This was a terrific book to discuss on the July 4th weekend. I learned so much about the women behind the men: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Eliza Pinckney, Deborah Read Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and many more. They weren’t just wives–they were also sisters, mothers, daughters, and mistresses. There were certain things that were universal about these women–they all exhibited a strong sense of duty. Under the prevailing 18th century system called couverture, the wives were also all “owned” by their husbands. And they could expect to be pregnant, nursing babies, or caring for sick family members most of their lives.
“The tragedy of modern Palestine was that one oppressed, thwarted people had come to settle among, and inevitably to displace, another oppressed, thwarted people. Since they didn’t find a way to live together, they lived separately until one was large and strong and determined enough to oppress the other. It is the nature of human society, at least human society in the Holy Land, that the bliss of one people dancing all night and racing horses into the sea at dawn would lead directly to the other people’s sorrow, bitterness, hatred, and revenge.”
Garbology: “the study of a community or culture by studying its waste”. Having been stuck for 24 hours in the Atlanta airport recently, my husband and I were on the verge of finally purchasing a cell phone. It’s so hard to find pay phones these days. But I was reading “Garbology” at the time and cell phones make up the biggest category of e-waste by far, so we’re still holding off and exercising our wits and powers of planning ahead instead. It’s more challenging every year.
Sam Blackman was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Criminal Investigation Detachment of the U.S. Military when he lost his leg in Iraq. He was moved from Washington, D.C., to a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, because he was complaining too much about facilities and treatment. There he meets an ex-marine and fellow amputee who points him in a new direction–until she’s murdered.
Colt doesn’t shy away from the mental illness, despair, and alcoholism present at times in the Big House, but all in all, it’s a “love letter to the past”. Colt said in an interview, “The book is about loss, but it’s also about change. My family’s always been reluctant to change, but now we’ve found out everybody is stronger and more resilient as a result.”
Haskell is a professor of biology at the University of the South. He undertook the project of quietly visiting one square meter of ground in an old growth forest in Tennessee almost daily for a year. He spent hours at a time letting all his senses experience what was there in what he called the “mandala”, a Sanskrit word for “community”. What’s so marvelous about his book is that he took particularities of time and place and made them universal. When a deer came within inches of him from behind, he wrote a chapter about the importance of large herbivores doing what we currently call “overbrowsing” the forest.