When Stella Gold and Emily Martin met in junior high, they never considered their friendship might go far beyond wondering if their gym teacher was aware of the cellulite on her thighs. While shared tragedy might have cemented their friendship as teenagers, it was to be the happiest day of one of their adult lives that would threaten to destroy it all.
Stella and Emily were like yin and yang, with their nearly opposite strengths and weaknesses. The ebb and flow of high school boyfriends, college roommates, sexual experimentation, and divergent careers pulled at them, but Stella and Emily remained solid-- loyal and tight as sisters despite the ocean that separated Stella in Pennsylvania and Emily in Ireland.
And one day, Stella got a call from Emily that rocked her world. The secret that she swore her teenaged self shed never tell would either save Emily from a lifetime of unhappiness, or ruin their friendship irrevocably. Shes only a transatlantic plane ride away from having to decide how to handle the toughest test her friendship with Emily has ever faced.
Lindsay Faith Rechs Joyride (her second novel after Losing It) is a roller coaster of emotions that will keep readers turning pages as fast as they can. Stella and Emily are immediately likeable characters, and readers will easily identify with them. Rechs character development is so strong; its hard not to feel the tears well when tragedy strikes Stellas family and her friendship with Emily is sealed. Rech also throws in plenty of cultural references from the eighties and nineties, as Stella and Emily grow up, that will have readers thinking, Yes, I remember that!
The novel actually spans a rather short period of time; most of the action takes place via Stellas flashbacks, while shes waiting for her flight to Europe to see Emily. Rech does a great job of bringing the narrative back and forth between the past and present; its never jarring or uneven to the reader.
The only downside of Joyride is that Rech presents the big secret of Stellas in such an obvious way that the reader knows exactly what it is that will come back to haunt the womens friendship, and can pretty easily guess how it will come up and how it will play out. This doesnt detract from the story overall, but does tip Rechs hand rather early in the book. Rech still leaves enough of the secondary plot to be revealed throughout the book to keep the narrative moving along, and if readers are willing to suspend what they know about the secret and follow Rechs lead, Joyride is still an enjoyable novel.
If youve spent enough time online, youve probably seen Jean Raillas site, Get Crafty (www.getcrafty.com), sort of a feminism meets home ec hangout for the modern gal. Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec brings that same combination of crafting and community to new readers.
For Railla, its all about what she calls the New Domesticity, a movement committed to recognizing, exalting, and most of all enjoying the culture that women have built for millennia. By making conscious decisions about the things women make, buy, cook or design, we can reclaim what gets looked down on as womens work. Never rigid or authoritarian, Raillas approach is warm and welcoming, especially for anyone who hasnt thought about things like sewing and cooking since junior highs required home economics class; she encourages women to take steps they feel comfortable with. She knows were not all capable of being perfect domestic divas, and thats not the point. By reframing our ideas about home arts and reclaiming do-it-yourself and renew, re-use and recycle projects, Get Crafty provides readers with an opportunity to reconnect with a lot of the things we may remember our grandmas doing.
For readers who want to get more involved in diy but dont know where to begin, Railla includes a helpful quiz in the beginning of the book to assist readers in figuring out what crafts or activities (i.e. knitting, cooking, gardening) might be a good match for their personalities and abilities.
Chapters are divided into easily digestible sections on handicrafts, home decorating, re-using and recycling opportunities, cooking, and networking with other women. Theres lots of practical advice in the book, too. The chapter on simple gifts introduces readers to the whole diy craze, from soap making, cooking up homemade lip gloss (which I cant wait to try myself!) and sewing an A-line skirt. Railla shares tips on how to shop thrift and vintage stores, what to look for in terms of style and value, whats fixable and whats probably not. She points out basic home decorating elements, from furniture essentials to painting the walls. Rounding out the book are chapters on cooking and entertaining and finding support and community in the company of like-minded women.
There are also various collage projects and journaling activities designed to help readers acquaint themselves with making decisions and conscious living. Its good food for thought, and I understand that these are teaching moments, but some readers may feel its just not for them. Railla herself acknowledges as much, and asks readers to trust her and try it once; if it doesnt work for you, skip the others, she says.
For those who really get into getting crafty, Railla provides links to additional information and other resources at the conclusion of each chapter. She also offers tips and ideas for craftivism, using your crafting skills and talents to affect change in your community. For example, if knitting is your thing, you can donate knit blankets, scarves and mittens to homeless families. If youre crafty around the house, maybe a volunteer stint with Habitat for Humanity is for you.
Reading Get Crafty is a great opportunity for women whod like to explore the ways in which they can take a more active role in the things they make, do, wear and give. Its a book full of ideas and inspiration that aims to give readers the tools and motivation to think differently about their lives.
Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer.
© Melt Magazine 2005