All the Single Ladies, by Rebecca Traister

all the single ladies rebecca traisterAll the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
by Rebecca Traister
Pub Date: March 1, 2016

Being a single lady, I have a thing for reading books about the history of single ladies, and think pieces about the state of the single lady. So I was kind of all over this book, which is a combination of the two — demonstrating precedent for how unmarried women have brought about social change in the past, and the state of unmarried women in contemporary life. The author interviewed dozens of unmarried women from a variety of backgrounds for the book, and provides ample statistics on marriage ages and divorce rates and the participation of single women in civic life — there’s a lot to digest. I found myself highlighting A LOT of passages in my Kindle with audible, “Oh yeah! That’s me!” commentary.

Reading this, I figured there’s two very good reason women in the church should read this — one, unmarried women like myself can get some assurance that they aren’t the total social outcasts we’re sometimes made to be in the church (I’m being a little hyperbolic, but at the end of the day, most of us single ladies in family wards do feel pushed to the side to a degree); and two, married women in the church can get a better understanding of the mindset and life of unmarried women in general. And perhaps not be as quick to judge. (Again, painting broad strokes here, but I’m reflecting from experience.) The book is a reflection of how our contemporary world views marriage, motherhood, family, and dating. You may have a good idea of what those ideas are, but this book might help clarify, or give you a better understanding overall of what unmarried women face every day. Continue reading

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The Oregon Trail, by Rinker Buck

The Oregon Trail Rinker BuckThe Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
by Rinker Buck
Pub Date: June 30, 2015

I never had the opportunity to go on Trek while I was in Young Women. I’ll no doubt get the chance later in life if I get a calling in YW or have kids who go on Trek, but right now my outdoorsy adventures have been Girls Camp and exploring historic sites with Civil War reenactors. I did play a heck of a lot of Oregon Trail back in grade school, so my primary association with the Oregon Trail is “caulk the wagon!” and “David has died of dysentery.”

So I was delighted to hear about this book being published! The author, Rinker Buck (what a fabulous name!), is a curmudgeonly unemployed journalist leaving middle age who decides he’s going to take a covered wagon and a team of mules and retrace the pioneer’s trek along the famed Oregon Trail. Because why not?! This is a total nerdfest for history buffs! His younger brother Nick (the epitome of a kind of redneck renaissance man) joins him on the journey, along with Nick’s smelly but lovable dog Olive Oyl, and Buck not only recounts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the trek West, but also gives robust histories of various aspects of pioneer life and the Oregon Trail, like the breeding and raising of mules, how the pioneers packed their wagons, the variety of covered wagons, and recounts a number of biographies of colorful pioneer characters.

Speaking of colorful, I should warn you that the language in the book is a little blue. Buck’s brother doesn’t have much of a filter, and Buck isn’t all that much better. So if that’s really going to bother you, maybe pass this one along, but I found the history and the story arc of the journey well worth it. There’s also two chapters where he talks about the Mormon migration and visits what sounds like a multi-stake Trek. It might be best for some to skip those chapters because he’s pretty sarcastic in tone, and though he gets some facts right in his history, it’s through a very skeptic lens. But he does thank the LDS Church in the acknowledgements for help with his research.

Throughout the story, Buck recalls a similar endeavor he made with his father in 1958, heading from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in a covered wagon. On the back of the wagon his father made a sign that told any impatient motorists that they were going to “See America Slowly” and to pardon the delay. I love that. My great-grandparents raised sheep for a time, and one of the favorite places to play when we were kids was in the old sheep wagon parked in the back of their house. It was basically a primitive RV in the form of a covered wagon, and just delightful (but not much fun to sleep in when you’re a seven-year-old used to air conditioning and nearby bathrooms). Buck shares a number of memories of that trip and of his father, seeking some reconciliation with their rocky relationship. It’s very clear where the Buck brothers get their personalities, and reaching the points in the narrative where Buck talks about his father were highlights for me.

Another thing that struck me and the author is how incredibly friendly people along the route were. They were delighted to see a Real Covered Wagon pass by, and offered advice, places to stay, food, wagon repairs, and loved on the mules. You get a real sense of the kind of America we all want to experience.

This is a highly entertaining travelogue of two middle-aged guys with a fierce determination to travel the route of their pioneer forebears. And though they never got to actually “caulk the wagon,” they do run into some dangerous and nerve-wracking situations that will keep you moving along with them. If you’re looking for a book that gives some nitty-gritty details about pioneer life, and are really into Trek, this may be a fun read for you.

Readalikes: If you’re a fan of history buffs going on journeys, I highly recommend Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America by Andrew Ferguson and Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz. While both are obviously Civil War-centric, the authors do describe a past America, correct common misconceptions, and see how much or how little certain aspects of American life have changed in 150 or so years.

As You Wish, by Cary Elwes

As You Wish The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes
Pub Date: October 14, 2014

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that The Princess Bride is a favorite movie of American Mormons. Walk through any Cultural Hall and start saying, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…” and those around you will finish the famous phrase. I very literally jumped at the chance to read a galley of this before it was published last year.

Cary Elwes, known to LDS women across this great nation as My Sweet Westley, pens a charming and loving memoir of the film that first gave him fame. This is the kind of book any well-loved movie should have for its fans. Not only do you get all the behind-the-scenes stories from Elwes and other cast and crew from the film, but you can absolutely tell everyone had a grand time making the film, too. And you get to follow Elwes throughout the production process learning how to fence and stage fight for the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, and that in itself is a real treat.

All the primary cast members contribute to the book as well, with asides inserted throughout the book, so you get to hear what Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, and all the others thought about their cast mate Cary and the production in general. You’ll learn how and why actors were cast, the author William Goldman’s input to the production, injuries that were inflicted, and how nerve-wracking the Fire Swamp scenes were to film. Lots of great anecdotes to keep you in stitches!

I also loved all the reminisces about Andre the Giant, the beloved Fezzik of the movie. Andre was a man of imposing stature but as cuddly as a teddy bear, and there doesn’t seem to be a bad word about him. He was quite a hard worker, despite his body not always cooperating with him, and not being as fluent with the English language had the director Rob Reiner record all his lines on tape so he could learn the lines phonetically. Stories about the late Andre are speckled throughout, like a playful spirit. So very endearing.

Really the whole book is one big squee-worthy, fangirly read, and you’ll want to watch the movie as you read about the behind-the-scenes trivia, and you’ll want to watch it again after you finish the book because you’ll have such warm and fuzzy feelings about the movie. You’ll bug all your friends with interjections of, “Hey, did you know that..” while you watch, too. Highly recommended!