2030, Harold Fry, & meeting Maddie.

I have returned, as promised. I’m a pretty huge procrastinator – ask any of my previous roommates – so this is a pretty big deal. So, without further ceremony, the books I read: 

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks 

spoiler-free plot synopsis: This book is Albert Brooks’ “first novel”, I suppose I have a thing for that. Brooks is a writer, director, and actor who is best known for writing and directing Defending Your Life & was also the voice of Marlin the Clownfish in Finding Nemo. 2030 is a dystopian work that portrays the future of America through Brooks’ chosen characters. In 2030 cancer has been completely cured, the older generations are living longer than ever, and America is in debt so far that it seems to be a plague that it will never recover from. So really, this envisioned America is feasibly not too far off. While life is still moving on, a terrible earthquake ravages L.A. and suddenly America finds itself in a very new position – it has no way to pay for the restoration of one of it’s largest cities. What follows is the account of how America changes in the years after the earthquake through the lens of the (Jewish) President, a radical youth, the man who cured cancer, and a Chinese newcomer. 

what I thought: This book bugged me out. I don’t usually go for over-the-top future America novels, as they are usually written by over-the-top political pundits and it’s hard for me to take the book seriously when I don’t take the author seriously. However, I really like Albert Brooks. Defending Your Life is a great movie and anyone who doesn’t love Marlin in Finding Nemo is a crazy person. This book bothered me not because it is over the top, but because it isn’t. Some events in 2030 are completely plausible; we do have an older population that is only getting older and no way to continue to pay for them, we are on the brink of huge medical breakthroughs that will change the human experience, and we are in debt up to our ears with no real plan to get out of it. Brooks writes with satire, but there are times that no amount of humor makes what he is saying funny – it often just makes it more sad. 

favorite quotation: “The government will come through, they just have to.” “And where is this written? In the Constitution or the Ten Commandments?” 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 

spoiler-free plot synopsis: Harold Fry is Rachel Joyce’s first novel – goodness, I really am creating a pattern here – and is just beautifully uplifting. Harold is a retired Englishman who routinely does the same thing most days and rarely leaves his house. Upon receiving a letter from an old co-worker, Queenie, detailing her struggle with terminal cancer (sent from a hospice facility), Harold sets out to mail her a letter back. He starts to walk to the post box and doesn’t stop – he decides to walk all the way to Queenie at her hospice center on the complete opposite end of England. The book chronicles Harold’s journey from Kingsbridge to Berwick upon Tweed. The reader gets insight from both Harold’s perspective, as well as that of his wife, Maureen, that he left behind in Kingsbridge. The book is unique portrayal of an individual life & proves that you are never too late, too old, too anything to do something extraordinary. 

what I thought: Maybe it was the fact that I was driving from Ohio to North Carolina to South Carolina to North Carolina to Virginia to Ohio while reading this book, but it was really emotional for me. Harold is constantly meeting new people and getting enveloped in their stories and as I was driving passing other cars, or houses, or places of work I realized, probably not for the first time, that there are just so. many. people. It’s so easy for us to feel like we are the center of the universe, that bad things or great things have only ever happened to us, or that death or love has only ever touched our hearts. This book was a reminder that everyone has a story, the wish to be something more than they are, and to have a purpose beyond themselves. Harold & Maureen both become characters that you root for and feel for as they try to understand life in the scope of their relationship and Harold’s journey. This was a beautiful book & one that made me feel connected to my fellow humans. So, both a book and a feeling I really recommend. 

favorite quotation: “It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside.” 

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cool book-related thing I got to do on thursday when I got back to Cincinnati! I have followed an instagram account called thiswildidea for a while now. This is the instagram of Theron Humphrey & his rescue coon hound Maddie and it chronicles their journey across America meeting people in all 50 states. Humphrey recently put out a photo book called Maddie on Things, as Maddie has an uncanny ability to stand on pretty much anything. On thursday I went to Joseph Beth Booksellers in Hyde Park to meet Theron and Maddie and learn more about their journey & the book. I went with my best friend Aubrey and enjoyed hearing about Theron’s hope in humanity & his passion for rescuing animals. I urge you to check out both thiswildidea.com & whywerescue.com to learn more. 

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this is Ella, my rescue animal. A real weirdo – obviously. 

ashley. 

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inaugural post.

ampersands and coffee

Two things I like pretty well. And after about 40 other failed attempts to name this blog, I’m sticking with it – for better or worse. My original intention was a book-centered blog & I am often drinking coffee while reading – so I think it fits just fine. 

While many people in my life are aware of my current unemployment, many others are not. I found it weird to send out a mass text message detailing my status, so this will do. Long story short, the mother of the family I nanny for was laid off, and in turn, I was too. I’m happy to say that their family is doing just fine, and the boys love time with mom. I went back onto the website where I have found my previous nannying jobs and applied for a few. Within days I heard back from a woman moving with her two children from NYC to Cincinnati. After interviews and reference calls, I was offered a job starting July 5th. I’m really excited to start, and am looking forward to the both the individuality and sense of family that nannying brings – it’s a job I really love to do. 

So this brings me to my next venture: this blog. I have a month of unemployment ahead of me and a stack of books to read. I’ve found that writing about a book after you read it makes you feel it even more. You’re able to process emotions and new intellectual material much better than if you just close the book and say, “well that was good!”. I’m hoping that’s what this blog will be during this stint where I have the time to breeze through my reading list, and hopefully beyond. I’m sure a fair amount about what my life is like with Zach here in Cincinnati will pepper the blog as well. 

So. Without further delay, my first book review (is that what I should call it? sounds too formal) /book I have thoughts on/ book I read/ whatever is on Karen Thompson Walker’s first novel, The Age of Miracles. 

The Age of Miracles is Karen Thompson Walker’s first novel, ever. A feat which I almost always look at with reverence. A first book can be so beautiful, as it’s this authors real shot at getting into the published world and often the ideas and execution can be so new and exciting. I love the classics & seasoned authors like Vonnegut, but I also love getting my hands on something truly new. That’s what this book was for me. 

spoiler free plot synopsis: Julia is a middle-school aged girl living in California with her parents when the population learns that the earth’s rotation is slowing. While at first uncertain,the people of earth comes to realize that this slowing will effect circadian rhythms, crops, the magnetic field, water supply, tides, and many other things taken for granted in the modern world. Days and nights become longer and Julia is still forced to navigate middle school when the future is more uncertain than ever. 

what I thought: I really loved this book. I’ve read a lot of other reviews that said that this could have been classified as a young adult book, which I suppose could be true. However, I think a lot of times, even though a book is important and interesting, when it is slapped with a young adult sticker, many adults don’t give it a second thought because it’s not “meant” for them – I will use John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars as a HUGE reason that this way of thinking is flawed. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being absorbed in Julia’s middle school world, even though I am an adult. We all had to go through it – middle school girls that were just horrible to us, meeting boys, and trying to build those first fundamental blocks of who we are. But Julia is trying to do this when she doesn’t even know when, or if, the sun is going to rise. 

Another reason I enjoy this book is because it can get a little science-fiction-y. While I have never been one to read those intense paperback science fiction novels, I have a deep love for The Twilight Zone, Neil Gaiman, and Lovecraft – so I am always happy to have a little futuristic weirdness in what I’m reading. Walker uses what she calls “the slowing” to show how the American population divides in a time of crises. When given the news, the government elects to stay on “clock-time” (the standard 24 hour day) even though when they decide this, the technical days have already extended to nearly 30 hours. As time passes, this means that it may be pitch black at 2pm and bright white at 4am, as clock time and “real time” start to diverge. This causes a part of the population, what Walker calls “real timers”, to disregard clock time and live their extended days according to the rising and setting of the sun. These people distrust the stance of the government, and are almost immediately ostracized from society. Julia’s piano teacher & neighbor Sophia elects to become a real timer and Julia struggles with how to feel – as many real timers move to utopian-like communities and away from their previous lives. This plotline made me wonder what I would do in a similar situation – would I trust my government & ignore my body, training myself to be awake in the darkness? It’s hard to say, but you get the sense in the book that the real timers have it right, at least for a while. 

I will say that the book ends well, or so I thought, without telling you how. I would recommend it to anyone, as it’s a great coming-of-age story and one that makes you think of how you would handle the end of the world, however it came. 

favorite quotation: “Love frays and humans fail, time passes, eras end.” 

This is the end of my inaugural post. Hopefully this is the start of something constant. If you have any kind of feedback or criticism, please leave it. I’m pretty open to changes and learning new things. The next book I’ll post about is comedian & director Albert Brooks’ 2030. Another book about the future & what it could look like – and it’s bugging me out a little for sure. I’m excited to write about it.

Until then. 

Ashley.