Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reviewed At Last: Home Is Where the Wine Is, by Laurie Perry

I've been looking forward to reviewing this book ever since, well, ever since the publisher offered to send me a (free!) copy so that I could review it. Weeks!

I've been looking forward to reading it ever since I heard it was coming out. Months!

I'm not a big fan of waiting, though as I am a big fan of procrastination*, let me assure you that this entry is not written ahead of time. I'm writing it Thursday night, to post in time for Friday, my assigned tour day.

*First of many quotes from the book: "I like being prepared. Preparation is the socially acceptable cousin of procrastination".

(Did I mention, the publisher has offered to give away five copies to the charming readers of this blog? Or at least, to five readers, in the US or Canada, who are willing to send me their address so I can send it to said publisher? If you fit those rules, be sure to comment! [By Tuesday night, say? Is that enough time?] You'll love the book, and I'd love to need to use the random number generator.)

And I'll cut right to the chase, I loved Home Is Where the Wine Is. The tone is casual, friendly, but to the point, even if the point is bikini waxing, or feuding gardeners. If you read her blog, she sounds familiar without rehashing old entries; yet if you don't or haven't read her blog, you won't feel you're missing the in-jokes.

The book (she categorized it as "biographical nonfiction"*) is arranged by topic, each inspired by resolutions, such as "knit something that isn't square" and "go on a real live date". There are also knitting and crocheting patterns at the back, some of Laurie's and some from others, including Laurie's Mistake Rib Scarf**, and Drew's adorable crocheted*** Flip-Flop Coaster.

*"All the self-help books I've read, and I still don't know any of the answers; it's a travesty."

**Which ends in classic Laurie fashion by saying, "Seriously, that is the whole stitch pattern. I am not even lying to you." As someone who first found Laurie's blog while looking for a simple hat pattern to knit, and loved the 20-step roll-brim hat pattern at, I find that extremely amusing.

***Duh, crocheted; he is the Crochet Dude, after all.

I was thinking about this book as I re-read it this week, and why I enjoyed it so much, when Laurie and I live such different lives (we both knit, and love our cats, but otherwise...). Not that I need to totally identify with the author to enjoy a book, but why did I feel like I identified with Laurie, beyond the topics of knitting and cats?

I decided it's this: everyone has their own obstacles to overcome, whether big or small or somewhere in between. There are everyday things that may seem like no big deal to others, but that you just can't bring yourself to do. And reading about someone overcoming their self-imposed obstacles, even when the obstacles are different from yours, feels empowering. She may not be climbing the same mountains I have to climb, but look! She's climbing mountains! It can be done!

Plus, she makes me laugh, with lines like these:
  • Nothing makes you madder than trying to get all filled up with love and inspiration and being unable to do so because there is no parking.
  • It's amazing how denial works, but it does.
Knitting notes from someone who understands:
  • After all, I assured myself, it's just yarn.
  • Here you have some sticks and some string and all of a sudden you have--oh my word--IT IS A HEEL!*
*That's just about the exact reaction I had the first time I made a sock. Look at that, it turned a corner!

Even some home truths:
  • I've been busy, I tell myself. I'm not looking for a long-term commitment, I tell my friends. But the truth is I am lazy, and dating is work.
  • I cannot be on a date with someone who was born during a year I can remember living through.
  • Don't give up and lower your standards. There is nobody on the planet worth your self-worth. Set the bar high and someone somewhere will rise up to meet it.
And I did not, unlike some movie trailers, just give you all of the good bits. Not only is the whole book good, but I think every reader would be struck by different bits. These are just mine.

Basically: it's a good book. Period.

And now, Laurie is in the house! I got to ask her a few questions, including one from regular read Leslie (hi, Leslie!). Away we go...
Topic the first: after your experience dating Andy, who read
your blog and tried to re-make himself into what he thought
you wanted, did you think about removing the archives? Are you
more or less likely to read your past posts after that? Was
it the book deal that brought you out of anonymity, and are
you more happy or sorry about that? (Feel free to not answer
all of those.)

It's definitely crossed my mind to remove the archives. I've
changed so much that I am virtually unrecognizable from the
woman I was in the middle of my divorce. Some people feel
they really know me from reading essays I wrote years ago
and I worry that it might be a bit of an untruth -- yes, I
wrote all that and yes I felt that way six years ago, but a
lot has changed. Because it's not fiction my story may not
have the tidy, happy ending wrapped up with a bow. Is that
a disappointment for some? I don't know. Obviously that's
something I think about, because I want the reading
experience to be fun, not a letdown.

What's crazy is that I don't remember half of what I wrote
back then, and I never go back and re-read stuff. Eventually
I decided to leave all the archives online for now because
I still get emails from women who tell me that it helped
them to read about my troubles, my crazy meltdown, my messy
divorce. And that's an amazing feeling to get an email like
that. Of course having all that stuff online makes dating
interesting! You can Google me and get six years of my life
in words. I've noticed that men I've dated start reading it
thinking it's the User's Guide To This Woman. I think my best
options are to date men who don't know how to read or men
who can't read English. Hmmm-- maybe both!

Had I thought it through more clearly I might have used a
pseudonym for my book but it all happened so fast I just
didn't think it through. And I was still nose-down in a
bottle of Cabernet most of the time, and messy, and I just
wasn't thinking. I never had a business plan or a schematic
for success. But in the long run I think honesty works best
and I try to be honest with myself and with others. So I'm
glad I just said who I was. It's easy to hide, it's easy to
use a fake name and make up stuff, but I guess I just
stumbled into honesty in a very public way and hoped for the
best. It's been fine, I have no complaints. My illiterate,
foreign boyfriend is out there waiting for me somewhere.

- - -

Second: I first found your blog when I was looking for a hat
knitting pattern (and I loved your easy roll-brim hat recipe,
thank you). Do you think a lot of your fans are knitters, or
are they there in spite of your knitting habit?

My audience is about 40% knitters, 60% non-knitters. Though
I am assuming the audience I have among inmates is mostly
composed of non-knitters -- I guess I could be wrong. I
haven't done a poll on that one! Many of my readers say they
tune out when I talk about knitting and many get irritated
when I don't mention it regularly enough. I go through phases
with knitting. Sometimes I'll be on fire with projects and
sometimes I get busy doing other things. So I just write
about whatever I'm into at the time.

- - -

Third: are there any questions that you wish tour people
were asking, but that no one has asked yet?

Oh, that's a question I've never gotten before! I think
people ask things differently each time, each person has a
unique motivation or curiosity. So none of the questions
ever seem repetitive. I do wish Oprah would ask me which
days I am available for her show, though. Yes, that is one
question I would LOVE to get!

- - -

Finally, one of my readers wants to know how you met Drew
(the crochet dude). Is there a story there?

Nothing scandalous, sadly, though we could probably make up
a great story. We met through a mutual friend. Though it
would be fun if we'd both been abducted by aliens!
And here it's me again, saying please, Laurie, write that story! And thank you for answering my questions, and thank you for this book. I loved that you said, "with the world mired in so much bad news and grumpyness I just wanted to write something light and funny. "

You did.


Kali said...

I am someone who admires and appreciates your take on books, cats, migraine, and less-than-stellar employment. I would have gotten around to reading Laurie's new book anyway. Now I'll read it sooner.

I am totally stealing the "prepared" quote.

Leslie said...

Rats and fiddlesticks! I cannot be entered in your drawing because I already won in Anna Horner's drawing. But thanks for asking my question - I have always wondered how they met. She's a sly one, our Laurie, and didn't give details, so there's always the hope we'll get them someday.

Enjoy your weekend!

Adrith said...

I would enjoy an opportunity to read that book, oh yes I would.

Mary Ellen said...

I would very much like to read this!

ikkinlala said...

Thanks for the review and interview! I'd love a chance to win the book.

Deb said...

Good questions for Laurie, would love a chance to win!

Kate P said...

I loved that remark about parking! She definitely has that hilarious pointed tone to her commentary that reminds me of a Southern friend of the family. I don't know much about needlework but it still sounds as if I'd get a kick out of this book. Nice review work there!