Jade Attempts to Write a Book Review (on “Where the Crawdads Sing”)

As it turns out, being even more socially isolated than I normally am reminded me that I am actually capable of reading actual books and not just deeply depressing news articles or finding things I want and don’t need from Buzzfeed listicles. Who knew?

So, upon the recommendation of one of my best friends, I bought “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens – the real book, partly because I’m a bougie bitch who likes to read off of paper pages and not blue-lit screens, but also because, inexplicably, the physical book was decidedly less expensive than an e-book. Suffice to say, I never expected to live in a world where something that required actual printed materials and takes up warehouse space and must be shipped costs LESS than something that is entirely digital, but here we are.

Anyway, on to the actual book. I don’t know that I can say I’ve ever read a book quite like this. It’s parts historical fiction, coming of age story, and murder mystery with ecology and biology factoids and copious poetry sprinkled in. It feels very much like someone wanted to mash up the writing styles of David Baldacci, Mark Twain, and Harper Lee, but add their own “secret blend of 11 herbs and spices” called science factoids and poetry. I did not realize until I had the book physically in my hands, and only thanks to the dust cover, that apparently this is a book from “Reese’s Book Club” –  I am assuming this means Reese Witherspoon? Anyway, that would explain how and why this book had well over 45,000 Amazon reviews. So my two cents is clearly needed, no?

Overall Thoughts:

  1. Jumping timelines. This story crosses decades frequently; years are entirely left out (though upon reading about the main character, Kya, you can understand why). I actually really like the idea of doing this, though I don’t always love exactly how it’s done in this particular book. I didn’t find it distracting personally, but I could see how someone would.
  2. Potentially jarring dialogue. Anyone who wasn’t raised in or around the South, specifically the mid-Atlantic, or isn’t a big fan of Mark Twain, may find the dialogue very grating. It’s a lot of “sho’ was the finest shoes I ever saw” type of dialogue that may take some getting used to and some might even find themselves frustrated trying to “translate” it, or put-off by what seems like an overdone cliche (but from my limited knowledge of the time period and my stronger knowledge of that specific area, I suspect that dialogue isn’t too far off from what it would have been at the time for the characters involved, potentially minus some perhaps inaccurate colloquialisms, like fireflies versus “lightnin’ bugs”).
  3. Character development. There aren’t many characters that we “need” to get to know throughout the story, but despite the 350+ pages in this book, we really only ever get to know each character on a pretty surface level. The only exception being Kya as the main character, whom we get to understand a bit more, though it’d be concerning if we never got to know any of the internal workings of a main character in a book that follows decades of their life. I digress. On the one hand, it’s understandable given the whole plot of the book that Kya, who is – by design – an outsider, doesn’t know much about anyone, but the other characters that we get to know anything tangible about fall into their archetypes exactly as you’d expect. “Formulaic” is a descriptor you might not hear any arguments against. No new tropes here.
  4. The science. If you like nature and ecology in general and birds specifically, you’ll likely enjoy how frequently they appear throughout the story. An abiding love of these things is one of the major aspects of Kya’s character/personality/development.
  5. The poetry. There’s probably at least a dozen references to song lyrics and poems throughout the book. To some degree, it eventually makes sense why (won’t give a spoiler on that except to say SPOILER ALERT), but if you couldn’t stomach Frost in school, well, you probably won’t like this any better. But also shame on you. Because Frost is sensational. (… just to be clear no Frost poetry is in the book; just poetry with similar thematics)
  6. Suspended disbelief. Alright, OBVIOUSLY, this book is a work of fiction, BUT chances are a lot of people reading it will find at least one instance in which they are unwilling or unable to suspend their disbelief. Maybe it’s about Kya’s entire background; maybe it’s about what she ends up doing with her life; maybe it’s about the parts of the book that surround the murder and resulting trial. But suffice to say, plenty portions of this book require the reader to suspend their disbelief, though not more than plenty of other pop culture shows, movies, or books do. Personally, I find it harder to suspend my disbelief in things that are “historical” since history, even in fiction, requires some more adherence to the parameters of “what actually happened” (and I don’t just mean from the white man’s perspective – because fuck that) and what was really possible or even in existence at the time. But that’s just me.
  7. The flow of the story. Kind of tying back to the first point about jumping timelines, I daresay if there is something people won’t like about this book it’s the flow (part of which is the timelines) in the sense that it is a) really slow going for the first part (and unless you really like her writing style – which admittedly I did –  you might find it difficult to want to keep reading), b) jumps around, as mentioned, and, c) is a little bizarrely broken into two “parts” (I guess to make clear to the reader that “we’re staying in this decade now”?)
  8. The actual plot. I could understand (and to some degree agree) with claims that this book has a kind of vague plot that could have been developed in a stronger or different way. The slowness of much of the book doesn’t help that case, but, honestly, MOST stories (whether book, TV, or movie) don’t have the greatest plots – so this is no worse or more far-fetched or underdeveloped than most other popular fiction in my personal experience. Just don’t be expecting Agatha Christie. You’re not getting Agatha Christie.
  9. The ending. Who doesn’t care how a story ends?! Without directly spoiling the ending, I would say the ending is a bit bizarre (just in what it is, not what it contains, if that makes sense) in that if felt like a forced wrap-up, the vast majority of which honestly wasn’t needed. There is a means to an end, but the path to get there… well, not my favorite but not the worst ever, either. I’d say it falls into the category “if you’re going to bother to do it, don’t half-ass it” –  it felt like a half-assed after-thought, and a quick “oh, fuck, I should probably actually let them know XYZ” as opposed to “this was my plan all along.” It tries to be clever, and to a degree is and has a beautiful element to do that, but there was a lot of unmet potential in that ending.
  10. And, finally, Jade Attempts to Write an Actual Book Summary in 100 Words or Less: Set across multiple decades, this story follows the coming of age of the abused and isolated main character – Kya. It captures her volatile family life, her endless thirst for knowledge, and her unique experiences with bouts of companionship among a lifetime of loneliness and heartache. The suspected murder of the town golden boy sets the stage for the reader to get glimpses of outsider Kya’s interactions and connections to various members of a community that has always shunned and shamed her, and her trial and tribulations on the rough roads of adulthood, relationships, and self-sustainment.

(It’s 95 words – on the first try?! GO ME – unless you count “self-sustainment” as two words because you don’t understand how hyphens work. Punks.)

Overall rating: 3.5/5 Stars: NEEDS MORE COWBELL (and by cowbell I mean plot development) but otherwise a worthwhile read if you appreciate art, nature, and science.

Corporate Potato Gettin’ Ish Done

There is this frustrating thing about mental illness for me, where I have the self-awareness to see many (not all, to be sure) of my flaws but not the energy to take actions to right them or at least proactively try to counteract them. They’re largely innocuous things. I’d like to believe I mastered the ugliest of my everyday demons and no longer do things like snark at undeserving people or actively self-sabotage.

But the simpler things I admittedly struggle with, and further admit it’s not because I don’t know how to address them I just… don’t want to. That’s the thing about depression and anxiety. Sure there’s the sadness and the worry and the existential dread… but often once those have wrung you dry of every drop of energy not otherwise spent on unavoidable necessities (commuting, working all day, not pterodactyl screeching at every inconsiderate troglodyte that inconveniences your day), there’s nothing left for the simple tasks: folding  the clothes in the dryer, emptying the dishwasher, actually making dinner and doing the dishes…

None of these are monumental tasks requiring herculean efforts. At least, not for normal people. But I’m not normal. I get exhausted by having to talk to people at work and often talk myself out of things I kind of wanted to do because of petty made-up potential pitfalls. And maybe it is just eight minutes of laundry to fold and five minutes of dishes to put away but that’s thirteen minutes of energy I would much rather spend being an apathetic couch potato. Unwinding from corporate potato mode will take it right out of ya, I tell ya.

The really dumb part? I’ve never done one of these simple tasks and been upset that I did it. In fact as a general rule I’ve never done any self-care task and then been like, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t just made my own life better by doing that.” (Painting my nails doesn’t count because I do regret doing that 10/10 times.)

Have you ever felt bad about having a clean, tidy space? Or feeling healthy? Or knowing exactly where what you need is? I haven’t.

Whether I ate a healthy meal I made myself, or am enjoying a clean towel after stepping out of my clean shower, or putting my dishes immediately in the dishwasher after breakfast because I haven’t left clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher for no real reason, I feel good.

These are such simple, basic tasks. They take very little time and honestly leave me so ridiculously happy and proud of myself.

So why do I fight them? Why do I stubbornly and patently refuse to do simple things that not only BENEFIT me but make me HAPPY?

Because my brain isn’t wired quite correctly. I lost the manual (not like I read it anyway), and it’s just kinda stuck this way, okay? BUT there IS an override.

I’m pretty sure motivation is like a fantasy or some shit. It’s snake oil. In thirty years I rarely see that bitch and she is always fleeting like a mirage. So what’s the override?

Well, it’s two-fold: it’s discipline and consistency.

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you either is easy to conjure up. Honestly you’ll have a much easier time summoning any demon of your choosing (oddly angels are less inclined to come when called, but I digress).

But that’s the secret sauce. I don’t care if your challenge is not getting to work on time, getting in shape, or brushing your damn teeth – discipline and consistency are the solution. You just have to choose them.

Choosing to do what’s best for myself has been a precipice I’ve tiptoed along for my entire life; it’s not been made any easier in the nearly two thirds of my life spent with mental health struggles. But the fact is and will always be that it is still a choice and still my choice to make. The only one who suffers for my choices to not do simple things that add to my overall wellness is me.

So long story short if you wonder what fucking cave I’ve been spelunking in that had me failing to share my brain-drivel with you all recently, that’s it – I’ve been lost to my own devices, trying to do a better job of holding myself accountable. I don’t have much to show for it except for generally feeling better about my life choices on a daily basis… and that’s more than enough for me.

Do you struggle with doing things you know you should do? Tell me your stories so we can ride the struggle bus together!

I quit.

By close of business of 3/28/19, I will be unemployed without any job offers. I do, however, have a million and one ideas, 13% of a plan, a strong and loving support group, and a sprinkle of motivation.  Do I feel free? Absolutely. Am I scared? Yes. Was this reckless? Perhaps.

I loved the job and have grown friendships with many of my colleagues; I was also doing more than stellar work according to my performance review, and the pay and benefits weren’t so bad. Then why, one might ask, would I sacrifice the comforts of steady pay and benefits?

Because I sacrificed sleep, time with my loved ones, my mental health, and even food; I literally starved myself. Months of sudden sickness that came and went, then a whole month of constant nausea and random vomiting, sometimes at 2 o’clock in the morning, along with numerous doctor visits, pregnancy tests and blood work that all came back negative or inconclusive, poking and prodding, weighing and analyzing – I was at the brink of insanity. Finally, my general physician and I combed through the last seven months of my life:

50- to 60-hours or more work weeks, often working through nights and weekends. Eating one meal or snack per day, only drinking coffee. Barely sleeping, if at all. Constant exhaustion.

After a long conversation with my GP, during which she pointed out that I had lost 20 lbs since August, it was clear I had unintentionally shrunk my stomach so that anything more than what I was used to, which was only an XL hot coffee, my body was rejecting.

The realization of what I had done to myself hit me pretty damn hard – I became a corporate potato, sacrificing so much of myself, only to ensure the wealth of a corporation. So, I had to make a choice, and I chose me with my one million and one ideas, my 13% of a plan, my amazing loved ones, and the little bit of motivation. I will conquer whatever it is I am meant to conquer. Perhaps I’ll start with everything I have left unfinished.

Corporate Potato

Do you work long hours in an open office that could best be described as a dystopian hellscape?

Have you forgotten what sunlight feels like?

Do the majority of foods you eat come from a wrapper, paper bag, box, or styrofoam container?

Would you consider exercise a four-letter word and the stairs your mortal enemy (unless the alternative is sharing the elevator with another person)?

Have you had a decent night’s sleep… ever?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you might be a corporate potato.

But don’t worry – you’re not alone. There is treatment available.

It’s called vodka. It’s made from our potato tears.

Stay salty, my friends.