We hosted book club at our house tonight and it was nice enough out to bust out the fire pit for a rip-roaring discussion about diplomacy, sleeping around in 1930s Berlin and the essence of human nature, thanks to Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.” (Larson will be in town this May for a free discussion as part of the DMPL AViD series.) Most of our group are big fans of “Devil in the White City,” but this book only garnered middling reviews. It’s interesting to learn about the leadup to World War II, but the consensus here was that the book is more of a slow burn that never really gets to a boiling point. Also, we were divided on whether it made us more or less likely to want to keep a detailed journal. Another of our nonfiction picks we thought would have been better as a long magazine article. (Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.)
In addition to a bonfire and braunschweiger (gross), Joe made these delish German Chocolate Macaroons from a recipe in a back issue of Cuisine at Home.
I know it’s a shameless plug for the husband, but I must say that this spring’s “Fresh and Fabulous,” which should be out soon, is pretty awesome. Joe re-creates a lot of the recipes they’re working on and I was a big fan of everything he made.
Anyhow, back to the books. In our typical caucus decision fashion, we chose “Girlchild,” by Tupelo Hassman. I’m going to give you the synopsis, and you’re going to think I suggested this book, but it was really Joe! It was up against Hemingway, which I voted for because I’ve honestly never read any Hemingway and that seems wrong. But I do think I’ll love this book. I’m just a little nervous to discuss it because I think I’ll reeeaally love it and I expect a divided opinion.
Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.
Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.
Synopsis via IndieBound.
I know. A main character with the name Rory AND Girl Scout references?
In other Des Moines Arts and Culture news, the next Civic Center season is going to be amazing. As soon as I got the announcement in my inbox, I forwarded it to my mom:
This amazing season, plus cheap flights starting this fall between Chicago and DSM? Who else can I lure here?