After having read Susanna Sonnenberg’s Her Last Death, I knew She Matters: A Life in Friendships, Sonnenberg’s latest memoir, would be next on the list. Compiled of friendship vignettes which span Sonnenberg’s herstory, the beginning of each chapter urges the reader on in order to determine if the friendship in question has stood the test of time or reached its conclusion. Sonnenberg’s brute honesty and vivid descriptions brings forth a sense of relational empathy in the reader. These detailed realities, I hope, beg the question of readers, “Why must female relationships oftentimes be so complicated?” What I like to refer to as the cauliflower story, Sonnenberg expertly creates the ambiance and effort put into a meal meant to please another person. The female friend arrives and merely pushes the penne pasta with cauliflower around on her plate. Years later, Sonnenberg discovers by chance while at the farmer’s market with said woman that her friend despises cauliflower, thus mystery solved. For me, the absurdity of the elephant in the room, i.e the vegetable which resembles, of all body parts, a brain, reaffirms the ideal how us chicks need to be more like the guys when dealing with one another, less defensive and more open. Thus, a fine penne with cauliflower is a must to accompany discussion of Sonnenberg’s She Matters: A Life in Friendships, but also, perhaps, a qualifier of a genuine friendship.
Never in a million years would I have thought an in-depth line by line study of a book of the Bible would be so intriguing, suspenseful, romantic, and inspiring. Yet, Liz Curtis Higgs’ manages this feat and then some in her work of nonfiction, The Girl’s Still Got It. I looked forward to dental appointments with glee, dance classes with anticipation, and children’s bedtimes with relief so that I could steal some time alone with this work of writing. Having read the book of Ruth before, this time I was awakened to the richness of the language, precise word choices, and the eloquence of simple storytelling. Calling the hub at work, I recited Biblical verses with endearing emphasis, “I will do for you all you ask,” (Ruth 3:11), and “Spread the corner of your garment over me . . .” (Ruth 3:9). Writing a sweet nothing in his valentine this year is going to be, figuratively speaking, a piece of cake due to Higgs’ influence. In addition to making Ruth’s story relevant in the 21st century through down-to-earth explanation, Higgs’ also concludes each chapter with a blurb from a present-day woman who relates her own story to that of Ruth.
For the purposes of book club, one may take a cue from Ruth 1:6, “When she had heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them . . .” In Higgs’ explication, the reader learns “. . . the people of Judah are discovering plump grapes on the vines, clusters of olives nestled in the trees . . .” (29). Thus, it makes sense to offer both red and green grapes during discussion as well as a variety of olives- pitted, stuffed, marinated, etc.- in order to reenact the bounty the people of Judah were discovering at the time. While munching, discussion may be facilitated by Higgs generous offering of discussion questions for the purposes of book club as well as more detailed questions for a more frequent atmosphere of book study. In addition, in lieu of a verbal lashing of the male protagonist, embrace your inner Cupids and share your own personal Boaz stories with one another as a finale to discussion.
Liz Curtis Higgs
Claiming 1st Prize in the 2012 Shirley You Jest Fiction Book Awards, J.W. Bull’s Pickin’ Tomatoes was ripe for review. Deemed a romantic comedy, I found there was so much more to be found in the pages of this novel. . . self-discovery, overcoming loss, and the necessity of genuine friendship.
Not only was a smile spread across my face as I sat reading during my daughters’ dance class, but tears flowed, too, during a young protagonist‘s dialogue with her mother, losing a battle with breast cancer:
“Momma? You don’t feel so good?” I whispered as I peeked from behind Daddy’s legs. The hospital was a scary place with weird smells and lots of whiteness. Where were all the colors? Momma stretched out her hand to me. I crept around Daddy and put my hand in hers. It felt dry and warm. “Sometimes even mommies get sick, Maggie,” she replied in a voice that didn’t sound like her. (Loc 548 of 3590 Kindle)
as well as a first-time pregnant woman at the deathbed of her father:
For a time, we stayed like that, curled up in the hospital bed together. Joined by memories and hearts. Until I felt his body begin to relax and his eyes closed.
And he went home to Momma. (Loc 1477 of 3590 Kindle)
Thus, the anecdotes sprinkled throughout such as: “Finding Mister Right is like washing dishes. Just when you think he’s squeaky clean- bam! You find dried up, crusty old egg on him” (Loc 42 of 3590 Kindle) kept the pace of this work moving right along. In addition to the various literacy elements interspersed throughout, J.W. Bull offers the reader easy-to-decipher, mouthwatering recipes sure to please any food lover.
So, for the purposes of book club, assign one recipe found at the back of Pickin’ Tomatoes to each bookie. This way everyone has a chance to sample each delicacy written about and compare ease of execution with the main character, Maggie Malone. Food for the mind and body. . . Pickin’ Tomatoes is a win win!
Having read about Susanna Sonnenberg’s latest memoir, She Matters, in a newspaper, my interest was piqued about not only this as a potential read, but also her first memoir, Her Last Death, the true story of a troubled (putting it mildly) childhood and the effects of which infiltrate adulthood. The honesty with which Sonnenberg arranges her words grasps the attention of the reader in much the same way an automobile accident may engage passing motorists. . . too horrific to comprehend, but impossible to turn away. Blushing while reading one passage, empathizing while reading another, this is definitely a page turner. Feeling as if I now know the Susanna on these pages, I yearn to know the rest. What has happened between the final page until now?
For the purposes of book club, many gourmet delicacies are discussed throughout. However, a defining moment in the memoir comes when Susanna realizes she favors her eggs scrambled, not a soft scramble, but hard. Thus, a brunch with the eggs in question would be a compelling conversation starter.