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Marlena Clark has commented on (5) products.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Salvage the Bones

Marlena Clark, May 6, 2012

Jesmyn Ward's latest book, Salvage the Bones, didn't get a lot of attention before rising out of the dust with the National Book Award in 2011. Thank god it won the award, it's the best book I've read this year.
The story follows a family living near the coast in Mississippi during the ten days proceeding hurricane Katrina, and the day of the storm. The main character, Esch, lives with her father and brothers in a ramshackle house. Esch is fifteen years old, precocious, smart, kind, and pregnant. In her world, there are no choices.
Ward gives depth to every character in this novel, elevating them out their dire poverty so the reader sees the soul within. Even Esch's alcoholic father has moments of kindness and care, although he is largely absent or at the periphery while the kids make their own way. Esch's brother, Skeet, has a pitbull named China who is like his soulmate. Her brother Randall has hung all of his hopes on basketball camp and discovery by a college scout. Her youngest brother Junior is a typical bratty child, a necessary character in this book. He grounds the family in reality.
The characters are treated with care. They never veer into mere stereotype. Even Randall's friends who come around are not mere thugs or cretins, they are kids. Esch lets them take advantage of her, but her love for one of them above all others shines through. Ward shows Esch's turmoil and pain, her most heartfelt desires.
Perhaps these characteristics sound like something out of an ordinary romance novel. Ward's use of language and metaphor set this book apart. One criticism has been that it's hard to believe a fifteen year old girl in the sticks of Mississippi could have the observations Esch has in the novel. This criticism speaks more of the reader than the writer. Ward is careful to show Esch's intelligence and thoughtfulness, her awareness of the world around her. Popular opinion holds that poor people can not be smart people, they can't be as educated so they can't be as poetic. Tell that to James Baldwin.
The hurricane adds tension to the story for the reader but not for the characters. As readers, we know what is to come as soon as Esch's father says the storm has a name and that name is Katrina. As typical in hurricane-prone regions, the families in this novel intend to ride it out. The children scoff at their father's insistence that they must prepare. Despite being prepared for what's coming, as the reader, when the storm hits it takes your breath away. The slow build, the high tension, the choices and decisions, not choices or decisions at all, truly.
Salvage the Bones not only gives a realistic portrayal of life immediately following hurricane Katrina, but it also gives insight into the lives of people affected. Beyond that, into the mindset of poor people in America, and the unfairness of it all, of life.
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A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews
A Feast of Snakes

Marlena Clark, April 20, 2012

I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. The whole book is about power: who has it, who wants it. The men in this book believe they deserve it, and they intend to collect. Harry Crews gives insight to the psyche of the poor white male of the South, taught to expect the world to be handed to him. He accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of making an abusive husband sympathetic. Harry Crews is a genius.
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Carrying Water As a Way of Life by Linda Tatelbaum

Marlena Clark, April 7, 2009

I loved this book! It's a collection of essays by a woman who moved to the woods of Maine in the seventies, with the intent of returning to the land and living simply. As time goes on, she and her husband adjust, grow, adapt, and accept some technological advancement, without losing sight of the core reasons for their decision. If you're wondering how you can possibly give up your second iPod or third car (or even if you're just interested in sustainable living), give this book a read to see how simplifying is done.
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(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)

Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipies That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipies That Rock

Marlena Clark, October 14, 2008

I have a lot of cookbooks, but most of them I use only as jumping off points to create my own dishes. This book is an exception, because it's exceptional! I've prepared about half of the recipes (so far) and not one of them has been a dud. Everything is delicious, the recipes are easy to follow, and Moskowitz includes many helpful hints for everything from how to slice a mango to substitutions. The baked goods are divine, and no one in my office even hesitates to accept a vegan cupcake now.

Vegan food has a bad rep for tasting too... health-foody. While I believe there's a time and place for a heap of quinoa mixed with some edamame and not much else, I think that more people would choose to go meat-free if they only knew how much delicious food was out there! Moskowitz brings it with this cookbook. If you're interested in trying some vegan dishes, or trying to show someone that vegan food doesn't have to taste like it was dug out of the ground yesterday, you can do no better than this book! (Though the Veganomicon comes in a close second!)
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(8 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)

The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges by Ann Budd
The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges

Marlena Clark, March 12, 2007

This is my goto book when I know what I want to make, but can't find the right pattern. The only section I haven't used is the section on socks, and that's only because I have so many books about socks!

Not only does this book include guidelines for basic garments, but it also has information about technique (the diagram for M1 increases has been indispensable), edgings, and advice for fit.

I do find the sweater section a bit lacking, as it gives guidelines for only one type of sweater (which I've used several times for children's sweaters). If you are most interested in sweaters, I would recommend the Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, also by Ann Budd. I have both. Since I personally most often make sweaters for myself from written patterns, I use the general pattern book much more often.

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(8 of 13 readers found this comment helpful)

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