Monday, March 18, 2013

Please Look After Mom

I honestly cannot remember how I came to find Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, but I am really glad that I did. This book won the Man Asian Prize in 2011 and has been an international best seller.

Please Look After Mom is told in five different parts with four different points of view, all members of the same family. The elderly Mom goes missing in Seoul and her children and husband begin searching for her. Chi-hon is one of the daughters, a writer who had an education that Mom could not have dreamed of. While searching for mom, Chi-hon, and the others, reflect on how they treated Mom over the course of a lifetime and what Mom's life meant to her. There are so many things that struck me about this book.

"You were caught off guard. You had never thought of Mom as separate from the kitchen. Mom was the kitchen and the kitchen was Mom. You never wondered, Did Mom like being in the Kitchen?"

We get Mom's life story over the course of the book, told from her children and husband. It is heartbreaking and seems so true. My heart ached for all of the characters in the book, even the ones who had clearly mistreated Mom before she went missing.

"After your children's mother went missing, you realized that it was your wife who was missing. Your wife, whom you'd forgotten about for fifty years, was present in your heart. Only after she disappeared did she come to you tangibly, as if you could reach out and touch her."

This book reminded me a lot of Big Breasts and Wide Hips. While Please Look After Mom is much shorter in length, it is a similar richly dense family story centered on the mother who does anything to keep her family intact. However, Mother from Big Breasts and Wide Hips was more admirable to me in some ways than Mom. But, I really enjoyed Please Look After Mom and highly recommend.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to be a Woman (again)

This is a reread from last year! How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran was previously blogged about here, so this will be short and sweet. I reread this book for a book club meeting and was really excited about hearing other's thoughts on it. How to be a Woman remained a great read the second time through. But the day of the meeting I had a pretty bad anxiety day and elected to stay at home watching tv. Not to happy that but it happens. I'm hoping to redeem myself and get to book club next month when we are talking about Bachelor Girl by Betty Isreal.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 is another book that is part of the big 1001 books to read before you die list that I am plodding my way through. I have never read Pynchon before and my only impression of his writing was that Gravity's Rainbow seemed like a very difficult book. But The Crying of Lot 49 is a slim paperback so I thought I could handle it.

Oedipa Maas is our main character, a young married woman who finds herself in charge of executing the estate of a deceased friend, Pierce Inverarity. Unsure about what exactly to do, Oedipa meets up with Metzger, Inverarity's lawyer. Oedipa begins to see a strange symbol everywhere and thinks it has something to do with Inverarity and an underground postal system.

"each death, up till the moment of our own, is miraculous."

The plot is difficult for me to describe because it was difficult for me to follow at times. There is a very long detailed retelling of a play that Oedipa and Metzger see. At times it seems like Oedipa is going crazy over all of these clues without any end in sight. And once I read this:

 "Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself."

I had a feeling that Pynchon had summed up the book for me so I just buckled in and enjoyed the ride. For a small book it was very dense but really interesting. Oedipa is constantly picking up on communication patterns and draws them into a web that gets bigger and bigger without getting anywhere. We never get the "central truth itself" but that isn't what this book or life in general is about. It's just the patterns we find in an attempt to make sense of things.

"This is America, you live in it, you let it happen. Let it unfurl."

While trying to describe this book to my husband, all I could come back to was this scene from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Secret Power of Yoga

After reading Yoga Bitch, I thought I might want to read a more serious book on yoga. My local library doesn't have a whole lot of yoga books readily available and so I ended up picking The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras by Nischala Joy Devi.

The book seemed very accessible to someone who has not read the yoga sutras before. Chapters ended with suggested exercises and meditation guides to reinforce the general message.

What I took away from it was two interesting thoughts. One, the idea that emotions are like weather that goes over our mental landscape, and, like clouds and storms, they will pass on and return in cycles. Two, I have often been taught breathing exercises for my anxiety and usually think about breathing in good energy and breathing out bad energy. Devi encourages complete focus on the positive; that by focusing on releasing negative energy you are giving more power to the negative force in your mind. Instead she suggests both breathing in a positive thought and exhaling positivity out into the world. I found this to be extremely helpful and use it all of the time.

Some of the exercises felt really silly. It's a little hard to explain to your partner why you are staring into a mirror chanting "I am divine" without feeling a bit ridiculous. And all it made me think of was Divine, which I don't think was the intention.

My big issues with the book were that it is clearly, clearly written for upper-middle class women who don't work. The examples were all about how to balance your motherhood and personal space or how to tell a friend that you don't like her dress (Devi says lie about it. Seriously.). None of the examples had to do with what I think of as actual life, at least as I know it. Not one example I can remember had to do with a woman working.

In the end I would not really recommend this book. I'm sure there are better books out there about connecting yoga to your life. Any suggestions?