I did it! I cannot believe I managed to pull this off but I realized that I would probably not participate next year and would have been disappointed to get so close this year only to fall short by a book or two. Lemme tell you though- these last two titles were a struggle…
CBR Bingo: Back to School
Over the last few years I have reread several books from my high school years that I loved: In Cold Blood, The Great Gatsby, A Prayer for Owen Meany and a few others. I decided for this Bingo challenge I’d tackle a book I didn’t read in high school.
Beowulf was part of the Humanities program at my high school (and I took AP European history) instead of the AP English program so it was never required of me to read. Clearly I dodged a bullet and then jumped right in front of it 14 years later. I really liked the *idea* of Beowulf, it is the oldest work of fiction in the English language, but it failed to capture my attention.
Beowulf comes to the aid of the Danish king whose kingdom is under siege by the monster Grendel. Beowulf slays the monster and hangs its arms from Heorot Hall. Grendel’s mother sees her son’s arm displayed and takes it as a challenge, she attacks the Hall and Beowulf follows her to her underwater lair. Beowulf wins this battles as well and is bequeathed numerous gifts before leaving Heorot Hall for his homeland where he is crowned King. Decades later he fights a dragon, because why not.
Despite its brevity compared to the Greek epics I did read in high school I felt like Beowulf dragged or at least failed to capture my attention. All in all, Beowulf has earned its place in the history books and I am not discounting its importance but I know high schooler Caitlin would have Sparknoted the crap out of this one.
CBR Bingo: Remix
The Mere Wife, Maria Dahvana Headley
From the get-go my plan was to read the remixed version of whichever Back to School or Classic book I read. I wish I had enjoyed my Back to School pick, Beowulf, more but since I did not read a Classic I but decided to stick with my plan and read The Mere Wife regardless. From a narrative, modern world perspective Dahvana Headley’s retelling is much more readable. From a remixing perspective she probably takes one too many liberties from the original and essentially wrote her own story with a main character named Gren.
Dana, Gren’s mother, was a solider who disappeared in action and returns heavily pregnant despite video evidence she was killed. She goes a little crazy when the paternity of her child comes to question and she escapes to a mountain her family used to live near. She is fiercely devoted to her son and vows to protect him from the outside world. Below the mountain is the community of Herot Hall where Willa lives with her picture perfect family a husband, Roger Herot, and son, Dylan.
“Why is she here at Herot Hall, where at any second something bad could come down the mountain, or tunnel up from below? Monsters. There’s a whole world filled with monsters. They everywhere”
Dylan and Gren’s paths cross which in turn intertwines the lives of two very different mothers who are equally devoted to their children. Dahavana Headley chooses some heavy themes to focus on including PTSD, race and even LGBTQ issues. Beowulf is present in this retelling as policeman Ben Woolf who takes a backseat to this female driven story. I appreciate the change in perspective from a male focus to two women and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t just read Beowulf or wasn’t reading The Mere Wife with the plan to do a combined review of the two.