Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Single Motherhood, Two Ways

Before I get to the subject of this post, can I just tell you what is so great about Chicago in January? This city is ready for winter. It's totally acceptable to walk around completely bundled up and there are coat racks at every restaurant you go to. One thing that Chicago has and I miss here are coat checks. I love coat checks! Who wants to walk around a museum for 3 hours carrying your huge down coat? Not me, and I'm happy to pay a dollar or two so I don't have to. Also, you can take your kids to Ed Debevic's for the first time and stun them with loud music, rude waiters, and dancing.

So, single motherhood. When the two books I'm about to talk about were sitting in my pile of ARCs to be read, I never thought I'd review them in the same post. I read Asha Bandele's memoir Something Like Beautiful first. This book, not quite 200 pages long, took me ages to read. A little bit about Bandlele - she married a convicted murderer who was incarcerated at the time after meeting him through a college program. Bandele wrote about this part of her life in her memoir The Prisoner's Wife which I have not read. Something Like Beautiful deals primarily with her journey as a single mother but she muses on a variety of topics. I enjoyed the middle section of this book the most. This part was more about how she dealt with everyday life and frustrations, her struggle with depression, and her struggle with an abusive relationship. This part is bookended with sections that I would describe as lyrical and poetic, yet also melodramatic and repetitive. I think books can create an atmosphere as you read them, one of terror or suspense, one of laughter or sadness. Every time I picked up this book I felt as though I were sinking into the depths of melancholy. I think a big problem I had and this is, I'm sure, prejudice on my part, is that I couldn't get past the fact that this woman married a convicted murderer serving time. My feeling is that if you're considering doing this, you have issues. Along with that, I couldn't help but wonder why prisoners should get conjugal visits, and get to spend nearly 2 days in a trailer with someone and the opportunity to create children. But that's just me.

I literally put Something Like Beautiful down and picked up The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. What a breath of fresh air! I went from melancholy to laughter as I read her self-deprecating account of the failure of her marriage and her journey as a single mother. Dickinson writes the column 'Ask Amy' and appears on radio shows. I hadn't heard of her myself before reading this book which is warm and chatty and real. Dickinson comes from the small town of Freeville, where pretty much all the women in her life have raised families on their own, together. This memoir covers a vast period of the author's life and her story is told in vignettes, each chapter detailing a different period or subject. Dickinson has a conversational and funny writing style that makes for quick reading.

I wondered if I would have liked Dickinson's book as much if I hadn't read Bandele's right before it. It's hard to say as these women are so different.


Ti said...

It's interesting what you said there at the end. I'm guessing you did enjoy, or at least appreciate the second book a bit more just because of the melancholy tone of the first one.

I sort of agree with you on the part about marrying a convicted murderer. I mean, HELLO!!! Did the warning bells not go off?

kristen said...

Oh good! Queens is on its way and I'm so glad to hear that you're enjoying it...! Now I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Carrie K said...

It's not just you, I too wonder why a woman would marry a convicted murderer. Different strokes for sure.

Whether or not you would have enjoyed Mighty Queens as much before attempting Something Like ...ah Beautiful, it's a good thing it was there for you! Books like to be read at the right time. That's why some sit on TBR shelves. I'm convinced of that.

Staci said...

There's no way I would read the first book...she's unhinged...period!!

I've seen some great reviews of Mighty Queens and I'm going to add this one to my ever-expanding TBR list!!!

Sounds and looks like you're having a blast in the Windy City!!!

Petunia said...

I would agree about being weirded out a little about the author's past. But it makes me curious to read The Prisoner's Wife to see what she has to say about it.

J.L. Danger said...

Wow. That first book sounds like a trip. What was that woman thinking?!

Tara said...

Ti, I think so too! She definitely had issues, that she admitted to, and it sounds like everyone around her tried to dissuade her from this. It's almost as though, by doing this, she can avoid a real relationship.

Kristen, I hope that you like it!

Carrie K, I love what you said about books needing to be read at the right time! Well said.

Staci, she has a lot of issues, that's for sure. Chicago was fun!

Petunia, on the one hand I'm curious too, on the other, I'm not crazy about what I percieve as her writing style....she has trouble getting to the point, but the book does have good reviews.

J.Danger, totally. In my opinion, she's avoiding having a real relationship, it's sort of a cop-out.

Bybee said...

I'm interested in both books. I'm also intrigued by Asha's marrying someone who's locked up. For some women, is that part of the appeal? Do they want compartmentalized relationships?
Thanks for the reviews.

Tara said...

Bybee, it sounds like you might be interested in The Prisoner's Wife! I wonder the same thing, is there a deep down reason they are choosing unavailable men. If you have an address in the US when you're here, I'd be happy to mail Something Like Beautiful to you. Let me know.

Anonymous said...

I'm so looking forward to reading The Mighty Queens of Freeville. I've been saving my Barnes & Noble gift cards for something good, and this sounds excellent.

Tara said...

jenny, I saw the author on one of the morning shows yesterday. She seemed like such a nice/normal person.