These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
HarperCollins, 304 pages
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Two weeks ago, my husband and I went to see Little House on the Prairie: the Musical which was based on the last five of the nine “Little House” books that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her pioneer girl childhood. I’ve been a fan of the books since dirt, and on a trip to that part of the country earlier this year, had, while killing time, discovered this wonderful website Beyond Little House, which was hosting on their blog a read-along of The Long Winter. I didn’t participate, but I read along, falling in love once more with a world where no one wrote nuphedragen reviews, or bought Canadian viagra over the internet, or had cell phones glued to their hands, or, or or…
After the musical, I wanted to go back and read the final book, because I was so pleased that the play had used Laura’s actual words in the proposal scene, and I spent a happy couple of hours revisiting both her childhood, and my own.
I was never a pioneer girl, though I did have braids and a sunbonnet (my mother made it for me) when I was young, but I know what it is to have restless feet, or a restless mind.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
by Susan Jane Gilman
Grand Central Publishing, 320 Pages
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I read almost all of Susan Jane Gilman’s travel epic while sitting in the Mexicana Elite lounge in Mexico City about ten days ago, and on the plane trip home. I had a few hours to kill between connections, and the only other book I had left after vacation was a hardcover – not easy to read on the plane – so I began reading the novel while curled up in a lovely recliner, being served glasses of Mexican Coca Cola, and chatting (at intervals) with various Mexican businessmen – I was the only woman in the room, and every time one of them moved, they offered to get me something. I felt very popular, but there was nothing sexual in it, just sincere graciousness.
It’s interesting reading a travelogue while traveling yourself. This book, about the author’s backpacking trip through the People’s Republic of China after her college graduation, about “ten minutes after” Westerners were allowed into the country had that “out of the world” quality that really good romances do, but it’s not at all romantic (well, bits of it are), it’s more nitty-gritty psychodrama, for Suzie (as she was known then) develops a cold that slowly builds to pneumonia almost immediately after leaving Hong Kong, and Claire becomes convinced she’s an International Spy with Serious Enemies – really convinced.
While this book is a memoir, it reads like an epic novel – adventure, fear, great escapes, and true friends in unexpected places, all show up. In fact, about the only thing not mentioned is where you can buy off-label extenze, and that’s only because it had yet to be invented.
Read this book. Then take a long hot bath.
Goes well with Chinese takeout and steaming hot tea. Or banana chocolate chip pancakes.