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

Friday, May 29, 2020

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler shows that the Jeffrey Epsteins and Harvey Weinsteins of the world were in existence long before the Me Too Movement.  The story jumps around between several women, Mattie and Lizzie who are taken in by the Berachah Home at the beginning of the 20th century and Cate (the daughter of fundamentalist Christians) who experiences  abuse and treated as an outcast at the beginning of the 21st century. It is referred to as a novel about gender discrimination. Although there were many uneasy parts of the novel where women were abused, I found most distressing when a man, after raping a woman, suggested they pray for what they had done.  The punishment and ostracizing was all placed on the woman, despite indications that this conduct wasn't anything new for the young man. I understand the reasoning behind having a present day character that shows how treatment of women had changed little in the last one hundred years, but I think the story would have been better had it just followed Mattie and Lizzie's story.


The  story is set in Texas in Fort Worth, Arlington and surrounding areas where the Berachah Industrial home was located in the early 1900s. During that time there was an area in Fort Worth full of brothels and saloons which was called Hell's  Half  Acre. The area today is the Water Gardens and was used as a backdrop for the movie Logan's Run. (Unfortunately the ocean is several hundred miles away and not directly behind the gardens as shown in the movie.)

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I was interested in The Library Book by Susan Orlean because I lived in Los Angeles in 1986 when a fire was started at the Central Library. She investigates how the fire started and who was responsible for such a destructive act.

If you are a book lover, you will find this book sad because Susan Orlean covers, not only the L.A. library fire, but when books were destroyed whether by an accidental fire, arson, or during a war.  War destruction often occurs during the bombing of a city but also the senseless destruction of books by the Nazis in WWII. A huge number have been irreplaceable.

Like Susan Orlean, I've always felt the public libraries are such a privilege and feel awe when I walk into a library - I have access to any book on the shelf and even more that I can order from other libraries. There's nothing like the feeling and smell of opening a crisp page of a new book and I cringe when I see someone fold back pages and damage the spine, let alone destroy one.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell is about assumptions made when meeting someone compared to those made when simply reviewing data about the person.

Neville Chamberlain, Britain's prime minister at the beginning of WWII, totally mis-read Hitler and thought he had achieved an agreement with the dictator to invade only the German speaking Sudetenland. Six months later Hitler had ignored the signed agreement and invaded Czechoslovakia and then on to Poland. Winston Churchill and others who had not met Hitler were not taken in by his appeasements and saw him as dangerous.

Judges are swayed by defendants and allow them out on bail (often with disastrous consequences) while data collected and analyzed calculated 1% of those released were high risk.

Bernie Madoff fooled enough people to amass himself and his family a large fortune through a Ponzi scheme. While many thought he was a little "off" no one could put their finger on it and he was, after all, "making" lots of money. Harry Markopolos, a fraud investigator, however went further and put together maps, charts and graphs trying to duplicate Madoff's financial plans, but was unable to do so. He informed the SEC in May 2000, (a decade before Madoff was arrested) and then again in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

The problem is we're truth biased and give people the benefit of the doubt. We judge their honesty by their demeanor. Well-spoken people who are friendly and engaging are seen as believable.

My thoughts:
Sociopaths learn from people/movies and can persuade someone by emulating others, but although they seem genuine, there is always an underlying feeling that something is not quite right. They have no empathy just as Bernie Madoff had no concerns about taking someone's hard earned retirement money to give the Madoff family a luxurious lifestyle. (Read The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout). We only stop believing someone when we no longer have an explanation for our doubts. Or have our doubts confirmed i.e. evidence of a cheating spouse.

Another problem we have is misreading someone's demeanor. In the Sandra Bland case, both Sandra Bland and the officer who pulled her over for a traffic violation were  misreading each other and both were combative, leading to a bad situation. Then we have cultural differences. A frown in one society might mean something different to another.

Sometimes it's best to go with a gut feeling even when it doesn't make sense. If it doesn't feel right, walk away. Don't take three years trying to figure out why a relationship (business or personal) doesn't "feel" right.

Another good book to read related to understanding people and how they affect you is Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Hindsight is 2020

Tomos Roberts a/k/a Tom Foolery has summed up 2020 in the form of a bedtime story called The Great Realization.

He sees the Corona Virus, while it is something awful that is happening, is also a time for a look into changing the way we have been living and challenge people to aim for a kinder, more progressive and sustainable world. A better future.




Friday, April 24, 2020

Workhouse, A Victorian Girl's Diary 1871 by Pamela Oldfield

Now the library is closed I'm going through books I have at home and found a collection of Scholastic My Story books I bought for the grandchildren. I was particularly interested in Workhouse, A Victorian Girl's Diary 1871 as another pastime I have these days is genealogy. An ancestor of mine died in 1875 in the Union Workhouse in London at age 52, two years after her husband died.

Pamela Oldfield has written many books for children and has a gift for writing the stories in diary form. Workhouse is written from Edith Lorrimer's point of view. At age 15 her mother, who is on the Board of Guardians at a local workhouse, takes Edith with her to a meeting. There  Edith meets an inmate, Rosie Chubb. Rosie is rebellious and despite harsh punishments, tells Edith of all the added suffering put upon the people living in the Workhouse. Blankets donated to keep the inmates warm were sold by the workhouse manager, food is meager and heating non existent. Boots given to Rosie by Edith are taken from her to stop her from running away. Although the manager often asks for payment of bills for doctors visits, this money he often pockets too as doctors are rarely called for even in the worst situations. The argument presented by the manager is that if life is too comfortable in the workhouse then everyone would want to live there. This is very reminiscent of London in Charles Dickens' novels.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Captain Tom Moore

We often think we can't accomplish much on our own, but Captain Tom Moore in England who has survived WWII and is approaching his 100th birthday, wanted to help the British National Health Service Charities and came up with the idea of walking laps in his garden, one for each year of his life. His goal was a thousand pounds. He has now completed his 100th lap accompanied by the British Army - an astonishing 13 million pounds has been raised.

Update: As of April 24 Captain Moore has raised 28,000,000 pounds. A picture has been painted of him which will be raffled to raise even more money.


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Some Good News

During the Coronavirus lockdown, I miss the library. I usually read at least a book a week, but am having trouble finding an ebook that has kept my attention the past few weeks.

So instead of a book review I'm linking to John Krasinski's  Some Good News.