Review: Letters from England

Letters from England

I was given this book to review by The Review of Texas Books.

In her memoir, Letters from England, Conita Jernigan Lyle not only shares her adventures of living abroad as a teacher for the Department of Defense in the early 1960’s, but also gives readers an intimate view of her struggle to remain both independent and free-spirited in an emotional climate that makes it difficult for her not to bend to the tug of young love that awaits her on the other side of the pacific. Though the conversations recounted at the beginning of the memoir seem a bit stiff in places, Lyle makes up for it in her letters, where she describes picturesque and lush landscapes that she encounters throughout her European travels. The book is broken down into three parts: the romance, the letters, and the choice, and for any woman who has battled a fickle heart, Jernigan’s position and her prose is easy to understand. Though young readers may be a bit baffled by the propriety and pace of such a memoir, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to offer them a glimpse of an affair based in elegant letters rather than cryptic cell phone texts. If you can’t afford England, I recommend giving this book a close read instead.

Conita Jernigan Lyle. Letters from England.  Dallas: Brown Books Publishing Group,  2010.  265 pp.  ISBN-13: 978-1-934812-72-3

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Review: Born Round by Frank Bruni

When I first saw Frank Bruni’s memoir Born Round on the shelf, I took one look at the plump kid on the cover and picked it up.

First of all, I love chubby kids. Always have. When my little sister went through this phase where she ate tortilla chips until she threw up and then dug in for more, I wasn’t grossed out.  I was fascinated.  Perhaps a tad worried as well, but for the most part, watching her stuff mass amounts of food in her pint-size (though round) body was like witnessing some secret trick.

Though my father called me “tugboat” when I was a child because my bottom was much bigger than my top, I’ve always been one of those jerks that stay the same weight no matter what I eat. Sure, things wiggle here and there, but I have friends who work hard to maintain fitness that would slice one of my thighs off and throw it at me if I ever complained of being even a tad out of shape.  And I don’t blame them.

Born Round is a memoir based on journalist Frank Bruni’s lifelong roller-coaster relationship with food.  As a child, food intake was a comfort for Bruni, whose Italian family prided themselves on enormous feasts and fried “frits.”  Later in life, however, the binge eating becomes something darker, more uncontrollable. Throughout Bruni’s well-written tale, there are ups and downs and scary moments (battles with diet pills and bulimia), but the bumpy ride is handled with wit and a clever attention to detail, even though at times the paragraphs become overly stuffed with food items and brands.

What appealed to me more than Bruni’s quest to be fit, were the moments where he revealed the details surrounding his unlikely career as a New York Times food critic and exposed the intricacies of having a large and loving Italian family who longs to stay close-knit, even when food, death, and long distances, try to keep them apart.

I recommend having this book on the side of your Chinese delivery, “cold noodles in sesame paste.”

Bon Appétit!