Book Snap #120

Title: What We Both Know

Author: Fawn Parker

Date Read: January 6, 2023

One and half snaps.

Snapshot of the book

Books as gifts are always delightful, providing a sort of innocuous blind-date excitement. Took this gem along as a roadtrip companion and I really enjoyed it. I was delighted to discover that Fawn Parker is a Canadian writer who splits her time in homes in both Toronto and my city, Fredericton.

Parker tells the story of Hillary Greene : a thirty-something urbanite who leaves her apartment in Toronto and her job at the university (a job she admits to acquiring through nepotism: they rather wanted her famous father to stay on, but upon his retirement the job dutifully became hers)– to live instead in her childhood home, caring for her father as his dementia requires. Besides boiling eggs to his liking, taking him to the market, or to his childhood home for a peculiar visit; she must also write his memoir. A tell-all he’s promised his publisher but cannot write himself. Hillary must sift through his scrambled notes; revisit her own experiences of her parent’s marriage and divorce; and unravel her sister’s suicide to decode how to tell his story– and whose version of it.

The author begins with the following note to readers: this book includes depections of animal death, child abuse (emotional and sexual), self-harm and suicide.

Snapshot of the book in my classroom

I might offer the first paragraph as a Writer’s Notebook passage study, it is such an odd opening, but the explicit detail about how exacting her father is in the tasks she must complete for him is also part of her character building.

The egg is boiled until firm. Rubbery outside and chalky in the middle, a moment before it might form a dark silvery ring around the yolk. The yolk will be removed, a soft almost-sphere, the white disgarded. The egg is boiled on high heat for ten minutes, removed, placed on a paper towel, cooled. A crack is made against the counter, the shell chipped away into the damp paper towel which is bunched then placed in the trash. (p.1)

The passage not only creates a keen sense of sight imagery around the egg; but also is a type of process-writing: a description of steps to follow that could easily be played with in our writer’s notebook. Steps are described, the writer doesn’t offer a numbered list as we are used to, but instead makes clear in prose the order and precise actions of each step. Even the nost mundnae task can be written about playfully and with skill.

Snapshot of the book in my life

When Hillary has to take a meeting with her father’s publisher to update on his progress on his memoir (which she is in fact writing, not him), she tells him:

“I only worry I will regret what I write,” I say.

“When a person does something they regret it’s because they don’t know who they are,” he says. (p.163).

As I age, I am getting more sure of who I am, what’s truly important to me, and what I value. It is a wonderful gift. Knowing who you are will hugely improve your life.

Book Snap #110

Title: A Nearly Normal Family

Author: M. T. Edvardsson

Dtae Read: July 19, 2021

Two snaps.

A great recommendation from my friend and former colleague, Janet Sloan. Eighteeen year-old Stella Sandell is accused of murder, and that changes everything.

The story is divided into three parts: the first told by the father, a pastor, who believes his daughter can only be innocent. The second part reveals the story from her mother’s view, a defense attorney, who believes no one is telling the truth. And finally from the perspective of Stella herself. Each shift in perspective is jarring–just when you think you understand these characters, the way others view them opens up new understandings of their skewed sense of reality. What lies will they tell (or believe?) to just be a normal, ordinary family again? Two snaps.

I believe this is deeply human. There's no understanding it if you've never experienced a direct and serious threat to yourself and your loved ones. You make irrational decisions and overstep boundaries as you never would otherwise. A person who can no longer flee must fight.
(Edvardsson, A Nearly Normal Family)

Book Snap #108

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: TJ Klune

Date Read: July 8, 2021

Two (loud) snaps.

I loved this book! The quote on the cover reads: “It’s like being wrapped up in a big gay blanket. Simply perfect.”

Reccommended to me by my colleague, Gabrielle Maillet, she said it gave her Schitt’s Creek vibes— and I ran with that! (Love me some Rose Motel feel goodery.) It did not disappoint.

Linus Baker is rule-following case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a beautiful story with fantastical characters (a sort of blobby slug want-to-be-hotel porter; a bearded female gardening gnome; a fairy sprite; a wyvern; a werewolf crossed Pomeranian and the purported son of Satan, nicknamed Lucy.) They live on a beautiful, secluded island where the inhabitants outwardly hate them, make up stories and rumours about them, and hang signs that say: “If you see something, say something.” Arthur arrives determined to do his job and report back on the intricacies of the orphanage, the children and Arthur– but he is taken up by the magic of the island and the love of a family. A saccharine-sweet cotton-candy-novel. Love wins.

Humanity is so weird. If we're not laughing, we're  crying or running for our lives because monsters are trying to eat us. And they don't even have to be real monsters. They could be the ones we make up in our heads. Don't you think that's weird?

Book Snap #103

Title: Concrete Rose

Author: Angie Thomas

Date Read: May 2021

Two snaps.

Angie Thomas takes us back seventeen years, to the Garden, where she first introduced us to Maverick Carter, unravelling the back story of Starr Carter’s dad (from Thomas’ previous novel, The Hate U Give) and his struggles with black mandhood: gangs, drugs, and parenthood.

Another clear YA win for exposing the heart of our humanity, examining race and priviledge with honesty, and telling a compelling story readers can invest in.

“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.”(Thomas, Concrete Rose). 

Book Snap #98


Title: The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn

Date Read: Spring 2021

Two snaps.

After just bingeing the Netflix series “The Crown” I fell in love with Kate Quinn weaving the story of Osla, a debutane World War Two codebreaker and girlfriend of Prince Philip of Greece, in two vacellating stories: 1940 and 1947; allowing the reader to see past come to future, and, spoiler alert: Prince Philip doesn’t marry Osla. Three women’s stories are shared: Osla, Mab, and Beth are the codebreakers united at Bletchley Park past (1940), and now (1947) must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together before Philip marries Elizabeth.

Kate Quinn is also the author of The Alice Network, which I have not yet read, but it has been recommended to me, and I likely will.

"If you were a man and you wrote funny pieces about daily life, they called it satire. If you were a woman and you wrote funny pieces about daily life, they called it fluff." (Quinn, The Rose Code).