Book Review – Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Book Club’s November pick was another non-fiction. I wasn’t jumping at the gun for another non-fiction, myself, but I can’t say I was disappointed necessarily…

Book 46:
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
by Kate Clifford Larson

Genre:
Nonfiction, Historical, Biography

Published:
October 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Favorite Quote(s):

“None of us can understand the ways of Almighty God—the crosses which he sends us, the sacrifices which he demands of us. But he loves us and He has a particular plan in this life for each of us.”

– Kate Clifford Larson, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for History & Biography (2015)

Pages:
320

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Ok, so this book made me cry. Rosemary’s story is so tragic. But also, I think I just read a 320 page research paper. I mean, I did. That’s exactly what it was. I struggled with the writing style, but the story was incredibly interesting.

Despite my 3.5, slightly above average rating, I would recommend this book because it challenges what you might believe about people with special needs. How are we to react to them? What is their role in society? What would this look like in my family? The Kennedys had the world at their fingertips and they still didn’t know how to deal with the cards they were dealt.

Book Review – Into Thin Air

Little Fires Everywhere is about the disruption of a desperately planned and “perfect” neighborhood, Shaker Heights. In Shaker Heights, there are rules, there is structure and there is an ideal image to uphold, but all the planning in the world can’t stop the craziness of life from seeping in. New residents, a single mom and daughter with an interesting past, beg the interest of other residents. Another family’s questionable adoption situation splits the town in half. And then the model family, the Richardson’s house burns down. It seems in just one year, Shaker Heights gets quickly shaken up.

BINGO! This non-fiction read, passed on to me by my in-laws, completed my first BINGO for my library’s summer reading club. Score!

Book 27:
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
by Jon Krakauer

Genre:
Nonfiction, Adventure

Published:
1997

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is about Jon Krakauer’s May of 1996 Mt. Everest climb. Despite his summit success, Krakauer descended the top of the mountain in hurricane force winds and white out conditions, staggering back to the safety of his tent while the rest of his team fought for (and mostly lost) their lives. Deemed the deadliest season on Everest, Krakauer lived to tell the story of that storm and the affect it had on his climb, his team and his life ever after.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking above all else, something like a state of grace.”

– Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Pulitzer Prize Nominee for General Nonfiction (1998)
ALA Alex Award (1998)
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for General Nonfiction (1997)
Boardman Tasker Prize Nominee for Mountain Literature (1997)

Pages:
293

My Overall Rating:
5 – Whew! What an exhilarating, fascinating and heartbreaking read! My prior experience with Jon Krakauer was Into the Wild, a story I was so captivated by – one that would set my minor obsession with Alaska into motion when I was just a junior in high school. I knew he was a phenomenal writer. I knew he, like me, must be captivated by the adventures that happen in the solitude of the edges and peaks of the earth. But I didn’t know he was such an adventure seeker himself that he would attempt to climb Mt. Everest.

In May of 1996, I was 6 years old. While Krakauer was probably making international news, having safely summited and descended Mt. Everest while numerous other people (including most of his team) were killed in a violent, unpredicted storm, I was most likely playing with my baby dolls in my parents’ basement. So no, I was not familiar with this story prior to reading this book.

What pulled me in was not the thrill of ascending Everest. It was not the climbing tactics or culture that I learned so much about. What pulled me in was the decisions Krakauer and his team had to make in such a critical time while deeply impacted physically, cognitively and emotionally by the assumed thinness of the air and the shock of the storm.

How do you rally as a team when rallying could mean losing your life? How do you say goodbye to someone who’s been with you through the most strenuous, most formational experience of your life? And how do you face your life after that situation, when you’re one of just a few who survived?

I commend Krakauer for not just making it through his Everest climb, but for the courage to share his story afterward. Without a doubt, he must have received much criticism for sharing, but in doing so, he gave people a peek into a bigger story. Triumphs and failures happen. Sometimes they look like the same thing. Sometimes life goes on after them.

Book Review – The Eternal Current

The Eternal Current is about moving from the rut of a belief-centric faith to a belief-and-acts-centric faith on a daily basis. When his own faith was running stuck, Aaron started searching for more. He started searching for a third way, a way to practically live what he believed beyond simply believing it.

Aaron and his wife, Shauna, worked at my church several years ago. At the time, I wasn’t quite as wrapped up in their work as I have been since they left. I’ve owned and read each of Shauna’s books and when Aaron started working on this one – his first book – I knew I had to get my hands on this one, too.

Book 16:
The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning
by Aaron Niequist

Genre:
Spirituality, Nonfiction, Christian

Published:
August 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Eternal Current is about moving from the rut of a belief-centric faith to a belief-and-acts-centric faith on a daily basis. When his own faith was running stuck, Aaron started searching for more. He started searching for a third way, a way to practically live what he believed beyond simply believing it.

Favorite Quote(s):

“If information alone could transform us into Christlikeness, then we would be the most Christlike generation of all time. We have unlimited access to all the knowledge in human history through the smartphones in our pockets, yet the world doesn’t seem to be moving quickly toward a holy utopia.”

“We’re not trying to change people’s minds; we’re trying to change the world… teaching serves to guide and propel us into tangible participation with God’s work in and through us.”

“Uniformity is a poor substitute for unity, because uniformity denies reality.”

“Engaging ‘the other’ with grace helps us become more secure in our own identities. We can be comfortable with the differences in others only when we’re already at home with ourselves.”

“The poor are not problems to solve but teachers to learn from. They understand a part of reality that the affluent often can’t see but desperately need to embrace…”

– Aaron Niequist, The Eternal Current

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None.

Pages:
208

My Overall Rating:
3 – First, my dislikes: much of the book was about what Aaron’s (previous) church had done to start “The Practice”, their integration of the concepts described in this book. Those parts of the book made it feel as if this was written for church leaders and not church goers. Also, he used numerous quotes from others and suggested several other books throughout his writing. To me, that made it seem like a research paper as opposed to a reflective book on why/how/what changes were made in Aaron’s life to get to where he is now.

But here’s what I did like… Growing up in the church, I went to church every Sunday. I accepted the Lord as my Savior at a very young age and continued to dutifully attend church and other church-like things. But now, as an adult, it makes me mad that much of my faith was based on what I believed and how well I knew what I believed rather than practiced what I believed. I’ve struggled to want to go to church because I don’t need another place where I can learn – I need a place where I can do, where I can practice what I’ve learned. I’ve struggled to appreciate some of my closest relationships because I don’t need another place where I can comfortably fellowship – I need a place where the fellowship of believers will do, where they will practice what they’ve learned.

Aaron tackled both of those concepts, albeit briefly, and I really needed to hear that I wasn’t the only person who’s had those thoughts. Where do I go from here? That has just been the question of probably half of my last decade, but, as stated in the book, I want to “do good better,” and as a whole, this book has encouraged me to continue searching for what that looks like in my life.

Book Review – Way Out Here

Way Out Here is Richard Leo’s reflections on his homesteading experience.

This next book is a continuation of my Richard Leo experience per my brother’s suggestion. It’s not often that I read two books by the same author right in a row – I like to give them space so my review of one doesn’t affect the other… and that might just have happened here…

Book 15:
Way Out Here: Modern Life in Ice-Age Alaska
by Richard Leo

Genre:
Nonfiction, Adventure

Published:
March 1996

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Way Out Here is Richard Leo’s reflections on his homesteading experience.

Favorite Quote(s):

“No landscape or lifestyle is absolution from that which we carry into it.”

“Rushing to get there misses here.”

“It’s common to take for granted that which is common.”

“Living in community is a way to sustain both everyone within it and everything around it. When community is functional, it satisfies a planetary need for consensus, compassion, and foresight.”

“Craft is for the sake of crafting, not magazine spread. A full life is lived, not designed. The deepest impression is made by not trying to impress.”

– Richard Leo, Edges of the Earth

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None.

Pages:
191

My Overall Rating:
2.5 – Again, I have to say that Rick’s story is very interesting. Not many people in the currently living population can tell of their homesteading experience (though I should note that Rick has since passed away in 2013 at the age of 61). However, I struggled with this book. The chapters were too long and the content too detailed for it to be considered memoir, but the content lacked an overall plot, so it really can’t be considered a traditional non-fiction story. It was reflective, sure, but it felt largely like a man writing his thoughts for his future grandchildren, wanting to capture every detail, but assuming they already know the gist of the story.

That being said, I still found the book highly quotable which is something I really admire. When someone can take a vast concept and sum it up incredibly well in one or two moving sentences, I am immediately trying to capture those words, storing them for future use.

Book Review – Edges of the Earth

Edges of the Earth is Richard Leo’s re-telling of his homesteading experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Sick of the wind-and-grind of his career and the hustle-and-bustle of the city, Rick convinces his girlfriend, Melissa, to journey with him from New York to the Last Frontier. Settling first in Talkeetna, the two and, eventually, their baby boy, Janus, learn the Alaskan ways before venturing into the wilderness, building their homestead, chasing dreams, and putting their relationship to the ultimate test.

Two Christmases ago I drew my oldest brother’s name for our sibling gift exchange. He had two items on his wish list, one of which was this book. I can’t not give a book when a book is an option, but when I looked into this one, my heart swelled a little bit, because Alaska…

Book 14:
Edges of the Earth: A Man, A Woman, A Child in the Alaskan Wilderness
by Richard Leo

Genre:
Nonfiction, Adventure

Published:
December 1991

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Edges of the Earth is Richard Leo’s re-telling of his homesteading experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Sick of the wind-and-grind of his career and the hustle-and-bustle of the city, Rick convinces his girlfriend, Melissa, to journey with him from New York to the Last Frontier. Settling first in Talkeetna, the two and, eventually, their baby boy, Janus, learn the Alaskan ways before venturing into the wilderness, building their homestead, chasing dreams, and putting their relationship to the ultimate test.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We’re here. Just look where we are. The world is rich beyond imagining, still. Remember how we used to joke that there might not be anywhere left to go, everything known, everything already described? Remember how bleak life seemed when all hope was blown away by the intimation of inevitable tragedy – lost love or winnowed possibility or obtuse human righteousness? I remember! But look. Here is only light and land, as anywhere. But such light! And the land presupposes nothing except its continuity. I haven’t escaped sorrow, not even here, of course, not even on an unnamed creek in the boreal forest. But there’s so much life. Still. “

– Richard Leo, Edges of the Earth

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None.

Pages:
303

My Overall Rating:
4 – Rick’s story is incredibly interesting, and I love his complete honesty the whole way through. Between what he chose to share and how he shared it, he made my heart alternately swell and ache. Though I was surprised by how his relationship with his girlfriend, Melissa, played out, I was captivated by his friendship with Alexander and the storyline there, and I was impressed by his relationship with his son, Janus.

For someone who both longed for and felt comfortable with such isolation, it’s obvious he still so highly valued relationships and human interaction. The homesteading side of his story was adventurous and lust-worthy. The relational side of his story was special yet common.

I can’t recommend this book to everyone, but if you like adventure, Alaska, or even just examining relationships through everyday hardships, this is a great read. If you love Alaska, it’s a must read.