May 24, 2011

Sharing Good Books with Friends

but first I wanted to share that:

We've been following the news from home because interesting things are happening there. It started raining last week. Not remarkable in and of itself, but the interesting thing is it kept on raining, day after day, until parts of eastern Montana had accumulated more than 5 inches or rain! Any idea what that does to ground that's already saturated with moisture from several feet of melting snow? Let me show you...

This is Box Elder creek running a little high after a snow melt in May of 2008. Normally the Box Elder can be waded across without getting your legs wet above the knee. I know because I've gone "swimming" in it which involved laying on my stomach in order to get most of me wet.

When we lived at the ranch before moving to Billings, we lived a few miles from Malcolm's parents on some property they owned that had a couple houses. Malcolm's sister lived in one and we lived in the other, and the Box Elder ran peacefully along on the other side of the hay field from our houses. It is a lovely spot and I miss it, though these past few days I've been thankful we don't live there and that Malcolm's parents don't own it anymore. It was sold a little over a year ago, and my heart is breaking for the new owners.

These pictures were taken by a neighbor and are being used with their permission.
This is what the Box Elder looked like as of Sunday afternoon...
the house Malcolm's sister lived in
the barns and corrals between the two houses

the house we lived in is in the background behind the garage
This is the scene in many areas of eastern Montana. I read that every county in eastern Montana has flooding and roads washed out. East and South of Billings, the Yellowstone and BigHorn rivers and their tributaries are on a rampage, washing out roads and bridges and anything standing in their way. One of the bridges we would need to cross to get home is gone, so we'll be taking a detour when and if we ever get to go home again, and right now I feel like that will be never (even though its only 3 more weeks away).

for pictures of the Billings area:

Even I-90 is under water and closed from just south of Billings to the Wyoming state line and the towns along that route are suffering.

Take into consideration all this along with the storms of last month in the south, the flooding along the Mississippi River, and the tornado in Joplin, MO this weekend, and its just a little overwhelming. What on earth is going on with our Earth this year? This one will definitely be one for the record books, and speaking of...the flooding in my state has surpassed the record in the record books, or at least that's what I hear. My mom did a post on the Paradox of Nature a few weeks ago. I think she summed it up best when she said, "nature is cruel, and nature is beautiful." Its definitely showing its cruel side right now.

Moving on to books and friends...
When things are bad, or I'm down in the dumps, or on a rainy day, one of my favorite "escapes" is reading. And one of my delights is sharing a good book with a good friend.
Its more pleasant once she gets settled and stops pulling my hair. She likes to read over my shoulder and then we discuss what we read that day. Our last two books were really good and Paris felt that we should share them with others, so I told her I'd do a blog post on them. So here goes...

Winter Wheat
-Midred Walker
"September is like a quiet day after a whole week of wind. I mean real wind that blows dirt into your eyes and hair and between your teeth and roars in your ears after you've gone inside. The harvesting is done and the wheat stored away and your through worrying about hail or drought or grasshoppers. The fields have a tired peaceful look, the way I imagine a mother feels when she's had her baby and is just lying there thinking about it and feeling pleased."

The first chapter of the book and just a taste of the beautiful use of words and language in it. Winter Wheat is the story of Ellen Webb, "who lives in the dryland wheat country of central Montana during the early 1940's...It is a story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, spiritually..." It is a beautiful story that captured me and carried me through all the pages. It was one of those that your sorry to see end. By the time it was over, I was neighbors and good friends with the characters and new I was going to miss them terribly. The truck seemed lonelier when I closed the back cover over the ending page because they had moved on and left me.

Winter Wheat was the (I think) 2003 One Book Montana selection. I missed it then, but because the last One Book Montana book that I read was so excellent, I saw this one on the shelf at the store and took a gamble, one that I feel I won. One of my favorite things about this book, aside from the beautiful language and the story that was capturing, was Ellen's use of wheat. The wheat that her family grows, her knowledge of it, is woven throughout her life, and her thoughts and she uses comparisons of the wheat fields and grains and stalks when she's describing situations or feelings. I liked that.

Inside the front cover of the book is a list of 13 other titles written by Ms. Walker. I intend to look into reading as many of them as I can. On the back cover is a quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer that sums up my opinion of one of my new favorite authors, "You are either a Mildred Walker enthusiast or you are missing one of the best writers on the American scene."

When We Were Strangers
- Pamela Schoenewaldt

On occasion, while strolling the aisle of the book store, a random book will catch my eye and I'll indulge, take a risk, spend money on a book just because I liked the cover and hope I'm not throwing my money away. This was one such book. It was the spools of thread and needle that caught my attention, and as it turns out, I didn't throw away any money. I read this book in three days, knowing full well that I needed to slow down and save some chapters for the onion field. But I just couldn't leave it alone.

"Too poor and too plain to marry, and unwilling to burden what family she has left, twenty-year-old Irma Vitale sees no choice but to flee her Italian mountain village. Risking rough passage across the Atlantic and the dangers facing a single woman in an unfamiliar land, Irma boldly pursues a new life sewing dresses for gentlewomen. Swept up in the crowded streets of mid-nineteenth-century America, Irma finds not only workshop servitude and miserable wages, but also seeds of friendship in the raw immigrant quarters...From the rubble, and in the face of human cruelty and kindness, suffering and hope, Irma prevails, discovering a talent she'd never imagined and an unlikely family patched together by the common threads that unite us all."

It is a great story, easy to read, easy to follow. And by saying that I'm NOT saying its a "fluff" book, but its not one to tax your mind either. I just really enjoyed the story and the language and the writing and the characters. 

After going on and on about Winter Wheat, I feel like I'm cheating this book in my attempt at "selling" it.  But I don't mean to. I think I just used up my enthusiasm in talking about Winter Wheat, since it was my favorite of the two. But, I read lots of books, so if I'm telling about one in a blog post then it was really enjoyable! When We Were Strangers gets blog post approval. It's worth picking up at the bookstore or library and adding to your reading pile.

Now, I have a problem. As I mentioned, I knew I needed to slow down and save the chapters for the onion field. The reason being that When We Were Strangers was my last book! I packed enough to get me to the end of May, which they did. I thought we'd go home then. But we're staying out three more weeks, and I have nothing to read, not even a magazine. I glanced across the shelf at Walmart on Saturday and saw nothing that appealed. This morning waiting to load onions I've gone stir crazy, puttering around, writing a letter to a friend, and fidgeting. I think a stop in at a bookstore is essential to my mental stability whenever we can manage it. And I have a few books on a list. But since I've recommended a couple to you, I was curious what you would recommend to me. What have you read lately that was good? Your suggestions are much appreciated.


gowestferalwoman said...

Sarah - its soggy here...


We havent been hit too hard, but we are at a loss of words for whats happening around us.

Your mother is right - nature is cruel..and beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah, love your blog & visit every day from NC. I just started reading "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. Written by the dog, I am positively hooked in the first chapter! Reminds me of your mom's blog!

small farm girl said...

I guess it's raining everywhere!!!! We just now got into the garden. Usually we can plant around the middle of April. Not this year. Be safe out there!

Michaele said...

I really want to read When We Were Strangers now. Like you, I find reading a great escape and also motivating. Nothing like stepping out of your own life for awhile. My daughter says it would be so nice to have a dog like yours. I informed her you had three.

Debbie @ Swampbilly Ranch said...

"There but for the grace of God go I" This saying sems to fit your situation with the farm you used to live on. Very sad. I am so sorry for those suffering through the recent weather.

Thank you for the book reviews. The most recent thing I have read was "The girl who kicked the hornets nest" series. I enjoyed it alot.

Frugal Canadian Hermit said...

Every where I look there is something going on lately. Fires up here, flooding down there and in Manitoba, volcanoe in Iceland, tornados down south. I'm just wondering when it's my turn. I need to find a big rock to crawl under. That's pretty deep water, where you used to live, ya gotta be glad to be outta there. I kinda feel for the the people who bought it too, but that's the way it goes I guess.

Shirley said...

Sure hope things settle down soon, there's a lot of people hurting from all the curves nature has thrown this year.

Debbie @ Swampbilly Ranch said...

I love your blog! I have gifted you with an award! Stop by and pick it up!

texwisgirl said...

congrats on your award! came over from debbie's to say hello. i am SO sorry to see the flooding at your old home area. i agree with you - it is a cruel season this time...

Cynthia Eloise said...

i've enjoyed reading your blog. it gives me some great insight into the trucker life. we see many long haul drivers here at work. occassionally a couple will come in. we are also threatened with flooding, the columbia is getting close to flood stage and it keeps raining. looking forward to your next post.

Anonymous said...

Wow look at all of the water. I'm sure the Pierre area looks like that today. So sad.

Fun catching up on your blog as always. ;)

God Bless,


Valerie said...

Now reading your blog is costing me money!!! you know I have to get those two books TODAY! If you haven't read Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, you need to. It'll bring you back to your southern roots. Great book!

Vintage West said...

It's been so horrible around here, but so much worse in other parts of the country, it's unbelievable. We have been lucky where we are that all our buildings are on high ground.
And it's been raining again for the last 24 hrs.