In the past I've never considered myself much of a memoirs reader, but for some reason over the last several weeks I have found myself drawn to several. What I found is, I think, typical for memoirs: one was pretty scattered and a chore to read, one was fine, and two were excellent.
Living With Jonathan by Sheila Barton
I was drawn to Living With Jonathan when I saw it on NetGalley because I spent two years doing ABA therapy for a little boy with autism, and it was an amazing experience. The boy I worked with was pretty high-functioning, and I was curious to read about what someone's experience was like with a person who is less able to care for themselves. The details Barton shared were interesting, and I felt that I had a good window into her emotions as a mother and the day to day experience of Living With Jonathan. However, the way she organized events felt very haphazard and was not chronological, which I found disorienting and truly disturbed my overall enjoyment of the book.
Warnings: Language, some intense themes
Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman
I totally judged Saturday Night Widows by its cover. It looked fun, colorful, and positive -- and it was. The story of an anti-support group for young widows looking to deal with their grief in a positive way by having new experiences, Saturday Night Widows was engaging and unique. Becky Aikman's writing style was very pleasant to read, and I was invested in the lives of the friends she makes. However, something was missing for me in this book. Maybe it is simply that because I am not a widow, I don't fully relate to the experiences she writes about. At any rate, I found the book interesting but it didn't leave a lasting impact on me.
Warnings: Language, off-the-page sensuality and innuendo
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
I saw a passing reference to this book and snapped it up without a second thought. Immersed in the messy chaos of trying to figure out how to take care of a tiny, brand new human being, the title Operating Instructions seemed too apt to be true. This book had me in tears at times and laughing out loud at times. It was just what I needed -- to know I wasn't alone in being overwhelmed, frustrated, and yet totally and completely in love. This quote is really all you need to know:
I wish he could take longer naps in the afternoon. He falls asleep and I feel I could die of love when I watch him, and I think to myself that he is what angels look like. Then I doze off, too, and it’s like heaven, but sometimes only twenty minutes later he wakes up and begins to make his gritchy rodent noises, scanning the room wildly. I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.
Yes, yes, this is how it is.
Warnings: Language (quite a lot)
Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
I love Stephanie Nielson's blog, the NieNie Dialogues, and my claim to Utah celebrity fame is that I once made her children soy hot chocolates when I was the barista at Borders (moment of silence for Borders). I decided it was finally time to read her memoir. I started reading the NieNie Dialogues a few years after the accident that severely burned Stephanie Nielson and her husband, and the memoir mainly focused on the accident and the aftermath. The experience was devastating, especially contrasted with her charmed life before the accident, which was described in the beginning of the book. I found Nielson's faith and ability to overcome the struggles she faced inspiring and applicable, even though my struggles are very different and less dramatic than hers. Stephanie Nielson is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka Mormon church, and she frequently mentions her faith, but definitely wrote her memoir with readers not of the Mormon faith in mind as she explains different aspects of what she believes. I think this book is inspiring and powerful.
Warnings: None, really, just a few mentions of sex