Book of the Month – Kate Morton

September’s book of the month is not a book at all, but an author that I have fallen gloriously in love with.

I first encountered Kate Morton when I read her book The Forgotten Garden, which I enjoyed well enough. Since that time, I have gotten my hands on each of her books – four in total – and devoured all of them with gusto. She is a master storyteller, weaving together different time periods, concealing secrets, and always ending with a twist. Even when you think you see it coming, you don’t. Not really. As well, every novel has a secondary main character: the main setting. Whether it is the grand house of Riverton or Milderhust Castle, the buildings in Morton’s novel are essential to her stories, and seem to live and breathe themselves.

Here are her four novels, ranked from best to not-as-best (because even her worst novel is not really WORST):

The Secret Keeper

secretkeeper

This one BLEW MY MIND. When the secret at the end was finally revealed, I stared at my book in absolutely gobsmacked shock. I thought I had it all figured out but, oh boy, was I wrong. This book is delicious.

The House at Riverton

riverton

Something about the special mix of early 20th century English noblesse mixed with the genuine loveliness of Grace as narrator combines to make this book magical. I loved reading about Grace’s life as a maid, and I could not see how everything was going to turn out at the end; when I finally got there, I tore through the pages so fast I was nearly breathless. Not quite as masterfully executed as The Secret Keeper – it drags a little in places, and for a while there I thought that she was going to glaze over the main event entirely! – but still, this is a thrill ride.

The Forgotten Garden

forgottengarden

Full disclosure: I read this book four years ago and don’t specifically remember all that much about it. All I remember is opening it thinking, “Hmm. I guess I will try it” and then re-emerging, bleary-eyed, a few days later.

The Distant Hours

distanthours

I read this one recently and, while still a great book, it simply does not live up to the excellence of The Secret Keeper or The House at Riverton. The first half drags on like craaaazy, but the slow-ass pace is made up for in the second half.

Now: which one will you be reading first? šŸ™‚

Book of the Month – Kate Morton

When Gratitude Isn’t Enough

image

It has always bothered me a little bit when people say that, in order to be happy, you just have to be grateful for everything that you have. That to me implies that if you aren’t perfectly content with your life, it’s because you aren’t grateful for it, which just completely ignores myriad other contributing factors. I’m not arguing that gratitude isn’t important; it is, and mightily so. But I think there’s a caveat: gratitude works wonders when you are already doing everything that you can to move towards authenticity and the life that you want for yourself. If you are just sitting on your hands, watching the world pass you by and hoping that everything you want will eventually come to you if you are justĀ grateful enough, then I think that you will be waiting a long time. Gratitude can work wonders, but I do not believe for a second that it can fix everything.

Because you also have to haveĀ hustle. You also have to be putting in the hard work required to get you where you want to go. If you combine gratitude and hustle, then I think you are well on your way. Which is exactly the magic combination that I am working on right now.

What are you hustling for right now?

When Gratitude Isn’t Enough

Oneonta Gorge

untitled shoot-1813-low-resOneonta Gorge was my favorite thing that we did on our Portland/Vancouver road trip, bar none. It is located less than 30 minutes outside of Portland, on historic Highway 30, just a few minutes down the road from Multnomah Falls.

We stopped at the Falls for a little while. Viewed it from below, climbed up to the bridge that looks like it could be in Rivendell, where I promptly felt dizzy and wanted to get back down.

Then we headed down the road for the real adventure.

20140729-DSCF0886-low-res

There isn’t much to indicate to you that you are at the beginning of the gorge. There’s a bridge, and there were two girls sitting there, looking wet, basking in the sun. We walked through the tunnel on the far side of the bridge, unsure, before asking another group who was talking about their trip through the gorge for directions. They pointed us back to where we had come from, where the two girls still basked. One of them warned us that the water at one point had been up to her neck. I was glad then that I had made the decision not to bring my phone.

We made our way through some trees, over slippery rocks, and very quickly came upon the logjam that we had read about. It looked formidable in the morning sunshine, tree trunks sticking up in all directions, a tangled jumble of perilous angles and slippery bark. We looked at each other, braced ourselves, and up we went.

It wasn’t too bad, though there were definitely some sketchy spots. At one point, one log jutted over another at a ninety degree angle such that, to cross, I had to grip the top log with both hands, swing one foot out into space and grope for the tree on the other side, all the while extremely cognizant of the steep and deadly drop behind me. I made it over, but I don’t know how the dad in front of me, with his five year old on his back, managed it.

20140729-DSCF0875-low-res 20140729-DSCF0878-low-res

After traversing the logjam, we waded through some shallow water, before coming to a deep pool, completely in shadow. This was the spot: Bryan had read that sometimes it was ankle-deep and sometimes it was over a person’s head. We already knew what we were in for this time, but what we were not prepared for was theĀ cold. The water we had already waded through was relatively chilly, but nothing compared to the bone-crunching cold of this pool. It was a mental challenge to force myself deeper into the water, and when it reached my ribs, I thought my lungs had stopped working entirely. They felt seized. I had to continually remind myself to breathe as I paddled desperately across the ten feet of water and emerged, gasping, on the other side, where theĀ narrow pass opened up into a small, beautiful waterfall.

20140729-DSCF0860-low-res

Somehow, even though we were surrounded by other people, that waterfall felt like a secret. Like some sort of secret that we all shared because we were in the Oneonta Gorge Club or something. We watched delightedly as a young girl and her friend climbed up the wall next to the falls, held hands, and jumped into the raging water below. A dog careened into the water and paddled to a ledge on the other side, greeted its owner, then turned around and paddled back. I waded into the waterfall’s pool, bracing myself for another match with the agonizing cold, but it was warm. How they could be so vastly different when they were less than ten feet apart seemed like an awesome mystery.

20140729-DSCF0839-low-res 20140729-DSCF0826-low-res

By the time we made it back to the car, I was soaked and jittery with adrenaline. I turned to Bryan at one point and said, grinning from ear to ear, “That was the best thing we haveĀ ever done.” Thinking about it now, I still feel that way.

What is the greatest adventure you’ve ever had?

20140729-DSCF0869-low-res

(All photos courtesy of Bryan Cooper – my HUSBAND)

 

Oneonta Gorge