Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished Stewart O'Nan's Emily, Alone, and I am trying to figure out how such a quiet book could be such a page-turner. The story centers on Emily Maxwell, an elderly widow who lives with her old dog, Rufus, in Pittsburgh. During the course of about a half-year--from Thanksgiving to early summer--we follow Emily through her days. She listens to classical music on the radio, goes out for breakfast with her sister-in-law, Arlene (always on Tuesday, and always at the same place, because they have a coupon), naps in the winter afternoons, hosts her children and grandchildren at holidays. The details of her life are tenderly and carefully wrought by O'Nan, and while Emily is her own fully-drawn character, she resonates--I could see glimpses of my mother, and of my mother-in-law, and of other dear women of that generation.Learn more about Laurie Hertzel and News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist.
O'Nan dips gracefully into Emily's memories, giving her a full life that she remembers and cherishes, and those scenes of the past become some of the most powerful of the book, placing Emily in the Lake Country of England with her husband, or sipping drinks at barbecues with the neighbors while the children played -- just brief flashes that burn brightly and remind us how quickly life passes, and how everything (and everyone) that is now old once was young.
And now I am reading Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, her amazing nonfiction narrative about children who live in a slum in Mumbai, India. Boo spent years getting to know these people, earning their trust, hanging around in their slums, watching, listening, observing--practicing that kind of meticulous and tedious immersion journalism that can (especially in Boo's hands) yield great, powerful true stories. I have to keep setting this book aside, because these skinny, plucky, destitute children and their families are breaking my heart. I set it aside, and then I pick it up again. I want to know what happens to them--and I believe that we all need to know what happens to them.
Read--Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Hertzel and Riley.