Juggling Three Books at a Time

June was not one of my better reading months. I finished one book, Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag. It’s part of a book club I joined and since it was my pick, I felt an obligation to read it. However, I was in the middle of reading two other books, Rabbit is Rich by John Updike and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo that I had already started.  I was enjoying both books and wanted to keep reading them. Hopefully, by the end of July, I will finish both books.

In my last blog, I talked about Rabbit is Rich, so I won’t go too far into it. I started reading as part of the Pulitizer Prize read in May on Bookstagram. I had a feeling I wouldn’t finish it in May, and I was right. I’m now on page 364 and I still am enjoying it. Parts of it are very funny and thankfully Harry hasn’t slept with anyone else but his wife yet.

I’m glad that I spent most of the month reading Fried Green Tomatoes.  I was a big fan of the film. The book centers around Imogene ” Idgie” Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison,  who came to visit Whistle Stop to teach at a Bible camp nearby.  Ruth stays with the Threadgoode family and Idgie, the family tomboy,  falls in love with Ruth. Ruth, though, is engaged to her fiance back in Georgia,  Frank Bennett. Unfortunately, Ruth’s marriage is not a happy one: Frank is a violent man who physically abuses Ruth. Eventually, Ruth sends a letter to Idgie to rescue her, and Idgie,  with the assistance of Big George,  a black man,  bring Ruth back to Whistle Stop. Ruth and Idgie open up the Cafe near the train stop and it becomes a favorite place for the small community to come together.  Ruth finds out soon after that she is pregnant with Frank’s son and she and Idgie raise the boy together. I loved how everyone was accepting of Idgie and Ruth living together. It never becomes an issue for the people in the town.

Idgie and Ruth’s story is told to Evelyn Couch by Ninny Threadgoode, who married one of Idgie’s brothers.  Evelyn goes every Sunday with her husband to the Rose Terrace Nursing Home to visit his mother,  but Evelyn meets Ninny and gets caught up in Ninny’s stories about Whistle Stop.  She also talks about Big George,  who later works as the barbecue master at the Cafe as well as George’s adoptive mom Sipsey, who also works at the cafe. All these stories help get Evelyn to get out of her rut and find the strength to make changes in her life.

The third book that I read in June was Johnny Got His Gun.  I thought I could have read it in two weeks before I started Rabbit is Rich,  but that wasn’t meant to be. I’ve had my copy of this book for a while and I became interested in reading it after seeing the film, Trumbo. Dalton Trumbo was a Hollywood screenwriter,  who was part of the “Hollywood Ten” who were found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions to the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Later, he was blacklisted in Hollywood from selling his screenplays. He wrote Johnny Got His Gun in 1938 and was published in 1939, 2 days before the start of WW2.

Trumbo’s novel is one of the most visceral books I’ve ever read.  It tells the story of an American soldier named Joe who gets severely injured during WW1. Dalton’s description of Joe’s injuries is very detailed. I don’t think I can’t do it justice to describe what happened to Joe plus I think it’s better for the reader to discover it through Trumbo’s beautiful writing. Johnny Got His Gun is a powerful anti-war novel that I know I will be thinking about long after I finish it.

My goal is to finish both books by the end of July before I start anything else. I don’t like reading two books at the same time. It’s hard to appreciate a book when you read it in tiny bursts as I have. It interferes with the flow of both novels. Still, I have been thinking about books I want to read when I’m done with both novels. A friend asked me to give him a copy of The Black Mountain, a Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout. It’s a short book, so it won’t take me that long to read. I think I will concentrate on shorter books like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and Demian by Herman Hesse. I might reread The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Wish me luck and happy reading,  people.