Gina’s Reading: The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah VowellThe only reason I didn’t give Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates a full set of stars is pretty petty… it isn’t my all-time favorite book ever. But it does rank up there! I love Sarah’s cheeky treatment of — well — everything. She knows her history (not always the case with people who like to groan about it) and manages to weave a deliciously coherent narrative around some pretty disjointed characters.

As a part-Cherokee, solidly-citified, religiously tolerant but in-adherent girl — much like myself — Sarah takes a look back to our Puritanical roots through the stories of several folks who helped found Boston, were tossed out of there — or both. She doesn’t spare us the often-gory details as people wipe one another out because of a variety of differences — most of them petty.

Sarah also avoids the white-washing of individuals — recognizing that even the most disgusting of behavior doesn’t fully define an individual. She tries to tell both sides, even when it would have been easy to tell us a version that vilifies a particularly cruel character — how would we know the good-guy stuff if she hadn’t read his diary in its entirety and told us about it?

Oh, and if that weren’t enough — check out the cover! Like all of Sarah’s books this one features a diorama-style image that sends me back to 5th grade Social Studies. In a good way. What’s not to like about a group of Thanksgiving-play-ready Pilgrims waxing eloquent on a beach in front of a sunset-lit (or is that an East Coast sunrise?) sailing ship? Nothing. Nothing’s not to like.

Overall, I loved this book. But I’ve already told you that. Go! Read!

Happy Lady

My Aunt Glenda was one of the happiest people I’ve ever known.

Now, this is particularly remarkable because, from all appearances, she had little or nothing to be happy about. She had cancer for about a decade and bounced from hospital to hospital enduring every possible torture in the form of treatment. Add to this picture a hard life in the Virginia mountains, raising two boys on one salary, isolated from the “stuff” that most of our family takes for granted.

But she had everything that mattered. She and my uncle seemed to adore one another. She laughed a lot — often at herself — and possessed a fearsome faith in a God that watched out for her and those she loved. She didn’t claim to understand why she had cancer, but would point out that without it, she wouldn’t have taken her witness beyond the road where she was born, lived, and died.

Every time I conjure up an image of Aunt Glenda she is smiling and laughing — mane of red hair matching the blush that was often inspired by her realization that we were paying her any mind.

I left a pomegranate on her gleaming white casket. It seemed fitting… plump, red, and filled with little seeds. That happy lady certainly spread her share of little seeds… faith, laughter, humility, and hope.

Such a lovely, lovely legacy.

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