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2014 January 13
by Rachel Turiel

The opposite of the whole silver lining thing must be what’s happening right now, which is returning from the tropics to get slammed with nasty colds. But, as the positive types of the household keep saying, “It’s a good thing we weren’t sick in Kauai.”

On other positive fronts, a new “One Stop Cough Drop Shop” has opened in our living room, complete with cough drop menu. (But don’t assume that being family gets you any free perks).



Also, when we’re all well enough to be upright and verbal at the same time, it’s a little like college dorm life, people dragging their blankets into the common space to chat and be together. And as Rose badgers us to buy cough drops, and Col recounts his dreams in long, hard-to-follow monologues, interrupting himself to add more confusing details, I find myself thinking, I really like these people.


Dan got a “Cat’s Cradle and other String Games” book from the library (inspired by Riley Kenrick in New Jersey, age 7) and has been engaging in loud self-congratulatory competitions with himself. “Didn’t think he could do it, but look…it’s…wait…it’s…THE CATERPILLAR!” 

Between periodically inspecting my tonsils with a flashlight (which have taken on an eerie geologic-ness), I’ve been reading. The kind of reading you can get away with when you’re sick and your kids are over 5 and fevers keep you up half the night. So there’s that. And I wanted to recommend some books to you all before I go back to bed.

Maybe I’m the last person to hear of the novelist Elizabeth Strout, and you’re all completely in love with her already, as you should be. I’ve read The Burgess Boys and Olive Kitteridge, both which take place in Maine (and some NYC), both of which are so well written, family sagas, real and raw with just enough slivers of light to not ever be depressing. I would start with whichever your library has first.

Also, Norman Ollestad’s harrowing-amazing memoir, Crazy for the Storm, which I’m mostly recommending for the guys who read this blog. Not to be sexist, but even all the reviewers say it’s a must read for all fathers and sons. In 1979, a private plane carrying Ollestad and his father to a ski championship award ceremony crashes in the San Bernadino Mountains in winter. The crash kills his dad and the pilot, and Norman, at 11 years old, is faced with making his way down from the crash site to safety. The book is also about Ollestad’s relationship with his father, who was unendingly charismatic, offering his son adventure not available to most kids, but also continually pushing his son beyond his comfort levels.

And Fayegail Mandell Bisaccia’s memoir Dancing in My Mother’s Slippers, a journal-style book about her parents aging and dying, in which she did a beautiful job recounting the way grief is not linear, nor time-sensitive, it changes and stretches and flows and still stings many years later. (My parents keep requesting an End-Of-Life discussion with Dan and me, which is funny since they’re going to live forever).

Also, I read The Orchardist, which started out lovely and interesting, and just got more depressing and upsetting, which would have been okay if the characters weren’t so flat as to be hard to care about. And I’m aware that I may be the only person alive who didn’t love this book, so feel free to disagree.

Now I need a new book. What books have you guys been enjoying? (Also, I’ve been so out of the internet loop, what else have you been enjoying: blogs, recipes, magazines, music, videos gone viral featuring chickens in sweaters?)



ps: thanks for all your island good wishes and encouragement.

pps: Hawaiian coconut smuggled home no problem, despite Rose at the agriculture check in station, shouting, after we denied having any fruit, “BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE COCONUT?!!!?”

42 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Rachel, my all-time favorites have been Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Huge tomes (900-1,000 pages each) full of history, Scottish and American, time travel, archaeology, medicine from the 1700’s and 1900’s, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and I could go on and on. Her first novel was published in 1991. And yes, she is a cousin of Karyn G’s. I have read and reread these novels until now, and I am reading the last one again in anticipation of #8. You will know you want to contintue after you read the first few pages. They are not for everybody. I know men (even a doctor) who have read them.

  2. Carly permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Love all Ivan Doig novels. My hub went to the library today and surprised me by checking out the newest one for me. Wasn’t that nice? And also I totally get that “I really like these people” feeling you mentioned. I marveled about that just this morning after laughing with my 6 year old in a great homeschool moment; I thought to myself: how lucky I am to be both mom and “teacher.”

  3. January 13, 2014

    Far From the Tree, by Andrew Solomon. Hefty, challenging, and intimidating — one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  4. Sara Parks permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Reading Tuesdays with Morrie right now and crying my eyes out, but for good, not bad. Island of the Blue Dolphins is always a favorite.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins when I read it as a kid, and then again when I read it to my kids.

  5. January 13, 2014

    Just finished “Gaining Ground” by Forest Pritchard, about saving the 5 generation family farm by going organic/grass finished. Great stuff. And I’m on a huge Nancy Kress kick lately. She’s a sci fi writer, but really the sci fi is just to put humans into interesting settings in order to better examine the human condition. An Alien Light and Probability Moon were my first two. Fun stuff. And I’m working my way through your suggested list of memoirs. Loved Blood, Bones and Butter (surprise)!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      So, are you saying that organic/grass-fed farming is economically and environmentally sustainable for the masses? I sure hope so.
      So glad you loved B,B,B!

  6. Ellen permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      Just found out I’m, no joke, #33 on the hold list at our local library for Signature of All Things. And each patron can keep the book for 2 weeks, so maybe next year…

  7. Jen Tanner permalink
    January 13, 2014

    OMG, “Crazy for the Storm”, OMG. Love love love & I’m a crazy southern female :-) Love Elizabeth Stout, both books you mentioned too.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 13, 2014

      Jen, that makes me really extremely happy that you loved that book and what I meant to say is it’s bound to be loved by most men, and all extremely cool females.

  8. Chris permalink
    January 13, 2014

    “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking” (Anya Von Bremzen) is a great read if you’re in the mood for memoir – I happened across it by accident at the library, totally enjoying it!

  9. January 13, 2014

    Did you ever read Wonder by RJ Palacio? Beautiful to share with the kids later too.

  10. Valeta permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Yes…I love E Strout! Olive is a favorite…
    Have you read the new fiction “The Signature of all Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, an autobiography “Daily Coyote” by Shreve Stockton, and “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie (her commentary on the Tao te Ching)
    There’s a few for you fluey rudolph’s with red noses!!
    Get well soon!

  11. January 13, 2014

    oh, the orchardist was so hard. Why do writers do this to the world? I’m not a total light weight, though. I am a huge Jeffrey Lent fan, and it’s kind of the same thing, but somehow irresistable. What about Plainsong by Kent Haruf? A regional classic. Surely you’ve read Voyage of the Narwhal and all the rest by Andrea Barrett?

  12. Carrie permalink
    January 13, 2014

    You would love The Snow Child by eowyn Ivey.

  13. Chelsie permalink
    January 13, 2014

    I second Diana Gabaldon’s series!! It took me about 50 pages to get in to it, but after that I was so hooked!! Also I just read the heart and fist by Eric Greitens and I’m not into Military stuff at all, but it was just a great (true) story

  14. Ellie permalink
    January 13, 2014

    I hope you all feel better soon.
    I love Olive Kittredge. Have you read anything by Marilyn Robinson? I love her fiction.
    Also, very banal, but I’m teaching The Great Gatsby for the first time, and man oh man, is it worth rereading in a post-child-approaching-middle age.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 14, 2014

      Thanks for that. Loved Gatsby in high school. I’d probably get a lot more out of it now.

  15. Julia permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Let me know if you need anything Sickos! Food, acu, whatever.
    We just sent Ben’s folks The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. Haven’t read it yet, but they LOVED it.
    And we love you!

  16. January 14, 2014

    I am currently trying to keep up with books for my twelve year old daughter, which means I’m in a young adult book kick. I just finished “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler (who wrote the Lemony Snicket’s books) and I loved it. Totally took me back to being 16 and dating that boy that all my friends hated. Up next is “The Fault in Our Stars” which she’s already read, but assures me is the sort of book one must re-read.

  17. Jessica permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Welcome back to the mainland! Thanks for the Elizabeth Strout recommendation. Will look for her work at the library this weekend.

    I just finished “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

  18. Clarissa permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Really fun to see some old favorites, in the above comments. Love Ivan Doig, Marilynne Robinson. Plainsong and The Voyage of the Narwhal, also.

    I totally second Wonder, by Palaccio. We did it as a family summer book group thing – parents and kids, kids ranging from 4th to 8th grade, maybe, two summers ago. Terrific read…

    Since I am a big YA reader, my recommendations are in that category. Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein. Older YA, meaning, probably too heavy and somewhat upsetting/adult… so, not really for your younger middle school kids. Set in WWII, in England/France. Historical Fiction, really. Gripping story, very well written, great friendship between two young women. For the younger YA range – Gary Schmidt is my “author find” of the last year. Okay for Now being my favorite. He won a Newbery, I think, for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which is also wonderful.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 14, 2014

      Love the idea of a family summer book group. How cool!
      Also, love it when people agree with others’ recommendations.
      Definitely checking some of these out.

  19. Carrie permalink
    January 15, 2014

    Loved your posts from Kauai. I love it there as well and think we might have even stayed in the same general area based on a couple of your photos. I dream of a quiet retirement for my hubby and I in a lovely cottage on Hanalei Bay when that time comes. Sigh.

    I recently read The Round House by Louise Erdrich and really enjoyed it. Suspenseful!

  20. Becky permalink
    January 15, 2014

    Welcome back – hope you all feel better soon. Reading John Grisham’s Sycamore Row right now. Have you read any Diane Chamberlain? I have to start her books on Friday night so I can be done with it by Monday am to go to work because I can’t stand to put it down. I’m going to check out Eliz Strout.

  21. Emmanuelle permalink
    January 15, 2014

    Colds are not fun! (Mostly)

    I am currently reading The Urban Bestiary, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (thanks for introducing my to her books!). Quite entertaining, although not in the novel category.

    Take care,

  22. Chi-An permalink
    January 15, 2014

    I second _Far From the Tree_, by Andrew Solomon. I read it last year- it’s amazing even though it is challenging and covers some really emotional content. Recently I finished _The Weird Sisters_, by Eleanor Brown. It’s a lovely story of three sisters and spoke to me a lot about sibling relationships and how they can change over time. I’m currently reading a lot of lighter books- working my way through the Donna Andrews mystery series, as well as reading some (ahem) modern romance novels.

    But on a serious note, I would really encourage you to have an end-of-life discussion with your parents, in the unlikely event that they don’t live forever. Having gone through two ends-of-lives with immediate family members, I can tell you that you really want to make sure you know what their wishes are and so that you can make decisions if they are unable to make them. I also strongly encourage (if you don’t already; I hope you do) you and Dan to have wills made & medical directives written out; I think everyone, but especially people with children, should have them.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 17, 2014

      Thank you for the “serious note.” I appreciate it and agree completely.

  23. January 16, 2014

    i third the recommendation for “wonder” – sweet-sweet and well written.
    i’m reading “fingersmith” by sarah waters right now – she writes dickensian, lesbian-lit w/awesome/psycho plot twists. it’s a throwback from my teen years, but decently well written and i do adore a good plot twist.
    “coraline” by neil gaiman is freaking terrifying *and* a kid’s book, which makes me feel as though i am the very bastion of a weenie. it might be fun to read w/the kiddos, though, as they are much tougher than tender little me.
    “extremely loud and incredibly close” by jonathan safran foer. BRILLIANCE.
    “disobedience” by jane hamilton. the writing is just – wow. so freaking good.
    glad yer back! feel better! MWAH

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 16, 2014

      Wonder on hold at the library!
      Jane Hamilton is freakishly good.

  24. Amber Lena permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Are we still looking for pictures of Dan sans hat? Or is that sooo last year?

    Not sure what’s wrong with me, but I can’t seem to get through an entire book lately. I waited 3 months to get Zealot; Jesus of Nazareth (highly recommended by my co-worker) from the library, only to let it expire after only getting 1/4 of the way through it. And I’m still working on your recommendation of Peace Like A River, while slugging through The Mists of Avalon (which I’ve been working on for um, about 3 years. Shhh, don’t tell anyone).

    By the way, I’ve noticed we always get over colds faster by 1) avoiding all sugar, including those yummy cough drops 2) taking zinc tablets 3) juicing carrots/apples/oranges/celery/pineapple/cucumber/whatever I can fit in the chute of the juicer. Hope you’re all feeling 100% soon! <3

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 17, 2014

      “Are we still looking for pictures of Dan sans hat? Or is that sooo last year?”
      Love it. Too funny.

      Also, Amber Lena, be careful not to get so burned out on reading that you start watching Orange is the New Black. Not that I know anything about this (cough*5 episodes in 3 days*cough).

      • Amber Lena permalink
        January 17, 2014

        Too late. Hubby and I finished OITNB last week. I think it took us less than 2 weeks to get through all 13 episodes. Oops! Now I’m jonesing (sp?) for Season 2. We just started “Weeds”…. Off to “read” Why We Broke Up in the car (borrowed the audio book from the library lastnight!) It’s a start! xoxo

  25. January 17, 2014

    Have you read anything by Louise Erdrich? Love Medicine will knock your socks off…so will Master Butchers’ Singing Club – I love her. Little Bee by Chris Cleave is probably one of the best books ever written but it is also violent and tragic. Also, have you ever read East of Eden by Steinbeck…epic and completely worth it.
    Hope you’re feeling better…it was 51 in Montana today…are you getting this crazy spring in January deal?

  26. January 18, 2014

    Appreciate all of the great recommendations! Got the first Diana Gabaldon book (Outlanders) and love it (only $1.99 on Kindle; figure I’m worth it and would rather treat myself to that than a chain-brand cup of coffee). How delicious to see I’m only 1/10th of the way into a 900-page book in a series of 8! ;)

  27. January 19, 2014

    Cutting for Stone…unbelievable! Hope you all feel better soon but enjoy the cozy snuggles for as long as possible.

  28. Andrea permalink
    January 19, 2014

    Sounds like 6512 was a bit of a bitch slap after hawaii.
    sorry to hear you got the nasties.

    i am currently reading the promise texas series, by debbie macomber.
    and i am not even joking.

  29. anne permalink
    January 20, 2014

    I always love your book rec posts and comment– taking notes! My favorites of last year were “Where’d you go Bernadette” and “What Alice Forgot”. Both “light” reads, but both surprisingly good. I read both during jury duty selection (soooo much waiting but also lots of distractions).

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 20, 2014

      Dying to read “Bernadette.” On hold at the library, though very long waiting list. So glad you like the book recommendations!

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