Books are a true joy of mine. I love the ones that make me curl up with a blanket, a big glass of water and a plate of veggies and dip for a long dive into a different world. That’s why I have been happy to review a few books through BlogHer lately.
The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halversonis the newest BlogHer Book Club book selection. It’s a fictional story about a family living in a California town called Elbow. Joe, the dad, runs the family grocery in town and the family lives in his grandparent’s home — the one they built — where they have chickens and an amazing garden. Their life is happy and joyful and seemingly perfect. Their mommy is Ella. Though she’s actually their stepmom, she loves them as fully and deeply as if they were her own kids. But in fast motion everything changes. Joe is suddenly killed by an act of nature, leaving Ella and the kids reeling. Meanwhile Ella discovers that the family business is in deep trouble just as the children’s birth mother returns and wants to reestablish herself as their mama.
Did you get all that? It’s a complicated and messy story — much like real life. And just when it seems that everything is okay, twists and turns and unexpected discoveries keep things changing.
When I first started reading this book, I couldn’t get into the first pages. They just seemed like a jumble of words on a page that didn’t come together into a story for me. So I took a long break from reading it and then returned to it. When I started again — from page 1 — I fell madly in love with the family and their struggles. I found myself as conflicted as Ella as she faced myriad challenges, disappointments and glimpses of hope.
Though my first impressions of this book were less than favorable, I think it was me — not the book. This is a story that requires you to be ready and willing to soak in the words and visualize the story. It’s a story that needs you to be a devoted and attentive reader. And it’s one that draws you to read slowly and deliberately over a few days.
Be sure to check out the discussions about The Underside of Joy on the BlogHer Book Club page.
Eat. Live. Be. Reboot
Eleven. That’s how old I was the first time I dieted. I wasn’t overweight or in need of shedding a lot of pounds — I just wanted to try it. It seemed so grown up — something that my mom and grandmother did but I couldn’t until they finally said ok. My diet, the infamous cabbage soup one, lasted about two days. That was all I needed. I loved the diet (fruits! veggies! veggie soup!) and the results too.
I can’t begin to count how many diets I have been on since then. As I got older and had something to lose, I did the low-cal thing, the low-fat thing, the low-carb thing and the drink-a-ton-of-water thing. All worked at the time, until I stopped and the weight returned. It was frustrating. And just a month ago, I got ready to do the Weight Watchers thing again but I had such a hard time starting that I just hadn’t gotten beyond a day or two.
Then I read Why Women Need Fat and everything changed. The ideas in the book struck a cord with me. No, they did more than that — they made me rethink my eating and dieting habits altogether. I’ve long wondered why it seemed so much easier for my family in the early 20th century to stay lean and trim — and looking at how diets and weights changed together totally opened my eyes. I’m ready for that huge lifestyle realignment.
So, it’s official: I’m done with dieting. I am done with counting calories or points or anything else. I am done with nonfat milk. I am done with worrying about butter and olive oil and cheese. Instead, I am going to eat and cook like my great-grandparents did. I’m going to go crazy on fruits and veggies. I’m going to keep enjoying my whole grains and bake when we want a sweet something. I’m going to butter my bread and love it without feeling a tinge of guilt.
Some things won’t change. I don’t eat a lot of red meat because of my asthma. I’ll be sticking with what works. But I will eat more Omega-3s — that means more salmon, flax and other goodies. I’m excited to see where this leads — these lean, natural eating habits. I know I won’t suddenly be thin again, but I am hoping that in the coming months, these changes will mean a leaner, lighter, more energetic me.
More from Sarah W. Caron of Sarah’s Cucina Bella
Disclosure: I am being compensated for review on The Underside of Joy by BlogHer. All opinions expressed are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.