Reading Lauren Weisberger’s When Life Gives You Lululemons is out of character for me. Like picking up Cosmopolitan magazine and reading cover-to-cover. (This is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you make a purchase of the book I may earn a small commission for the sale at no additional expense to you.
(Check out other books to read on the Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander Book List Page.)
Yet several weeks ago it was big on the New York Times Bestseller Hardcover List and it spent several weeks there.
In my quest to become a better reader, I bought it, read it, and studied the novel in hopes of finding ways to make myself a better writer.
US Senators don’t ride around in limousines all the time.
Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander giving myself an emoji facepalm.
To her credit, Weisberger at least knows that U.S. senators don’t ride around in limousines all the time.
Someone needs to share that with Lisa Wingate, who errantly seems to think in Before We Were Yours in modern-day South Carolina.
Weisberger’s plot hinges on a senator being in cahoots with a local police department being able to frame his wife with DUI on a holiday.
That, and a Hollywood-based spin doctor being able to get her out of trouble after finding the senator’s wife and the spin doctor have a mutual friend in the suburbs of Connecticut.
So the story winds around the three women who learn new things about themselves.
The plot is mostly about the spin doctor who learns that she’s not a washed-up spin doctor.
She gives herself relevance and establishes that there is more to life than helping the country’s elite lie their way out of their sick problems.
At the end of the book….
So much so that at the end of the book … well, I don’t do spoilers, you’ll have to read it for yourself.
Conclusion about When Life Gives You Lululemons
When I read books I usually actively underline passages that I might like to come back to or find insightful about the human experience. I didn’t underline anything in this book.
This is/was not my genre and it does have a happily-ever-after ending.
But if you want to read anything that’s based upon reality or anything that will advance the cause of humankind, this is not the book.
And that’s probably the deal with writing it.
Write, edit, polish, publish, splash, and then in a few weeks Barnes and Noble and the remaining physical bookstores left on the planet are selling this for 1/4 of what it originally sold for.
This was not the case with The Nightingale; The Nightingale is the better of the two books. There almost is no comparison.
Set in World War II France, the story involves two sisters who are at odds with each other following the death of their mother and subsequent abandonment of their father. As France is invaded by the Germans, the older sister, Vianne, remains home with their daughter, Sophie, and is compelled to billet German officers. The younger sister, Isabelle, goes from the country home to Paris to join their father, who is said to be working for the German high command. This disgusts the younger daughter who has decided she is going to resist the offensive Germans. The story then evolves into an account of what each of the three do to resist the foreign invaders in their own ways.
Quotes from the Book
In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. pg 1
Generally, Madame, the failure of a student to learn is the failure of the teacher to teach. pg 21
Because of them I know now what matters, and it is not what I have lost. It is my memories. Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain. pg 438
This was not a book I spent a lot of time underlining for great phrases or prophetic insights. But the writing is excellent and the story compelling.
Modern v. Old Frame
This story uses a modern-day frame to leap back into the old. Right up until the end, Hannah seeks to make it unclear who the narrator of the story is–which of the two sisters. She also begins the story in Oregon, in 1995, and then retreats to August 1939. This works. It helps make it so she can hide the identity of the narrator until the end, and then pull the survivors out of the past into the present. And she does it quite well.
I have never been to Paris, perhaps one day. But what I found the most troubling in my mind was the chronological timeline. What I mean to say is that I have been reading a lot about Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the others of the Lost Generation and their time in Paris–all BEFORE World War II, in the 1920s and early 1930s. I have that imagery well planted in the visual descriptions of my mind. Given all that, it is hard then to supplant those thoughts with what happens in this book, what happened in real life, to Paris, with the invasion of the Nazis.
Reading The Nightingale truly played tricks with my mind, as in, how could this possibly have happened?!
I think that is the magic and power of reading. Reading history, even if it is fiction.
This makes me all the more understanding of what life must have been like for Parisians when the German tanks came rolling in. And then when the Germans began rounding up non-French-born Jews and sending them off.
The way I have done my reading, a totally random act, reading the Hemingway and Fitzgerald stories and accounts of 1920s Paris and then contrasting that with a book like The Nightingale really created a stark amplification for me personally. I am not sure I would have received the same impact had I read The Nightingale first.
I encourage you to read this wonderful book. The writing is excellent.
The drama and story are superb and realistic.
There weren’t any moments when I jumped out of the story and said to myself, “Come on….”
I was under Ms. Hannah’s spell from page one until it ended.
And several days after having read it, I still am and probably will be for a long time to come.
There There by Tommy Orange is one of those profound books that only come along once in a long while.
This is a book that should be considered for a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize.
It offers such dramatic insight into the human soul the likes I’ve read in but a few works ever in my life.
There There by Tommy Orange is one of the most profound books I’ve ever read.
The There There Story.
The story itself tracks several Native American characters as they eventually make their way through life to rendezvous at a pow-wow in Oakland, California in modern times.
They’re off the reservation, urban Indians, struggling with their past, struggling with their present and futures all rolled into one.
Tommy Orange provides a rich, real, and fulfilling story.
The harsh life of Native American history.
For all of us, life often becomes harsh.
There There provides insight into the lives most would never know exist.
This book opened my eyes to the struggles characterized in Orange’s writing.
The beauty in this novel lies in how the tapestry of words applies to more than the Native American soul.
There There rips away the scab covering the soul in us all.
Henceforth think, of Tommy Orange; author of a monumental great American novel.
Quotes from There There by Tommy Orange.
We stayed because the city sounds like a war, and you can’t leave a war once you’ve been, you can only keep it at bay–which is easier when you can see and hear it near you, the fast metal, that constant firing around you, cars up and down the streets and freeways like bullets. pg 9
…nothing is original, everything comes from something that came before, which was once nothing. Everything is new and doomed. pg 11
“We don’t have time, Nephew, time has us. It holds us in its mouth like an owl holds a field mouse. We shiver. We struggle. for release, and then it pecks out our eyes and intestines for sustenance and we die the death of field mice.” pg 36
No There There anymore.
…the place where she’d grown up in Oakland had changed so much, that so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone there was no there there anymore.” pg 38-9
But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there. pg 39
‘Stories and stories about stories.’
She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories. pg 58
‘…A mean curveball thrown by … a steroid-fueled kid pitcher.’
Even the old people in charge, they’re acting like kids. There’s no more scope, no vision, no depth. We want it now and we want it new. This world is a mean curveball thrown by an overly excited, steroid-fueled kid pitcher, who has no more cares about the integrity of the game than he does about the Costa Ricans who painstakingly stitch the balls together by hand. pg 82-3
Secrets lie through omission just like shame lies through secrecy. pg 165
The poor dog was probably just trying to spread the weight of its own abuse. pg 170
To get injured and not recover is a sign of weakness. pg 214
Most addictions aren’t premeditated. You slept better. Drinking felt good. But mostly, if there was any real reason you could pinpoint, it was because of your skin. pg 217
Speaking the broken tongue of angels and demons.
Maybe we’ve all been speaking the broken tongue of angels and demons too long to know that that’s what we are, who we are, what we’re speaking. Maybe we don’t ever die but change, always in the State without hardly ever even knowing that we’re in it. pg 224
Places Featured in There There by Tommy Orange.
Oakland, CA, USA Oklahoma City, OK, USA Phoenix, AZ, USA
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng will light you on fire.
I recently read Celeste Ng’s best-selling novel, Little Fires Everywhere, and enjoyed the book. It is a very well-written novel and worthy of a read.
We know immediately who burnt the house down. What we do not understand for a couple hundred pages is why.
There is no setup that takes pages to develop.
This book is going places.
The Richardson home in the suburbs of Ohio has been burnt to the ground and the kids in the family believe, rightly, that their sister Izzy has set little fires everywhere throughout the house to burn it to the ground. The rest of the book is an explanation of why their sister, who the other kids run down as being strange, weird, and disturbed, maybe is the sanest one of the bunch.
There are some good passages I underlined while reading:
“Did you have to burn down the old to make way for the new?” pg 160
“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.” pg 161
For the benefit of Penguin Press and additional editions, the word “the” was left out of the last paragraph on page 198. “Mia had boarded a Greyhound to Philly, then New York, with one suitcase and clothing and one of THE cameras.”
I also don’t understand why the word “laundromat” was capitalized on each use.
“Like after a prairie fire. I saw one, years ago, when we were in Nebraska. It seems like the end of the world. The earth is all scorched and black and everything green is gone. But after the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow.” pg 295
This really is a good book. There are more than the usual number of characters to keep up with, but it did not get to be too much. Each of them is unique.
Mrs. Richardson becomes something of an antagonist.
Pearl is a victim of the actions of adults in her world.
Moody, also gets caught up in all the drama of his family and could be something more, but in the end, fails.
Lexie proves to be as dishonest as her mother in a different way.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is an incendiary wonder.
Trip has his own guilt and shame, too.
Then there are the McCulloughs and we see adult self-interests, which override the interests of children throughout the book, are alive and well in this other family.
We have Pearl’s mother, Mia. Running from her own demons and past.
And then we have Bebe, another adult who acted in her own self-interests and who tried to correct her ways.
I liked reading this book. The writing is authentic and real. The story is not outlandish. This is something that could happen. Maybe it has. Celeste Ng has done a good job with this work. You would be wise to pick up this book and give it a read.
The Woman in the Window proves there needs to be a new genre classification: Women who mix lots of alcohol and take lots of pills.
It was that good.
I will say it again, with conviction this time.
Women who mix alcohol with lots of pills needs to become a separate genre.
Women who mix alcohol with lots of pills–that should be a literary genre all unto itself. At least in the 2010s.
But in this case, it works. It REALLY works. And A.J. Finn’s writing, not once in the whole book did I stop to question a grammatical or literary anything. The book is solidly written.
Before the end, I will confess I had figured out who did it and how they were going to be taken out.
But that’s okay. It was so late in the game, and the reveals were there, hopefully, a blind man could have seen them as well.
Books like these are not normally the kind I read, but this one, which has spent a long time on the New York Times Bestseller list, really drew me in and held me. There were definitely some surprises I did NOT see coming. And in all fairness to anyone who has not read the book, I won’t reveal or spoil them.
Sleeping After Reading This Book
I finished the book at about midnight and went to bed. Throughout the night the narrator kept talking to me as I slept. The night’s rest was definitely filled with a new voice. There were things this character and I had in common–IKEA desks and an hourglass that I use when I write. Many times I also write in front of my window. So I connected.
The genre thing about the alcohol and the pills though. It is truly depressing to think that there must be so many women out there who can relate to this kind of thing.
So many books are written about women like this.
In the past few months, I’ve read a couple of books that fall into this category.
I recently read The Days of Abandonmentby Elena Ferrante and enjoyed the power of this book. I don’t think I’ve read a book yet on my way to 101 works of fiction that is packed with as many powerful lines in so short a work as this one, and there are some great, powerful words in this book. I’ve included a list of the passages I underlined while reading the book for you to soak in.
The Days of Abandonment is an excellent read with incredibly rich language.
I wanted to write stories about women with resources, women of invincible words, not a manual for the abandoned wife with her lost love at the tope of her thoughts. … I didn’t like the impenetrable page, like a lowered blind. I liked light, air between the slats, I wanted to write stories full of breezes, if filtered rays where dust motes danced. And then I loved the writers who made you look through every line, to gaze downward and feel the vertigo of the depths, the blackness of inferno. pg 21
The contradictions in the life of a couple are many–I admitted–and I was working on ours in hopes of untangling and resolving them. pg 31
In this long hours I was the sentinel of grief, keeping watch along with a crowd of dead words. pg 32
…taught as wire digging into the flesh pg 35
Women without love lose the light in their eyes, women without love die while they are still alive. pg 44
Sometimes she gave me the feeling that she didn’t like me, as if she recognized in me something of herself that she hated, a secret evil of her own. pg 52
…You don’t speak to a father who sneaks into the house and leaves no trace of himself, not a hello, not a goodbye, not even a how are you. pg 58
Meanwhile I grabbed Mario, who was turning around with frightened eyes, his nose bleeding, and he looked at me full of terror and astonishment at once. Hold the commas, hold the periods. pg 70
A woman can easily kill on the street, in the middle of a crowd, she can do it more easily than a man. pg 72
A long passage of life together, and you think he’s the only man you can be happy with, you credit him with countless critical virtues, and instead he’s just a reed that emits sounds of falsehood, you don’t know who he really is, he doesn’t know himself. pg 74
We don’t know anything about people, even those with whom we share everything. pg 78
No, I thought, squeezing a rag and struggling to get up: starting at a certain point, the future is only a need to live in the past. pg 92
There was no distance between me and them, wheres the rule say that to tell a story you need first all of a measuring stick, a calendar, you have to calculate how much time has passed, how much space has been interposed between you and the facts, the emotions to be narrated. pg 98
Tricks of words, a swindle, maybe the promised land has no more words to embellish the facts. pg 98
The most innocuous people are capable of doing terrible things. pg 114
We fabricate objects in a semblance of our bodies, one side joined to the other. Or we design them thinking they’re joined as we are joined to the desired body. Creatures born from a banal fantasy. pg 131
Success depends on the capacity to manipulate the obvious with calculated precision. pg 131
What a mistake, above all, it had been to believe that I couldn’t live without him, when for a long time I had not been at all certain that I was alive with him. pg 140
How heavy a body that has been traversed by death is, life is light, there’s no need to let anyone make it heavy for us. pg 146
Not even the TV in one corner, transmitting the latest harsh news on the deeds of men…. pg 157
This book was written in Italian and translated into English. What I’ve already learned is that there is more packed into the Italian version that does not come across in the English translation. That’s hard to believe given the list of quotes from the book already included above. Elena Ferrante has a command with words and it is beautiful to read.
This is a passionate story. A husband leaves his wife and she is left to pick up the shattered pieces of her life. The book is worth a read. A couple readings, actually. The writing is among the best ever. Truly.