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Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?



My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »

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Customer Comments

Amy Wachsmuth has commented on (22) products.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage)

Amy Wachsmuth, October 22, 2014

I read this book in three nights. My eyes burned, I knew I was going to be tired the next day but still, I was compelled by Cheryl’s story to keep reading. This autobiographical story follows Cheryl as a young woman who loses herself after her mother’s untimely death from cancer. After spending over a month watching her mother waste away, she leaves her side to bring her brother to see her one last time and her mother dies in her absence. Cheryl is destroyed.

She tries to drown the pain in illicit affairs, and even heroin. After her divorce, the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail starts to gnaw at her.

Her time on the trail alternates between giving her a break from her mental anguish and forcing her to confront the tribulations of her life. The rigors of the trail causes her outward suffering just as she had suffered inwardly for years. It becomes a pilgrimage. And although she ends up basically destitute, homeless and alone--you see her not as poor, but as unburdened.

I do not like much of what Cheryl does during this story, but I admire who she becomes and the unflinching way in which she tells her story.
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Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Owl Babies

Amy Wachsmuth, October 21, 2014

I've read this story to my girls so many times I have it memorized, even though it's a bit lengthy. It tells a sweet, reassuring story about baby owls that wake up in their tree to find their mommy gone. They wait, and wonder, and worry, until she makes her happy return. Having it memorized comes in handy, it's like a little bottle of comfort medicine I can give my girls anytime they are feeling anxious. I just start, “Once there were three baby owls, Sarah, and Percy, and Bill…” and the tension in them just drifts away.
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Burning Bright: A Play in Story Form by John Steinbeck
Burning Bright: A Play in Story Form

Amy Wachsmuth, October 8, 2014

This is one of Steinbeck's play novelettes, a format he created, but doesn’t appear to have caught on, unfortunately. Like a play, the story is short, confined to few “sets”, and the action is carried by the dialog. But unlike a play, the supporting narrative paints a picture, paints the characters and otherwise fills out the sparsely colored canvas that is the usual written play. It is an utterly enjoyable and fulfilling read, that I'd also love to see in a theater.

This story was written in three acts. A young wife yearns to give her beloved husband the child he craves. Unbeknownst to the husband, a childhood illness has left him sterile. He descends into a frightening depression, obsessed with the idea that the blood is where his considerable talents are stored and can only be passed in this way. Then there is a young man who works her husband with the same black eyes, and his wife wonders…

The remarkable thing about this book is that the scenes are completely changed each act. In the first act the characters are circus performers, in the second they are farmers (and had always been farmers), in the third they are sailors. At first I wondered if Steinbeck had been smoking something skunky when he wrote it this way, then I as I read on I could see the genius in it. The characters and their roles were unchanged, but the change of scene brought out different aspects of the characters and added an entirely new flavor and mood to the play. It was absolutely fascinating to watch one plot be told in three different parallel lifetimes.

Steinbeck was an artist of the truest kind. He could paint within the lines of reality in the most compelling fashion, but then he could go abstract and bend your mind and create something unique, heartbreaking and beautiful--all in about an hour and a half of your time.

***
I read that this book was subjected to intense criticism that derailed his play novelette writing. I wish he would have written his detractors and play novelette of their own, in which they meet a grisly end--he certainly had the talent for grisly endings, as evidenced by his other works.

It is startling to know that a writer as ballsy as Steinbeck could be hurt by criticism--he certainly didn't write to bring warm fuzzy tingles to the masses--and I'll always wonder what stories were left untold because of it.
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Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden by Stella Otto
Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden

Amy Wachsmuth, October 1, 2014

When you buy your first fruit tree, do yourself and your new tree a favor and buy this book too. Now that I have three planted in my backyard, I'm wishing I would have read this prior to planting; I would have dug a much bigger hole and amended my clay soil with more sandy-loam and compost. I also would have done a better job setting my trees up for production by properly pruning those first few years of growth. Today is a new day.

This is an enjoyable-to-read book that covers all major fruit bearing trees with specific information for trees in different zones. Now I know, when and how to prune properly. What pests to watch out for and how to prevent infections/infestations and treat them in the most effective manner. I.e. most pests have a predictable time when they are going through some sort of molt or metamorphosis making treatment particularly effective. It is best to treat a specific problem and avoid “all-purpose” treatments as they are toxic to your backyard ecosystem and may create problems that didn't exist prior by killing of natural pest predators.

Stella also provides many tables regarding fruit variety and their flavor, blight and pest resistance, days from blossom to fruit, heights based on rootstock choices and everything else you might need. She educates us orchardists lingo, e.g. rootstock, scions, scaffold branches, callous, suckers, water sprouts...

I'll never remember everything in this book but I'll remember just enough to know its in there and where to find it.
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The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp
The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer

Amy Wachsmuth, August 28, 2014

This book helps new parents comfort crying newborns and improve naps and night-time sleep. The advice is particularly relevant for the “fourth trimester” or first three months of life. There is nothing more bewildering than holding a well fed, dry, burped baby that won't stop screaming. There is help, and it is in this book.
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