The Summer of Ordinary Ways by Nicole Lea Helget
Earlier this year I was looking for blogs written by local working moms and happened upon one written by Nicole Helget. She's a wife, mom of 6, writing teacher and writer... and lives in an area I used to travel through quite a bit. I kept going back to her blog and had been meaning to check out one of her books for some time and am glad I finally did so. I started with her memoir since I am a sucker for them and it was her first book.
Helget tells the story of growing up on a farm in Minnesota, the oldest of 6 sisters, and the daughter of parents struggling in their own ways. I started this book innocently enough during my lunch hour and quickly became horrified, grossed-out, and saddened. There was a moment when I thought I might need to set this book aside as it was too graphic for me, but I couldn't get myself to put it down. Helget had me drawn into the drama unfolding with their cow, Big Jenny, and this was only midway through the first chapter.
Oh, poor Big Jenny. The description of what happened to Jenny was so visual, and seemed to never end that I was emotionally and physically spent. But I'm glad I plowed forward because this was a book worth reading. A book hasn't made me feel this much emotion in a long time. It wasn't always comfortable, but I think that's the truth about life. Luckily for all of us I kept reading this story so I could tell everyone
about it. Why? Because, besides being well written (more on that below), I think it has a story to tell. Like I said, it's not always comfortable, but I have to give the author kudos to be able to share the demons in her family with the rest of the world.
Helget's writing style is a good reminder that not every good story starts at point A and works neatly towards Z. Sometimes you start in one spot, get lost in other related memories, and come back to where you started. (This speaks so true to the way my brain works). There were times that I momentarily got lost in it (weren't we just talking about...?), but overall I found it refreshing and engaging. Each chapter reads like an independent story and yet all contribute to a clear picture of life on the Helget farm. This one is worth picking up and is a relatively short read at 180 pages.
Books read so far this year: 19