Archive for the ‘books’ Category

review: what was mine by helen klein ross

Thursday, February 25th, 2016


one of my goals for 2016 includes more reading and less netflix. i find this is easier said than done, but i’m proud to say i’ve read more books since january 1st than i read during the whole of 2015, and we’re still in Q1, so i’m counting this as a win already. reading is so much more enriching and fulfilling than watching television (unless you’re watching two of my favorites, 60 minutes or the west wing and then i’d argue it’s totally worth it), and i find it more relaxing as well.

as part of this goal, i’m thrilled to share that i’ve teamed up with the incredible ladies at she reads as a member of their blog network. this means i’m part of an amazing online book club, and i get to read books and then write about them, which is an ideal situation because i love talking books with anyone who will listen to me. there are so many conclusions to be drawn, perspectives to consider and things to discuss.

my first review from their winter selections is what was mine, by helen klein ross. i chose this book for one reason. i really like stories told from the perspective of a person who commits a crime. i know this sounds strange, so let me explain. none of us in generally functioning society wakes up in the morning with the intent to commit a crime. most indiscretions or illegal acts are a product of small, seemingly harmless bad decisions that add up to something larger. we all believe we’re incapable of doing something terrible, when statistics tell us that we could very easily surprise ourselves in the heat of the moment. i like stories that capture this very human part of us, as it often softens my attitude toward individuals who do things that seem unspeakable and diminishes my own superiority when i realize i posses the same vulnerability.

in what was mine, helen klein ross demonstrates this vulnerability so well. lucy wakefield is a successful new york city ad executive, who discovers that, unlike other areas of her life, no matter how hard she works, she cannot have a child. infertility and failed adoption attempts plague her marriage, leaving her alone and completely broken. during an ordinary visit to ikea, she discovers a baby girl alone in a shopping cart, and lucy makes several quick decisions that change the course of her entire life. without even realizing what she’s doing, she kidnaps baby natalie, names her mia, and raises her as her own daughter – for twenty-one years.

this book was a quick and easy, yet gripping read, told from the perspectives of lucy, natalie’s birth mother, mia, and a number of others who are close to them. the story explores mia’s upbringing and how lucy copes with hiding a horrific crime that has given her everything she’s always wanted. when mia discovers her original identity and reconnects with her birth mother, life changes again for each character, but in the wake of a 20-year crime, redemption is far more elusive than any character could have hoped.

throughout the story, a few things stood out to me. first, i really enjoyed how ross crafted lucy’s rationalizations for her crime. the fact is, we all do things we’re not proud of, and generally we craft ways to rationalize our actions. these rationalizations only grow with the size of the crime, and i related to lucy’s internal dialogue on why kidnapping mia wasn’t the terrible crime she knew deep down that it was. not because i have interest in kidnapping a child, but because our rationalizations don’t often really fit the crime themselves – they fit our human condition and our desperate attempt to convince ourselves that our bad decisions are justified. i love the quote “i knew that what i was doing was wrong according to law. but what i was doing felt right, according to the laws of nature.”

i also liked how ross explored the fact that we seem to be incapable of letting go of loving family members who have hurt us. it’s a complicated idea, as it seems that humans are incapable of shaking the connection we have with our birth parents AND those who have raised and loved us outside of that dynamic, no matter what the circumstances. i see this manifested in the lives of those i know, and i believe that loving our parents, whether biological or adopted, is an inherent part of our nature that cannot be renounced.

and finally, through various characters throughout the story, ross analyzes various ideas of what it means to be a “good” mother. is a working mother who works to provide her child with only the best opportunities any less loving than a mother who doesn’t work and is fully present in her children’s lives? what about a mother who leaves her child completely in order to provide him with the best? what is “the best” exactly? is it just love? or is it opportunity, healthy lifestyle, education, or financial resources? each of us has our own definition about what is best for our children. and the fact of the matter is, there’s no one “right” formula. each of the mothers in this story loves her children well, just differently, and kidnapping aside, i think this is truly the most poignant theme of the book.

long story short, should you read this? DEFINITELY. it’s a quick read that you won’t regret, and i guarantee you you’ll be thinking about it long after the last page. many thanks to gallery books for providing me a copy of this book, and if you decide to read it, let me know your thoughts!

title: what was mine
author: helen klein ross
Helen Klein Ross is a poet and novelist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and in The Iowa Review, where it won the 2014 Iowa Review Award in poetry. She graduated from Cornell University and recieved an MFA from The New School. Helen lives with her husband in New York City and Salisbury, Connecticut.
published: january 2016
publisher: gallery books an imprint of simon and schuster
what others are saying: she reads books of winter
disclosure: i received this book free from the publisher, gallery books, an imprint of simon & schuster, as a member of the she reads network. i was not required to write a positive review. the opinions i have expressed are my own.

click to purchase from amazon


Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

i think it’s safe to say that my twenties haven’t quite turned out how i expected they would. looking back, i can’t say exactly what i expected, but i’ve spent the last few years feeling stuck in one place. unsure of what to do next. frustrated. perhaps i’ve watched too many lighthearted movies featuring kate hudson in the prime of life, living in a beautiful manhattan apartment that would more than likely rent for about $3000 or more a month, working at a chic job doing something glamorous, dating matthew mcconaughey and spending two full hours looking bouncy and glowy and drinking martinis and wearing manolos. apparently in my younger years i thought that was what being twenty-something felt like. (although i’d gladly date ryan gosling over matthew mcconaughey. or zac efron…thoughts wander…but i digress.)

in all honesty, my twenties aren’t that unlike kate’s. i have a great family and truly excellent friends. i have a cute house. i spend at least a few evenings a month at happy hour. sometimes i eat brownies for dinner. i work in uptown charlotte. my hair is kind of bouncy. i own a pair of kate spade shoes. i’m actually almost like kate hudson. minus the handsome fellow. and the expensive apartment. and the tan. but despite this truth, i often don’t feel like i thought i would in my twenties. i start comparing myself. i dwell on what i don’t have. i don’t have a husband. i don’t have a high-paying job. i don’t have a retirement plan or stock options. i don’t own a house. i don’t have any manolos. i don’t have a tan. when i compare myself to where so many others are at this age, i freak out a little bit and wonder what i’m doing with my life. why God hasn’t opened more doors for me. if i’m going to let my twenties pass me by without ever enjoying them.

i still remember the moment, last august in southern pines. i’d come to visit the lovely lacey and her family in the dead of summer and we did what we do every time we we’re together: starbucks. i had just ordered my grande-iced-coffee-with-a-splash-of-soymilk and set my straw tote on one of the leather armchairs. i was wearing this dress and despite the horrible temperatures, feeling kind of fancy. from a few feet away came this voice. “where in the world did you get that dress!?” i responded. we started chatting. within moments, i was having an extremely comfortable conversation with this girl that i’d never met. talking about crafts and blogging and our lives. i was drawn in by her warmth and enthusiasm. we exchanged info. we became virtual friends.

since that time, i’ve read sarah’s blog pretty regularly. she is completely passionate about ministering to twenty-something women. never in my life have i had such a random encounter with a complete stranger that i have been so certain was ordained by the Lord. while we haven’t seen one another since, she has ministered to me in more ways than one, and i’m so grateful that i was able to meet her that day. we keep in touch every so often through facebook or twitter, and as of about a month ago, she published a book! a legit book. a sold-at-barnes-and-noble-and-on-amazon-book. i remember her telling me that day we met that she was writing a book (in fact, she was working on it at the time). i remember thinking i’d be interested to read it. and i finally got my copy tonight and am so excited to join the online study that she is hosting on her website. while i don’t often get excited about books that can be bought at the christian bookstore (and feel terrible for even admitting that, but it’s true), i feel certain that God has selected this book for me during this time and i can’t wait to see what i learn through it. sarah is extremely genuine and extremely passionate and i have a tremendous amount of respect for her. if you’re a twenty-something girl, you should join us for the study! you can buy the book here and you can sign-up for the online study here. hooray!

i’ll be twenty-seven in a month. this makes me want to throw-up and cry and eat a lot of cake all at the same time. i am thankful for people like sarah who remind me that slowly approaching thirty is okay. that i’m right where i’m supposed to be, in the hands of the One who created me.

images 1.zap2it 2.eloranicole

blog to book

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

tonight i got home very late and this little baby was waiting on my front stoop thanks to amazon and their free two-day shipping. if you don’t already read design sponge, it’s time that you start. i can not wait to find ten minutes to sit down, drink some wine and flip through these pages. it’s going to make me want to redecorate my entire house, but you know…

i’ve really missed blogging lately. runway for the ballet has been taking up nearly every moment of my free time, but i’m looking forward to a little peace and quiet this weekend. more to come soon!

book review

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

if i had to pick a time to have been laid-off at work, it probably wouldn’t have been the week before christmas. that said, however, not having a job in cold, dreary january hasn’t been so bad. it’s an ideal month to spend time at home, under a quilt, in stretchy pants and big sweaters. so, since i’ve had eight hours a day freed-up, i’ve had some time to read. i’m currently lost reading malcolm gladwell’s genius (i’m a little behind the curve there), but i’ve also read two books lately that are just outstanding. like total must-reads:

the help by katherine stockett
this story follows two groups of women in 1960’s mississippi – the white, affluent socialites in town, and the black women that work for them. it was an exceptional story in general – told from three different alternating perspectives – but really made me think about the way southern society viewed race differences, even 100 years after the civil war was over. it’s shocking that our country had such a backwards way of thinking for so long. the story was very real and engaging and actually quite entertaining, the characters were extremely well-developed, and i found myself pretty sad when it was over.

a thousand splendid suns by khaled hosseini
this book may just be the most depressing book i’ve ever read. if you’re looking for a breezy beach read, this isn’t it. i actually didn’t want to read this book at all initially. middle-eastern culture doesn’t really interest me much. however, it was my book club’s monthly pick, so i started reading like a good sport. and i’m so glad i did. the book may have been depressing, but i was so intrigued. the story follows two women in afghanistan from the early 1970’s through present day, and the political turmoil, the war on terror, and oppression they endured. i learned a great deal about afghanistan’s history and i’m fascinated, again, that in our day and age women are so oppressed, and that it’s something that is just accepted as a cultural norm in many middle-eastern countries. (this book doesn’t really take a political stance on the war on terror, just outlines the realities of the rise and fall of the taliban.) i pulled an almost all-nighter reading because i just couldn’t put it down. and while the book itself is heart-wrenching, you can rest assured that it does have a happy(ish) ending. you’ll be glad you read it – trust me.

as you can see, these books had some clear similarities and while i often stick to lighter leisure reading, i’m so glad that i picked up both. i think it’s so easy to turn a blind eye to injustice – especially when it’s halfway around the world and we’re not the ones being unjust or oppressed – and these books both reminded me that injustice isn’t just something that happened years ago or that happens in foreign countries to faceless people. it happens every day, all the time, all around us. ironically, in the midst of reading both of these books, i had a job interview with the international justice mission, an organization that seeks to end many forms of present day injustice, and quite frankly, is awesome. i didn’t get the job (boo), but it was another reminder of how important it is to move out of my comfort zone to speak for those who don’t have a voice. it is my sincere hope that the Lord’s plan for me allows me to do this as i continue my career. and hey, since it’s so cold and icky out, why don’t you pick up one of these books? you won’t be disappointed.

image via laauraa.deviantart