August 24, 2016

Finished: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden is a tome. Delightful, but a tome. It is the story of Nell, who as a 4-year-old girl, was abandoned on a ship headed to Australia and subsequently taken in and raised as their own by the dock master and his wife. When Nell learns the truth about her past on her twenty-first birthday, her sense of self is shattered and the course of her life forever changed.

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After Nell’s death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, discovers a book of fairy tales that holds the secrets surrounding Nell’s early childhood. The Forgotten Garden itself reads like a fairy tale, weaving generations of sagas and intrigue.

There are fascinating characters in this book, most of them women, and not the least of which, the “Authoress” of the book of fairy tales, who is the one who left Nell on the ship. I felt like this was, in fact, more her story than Nell’s.

As an infertility and reproductive trauma survivor and advocate, I must also add that the scenes in which Kate Morton directly addresses infertility are brief yet exquisitely written—she nails the utter despair—and have staggering indirect repercussions on the story as a whole.

While I truly enjoyed this book, it did at times feel a bit longer than it needed to be; there were a couple of detours that felt either too cumbersome or just sort of checking a box, like Cassandra’s infatuation and endeavors with Christian toward the end. 

This was a book club read, and I know a few members aren’t going to get through it, but for the rest of us, I can’t wait to dive in!

 

Finished: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Passion and Perseverance are two qualities I revere and don’t mind saying I am proud to possess gobs of. This book is an interesting look behind the science of grit—how to measure it, why it counts more toward outstanding achievement than talent or genius, how it can be learned, and how to foster it in others, including kids. Loved it.

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One point I found particularly meaningful was the author’s challenge of Nietzsche’s well-loved assertion that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, citing research that instead illustrates “… it’s undeniable that what doesn’t kill us sometimes makes us weaker…” I have long challenged the former assertion myself, nowhere more so than in my reproductive trauma memoir, in fact titled, What Didn’t Kill Me.

Where I differ from Dr. Duckworth is when she touts cognitive therapy and “optimistic self-talk” as strategies to increase resilience and grit, which for many individuals are indeed useful. Personally, I subscribe to Dr. Julie Norem’s theory that doesn’t get nearly enough love—the potential positive power of negative thinking. For some of us, all that positive self-talk actually creates more stress. Interestingly, both theories are tied to a sense of personal control over obstacles. I would love to see Drs. Duckworth and Norem work together!  

Still, GRIT. I even love the word!

Happy Reading!

LP