I laughed, I cried, I REMEMBERED: ARC Review of I Remember Us by Jaime Dill

I Remember Us

The Short Review

I Remember Us is intensely personal, vulnerable, and relatable. I had really high hopes for this book, and it far surpassed my expectations. This collection of poetry, on the heels of Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, has ignited in me not only a desire to READ poetry (I Remember Us is the first book of poetry I’ve successfully read cover-to-cover–and intend to reread), but also to WRITE it. The writing is magnificent, the story is unique to the author and her husband and yet universal; I see myself in these pages. I laughed, I cried, and I REMEMBERED. We see the young couple fall in love—that part’s easy, and fun, full of nostalgia. But then they hit the real world—money problems, unintended pregnancy, heartbreaking loss, fighting with each other—and they overcome. Jaime Dill shows us the beauty of growing and changing together, of loving each other through the changes. This book is a celebration of love, of how love triumphs. Ultimately, I did more than remember the past: I remembered the NOW, I remembered how unbelievably blessed I am to be in a marriage like the one reflected in the pages of I Remember Us.

Some extra commentary

I was fortunate to receive a free copy of this book via Booksprout, and the above paragraph is the review I left on Booksprout and Goodreads and will pop up on Amazon once it’s out. NOW, I need to gush a little more and tell you where to find Jaime and all the great things she’s been up to in addition to writing a fantastic book.

First – this book is SO GOOD that I asked for a paperback copy for my birthday (WHICH IS TODAY), even though I’ve already read it. I’m only sorry I didn’t think to ask for a signed copy… and I rarely reread books. That said, I reread about half of it the other day when I sat down to write my review so I’d say it’ll be nice to have a paper copy! Pre-order your copy here!

Second – Jaime is not only a gifted writer, but she’s a super sweet person and very giving of her time. I’m working my way through some feedback she gave me on some poems I wrote recently and I’m just so touched she took the time to give me such thorough, prodding feedback. Which brings me to…

Third – She’s a developmental editor and book coach! And if her feedback on my amateur poetry is any indication, Jaime is worth every penny! Check out her editing company, Polish and Pitch, for information on how to work with her and more!

Finally – Jaime is also Editor-in-Chief of her own publishing imprint, Cardigan Press. They’re releasing their first publication, an anthology for and by writers, later this year. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Book Review – Calibration 74: Experimental Fiction That Sticks With You

Calibration 74: An Experimental Novella by [William F. Aicher]

It took me a while to figure out how to write this review because there’s just so much to think about packed into a relatively short book. I think I could read it over and over again and come away with something new each time. I’m going to try to focus on a few thoughts:

First, there are so many nuggets of truth, of wisdom scattered throughout the book. I could write a whole list of favorite quotes or lines I still think about. The book is a journey through the unnamed narrator’s mind as he searches, as he says in Calibration 42, for the answer to the ultimate question: “Life. The universe. Everything.” There are so many explorations of reality – what is reality? Is it perception? Is it mental? Not surprisingly since it was written during this pandemic, the book is so timely in a world where we’re increasingly living virtually, disconnected and yet hyperconnected.

Second, while it’s at times evocative of mental illness it’s not ABOUT mental illness. I identified with the narrator from the start, reflecting multiple times in early Calibrations that my stream of consciousness often mirrored his. At first this was comforting—maybe I’m not so strange after all!—but it eventually became slightly disturbing and I started to wonder whether I wanted to identify with this guy… I mean, there has to be something wrong with a guy who peeps in a woman’s window and boils skulls! I think, ultimately, that’s part of the exploration of reality, of humanity. Of how fine the line often is between being okay and not being okay.

Finally, I really liked that I never knew what to expect from the next Calibration. By the end of the book especially, it’s like reading a dream sequence. Things seamlessly change and morph in a completely nonsensical way that at the same time seems perfectly natural. Reading it felt like when you’re recounting a dream to someone – it all makes sense but then you say it out loud and you realize it makes no sense at all but it FELT like it made sense when you were in it. It’s trippy, but it works. Really well.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, but I was thoroughly pleased and impressed. It’s philosophical, edgy, and very different from anything else I’ve read. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book and will definitely look forward to Aicher’s upcoming work!

Thank you to William F. Aicher for gifting me a copy of this book! Get your copy here – you’ll be glad you did!

***** Five stars (and you know I don’t give those out lightly)

Who am I?

Isn’t that the eternal question? Who am I? What makes me ME? Is it my history? My ancestry? The sum of my actions? My thoughts? Fears? Aspirations? I think this is a fundamental human question, something people the world over ask themselves, regardless of their life circumstances.

For me, it’s less a question of who I am than of where I belong. Thanks be to God, I know where that is: right where I am. If there’s one thing this pandemic has made abundantly clear, it’s that I am one blessed woman. My husband and my children are MY LIFE. Last year, we packed up and moved across the country. I was scared, but I knew that as long as the six of us were doing this together, I’d be fine. I can adjust to a new location, make new friends. But the core of my life is here with me. Even more so, now that we’re staying-at-home-all-together-all-the-time. Is it easy? No. Do we get on each other’s nerves sometimes? Yes. But do I doubt that we will come through it together? Not at all. My husband, my children, and the Grace of God will carry me; we will carry each other.

I haven’t always felt this at home. I had a profound identity crisis after becoming a mother – who was I if I wasn’t the smart woman who walked into work every day and did “important” stuff? If I couldn’t engage in my regular hobbies with my husband anymore (um, no rock climbing or backpacking with a newborn baby)? If I wasn’t the perfect student and had to give up grad school? I wrestled. For years. I suffered from PPD – multiple times. I reached incredible low points that I don’t wish on anyone. But I found me, I found home.

Perhaps it’s because I endured that journey that I am so interested in others’ stories as they search for what makes them them. I’ve had a chance to read a lot of books over the past bunch of days (self-isolating from your family does that, dratted pandemic), and there’s been a common theme across many of them: search for self.

A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir by [Diakité, Jason]Jason “Timbuktu” Diakite, a biracial Swedish rapper born of American parents, recounts his search for his identity in his memoir, A Drop of Midnight. I picked it up for free as part of Amazon Prime’s “First Reads” in February. I’d never heard of him before, I don’t like rap music, and I certainly don’t know what it’s like to experience a racial identity crisis. I’m a white girl from NJ. Very simple. So in many ways this was not a typical read for me, but I found it fascinating – which was certainly helped by the incredibly beautiful writing (hats off to the author and the translator!). It was moving, and while I can’t identify with his particular experiences, I can identify with Jason’s search for himself. I rooted for him as I read, praying he’d find that comfort in his own skin, that home he was clearly searching for. (I also learned a whole lot along the way, which is always nice.)

The War I Finally Won by [Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker]Ada Smith is a fictional 11-year-old girl with a club foot in WWII England. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War I Finally Won, a sequel to the Newberry Honor recipient The War That Saved My Life, takes us along on Ada’s journey as she finds her place in the world, a world that is constantly changing around her and full of heartache. She perseveres. She finds people who love her, she learns to love, and in doing so she finds home. It’s beautiful.

Austenland: A Novel by [Hale, Shannon]

On a more lighthearted note, Shannon Hale’s Jane “Erstwhile” Hayes (Austenland) takes a vacation to nineteenth century England to figure out who she is. It’s easy to call it a romance and move on, but it’s really one woman’s effort to figure out and accept herself so that she is capable of loving and being loved in return.

 

Rightfully Ours by [Astfalk, Carolyn]Finally, I just finished Carolyn Astfalk’s Rightfully Ours, a young adult, Catholic love story. It is beautiful in so many ways. In it we see Paul struggle through the hard work of adolescence, with the added burden of great personal loss. He grows from rotely following along with his childhood faith to true personal conviction. He finds who he wants to be, the courage to try to live his ideals, and the family to support him in that effort. For many, many reasons, this is a book I hope my children will read when they are old enough.

So, there you have four very different books that all speak beautifully to the human question who am I? There’s a fifth, too, but it’s an ARC and I can’t share it yet — wait ’til May/June. Who knows? We might even be able to go out in public by then….

Thank you for reading along with my musings. I am grateful that, for now, I have that question answered. I have no doubt that I will face many more trials and life changes that will challenge this notion – but right now, it is such a pleasure to read these stories, and learn from them, but not to feel that yearning, that seeking.

I am home, and it is beautiful.