The Week in Books (and I’m back!)

Ok, so I didn’t drop off the face of the planet before now.  Those of you who follow my personal blog as well will know that I broke my shoulder in Chicago at the end of January.  I had a nasty surgery with another fracture during surgery when my bone fragmented when the pins went in, so there was that saga.  It’s still ongoing, as I might need a second surgery.  But I’m hopeful that I won’t.

During all that time, we moved to Spain.  Well, hubby did in March.  And I did in June after seeing another shoulder specialist who wanted to put off my second surgery and see how I did over the summer.  So the house got packed up, a renter got moved in, and babygirl and I high tailed our way to Andalusia via a few weeks with family in Pennsylvania.

I’ve been spending the summer swimming in the pool, getting hella tan, exercising my shoulder, reading, taking care of Hannah, and trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  Writing about the things I’m interestlemonsed in plays a big role in what makes me happy, and so I’m back here, and will stick to a regular blogging schedule.

So, because it’s what I have to write about today, Thursday is going to be Book Review Day.

This past week I finished Driving Over Lemons: an Optimist in Andalusia, by Chris Stewart.  This book had been recommended to me by a friend who knew we were moving here.  This guy, Chris, buys a farm in rural Andalusia and moves his wife from England to be self sufficient.  He encounters funny local customs, and tries to figure out what he was getting himself into, and how to manage in this strange foreign land.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I thought it was a bit long and drawn out in some places.  But what I found really interesting was this portrait of life pre-internet, pre-easyjet-cheap-flights, pre-cell-phones.  The life that this family (a daughter was born shortly after their move as well) navigated in the mountains of Andalusia was similar to what I’d imagine someone on the Oregon Trail could have written about.  He was on the wrong side of a dangerous river, and people actually had died on his farm before he bought it when there were medical emergencies and they couldn’t get across the river in time.  He had to build a bridge.  He had no running water.  He had to figure out herbal remedies for sheep.  All without the internet.  He had to navigate his way through a maze of customs and figuring out where local sheep dealers were, and who he could trust to help him get beams for his new roof, etc., all without the internet.  They were seriously Out There, relying on neighborly help, and their own resourcefulness.  In that, it was a lesson.  It read like some kind of adventure from pre-industrial age.

And it was, I suppose.  I live in a larger town in Andalusia, but it still seems like something out of the 50’s.  They siesta like a religion here.  In the little villages that dot the hillsides on the drive to Malaga or Gibraltar, life seems like it has stood still since around 1900.  The Industrial Revolution didn’t happen.  But the Internet is the great leveler.  I imagine how different Chris Stewart’s adventure would have been if he could have, for example, checked youtube videos of how to build a bridge, and not just relied on his neighbors to tell him.  In some ways it may have been less human.  Less neighborly.  Less of an adventure, perhaps?  I can’t see writing a book where chapter after chapter is made up of sentences like, “and then I had to check youtube again, and post a comment to find out what kind of wood I should use for the roofing beams.”

It was hard to believe this book was written just over a decade and a half ago.  That’s the one main takeaway I got.  The other was from a reviewer on Goodreads who said that when she met the author a year ago, she asked him how he was so lucky to have such a fantastical life, and he said, “if you want to be as lucky as me, say yes to everything, and you will create your own.”  And I firmly agree with that.  That’s what we’re doing here.  Somebody asked us if we wanted to uproot ourselves and live in Spain and we said yes, even though it was a crazy idea.  Recently a friend told me that I sure do have a lot of experiences in life.  That’s because I say yes to a lot of crazy stuff.

Chris Stewart lives a fantastical life, and it was good fun reading about it in his book.

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