No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey

As you know, I’m sometimes sent books to review and while I don’t mind doing this (in fact, I rather love it) I always tell the sender that I’m going to be honest in my review. If you’re willing to accept that, send away.

This, of course, doesn’t mean I’m brutal. I’ve learned that I can still be positive while being truthful (much like the person who says that an ugly baby’s eyes are stunning) and after all, we are all writers, yes? Everyone needs a little encouragement.

Which is kind of what I thought I was going to have to do for a book I was sent at the beginning of the summer “No One Could have Guessed the Weather” by Anne-Marie Casey. “It’s a good book club read, a good summer read,” I was told. The book is about women. Living in New York. “A Sex-in-the-City knock off,” I thought. Yawn.

no oneSummer reads are fine but I felt like I had had my fill of them and so this book, this uncorrected proof for limited distribution sat in my pile of books to be read.

But guilt is a powerful motivator and so this past week I picked up the book and started in on page 1.

I’m a big girl, I can admit when I’ve made a mistake and boy did I make a big one on this book.

No One Could Have Guessed the Weather is simply one of the most intelligent and masterfully written books I have ever read. Casey is a God with character development. Seriously, there are places in this book where I wept because I knew that I will never have the kind of skill needed to write like that. The humor is biting, it’s brutally honest – not for everyone but this is the type of story that I can really sink my teeth into. As this is a writer’s blog, allow me to give you a few examples. (and yes, as I was reading, I actually took note of the passages that stuck out and then realized that pretty much every page was on my list.)

In this passage, Lucy, who has gone back to England for her mother’s funeral meets up with Miranda, an old stuck-up college mate that she hasn’t seen in ages, at a party:

From Miranda’s rapid appraisal of the company , Lucy knew Miranda was one of the number who had attended only because Rose had promised to deliver you know who and had worked out that she must stay for at least half an hour before leaving in order to not be deemed unspeakably rude. Lucy took in a deep breath to gather herself before attempting conversation, but fortunately her participation was not necessary. Lucy was left exhausted by the roller coaster that was Miranda’s late thirties. She learned how difficult it was to get anything intelligent made on TV these days, how the Savior had proved an immense disappointment (dropping out of Westminster to go to a Sixth Form College to do woodworking), and as a result Miranda had been gripped by an overwhelming urge to have another, more Miranda-ish child and, miraculously, after Simon reversed his vasectomy she did, another boy damnit, but here’s hoping… She longed to take life a bit easier, but Simon had got so used to being at home he felt he couldn’t possibly go back into the workplace,  and they lost so much money after his dodgy investments on the stock exchange, which  she had allowed only to make him feel that he was “contributing.” That she’d had to take a job writing for a tabloid newspaper. Honestly she could have divorced him a couple of years ago, but then you realize, don’t you, that there’s only one George Clooney, and while perhaps one could have anyone one wanted in one’s prime (Lucy realized that she must nod in agreement to this), we’re all rather stuck now unless we want to end up like Camilla, bitter and twisted, or like Rose and her ilk in there, the valley of the surrendered wives. What a bloody waste of taxpayers’ money it was educating that lot!

See what I mean? From that paragraph, we absolutely know what kind of person Miranda is (and how depressed Lucy is that she knew to nod at the right place whether she agreed or not.) We know that Miranda is shallow, conceited, is worried about appearances, and is, in short, a horrible person. It’s a running dialog that flies in the face of the writer’s advice to “show don’t tell” with stunning results.

This book is also filled with witty, stunning and seamless dialogue. Making dialogue “pop” (and not sound forced) in your writing is such an incredible talent, here’s a bit of Casey’s:

“Lucy Lovett is sarcastic.”

“She’s English. Have you ever watched The Office on BBC America?”

“I heard her say to Robyn Skinner that if parents can’t spell, how can they expect their children to?”

“Who’s Robyn Skinner?”

Robyn Skinner’s that woman who’s always later for pickup so someone always has to wait with her kids, and then she’s always cross. Like it’s any of our faults she’s so disorganized. Honestly, it happened last week and she look at me really strangely. Like she hated me.”

“Lots of women hate you. Don’t you ever look in the mirror?”

“No,” (This was true. Christy avoided looking at herself as she had acute body dysmorphia, a legacy of her modeling days, and often referred to her “wobbly bits,” oblivious to the stab of loathing this induced in every other woman around her.)

“I’m telling you she hates us all.”

“Ridiculous. Anyway, back to Mrs. Lovett and her crusade against the incorrect use of the apostrophe, which, by the way, I agree with.”

“People see her graffiting on the PTA notices.”

“Give her a chance. Maybe in the end, you’ll love Lucy?”

I was blown away by this book. At times I was so immersed, I could feel the emotions, the depression, the want, the complete weight of it all. On the back cover it says that the book is laugh-out-loud funny, believe it. There is so much sharp wit here that I dare you, I absolutely dare you not to laugh while reading it.

There were also times while reading, that like someone who’s had an out of body experience, I was able to look down from above, in awe of the superb craft on the pages. That’s the curse of reviewers, we notice the story, as well as the words. In this case, however, it proved not to be a liability.

 

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Fifty Weeks of Green by Linda Watson – Review

I love me a good parody. So when I found out about Linda Watson’s Fifty Weeks of Green (a turn of phrase from the 50 Shades of Grey) I simply had to check it out (look, the tie on the cover is actually a farmer’s suspenders! – brilliant)

greenLinda Watson writes about food. She’s the founder of Cook for Good (my go-to website for great farmer market and seasonal recipes) and if you don’t have her book: Wildly Affordable Organic – Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet All on  $5 a Day or Less, then you are doing yourself a great disservice. I purchased the book to help me with this review and already I’ve incorporated some of her money and time saving tips into our family’s menus and food buying habits.

So really, why am I talking about a food writer on this blog? It’s because Linda has a mission. Her goal is to teach.

Notice that I didn’t say preach, I said teach. Big difference.

Fifty Weeks of Green is the story of a woman – Sophia, a farmer – Roger, and a CSA. It’s clever, cute, and incredibly informative. In her writing, Linda clearly has fun, she includes passages like this delicious one:

I gasp as I meet his eyes. He’s no kid, just built like one. His short black hair streaked silver at the temples. Smile lines show he’s fifty-something but had a good time getting there. His deep green eyes hold mine a little longer than is comfortable, but maybe he’s just worried that I’ll sue him.

Somehow Linda takes you under her wing and with statements from her characters like: “Cooking is life, Sugar. Like eating and love , she gets you, the reader to learn all about CSAs and organic vegetables without realizing it. She subtly and entertainingly moves her main character- Sophia (who has lived on frozen blocks of food for years) into the world of fresh vegetables and cooking.

In the first meeting, the farmer mentions that Sophia, who is new to a CSA, should start off with a salad fixed with Honey mustard dressing. Included is that recipe along with a discussion of why it shouldn’t be kept in a “reactive” container (the vinegar will leach out the metal.)  And this is how the book continues, you read a great story (it really is well written unlike a certain, ahem, other 50 … book) and you learn.

You learn to cook by the recipes, and you learn by the action of the story.

Linda makes sure to include interesting bits like: Sophia has a Talking Heads coffee mug that makes her ask David Byrne’s big question again “How did I get here?” and there are all kinds of current references to things like Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.

Oh and did I tell you she teaches in this book?

There are books that are read for sheer pleasure and there are books that are read for information.

How delightful it is when you find a book that skillfully combines the two. In short, I absolutely ate this book up.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.