"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Reads Set Outside of the US

Today's topic at The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list our favourite books that take place outside of the United States. When I looked through my recent reads, I found that the majority were not set in the US, probably because I read a lot of classical British lit as well as Canadian literature, but it's an interesting topic anyway. I limited myself further by looking only at the last two years of my reading, and also not using classics (since most of the ones I like are set in the UK) and nothing set in a fantasy realm or other planets.

1. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. Setting: Russia (St. Petersburg, Siberia, Chechnya). I just finished this recently and it's probably my favourite book of the year. It is a series of connected short stories that made me think and laugh and gasp at the beautiful language.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafรณn. Setting: Barcelona, Spain. A mysterious page-turner with intriguing characters and also beautifully written (though I'm sure it's even better in the original Spanish).

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Setting: Nazi Germany. The moving story of a young girl taken in by a foster family in the 1930s who discovers a love for books and also befriends the Jewish man who is later hidden in their basement.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Setting: Wartime Britain and France. It's hard to fully describe this story of an unlikely friendship without giving away too many details. Suffice it say that I was blown away by the intricacies and the way it all worked together in the end. 

5. The Passion by Jeannette Winterson. Setting: Venice, France, and the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. It's hard to describe this short book with it's intriguing characters and fantastical elements, but I couldn't put it down.

6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Setting: Occupied Poland, Germany, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its four complex narrators telling the story of the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. (Hmmm, I guess I'm reading a lot of books set in WWII recently!)

7. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Setting: England. Okay, so this is set in an alternate UK where magic is real, but it's a wonderful and gripping novel about a power struggle between two magicians and how the magic returned to England. 

8. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis. Setting Ukraine and Israel. An Israeli politician sneaks off with his girlfriend to his birthplace of Crimea to escape a political scandal. There are so many levels in this novel. I loved it.

9. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Setting Huron lands in what is today Ontario, Canada. This is a gripping novel about the interactions between the Huron, the Iroquois, and the French in the early years of colonization. 

10. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Setting: Wartime Malaya and Australia. I didn't love this book as there were elements that I found annoying, but I enjoyed learning about post-WWII Australia and the description of wartime Malaya was fascinating and heartbreaking.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Three Years

This week marks two things: It makes seven years since my first date with Gil, which was in 2009. It also marks three years since we started trying to have a child.

Celebrating one year of dating, in 2010. I look so young!
Three years is a long time. If you're in my shoes, and you're involved in infertility communities, you might be tempted to think that it's not so long when faced with others who had longer journeys, but one thing I'm learning is that it's okay to feel like my three years have been an eternity. Three years is enough to get a Bachelor's degree without Honours, or even with Honours if you do a lot of extra grunt work. It's 75% of the way through high school in Ontario and also 75% of the term of an American president. It's apparently the life cycle of an iPhone, according to Apple, unless you're someone like my dad who always needs the newest model. It's the length of time audiences had to wait between episodes of the Star Wars franchise, both the original trilogy and the much lamented set of prequels. It's 36 months - and if you're infertile you probably felt the passage of each month with a heart growing heavier each time. It's 156 weeks or 1095 days, which makes approximately four full-term pregnancies back to back. You certainly feel that the most when you're infertile, because you probably have friends who have had more than one child while you've been waiting.

My friends with young children frequently say things like, "I can't believe he'll be 2/3/4! The years fly by so fast." On the contrary, I feel like the years have crawled by in my childless life as I've watched infertility mark every aspect of my life with sorrow. For the past 2.5 years, ever since we were officially labelled as infertile, there has rarely been a day that didn't hurt. There are no mornings when I wake up and don't remember how much I want to be a mother. I never see a pregnant belly without feeling a tiny bit sad. Someone told me recently that she is afraid to ask her infertile friends about their issues because she does not want to reopen a wound. I told her that what she's missing is that for us in the journey, our wounds never close. I feel like the walking wounded, and every moment that I'm smiling or laughing or going about daily life, it's because I've learned to live with the constant ache. I've learned that most people - even the ones that say they care - do not want to hear that you are wounded. They want you to pretend it doesn't hurt. Trust me, time does not fly by when you are always nursing an open wound.

I want to end this on something positive. I'm sure that I've grown in some positive ways in these past few years. I hope so, anyway. I've obviously gone back to school and traveled and made new friends. When I look at these years, though, I grieve. I'm sad that half of my marriage has been marred by infertility, that we cannot remember any more what it's like to believe we'll be parents. I grieve the relationships I had with friends back when I was sunny and emotionally able to support others, back before I greeted each morning with tears. I grieve the big family that I was going to have, because even if we do conceive, we certainly do not have the time to try again several times. I weep for the moments that I imagined and may never experience: The first time I would feel my baby kicking; the look in my husband's eyes when we would find out we were expecting; the joy of seeing my baby on the ultrasound screen. I grieve the self that I feel like I've lost. My pastor recently said that we rarely see God's hand in the present. It's when we look at the past that we are aware of where He's been working. I hope that one day, I will look back on these three years and see the sparks of light that I missed, because most days things still look very dark.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Good Books With Few Reviews

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic looks at books that we enjoyed that have under 2000 ratings on Goodreads. This was actually kind of neat to look at. I didn't even realize that I could arrange my Goodreads lists by number of ratings. Some of the books on the list were random finds that perhaps aren't that well known. Other cases really surprised me.

1. The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: Granted, this book only came out a few months ago and it's a book about names and not a paranormal romance, but I was surprised that it only has 50 ratings. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

2. A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin: This was a random library find. I guess it's not that well known. It is a memoir about the author's experience emigrating from the USSR to the United States.

3. When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman: I read this years ago after picking it up on a whim at the Ottawa public library. I found it to be a fantastic and gripping history book.

4. Tor! The Story of German Football by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger: Perhaps German soccer enthusiasts have yet to flock to Goodreads. :)

5. Black Man In a White Coat by Damon Tweedy: I read this last year and keep referring back to it as I found it fascinating and I learned a lot about the American medical system and the socioeconomic issues facing African Americans.

6. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis: What?! How does this book have so few ratings? Bezmozgis is quite involved in the Canadian literature scene and this book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, so I can only guess that his main demographic is not that into Goodreads.

7. The Free World by David Bezmozgis: Again, I find this really weird. This is Bezmozgis's first novel about a family who has left the Soviet Union and are in immigration limbo in Italy.

8. The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West: I just read this about a month ago. It's somewhat of a modern class, but apparently not a lot of people have read it, or at least rated it! It tells the story of a young American widow who moves to Paris, and her romantic life from thereon.

9. Cape Town by Brenda Hammond: A Young Adult novel about a young Afrikaner ballet dancer whose horizons are broadened when she moves to Cape Town towards the end of the Apartheid era. I really enjoyed this book.

10. Eden by Yael Hedaya: This was another random library find, which I found to be a deep and interesting story of the overlapping experiences of a group of people in modern Israel.