Sunday, March 8, 2009

Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming it All, edited by Andrea Buchanan

I know that my "Currently Reading" section indicates that I'm still reading The Pillars of the Earth. I still am. I'm currently on page 600. However, it recently occurred to me that I need to read other books as I'm reading those for my Chunkster Challenge; if I don't, I won't get to the 100+ book goal for J.Kaye's 100+ Reading Challenge.

Not only that, but one of my book clubs is meeting tomorrow, and this was the selection. I knew I had to buckle down and whiz through it, pronto. I started either last Wednesday or Thursday night and finished it this afternoon. It's a quick read, but not something that you can whip through entirely on a Sunday afternoon. There are thirty essays in here, and it's best to read about four or five of them at a time, so that you can reflect upon what you have read.

I thought that this was apropos to read, given the times that we're living in right now. Many women are facing hardship, humiliation, and heartbreak right now. I thought that this anthology would be an enlightening, feel-good read that would help liven the spirits of a woman who is facing hard times. This book does exactly that. The essays are all very honest and real, and in most cases, the emotions are raw. There's no sugar-coating in any of these essays, and while most of them end on an upbeat note, they don't end with a neatly packaged ending wrapped in a pretty pink bow.

Some of the situations that these women face are absolutely heartbreaking. Melinda McGraw writes with much candor about her daughter's premature birth, as well as the heart attack she suffered the day she was supposed to be discharged from the hospital after giving birth. Maisie McInerney, who, at 13, is the youngest contributor to the book, writes with a maturity and grace that is well beyond her years. She writes about her diagnosis with juvenile arthritis and the effects her subsequent treatment had on her life. Katie Hnida, the first woman to play college football, recalls the harassment she faced from her fellow players on the Colorado University Buffaloes football team. Maile Zambuto, director of the Joyful Heart Foundation, recounts her years of sexual abuse at the hands of one of her teachers.

The subject matter in most of these essays is very heavy, but there are a couple that are humorous, such as Kathleen Dennehy's recollections of her New York therapist, as well as Annabelle Gurwitch's memories of guest-starring on the 1990s version of Hollywood Squares. I'm glad that these were in there to lighten the load. As I mentioned before, I had to put the book down after I read some of the heavier material, because I didn't know how much more I could take.

Each essay ends with a little "note to self," or a life lesson learned from the experience of hardship, humiliation, or heartbreak. Some of these notes to self include the following, which are taken directly from the book's back cover:

"Only you can determine the moments that define you." --Katie Hnida

"You can only command an audience when you know your self worth." --Kathy Najimy

"If you stand just an inch away from the edge of the tapestry, you can't see the whole pattern." --Cal Peacock

"If somebody treated your best friend as badly as you treat yourself, you'd kick their ass." --Camryn Manheim (This one's my personal favorite).

Overall, Note to Self is a worthwhile read, especially for those who have experienced some hardship, heartbreak, and humiliation. All of the women in this book tell stories that people can relate to, and readers will be inspired by how these women were able to overcome their odds. The best part about this book is its lack of saccharine; while the conclusions to the essays are satisfying, for the most part, they're not overly sentimental. I think I appreciated that most of all.

This is the latest entry in my 100+ Reading Challenge, my A to Z Challenge, my Pub Challenge, my Read Your Own Books Challenge, and my Dewey Decimal Challenge. Click on the buttons in the sidebar for all of the latest updates, as well as archives of past reads!


Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review! This one is going on to my TBR.

Vickie said...

I don't know if I could read this book. I need a little sugar. I have a hard time reading Toni Morrison's books!

I cried at the end of The Secret Life Of Bees, but looking at the movie with skepticism.

I guess I am a chick lit reader.

Jenners said...

This sounds pretty good, and I've read other books that Andrea Buchanan either wrote (Mother Shock) or edited (Women Writers on Raising Boys) and both were quite good. I think I will put this on my "look for" list. Thanks!

Jodi said...

This book sounds really good. I've marked it on my "to read" list.