We went on vacation last week and it was wonderful to get away after nearly two years being home (we were planning a trip in March last year when the world shut down)! Seeing the ocean, feeling the sand between my toes, and reading a book in the hot sun was such a nice change of scenery.
And yes, while I did read at the beach a little bit, it also brought up a funny realization for me – I do not do well with vacation reading overall. I have the best of intentions when packing for the trip, but the reality is, I find it hard to concentrate and I don’t have big enough blocks of time to really sink into the story. Try as I might though, I can’t seem to remember this when I pack up loads of (heavy) books just in case. I guess I am who I am. 🤷🏼♀️
When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
I have several Paula McLain books on my shelves, but When the Stars Go Dark is my first introduction to her and I’m so excited to tackle some of her previous books now. If this is any indication of how McLain weaves a story, I’m hooked!
Anna Hart is running away from her life. She settles on her childhood hometown to try to regroup and figure out what to do with her life going forward. She is a detective, primarily focused on childhood abduction/murder cases, so when a girl goes missing in her hometown, she can’t help but get involved with the case.
Some would call this a slow-burn. And it is primarily a character-driven story; however, the chapters were short which kept me compulsively reading, and I just really wanted to find out who kidnapped this teenaged girl! I was immersed in the story from the first page and was so happy to get lost amongst its pages! This was a totally satisfying read for me and I’m glad I took a chance on it!
*** Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia by Elizabeth Catte
After reading Mexican Gothic last year, I became more interested in the topic of eugenics – something I am not very familiar with. I came across this upcoming release on my NetGalley homepage and decided to give it a try.
It’s a historical look at the state of Virginia’s eugenic past. To say this book shocked me – and ultimately educated me – would be an understatement! Catte delves into the atrocities of how white men in power treated the poor, vulnerable, and Black; she even offers some history on the development of Shenandoah National Park.
This presentation of Virginia’s racist and despicable past is well worth the time to read. It’s easily digestible for non-academic types and it really opened my eyes to the foundations of white supremacy, eugenics, and how fearful white men are of poor and/or vulnerable people rising up to challenge their systems and ways of thinking.
I would have liked to know more about the eugenics side of the history, but in its place, I learned a lot about the forced institutionalization and sterilization of many women in Virginia’s early development. It was hard to read at times and I found myself thanking my lucky stars many times throughout this book that I didn’t live in a time period where I could be wrongfully committed to an insane asylum.
Recognizing and understanding our past hopefully positions us in a place to do better. Recently, our behavior isn’t demonstrating this, but I’m hopeful that books like this will continue to awaken us to a better future where we are able to honor and treat everyone with more dignity and respect.