family book club: house of leaves

house of leaves by mark danielewski

A house with a dark secret. A creeping sense of foreboding. A story told through documents, footnotes, and scraps of paper.

House of Leaves is like nothing I’ve read before. How this story is told is as much a part of the experience as the story itself. In a committed storytelling device, we meet our narrator–of a sort–Johnny Truant. Johnny has come across a trunk full of documents and photos after a man he knew, Zampano, died mysteriously at home.

The book wades through these documents as a story unfolds about what Zampano was studying through all this information: a house with a deep, dark, twisty universe inside it and the family who lives there.

Think Poltergeist + Paranormal Activity + the Labyrinth.

The text itself tells a story. How it’s laid out on the page feels like wandering through a maze. The footnotes take you on a different path that can leave you confused, a bit lost. It’s a trip (figuratively of course) to read, but during family book club we felt talking about it was more fun than actually reading it. It was a lot of work to wade through this book, but the payoff is there, if you want to delve in (much the opposite of the house itself). There are secrets on secrets on secrets to learn, if it interests you. Unfortunately, it didn’t interest us too much.

But storytelling always interests me. How we do it, and why. So much of our lives are digital now, this book might look very different if it came out today instead of 2000. So what story does your life tell, only looking at scraps of paper, images collected, messages sent here and there? Here’s some from my life. Nothing unusual.


notes from iphonetextsnotes4notes3email

As I said, nothing unusual.

Our next family book club book is Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (Kindle here). We’ll be able to do this book club in person when we are all together for Christmas. Won’t you join in?

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon affiliate’s program, so if you buy through my links I’ll make a little bit of money off of it.)

family book club: icy sparks

icy sparks

Normally I’m begging for authors not to explicitly spell things out for their readers. We’re smart, and we can tell who is sad without having to read “John is sad.”

But in Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (Kindle version here), I needed some things to be spelled out. It was an easy read, but one that left us with more questions than satisfactory answers when we held our quarterly book club meeting. (This time, we did it in person while we were all on vacation. Photo from my mom.)

family book club meeting

Icy Sparks is about a young girl in the South during the 50s who deals with tics and urges she can’t explain or control. She becomes an outcast and spends some time at a mental institution for observation. It’s a coming of age novel (kind of like Middlesex), and Icy goes through a lot without fully understanding why.

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family book club: middlesex

middlesex jeffrey eugenides

We met a few weekends ago to discuss our #familybookclub pick, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Kindle version here). We used Google hangouts, and it worked pretty well!

family book club video chat

It was so fun to see everyone and to get together from our homes all over the country. And it didn’t hurt that my adorable nephews jumped on to say hello. We were all glad we read Middlesex because it wasn’t something we would have picked up on our own, but I don’t think any of us will probably reach for it again. We classified it as a coming of age novel–for our narrator and many members of his family.

Coming of age

Cal begins his story with his grandparents all the way in Greece. Desdemona and Lefty are brother and sister while a war is raging around them and their own feelings for each other are raging inside. When they leave their burning city and get on a ship to America, they create a new life. Quite literally, in that they lie to everyone and to themselves by telling a story of how they met and fell in love. They became husband and wife on this trip, and they also became adults with an entirely new history. And in America, they begin their adult, married life. But it’s not as easy as they’d pretended it could be.

Milton and Tessie, the next generation and parents to Cal, are cousins. What starts as an exploration of their sexuality turns into a marriage and a family. And, likewise, Cal’s first experiences with sex help him find out who he really is.

Continue reading “family book club: middlesex”

see synonyms at monster (embroidery no. 7)


For #familybookclub  this quarter, we read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. (We’ll plan a video/phone chat soon to discuss!) In Middlesex, our narrator tells the story of a Greek family over three generations and a rogue gene that shows up in the youngest member of the Stephanides family and changes his fate.

Our narrator Cal is born as Callie. He is intersex, and has both male and female genitals. His family raises him as Callie, a woman, and later, after learning more about himself, he becomes Cal, a man.

To tell how Callie became Cal, he begins the story of his ancestors, starting with how his grandparents, who are brother and sister, fall in love. As Cal learns more about who he is, he visits a doctor, who calls him a hermaphrodite. Cal is young, and still Callie at this point, and doesn’t understand the word. So Callie looks it up in the dictionary. And to her horror, finds the words “see synonyms at monster.”

Continue reading “see synonyms at monster (embroidery no. 7)”

family book club

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I come from a family of readers (for this, I am #thankful). I’ve never known a moment where reading wasn’t celebrated or encouraged, and believe me when I say I am grateful and know this isn’t the norm for everyone. Now that we are all adults (I’m the youngest), we keep reading and talking and sharing our stories.

So this may have been a long time coming, but we’ve recently started Family Book Club. We are picking one book each quarter, and rotating who gets to choose. Our first book was The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Kindle version here) purely by accident because several of us picked it up when it came out. Our discussions were loosely structured and a lot of fun. We decided to do one book each quarter, so one book for every three months.

This time, I get to pick the book. So whoever wants to participate (no pressure) will pick up Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Kindle version here) and we’ll talk about it on the phone or in person or on video chat or in email around the end of March.

middlesex jeffrey eugenides

So, friends, would you like to read it too? Whoever wants to should pick up a copy and join the discussion! It will be casual, it will be fun, and I’d love to talk about it with you. You have until March 31. If you’ve already read it, feel free to join in as well! We’d love to have you. I’ll post some of our talking points on here, so get ready to comment away. You can follow my reading also on Goodreads and find me always on Twitter.

Also also, I’m reading Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino so I can participate in Word bookstore’s book club meeting this weekend on Feb. 2. If you’re in the area please come with me! I’ve heard great things about this book and can’t wait to get some book club experience under my belt.

(I bought these books on my own and am not being paid to write about them. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.)