The Book of Eve: A Review

My name is Linda, and it has been more than a year since I posted my last review. Full confession? It’s been almost that long since I even read a book, never mind reviewed it. sigh

But life is calmer now (shhh! don’t tell the universe I said that!), and so here you go: my thoughts on The Book of Eve, by Constance Beresford-Howe.

Why I read it

I had a neighbour over for wine on the terrace a few weeks ago, and over the course of the evening, talk (as it is wont to do in a writer’s conversations with others) turned to books. My neighbour told me she was reading a story about an older woman who one day–with no forethought or warning whatsoever–walks out on her husband and her life. I was intrigued by the premise (having occasionally let my own imagination wander down the what if path over the course of 30 years of marriage and motherhood), and pleased when my neighbour dropped the book into my mailbox a few days later.

What I liked about it

Set in Montreal, Canada, The Book of Eve was published in 1973 and presents a snapshot of an era that I grew up in but didn’t really appreciate or remember in great detail. The author is a master at bringing the everyday city to life for the reader. Never wandering off into overdone descriptions, she gives just enough attention to tiny details to make you see the heroine Eva’s world through her eyes, using language that is unique and unusual, but not flowery: “Our house was full of clocks rustling their self-importance and coughing delicately like people in church…”

I loved Eva herself, too, and thought Beresford-Howe did a wonderful job of showing her character growth, pulling no punches when it came to the self-doubt, the depression, the flickers of hope–all things I can imagine one might go through in Eva’s shoes, particularly in an era when women really didn’t do things like leave the security of a marriage.

What I didn’t like

I have to watch the use of sentence fragments in my own writing, and books like The Book of Eve remind me why: too many of them are just darned annoying. While I suspect Beresford-Howe used that particular technique to reflect Eva’s own fractured thinking, I found it distracting and occasionally downright jarring…especially when I had to reread something several times over to make sense of it grammatically. So note to self: a few fragments go a long way. 😉

Final thoughts

While this isn’t the kind of book I would pick up on my own, I enjoyed it a great deal and I’m glad my neighbour loaned it to me. If you enjoy women’s literary fiction and you’re open to an older work, I recommend it.

Happy reading!

Linda

Of Potatoes and Fond Memories

One of the things I love about my Facebook community is how other people are so willing to share their own stories there. When I posted this picture on my Facebook page the other day, one reader told me about how her father tried (and failed) to convince her and her siblings that potatoes were treasures to be dug up during harvest season. This triggered some of my own memories of growing up with an avid gardener for a father–such as the first year he had his little John Deere tractor…

I’m not sure how Dad managed to convince my mother to move four teenagers twenty miles out of town to a twenty-acre property where they built another (their fourth) house, but he did. Of course, then he decided he needed a tractor for plowing up a garden, and she gave in on that, too. And then he plowed up three and a half acres for said garden. (In case you’re not familiar with an acre as a land measure, it’s a lot of land. A lot.)

We planted many things that year: broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, beets, peas, beans, onions (even though he personally hated the latter and refused to have them in the house, he thought they were fun to grow)…and yes, potatoes. Three hundred pounds of potatoes, to be exact.

By the end of that summer, we were harvesting (and shelling) peas by the garbage-bagful (yes, the giant black plastic ones), my mother was staying up until two or three in the morning pickling, blanching, and freezing vegetables (and then getting up at five to go to work), and we had resorted to giving away the broccoli that we could no longer use ourselves. And then…then we started digging up the potatoes. And do you know how many pounds of potatoes you harvest after planting 300 lbs worth?

Three. Thousand. Pounds.

Enough to cover the entire floor of our oversized double garage, and then to fill sixty 50-lb sacks.

But wait…it gets better! That same summer, my uncle got married and my parents hosted the reception at our house. I will never, ever forget the day when our baker friend came over to decorate the wedding cake…as my mother was pickling beets and freezing the two enormous bags of peas that we were shelling…all in the same small kitchen at the same time. When it was all over, it took another two hours to scrape off the hardened icing and wash away the sticky, bright purple pickling liquid from cupboards, walls, stove, sink, and floors.

Yes, I had an interesting upbringing at times.

Yes, my mother was a saint.

And yes, dad downsized the garden the next year. 😀

The Muddly Month of June: Reflections on Joy & Sorrow

June is a bit of a muddly month for me. Yes, I know muddly isn’t an actual word, but it’s the one I came up with that best encompasses the muddled muddiness I face at this time of year…a time that brings with it both great celebration and profound sadness.

You see, twenty-three years and three days ago, when I gave birth to my youngest daughter, my father lay dying in another hospital across town, and today marks the anniversary of his death. Twelve years later, around this same date and in the emergency department of that same hospital, my mother was diagnosed with the same cancer that had killed him. She never returned home, and she died three weeks later in hospice care.

So yes, to say that June is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me would be accurate.

But muddly is even more accurate.

It’s an odd thing, learning to celebrate and mourn in the same heartbeat. To have so very much to be grateful for, even as you feel a loss so deep and profound that it shatters your every breath. But I have learned. I’ve learned that even in the face of losing one’s parents far too soon, the world still turns, and life goes on. I’ve learned to see my father’s wit and charm shining in my daughter’s eyes, and to recognize my mother’s compassion in her soul. I’ve learned that death is merely a part of life, and that it doesn’t define it. I’ve learned to turn my face to the sun and my heart to my daughter’s presence rather than my parents’ absence. I’ve learned that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin, and that they can coexist in the same moment, the same life, the same heart, the same love.

I miss my parents every single day, even as I celebrate the lives of all my daughters. But the month of June carries powerful memories in it that make me pause and reflect, that make me face again the stark, incontrovertible proof that life and death truly do go hand in hand, and that make me deeply, profoundly grateful to have known both the joy and the sorrow. Because, in the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”

The muddly, muddly month of June.

Life Without a Cell Phone

My name is Linda, and it has been 19 days since I last texted.

Life without a cell phone wasn’t actually that bad for the first few days after inadvertently killing my Apple account. In fact, there was a certain sense of adventure that came with heading off into the world without the safety net of perpetual connectivity; a certain freedom that came with the silence.

But I’m done with that, now. And I suspect my husband and youngest are done with it, too. (“Can you text your sisters/daughters and tell them…?” has worn a little thin. 😛 )

I want my GPS back so I don’t have to remember to print off a map before I leave home and then pull over three times to check it when I’m going someplace new. I want to be able to check the hours of a store/event that I’d like to go to without having to first return home. I want to be able to look things up on the spur of the moment. I want to be able to call or text someone to let them know I’m running late…and I’d like them to be able to do likewise. For that matter, I want to call or text someone just to say hello and let them know I’m thinking about them. Sometimes, I need an answer now and not three hours or two days later when someone gets around to checking the message I sent them on Facebook Messenger.

My name is Linda, and I’m ready to have my Apple account back anytime now, please.

Please? 😀

How NOT to Update Your iPhone (A Tale of Technological Woe)

So last Friday morning, there I was, blithely swiping away through Facebook on my iPhone while avoiding getting out of bed, when a notification popped up reminding me that I still hadn’t updated to the latest iOS. “Huh,” I thought. “I have a few minutes to spare, I’ll do that now.”

So I plugged in the phone, opened up Settings, and hit the update button.

And that was the last access I’ve had to that damned phone. Because ARGH…I’d forgotten to back the thing up first, and I had unwittingly set foot on a slippery, slippery slope that led me to accidentally kill my entire Apple account. I kid. You. Not.

At first, everything seemed to be going fine, and the phone began updating while I made coffee. (That’s a key point there…the part about making coffee and not yet drinking it, because I’m pretty sure lack of caffeination played a role in this disaster.) About 10 minutes later, I poured a cup of said coffee and checked on the phone’s progress. (Again, no actual caffeine had yet been consumed.) There was a pop-up message about not enough storage, blah blah blahand maybe some kind of question about wanting to continue, but I’m not sure about the latter because I quickly hit ignore (because I couldn’t be bothered to clean out my storage BECAUSE NO CAFFEINE!!!) and again told it to update.

That was when my second foot joined the first on that slippery, slippery slope.

My iPhone ground to a complete and utter halt. I had enough caffeine in me by this point to realize I had a problem on my hands–and to go online to Apple support to find a solution. Following the instructions there, I plugged the phone into my computer (after first spending an additional 20 minutes updating my iTunes software), and then attempted to restore it. First from its last backup–you’ll remember that I hadn’t done one before I started this whole chain of events, but I thought I had the phone set to automatically back up to the cloud at least occasionally, so it was at least worth a shot.

Sadly, the attempt was a no go, and I was faced with doing a full factory reset.

I drank more coffee, bit the proverbial bullet at the idea of losing all my stored data (apps, contacts, the works), and hit the necessary button. The phone merrily updated itself in short order, more coffee was consumed, the phone restarted, and then…

Freaking heck. I’d forgotten my Apple password. After multiple attempts, Apple security kicked in and locked me out altogether. I could have just waited a while until it reset, but noooooooo. I was impatient and wanted to go out, and I didn’t want to wait until I could try again, and I didn’t want to make a trip to the Genius Bar, and I didn’t want to listen to canned music on the phone while I waited forever to speak to someone, and then I saw the words Account Recovery and I thought, “Aha! That’s what I need!”

In spite of the warning that recovery could take up to a few days (“Pshaw! these things never take as long as they say,” I thought to myself), I went ahead. I did it. I requested that my account be recovered, went through the bazillions steps needed to confirm I really, really wanted that to happen, and then…

Then, I think the caffeine finally kicked in, and I realized the monumentalism (totally a word) of my error. Clicker’s remorse quickly set in. I went back online to book an appointment at the Genius Bar and discovered that, for a forgotten password, I could request a call from Apple support. I did, and thirty seconds later, our home phone rang. Huh. So much for waiting forever to speak to someone.

I explained my problem, and the young man on the other end looked up my account for me to see what he could do. And really, he was ever so nice–sympathetic, even–when he came back onto the line to tell me that I’d officially screwed myself over. He could have helped me with my forgotten password, you see, but because the account was already in recovery, he could do nothing. Noth. Ing.

Nada.

I was going to have to wait…UP TO TWO WEEKS, as it turns out.

I’m on Day Four.

Technology super powers. I totally haz them.

 

 

Best-laid Garden Plans…Oops

I planned out my entire vegetable garden out on paper  this year, right down to the last radish seed (I’m using the square-foot gardening method), so I was a little bit puzzled when I found myself left with a sizeable empty spot on planting day a week ago.

Not puzzled enough, however, to go inside and fetch the actual garden plan.

Instead, I chose to shrug my shoulders, dump some extra marigolds into the ‘bonus’ spot, dust off my hands, and finish my day with a mojito. Everything fit, after all, so no problem, right?

Wrong.

Today, I noticed what looked like grass shoots poking up through the pepper patch…in suspiciously regular intervals.

It took me a while (because pre-caffeine), but I finally remembered that I’d planted corn this year…about a week before the bedding plants went in. Corn, when it starts to grow, looks a lot like grass.

Oops.

Long story (involving mild swearing on my part) short, the spare marigolds are now encircling the zucchini plant, the peppers have been moved to the former marigold space, and new corn seeds have been planted to replace the ones inadvertently demolished when the peppers went in. All in all, everything seems to have survived the trauma of being uprooted for a second time, and I’ve learned not to be so lazy and to actually check my carefully worked out plans.

Wanna bet I’ve forgotten the lesson by next year?  😛

Everything (finally) in its place.