The Missing Piece


I’m always looking for the perfect book and it seems to be a lifelong quest. I don’t know what makes the perfect book, perhaps it correlates to specific times in my life, seeing myself in various characters, or just becoming so enamored with a plot that I am utterly consumed. It’s amazing the way books can fit perfectly into our lives, like a piece of a puzzle that has been missing for far too long. An author’s voice can also fill these holes. Maeve Binchy is one of those authors for me. She is a soothing balm. Her easy, effortless way with words calms me. Last night I was churned up. It was cold and late and I was worried about the baby waking. I had been reading a thriller but it seemed to make my pulse pound. So I picked up my kindle and scrolled through the purchases I had made but had yet to tackle. There she was, Maeve. I had downloaded a short story, A WEEK IN SUMMER, and decided to take a look. What better story to read when we are currently buried under three feet of snow than one set in summer? I told myself I would give it a page or two and then retire for the night. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Nothing earth shattering happens in this story, it’s simpy about a couple planning a vacation, and yet I was mesmerized. What is it about her writing?, I thought. Why is it so calming, so engaging, so real and honest and true? I haven’t finished the story (even though it is quite short) because I don’t want it to end. I want to keep flipping the pages and falling deeper and deeper into the lives of Brian and Kathleen. I think what I love so much about Maeve Binchy is that you can tell through her writing that she LOVED life.  She loved the quiet moments. She loved the surprises. She even loved the sadness because it was a testament to a full and real life. I’m sad she’s gone because it means there will be no new Maeve stories to lose myself in. Maybe I will have to create them for myself? Once again, I’m inspired and excited about life. Maeve would be proud.


Weekend Plans


“There is magic in the world. There is beauty and symmetry and a mystery so profound that it can not be understood or reasoned with – only experienced.” ~ Beautiful words from the beautiful writer Dani Shapiro. Words to live by and hopefully to carry you into this gorgeous weekend.

Speaking of weekend. I have some exciting weekend plans that include diving into this little “gem” of a book…get it… because of the cover?! I just adore J. Courtney Sullivan. Her last two books, Commencement and Maine, were two of my most frequently recommended books.


What are your weekend plans? Can’t wait to hear…

Signs of Life

I picked this book up on a whim, truth be told, I liked the cover. I was also intrigued by the subtitle, Finding the Best in Yourself During the Worst Life Has to Offer. Personally, I’m in that kind of emotional space right now. What is so delightfully inspiring is that I can’t put this book down. The story is heartbreaking, Natalie Taylor lost her husband, Joshua, to an accident when she was five months pregnant. Signs of Life is her personal journey, written with the most poetic, honest, authentic and raw details. I am literally in love with her writing style. I am going to write a much more detailed post on this book when I finish. Stay tuned. (And in the meantime, pick up your own copy of Natalie’s inspiring story).




Once Upon A Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg

Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg

Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg


From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of Home SafeandThe Last Time I Saw You comes a beautiful and moving novel about a man and woman, long divorced, who rediscover the power of love and family in the midst of an unthinkable crisis.

Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old  daughter. Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from John, Sadie is growing more and more attached to her new boyfriend, Ron.
When tragedy strikes, Irene and John come together to support the daughter they love so dearly. What takes longer is to remember how they really feel about each other.

Elizabeth Berg has once again created characters who embody the many shades of the human spirit. Reading Berg’s fiction allows us to reflect on our deepest emotions, and her gifts as a writer make Once Upon a Time, There Was You a wonderful novel about the power of love, the unshakeable bonds of family, and the beauty of second chances.

With humor, empathy, honesty and a voice that rings truer than your own, Elizabeth Berg captures the way women think and explores issues that affect everyone’s life in her latest novel, ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS YOU. In this novel we are introduced to John and Irene Marsh, a long-divorced couple living in separate states and their 18-year-old daughter Sadie. When tragedy strikes, John and Irene are brought back together and forced to explore what went wrong.

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS YOU has all the trademarks of a classic Berg novel but with a slight veer off course into a heart-pounding suspense when Sadie faces a terrifying event. As Irene and John come to grips with the frightening occurrences, they each examine the dissolution of their marriage, their relationship together and their roles as parents to the precocious and strong-willed Sadie.

I loved both John and Irene more for their flaws, and the attention to the details of their flaws, than anything else. Like real families, I could see parts of both of them in their daughter, Sadie. Typically, in a novel, I want things to be happening all the time, surprises around every corner, major action to keep me flipping the pages. But with Berg’s novels, I find myself wanting to spend days inside the minds of her characters. I want to know their worries, fears, frustrations and insecurities. I want to linger in their idiosyncrasies, and try to understand what makes them tick and why. Because what I learn and discover about her characters through the pages of a novel often leads to my own learning and discovering of little idiosyncrasies about myself. It’s comforting to know that we are all very similar when it comes down to the small details – and the small details are what make life interesting. I loved the emotional exploration in ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS YOU. I loved the thoughts and worries and fears of this family because they were so real and authentic. The only thing I didn’t like was seeing the story come to an end. As always, I can’t wait for the next Elizabeth Berg novel!

One of my favorite passages from the novel comes when Irene is filling out a profile for an online dating site. You can read her posting below:

I believe in defacing books. I think one’s personal library should be full of books with broken spines and meaningful passages underlined, with pages marked by chocolate or coffee or grease stains. If there are comments or questions in the margins, even better. I am otherwise a very neat person, as I believe that external chaos leads to internal chaos. Discuss. I believe in going to cafes in the afternoon and enjoying pastry on a porcelain plate, even if it ruins your dinner. This is a bit of an affectation, I suppose, as I only began doing it after I visited Paris and saw all of them doing it. “Them” being the French, of course, and who among us does not trust the French when it comes to food and fashion?

I believe in bringing home rocks from every place I visited and loved, becuase I think rocks hold with them an essence of place, and that you cna feel this essence – and therefore the place – if you hodl the rock tightly in your hand. Naturally you must have patiences, as well as an open mind and heart, and, like many spiritual things, it works better if your eyes are closed.

No. She deletes this last paragraph, then continues.

I believe in keeping my eyes closed at the dentist’s and imagining Tahiti even though I have never been there. But I have seen pictures, and every time I go to the dentist I imagine me in those pictures with the blue, blue sea and the waves coming in. (As a kid I had a dentist who gave every patient a card for a free Dairy Queen cone after each visit. Devil or angel? I still can’t decide.) I will never be thin again and I am interested in meeting a man who is just fine with that. Not that I’m fat. But I am average, and average is not thin. Average to zaftig. I guess would be more precise, and I still have very good legs if you care about that sort of thing, which I do. I believe in holding hands in the movie show when all the lights are low, and if you know and like that song, we’re already off to a good start. I kind of hate writing these things, as I’m sure you can tell, but I understand and accept the need for them.

Definitely read ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS YOU, I promise it will stay with you long after you finish the last page.




The writer Koa Beck posted an interesting criticism in today’s Huffington Post. It was on the writer Elizabeth Gilbert and her most recent memoir, Committed. The piece by Beck can be seen as a feminist rant on what she considers to be Gilbert’s self-absorption. Beck takes aim at women’s fiction by comparing Gilbert’s work to the sea of pink covers at your local bookstore chain.

The neurotic female protagonist perpetually on the hunt for a man and who finds solace in an array of Gucci purses has always been safely contained by the chick-lit genre, a shelf that can be ignored in a bookstore and clicked past in Amazon.

Beck goes on to say that Gilbert’s phenomenally successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love,  reads like “one long Seventeen magazine spread, the appropriate title perhaps being, ‘How I Traveled for an Entire Year and Still Managed to Only Obsess About Myself and My Problems.'”

I am all for literary criticism and this is not the first time I have heard criticism of Gilbert’s work reminiscent in tone and content. However, I wonder if Beck believes that women coming to terms with their own identity and spending time on self-reflection is a negative endeavor.  I visited Beck’s site and her writing is extremely strong.  However, as a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I met a few months ago and is as cool in person as she appears on page, and women’s fiction in general, I take issue with her quick dismissive attitude towards entertaining books that offer glimpses into the lives of women.  Yes, not all women’s fiction succeeds in telling succinct, interesting stories, but then again, not all literary fiction succeeds either. I have found that a large portion of literary fiction titles leave me feeling depressed and hopeless, not exactly the ideal reaction to art and creativity. What’s wrong with being entertained? And to be entertained while looking at your own life choices, even better! Can’t you enjoy literary and commercial fiction without having to choose on over the other?

Another question Beck’s post raised for me is about the issue of self-absorption. Is it wrong to be self-absorbed? Isn’t it smart to fully understand your motivation and actions? Aren’t we always being told that the strongest relationship you ever build should be with yourself? I have said before that I tend to put others first and that I need to start putting some quality “me” time into my daily routine. So self-absorption is not a problem I face. However, I don’t think it is an action that should be condemned. Yes, if you are ignoring everyone else for the sake of your own wants and needs, that could lead to a detrimental problem. But we all could stand to be more connected to our inner guides, our thoughts and feelings, and overall individual comprehension and appreciation of life.

Is self-absorption a bad thing?

Is self-reflection the same thing as being self absorbed?

Walk On By

{photo courtesy of Ali Edwards}

Because I am always interested in challenging myself and finding new ways to make life entertaining, I have decided to see how my life changes if I make a concerted effort to walk at least 2 miles a day. I started this new “mission” on Saturday, Valentine’s Day. The fact that it is a memorable date will help me keep track of my progress (and had nothing to do with the fact that I wanted to wear a cute outfit without feeling/looking out of shape). So far I have walked three days straight, three miles each day, and I’m already feeling a difference. My muscles feel longer, leaner, tighter and more engaged. My energy level has been up and my mood has been all around sunnier. This may be all in my head, but if it is, who cares?! If I’m noticing a difference, isn’t that all that matters? And just to give you an idea of where I stand on the fitness spectrum, I am a 3-4 times a week runner. I enjoy running but it has become more of a chore than an enjoyable event. Walking feels much more my pace. I don’t dread jumping on the treadmill and I am eagerly looking forward to exploring my neighborhood on foot. Walking is something that you can easily insert into your day. Throw a pedometer on, park further from the grocery store/shopping mall/post office. Hit the pavement and get moving!

A book that certainly contributed to my walking fascination is The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook. This is one of the most inspiring, uplifting and enjoyable books I have read in a really long time. Here is a quote from this extraordinary novel that releases in May from Voice.

Now I knew that the hardest part of any workout was just putting on your sneakers. Once you got started, all you had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what was or wasn’t happening in your life, no matter how happy or sad you were. I’d taken that first step because I wanted to look better. I wanted my clothes to fit. But it hadn’t taken me long to figure out that the biggest benefit was less about vanity than it was about sanity. Walking always helped.

So lace up those sneakers and start walking! I will continue to chart my progress and let you know if walking really can change lives.

Judging a Book…

Last Kiss by Luanne Rice

I freely admit that I am drawn into a book by its’ cover. Sometimes a cover can create such a feeling of peace or beauty that you immediately want to hold it in your hands and flip through its’ pages, praying that the book lives up to the cover.

I haven’t read Luanne Rice’s latest novel, but it looks amazing and the description left me spellbound.  What can I say, I love the cover! Luanne also does something that I so love…she blogs! She writes frequently about her daily transgressions, her thoughts, the poetry that lives in her head and the music that inspires her.

We should all be so lucky to do something that inspires us daily.

The Greats

thayer allyson gowdy

There is nothing as wonderful as getting lost in a book, becoming completely absorbed by the words written across a milky page. Sometimes I can get so lost in a book, so head-over-heels in love with the characters, that when tragedy strikes, I am as devastated by the loss as if it were real. Why, when life is always handing us lemons, do we insist on breaking our hearts with the make believe? Should we avoid stories that will ultimately leave us drowning in tears, or immerse ourselves in them fully? Will they help us better understand our own lives and perhaps see the lights shining brighter than before? Will they prepare us for an experience? Will they enrich our lives and make us stronger? If not, then why bother?

It is an incredible trust we put in the hands of writers. We pray that the path they have created for us is one that we can follow safely and come out at the end better for it. Not all writers are as capable, some can sucker punch us and leave us winded and wondering what went wrong. How could we have not seen this coming? Writers ask us to place our trust in their words, our heart in their pages and come into the world they created with an open mind. If they write from a pure, honest place, without an agenda or a formula, we follow them willingly. Many writers try but only few succeed. This summer, honor the writers who write with the purity of their art and the honesty of their soul.

Alice Munroe, Sue Miller, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, John Irving. These are just a few of the greats. Discover them if you haven’t yet, revisit them if you’ve already been there and pass along these gifted writers to friends and family.

{photo credit: Thayer Allyson Gowdy}


I feel like I am letting myself down. I haven’t posted in a few days…a drought, it seems…and the reason is my own frustration. I was enjoying Pillars of the Earth and my Oprah challenge, but then a new book struck my fancy and POTE kept creeping further and further away from my nightstand. It is now across the room in a pile of books that have been sadly neglected at around the page 50 mark. My secret is out…I am easily distracted by books and end up leaving many neglected and unfinished. Ugh! Why do I do this to myself?! Pillars is such a good read but it is very long and very detailed and very historical. It’s not really beach reading. But then again, many of the books I pick up for “beach reading” leave me feeling unsatisfied and empty…I’m not going to make the potato chip comparison because we’ve all heard that one far too many times. But I am going to ask a question…what is more important from a book, learning or enjoyment? I know that you have struck gold if you can both learn from and enjoy one book, but that doesn’t always happen. Many times you will suffer through a book and feel either bored senseless or like you lost a few brain cells somewhere around chapter 2.

So, should I stick with Pillars and ultimately feel the pride of accomplishment or move on and find something that I really, truly enjoy…even if that means only getting halfway through a handful of books before finding the right one?

PS- Please, please, please…if anyone knows who the above picture was created by, let me know. I found it a long time ago, saved it, LOVED it, and have no idea who took it. I want to credit the beautiful artist behind this creation so drop me a note and I will link it up!

The Journey of Ambition


The first section of Pillars of the Earth has already begun to delve into one of the overall themes that I have heard relates significantly to this book, ambition. Ambition is a wonderful and powerful quality. It is respected among men and admired in women. In the book, Tom Builder, has so much ambition to become a builder of great cathedrals, “once he tasted that wine, Tom was never satisfied with anything less.” His strong desire to build these cathedrals was of great concern to his wife. She respected his life’s passion and his ambitious pursuit of success, even if it was to the detriment of their financial stability. She could not understand the decision but she respected her husband because he was a good man.

However, ambition can turn ugly when the person driving that ambition does not respect the people in his life. This fall from grace is not a charming or gracious quality. It turns quickly from ambition to greed and selfishness. Pursuing your life’s passion with great abandon is about creating a path towards fulfillment, but if you arrive there alone, knowing you have hurt everyone who tried to stand beside you, your path to ambition will have been unsuccessful and your life’s journey will have been a failure.

Be ambitious, but also be gracious, caring, loving and kind. Be sensitive and inspired and devoted. As the picture says, the world makes way for those who know where they are going. Where ever you are going, go there with love in your heart.

New Chick Lit…

According to Page Six, Page Six reporter Paula Froelich just sold her debut novel to Simon & Schuster.

Here’s the description:

Page Six reporter Paula Froelich just sold her debut novel to Simon & Schuster’s Atria imprint. The novel, “Mercury in Retrograde,” centers around the lives of three New York women – a newspaper reporter named Penelope Mercury, who gets fired, a wealthy socialite fashion editor, Lena “Lipstick” Lippencraff, and a newlywed corporate lawyer Dana Gluck, who moves out on her husband when she dis covers he’s having an affair.

They all end up moving into the same SoHo apartment building.

Enlightenment for Idiots

Debut novel that is receiving some great praise right out of the gate. Publishers Weekly said, “Cushman brings devastating wit and a thorough knowledge of her subject to her first novel, evoking an India that fills the senses and stirs the spirit even as it occasionally turns the stomach, and making it possible for the reader to both laugh with and root for Amanda as she comes to terms with her messy life.”

Check out Anne Cushman’s site for more information on this fantastic new writer!

New York Observer to Observe Books

The New York Observer will be increasing its price to $2 and adding a book review section, Observer Review of Books. This is big news in the literary community as book review sections have been closing at a fast rate. We will have to wait and see if this is a good move for the Observer. As a book lover and one who has been feeling the lack of good book reviews in today’s papers, I’m hoping it’s a hit.

Anne of Green Gables Turns 100

Originally published in 1908 and one of the first books that young girls read with breathless wonder, Anne of Green Gables turns 100 today. In honor of the anniversary, Margaret Atwood has written a wonderful piece in The Guardian on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic.
Anne of Green Gables

Literary Snobs?

New York Times Book Review

Rachel Donadio wrote an essay in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review about being a literary snob and how what people read can give you immediate insight into their personality. She writes further on this topic in the New York Times blog about books. Former Gawker employee, Emily Gould, responds in her blog. And the attention continues to grow. As someone who loves anything considered news in the world of books, I say if people are writing, talking and blogging about books, FANTASTIC!