Last week I became sick. It hit quickly and suddenly. One minute I was running trails with my partner and the dog and the next sharp pains rammed my head. I finished the run (I always finish my runs–why can’t I be as proficient with my writing?) and spent the night shivering and sweating in bed, and I stayed there all the next day, too.
I was sick for almost a week. The first few days I did nothing but sleep and moan to my partner that if he loved me, he’d put me out of my misery (thankfully, he doesn’t love me that much). By the third day, I was well enough to read. It was unseasonably warm and I sat outside in the sun, dunked my feet in the wading pool, and read. I finished four books, an odd assortment of memoir, detective/crime and a young adult novel with a fat teenage protagonist who stole my heart.
It was nice to slow down, take time off from work and laze around and read. I didn’t watch TV or post on social media (I’m falling out of love with social media and will post about that soon) or worry about blogging or reading blogs. Instead, I read books. I devoured them. It reminded me of when I was young and growing up out on the farm, and how I spent long summer days perched in the sturdy branches of a poplar tree, reading for hours.
And maybe it’s because I still had a slight fever but each book I read felt shiny and filled with endless possibilities (oh, don’t you love it when that happens?).
The Wrong Kind of Indian, by Jey Tehya. This was sent to me as an advanced review copy, in exchange for a blurb, and all I can say is, wow. Tehya can write and the book, which reads like a memoir (and after a bit of online sleuthing it appears that it is a thinly disguised memoir), follows Jenn, a young part American Indian woman who lives in Portland. She falls in love with a man from India and the book chronicles their affair, along with Jenn’s constant battle with her weight and self-acceptance. Each chapter alternates between present to past and the childhood segments, while brief, are vividly honest and pack with small and brutal emotional punches. I read this slowly, savoring each page. The only criticism is that it lagged a bit toward the end, when Tehya touches down on her character’s eating disorder. This felt forced and over-emphasized, and I soon wanted to wave my arms and yell: “Yes, yes, I realize that Jenn has an eating disorder. Let’s get on with the story, shall we?” Still, it was a minor stumble in an overall skilled and accomplished book. I highly, highly recommend.
Eating Bull, by Carrie Rubin. Oh. My. God. Why didn’t I read this earlier? I downloaded it months ago but never got around to reading. It’s a fun, though at times gory, book, and with one of the most lovable teenage protagonist ever. Jeremy is fat, and not just chubby but close to three hundred pounds fat. His life at school is miserable and his home life, with his grandfather’s quips about his weight and his mother’s jerk boyfriend, isn’t much better. He consoles himself through food and video games. Jeremy, who is part Native American through his father who he’s never met, fantasizes of being a warrior. His life changes when his mother takes him to a health management clinic where he meets a female type warrior named Sue, who pulls him toward a new vision of himself. Jeremy and Sue take out a lawsuit (yes, Sue sues!) against local fast food joints claiming that they overly contribute to the obesity epidemic. While this is happening there’s also a killer on the loose, Darwin, who targets fat people. The book is told from chapters alternating Jeremy’s, Sue’s and Darwin’s viewpoints.
I’ll admit that I was initially put off by the second chapter, which chronicles Darwin’s first kill. There was no lead-up to this sudden change in perspective and at first I thought I was reading of one of Jeremy’s video games. The violence felt gratuitous and out-of-place so early in the book, and if I hadn’t of had so much trust in Rubin’s voice from the previous chapter, I might have stopped reading.
I’m glad that I didn’t. For the book just kept getting better and better, and Jeremy became more and more endearing as it hurls toward the ending, where Jeremy attends at pow-wow and meets fellow Indian Dan Folsom, whose words of wisdom change Jeremy’s life, along with the bow and arrow set he buys at the pow-wow. What follows, while unrealistic, is nevertheless foot-stomping, cheering-at-the-top-of-your-voice worthy. And has there ever been a more lovable and fumbling hero than Jeremy?
I won’t give away the ending but will say that I highly, highly (highly!) recommend Eating Bull, especially to teens who feel as if they don’t belong and adults who felt as if they barely survived high school (and face it, that’s most of us). A fun and endearingly heart-touching mystery.
Well, I was going to gush about the other two books that I read but I see that I’ve gone on long enough so I’ll call it a day and leave you with a few pics of our recent walk out on the sand dunes by Kincaid Park (these were taken between 10 p.m. and midnight. See how light it is? We are truly blessed up here during the summer).