The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Note to self: Read more British authors

I read another book recently that made me laugh and cry and wonder, but I enjoyed this book. How Haddon got into his character’s head so completely is as genius as the protagonist himself. We’re always told as writers–character first, character driven, it’s all about the character. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a perfect example.

It isn’t just the protagonist, a teenage autistic genius, who is real, but his fallible parents as well. Two out my four sons have scary similarities to Christopher, so I read this book as a parent. I found myself condemning these parents’ immaturity and denseness, until I thought more carefully about my own parenting history.

Haddon makes a few plot flaws, but forgivable ones considering he couldn’t know what it’s like to parent someone like Christopher. If he has, then perhaps the gap in logic is mine.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was a personal read for me, hitting a little too hard in a few places, but that only made it that much more meaningful. This is one of those fiction books that can teach us more than any non-fiction ever could. Haddon has given a clear, engaging voice to some of our population’s most misunderstood and rejected.

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The 100-Mile Diet, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon

What a pleasant surprise.

This book rolled me in like stuffing in a fajita, a food that was deprived the authors until they found a local wheat grower. It was wonderful, with its weaving in and out of relationships and landscapes and adventure stories, but the idea of always eating strictly locally? Like it says on the back cover, “I think they’re nuts.”

Smith and MacKinnon tell us about their experiment eating only locally for one full year and how it changed the way they eat now. Obviously, eating locally can work, if your kids are used to it, or if you don’t have kids, or if you are young and able to get around readily, or if you drive, or if you know the right people. Of course, all of these obstacles can be overcome if you’re rich.

Unlike these courageous authors, I’ve been eating locally my whole life, not strictly locally, but quite a bit. I’ve had lobster and potatoes in Shediac and oranges in Florida. I learned young the difference between fresh and grocery shelf, and it’s a huge difference. I grew up in the midst of farms and ate vegetables from our little plot that I despised weeding when I was a kid, along with the evening’s BBQ of local beef burgers. I’ve had homemade ketchup and relish made with produce from local stands, and canned peaches from trees growing out of the side of my house. I have milked a cow and drunk the milk an hour later, and hated it.

I will never recover from moving away from the organic farm across the street. There’s nothing in the world like free range organic eggs that were laid that very day, or waking up to find a pail of greens on the front porch, enjoying this simple fare while watching the sheep graze.

I can relate to the authors learning to appreciate local fare after eating the same thing day in and day out. Our own vintage apple tree dropped a wheelbarrow of apples every day for nearly two months. And I can appreciate fighting off other creatures for my share. In our case, it was five different kinds of bees and wasps, worms, and raccoons. I miss my apples now.

It was nice to be reminded of the times when I was close to my food. One year, our pear tree produced one pear, but it was the biggest pear I have ever seen. I’m not kidding, it was bigger than my hand, and I don’t have small hands.

If only I had taken my mother’s cue and raised my boys on local food. I did try, and we eat some local foods, but I admit, I was seduced by the chance to try something new and different. I’ve always been the type to try new things, so why would food be any different? Not to mention convenience. Who wants to drive around the countryside looking for local food when you have everything you need at one store?

I do.

I don’t see me becoming a strict locavore anytime soon, but I promise to do more countryside shopping in the future. I had forgotten how important that is.

Pool Party

That wasn’t the main purpose, but that’s how it ended for the
host and me.

Newcomers Club has their year end potluck every June. This year it was
at Nanci’s. Her gorgeous home filled end to end with tables of all
kinds and women forty and up, some ridiculously adorned, vying for the
highest praise in the crazy hat competition, everything from a
long-necked bird to kitchen gadgets.

Mine was a halo. Everyone thought it was very appropriate. I hope it
wasn’t because it was made of toilet paper that I had twisted then
knit into a band and pinned together with my vintage rhinestone flower.

The nice thing about having a party of about forty-five women is that
we all help to clean up. Nanci inherited a few items not claimed by
anyone, and her floors were a mess, but almost everything else was had
been washed and dried and put away before everyone left.

Then came the best part. It had been years since I’d been in a sauna.
We sat on the “fat butt” benched, reclined, and talked about the party
and family and living in the country; then dashed out into the cool
air and into the cold pool.

Brrrr doesn’t quite cover it. It was just plain freezing. But only for
a minute. Then it was just cold. And it felt great.

We did the whole process over again, sat outside and chatted, feeling
comfortably warm in jacket weather, inside for a glass of water, and
home.

My neck hadn’t felt that good in a long time, and, as Nanci promised,
I slept very well.

These little diversions are what help me live through my reality. I
just got off the phone with my oldest. He sounds flat. Like a kid in a
war zone. Like a redeemed child soldier. He found crack in the
bathroom of the homeless shelter, there was a commotion, people got
kicked out, some left. Now he wants to find a shower he can use
without risk of assault.

I feel a slight tinge of guilt, but I know that my son’s homelessness
is not my choice. That’s the part that really stings.

Dream

The clutter on Alice’s desk irritates her, like a hair caught in the back of her t-shirt. And, like the hair, she’ll wait until it bugs her enough to do something about it. Not tonight. Tonight is for relaxing. Knitting with free yarn, listening to a CD of poetry from the library, in the black leather recliner she purchased second hand for thirty-five bucks.

“Lucy! Lucy! Come!” The old beagle mix reluctantly lifts her heavy lids, head, and body, and comes obediently, tale wagging, for a pat and rub on her soft coat. “No sleeping for you. You’ll be up way too early otherwise.”

Lucy makes her way to an even softer spot, on the Mongolian rug under the grand piano, swirls a circle or two, ready to settle in again…

“Lucy! No sleeping.” Alice knows her relaxing is over, for now. She clambers, not unlike her dog might have, out of her chair.

“Come on, go outside for a bit and wake up.” Watching Lucy meander the muddy back yard, Alice empties dishes from her fifty dollar dishwasher with the battered racks. The new homemade dishwasher soap worked very well, she notes, but I’ll need to add some vinegar next time to take care of these water spots.

Lucy recovered from the back yard, knitting and book going, Alice’s thoughts wander into tomorrow. Bring Jason and Nick to work, drive two hours to get Max at his father’s, stop somewhere along the way, maybe a beach to get Lucy some exercise, home, supper, hopefully the boys will have it made
when we get back, then taxi to our respective activities…eesh, I’m tired already. And with the price of gas.

Alice shudders. She hits rewind, then stop, saying, “Better get to bed now.”

There was just something about an empty house that made Alice feel happy. Some women would be scared, Alice realizes, but she loves it, the rare times it happens. Maybe it was just that no demands would be made of her. Or maybe it was because she didn’t have to worry about being decent, or putting the toilet seat down. Maybe it was just the freedom, so rare after twenty-six years of raising hard to raise sons.

Jason and Nick would be back soon. That would be comforting, too, knowing they were home, safe, even though they were early twenties. She admits her need to know that. Nothing could change that now.

She wishes she knew where Taylor was. She wishes she didn’t think about that right now. She wishes she could be free of that as well. She wishes that didn’t make her feel guilty.

Half a dozen pillows and a heavy homemade quilt welcome her, engulf her, guilt and all. An hour later, she wakes and smiles to hear her two middle sons quietly, respectfully enter, lock the front door, let Lucy out and in, and go to bed, Lucy with Nick. Nick went out, too, tonight. Good.

“In the morning I will see them. They’re home now. Don’t worry.”

Dreams of knitted lace, singing in church, smiles.

She doesn’t remember the dream of Talyor jumping.

Heart of the Sea, by Nora Roberts

Okay, if you like syrupy romance, you might like Nora Roberts. Sure, no news there, but, seriously, this was the first Roberts I’ve read, rather heard on CD, and it will likely be my last.

Why are all romance novels the same? And what is the big attraction?

Woman is single, gorgeous, has some endearing quirks
Man is tall, thin, and gorgeous, oh, and, of course, rich
They meet, have some kind of reaction, end up in bed, but not in love
They break up
Some crisis happens that brings them together and miraculously clears up all their misunderstandings
They live happily ever after.

Cinderella didn’t do it much differently.

In Roberts’ books, so I’m told, the faeries and ghosts and legends are what bring these exceptional couples together. No exception here.

A good read if you’re into that kind of thing. She has a huge fan base, obviously, but I’m afraid I won’t be joining them anytime soon. Not enough pancakes here for all that syrup.

Souwest Words: 25 poets in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, compiled by Win Schell

Apparently available in audio CD only, at our library anyway, it was a lovely listen with a variety of poets from London, Ontario, reading their own works, including some of First Nations origin, on a wide range of topics. A few were a bit iffy, but most were very well done, and a few had me hitting pause to think quietly.

Previous to this one, I listened to another CD of poetry from one author. I won’t even burden you with the title. It was terrible. Not only was it full of nonsensical new age philosophy, but the poetry and the background music, supposedly there to add to the “experience”, was beyond bad. Good thing I had Souwest Words to wash away the bad taste in my ears.

Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje

I have recently rediscovered the joy of listening to books. As a knitting freak, it’s the perfect solution to employing two of my favourite activities.

How lovely that I chose Ondaatje’s book. Read by the author, both the story and the reading of it was haunting, beautiful, and polished.

Anil is an archaeologist who is sent on a human rights mission during the political upheaval of Sri Lanka in the seventies. She (having robbed her brother of his name) finds definitive proof of a government murder, and winds up traumatized not only by the treatment she receives from Sri Lankan officials who will not allow such evidence to accuse them, but by the treatment of many with whom she worked on the project, including her close coworker who, through his own wiles, allowed her to keep Sailor, the skeleton of the murder victim.

This book is difficult to explain in a brief synopsis, but that’s okay because you really want to read it yourself. No, that’s not exactly true. You want to hear the author reading it, especially if you like to knit!

Now if only I could figure out a way to write, listen, and knit…