This installment: a teen book with mental illness and suspense (f); a fabulous memoir of growing up with a crazy, survivalist father (nf); and another memoir about an eccentric dad—this one a married Catholic priest (nf).
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Aza has a debilitating disorder. She’s deathly afraid of contamination by microbes yet can’t stop picking at, then re-bandaging, a callus. Despite this she has a few close friends, Daisy and Davis, and does well in school. But when Davis’s father disappears in murky circumstances, things get very weird indeed. Both friendships become severely compromised, in part by class (Adam is very rich and Daisy very strapped.) Aza eventually learns how to manage though she’ll always struggle with mental illness and comes to a place of peace and gratitude. A teen book with Green’s signature combination of wit and profundity.
Educated by Tara Westover
There are some books that feel completely “right” from the very first page—you know you’re in good hands—and this is a fine example. A memoir of growing up in rural Idaho with a paranoid, survivalist father. She and her siblings were home-schooled and worked in their dangerous scrapyard business as well as helping her mother, a healer, with concocting tinctures and attending births. However she got glimpses of life beyond the confines of the family and managed, amazingly, to break out and even get a Ph.D! A very steep learning curve, for sure, but with fierce intelligence and discernment and compassion, look what emerged. Inspiring!
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
I read this on the heels of Educated and was initially put off by a kind of almost burlesque tone as Lockwood introduces us to her dad, a married Catholic priest. (Didn’t know such a thing existed…). He’s bigger than life and very idiosyncratic, likes to sit around in his skivvies and play rock guitar. The author is a poet who broke away from the family early on but ended up reconnecting out of necessity 10 years later. She describes grotesqueries like anti-abortion sit-ins—her father got arrested—but also times of warmth and celebration, despite. Vivid.
Back next week.