Monday, July 31, 2017

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood

When Ann Hood's memoir Morningstar: Growing Up With Books arrived in the mail, I opened it up to glance at it. I read the Introduction, in which Hood talks about her family and hometown and discovery of books, in particular, Louis May Alcott's Little Women.

I made myself a cup of hot tea and settled in to read the first chapter.

Before dinner, I had read the entire book. I could not put it down. Hood's voice and personality, her childhood yearning for something bigger, her love of reading and the impact books had on her life, caught my heart as well as my interest. I felt a kinship. I recognized myself reflected in her life, and while reading I thought about the books that had changed my life.

Hood's reading was free ranging, preferring thick books. She believes that the right book comes into a reader's life at the time it is needed, and this small book gives credit to the books that helped her understand life, answering the questions that perplexed her, and showing the path to personal growth and adulthood.

I recommend Morningstar for everyone who loves books, whose lives were touched by books. Those who as children found answers and discovered new questions, who found understanding and direction in the pages.

The back cover reads, "In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book That Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these beloved novels." Another book for my TBR list! But when I was at our local bookstore this morning, I choose to buy Hood's novel The Red Thread. I am eager to read more of Hood's work.

The chapters and major books discussed are:

  • Lesson 1: How to Dream, in which Hood address the impact of Majorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, which she read as a teenager who felt trapped in a narrow life. 
  • Lesson 2: How to Become a Writer concerns The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Hood's yearning for something more. 
  • Lesson 3: How to Ask Why considers Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbull and the Viet Nam War. 
  • In Lesson 4: How to Buy Books, Hood agonizes over purchasing a book, in particular, Love Story by Eric Segal, and how that first purchase led to a library. 
  • Hood's brother gifted her a set of Steinbeck books and in Lesson 5: How to Write A Book she writes about what Grapes of Wrath taught about layers of meaning. 
  • A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins was her introduction to another culture, which Hood writes about in Lesson 7: Be Curious. 
  • As a curious teen, The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer answered questions she could not ask, Lesson 8: How to Have Sex. 
  • How to See the World is Lesson 9, in which Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago exposed Hood to exotic places and times. 
  • The last, Lesson 10: How to Run Away, is inspired by the character longing to escape in John Updike's Rabbit, Run. 

I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Ann Hood

by Ann Hood
W. W. Norton & Co.
Publication Date:  August 1. 2017
$22.95 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-393-25481-5

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