A Patchwork Planet, by Anne Tyler

Cover ImageFinished 2-19-08, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1998

“Oh, what makes some people more virtuous than others?  Is it something they know from birth?  Don’t they ever feel that zingy, thrilling urge to smash the world to bits?”      Chapter 1

Who knew that one day I’d have a crush on a man named Barnaby?  Barnaby is the black sheep of a well-to-do family and his mother never lets him forget it.  His family has the charming belief that for generations each member has been contacted by a personal angel.  This angel is to help them find their way in the world.  Barnaby is a 30 year old divorced father and he is still waiting for his angel.

Barnaby has a dead end, but fulfilling job at Rent-A-Back where he spends most of his days doing the bidding of senior citizens who in turn love him and drive him crazy.  He is renting the basement of a house and his car is always in the shop.  One Saturday morning when the car was in said shop, he hops on the train from Baltimore to Philadelphia for his monthly visit with his daughter.  He becomes intrigued by an exchange he witnesses and convinces himself that he has found his angel.

Barnaby is a complicated man who doesn’t fully realize his own worth.  That is the powerful and moving journey of this book.  I loved it.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

Cover ImageFinished on 1-22-08, rating 5/5, non-fiction, pub. 2000

  My knowledge of Stephen King’s novels is limited.  I’ve read a few, listened to a few more on road trips with my husband, and seen some of the movies.  I usually enjoy them, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan.  So, I was justifiably surprised when I was totally charmed by this book and its author.

  The first half of this book is memoir full of stories of his youth and early writing successes.  There were stories of his first sale, for 25 cents to his mother, and his busy adolescence making a statement with his writing.  King moves onto adulthood, marriage, kids, a job he doesn’t enjoy and he doesn’t pull any punches.  This book is told with such honesty that you are drawn into King’s world.  His drug and alcohol abuse could have led to self-pity or delusions of grandeur, but it didn’t.  All of these snapshots of his life are told with rich detail, but with an understanding of just how much to tell.

  The second half is devoted to the craft of writing.  Having read much advice from established authors I know there as many ways to write a book as limbs on a tree (King loves simile and metaphor), and King gives his best, unapologetic nuggets of wisdom.  He doesn’t mince words, but they are told with humor and real-life experiences from his own prosperous writing career.  He also delves into what happened when he was hit by a van and was close to death.  The book comes full circle with his telling of the accident.

I loved this book.  I loved the mix of humor, truth, detail, and brevity.  I have been charmed by a horror writer and I’m not ashamed to admit it. 🙂