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Posts Tagged ‘Anne of Windy Poplars’

parnassus books nashville

October has been quite a month – stuffed full of good books, in between all the other things. (Also, my Nov. newsletter comes out this week – sign up here!) To cap off the month, here’s what I have been reading:

The Monsters We Defy, Leslye Penelope
Clara Johnson has an uneasy relationship with the spirit world, and a semi-notorious past she’d rather forget. When poor Black folks in her hometown of D.C. start disappearing, Clara and several friends start scheming to steal a magical ring from the woman responsible. An absolutely fantastic heist/mystery/band-of-misfits-save-the-world story, with great historical detail about 1920s D.C. and wonderful characters. I loved Clara (inspired by a real person) and her comrades.

Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain, Margaret Willson
We’re told that female sea captains are rare – but Willson brings to life the story of Iceland’s Captain Thuridur, who defied gender conventions in her homeland of Iceland. A brilliantly researched, compelling biography with lots of sea stories, Icelandic history and local gossip – dragged a bit in the middle, but overall fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

Blackmail and Bibingka, Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal and her partners at the Brew-ha Cafe are gearing up for the holidays – but then her no-good cousin Ronnie comes back to town, saying he’s going to revive the local winery. When one of Ronnie’s investors ends up dead, Lila starts sleuthing to figure out who did it. A fun, tricky third entry in this foodie mystery series; I loved all the holiday snacks, Lila’s meddling godmothers and her dachshund, Longganisa.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
This fourth Anne book is delightful and underrated – and I often return to it in the fall. I love watching Anne win over the Pringle clan, make friends with half of Summerside and spend quiet nights in her tower room. Fun and comforting.

Independence, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
India, 1946: the Ganguly family has long lived at peace in their village of Ranipur with both Hindu and Muslim neighbors. But when they visit Calcutta in mid-August, they get caught up in the riots of Direct Action Day, and all their lives are upended. This gorgeous, heartbreaking novel follows the three grown daughters – Deepa, Jamini and Priya – and their choices in the wake of their father’s death. Stunning. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 17, 2023).

The Princess and the Scoundrel, Beth Revis
I love the end of Return of the Jedi on Endor, when Han, Leia, Luke and the crew get to celebrate. But what happens after that? This novel takes us through Han and Leia’s wedding, their honeymoon on a luxury cruise ship (interrupted, of course, by political strife), and the beginning of their relationship as husband and wife. So much fun to revisit these characters I adore, and meet some new ones.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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neponset river sky

Mostly we go as far as we dare down the Road that Leads to the End of the World, rounding every corner adventurously and expectantly, as if we were going to find Tomorrow behind it, while all the little evening green hills neatly nestle together in the distance.

—Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

Since we moved to Dorchester in late July, I’ve been exploring our new neighborhood: trying out the ice cream shop and a couple of restaurants, visiting the nail salon for a pedicure or two, buying potted herbs and cut flowers at the gorgeous garden center nearby. But my favorite thing about our new area might be the walking trail that’s only a block from our house. I’ve spent many weekend hours down there already, lacing up my sneakers and grabbing my earbuds, walking along the curving green path with the Wailin’ Jennys and my thoughts for company.

My first few walks on the trail were short ones: getting a feel for the route along the river, stopping to snap pictures of Queen Anne’s lace and weathered murals, or simply to take in the views. But a couple of weekends ago, I decided to see how far the trail went. I walked for over an hour, past two playgrounds and under several overpasses, enjoying the blue sky and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

That section of the trail stops at a small public dock that juts out over the river, and I walked out onto the dock and stood there, breathing in deeply, smelling the marshy salt air, watching a gull or two swing through the sky. And I thought of these words from Anne’s letter to Gilbert, which my friend Caroline mentioned on her blog a few years ago: “as far as we dare.”

katie river trail blue sky earbuds

My life, these days, requires more daring than I sometimes wish it did: I am learning every day, sometimes every hour, to face the vagaries of life by summoning my courage. Some of the challenges are what I call garden-variety chaos: the busyness of emails and meetings and work assignments, delayed trains and surprise thunderstorms, tricky schedules and missed deadlines. Those make me a little nuts, but I can handle them, and laugh them off at the end of the day. But I need more daring, more bravery, for the things I can’t possibly deal with in one fell swoop: the heartbreaking headlines, the complicated politics (both at work and in our nation at large), the daily (but far from everyday) deeper challenges of work and life and love.

It felt good, on that recent Sunday afternoon, to stretch both my legs and my courage, and go as far as I dared down the trail that led east – though I didn’t quite know where it went. But I followed it to its beautiful end, and then turned around and headed home, refreshed. I thought of this a few days later when a friend teased, “It’s always an odyssey,” and I replied, “That’s how you find your way back home.”

In Windy Poplars, Anne and her neighbor, Elizabeth Grayson, go for long evening walks (as mentioned above). They walk “as far as they dare” to escape Elizabeth’s tyrannical grandmother and the schoolwork that’s always waiting for Anne back at her house. But those walks, and each other’s company, help them dare more deeply and more often. They make each other more brave.

The people I love do that for me: they push me, by their loving presence, to dare a little farther, a little deeper. We walk “as far as we dare” side by side, and in so doing, we help each other find our way. But my solo walks on the river trail help me do this, too. Sometimes it’s good to test your own mettle, to find out how far you can go alone. To give a new meaning to “as far as you dare,” and to know that you can. That I can. That I dare.

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dish rack kitchen

Well, let’s tackle this pile of greasy plates and look as if we liked it.”

“I do like it…I’ve always liked washing dishes. It’s fun to make dirty things clean and shining again.”

“Oh, you ought to be in a museum,” snapped Nora.

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars

I thought of these lines last week as I pulled on my rubber gloves to tackle yet another sinkful of dirty dishes, pots and silverware. Even with just the two of us at our house, I’m constantly surprised by the amount of time I spend in front of the kitchen sink, scrubbing and rinsing. (The hubs usually dries and puts away.)

With a full-time job, lots of other things on my mind and no dishwasher, there are definitely times I empathize with Nora Nelson, above. (Though she and Anne Shirley were tackling the aftermath of a big wedding supper – which isn’t on my usual to-do list.) But even if I start out grumbling, I’ve often come around to Anne’s perspective by the time I turn off the hot water. There’s something tangible and satisfying about this work: scrub, soap, rinse, fill the dish rack. I’ve even been known to turn to it as a form of stress relief, like Pacha’s wife in The Emperor’s New Groove. (“I gotta go wash something!”)

I’ve written before about how pottering around the house can lower my blood pressure, or get me out of my head and back into my body after a long day of sitting and clicking at the computer. I am not an immaculate housekeeper and I am fiercely proud of having a career outside the home – which is (still!) not an option for so many women everywhere. Sometimes I find it a bit ironic that I come back to the computer to extol the virtues of housekeeping. But as Kathleen Norris has famously noted, laundry and other household tasks offer instant, visible results – and that is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, crucially, washing dishes is something I choose to do. It is necessary in a sense: we need dishes to eat on, and the dirty plates would eventually take over the kitchen. But I also believe this is part of the work of adulthood, no matter your gender or occupation: making and caring for a home. I chose this life (and these dishes, for that matter) – so I also choose to participate in the work of caring for them.

I’m still not above a hearty Nora-like growl once in a while. But like most people, I love to see the fruits of my labor – and a kitchen full of clean dishes (and, preferably, delicious food) is a pretty good way to do that.

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