The Best I Read: February 2022

Nightstand

The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade

“Is this what motherhood means? Being suddenly able to pity the adults in your life?”

This is a story about family. This is a story about how adults let children down. This is a story about how people seek redemption instead of asking for forgiveness. This is a story about Yolanda, a strong but enabling matriarch, Amadeo, a self-pitying alcoholic unequipped to be a father, and Angel, a fiercely intelligent teenager intent on pulling herself and her child out of the noxious cycle of poverty and addiction. And ultimately, this is a story about how love pulls together all these bitter threads and binds us together.

Quade’s characters are so perfectly rendered, so tender and vivid, that I felt I was living alongside them, fighting for dignity page by page. But if this all sounds heavy — and there is a fair share of emotional chaos — you’ll find relief in the many moments of dark humor sprinkled throughout the narrative. This book is a treat that will stick with you long past the last page.

Tabs

‘DNA doesn’t lie. People Lie.’ by Jaclyn Peiser in The Washington Post Magazine

“I do not exist,” she explains to me, “except as the daughter of my adoptive parents. There is no birth record, there’s no original birth certificate, there’s no record of live birth. … I have no way of proving that I was born in Canada, on a specific day.” She adds, “It’s as though [my siblings and I] just magically materialized for our adoptive parents and we didn’t exist until then.”

I will never tire of stories about people who find out they have a whole bunch of brothers and sisters they never knew about via 23andMe. And I don’t mean to be pat, because this story is bizarre, yes, but also fascinating, heartbreaking, and warm. Dive into this ancestry.com quagmire.com.

Confessions of a Bitcoin Widow: How a Dream Life Turned into a Nightmare by Jennifer Robertson and Stephen Kimber in The Walrus

“Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” The disembodied voice at the other end of my phone line began in a singsong tone that morphed into what seemed like a death threat. “Time’s up.” Click. They — whoever “they” were — had found me.

Bitcoin billions lost. Internet trolls gone wild. A mysterious death. A distressed widow. Need I say more?

Instagram’s Newest Influencers: Texas Women Who Eat What They Kill by Madeleine Aggeler in Texas Monthly

“People are wanting to get outside and be more self-sufficient,” she says. “We saw what happens when the supply chain goes crazy. How do you get your food? Hunters know how to get their food.”

I clicked on this story with a heavy eye roll, but ended up changing my mind (at least a bit). Do photos of women in short-shorts triumphantly holding dead deer weird me out? Yes. Do I think it’s generally good for people to be in touch with the process of animals becoming meat becoming a meal? Also yes. Do I think women should enter predominantly male spaces? Hell yes. Maybe this whole Huntress Influencer thing isn’t as vacuous as I originally thought. I’m curious how it sits with you.

It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart by Jennifer Senior in The Atlantic

Practically everyone who studies friendship says this in some form or another: What makes friendship so fragile is also exactly what makes it so special. You have to continually opt in. That you choose it is what gives it its value.

Please read this and re-read it, and then read this great interview with Margaret Atwood, which was written in response to the original piece. The landscape of adult friendship is such a rich territory to mine. Luckily the very talented Jen Senior articulates aloud a lot of the mid-life anxieties we keep to ourselves, and in doing so creates space for an important conversation: how do you create good friendships that endure? What do you do with friendships “that were, and aren’t any longer?”

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Ashley Simon

Ashley Simon

I’m from the Midwest, which means I think the food pyramid is a giant cheese wedge. Director of Product Marketing at Medium.