Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea

A Great Pairing
The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin and Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Now that Melanie Benjamin's new novel The Aviator's Wife is on sale, we imagine that many of you are discovering Anne Morrow Lindbergh for the first time, and finding her to be an incredibly complicated and fascinating woman.

If you'd like to know more, we recommend that you pair your read of The Aviator's Wife with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea, which was first published in 1955. The 1950s seem like a lifetime ago, and if fact, they are. Anne Morrow Lindbergh passed away in 2001, not long before the 50th Anniversary edition would be published. 

Anne's daughter Reeve, already 60 years old in 2001, wrote the introduction to the Anniversary edition. As Reeve said: "I never once had the sense that my mother's 1955 book has lost its freshness, or that the wisdom contained within its pages has ceased to apply, whether to my own life or to what I have learned, over time, of hers."

It's amazing how Anne Morrow Lindbergh's wisdom still resonates today. In one of the earliest chapter of Gift from the Sea, Anne observes and draws wisdom from a channelled whelk, a delicate shell that still washes up on the shores of Southwest Florida's beaches. Anne admired the shell's simplicity and perfect architecture, unlike her own life, which was "knobby with barnacles" and a "caravan of complications." Women's lives, Anne said, are plagued by "myriad pulls" that operate against creativity, contemplation and a saintly life. As Anne herself said: "I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women." Now what 21st century mother can't relate to that?

Anne wrote another chapter inspired by a rare find, the Double Sunrise, a perfectly matched bivalve shell with two sides like the wings of a butterfly. They're so delicate, barely hinged together. Anne wonders how their "fragile perfection survive[s] the breakers on the beach." I do too. Anne compare this shell to the early years of marriage, a pure, self-enclosed world of mutuality. Already middle-aged and married for 26 years when she wrote Gift From the Sea, Anne knows the "Double Sunrise" stage of marriage doesn't last: "the tide of life recedes." But she doesn't mourn the loss. Instead, she believes you should shed the shell that doesn't suit you anymore."What is one to do - die of atrophy in an outstripped form? Or move on to another form, other experiences?" 

Thanks to The Aviator's Wife, we now know that Anne and her charismatic husband had a rocky marriage with crushing tragedies and bruising betrayals. And yet they remained married for 45 years, until Charles' death at age 72. 

If you read Gift from the Sea along with The Aviator's Wife, you'll have even more to contemplate and discuss with your book club. What a complicated couple. What a great pairing. 

Don't forget, Melanie Benjamin will be at The Bookstore on Thursday, January 24th at 7pm to discuss her new book. Hope you can make it! And by the way, your book club could win an "Aviator's Wife Gift Basket" at the event, which just happens to include a complimentary copy of Gifts from the Sea.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Staff Pick Favorites of 2012

Top Staff Picks 2012

There are always a few surprises, a few disagreements, but always, a shared joy of reading. Here's a list of our favorites, which even include a few from prior years. And there are so many more fabulous, worthy books that could have made our lists, but sometimes you just have to draw a line. So we limited ourselves to just 10.

How about you? What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments section of our website, or hop onto Twitter or meet us over on Facebook to chat. We can't wait to hear about your favorite reads.

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott (2011)
Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift 
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (2011)
Canada by Richard Ford 
A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon 
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011)
Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston
Canada by Richard Ford
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Glaciers by Alexis Smith
My Only Wife by Jac Jemc
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers  
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel 
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz 
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro               
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy 
Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason 

Between Shades of Gray (Not 50 Shades of Gray!)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jennie Lawson
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wall (2009)
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg (2008)