Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Heroines and Walking the Gobi

The Heroines by Eileen Favorite is the story of Penny Entwhistle and her mother, Ann Marie, who run a unique bed and breakfast that serves as a refuge for heroines from classic literature who need some tea and sympathy before they disappear back into their storylines.
Penny is a teenager in the 1970s (as was I) and as she tries to find her way through the labyrinth of hormones and emotions, she encounters jealousy of her mothers time spent with one particular heroine, Deidre, whose paramour, the King of Ulster, kidnaps Penny in the woods and stirs her passions as well as roughing her up a bit. When Penny breaks her mothers rules and tells police who it is who kidnapped her, her mother signs her into a loony bin, just to "keep her safe" while she deals with this problematic heroine and Conor the king.
Penny's time in the mental ward reads a lot like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for the Girl Interrupted crowd, but when Conor breaks Penny out of the ward, everything comes right again and Penny and her mother deal with some long-overdue family issues right before the HEA.
I enjoyed this book, and felt very akin to Penny, as my mother probably would have done the same thing to me, had I been in Penny's dire straights. Still, it annoyed me that Ann Marie was so blind to her daughters changing needs and desires, and so easily influenced by greedy doctors that she'd allow her daughter to be locked up and mistreated. I found the encounters with the heroines, such as Scarlett OHara, Emma Bovary and Zoey to be fascinating reading, fun and interesting in allowing us a peek behind the curtains of their particular dramas.
I would recommend this book to any teenager who has wondered about the life of heroines in literature, what they'd be like if one ever encountered them in person, and whether or not they're really as much of a heroine as portrayed by their authors.

Walking the Gobi, by Helen Thayer, is a non fiction book I read for my book group, and I gather we can meet the author at the Covington Library next month.
I found this story, of 63 year old Helen and her 75 year old husband, traversing the Gobi desert in Mongolia to be surprisingly riveting reading. Thayer and her husband have also hiked mountains, crossed Death Valley and traversed the 4,000 mile Sahara desert in Africa prior to this trip, so they were well aware of the hazards of extreme weather and waterless climate.
Yet though both were in a car accident just prior to the trip, Helen insists on walking the Gobi with a bum leg because she doesn't want to disappoint her husband. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the Mongolian people, their culture and food, their kindness and ever present hospitality to strangers. The Thayers are assisted by desert nomads and eventually assist one nomadic family in need, and it is hard for the reader to not get misty-eyed over the joy that is had by both parties.
I enjoyed Thayer's tight, poetic prose and her reporter-like determination to record the facts and happenstance of their trip. Though they are seniors, Helen and her husband are heroes and tough as they come, a real inspiration to those who aspire to challenge themselves physically and mentally against the elements of nature.

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