Tag Archives: book

A Man Called Ove and one similarly-aged woman’s opinion

Ove is fifty-nine. So, currently, is Dona.

That’s probably the only similarity between the two. Ove would hate book groups, Ove doesn’t read much, except maybe manuals. Dona loves books and enjoys her book group. Dona also loves electronics. Ove doesn’t trust them. Ove likes cars. And order. And following rules.

A Man Called Ove coverDona really wanted to read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman so she chose it for book group when it was her time to host. She thought it would be similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It wasn’t really. It was readable — very readable. Dona enjoyed reading A Man Called Ove. She liked most of the characters and the situations and the writing style was easy to read. But The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was so much fuller than A Man Called Ove.

But here is what Dona didn’t like about A Man Called Ove. The author (currently thirty-four if you believe Google) seems to have little idea what fifty-nine year old people are like or capable of doing. He’s made Ove seem much older than fifty-nine — maybe somewhere in his seventies. His similarly-aged neighbor Rune is portrayed as being skinny and bent over when he’d been fit enough to scare drug dealers a decade or so before. Granted Rune has dementia, but it doesn’t seem quite right that he’s gone from being strong and large in his forties to being skinny and bent over in his late fifties. Ove doesn’t always act like he is in his seventies — he uses his strength on more than one occasion, but generally, as a fifty-nine year old Dona thinks that the author has written off the older generation as basically useless. The occasions where Ove uses his strength are accompanied with an explanation why he is strong. The only people in the book that are past their forties are either dead, sick, unable to cope or depressed and all but one is retired. Sure, Backman makes some under-forty-year-old folks incompetent (as seen through Ove’s eyes), but he doesn’t make the entire under-forty crowd one-dimensional.

Dona is glad she read the A Man Called Ove (and even saw the film, thanks to connections) but she is annoyed at Mr. Backman for portraying her generation as being far less able than his generation.




The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

I just got word that Amazon has shipped my copy of The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins. I’ve not been so excited about a book launch since Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (which sort of proves my own geekiness just by admitting that).

Alexandra Robbins, as you may recall, wrote a book about overachieving high school students and based much of her information on our neighborhood high school, since she went to school there herself. I read it, but was not happy with the message. Clare was a junior at the time and miserable. In fact she has few good memories of high school — mostly because that high school is such a pressure-cooker of a school.

Ms Robbins kindly replied to a Facebook comment I made on her wall (that I’d thrown her earlier book across the room more than once) that her new book is more hopeful. I’m glad. And I’m glad she wrote it.

When Clare was in middle school and lamenting her non-popularity and the loss of her best friend to the popular crowd I told her that, although she doesn’t know it now and may not believe it, she will be the successful one later on. She will be happier than the so-called popular kids when she’s grown. I also told her that she will be the more interesting person too — that the popular kids, for the most part, are two-dimensional and shallow and ultimately boring. That she was none of those things. Of course it didn’t help her then to hear me say that, but it helped me that I believed it — having been in a similar situation high school.

Clare’s a sophomore in college now and so far my prediction is right — at least for her. I don’t follow the popular kids. She’s confident, smart, happy and multi-dimensional. She’s a deep thinker and will do great things in life.

I’m going to get two of these books and one will go to Clare with an inscription from the author for her. (I sort of want it to say, “Your mom was right again!” which is a take off of a line from a Dan Bern song).

Stay tuned — I’ll write more about the book when I’ve actually read it. I’m going to a book reading/signing by Ms Robbins on Saturday. I couldn’t be more excited.

Lovin’ Loving Frank

I guess I just like books I can connect to — and I’m finding a lot to connect to in Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

Growing up in Northern Illinois, I could not help but at least be aware of Frank Lloyd Wright. Driving past Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva always elicited a mention of the house that Frank built by whomever was in the car. Because the only thing I really remembered about Fabyan Forest Preserve was the large Dutch-style windmill, I thought Frank Lloyd Wright built buildings that looked like windmills. Luckily, before I could make a fool of myself, I learned that Frank Lloyd Wright built other kinds of buildings. Although it seems, he did build a windmill after all! I may or may not have seen the actual house built by Wright at Fabyan Forest Preserve. I’m guessing not.

Anyway, in the early 1980’s a friend moved to Oak Park, Illinois and I had the chance to walk the streets there and see some of the homes built by Wright. I don’t remember being terribly impressed — except that Frank Lloyd Wright was famous and I was walking the area where he once walked.

Then, on one of my birthdays while we lived in Pittsburgh, my soon-to-be husband took me to see Fallingwater near Ohiopyle State Park. I finally realized why Wright was made such a big deal of. His arcitecture fit in with the natural surroundings. I’ve since been back there a few times and have visited a few other buildings designed by the man.

So, none of that — except the Oak Park part is why I’m loving this book. Or maybe all of it is plus some other things.  As I said before, it is all about connections.

On page 28 of the book the narrator mentions Lorado Taft. Now, I may or may not have come across that name in The Devil in the White City, but I cannot find it in the index. It turns out that Lorado Taft was a reknown sculptor and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright and not the outdoor education enthuasiast and Native American researcher I’ve always believed him to be.

Backpack patch Why would I have such a misconception? Here’s why — Students in the teacher education program of Northern Illinois University were (maybe still are?) required to take an outdoor education seminar. The location for the seminar was, and still is, at Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, Illinois. This seminar, although I dreaded it, was one of the highlights of my college experience. I was not a birder at this time, but watching the bird banding demonstration might have planted the seeds for my interest in birds. I was afraid of heights, but the repelling exercise down the side of a tall wooden building made me realize I could do things like that when few others would. I also remember learning basic tree identification — and I’m still interested in that.

So, I figured that Lorado Taft was the name of whomever founded the outdoor education facility in Oregon, Illinois. I thought he liked Native Americans because of the very tall Blackhawk statue near the entrance to the campus.

It turns out that Lorado Taft Field Campus used to be Eagle’s Nest Art Colony which was founded by the famous sculptor Lorado Taft whose Blackhawk statue overlooks the grounds.

It is highly possible that they told us all about this at the time, but obviously I was not listening.

I wonder what else I’ve missed in my life by not listening or not paying attention. Probably a lot.  We’ve got friends whose relatives own a Frank Lloyd Wright house and they’ve converted it into a B&B. We’re planning on spending a night there sometime — perhaps for our 25th wedding anniversary celebration.

Man — this post is pretty convoluted and messy. Oh well, I’ve got a book to finish.

Lorado Taft's Blackhawk

Clare and Andrew looking fierce