to keep fighting. By then he was emaciated and dehydrated and was covered with cuts and sores.

One of his only comforts was the relationship he developed with the schools of dorados that followed him and nipped and bumped his raft, feeding off the barnacles on the bottom.

“The dorados have become much more than food to me…I look upon them as equals—in many ways as my superiors. Their flesh keeps me alive. Their spirits keep me company. Their attacks and their resistance to the hunt make them worthy opponents, as well as friends.”

Later, he wrote: “I needed a miracle and my fish gave it to me.”

On land, Callahan’s family notified the Coast Guard and conducted their own campaign to find him. But on the seventy-sixth day, a fishing boat from the tiny island of Marie Galante spotted his raft. He’d floated all the way from France to just south of Guadeloupe!

Callahan survived because of his unique skills and mindset and I wonder if anyone else could have made it. I marveled at how he used his mind to find solutions to a continuous run of seemingly hopeless situations. This is an example of perseverance like no other.

Adrift was first published in 1986 and despite being an older book, I think this excellent account has stood the test of time.

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What’s That Book? How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Kaitlyn Jain, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Kaitlyn!

Title:  How the Word is Passed

Author:  Clint Smith

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about? A reckoning with the history of slavery across America. The author alternates between educating the reader on known (and little known) history and providing a bigger picture of history through the eyes of Black Americans. It goes beyond slavery to Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, even mass incarceration.

How did you hear about it? I originally chose to read it since the author is an alum at my college and has done outstanding work teaching prison inmates in Washington, D.C. I had heard many positive reviews of the book, plus it has received many awards (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and New York Times 10 Best Books of the 2021.)

Have you read other books by this author? No, this was his first full-length book.

What did you like about the book? I went into this book with high expectations. Written by a fellow alum, with a three-month waitlist at the library, and an average of 4.8 stars on Goodreads, I figured it must be good. However, I was blown away by how good that actually could be. As a white woman, I learned a lot.

Clint Smith writes with the detailed description and language of a novel but with research-backed information and insight. Then, he peppers in personal info to make him relatable:
“Here I was, on a plantation that enslaved hundreds of people who had skin like mine, having a conversation with a white, conservative, Fox News-consuming woman from Texas, whose mother had conveyed to her throughout her life that people like me were—that perhaps I was—better off dead than alive. A woman with whom, surprisingly even to me, I was sharing photos of my fourteen-month-old son.”

I knew I’d garner information about southern plantations, the slave trade, and the prison system, but I was surprised by what I learned about New York City—namely that Central Park used to be a blossoming Black community and the Statue of Liberty serves as a symbol of abolition (she has shackles if you look closely).

He ends with interviews with his grandparents. His grandfather’s own grandfather had been enslaved. It shows how short our national history is and how far we still need to go.

Closing comments: This may be the best book I’ve ever read. If you want to learn about history from another perspective, this is a must-read. With current events, it gives me a completely new perspective as to how things happen and what we can do to improve things in our country.

Contributor:  Kaitlyn Jain. Mom to four under 10 and best-selling author of Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time. Connect with Kaitlyn here: kaitlynjain.com.


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Book Clubs – they come and go and now they’re on Zoom!

A couple days ago, I read an excellent post by Donna at Retirement Reflections about the benefits of being in a book club. Donna knows her stuff. She is a book club pro!

Book clubs have changed a lot over the years. And the pandemic has moved a lot of book groups to Zoom and other virtual formats. That hasn’t stopped Donna and her friends from having fun by jazzing things up with drop-off treats (that means snacks and wine) to enjoy together during their Zoom. Way to go, Donna – you guys do things right!

Years ago, I was in three clubs, but life got busy and stressful. My main in-person book club fell apart and my Facebook group has become inactive because it needs a logistical overhaul. Now I’m only in the mystery book club at my library job. It’s a great group and the Zoom format has attracted new people. One friend attends during her lunch hour and that could never have been possible for an in-person meeting. I think people are a lot more comfortable with virtual book clubs now that we’ve ironed out the kinks.

My first book club started in 2001. We were a bunch of new moms and we met every month at each other’s houses for nineteen years, as soon as we got our babies to bed. I often got home well after midnight! Ack – I can’t believe I had that much energy back then!

Last night I looked at the list of books we read. Our first book was The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan. You can view the complete list here.

Here are six books I missed that I would like to read now.

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The World to Come by Dara Horn

Are you in a book club? Do you meet in-person or virtually? Leave a comment!

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Graphic Novel Review – Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York
by
Roz Chast

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A few years ago, my work friend recommended Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York. Since then, I’d seen this graphic novel all around the library, but hadn’t read it. I finally brought it home to read this week and laughed so hard I was crying. Chast’s book began as a simple guide book for her daughter, who was headed to college in Manhattan. The family had moved from Brooklyn to a suburban town when her children were small and Chast wanted her daughter to fall in love with the city the way she had at that age. She writes, “I wanted to introduce her to Manhattan and didn’t want them to ‘get off on the wrong foot.’” Also, she wanted to make sure her daughter knew how to get around!

This isn’t a travel guide, but it will help you get around. And Chast includes plenty of clever cartoons to help a person understand streets, avenues, uptown, downtown, the east side and the west side. She points to Manhattan’s idiosyncracies, but also to its attractions, including parks, museums and other “Stuff to Do.”

I could have used this guide years ago when I volunteered to be a chaperone for the annual sixth-grade trip to New York. We left on three middle school buses at 7:00 am and arrived in New York at 9:00 am for an 12:00 lunch at ESPN and a 2:00 pm Broadway show. Another mom and I were put in charge of eight boys (including our sons) and told to explore the city! Those eight boys wanted to do about ten different things, including going to a sneaker shop to buy sneakers we could have gotten at the local mall and visiting FAO Schwarz. After lunch, when we finally got to the theater district, we were right in the middle of a throng of people much like in this picture. I was sure we would lose them while crossing the street.

One of the things I liked best about this book is how inclusive the author is. And although she pokes a little fun at tourists, she really just wants everyone to love New York the way she does. Chast has been a cartoonist for the New Yorker since 1978. She also wrote and illustrated the award-winning graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? in which she explores the topic of aging parents.

You don’t have to be a New Yorker to like this book, but I think it might help to have visited the city or to be interested in it. I grew up in a New Jersey town outside New York and have visited the city many times, but I’m a full suburbanite now. And I definitely don’t know my way around Manhattan. You can ask any extended family member to verify. I’d also recommend Going to Town for readers to get a taste of what graphic novels are like. Not all graphic novels are funny, but this one is!

Do you read graphic novels? What types do you like? If you haven’t read any, are you interested? Leave a comment below!

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Man books – books with “man” in the title

We see our fair share of books with “woman” in the title, so I thought it would be fun to see what “man” books are out there. Turns out plenty! I’ve only read one of these, but many of the books listed here are from bestselling authors. I included one steamy one, so read that one at your own risk 😉

Here are 10 “man” books and there are many more! All links and descriptions are from Goodreads, Amazon or my blog.

A Better Man by Louise Penny – I’ve read a few Louise Penny books, but not this one. Book 15 in the Armand Gamache series. Catastrophic spring flooding, blistering attacks in the media, and a mysterious disappearance greet Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he returns to the Sûreté du Québec in the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny.

A Gambling Man by David Baldacci – Book 2 in the Archer series. Aloysius Archer, the straight-talking World War II veteran fresh out of prison, returns in this riveting #1 New York Times bestselling thriller from David Baldacci.

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney – Book 1 in the Gray Man series. To those who lurk in the shadows, he’s known as the Gray Man. He is a legend in the covert realm, moving silently from job to job, accomplishing the impossible and then fading away. And he always hits his target. Always.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham – John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction: a true crime story that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence. “Both an American tragedy and [Grisham’s] strongest legal thriller yet, all the more gripping because it happens to be true.”—Entertainment Weekly

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – This is the one I’ve read: Nathan and Bub Bright were shocked when their middle brother, Cameron died in the outback’s unrelenting heat. It didn’t make sense that he’d had gone out on foot to the legendary Stockman’s Grave, miles from his truck and the family’s cattle ranch. At forty, Cam was a successful and capable rancher and ran the family’s business. And he knew the dangers of the desert heat. Despite signs that Cam was desperate to find shade, investigators suggest that Cam took his own life.

The Memory Man by David Baldacci – Book 1 in the Amos Decker series. Amos Decker’s life changed forever–twice. The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect–he can never forget anything.

Rich Man, Poor Man by Irwin Shaw – I’d forgotten about this one! This New York Times–bestselling saga of two brothers in postwar America, the basis for the classic miniseries, is “a book you can’t put down” (The New York Times).

This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas  – Steam warning!! Named one of “The 20 Greatest Ever Romance Novels According to Goodreads Reviews” by O, The Oprah Magazine. Young interior designer Ava O’Shea has no idea what awaits her at the Manor. A run-of-the-mill consultation with a stodgy country gent seems likely, but what Ava finds instead is Jesse Ward—a devastatingly handsome, utterly confident, pleasure-seeking playboy who knows no boundaries…

Have you read any of these “man” books? Leave a comment!

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Book Review – The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell

The Songs of Trees
by
David George Haskell

I enjoyed this book that explores the deep connection between trees, nature and humans. Haskell studies twelve trees from around the world and explains in descriptive detail how the trees grow, adapt, sense, and provide living space for a multitude of living things.

From the Ceibo in the Amazon, to the Redwoods and Ponderosa Pines in Colorado, to the Japanese White Pine, we learn about these and other regional trees, their chemistry, their leaves and adaptive roots, the fungi that help them grow, how the trees protect themselves, and the effects of climate change over millions of years. In addition, we learn about regional cultures and their relationships to specific species. Haskell also describes the spiritual, economic and political connections with the trees.

While I enjoyed learning about all the trees he described, I particularly enjoyed reading about the Ceibo in Ecuador. Haskell ascended a structure through the canopy of this part of the forest and was able to see and experience the vast network of creatures living within the branches, animals that never visit the ground. That includes the bullet ant, known for its intensely painful sting! I also liked learning about how humans and the Hazel tree arrived in Scotland at the same time, during the Mesolithic Age. These civilizations had a deep dependency on the Hazel, used its wood for fuel and ate hazelnuts to survive. Haskell also studies several urban trees, including the Cottonwood in Denver and the Callery Pear in Manhattan. Both of these species have become gathering places for people, in Denver, to enjoy shade along the Cheery Creek and the South Platte River and in New York, as a place to step away for a bit from the busy sidewalk traffic. In Jerusalem, he looks at the olive tree, how it adapts to dry conditions and the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its farmers and their families.

To say that Haskell is descriptive is a major understatement! He packs every sentence with a multitude of adjectives and scientific detail. That makes for a slower read, perhaps the author’s deliberate attempt to make readers truly understand and experience the atmosphere he describes. At 252 pages, you may think you can read this quickly, but I’d recommend taking it at about ten to twenty pages at time. I was under pressure to read it for my library job and had to commit to fifty pages a day to get it done. That was a little tough, time-wise. I’d recommend this book to readers who like books about natural history and enjoy the connection between nature and civilization.

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Book Club Mom’s Books of 2021

I’m a little late in sharing this, but if you’d like to see what I read in 2021, here they are!

The Searcher by Tana French – 4 stars

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – 5 stars

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – 3 stars

Cary Grant – A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman – 5 stars

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce – 3 stars

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – 4 stars

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 4.5 stars

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – 4 stars

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5 stars

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 5 stars

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – 3 stars

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison – 5 stars

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 3 stars

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – 4.5 stars

The Last Flight by Julie Clark – 3.5 stars

The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham – 4.5 stars

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – 4 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – 3 stars

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland – 3.5 stars

The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin – 4.5 stars

My Brief History by Stephen Hawking – 4 stars

The Early Stories of Truman Capote – 5 stars

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – 4 stars

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – 4.5 stars

“The Casual Car Pool” by Katherine Bell – 4 stars

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – 3 stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – 3.5 stars

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine – 3 stars

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet – 3.5 stars

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – 4 stars

The Lying Room by Nicci French – 3.5 stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 3 stars

The Address by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

Furious Hours by Casey Cep – 5 stars

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford – 3.5 stars

There There by Tommy Orange – 5 stars

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Casillo – 3.5 stars

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – 5 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – 5 stars

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3.5 stars

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – 5 stars

Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer – 3 stars

Date with Death by Julia Chapman – 3.5 stars

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen – 4.5 stars

If you’d like to see what I’ve read in other years, you can follow these links which are also in tabs at the top of the page:

Books of 2013

Books of 2014

Books of 2015

Books of 2016

Books of 2017

Books of 2018

Books of 2019

Books of 2020

I didn’t read as many books this year, but some of them were long ones! I feel like I’d gotten away from reading longer books, so reading these reminded me of the nice feeling of really sinking into a story like The Thorn Birds.

Stay tuned for an updated list of my all-time top reads. I went from Top 10 to Top 15 a few years ago. I’m probably going to have to up it to 20 because I read some great books in 2021. Do you have lists of all-time favorite books? What’s your number one favorite? If you don’t know by now, my all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk. That’s a long one too!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorites 🙂

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Nonfiction books on my radar – my TBR grows!

The older I get, the more interested I am in nonfiction. I especially like biographies and memoirs and narrative nonfiction. I also like an occasional gossipy book (I confess!). Here are five nonfiction books I’d like to read this year. All descriptions are from Amazon.

Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick by William Elliott Hazelgrove (Feb 15)

‘Millionaire’ had just entered the American lexicon and Cassie Chadwick was front page news, becoming a media sensation before mass media, even eclipsing President Roosevelt’s inauguration. Using these newspaper articles, Hazelgrove tells the story of one of the greatest cons in American history.

Combining the sexuality and helplessness her gender implied, Chadwick conned at least 2 million dollars, equivalent to about 60 million today, simply by claiming to be the illegitimate daughter and heir of steel titan, Andrew Carnegie. Playing to their greed, she was able to convince highly educated financiers to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars, on nothing more than a rumor and her word.

She was a product of her time and painting her as a criminal is only one way to look at it. Those times rewarded someone who was smart, inventive, bold, and aggressive. She was able to break through boundaries of class, education, and gender, to beat the men of the one percent at their own game.

Hedged Out: Inequality and Insecurity on Wall Street by Megan Tobias Neely (Jan 25)

Who do you think of when you imagine a hedge fund manager? A greedy fraudster, a visionary entrepreneur, a wolf of Wall Street? These tropes capture the public imagination of a successful hedge fund manager. But behind the designer suits, helicopter commutes, and illicit pursuits are the everyday stories of people who work in the hedge fund industry—many of whom don’t realize they fall within the 1 percent that drives the divide between the richest and the rest. With Hedged Out, sociologist and former hedge fund analyst Megan Tobias Neely gives readers an outsider’s insider perspective on Wall Street and its enduring culture of inequality.

Hedged Out dives into the upper echelons of Wall Street, where elite white masculinity is the standard measure for the capacity to manage risk and insecurity. Facing an unpredictable and risky stock market, hedge fund workers protect their interests by working long hours and building tight-knit networks with people who look and behave like them. Using ethnographic vignettes and her own industry experience, Neely showcases the voices of managers and other workers to illustrate how this industry of politically mobilized elites excludes people on the basis of race, class, and gender. Neely shows how this system of elite power and privilege not only sustains itself but builds over time as the beneficiaries concentrate their resources. Hedged Out explains why the hedge fund industry generates extreme wealth, why mostly white men benefit, and why reforming Wall Street will create a more equal society.

Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson (Feb 15)

Heiresses: surely they are among the luckiest women on earth. Are they not to be envied, with their private jets and Chanel wardrobes and endless funds? Yet all too often those gilded lives have been beset with trauma and despair. Before the 20th century a wife’s inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. And in modern times, heiresses fell victim to fortune-hunters who squandered their millions.

Heiresses tells the stories of these million dollar babies: Mary Davies, who inherited London’s most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American “Dollar Heiress”, forced into a loveless marriage; Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who married seven times and died almost penniless; and Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of independence and achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother’s fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; and Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor.

Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison by Daniel Genis (Feb 22)

In 2003 Daniel Genis, the son of a famous Soviet émigré writer, broadcaster, and culture critic, was fresh out of NYU when he faced a serious heroin addiction that led him into debt and ultimately crime. After he was arrested for robbing people at knifepoint, he was nicknamed the “apologetic bandit” in the press, given his habit of expressing his regret to his victims as he took their cash. He was sentenced to twelve years—ten with good behavior, a decade he survived by reading 1,046 books, taking up weightlifting, having philosophical discussions with his fellow inmates, working at a series of prison jobs, and in general observing an existence for which nothing in his life had prepared him.

Genis describes in unsparing and vivid detail the realities of daily life in the New York penal system. In his journey from Rikers Island and through a series of upstate institutions he encounters violence on an almost daily basis, while learning about the social strata of gangs, the “court” system that sets geographic boundaries in prison yards, how sex was obtained, the workings of the black market in drugs and more practical goods, the inventiveness required for everyday tasks such as cooking, and how debilitating solitary confinement actually is—all while trying to preserve his relationship with his recently married wife.

Shackleton by Ranulph Fiennes (Jan 4)

An enthralling new biography of Ernest Shackleton by the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

In 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to traverse the Antarctic was cut short when his ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The disaster left Shackleton and his men alone at the frozen South Pole, fighting for their lives. Their survival and escape is the most famous adventure in history.

Shackleton is a captivating new account of the adventurer, his life and his incredible leadership under the most extreme of circumstances. Written by polar adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who followed in Shackleton’s footsteps, he brings his own unique insights to bear on these infamous expeditions. Shackleton is both re-appraisal and a valediction, separating Shackleton from the myth he has become.

Do any of these look good to you? What nonfiction books are you looking forward to reading in 2022? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen

The Copenhagen Trilogy
by
Tove Ditlevsen

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I had never heard of Tove Ditlevsen until I watched a stream of The 10 Best Books of 2021 from the New York Times, naming The Copenhagen Trilogy as one of the best books of the year. Ditlevsen was a Danish poet and author, and one of Denmark’s best-known authors. She was born in 1917 into a working-class family and during her lifetime, she published twenty-nine books of short stories, novels and poetry. Ditlevsen received numerous awards for her writing, but despite her success, she struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and died of an overdose in 1976 at age fifty-eight.

This sounds like a depressing book to read, but I thought it was beautifully written and it was obvious to me that Ditlevsen had a great talent for understanding and expressing complex feelings and conditions well beyond her youth. The poetry excerpts she includes are testament to her talent.

As a child and teenager, Ditlevsen lived with her parents in a tiny apartment in Copenhagen. Her father was a laborer and was frequently unemployed. Ditlevsen’s formal education was cut short at age fourteen when she began working in various office jobs and at eighteen, she moved out and supported herself. During that time, she published her first poem in a literary journal, then a collection of poetry and began writing novels and more poetry. As a teenager on her own, which was the norm in Denmark, she felt, “There’s something painful and fragile about being a young girl who makes her own living. You can’t see any light ahead on that road. And I want so badly to own my own time instead of always having to sell it.”

Ditlevsen’s memoir is divided into three sections: Childhood, Youth and Dependency and is largely personal. Themes of marriage, family relationships, alcoholism and suicide figure prominently. Although she mentions the socialist movement, the Depression, Hitler and the German occupation during World War II, these historical references serve only as a backdrop to her life story.

I was most shocked by the third section in which she lives recklessly, falls into addiction and in and out of marriages. Ditlevsen married and divorced four times and, during her marriage to Carl Theodor Ryberg, she became addicted to Demerol and other drugs (willingly supplied by her doctor husband) and was first admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Despite her personal ups and downs, Ditlevsen remains serious about writing, if nothing else. She writes, “And I realize more and more that the only thing I’m good for, the only thing that truly captivates me, is forming sentences and word combinations or writing simple, four-line poetry.”

I was completely drawn into the author’s story and touched by many of her descriptions. Special recognition should go to the book’s translators, Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman, who manage to preserve the beauty of her writing.

I highly recommend The Copenhagen Trilogy to readers who enjoy memoirs and poetry. I found the cover to be a little jarring, but don’t let that turn you away.

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What’s That Book? Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Marian Beaman, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Marian!

TitleWhere Do You Hang Your Hammock?

Author: Bella Mahaya Carter

Genre: non-fiction; advice for writers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about?  Author, writing coach, and speaker Bella Mahaya Carter urges writers to settle back and let go in her latest book, Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?. Using the image of the hammock, a universal symbol of relaxation, the author invites writers to hold their work lightly and with joy as they go about the serious business of sending their work into the world.

Carter’s book is a toolkit with nuts and bolts, a how-to-write-and publish primer, but its narrative style frees it from sounding like a handbook. She pinpoints every reader’s quest: “They want light bulbs to flash in their minds as their eyes scan the page. They want their hearts pried open.” She understands that readers long to “see themselves in your tale as clearly as if they were looking into a mirror.”

The author’s prose dances on the page, an art form she’s practiced. On receiving early copies of her book, she exclaims: “It was as if my Cinderella manuscript, once dressed in rags, was ready for the ball!” Personal illustrations and quotes from experts kept me engaged. For example, wisdom from Martha Beck, Pablo Neruda, and James Pennebaker dot the pages.

For me, Chapter 37, Turn You Blog into a Book was worth the price of Bella’s book because it’s the focus of my next book, My Checkered Life: Heritage, Hassles, and Hilarity. Lines attributed to Tao Te Ching surfaced as I read this chapter: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

How did you hear about it?  Bella’s book was featured on the monthly broadcast sponsored by the National Association of Memoir Writers

Closing comments:  Carter writes with honesty and heart, lovingly showing writers how to develop essential skills, which includes using recent technology. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer, this book belongs on your shelf.

Contributor: Memoir writer Marian Beaman, former professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville, is the author of Mennonite Daughter, which records the charms and challenges of growing up plain in 1950s Lancaster County, PA. Her story has evolved from blog posts which she began publishing in 2013 at marianbeaman.com. Marian feeds her muse with nature walks and Pilates classes. She lives with her husband Cliff in Florida, where her grown children and grandchildren also reside.


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.