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Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us
Allen Salkin, Jerry Stiller
The Light in the Ruins
Chris Bohjalian
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 289/311 pages

The Good People ★★★★☆

The Good People - Hannah Kent, Caroline Lennon

Nora had always believed herself to be a good woman, a kind woman. But perhaps, she thought, we are good only when life makes it easy for us to be so. Maybe the heart hardens when good fortune is not there to soften it.


There is a lot going on in this book, in between the basic plot of what happens when a woman comes to believe that her damaged grandchild is a fairy changeling. It’s an interesting examination of how sincerely held beliefs – superstitious and religious and intellectual and political – can drive and rationalize cruelty. It’s human nature, I think, to want answers to the unknowable and solutions to the unsolvable, and to take action – any action – rather than to accept that sometimes shit just happens. Today, we resort to conspiracy theories about the government and “big pharma” and try chelation and rolfing and cupping and arsenicum and coffee enemas and bloodroot salves. In the Ireland of the 1820’s, they blamed barren women and evil eyes and Good Folk and tried bathing in cow urine and putting ash in their pockets and foxglove and nightshade. Or asking an old woman with The Knowledge to banish the sickly, screaming fairy changeling so their real child could be returned to them.


Audiobook, borrowed from my public library, with an excellent performance by Caroline Lennon.



I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, Square 13: December 25th - Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe). In this book, one of the protagonists is a servant girl named Mary, who cares for the sickly child and watches in horror as the attempts to return him to the fairies escalate.