Book Review: The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

34111673I recently read another book I picked up via NetGalley last year/earlier this year, called The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse. When I opened it up I had no recollection of what it was about, or even whether it was fiction or nonfiction. Turns out it’s a novel, and a fairly heavy one at that. I briefly considered putting it down, because I sometimes struggle to read emotionally taxing stories, being prone to depression and anxiety, but I quickly found myself too engrossed in the story.

The protagonist, Nina McCarrick, is left to raise her two sons when her husband unexpectedly dies in a car wreck. Having married young and into wealth, Nina has never had to fend for herself as a mother and adult. The novel is Nina’s story at its heart: her journey to self-awareness, self-sufficiency, and self-respect, as a woman and as a mother. Though I started out identifying with Nina, as the story went on I sometimes found her incredibly frustrating — I found myself judging her and asking how on earth she let herself get into such a ridiculous situation! That said, I came to admire her perseverance and her ability to both provide for her sons AND pay attention to her own needs.

It’s an emotional story of loss, so the reader must be prepared for some weightiness. But it’s also a story of love and triumph, with many important life lessons taught (in a very unpreachy fashion) along the way. I’ve included below some of my favorite quotes from the book, those that resonate most with me (for varying reasons) and that I think show some of the depth of the story and insightful life lessons learned by the characters throughout the book:

“But here’s the thing, Nina. I think happiness lies in being content now – right now! Every day! That’s not to say you can’t plan and work for change, but if you are constantly waiting for happiness to start, waiting for the change that will make it happen, then you just might miss some really good days along the way.” (Kindle location 3253)

“Hardship eroded his sense of entitlement and in its place a nicer, humbler boy was emerging.” (Kindle location 3953)

“I’ve been reading a lot about people who are depressed. People who live with extreme stress and those who only see one way out… They often fall into two camps. Those who fall apart externally, seek help, battle it publicly, and then there are those won don’t, can’t. It’s this group of people who interest me most. They are skilled in the art of hiding. I think that my dad must have been like that.” (Kindle location 4105)

I’m sorry it took me so long to read this book and I definitely think it’s well worth reading (just not if you’re feeling in a fragile frame of mind). I’ll definitely be interested in reading more from Amanda Prowse!

4 stars!

Buy it now for only $0.99!

Weekend Coffee Share – 4 weeks in

If we were having coffee this weekend, it would have to be in my family room, on the couch, because I’m still on bedrest. The good news is that means Baby Boy and I have made it another four weeks to 32 weeks, which is WAY better than 28. The bad news is I’M STILL SITTING ON THE COUCH. It’s making me a little batty.

Truthfully, I feel a bit emotional. My husband would remind me now that I’ve always been an emotional person, and it’s true. But I feel all tangled up. I can be surrounded by my family but feel lonely at the same time, or be busy reading lots of books and blogging about them and feel bored at the same time. I feel proud of myself for resting for the sake of my baby and guilty at the same time that I’m not able to do more for my three girls or my wonderful husband. I’m thankful for the support of my employer and worried at the same time that I’ve caused them such a headache by being out of work. Everyone tells me “oh don’t feel guilty, don’t feel bad, you’re doing what you need to do.” And it’s true – I am. And I appreciate that feedback. I’m taking care of myself and my son (which, btw, after three girls still feels weird to say!). But that doesn’t negate the other emotions. I try not to dwell on them, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in lots of years of therapy it’s that ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist is worse: I need to feel them, acknowledge them, and move on. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

I’d also mention two other things (aside from the fact that I haven’t actually HAD coffee in over a month…and I’ve just started wanting it in the last few days. weird). First, it would be that I’m also emotional about things outside the bedrest situation, particularly the current abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I’ve cried about it at least once, spent lots of time thinking about it and reading about. What I haven’t done is pray about it, which I’m realizing as I type… I feel immeasurable sadness. Disappointment. Distrust. But at the same time I haven’t lost my faith in or love for the Church, and that sometimes feels hard to square. I’m not angry; a lot of people are and I get that. I think I feel mostly grief.

Lastly, I would tell you that today, August 19th, is mine and my husband’s twelfth wedding anniversary! We are celebrating in style, on the couch (ha!). There’s nothing out of the ordinary to mark the day except the constant knowledge that despite our youth and naivete about the world (though we wouldn’t have admitted it at the time), at the young ages of 21 and 22, twelve years ago today we made the best decision of our lives and married each other. Life is a crazy road, and we just commented this morning that we couldn’t have ever pictured where we are right now – but I am perpetually grateful that I have him by my side to navigate this crazy train. Love is a beautiful thing 🙂

(Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Eclectic Alli – check out the other posts this weekend and add one of your own!)

Book Review: Twenty-One Trees by Linda Cousine

30331041I honestly can’t remember how I acquired Twenty-One Trees by Linda Cousine, but I do remember devouring it pretty quickly! I think it was another I “bought for free” on Amazon after seeing it advertised on Twitter. I have a book-hoarding problem, and I know it. At least e-books don’t take up space in my house…the books are getting displaced by children!

In any case, it’s a story of a husband and wife, Birdy (James) and Savannah Johnson and the path their lives and the lives of their four children take after Savannah ends up with dissociative amnesia; her memory of the past seven years–their entire marriage–is completely gone, and the last she remembers is being a rich beauty-pageant star engaged to her high-school boyfriend. She has no recollection of marrying Birdy, of having had their four children, or that they were quite poor.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t particularly care for Savannah. I found her spoiled and selfish and sometimes just downright mean. As the story unfolds, however, I gained a respect for her efforts to embrace motherhood and a greater empathy as more is revealed about her past; I certainly can understand her battles with post-partum depression. Birdy is an admirable character and so often I thought that Savannah didn’t deserve his love and devotion.

It becomes clear, however, that they are both broken people (who isn’t, really?), doing their best to live life while accounting for the burdens of their pasts. Ultimately the book is a story of love and life; of how adulthood brings unforeseen challenges in life; of how important personal growth and emotional well-being are for the health and strength of a marital relationship. It’s not a “light” romance by any means, but I would definitely call it a realistic love story.

The story is well-crafted and I was very invested in the outcome, despite my dislike for Savannah. Overall, I’d say I liked it, not loved it, but it’s worth a read if you’re up for something that’s often emotionally heavy but speaks to the power of enduring love. I’d also be up for reading another of Linda’s books in the future!

4 stars!