A Memoir of Violence and Complicated Memory

Book review: The Other Side, by Lacy M. Johnson (Amazon / Book Depository) The short version: Lacy Johnson was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend and held prisoner in a soundproofed basement he’d constructed solely for the purpose of raping and brutally killing her. He didn’t succeed in killing her. This book is about that event, how it affected her and her relationships over the following years, the ways … Continue reading A Memoir of Violence and Complicated Memory

The Boy Next Door, the Past, and a Sense of Place

Book review: Riverine, by Angela Palm (Amazon / Book Depository) Angela Palm grew up in rural Indiana, in a house built in a dried-out riverbed created by redirecting the Kankakee River, their little town not even designated on maps. Next door lived a boy named Corey, and they had the typical girl-and-boy-next-door relationship, into their adolescence. They weren’t ever formally together, it was all very emotional and … Continue reading The Boy Next Door, the Past, and a Sense of Place

Midyear Recap (…A Little Late)

I wasn’t planning to do a midyear best-of list, and July is already half gone, so…well past the halfway mark. But realizing how many truly excellent nonfiction titles have come out already this year, I thought a year-end recap would be way too long if I didn’t collect some standouts from the year’s beginning! And I promise these are worth every minute of your precious … Continue reading Midyear Recap (…A Little Late)

Real Life Essays with a Little Raunch

Book review: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby Samantha Irby is the Chicago-based blogger behind the popular, ultra-honest, hilariously confessional blog Bitches Gotta Eat. She opens her personal essay collection with a piece about how she’d fill out an application to be a Bachelorette contestant. It’s a pretty wonderful, hilarious introduction, and you can imagine what you’re in for with her from there. Her … Continue reading Real Life Essays with a Little Raunch

Guilt, Grief, and Finally Getting the Truth

Book review: Alligator Candy, by David Kushner When he was four years old, journalist and writer David Kushner’s older brother Jon took off on his bike, riding through the woods of their neighborhood in Tampa, Florida en route to the 7-11, on a quest for candy. Before he left, David asked him to bring him the titular ‘alligator candy’, actually Snappy Gator Gum. Jon didn’t come home, … Continue reading Guilt, Grief, and Finally Getting the Truth

Lost is an OK State to Be In

Book review: All Over the Place, by Geraldine DeRuiter (Amazon / Book Depository) Geraldine deRuiter is the voice behind The Everywhereist, a funny, quirky travel blog. She started writing about her travels, and often her ineptitude in accomplishing them, after losing her job in the recession, thus freeing her up to accompany her husband, a workaholic SEO entrepreneur, to various conferences and speaking engagements throughout the U.S. … Continue reading Lost is an OK State to Be In

Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

Book review: Sunshine State, by Sarah Gerard Sunshine State, up and coming literary darling Sarah Gerard’s essay collection rooted in her childhood home state of Florida, hits some high highs and low lows. The opening essay, “BFF”, starts the book out as strongly as it could possibly be started; I was hooked. Gerard dreamily, wistfully details the twists and turns of a toxic young female … Continue reading Not-So-Sunny Sides of the Sunshine State

Food As Love in Any Language

Book review: The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber (Amazon / Book Depository) I’m falling in love with “foodoirs” lately. Those are food-themed memoirs, in case you’re late to the genre, like I was. This one moved me more than I unexpected. Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber was born in America to a Jordanian immigrant father and an American mother. Her family, including two younger sisters, lived in … Continue reading Food As Love in Any Language

Tales of a Teen Rehab From Hell

Book review: The Dead Inside, by Cyndy Etler In the late 80s, Cyndy Etler seemed to be a fairly typical Connecticut teenager. Her real problem was abuse at the hands of her creepy French stepfather, which her mother noticed and ignored, leaving her daughter instead to struggle to defend herself. With that kind of frustration in her home life, it’s not surprising that she focussed on friendships that got … Continue reading Tales of a Teen Rehab From Hell

A Childhood in Polygamy

Book review: The Polygamist’s Daughter, by Anna LeBaron with Leslie Wilson (Amazon / Book Depository) Anna LeBaron is a daughter of Ervil LeBaron, the notorious polygamist Mormon cult leader whose sprawling family (she opens the prologue with, “At age nine, I had forty-nine siblings”) underwent a vicious divide as Ervil ordered the murders of those who questioned his leadership or defected from the cult. Much of the family … Continue reading A Childhood in Polygamy

Essays from the Outdoors

Book review: Upstream, by Mary Oliver (Amazon / Book Depository) ‘Come with me into the field of sunflowers’ is a better line than anything you will find here, and the sunflowers themselves far more wonderful than any words about them. Quoting herself, renowned and much-loved poet Mary Oliver opens this collection of essays about nature and our connection to it, need for it, what it can teach us … Continue reading Essays from the Outdoors

Down and Out in Rhode Island

Book review: Down City, by Leah Carroll Leah Carroll’s mother died when Leah was four years old, strangled in a motel room by two drug dealers with mafia connections to Rhode Island’s Patriarca crime family and a misguided paranoia. She’s then raised by her father and stepmother, with the ghost of her mother a constant haunting presence. Down City chronicles her childhood and adolescence with a … Continue reading Down and Out in Rhode Island