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The Mindful Reader: Another existential journey close to home

Last modified: 2/13/2013 3:54:26 PM
In Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, New Hampshire author Katrina Kenison seeks the same answers for her generation that Daniel Klein did for his in Travels With Epicurus, which I reviewed last month. Klein examined living a fulfilling old age by reading philosophy in Greece. Kenison considers how best to live a “second adulthood” after children are grown at the bedside of a dying friend, on a yoga mat, at a college reunion, in Reiki training, on hikes and walks, and in ordinary days with her husband of 25 years.

Like Klein, Kenison realizes that accepting imperfection and being aware of the gifts of the present moment in all its messiness (and possibly pain) are the way forward. Facing loss, questioning her path, she writes, “Making sense of my life has meant, in part, releasing my desire for permanence.”

As in her earlier books, Mitten Strings for God and The Gift of an Ordinary Day, Kenison writes beautifully and humbly about the discomfort change brings and the growth she experiences.

Magical Journey is even more open-hearted than her previous soul-baring memoirs. Which makes sense, given the revelations she shares: “A year ago, I yearned to undertake an exploration that might lead to some new sense of purpose for the second half of my life. . . . Now I see that the journey was never meant to lead to some new and improved version of me; that it has always been about coming home to who I already am. . . . Learning how to be at ease in the shadows of uncertainty and trusting the path to reveal itself.”

Her other books are about lessons gleaned from everyday experience. This one relates a personal quest; a quest readers join as she comforts friends, mothers grown sons, faces physical and emotional changes in herself and the tender evolution of long marriage, as she struggles to understand that her purpose might not be flashy or grand but could be as simple as being present, loving and being loved. With clarity, honesty, and spirit, Kenison allows readers into the intimate work of self-discovery and renewal.

Two novels

Author Megan Caldwell grew up in Lyme Center. She’s written Regency period romance novels and is the community manager for the “Heroes and Heartbreakers” website. Her new book Vanity Fare: a Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love is contemporary fiction. Molly Hagan is a newly single Brooklyn mom whose own mother moves in after losing everything day trading. Her ex is with a “younger, blonder woman” and claims he’s broke, even though Molly suspects he hid money before leaving her. She also has an energetic 6-year-old son, fiercely loyal friends and a freelance job writing copy for a book-themed bakery, Vanity Fare, near the New York Public Library. The bakery’s British celebrity chef pursues Molly, but she’s intrigued by his stern business partner.

If you like chick or hen lit (for younger and older women, respectively), this is somewhere in between, a novel about a mom learning to rely on the one person who will never let her down: herself.

The book includes recipes by Emily Isaac of Trois Pommes Patisserie in Brooklyn for Tart of Darkness, Lord of the Tea Rings, and several other goodies from the fictional bakery.

Benjamin Nugent is the director of creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University. His debut novel, Good Kids, opens in 1994 when two high school students, Josh and Khadijah, in a self-consciously funky Massachusetts college town find his dad and her mom enjoying an illicit kiss at the local health food store.

Josh and Khadijah’s friendship is brief but intense, then their families split and their lives diverge. A decade later, she’s an art historian in Boston creating miniatures of people’s houses for them to destroy and he’s the bassist of a defunct L.A. band, writing music and hoping to design home studios for other musicians.

Readers learn, from Josh’s point of view, what’s happened in between and how his adolescent observations of betrayal, loyalty, passion and responsibility continue to affect his life. Good Kids is an amusing, hipster-esque look at pop culture, family, love, commitment, and the way particular moments have the potential to shape our view of ourselves and our world.

Also noted

Dartmouth professor and author of Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan brings his skill at demystifying academic topics to a new book, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data. From how to identify “deceptive statistics” to understanding probability and applying statistical information to life decisions, this book aims to help readers understand statistics with “wit, accessibility, and sheer fun.”


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