I had to finally admit I just don't have the brain cells right now for Updike and Chesterton. They remain on the bookshelf, staring at me and making me feel slightly guilty. Them and the pound cake.
So, instead, I've read some easier and enjoyable reads, starting with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I saw the book ages ago when it first came out and wasn't quite sure it would be worth reading until I saw LuAnne Schendel's review on GoodReads. Mom picked up the book to read and then mailed it to me in my Mother's Day package. (Our lending library is going to get more expensive now that I've moved.) A quick read, predictable but satisfying, and persuasive. Mom and I are determined to visit Guernsey some day. I had never known the story of the German occupation of the Channel islands, the closest the Germans got to invading England. I also enjoyed the novel's epistle structure. Letters reveal a character in personal, intimate ways and I appreciated this change in narration. Side note: I knew a woman in our church growing up who lived in post-WW2 Yugoslavia under Tito as a child. Because her family was German, they were sent to an internment camp as retaliation. After escaping, their life was difficult. Ever resourceful, her mother made a type of cake from potato peels and I always remembered that, wondering if I would be able to one, eat something like that and, two, be that determined and plucky. Her mother also used a giant pumpkin shell to bathe the children in so they wouldn't get lice while in the camp. Mom just read The Zookeeper's Wife, set in German-occupied Poland, and we've both wondered if we would have survived that type of life.
I also just finished Olive Kitteridge, a novel told in short stories. The author says she chose that type of structure since she figured the reader would need a break from the hard-to-live-with Olive, who permeates every story and every life in the tiny Maine town of Crosby. Though almost every tale involved infidelity or contemplations of suicide--a bit depressing!--they are well written, complex, and engaging. I love the short story genre and every chapter left me thinking about what would happen next. Strout's stories perfectly follow those New Critic values of irony, ambiguity, and tension. I love stories like that! It would be a good teaching text, though I would pick and choose which stories I taught.
Finally, the ducklings are discovering the Frances stories. I was reminded about this series through a radio segment on NPR about a couple who try to make reading to their kids more enjoyable for the parents by creating voices for the characters and making reading a competition between Mom and Dad (listen to/read "Bedtime Story Showdown" here). I love these stories. They are a perfect challenge for Rebekah who reads them to Ben. In fact, I've employed her reading services a lot lately while I've been otherwise occupied. They take a stack of books into Ben's room, lay down on their tummies, and read and read. She has pretty good voices too.