Saturday, March 4, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation – from Passages to House of Sand and Fog

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Passages by Gail Sheehy, which was a huge self-help book in its day.
However, even when I worked in publishing and had to sell such books, I didn’t have much patience with them. The only one I ever found convincing was:
You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen (1990), a bestseller I skimmed when I was supposed to be doing an inventory at Shakespeare & Company in New York many years ago.
With a rare combination of scientific insight and delightful, humorous writing, Tannen shows why women and men can walk away from the same conversation with completely different impressions of what was said.
Don’t tell me that’s not true!
Someone else is misunderstood. In Understood Betsy, a classic by Dorothy Canfield (1916), a timid child who has been overprotected goes to live with relatives in the country who understand that she really needs household responsibilities, friends, fresh air, and independence (this is the cover of the edition my mother once gave me for Christmas).
Of course, another Betsy is Elizabeth Warrington Ray! In Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (1942), the three friends explore beyond their neighborhood and find friends in a Syrian community. Maud Hart Lovelace’s effortless lesson in tolerance is another reason why people cherish this series.
I linked to another hill in a book that promises me that spring is coming. The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen (1978) is a charming picture book that chronicles a year in the life of a farm by a talented husband and wife team. It reminds me of my friend Nan’s Hill Farm in Vermont of which she shares photos regularly.  My review.
Instead of delightfully marking the passing seasons, a year can be full of misery. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond (2006) is a wonderfully atmospheric book about a photographer and soon-to-be stepmother who takes her eyes off six-year-old Emma for an instant on the beach. The child is gone – kidnapped or drowned – and our protagonist is to blame and tries desperately to solve the mystery of the disappearance as her life collapses. Although I sometimes criticize my book group for being too angsty, I liked this melancholy book so much that I made everyone read it!
The final link is fog:  House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III (1999). My father and I heard the author speak in Boston around the time this book came out and were intrigued. This is a compelling story about a dispute over a house in the Bay Area, told from multiple points of view and leading inexorably to disaster. It’s the kind of book where you find yourself talking to the characters – doesn’t everyone do this? – and saying, “No! Please don’t do that!” This was also highly regarded by my book group.

So I was able to link Passages, Gail Sheehy's depiction of the personality and sexual changes experienced by adults as they age to the House of Sand and Fog, a book defined by the collision of cultures. Have you read any of these? Did you play #6Degrees this month? 

Next month (April 1, 2023), we’ll start with Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run, which I am sure one of my brothers-in-law owns if I want to take a look.


Annabel (AnnaBookBel) said...

An elegant set of links. I've read the Dubus, but don't remember much about it. I loved that the second Betsy book is a tale of cultures working together instead of clashing.

Whispering Gums said...

Great first link - I won't tell you it's not true - and neat segue to the second. Well done. I haven't read any but I have heard of the Dubus!

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

That first link... very interesting and yes, very true! Lovely chain here.

Anonymous said...

I really. need to read a BetsyTacy book. Where should I start?


TracyK said...

Very good chain with a lot of variety, especially in mood. I did not realize that the film The House of Sand and Fog was based on a book. That sounds like a good topic. The Year of Fog could be too sad for me.

TracyK said...

Also I am interested in your answer to the question about where to start reading the Betsy-Tacy books.

CLM said...

I usually suggest adult readers begin with Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace.

The Year of Fog was sad in parts but a great read. I have to see whether she has a new book I haven't read. That author is originally from Alabama like you, Tracy!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

A chain according to my heart!
I'm very interested in classics in children's literature,so I'm going to check a few books here in your chain

Marianne said...

A great chain, absolutely well thought through. I haven't heard of most of those but I loved that you included children's books.

Same as you, I can't deal with the kind of books like the starter, they make me mad if anything.

My Six Degrees of Separation took me from Passages to Silent House by Orhan Pamuk.

Nan said...

Thank you for your words about The Year at Maple Hill Farm. I adore that book, way more than my kids ever did! I live in NH not VT!

CLM said...

Nan, that is shocking to me - I wonder what about your farm made me assume it was Vermont? However, this means you are much closer to Boston so I am sure will be able to rendezvous some time.