Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

Rules for Visiting
by
Jessica Francis Kane

Rating:

May Attaway has reached a personal crossroads. She’s 40 years old and shares a house with her father (he’s in the basement apartment) and her brother has moved across the country, having broken off from the family. May is a landscape architect for the university in town and one day, she realizes that she doesn’t have many friends, and has lost touch with the ones she’s had. Something is missing and there’s a sadness about May’s family, pointing to her mother’s depression and the years of withdrawal and sickness that led to her death.

May, afraid she will be like her mother, decides to make a fix. So she uses her gifted time off and visits four old friends from childhood, college and her young adult life, hoping that by reconnecting, she will understand how to keep friends and make new ones.

“I was interested in figuring out who I was with other people, and why that person was hard to be with,” she says. She later adds, “It seems to me that your oldest friends offer a glimpse of who you were from a time before you had a sense of yourself and that’s what I’m after.”

May’s story is cleverly framed around descriptions of the many trees and plants she has come to love and understand. Of particular importance is a yew tree that May has cared for at the university. She’d brought the sapling from Scotland and tenderly cultivated until it was ready to plant and now it’s a point of interest on the grounds. Its true significance is revealed at the end of the book

In this feel-good story, May approaches a better understanding of who she is and how to connect with other people, and just as important, how to confront the sadness that has crippled her family.

In a world of fake social media connections, where impressions of the perfect life make others feel disconnected, Kane shows the value of the face-to-face friendship. May rediscovers her old friends and recognizes that the people around her, including a potential love interest, are just waiting to connect.

I enjoyed this hopeful story that started out sad but ended nicely. Rules for Visiting is a quick read that will make you want to catch up with an old friend or make plans with a new one. I recommend it to readers who like stories about friendship and overcoming depression.

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Stories aren’t just in books! Today’s story is about how 3 former college football players and their friends started a record label

Image: Pixabay

Storytelling represents an important part of our lives and the need to share stories is as ancient as human history. From cave drawings, hieroglyphs and oral narratives to the written word, in books, art, photography and modern media, we look for stories to define ourselves and connect with others.

Our days revolve around stories. In the morning, we check for news. At work and with friends, we share little parts of our lives. We tell stories at dinner and at night, we read books, watch shows or tune in to a game. I say game, because in sports, it’s not just about the score. What goes on behind the scenes and the connections and friendships between players: that stuff is what makes up the real stories.

Today I’m sharing a story about a group of friends—3 of whom are former Lehigh University football players—and how they combined their skills to start a record label. Football and rap music were always a part of their lives. After college, these men traveled to England to play football at the University of Nottingham, while earning advanced degrees in business. And now they have a record label! Click here to read the full story from The Morning Call, written by Austin Vitelli.

Source: Vitelli, Austin. “How 3 former Lehigh football players and their friends started a record label.” The Morning Call, 26 Mar. 2019, https://www.mcall.com/sports/college/mc-spt-lehigh-football-rappers-20190319-story.html.

What types of stories do you like to share?

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden
by
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrated by Tasha Tudor

Rating:

Classic children’s books don’t get any better than this story about a spoiled, but frail and lonely ten-year-old orphan girl who is sent to live on a vast English moorland manor, with a reclusive uncle she has never met. In a delightful transformation, fresh air, exercise, surprise friendships, returned health and the newfound wonders of a secret and neglected garden are the springtime magic that brings Mary Lennox and her new family together.

Mary has lived a privileged life in India, waited on by her Ayah and knowing nothing about good manners or other people’s feelings. Her parents have died of cholera and now she must learn how to be kind to others and do things for herself. She’s been warned that her uncle has little interest in children. In fact, Archibald Craven is determinedly away when Mary arrives at Misselthwaite Manor and she is left in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, and the young housemaid, Martha Sowerby.

There are many secrets at Misselthwaite, including long corridors, hundreds of unused rooms and strange noises in other parts of the house. She’s told to stay in her own rooms when indoors, so Mary explores the outdoors where she finds many gardens and meets the groundskeeper, Ben Weatherstaff, and a friendly robin. When the robin flies to the top of a tree in an enclosed garden with no apparent door, Mary knows she must find a way in.

Once discovered, it’s a secret Mary longs to share with someone she can trust. And when she meets Dickon, Martha’s younger brother, she knows he is the perfect friend to tell. Dickon knows all about gardens and the creatures on the moor and has a magic about him that makes him glow with happiness. As the two children plant flowers and clear out the weeds, Mary learns about the unbearable unhappiness the garden represents to her uncle. And the alarming cries in the night reveal another secret about the manor.

As Mary befriends the people in her small world who struggle with their own problems, she entrusts them with her secret and learns that the greatest joy comes with helping each other. It’s a delightful story in which goodness rises to the top of much loss and sadness. The author does not shy away from these realities; she tells of them plainly and shows that faith and a little bit of springtime magic are no match for Misselthwaite’s troubles.

There is more to tell, but some secrets are better enjoyed first-hand. I recommend The Secret Garden to all readers, young and old, who enjoy books about children, friendship and the joys of finding a way out of unhappy times. I especially enjoyed this Tasha Tudor Edition, published in 1962 by Harper Collins. The artist’s illustrations are beautiful and give the reader a wonderful picture of Burnett’s story.


I read The Secret Garden as part of my library’s Summer Reading Challenge to read a children’s classic.

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Audiobook: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee

Audiobook
Truly Madly Guilty
by
Liane Moriarty

read by Caroline Lee

Rating:

Everything changes for three couples and their families the day a simple backyard barbecue goes wrong. And the wrong thing that happens hits them hard with feelings of guilt and regret. What happened and what is the backstory? That’s the basis of Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, a modern story set in suburban Sydney, Australia.

Vid and Tiffany are the outgoing neighbors who want to enjoy themselves. Erika and Oliver conduct themselves carefully and deliberately. Sam and Clementine are deep into balancing life with careers and two little girls. The common link is the complicated friendship between Erika and Clementine, built on decades of resentment and shame.

The story begins sometime after the barbecue and hints at how the group is coping. Moriarty slowly reveals, through alternating chapters of before and after, just what happened at the barbecue and mixes in the many relationship difficulties between the married couples. Difficulties like love and marriage and sex and careers, becoming adults and raising children. Additional themes include money and class, being charitable and accepting help, family obligations and the big one, guilt.

Everything that could be ignored before the barbecue now demands their acknowledgement and work. Moriarty’s characters are good people under it all and the question is if and how they will pull themselves up. Despite the events, the story ends on a hopeful note, with some realistic loose ends. Special praise goes to the narrator, Caroline Lee, whose terrific character sense and range add a bonus dimension to the story. At seventeen hours, it’s a long but entertaining listen. I recommend Truly Madly Guilty to listeners (and readers) who like stories about relationships and modern problems.

Note: This is my first audiobook experience. I was not sure how I would feel about listening to a book because I wondered if I would be able to keep the characters and plot straight. No problems! I listened to half of it in my car last Friday during a long ride in a crazy wind storm and finished up yesterday as I took a walk and worked around my house. I still prefer reading, but think I will enjoy mixing it up a bit with an audiobook.

How do you feel about audiobooks? What do you do while you listen?

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If you like stories about marriage and family, check out:
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty