Some Recent Reading (or Mostly Listening)

These days, mysteries are my genre of choice: people solving problems, answering questions, seeking justice. And, of course, plots that hold my attention when I’m tired and easily distracted. Audiobooks, too, are good when I’m tired and distracted. The library and the free titles included in my Audible subscription have encouraged me to try new authors. Here are some I’ve enjoyed recently:

Catherine Aird’s Calleshire Chronicles, read by Derek Perkins

This series has been going for 40 years, and I’ve listened to 10 or so in random order, from Audible. (My library has some in e-book, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy them as much that way). These are British mysteries with village settings; not much seems to have changed in Calleshire since the first book was published in 1966, and DI Sloan and the hapless Constable Crosby don’t change either. They are classic puzzle-type mysteries, not gory but not quite twee, with a touch of comedy and a love of literary allusions. Perfect for falling asleep or lying awake with. I find them immensely soothing, partly because they are set in a timeless England that probably never quite existed outside fiction–much like Betty Neels romances.

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In the Affirmative

It seems like these days, even when I’m not looking for a “how to survive the grief of divorce” book, they find me. First there was the Duchess Goldblatt book. Now, Maggie Smith’s Keep Moving. (That’s Maggie Smith the poet, best known for her viral poem “Good Bones,” not Maggie Smith the actor).

A few years ago, I made a habit of starting each day reading poetry. During the pandemic, it fell by the wayside, partly because I get my poetry from the library and there isn’t much in digital, partly because I didn’t have the concentration for it. But I’ve been missing poetry. So recently, when I saw the audiobook of Keep Moving on my library site, I decided to give it a try, despite my deep suspicion of the type of poem that would go viral on social media.

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Valentine’s Day

My ex-husband and I never made a big deal about Valentine’s Day. I won’t be missing flowers, chocolates, or a fancy dinner out. But it will be the first time in 30 years that I have a Valentine’s Day without a partner, and that feels harder than I expected. I’m reminding myself of some important things.

First, this isn’t really my first Valentine’s Day “alone.” Last February 14, he still lived here, but in the important ways, our marriage was over and he was already gone. Sleepwalking through life in the fog of depression, I just couldn’t see it clearly. I felt lonelier then, physically together but emotionally distant, than I do now.

Second, my life is full of love. Far more than I realized a year ago. Let me count the ways:

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Long Bright River, by Liz Moore

A few years ago I read a New York Times Magazine story about the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington, home to the “largest open-air heroin market on the East Coast,” which has stayed with me ever since. Jennifer Percy’s story describes an encampment of homeless drug users in an abandoned railroad ravine, and it seems to be in that same ravine that Liz Moore’s novel Long Bright River opens. Two cops respond to reports of a body in the ravine, something all too familiar in their work, where they are always finding people who have overdosed–some can be brought back from the dead by Narcan; for others, it’s too late.

One of those cops is our narrator Michaela (Mickey) Fitzpatrick, who grew up in the neighborhood. Every time she is confronted with the body of a young woman, she fears it will be her sister Kacey, an addict she has found “dead” more than once already, and who is now missing. The woman isn’t Kasey, and she doesn’t seem to have died of an overdose, either.

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Self-(re)fashioning

sunrise view from my yoga mat through a small diamond shaped window

I promise I’m not going to turn this into My Divorce Blog or My Depression Recovery Blog, but those things are continuing to influence my reading.

These days, I’m pondering what I want my new life be like. My nest will soon be emptier than I ever expected. What do I want to put into the spaces that are open in my life with no children at home, and now, no husband? What am I learning about what caused my long spell of depression, and how it–and I–contributed to the end of my marriage? And how do I want to change in response to what I’m learning?

latte in a blue and green patterned cup and saucer

It’s too soon to have an answer to those big questions, though I’m working on it.

I’m starting with smaller question about what I want and what makes me happy. Like “Would I like doing yoga every morning?” (yes! that’s a sunrise view from my mat above) and “What pretty cup should I choose for my coffee today?”

Recently I listened to two very different books in which the authors explored creative ways of re-fashioning themselves, and which gave me hope and inspiration for my own refashioning.

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