My week was so busy, with teaching Chalice Camp and committee meetings and taking my kids to an amusement park and library events we had registered for and then my husband had to go without warning to his father's bedside. My father-in-law died last night.
In the midst of all this, few things are of reliable comfort: a bubble bath, a hot tub soak, Ruffles sour cream and cheese flavored potato chips, a glass of red wine, a long phone chat with my mother, a good bluegrass gospel song, and a book to read.
Over the weekend, as I rested up for another go round of Chalice Camp this week, I read:
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley. This is the second of the Flavia de Luce mysteries, and although it was entertaining enough it does not match my memory of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I remember as being brilliant. Flavia is an eleven year old genius and self-taught chemist, with a knack for getting her nose into places it doesn't belong and solving mysteries. With a cast of eccentric and larger-than-life characters and a most-overly-dramatic death scene which doesn't even occur until almost half-way through the book, it's all a bit silly. But good enough fun to be worth the time to read it.
Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. This book caused a lot of buzz a few months ago, but of course when one relies on the public library system one is a bit behind on the current must-reads. There were a lot of reviews, interviews, praise, and rants out there not that long ago, so I came to the book with plenty of pre-conceived notions. Overall, I found it in illuminating look at the life I didn't choose - the career-woman path. Sandberg's call for more women in power - which she attributes to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee - seems perfectly logical to me. Yes, 50% of the top spots in business, government, and anything else should be held by women. And yet, the book did not speak to me, as a woman. Perhaps I'm just too far along my life-path, and too tired. Instead of wanting to "lean in" at work I feel a distinct need to "lean back" at both work and home. And after a introduction that gave lip-service to the idea that not everyone needs to have ambition, or want to work, then chapter one is titled "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?". What would I do if I wasn't afraid? How about "What Would You Do If You Weren't So Tired?" or "What Would You Do If You Weren't Still in Student Loan Debt?" or "What Would You Do If You Weren't Attached to Hometown and Extended Family So Much?" What stopped me from a more ambitious career path? Money (or lack there of) while I was in college. Not wanting to go too far away from my family. The pull of Idealism. The pull of maternal urges, followed closely by the burden of maternal responsibilities. It's always been about conflicting desires - even the desire to not incur more student loans was a conflict of desires - not about Fear for me. Sure, I would be afraid to walk into a bosses office and ask for a raise. But I would do it, if it was just about fear. I do all sorts of things I'm afraid of. So this talk of internal barriers didn't resonate with me, and I suspect it wouldn't with a lot of women. (I'm also acutely aware that both Sandberg's talk of internal barriers and my talk of internal conflict of desires reflect great privilege. To ever even have the option of Leaning In or not is a privilege.)
Final verdict on the book: it's a personal narrative. Sure, she has statistics and tries to offer big sweeping advice and critique, but overall you will respond well to the book if you have something in common with the author.
I have more craziness ahead of myself, and more grief and sadness. Good thing I have more books on my bedside table.