May–Contempating Ireland, Cuba, Zambia, Cape Verde & Bosnia and Herzegovina

mayI’m going to start this month’s post with the disclosure that it was really difficult to draw connections between this month’s books, no matter how many morning commutes or sudsy showers I gave to pondering about it. Whether it’s because of the wide variety of countries I covered or because I managed to read so much this month (five books!) or just because I picked some unique stories that were outside my normal genres, I’m not sure.

Here’s what I do know: I had a wonderful May and it was spent starving on the streets of Limerick with Frank McCourt, chasing down an enormous fish with Santiago off the coast of Cuba, climbing the wild family tree of Alexandra Fuller in Zambia, sperm whale hunting on the Essex in Cape Verde, and fumbling through young adulthood with unbelievable acumen in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In between those epic adventures, my boyfriend and I hosted Mother’s Day brunch for our families, I directed my organization’s first annual conference, I turned 25, and I went on a drunken best friend vacation to Las Vegas–along with the other day-to-day tasks that usually fill my months.

So, while this month has been full of both wonderful memories and memorable books, I’m sure you can understand my struggle to scrounge up some connections.

The beginning of this month found me preparing for a big event at work, finally getting settled into our new house following a chaotic move (granted–most moves are chaotic, but me being in Oklahoma our last week in the old house certainly didn’t help), and slowly plugging away at Angela’s Ashes. I chose to read this book–finally, considering I was assigned it my freshman year of college and it’s been on the backburner of my reading itinerary ever since–because I head to Ireland with my boyfriend next month. While I am glad I read it, it’s not exactly a fun read; its pages are littered with starvation, illness, and alcoholism. After days spent coordinating meal counts and editing agendas and then coming home to a house that was technically still a construction zone (we didn’t have an oven or dishwasher, and we are actually still awaiting a few door knobs), it was a little difficult to immerse myself in Frank’s world where he didn’t even have a pair of shoes and his siblings were dropping like flies.

Nevertheless, I finished Angela’s Ashes while in Prescott for my work event–celebrating both Frank’s ascension to a better life and a huge accomplishment for my organization checked off. I took a couple days off to commemorate the conference and my birthday, and tore through The Old Man and the Sea, and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.

The Old Man and the Sea was actually purchased in Havana when my boyfriend and I visited last November. Though my copy is in English, I’m pretty sure it’s a contraband version; it’s sprinkled with typos and the cover is kind of a strange texture. After two weeks plugging through Angela’s Ashes, though, it was a quick read that reminded me of that vacation to Cuba, and consequently made me excited for our vacation next month. However, Santiago’s relentless determination to kill this fish at any cost, wasn’t one that resonated with me. While I appreciated the dedication and fulfillment he experiences, maybe I just couldn’t get over that part where he ate a dolphin.

When I returned from the work trip, my boyfriend had organized an early birthday surprise for me (which I kind of alluded to in my earlier post on Cape Verde). He had been concerned about what time I was getting home that day, and when I walked through the door, he was strangely sweaty. I was instantly instructed to close my eyes, and was guided upstairs to the spare bedroom. In a very Beauty and the Beast fashion, he revealed that he had created an entire reading room for me for my birthday–complete with four bookshelves and a sign depicting some of the settings from my favorite books. It was a beautiful, thoughtful gift, and I was so overwhelmed with how much I love it.

I was also overwhelmed by how much shelf space I now have, and I immediately wanted to go to the bookstore–which is how I came into possession of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. I read it on my four-day weekend, lounging on the couch with my boyfriend in absolute bookish, birthday bliss. Alexandra Fuller’s reflections on her challenging and resilient family were a nice compliment to this weekend, as she shared a variety of painful, funny, and fortifying experiences from her family’s history that help explain who she is, and her gratitude for that. A childhood in war-torn African countries isn’t what most of us would classify as ideal, but Fuller finds the charm and strength in these chapters of her life, reminding us how rewarding and actualizing unusual experiences can be–and how much we owe to the people who accompany us on those adventures.

Next, I immersed myself in In the Heart of the Sea. While I enjoyed it, I must admit I truly have no parallels for this book to my own life. I am a land-loving gal prone to sea-sickness and squeamish about ninety percent of what these brave sailors did. However, I will say this book has stuck with me, and I’ve brought up facts about sperm whales, oil, and starvation much more than the average person does ever since I read this book.

I finished out the month with Love and Obstacles, a short book that I took my time meandering through. Hemon’s delicious diction was like an exotic garden, and I loved cracking the cover to poke my head in for a few pages every day to what lovely words might bloom onto the page. I read slowly either because I had quite a few tasks at work, and I was overwhelmed with excitement over my upcoming European vacation to focus for long periods of time, or because I enjoyed prolonging this unique and eclectic read. I adored our narrator’s bookish curiosity and constantly evolving sense of self, set against the backdrop of the revolution on Yugoslavia.

I apologize for the rambling, mismatched nature of this long post, however I feel that it kind of mimics what a multifarious month it’s been. Here’s to a June filled with exciting adventures and one big announcement!

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