My Joshua Tree residency is officially over today, which means I’m headed back home. I had plans to go to the park last week because the weather was supposed to break, but I had a family issue to deal with so plans got disrupted because I had to take a week off to travel to the East Coast. I also didn’t get a chance to make it to the Integratron sound bath, which I was really looking forward to. The thing I’m most upset about missing is the reading I had scheduled as part of an open studio.
A friend of mine suggested I maybe do something on Zoom instead, and I told her I’d think about it. Needless to say, things have been a little off-kilter since I wasn’t planning to be away for a week, and it honestly took me until about Thursday (Oct. 5) to recalibrate even though I got back to Joshua Tree on Monday (Oct. 2). I mean, I planned to finish posting my Instagram series touring my facility before I left and that’s just not going to happen.
However, I am not one to focus solely on the things I didn’t get to do. Going back to the East Coast meant I got to catch up with a lot of people I haven’t seen for years. When I got back to California, I managed to make it to a SAG-AFTRA picket since I had to fly into Los Angeles. Once back in Joshua Tree, I went to see the Giant Rock (favorite Google review: “It is indeed a giant rock”) and the Crochet Museum; I bought a crap ton of souvenirs; I did some night sky gazing; and I wrote a whole, whole lot.
So even though I lost a week, I still had six solid weeks away from all of my responsibilities to just focus on my writing, and it was glorious. The project I proposed for the residency was a short story collection based on genealogical research, and I made a lot of progress on the research portion of that and the idea for the collection is taking shape, though I still have a ton more to do. Surprisingly, I spent most of my time here working on a novel idea I’ve had kicking around in my head for eons. I would say I’m about 85% done with the first draft of that, which feels like a miracle to me.
When I first got here, the directors of the residency told me “The muse is here,” and I could not agree more. I have gotten so much writing done here, and I’m excited to continue the work when I leave. I don’t think I can adequately express how grateful I am for my time here.
Oh, and if you’ve ever thought about doing a residency, applications are open for the next cycle, so APPLY.
I took an inadvertent break from rereading books because (a) I needed to read the last (*sob*) Melina Marchetta book about Francesca and her friends (SO FAR–I am hoping at least two more will come) and (b) my hold for the latest Meg Cabot came in and your girl definitely needed the levity. Onto the books!The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“I know this sounds cruel…but grieving people are selfish. They won’t let you comfort them and they say you don’t understand and they make you feel useless when all your life you’ve been functional to them.”
As soon as I finished Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, I immediately added its sequel/companion The Piper’s Son to my Nook. The Piper’s Son picks up five years after Saving Francesca and follows one of Frankie’s male friends, Tom Mackee.
The only thing I can say that’s not entirely positive is that I didn’t love it as much as Saving Francesca, but I still liked it a whole bunch. So! Here are some of the things I dug:
– Well, it’s Melina Marchetta, so nothing is easy for the characters, and she’s dealing once again with grief. This time, though, the impact spreads beyond the immediate family, and we learn what effect the death of an uncle has in a supremely close-knit extended family.
– The narrative alternates between Tom and his aunt, something I wasn’t expecting. At first I found it a little weird, but then, well, see first point.
– I loved that the story is about three couples estranged in different ways. I also love that all three of the couples are high school sweethearts.
– The relationships are so complicated and complex. That said, I understood how and why all of the characters relate to each other the way they do.
– I loved that we learned more about the dynamic between Frankie and Tom’s friendship group and what they were like in high school and beyond.
– I think I said this in the Saving Francesca review, but Marchetta can paint a whole picture with a sentence. There’s this one line about Tom that told me everything he had been doing for months without Marchetta having to spell it out and explain. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going into detail, but I just loved it so much.
– Again, a story about a family that loves fiercely, even if it isn’t perfectly.
– Sam and Georgie’s relationship. Man.
– Oh gosh, and that one exchange between Georgie and Pop Bill. Just wow.
– Okay, and my absolute favorite thing about this novel is the way friendship and love works. It’s not saying the right thing. It’s not doing the right thing. For the most part, it’s just BEING THERE. I mean, yes, the characters call each other on their crap and they all have breaking points, but at the end of the day, everyone is given the space to figure out what they need and their friends/family are just there. And that’s enough.
– And the best, best thing: the book is truly a standalone novel. You don’t have to have read Saving Francesca to understand or get it. Of course, you would want to. But you don’t have to.
3.5 stars, rounding up since it was just a little harder to keep my interest with this one over Saving Francesca.
REREAD SEPT. 26, 2023
Maybe she’d always been there. Maybe strangers enter your heart first and then you spent the rest of your life searching for them.
I feel about the same about this on reread as I did the first time, though I would give it a solid four stars.
It’s just such a great look at grief.
The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“My father believed in signs,” she says. “Not that they change events or predict what’s going to happen. It’s more about what we do when we come across one.”
Listen, I am here for complicated family dynamics. I am here for young parents. I am here for signs. I am here for family members who just want you to get medical care. I am also here for adult women bonding over the absolute universal aggravation the under 25 crowd can bring. And I am 100% here for every single seemingly small detail having a huge payoff at the end.
I signed up for Kindle Unlimited just to read this book because I needed to find out what was going on with Jimmy Hailer and the rest of Francesca’s friend group. I also NEED to know what’s going on with Siobhan and Justine so someone who knows Melina Marchetta, please tell her the people are desperate. (It’s me. I’m the people.)
Enchanted to Meet You by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Meg Cabot is a genius, and the conceit of this book is effing brilliant.
“You did use your powers,” Derrick said. “Your powers of compassion and empathy.”
First of all, she COMPLETELY complicates and subverts the Chosen One narrative because it’s not the fate of the world, but the fate of the town main character Jessica lives in that’s in jeopardy. Because, seriously, the town someone lives in IS their world. Second, it’s not necessarily the Chosen One’s job to save the town but rather for the Chosen One (an adult woman) to mentor the Bringer of Light (a teenaged girl) so that they can save the town by WORKING TOGETHER. Finally, do you know what the best magic of all is? Restorative justice. Seriously, Meg Cabot is the actual best.
That said, I liked main character Jessica, loved bringer of light Esther, but I wasn’t completely invested in the romance. Mostly, I think it’s a pacing issue. I was never sure how much time had passed and at one point, it seemed as though Derrick had only been in town one night, but it actually was more than that. That happened a few times so I had no idea where in time some of the action happened. Also, Derrick was fine but not particularly memorable except that Jessica felt warm when he touched her. Sure, okay. I mean, his backstory was great but his interactions in the present (except with the World Council of Witches) didn’t really do much for me.
I mean, I was engaged the whole way through and always looked forward to picking up the book, but that’s why it’s a four-star instead of five-star read for me.
P.S. Meg Cabot’s teen subplots in her recent adult novels always have me itching for the teens to get their own books. This one is no different.
View all my reviews
Have a great week, everyone!