Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, June 15, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is categorized as a memoir, but it's so much more. It's about post-WWII migration of workers from the Appalachian mountains to industrialized steel mills of Ohio, about poor white people referred to as hillbilly people and even in the most abusive of families, a strong sense of family protection (his grandfather's distant cousin married into the Hatfield family and after killing Asa Marmon McCoy started the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud in American History)
Communities sprouted up around factories offering jobs in the north, but when the factories shut down leaving behind an economic crisis, only the wealthy could afford to move, leaving behind communities of poor people with no work and many already living beyond their means.
Many of those in the Appalachian mountains are from Scots-Irish descent (note: Scots should never be referred to as Scotch - that's the drink not the person) They had their own sense of justice and family protection. A man accused of rape, during his trial was found face down in a lake with 16 bullet holes in his back. The verdict was "foul play expected." No investigations followed the event. When J.D. Vance's grandparents found their son outside a toy store because the owner had asked him to leave after he mishandled expensive toys, they marched into the store and smashed both the toy and several other items!
His grandmother, who he called Mamaw, told him that if she found him with any of the kids who were smoking weed and misbehaving (she had a banned list) she would run them over with her car and no one would ever find out.
His Mamaw's encouraging words were "You can do anything; don't be like those f***ers who think the deck is stacked against them."
One of the things J.D. Vance discovered after reading the Pew Economic Mobility Project is that there is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites. Only 44 percent expect their children to fare better than they.
I'm a believer that you only need one person in your corner, for you to be a success and that person for J.D. Vance was his grandmother. Despite having numerous step-fathers, an unstable home, moving frequently, a mother who was taking drugs and at one time nearly killed them both by driving erratically, his grandmother was a loving constant in his life. He joined the Marines, worked several jobs to stay out of debt and went on to attend Yale law school. Although being in his early 30s J.D. Vance has a rich story to tell of family loyalty, family abuse, and despite it all, an optimism to succeed.

You can view a video with J.D. Vance here

Friday, June 8, 2018

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman has a similar character development story line to A Man Called Ove, but of the two novels I preferred A Man Called Ove.

Britt-Marie is a fussy and well organized housewife with particular views on how things should be done. Finding her husband of 40 years has been unfaithful she steps out of her well structured life and attempts to find a job, landing in an economically declining Swedish village as a recreation center caretaker. Her only "friend" is the unemployment office worker who reluctantly finds her the job. Despite the quirkiness of the people of Borg Britt-Marie somehow fits in and becomes instrumental in developing the soccer team before her husband asks her to return and she has to decide whether to stay or return home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

D-Day - Battle of Normandy - June 6, 1944

The Battle of Normandy officially began June 6, 1944 at dawn on the Normandy Beaches.

There were 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers and 71 landing craft. Nearly 5,000 ships were involved. More than 160,000 fighting men from Great Britain, Canada and America landed on the shore.

Take a moment to remember those brave men fighting for our freedom and the men and women in our armed services who are continuing that fight today.

If you're searching for veteran records, go to the government archives, they are very accommodating in providing records of a family member. One person, who thought his father had been behind a desk as a clerk in the U.S. army, discovered he had been based in Austria and England and joined the British soldiers on the Normandy Beach!

Note: Before D-Day, April 28, 1944, over 700 American soldiers were killed while rehearsing on English shores for the battle on Normandy beaches. The disaster was hushed up for years.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dunkirk Evacuation

I recently watched the Dunkirk movie and while it was exciting, Christopher Nolan did choose to write a fictional account of the events. Some of the scenes and props were also inaccurate. Near the end there is a scene of two soldiers on a train with blue seats and windows that would not have been in service in England until the 1960s.
Regardless, it was spectacular and showed the enormity of the undertaking and the bravery of British boat owners heading to war torn Dunkirk . Most of the boats came from Kent (my home county) and in elementary school we learned a poem about their acts of courage.

The little ships, the little ships, rushed out across the sea
to save the luckless armies from death and slavery
from Tyne and Thames and Tamar, the Severn and the Clyde
the little ships, the little ships, went out in all their pride
and home they brought their warriors, weary and ragged and worn
back to the hills and shires, and the towns where they were born
three hundred thousand warriors, from hell to home they came
in the little ships, the little ships, of everlasting fame.

Friday, May 25, 2018

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

At the Edge of the Orchard  begins in the mid-1800s with a family struggling to survive in the black swamp area of Ohio. Although the family is fictional, Tracy Chevalier surrounds them with history of that time period. To stake a claim of 100 acres, a family was required to grow 50 apple trees and 20 peach tress within three years. John Chapman (also known as Johnny Appleseed) sold seeds and saplings to the settlers, travelling by boat to the Ohio swamp areas. Seeds were plentiful from cider makers who discarded them and were sold fairly inexpensively, but saplings were more costly for the settlers, making it difficult for them to establish trees in the required time. Along with fighting the bogs to make the ground arable, families also had to contend with sickness that came with the damp areas and mostly carried by mosquitoes.
After a tragedy, the story follows the eldest son, Robert, to the Gold Rush of California where he meets Cornishman William Lobb a plant collector (I'd heard about William Lobb and his brother sometime ago and also mentioned them in Gwinnel Gardens, part of the Lowenna series)  They had carried many plants and seeds from across the world to be established in English gardens. Preparing and shipping plants from America was no easy task as they had to be taken from the ship's hold out to sunlight every other day and watered for several months. Some of the plants were contained in a Wardian case providing a small greenhouse to protect the plants. William Lobb collected and shipped both Redwoods and Giant Sequoias to England.

We sometimes forget how difficult it was for American pioneers, trying to survive and protect their children from ailments for which there was no cure. Travelling across the country was difficult and many chose instead to travel by boat down the east coast of the Americas, around the southern tip, Cape Horn, and then north along the west coast to get to California.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Clotted Cream Recipe

There are lots of English parties planned to celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding tomorrow and no English tea party is complete without clotted cream. Below is a recipe I've used for years that is similar to the taste and consistency of clotted cream and works great with berries or scones. By the way there are two views on whether to put the jam or the cream on a scone first. If you are in Devon, it's cream first - in Cornwall the strawberry jam is spread first and then the cream.

Mock Clotted Cream
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Mix first three ingredients together, add cream.
Beat until stiff (peaks stand up)

Note: it works out at approx. 25 calories per tablespoon.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People by Anne Bogel is a look at different personality types and how to use the information to understand people around you.

One of the comments she made that resonated with me was "I'm in introvert in an extrovert church." For years I've struggled with church. Not the service. If I could find a quiet corner to sit and listen I'd be happy, but they want you to participate, even stopping the service so that people can meet and greet others. For an introvert that's a terrifying moment. Adam McHugh even wrote a book about it Introverts in Church. 

Introverts need regular time for quiet and alone time. They use the sympathetic side of the brain more - their brains are wired differently from extroverts and take a longer path to rest and digest information. Men are slightly more likely to be introvert.

Extroverts think faster and process information quicker, using the fight or flight side of the brain. They take bigger risks and crave stimulation, needing lots of social interaction.

Although we can be both, we are primarily one way or another.

Some personality traits are hereditary: outgoing, reserved, energetic, subdued
Character traits (which I believe are learned): kindness, generosity, honesty, patience.

There are several places to discover personality types:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - Devised during WWII to help women entering the workforce for the first time to pair them with the type of work according to their type (still used in the work place)
Note: She warns against taking the test without an expert to guide you. There is a simple test, however, at 16 Personalities

David Keirsey defines four personality types.
You can take David Keirsey's test here
Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey

The Clifton Strength Finder focuses on strengths

The Essential Enneagram  test by David Daniels helps to better understand ourselves based on and pinpoints motivations based on nine types

  1. The Reformer - need to be perfect
  2. The Helper - need to be needed
  3. The Achiever - need to succeed
  4. The Individualist - need to be special
  5. The Investigator - need to perceive
  6. The Loyalist - need for security
  7. The Enthusiast - need to avoid pain
  8. The Challenger - need to be against
  9. The Peacemaker - need to avoid
Note: The test cost is $10 or you can purchase The Essential Enneagram to take the test.

Hop on over to Anne Bogel's  blog Modern Mrs. Darcy.