More Good Reading

Our guest blogger is Felicia, the government documents librarian at the Central library. In her spare time, she likes to read, work in the yard with her husband and chase geese in the park with her black lab Floyd.

I am a voracious reader, so I always have to have a book in hand. I read almost entirely fiction, but I will read nonfiction that catches my eye. As another poster mentioned, it’s hard to get your hands on the latest books through the library because the hold list can be very long. So I picked two books that I really enjoyed that are older and should be available at the library.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf takes place in a small town. The characters are rich, and the stories intertwined in a way that will make you feel like you grew up with them. My favorite character is Victoria, a pregnant teenager who is thrown out by her mother and goes to live with two elderly brothers. Their relationship by itself is well-worth reading this book. The brothers have never married, so at times it’s poignantly funny how they deal with Victoria and her pregnancy.

You also get a chance to meet Tom, a high school teacher whose home life is painful for both him and his sons because of his wife, who will not get out of bed. I don’t remember the word “depressed” ever being used in the book, but it’s obvious she is suffering. Then there’s Maggie, a fellow teacher who struggles with her feelings for Tom.

The writing is just magical and the rural town could be any place in the country. What makes this story stand is that the author actually makes you feel what the characters are going through without being melodramatic and syrupy. I found this book hard to put down. Being from a small town, I could picture the farm where the brothers lived and the small town at the center of the story. It’s a very satisfying read.

Another book that I recently discovered is a fictionalized account of the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Mary, by Janis Cooke Newman, takes a woman who has been vilified by history and makes her simply human. I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Mary Todd until I read this book.

Though fiction, it bases a lot of the story in fact. Yes, Mary Todd was materialistic, but the book does point to the often overlooked fact that she lost two sons when they were children and a third son he was an adult. This could have caused her infamous spending sprees on everything from ball gowns to expensive artwork and dishes for the White House. The book also delves into her obsession with séances, explaining that she was desperate to contact her loved ones.

Mary Todd was an intelligent, opinionated woman who lived during a time when these qualities weren’t considered attractive in women. And let’s not forget that she encouraged her husband to enter politics and was his steadfast ally when he sought the presidency. Although history smiles much more favorably on President Lincoln, his wife played a crucial part in history. She was pivotal in his run for the White House. This book is enlightening because it gives us another way of thinking about Mary Todd.