[Review] Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult times by Katherine May

Publisher and Publication Date: Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House. 2020.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir.
Pages: 241.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of memoirs in regard to reflection of hard times, character growth, and lessons learned.
Rating: Good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Katherine May’s Goodreads’ author page.

Katherine May’s website.


Katherine May has written in Wintering what she experienced and learned during several events that happened during her 40s. These events include an illness for both her and her husband, a lengthy recovery process for her, a career change, and raising a son.

May is a reader, and she mixes into her memoir quotes from Sylvia Plath, C. S. Lewis, Carol Ann Duffy, and Barry Lopez.

My Thoughts:

There are several things I love about this book.

  1. It is a book to read slowly, savoring over well written and thought-provoking sentences.
  2. She uses nature to create a word picture about a subject. For example, later in the book there are references to the activity of ants and beehives. And she often mentions going for long walks to the beach.
  3. She is honest about her unbelief in religion. She refers to herself as a “middle-class” agnostic. She prays but to no particular idea or person. Why do I like this point? Because she is not shy about how she feels. I am a Christian. I am an active member in a church. I enjoy church. May comes across as not at a point where she needs or wants God. She wants to be able to agree with the belief system first. Most of the people I know are Christians. To hear about another type of belief or unbelief (to not have a belief in God is also a belief) is unique and different and enlightening to me. Even if I disagree.
  4. I enjoyed the reference to other books and authors.
  5. She encourages embracing the wintertime in life. Embrace and learn. It is important to grow from the experience.
  6. The book is filled with wonderful and meaningful quotes.

“More than any other season, winter requires a kind of metronome that ticks away its darkest beats, giving us a melody to flow into spring.” Page 115-116. She goes on to say it is important to pay attention and learn from this time or experience. I agree with this thought. But I’m thinking of the object, a metronome. A metronome is a small devise that is wound up by hand or set to help a pianist keep the right beat or rhythm. It is something that a human controls and sets. Whereas life is often not something that can be controlled. Further, sometimes the winter season in a person’ s life does not entirely go away. It does not go away because of serious health problems or other reasons. Some people have very hard lives.


Quote of the Week

Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

“Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright.”

William Blake [1757-1827]

“The Lamb” Stanza 1.

Barlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1955.
Page 385.

To read the poem in its entirety: Poetry Foundation.

[Review] The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Publisher and Publication Date: The New American Library/Signet Classic. 1965. First published in 1860.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. British literature.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 560.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classic 19th century British literature. Readers of family stories.
Rating: Good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

I am reading George Eliot books for the 2023 George Eliot Chapter a Day Reading Challenge.

The Mill on the Floss is the second book I’ve read by George Eliot. I am currently reading Silas Marner.


Early part of 1800s. England.

The Tulliver family has a working mill in the rural countryside of England. Tom and Maggie are the children. Tom is the older brother. A serious financial hardship changes the dynamics of the family. The children return home from school to help the parents.

The Mill on the Floss shares the story of a great loss in the Tulliver family that effects their financial outlook and stress. But also, those dreams that might have been are halted. It also shows the society and culture of the era towards women in higher education and independence, and the ability to make choices of friendship and marriage. And it shows the parents bent towards showering attention and affection to one child over the other.

My Thoughts:

This is the second time for me to read The Mill on the Floss.

I want to state quickly this is not a feel-good story. It is not a story that when the last page is read, the reader feels a since of happiness about the storyline or characters. It is sad. The entire story is sad. However, The Mill on the Floss is well-written and memorable.

What I have a big problem with is Tom Tulliver. Tom is a disagreeable person. He is selfish. Self-centered. Hateful. Conceited. Abusive. Manipulative. Withholds love. Controlling. He is one of the few book characters (of all the stories I’ve read) I dislike. It is possible that his parents have favored him so much this has negatively impacted his character. It is also possible the stress of expectations placed on him by his parents has negatively impacted and soured his character. This creates an internal conflict for Tom but internal and external conflicts for his sister.

I dislike Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver. I dislike Mr. Tulliver’s unforgiveness and bitterness that seeps into the family and is a great influence on Tom. Unforgiveness and bitterness are strong themes in the story. The impact of these themes carries through to the end.

I believe George Eliot did not write The Mill on the Floss with the intention of a feel-good story. There is a purpose for the story. I realize this, but I still dislike Tom and his parents.

When the story begins, Maggie is a strong-willed child who poses a problem for her dear mother who wants a meek and lady-like daughter. Maggie is a disappointment to her mother. This creates internal conflicts between the two.

Maggie’s father is the only one who seems to be tender towards her; yet his nickname for her I dislike. That name is a reflection of other things going on in the story. {I love you, but I will keep you in the place I create for you.}

The Mill on the Floss is the story of an imperfect family who suffers under hardship which changes the course of their lives. George Eliot uses internal and external conflicts, characters, and a strong plot to capture the story.

The story has strong themes of unforgiveness, bitterness, death and dying, sacrifice, heroism, suffering, judgement, injustice, justice, dreams, grief, hope, greed, trust, innocence, and coming of age.

Quote of the Week

Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

Williams Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Sonnet 18

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1955.
Page 204.

[Review] portraits of red and gray: a collection of memoir poems by James C. Morehead @PoeticBookTours

Publisher and Publication Date: Viewless Wings Press. March 16, 2022.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 84.
Format: E-book, pdf.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from Poetic Book Tours and James Morehead. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Poetry readers.
Rating: Good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Poet Info:

James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, CA. portraits of red and gray is
his second collection, and he hosts the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast. James’ poem “tethered” was transformed into an award-winning animated short film, “gallery” was set to music for baritone and piano, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Summary of the Collection:

Take an unforgettable journey from the Cold War USSR to Savery, Wyoming, from the mountains of Tuscany to the peak of Yosemite’s Half Dome, from the Canadian wilderness to the beaches of Normandy. James Morehead’s (Poet Laureate – Dublin, California) acclaimed collection is built around a series of memoir poems that takes readers into pre-perestroika Soviet Union through the eyes of a teenager, from Moscow to Tbilisi to Leningrad (and many stops in-between). The striking cover, designed by Zoe Norvell, is based on a 1982 lithograph by Igor Prilutsky.

Advance Praise:

“In this second collection of poems, James Morehead’s imagery is vivid, spare and elemental, and it is consistently chosen and arranged to achieve intensely poetic effects. The rhythmic control is impeccable. The centerpiece of this collection, a long series of poems that chronicle a trip through the former Soviet Union, is a fast moving, impressionistic feast of imagery. Sunglasses, denim shirts, vodka debauches, dollars, rubles, steely-eyed Russian authorities ever on the lookout for forbidden deals – all of it is transparent and engaging.” – Carmine Di Biase, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus – Jacksonville State University.

“In portraits of red and gray by James C. Morehead we travel with him through boyhood and manhood: camping with his dad, working in his high school years far away from home every summer, his time as a teen in Russia traveling during spring break with his school. The vulnerability and humanity expressed in these poems is moving. Morehead writes, ‘…I had to wait / for my tears to dry before dropping in quarters to call home.’” – Angie Trudell Vasquez, Author and Madison, WI, Poet Laureate.

My Thoughts:

The first thing I notice about the book of poems is no capitalization. This keeps things simple!

There is a similarity to reading a book of poems and reading a book of short stories. In each case, I may like one or more of the poems or short stories but not all of them. In portraits of red and gray, I like a few of the poems but not all.

What do I mean by not liking all of the poems? Those I dislike don’t speak to me, possibly because I don’t understand them, or they are lost in translation to my mind and heart.

The poems I like are “Normandy,” “echoes in the nave;” and in the series of poems about the trip to Russia, numbers 7 and 11. In the “art form of poems” number 16 and 17. I also love “lost (and found.)”

“lost (and found.)” I love this poem because it is tender and sweet, and it reminds me of a season in my own life.

“Normandy.” My father fought on the beaches of Normandy. He survived the landing at Omaha. I visited Normandy with my dad and other family members many years ago. It is an experience I’ll not forget because dad shared his story again, remembering things he’d forgotten, and being there brought back those memories. In the poem, the graveyard at Normandy is written about in brief, but with keen observance and tenderness and with honor.