This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

What I read

Writer Ann Patchett’s husband said of her idea for Run, “Dump that opera book [Bel Canto] you’re working on, and go to that really, really great idea you had for a book.” I couldn’t agree more. Because while I’m an Ann Patchett fan, Bel Canto, despite the award winner it is, was not my favorite. But like Patron Saint of Liars and Dutch House and State of Wonder, this engaging and thought-provoking novel checks all the boxes for me.

Former Boston mayor Bernard Doyle raised his boys alone after his young wife died. They were only fifteen, five, and four and Doyle did the best he could while pursuing his political ambitions. Eventually, family roles are assigned: Sullivan, the bad boy; Tip, the smart one; and Teddy, a saint. What might seem like an asterisk here is the fact that Tip and Teddy are adopted African-American birth brothers, but it’s the pivot on which this story turns.

When the story begins, Tip and Teddy are in their twenties, fussing and fuming that Doyle has–again!–insisted they accompany him to a speech by Jesse Jackson (Doyle has political aspirations for at least one of his boys) and the reception following. While they walk to the car after the rally, an East Coast blizzard is raging, and as Tip steps out into the street, he is pushed out of the way of an SUV bearing down on him. Tip is only slightly injured, but the woman who pushed him is in serious condition because she took the force of the impact. The police take Doyle, Tip, and Teddy to the hospital–along with the woman’s eleven-year-old daughter Kenya.

And that’s where the plot gets interesting. Because Kenya knows a lot about the Doyle family. She is also utterly alone: no relatives or family friends to call for help. And so Doyle reluctantly takes the girl home. The rest of the story reveals just who the woman–Tennessee Moser–is and why she acted to save Tip. As luck (or a good plot twist!) would have it, big brother Sullivan adds even more conflict to the plot when he shows up on Doyle’s doorstep just as the family returns from the hospital, Tip on crutches, and a young Black girl in tow.

In true Patchett fashion we get incredible insight into so many facets of life: trans-racial adoption, the priesthood, precocious athletes, politics, birth mothers, poverty, and wealth. Run is one of the best novels I’ve read this summer.

What I lived

Now this is the good life.

It’s the peak of strawberry season. We wait eleven months for these few precious weeks in Michigan, and I’m making the most of it. I went strawberry picking with my daughter and three grand Littles (their first time picking) and I think it’s fair to say we made some memories. The seven and five-year-old caught on quickly and picked like champs. Three-year-old Natalie insisted that Grammy pick the berries, then hand them over so Natalie could put them in the quart container. Of course a lot of strawberries were eaten in the process–just look at Lexi’s strawberry juiced chin!

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely team shortcake over here–and that means biscuit shortcakes. Not pound cake, not angel food cake, and certainly not those spongy little yellow round things that store bakeries like to claim are shortcake. Nope. It’s crumbly shortcake biscuits and smashed berries with real whipped cream. (No ice cream, God forbid!) I think there’s something about the buttery biscuit and the sweet berries with the fat from heavy whipping creme that makes it heaven. I eat shortcake as a meal in June and I used to tell my kids that was okay because it has nearly all of the food groups: bread, fruit, and dairy.

I also made my first Bowl of Mending thanks to Arizona artist Tonia Jenny. Oh, my heart, this one was slow stitching at its finest. I’ve already got bowl #2 cut out and designed. It’s so good to see my sewing room floor spread with fabric again.

3 thoughts on “The Good Life

  1. Dave Staublin says:

    I would like to learn more about “Bowl of Mending”. Perhaps we could meet for a cup of tea this summer and you could enlighten me with all the deets!


    1. hbsuefred says:

      Me too, Dave. I’m new to the area and also trying to arrange to meet Lori IRL sometime. I’m in Portage. Where are you?


      1. Dave Staublin says:

        I live in Rockford. Laurie and I are past colleagues. I hope she starts doing writing workshops again, too!


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