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Monday, December 4th, 2017

A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is set in Brisbane, Australia and it is a combination of words that are at once poetic, descriptive, psychological and commanding and they draw the reader into a wonderful story, which holds the mind and demands attention – softly.  The main character truly is a house and it tells the tale of the two women who have lived there and their lives.

Elsie Gormley was the first resident of the little house with the huge backyard that touched a swamp and a park.  She was newly married and was delighted with her house and her husband.  She was the mother of Don and Elaine, twins.  Elsie loved her role as a mother and took it very seriously not without some worry and stress but she felt called and safe in that task.  She also had quite a relationship with the birds that came to her feeder and felt they were omens of good.  Her partner was a good man and took care of the yard, the house, and wallpapered every room with a different paper.

Lucy Kiss, her toddler Tom and her husband Ben have just purchased their first house after travelling for years.  For Ben it is coming home and he remembers being with his single mother in Brisbane and how hard it must have been for her and how terrific she was as a “mum”.  As he travels he worries about Lucy and her beautiful parenting and then her irritations.  Lucy is new here and has no friends yet and is isolated in her new house.  She is comfortable with being a mother and yet she is trying to hold on to her “self” in this new circumstance and situation.  She has mother worries and sometimes does not feel safe.  She thinks about Elsie a great deal.

Elsie has had a stroke and is confused so her children pack her up and move her to an apartment in assisted living.  Her story is the most complete as it weaves through Lucy’s in the house.   Lucy and Ben are busy planting trees in her backyard, lots of trees; Clem would not have liked this at all.

Birds and water play the game of connective tissue in this well written story.  If you have the opportunity to curl up and just savor and enjoy this read, I would put it very high up on your reading list.  A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is a top of the line read.

Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. (TLC Book Tours)

About Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Naked In Eden
The Light Between Oceans
The Moon Sisters

WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice ~Terry Tempest Williams

Monday, August 20th, 2012

It has taken me over two months to write my review of WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS because I wanted my words to be perfect and truly share what an amazing book this is and what a significant read; I wanted you to know how much this book meant to me.   I would finish reading the book and then go back to the beginning and start again.   I set it aside after each read and read 6 other books in between . I am sure I have highlighted at least 60% of the words in the book.  I put it on my smart phone and read bits when I am waiting or just need a fix!

The writing is as marvelous as a bird’s morning song.  The journals are about integrity and maintaining self.

Fifty-four years ago Terry Tempest William’s mother died and then her two grandmothers, all from cancer which the family believes was related to being down-winders to the nuclear testing sites.  Terry’s mother was told by her religion to keep journals and she faithfully had a number of shelves of journals which she gave to her only daughter and requested that she not read them until after she had died.  Williams honored her request and a significant time later took them off the shelves and opened each one.
Every single Journal was empty!

The author contemplated what her mother was trying to tell her and because she was a writer she began to fill the blank pages as memoir and to figure out what it was that her mother intended.  She included lots of references to her Paternal Grandmother who was quite a character and a bird watcher extraordinaire.  The book is about the author’s work and study and how she lived her life and explored.

The book is a journey about leaving religion behind, not living life as a series of prescribed roles, it is about embracing nature and the environment and how women have made a difference globally, nationally, and locally.   Williams introduces the reader to an ancient written code in China where women who were not allowed to read or write could share stories and ideas with each other in code.  The character for woman was the head of a bird.

The book is about silence, beauty and privacy.  The journals are creation myths.

The story weaves around the politics of life and the requirements to be part of making decisions which change women’s lives.   Her mother gave many speeches about the Equal Rights Amendment and thought it was necessary and important for women.  Williams traveled internationally representing the USA and women and the environment.   She sat on the Board for Wilderness Issues for the Secretary of the Interior, and testified before the House and Senate.  Under the 2nd Bush administration her words were ignored and rudely went unheard.  She left the National scene and came home to do the work locally and got her book Testimony read into the Congressional Record during a filibuster and that succeeded in keeping 22 million acres of wilderness preserved in Utah – which was not reduced to 1.8 million by that Administration.

The beauty of the words in WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS is awesome and inspiring.  I was soothed and comforted and called into action.  May we never stop singing our song, telling our story, loving Mother earth or our birth control!

Who do you know has lost their life to an environmental cancer?  What are you doing to keep her story alive?


When Women Were Birds  is a book from my own library and I did not receive anything from marketing individuals or publishers to promote this book.

If you purchase anything from Powell’s or Amazon  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket!  Thank you

Related Reading:
The Paper Garden
The Long Goodbye