Monday, June 06, 2022

Red Roads

I haven't had anything published yet this year, so I was thrilled when Dust Poetry recently accepted my short poem "Red Roads." It appears in the latest issue and can be read HERE.

 I suppose poetry shouldn't need additional commentary (especially commentary that's longer than the poem itself!), but I thought I'd explain the impetus for this piece.

Last summer I went to PEI with Errol. The first evening we were there, I walked from my aunt Sigga's house (where Errol was staying), back to Lincoln's apartment (where I was staying). Sigga pointed out a shortcut -- a small dirt road at the end of her street that would take me back to the main road. I think it's actually someone's private lane, though I didn't know that at the time!



As I walked along this narrow lane, seeing the trees bending overhead and the Queen Anne's lace growing along the side, I felt like I was home again. It wasn't the same as our "little road" in New Argyle but under the circumstances, it was a good substitute. 

So this was what led me to write "Red Roads."


Saturday, May 07, 2022

Five Minute Friday: BOTH

 

 


Two weeks ago today my dad died. Now both of my parents are gone.

Dad lived in a nursing home in Charlottetown for the past two and a half years.  He had advanced kidney failure, so it was just a matter of a slow decline over the last year. I saw him in July 2021 when my brother Errol and I went to PEI for a week, and at that time he was still up in his chair every day, a little confused at times but still eager to see people. In March of this year he got Covid when an outbreak occurred at the nursing home. He wasn't terribly sick with it, but it may have added to his already weakening state. My brother Alan was with him and said Dad just slipped away quietly without distress or discomfort -- just the way he would have wanted to go.

The funeral was this past Friday. We spoke about the constancy of Dad's life -- his faith, his hard work, his humour, his devotion to his family. It seemed fitting to have both laughter and tears intermingled in the same moment. Dad had had a good life. He had loved and been loved. None of us had left anything unsaid or regretted.

At the funeral I read aloud this poem called "The House by the Side of the Road" by Sam Walter Foss. I can't remember when I first read it, but it has always made me think of Dad and of his patient acceptance of both the good and bad of life. 

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by –
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears –
Both parts of an infinite plan;
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by –
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

 _____________________________________ 

 

Linking up today with the Five Minute Friday writing community, writing about the word BOTH


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Family Day update

 


 Family Day is the first holiday so far this year (after New Year's Day, of course), and I thought this might be a good time for a family update.

On January 10 Richard was out running down by the Kingston waterfront, slipped on a patch of ice that was hidden by a newly-fallen dusting of snow, and fell. His left foot/ankle was extremely swollen and sore and he couldn't walk, so he had to text me to pick him up in the car. At first he thought/hoped it was just a bad sprain, but X-rays the next day revealed he had a broken fibula: that's the thinner of the two bones in the lower leg. He was fortunate enough to get an orthopedic clinic appointment a couple of days later, and at that appointment, further X-rays showed  he'd need surgery on the leg. He had surgery on January 16 and has to avoid weight-bearing on the affected leg for six weeks (so of course no work). His next appointment is Monday, which is seven weeks after the injury and six weeks after surgery; he's hopeful that he'll be able to start putting weight on his leg soon and can gradually segue back into work and other activities.

In the meantime he's been hobbling around on crutches. For the first two weeks after surgery he couldn't go outside at all because of all the snow and ice -- and for an active, athletic person that is not easy. We bought some crutch spikes (they attach to the bottom of the crutch and flip down and up as needed), which have enabled him to get outside for walks. Rich is trying to look at this as a temporary setback and be grateful that it wasn't any worse.

Our household routine has had to change somewhat of course because of Rich's injury. He can't help a lot with Jonathan's stuff, so I've taken over that, and he can't drive because our car is a standard, so driving, groceries, etc. have become my responsibility. But we're managing OK. Neighbours and friends have helped with some snow-blowing and shoveling and have dropped off some meals, which have been very welcome.

It's Reading Week right now, so Allison has a break from her Queen's classes. They've been all online so far this term, but next week students return to (mostly) in-person learning, so she'll be heading off to campus for two of her three courses. Oddly, two of them occur back-to-back on the same day, which was fine when both were online -- but now one's on campus and the one immediately following is remaining online, so she'll have to dash home to join her Zoom class or figure out some other arrangement.

Jonathan is doing great. After all the struggles with his seizures this past summer and fall, he is now three months seizure-free. He has a new neurologist; the pediatric neurologist he'd been seeing retired, and Jonathan has outgrown pediatric services anyway -- so it was good timing to get settled with a new doctor. She seems extremely nice so we're happy to have that transition completed. Jonathan has been enjoying school and also some extra respite times on Saturdays and Sundays with his former EA, Dylan, who has helped us out a bit more since Richard's injury.

I've been working away on my online course and doing a bit of freelance copyediting as well. This is my last semester instructing the course, so every time I mark an assignment or compose a course announcement I find myself thinking, "This is the last time I'll do this." But it feels right, and I'm ready for the change and whatever it brings.

With all our free evenings we've been watching a lot of TV series, and thoroughly enjoyed The Durrells in Corfu. This 4-season series is based on a real-life family who moved from London to the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s. It's perfect winter viewing: lovely warm scenery, interesting characters, and the right mix of hilarious and touching. If you're looking for something to watch, give it a try!

 

 I've also been reading some good books, mostly memoir/nonfiction: 

Unprotected by Billy Porter

No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

The Sacred Pulse by April Fiet (I was an early reader for this lovely book and even appear in the acknowledgements!)

Events in Ottawa with the trucker convoy have occupied a lot of our attention over the past month. We're coming to see how this protest (which might have some legitimate origins like concern over people's livelihoods in the face of vaccine mandates) morphed into a full-scale occupation that terrorized neighbourhoods, forced businesses to close out of concern for safety (how ironic), and drew racist and insurrectionist elements out of the woodwork. We really need to stay focused on our priorities as a country (ensuring the well-being of citizens and helping those who are truly disadvantaged, whether because of necessary Covid rules or for some other reason) and not let right-wing agitators take any deeper root than they already have.

This Family Day holiday is a good reminder to be grateful for our smaller circles of loved ones but also to realize how much we owe the broader community of which we're a part.




Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021 - from our house to yours

 


 

Dear friends and family:

This time last year most of us thought that by now we'd be reminiscing about Covid-19 ("Wow, wasn't that an incredible time?"), not talking about it as a real and present threat. But here we are. It's affected and dictated so much of our lives these past two years. We can take comfort, I suppose, in the fact that (despite experiencing it differently depending on our circumstances) we really are all in it together.

I wanted to share a little bit about what's been going on in our lives this past year. 


Jonathan turned 19 in September. He has coped amazingly well with the changes and disruptions Covid has caused. He's actually been fortunate because when schools closed in January and April, he was able to keep attending because the province made provision for special needs students to go in-person. His School-to-Community class was the only class in the brand-new Kingston Secondary School for a lot of the time this past winter. Jonathan loved going to school and being with his crew of friends. He was also able to attend Extend-a-Family day camp for six weeks this summer, giving some normalcy to his summer break. Jonathan is a tall, busy guy who loves watching garbage truck videos on his iPad, sorting the recycling, and adjusting neighbours' shovels and brooms on their porches.

The last six months have been a time of concern for us with Jonathan's seizures. They've been fairly well contained with meds for the past few years; normally he'd have maybe 2 or 3 seizures a year. But since June he has had about 17. One involved a trip to the Emergency Department after he fell during a seizure at school and hit his head hard on the floor. He was fine, but it's meant a lot of time working with his doctor to adjust his medications and try to get the right combination. He's now been seizure-free for four weeks, so we're hopeful. In January he will transition from pediatric neurology to adult neurology; this means meeting a new doctor who will take over his care. The pediatric neurologist has been very helpful, but he really needs adult services now and we've been waiting quite a while for this transfer to take place.

Allison is 23 now and well into her Queen's degree work in Linguistics. She has really found her niche with this area of study. Last winter she took three online linguistics courses; this fall she took two online language courses and an on-campus course. Queen's is going online for at least the first half of the Winter 2022 term because of Covid, so she'll be back to all-online again. Allison has adjusted well to all the disruptions and has worked diligently on her courses. In her free time she's enjoyed outings with her social club, reading, playing games, and going for walks.

 

Richard continues to work as a nurse at Kingston General Hospital, although for two months this spring he was redeployed to Hotel Dieu Hospital while KGH was making changes to accommodate Covid patients from out-of-area. He enjoyed this temporary change but is now back to his regular position in Orthopedics. Most of Rich's sports and volunteer opportunities have been put on hold due to Covid, but this fall he enjoyed running and volunteering on Saturday mornings with Parkrun, an organization that holds non-competitive 5k runs on Saturdays all over the world. He's also made a point of getting together regularly with a fellow from church for a little informal baseball. (Jonathan enjoys these outings as well, especially picking up all the balls that have been hit into the outfield.)

 

I (Jeannie) have continued working as an online instructor at Queen's, although I'll be phasing that out next spring; I'm feeling it's time to dial back my university work and do something different. I recently started working as a copyeditor for a local news organization and while that's been sporadic so far, I really enjoy it.

I was glad to be able to go to PEI this summer and see Dad. I had not seen him since August 2019 (at which time he was in the hospital and hadn't even moved yet to the nursing home where he lives now). Though we didn't go to the Island as a family, my brother Errol and I went down in July for a week; I was grateful for this opportunity to see Dad and my brother Lincoln and other relatives. Dad is not well, but he is holding his own, always calm and stoic and accepting of what life brings.

Other big news for me was that I had a second eye surgery earlier this month to improve my double vision. I'd had one surgery (on my inner eye muscles) in Sept. 2019, and there was some improvement but it didn't last. This time the surgeon tightened my outer eye muscles (I know: ewww, right?). It's only been a couple of weeks but it seems to have made a really significant improvement so far. So I'm grateful to have been able to get that done.

I had three publications this year:  

  • My short story "End of October" was published at Reckon Review
  • My poem "Mary" was published at Voidspace (it's based on Mary's Magnificat and was a response to the journal's challenge to write a poem using only the letters in "Merry Christmas")
  • My poem "Gazing upward at night, with Chesterton" was posted on the local library's Poetry Blackboard as part of our Poet Laureate's "Joy Journal" series. 

It has not been the most creatively productive time for me during Covid, but I have done some good reading (see my end-of-year book post HERE) and have watched some excellent TV series including Poldark, Victoria, Sanditon, Cranford, Wives & Daughters, Schitts' Creek, and Belgravia. I've found it so relaxing just to just sit down in the evening, enter into the lives of fictional characters, and forget about Covid for an hour. 

 As it stands now, Kingston is not doing great with Covid. After having an amazingly low case count for a year and a half, our city's seen a big rise in numbers in the last few weeks as a result of the Omicron variant. Richard and I have already had our booster shots; the kids will get theirs on Boxing Day. We just continue trying to live as wisely and safely as possible, staying home when we can, and following the protocols. But I can't deny that there's kind of an ominous pall over everything right now that makes it hard to get into "the Christmas spirit."

Still, I was thinking about these lines from How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

He couldn't stop Christmas from coming: it came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same.

Despite the uncertainty and tragedy in our world right now -- and really, when has there ever been a time in history that there was no uncertainty and tragedy? --  Christmas comes. Christmas comes because Jesus comes. As the carol says, "He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found." 

No matter what your religious celebrations and observances may be -- or if you have none at all -- may we experience peace, friendship, and hope this season and in 2022, and may we do all in our power to ensure that others experience them too. 

Thank you for being a part of our lives.

Jeannie, Richard, Allison, and Jonathan

My year of reading - 2021 edition

 

  

It's time for my end-of-year list of all the books I've read in the past year, with mini-reviews. I'm not going to star them this time; sometimes I have a hard time deciding between a 4 and a 5, and I'm pretty sure you'll be able to tell from my descriptions what I thought of the book. 

Note that I've broken up the nonfiction section thematically since so many of the books I read were clustered by theme.


NONFICTION 

RACE AND JUSTICE:

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.
I think this was the first book I read in 2021, and I honestly have not stopped thinking about it. Wilkerson talks about how the concept of caste puts people in a hierarchy so that every aspect of their lives is judged to legitimize where they've been placed. She describes caste with this memorable image: "As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance." Wilkerson applies the concept of caste to three major groups -- Black people in America, the Untouchables in India, and Jews in Nazi Germany -- to explain how it functions. An incredible, thought-provoking, beautifully written book.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi.
This has been one of the "everyone's talking about it" books for the past two years, and it is so interesting. It's part memoir, part theory: Kendi describes experiences and stages in his own life to illustrate his changing views of racism and the development of his antiracist model. For Kendi, racism is a system composed of racist inequities, racist policies (which create and entrench the inequities), and racist ideas (which justify the inequities). I learned a lot from this book and am eager to read his previous one, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice by Jemar Tisby.
Tisby is a history professor and author of The Color of Compromise (which I read last year and which details the tendency of the American Christian church to compromise with racism at so many points in its history). In this second book he gives practical suggestions for readers to combat racism in their own spheres, using a model called ARC: Awareness, Relationships, and Commitment.

You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin. 
In this book, Ruffin (who writes and presents on Seth Meyers' late-night show) talks about the experiences her sister Lacey Lamar has had living as a Black woman in Nebraska: weird comments, microaggressions, bizarre assumptions about Black people, etc. It's not exactly a well-written book -- it's really more like a standup routine and might have benefited from a few more rounds with an editor's pencil -- but it's funny and shocking. It definitely lives up to its title: many of the things that happen to Lacey are likely unbelievable to a white person but all too familiar to Black Americans.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stephenson.
This memoir (which was also made into a movie, though I haven't seen it) is about Stephenson's work as a lawyer in the South seeking justice for (primarily Black) clients who have been wrongly accused or convicted, who are sentenced to life imprisonment as children, or who are languishing in the system without proper representation. The book lays bare the injustice and inequity in the American legal system, but Stephenson's compassionate efforts and the supportive communities that rallied behind many of his clients are inspiring. Excellent book.

Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States by Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead. 
This book by two sociologists focuses on Christian nationalism: the belief that the US is a Christian nation and that the entire social order must be structured around that reality. It goes into a lot of detail about how Americans' opinions on issues like immigration and refugees, gun control, etc. are shaped by a Christian nationalist mindset.

GENDER AND FAITH:

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.
Wow. This one was a lot to take in. Du Mez is a historian, and she presents in convincing detail a history of the role "militant masculinity" has played in white American evangelical Christianity. Adopting masculine heroes that are more cultural than Biblical, evangelicals have fashioned a view of masculinity based on violence, authoritarianism, conservative values, and resistance to women's and LGBTQIA rights. A very eye-opening book.

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr.
Another really good historical analysis. Here Barr discusses how
in every stage of Christian history (early church, middle ages, Reformation, Bible translation, etc.), women's voices have been edged out or the focus shifted to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking as women's proper (only) sphere.  Yet parallel to that she also reveals an amazing, influential history of Christian women leading, teaching, and preaching in the face of constant efforts (by church, broader culture, or both) to thwart them. Really a worthwhile read.

Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke.
This is a very interesting, accessible and much-needed book. Hartke, a trans man, addresses many Scripture passages and real-life stories in order to help readers understand transgender issues in relation to faith and inclusive Christian community.

  CHRISTIAN LIFE:

Love Matters More: How Fighting To Be Right Keeps Us From Loving Like Jesus by Jared Byas.
This is a book about love and truth. Byas talks about how our well-intended efforts to "speak the truth in love" often fail because we forget that we don't have the absolute truth, or we mix shame and judgment in with the truth and end up failing to love. He reminds us that wisdom is a higher form of truth than certainty and that humility is essential to all of our efforts to convey truth. I really enjoyed this one.

Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans (with Jeff Chu).
When Evans died in 2019 at the age of 38, she was in the middle of writing this book. Her husband asked close friend Jeff Chu to finish it; the result is this warm, encouraging book of essays. Evans reflects on women in Scripture and in her own life who said yes to God; she shares her own doubts and encourages readers to embrace questioning rather than certainty; she talks about letting ourselves be vulnerable; she (very poignantly, now) meditates on death and resurrection; and she constantly reminds us of the compelling beauty of the story of Jesus. There's such a sense of settled peace in this book; it's a real gift. But it's also so sad to think that this is the last book of hers we'll read.

 AUTISM AND DISABILITY:

On the Spectrum: Autism, Faith & the Gifts of Neurodiversity by Daniel Bowman, Jr.
In this memoir-in-essays, Bowman first talks about receiving an autism diagnosis in 2015 after experiencing serious depressive episodes and meltdowns that drove him and his wife to separate. This diagnosis explained his lifelong sense of not fitting in and gave him a new narrative for his life. Then in short, evocative essays, he discusses many different issues and themes, all through the lens of being an autistic person: reading and writing poetry, teaching, volunteering at an arts community, choosing NOT to volunteer for church service, riding his motorcycle, being a husband and parent, crying, autistic representation, and more. Of great interest, as well, are three interviews Bowman has done with people who reached out to know more about his life and about autism. There is so much packed into this book: it's one man's life, but it's also a meditation on art, community, faith, and neurodiversity. Beautiful and moving.

We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Garcia.
In this book, autistic journalist Garcia gives an overview of the current landscape of autism in America. There's a chapter on education and academic accommodations, one on housing, one on love and relationships, one on work and employment, etc. In each chapter he explains some details of his own life as an autistic person navigating this particular area, introduces us to the experiences and insights of other autistics, and explores some of the historical background and policies that affect how autistic people function in and contribute to society. The structure is really interesting, and Garcia conveys a lot of information while also debunking myths and stereotypes about autism.

Blind Man's Bluff by James Tate Hill.
Very engrossing memoir about Hill's loss of vision (due to a hereditary eye disease) at age 16 and how he essentially tried to hide his blindness from the world for 15 years, with results that are both funny and sad. Really liked this.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.
This unique, delightful book covers a year in the life of 15-year-old McAnulty, an autistic Irish teenager. In his diary entries he describes his passion for and knowledge about the natural world, his conservationist efforts, and his everyday life with his family and at school. He is an incredible writer whose joy in nature is infectious. "
The night crackles as the storm of flitting [moths] moves off. We jump up and down and hug each other, tension leaking out. We chat and look at the sky, sparkling with Orion, Seven Sisters and the Plough. This is us, standing here. All the best part of us, and another moment etched in our memories, to be invited back and relived in conversations for years to come. Remember that night, when fluttering stars calmed a storm in all of us."

 MEMOIR, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, ESSAYS:

We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing by Jillian Horton.
This is an excellent memoir that centers on a retreat Horton attended for burned-out doctors. She was skeptical at first about what a weekend retreat could do to alleviate her sense of exhaustion and despair. But as she and the other doctors opened up to one another they were able to help each other let go of guilt, practice compassion for themselves and others, and acknowledge that the medical profession itself is set up in a way that fosters stress and burnout. Very moving book; I loved it.

Big Reader: Essays by Susan Olding.
In this beautiful book of essays, Olding shows how beloved books can help us make sense of life experiences and memories. She writes of her mother's vision loss (and accompanying inability to read), the breakup of her marriage, her attempts to connect with the daughter of her new husband, and more -- revealing how the books and stories we read can also, in a sense, end up reading our lives. Olding is such a wonderful writer.

The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek.
This book by the late Jeopardy host is not really a sustained autobiography so much as a series of snapshots of different stages of his life, from childhood right through to his work on Jeopardy. It answers many questions fans might have about his life and work and is quite entertaining and upbeat.


POETRY

I read a few very good collections of poetry this year: 

Ways We Vanish by Todd Dillard 

The Last Bridge is Home by Rodd Whelpley 

And Drought Will Follow by Lee Potts

Late Summer Flowers by Julian Day

The Tradition by Jericho Brown 

Good Bones and Goldenrod by Maggie Smith

I tend to discover a lot of individual poems on Twitter, but I really need to read more collections.


FICTION


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
In this fantasy novel, a young woman named Nora, brought to despair by personal failures and regrets, is considering ending her own life. Then she finds herself in the Midnight Library, which is full of books telling the stories of other lives she might have lived if she had made different choices. Nora is given the opportunity to try some of these lives and see if she can find one that would make her happier than her real life has. This novel is kind of a cross between It's a Wonderful Life and Choose Your Own Adventure. I loved it.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
This book (also an excellent movie) is about Starr, a Black teenager feeling pulled between the relatively poor neighbourhood where her family lives and the mostly-white prep school she attends. When her childhood friend is killed by police in a traffic stop as she looks on, Starr's life becomes even more complicated; she has to testify before a grand jury and decide how to use her voice to contribute to change. I think this book (and movie) should be required reading/viewing for anyone wanting to understand the complexities of the Black experience in America.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham.
This is the first in Graham's 12-novel Poldark series about a man who returns to Cornwall, England after fighting in the Revolutionary War, only to find his father dead, his estate in shambles, and his childhood sweetheart engaged to his cousin. I read it because I watched the entire Poldark TV series this year and absolutely loved it. The book was good, and I enjoyed it, but I haven't yet made a point of reading any of the other novels in the series. If you haven't watched Poldark, you should -- it's so good.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.
This is a beautiful novel, similar in tone and style to Berry's Hannah Coulter, which I read a couple of years ago. Like that book, Jayber Crow reads more like a memoir than a novel. After losing his parents and then the surrogate parents who raised him, Jayber leaves home for the big city but then returns to become the barber in his small hometown of Port William (a fictional Kentucky town). He reflects on his work there, his interactions with the townspeople, and especially his love for a young woman who marries an undeserving man. This novel is poignant and lovely.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson.
This is the fourth novel in Robinson's Gilead sequence, after Gilead (Rev. John Ames' letter to his young son), Home (about Ames' friend Rev. Robert Boughton, his daughter Glory, and his ne'er-do-well son Jack), and Lila (about Ames' wife). Jack is essentially about Jack Boughton's relationship with his Black lover, Della. Frankly, I found this book really, really tiresome. It begins with 75 pages of dialogue between Jack and Della. I pushed through because Robinson is a gifted writer and I hoped for an ultimate payoff -- but Jack's arch, pathetic tone, his self-recriminations and self-justifications, were just too much. There were moments where I sympathized with his pitiful attempts to become a respectable man, and I'm certain there's some deep spiritual message in this prodigal son narrative -- but overall the reading experience for me was tedious. 

 

Well! Sorry to end on a bit of a downer note with that last one. But overall this was another good year of reading for me. I hope my list gives you some good ideas for your own reading in 2022. I'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comments: whether you've read any of these books, agreed or disagreed with my assessment of them, have other books to recommend, or whatever.