Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Uganda Be Kidding Me

by Chelsea Handler

      Honestly, I've always thought that Chelsea Handler's humor is best appreciated when delivered in limited doses... but her latest book of travel essays fits the bill! The first half of the book follows Chelsea and her motley crew on their wild, slightly over the top adventures, on safari through several countries in Africa. Let me also call attention to the fact that I didn't know that alcohol and marijuana were so readily available out on the plains and wilds of Africa. But Chelsea and her friends managed to find plenty, build inappropriate friendships with their tour guides, ride on elephants, and also express a true appreciation for the beauty of nature. Even though they approached their journey in a different way than I imagine most people do, the trip really seemed to have a profound impact on Chelsea. And along the way, they had me LITERALLY laughing out loud. The second half of the book is a more separate collection of travel essays, including Switzerland and even her experience being "trapped" in Beverly Hills. One of her tales from the Bahamas had me shocked and giggling. I'll just tell you that it involves some graphic bathroom humor and a kayak sitting on a public beach. She also includes ridiculous extremely helpful travel tips, such as: "It is possible to chip your tooth while eating gummy bears when a plane is landing", and "Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to be topless for emergency dental work when abroad" (p. 254).
     One thing I admire about her writing is that Chelsea uses her own escapades for most of her material. In one section, she even admits that she had never learned the difference between the sun and the moon... that our planet actually rotates around the sun. At the same time, her writing reflects a level of high intelligence as she's incredibly versed in current events. Her self-deprecating humor draws you in and allows you to laugh freely, as she's never purposefully cruel to others in her storytelling efforts. I was also struck by her spirit of generosity and kindness towards others. While she plays it off, she is always trying to leave items behind for the people in the villages that they visit on their journeys. Her relationship with her sister, their emotional ties and support, also helps to make Chelsea more relatable than the drunk, Xanax-popping celebrity that we may perceive her as (from her own admissions). And she even bought houses for two different people in her life! HOUSES. I can't even imagine.
     In the end, Chelsea actually reminds me of one of my great friends. Slightly socially inappropriate (okay, maybe very inappropriate), lacks a verbal filter, no sense of physical modesty.... but in the end she has a good heart and can always manage to make you laugh. Don't we all know someone like that? While Chelsea may take it to the extreme at times, reading her stories makes you feel as though you're sitting down with a girlfriend to catch up on her recent travel escapades. It's written in a conversational tone that makes the reader feel as if you are just one more member of her group. This collection of essays was a welcome way to pass the time! Her last travel tip is one that I take to heart, and pass along to you - "And last but not least, go for it. Go wherever you can afford to go with whomever you can get to go with you" (p.255).

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Husband's Secret

by Liane Moriarty

     First off, let me tell you that I was initially attracted to this book just because of the pearlescent quality of the cover. Gorgeous. (Admission. Yes, I do judge books by their cover. Honestly, who doesn't? Superficial? Maybe. But I find it's an important aesthetic piece of the reading experience.) And once I started the first couple of pages, I was instantly drawn in by the language and masterful storytelling of Moriarty. She weaves a story that follows the paths of three women... and in various points of time.
     Cecilia Fitzpatrick opens the story: the stereotypical "soccer mom" who sells Tupperware and makes a fortune at it, finds a letter written by her husband.... to be opened ONLY UPON HIS DEATH!!!! Although she tries to resist (I admire the woman who actually could), the contents of that letter change her life. As someone who sees things in only black and white, she is suddenly forced into a world of gray and must shift her classic understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. The parallel story focuses on Tess, who is returning to her old hometown after a stunning betrayal in her marriage. She returns home with her young son to work through the situation, analyze her dependency in social situations, and decide what is worth fighting for. The third plot line centers on Rachel, an older woman working at the local school... whose teenage daughter was brutally murdered years ago. Struggling in her relationships with her only remaining child & his wife, she cannot forget the daughter who was so beloved. She is constantly plagued by thoughts of what her daughter's life would be like if she had lived, and has never stopped the search for the person responsible for that loss. We also have the opportunity to see events through her daughter's eyes on the day of her death.
     Although all of these stories seem disconnected at the beginning, it soon becomes clear that there is more overlap between them than any of the characters could ever realize. Their stories are wound together masterfully, coming to a conclusion that I could not have predicted. Moriarty writes her characters with great depth, and you can see the character developing and changing as events unfold. The work forces readers to ask themselves challenging questions: How well do you, or should  you, know the people you love? Do mistakes from someone's past influence how you see them now? When do you let go of the things that have torn your life apart? At the heart of this work though, is the tenant that some secrets are better left untold. The author concludes with these words: "None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It's probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora" (p. 394).

Welcome Back!

Back after a long hiatus... and better than ever!