Harvesting the Heart (Jodi Picoult)

Because Paige O'Toole's mother abandoned her and Paige's father at a young age, she has been left with a lifetime of empty, longing memories and curiosities about what would possibly cause a mother to leave her child. Because of the scar left on her by this abandonment, Paige develops a proclivity for running herself. Though she has a wonderful and supportive father, as soon as she graduates from high school, Paige runs away from home to pursue art school...

And then she meets Nicholas. Nicholas, the cardiothoracic surgeon. Nicholas, the (not by much) older man. Nicholas, her knight in shining armor. 

They have a wildly brief courtship and marriage, and just as Paige is about to be on the brink of starting the art school she always dreamed of, they have a son. Max is the love, delight, and the great terror of Paige's life. Overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood, her perceived loss of herself, and by an increasingly unhappy marriage, Paige does the one thing Paige knows how to do. She runs. She runs far away from what and who she has, at the same time running toward who and what she wants. 

I love Jodi Picoult. This wasn't my favorite of her works, as in my opinion it was a bit lengthy at the expense of precision. Still, pretty good for some heavy mom-introspection. 



 

Bossypants (Tina Fey)

Good for reflection as working moms and GREAT for a laugh, Bossypants is by far one of the most entertaining autobiographies I've ever read. With her classic wit and hilarious sarcasm, Tina Fey sends readers to the floor in all-out gut chuckles over her antics, experiences, and observations. She tells her side of the whole Palin impersonation gig, shares insight into work on the SNL set, and gives her inner monologue on the conflict (every working mom's conflict) between a desire to work and a desire to be with her children. It's a short, light read and you close it (or click out, in case of e-readers) with a greater respect and appreciation for Tina Fey's work than ever before. 

Just do not, don't even think of it, ask her about her scar. 
What scar? 
Yeah, that's what I said! 
 

 

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

Of all the books I read, there are precious few that grab hold of my heart the way this one has. I have not fallen so deeply in love with a book like this since To Kill a Mockingbird. The hubs was privy to many of the hilarious occurrences buried in these twenty or so odd chapters, and I love him for always listening when I started out with "You are not gonna believe what Minny Jackson has done to Miss Hilly Holbrook now!"

Set in the tumultuous 1960's in the even more volatile city of Jackson, Mississippi, this is the tale of a blossoming novelist and her desire to write about the precarious relationship between white ladies and their black maids. "The help" finally get their chance to tell their side of the story, but it is not without consequence for these truly brave women of Jackson.

Like all great novels, The Help is wondrously complex, with its side stories twisting and turning all over one another in one red hot mess. Skeeter is a new graduate with no prospects for a husband and, much to her momma's chagrin, is itching to put her shiny new English degree to use. While writing for the town paper, Skeeter's eyes become opened to the injustice of the way black people are treated. She begins to question the lines that have always been so clearly assumed between the white family and the help. Aibileen is one of the first maids willing to share her stories, and is soon followed by several others, all with the strictest condition of anonymity. They all have much to lose if they are discovered.

There are some truly lovable women in this book. Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter are just the kinds of characters you love to love. Hilly, Stuart, and Elizabeth are simply the ones you love to hate. Regardless of which side they are on, every character is distinctively complicated. Their natures and their situations would easily give way to endless discussions in a book club or high school lit class.

I'm definitely filing this one under "Favorites." :)

For more about the author: http://www.kathrynstockett.com/ 

I also just discovered that The Help is coming to a theater near you in August! :)

20 Boy Summer (Sarah Ockler)

Anna and Frankie are best friends and have grown up together, spending their whole lives as next-door neighbors. The one and only secret that they have between them is Anna's crush on Frankie's brother, Matt, and his reciprocated feelings. Anna and Matt fall in love, and plan to tell Frankie about their relationship...until Matt's very sudden death. Anna stows Matt away in her heart and grieves alone with her secret, all while trying to help her friend deal with the loss of her brother. Frankie's parents are of very little help to their daughter as they are cycling through their own waves of despair. 

Frankie deals with Matt's death by closing herself off from the world and becoming barely recognizable to her family and friends. Perpetually living on the dangerous edge, her newest wild notion is a competition between herself and Anna, in how many guys they can meet in the 20 days of their summer trip to the beach. An attempt to lose themselves in a sloppy mess of boys proves to be both an adventure and a mistake. 

Eventually, Anna and Frankie have their first real conversation about Matt, and it becomes evident that this book is not about whether friendships can withstand secrets, it's about whether friendships can survive secrets revealed. The answer for Anna and Frankie will surprise you. 

*I won this book in a giveaway over at this blog, along with some homemade oatmeal soaps, some fun office supplies, and a lovely bookmark. Isn't it super fun to win something? It's even better to win something that you actually like. Thanks again, @mrsookworm! :) Y'all be sure to check out her blog, too.


So Long, Insecurity (Beth Moore)


The women's ministry at my church often meets to discuss books or Bible studies. Beth Moore is by far one of our favorite authors, primarily because not only does she consistently point readers to the Creator and true source of help/wisdom/healing/peace, she is also discerning, authentic, funny, and wise. Recently we read So Long, Insecurity. In this book, Beth tells us what security is, and what it is not.

It's no secret that largely because of the misery mainstream culture projects, many women are plagued with insecurity. It is downright scary, however, to read about and consider just how that insecurity manifests itself in our lives. It can lead to perpetual misery, a controlling nature, being a painful perfectionist, mistrust of everyone around you, rudeness, issues with intimacy, constant fear of loss, and so much worse. Insecurity affects the way you act with your spouse, your children, your friends, your co-workers, and even your acquaintances. Beth, who has devoted her life to serving and ministering to women, guides the reader to uncovering the source(s) of insecurity and dealing with it in order to reclaim a life full of true peace and liberty. She does delve into how men and their personalities/attitudes relate to our security, and she poses the interesting question of whether we have been and should be treating the men in our life as gods or as devils (the correct answer, by the way, is neither).

Every single chapter is brimming with note-worthy quotes, but one of my favorites was Chapter 15, titled "Looking Out for Each Other." In this section, Beth writes that oftentimes it is women who are causing insecurity in other women, leading to a deeper pit of insecurity. She calls all of us ladies to respect one another in unity and sisterhood, specifically to:
-Stop making comparisons.
-Start personalizing other women.
-Stop tripping another woman's insecurity switch.
-Be examples of secure women. She elaborates in Chapter 14 (my most favorite section) that for our own freedom and peace we should actively seek to be examples of secure women, but mostly for the sake of our daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, and granddaughters. How much easier our little girls will learn to live a life of security if they see it demonstrated daily in our lives!

Reading through this book is a very unique and personal experience, and it can be rather messy. Discussing it in a group of women was not an easy thing, but the wisdom within brought healing to many.