Two books with two podcast reviews!
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
This was at times light and funny, yet also difficult and infuriating to read. There were times when I could read it for an hour and other times where after 10 minutes I couldn’t handle it because I was so mad. And to everyone who said this book is about Hillary Clinton blaming everyone else for her loss, YOU ARE WRONG. In the very first lines she states, “I’ve tried to learn from my own mistakes. there are plenty, as you’ll see in this book, and they are mine and mine alone.” And that is repeated throughout the books. Reading about what she perceived as her missteps and mistakes was the most interesting part of the book. I liked reading her thoughts and words about why they were mistakes and what she would have done differently.
It was difficult to read the thoughts of a woman who could have changed history, and should have. The book didn’t feel bitter to me at all. It felt at times sad and regretful about should have been and at other time joyous for what she was able to achieve. It made me like her even more and I wish more people could have seen that side of her personality. She’s funny, wry, thoughtful, and compassionate. I don’t think a lot of people saw those sides of her.
I was already familiar with the role that Russia and Comey’s convenient re-opening of the e-mail case meant for her election, but there was so much more specific detail that she gave that was fascinating (and INSANE). The book isn’t perfect and at times it was a bit on the rambling side, but I still feel lucky that I got to vote for her and I enjoyed her words. As a woman, too much of it left me infuriated because I can see the sexism in so much of what happened. If you are someone who isn’t willing to accept those issues as problematic, then this book isn’t for you. Hillary Clinton wasn’t the perfect candidate (no one is) and she has made some mistakes, but she was still the most qualified for the job. You will never convince me otherwise and I will continue to resist the Cheeto Autocracy.
The Lost History of the Stars by Dave Boling
In turn-of-the-century South Africa, fourteen-year-old Lettie, her younger brother, and her mother are Dutch Afrikaner settlers who have been taken from their farm by British soldiers and are being held in a concentration camp. It is early in the Boer War, and Lettie’s father, grandfather, and brother are off fighting the British as thousands of Afrikaner women and children are detained. The camps are cramped and disease ridden; the threat of illness and starvation are ever present. Determined to dictate their own fate, Lettie and her family give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive amid increasingly dire conditions.
I remember learning about the Boer Wars in middle school and being extremely confused as to why the British were fighting with Dutch settlers in South Africa. I could not get it because it was completely illogical to me. I had clearly not yet grasped the concept of colonialism and that all of these people had no business being in South Africa in the first place.
This novel had strong reviews, but I never got into it. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong state of mind or distracted, but the characters never resonated with me. The pacing felt tedious and I struggled to even finish it. Most of what I know about the Boer War is through the eyes of the British and the antics of Winston Churchill, so learning more about the horrific concentration camps that the Boer women and children were sent to was pretty appalling. Unfortunately, this novel just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Dirty John hosted by Christopher Goffard
A true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. From Wondery and the L.A. Times.
You read the full story here in the L.A. Times and the podcast is embedded there as well, but I recommend listening to if you can because hearing the voices makes a difference. You need to hear the pain, frustration, sadness, and anger.
This review does not contain spoilers, just general thoughts on the larger themes of relationships, abuse, and manipulation. I had no idea what to expect from this podcast and no clue what the story was about, but several people had recommended it, so I listened to it on my way to and from Tahoe last weekend. It was hard to listen to and I spent the majority of it feeling sick to my stomach with dread.
It’s the real-life story of a successful, beautiful, middle-aged woman (Debra) who falls for a total piece of shit (John) who happens to be good looking, charming, and a doctor. Listening to him manipulate her left me breathless. I’ve never dated someone who is that level of scary, but I have certainly had my experiences with manipulative assholes. It is embarrassing and shameful once you realize it because it seems so freaking obvious in retrospect. I’m a smart person, so how did I fall for that obvious crap for so long? It made me even sadder thinking about Debra because she is like so many women I know in that she is just looking for a partner who gives a damn about her. After multiple failed relationships, she has the misfortune of meeting John and, as those creepers tend to do, he overwhelms her with attention. He does so many odd things in the beginning and there are so many terrifying red flags throughout the relationship, but she just keeps going.
It is painful to listen to her share all of the ways she rationalized his behavior and dismissed the concerns of her family. I have friends whose moms have remarried to assholes and I feel pretty strongly that if all of your kids hate a guy and won’t even let their kids be around him, then you need to GET OUT OF THERE. Some of my friends just don’t get along with the new husband or don’t care for his personality, but that is a totally different kind of issue than everyone hating him and being afraid.
The mental abuse, emotional manipulation, and psychological violence made this series one of the hardest things I’ve ever listened to. The final episode was like a gut punch and I could feel my own pulse increasing as the terror escalated. I just wish we (as women) were better at trusting ourselves, believing our own doubts, and having the confidence to walk away from bad situations. In light of the current revelations spewing forth about abuse and assault towards women from men in power (Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, James Toback, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Roy Price…), this series is sickeningly timely. There are too many Dirty Johns out there!
My Favorite Murder! (exclamation point is my own)
I FINALLY got caught up earlier this month with all of the episodes (been working on that since February). I still love it and look forward to it each week. I know many people get annoyed by their random chitchat at the beginning, but I love it. I always enjoy a good aside and a heavy dose of irrelevant tangents. My only annoyance (which they admit) is when it sounds like they are reading their story for the first time. It drives me bananas. I don’t ever need to be read a Wikipedia article, but I certainly don’t need a Wikipedia article read to me in a crappy and unprepared fashion. Otherwise, I love them and I hope they come to Sacramento one day even though Karen hates it. I also work at the University Karen briefly attended here, and I really want to show her that things have changed so much! Sacramento isn’t a crappy place I swear!