We cannot conceive of another’s reality, especially when we are young. Growing up in a safe household, I was insulated from the difficulties that some children, such as the author, encounter every day. Breaking Night is an autobiographical account of Liz Murray, who was born into a severely dysfunctional family. Her parents loved their daughters, but were consumed by an over-riding and consuming need for their drug-induced high. Liz was so protective of her parent’s safety that as young as 5 years old she watched over them preparing their paraphernalia and made sure that they didn’t hurt themselves in their eventual euphoria. The stress of this home life led to a life of school truancy and eventual homelessness at age 15. Her gritty account of several years on the streets of New York led to her discovery of an alternative high school which made all of the difference in her young life. She was able to pull herself together and begin the hard work of creating a stable life for herself and the family that remained.
This book was very reminiscent of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, not only in its basic theme of a child working through terrific difficulties, but the forgiveness and love the child still holds for her damaged parents.
Adrianna Trigiani writes about her grandmothers in her latest, Don’t Sing at the Table
. Both of my grandmothers were similarly born near the turn of the century, and I found myself musing about my own grandmotherly memories while reading this book. Their generation needed to know how to do all of the domestic chores and niceties that Martha Stewart is teaching our generation, such as canning, baking, knitting, making sausages, etc. My Nana made bread every week and I especially remember when she pinched some of the dough off at breakfast to make fried cakes with brown sugar. Don’t Sing
is full of advice, admonitions and anecdotes from Viola, her no-nonsense businesswoman grandmother; and Lucy, her gentle seamstress grandmother. Both lost their husbands at an early age and never remarried, but lived fulfilling and long lives delighting in their grandchildren. Trigiani used some of their characteristics in her Big Stone Gap fiction series. Some advise from the back cover; make your own living, leave your children your values not your stuff, be bold, be direct, be different. Trigiani specifically wrote the book for her daughter Lucia, but its universal advice spans the years and generations.
Anyone who has felt the pleasure of taking their own hot loaf out of the oven will understand the drive of the author of 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth,Meaning, and a Perfect Crust.
William Alexander tasted superb bread at a restaurant and endeavored to bake every week for a year to replicate it. Growing up with Wonderbread as a child, Alexander tinkered with the bread ingredients - four, water, yeast, heat, steam and different ovens. He went to the lengths of growing his own winter wheat, building a clay oven in the backyard and acting as a master baker at a French monastery. His recipes at the end of the book can start your own obsession! Lately, there have been a number of books written with the "do it for a year" theme, such as Julie and Julia
by Julie Powell; Animal, Vegetable, Mracle
by Barbara Kingsolver; Year of living biblically
by A.J. Jacobs; and 365 Nights: A memoir of intimacy
by Charla Muller. The process of discovery in a chronological year appeals to me. Excuse me, but I have to get to the kitchen. I can smell the bread now!
submitted by Priscilla Colwell, Putnam Public Library
Villager Papers, October 29, 2010