Book Review: The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart

A few weeks ago, I was looking for something new to read and decided to look on Bookshare whether authors I’d previously enjoyed, had had books released that I hadn’t yet read. It turned out Erin Stewart had. The Words We Keep was already released a few months ago, but I hadn’t yet known about it. Its blurb immediately appealed to me, as I am myself a mental health consumer and I love poetry. Here’s my review.

Summary

It’s been three months since The Night on the Bathroom Floor–when Lily found her older sister Alice hurting herself. Ever since then, Lily has been desperately trying to keep things together, for herself and for her family. But now Alice is coming home from her treatment program and it is becoming harder for Lily to ignore all of the feelings she’s been trying to outrun.

Enter Micah, a new student at school with a past of his own. He was in treatment with Alice and seems determined to get Lily to process not only Alice’s experience, but her own. Because Lily has secrets, too. Compulsions she can’t seem to let go of and thoughts she can’t drown out.

When Lily and Micah embark on an art project for school involving finding poetry in unexpected places, she realizes that it’s the words she’s been swallowing that desperately want to break through.

My Review

This story is told entirely from Lily’s point of view in first person perspective. I like that, as it shows Lily’s innermost thoughts and experiences through her own eyes. Interspersed are Lily’s made-up words (which took me a while to figure out weren’t actually real English words) and her poems. These aren’t particularly excellent, but they definitely give me a glimpse into her world too. Besides, my poetry as a teen (or even now) is probably worse.

Even though this book deals with heavy subject material, I really wanted it to be a feel-good read too. In this sense, some of the twists I didn’t see coming, disappointed me a little, but they were also important to the overall story.

I really liked Erin Stewart’s writing style of alternating between storytelling and such vignettes as poetry or Lily’s made-up words.

Overall, I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, but I would’ve given it 4.5 stars if Goodreads did half stars. The reason is the disappointment I felt at some of the plot twists. This book really gave me a bit of a book hangover.

Book Details

Title: The Words We Keep
Author: Erin Stewart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Technophobia

Today’s topic for Sadje’s Sunday Poser is tech-phobia. Sadje describes having been encouraged to learn Linux for a while and having had a Macbook sitting around for several months now too, but both intimidate her. She asks us, and specifies that her question may be more relevant to those of us who didn’t grow up with modern tech, whether we’re tech-phobic.

I grew up with computers and got an Internet connection when I was fifteen. That’s relatively late for someone my age, but I attribute that to the fact that I’m blind. After all, my parents did have access to the Internet already, but my first private computer, or rather the Braille display that came with it, didn’t support Internet Explorer.

When I was fifteen, I acquainted myself with the Internet quite quickly, but still stuck to old-fashioned methods and platforms far too long. I mean, I had a DiaryLand diary until 2007, when I finally moved to WordPress. Currently, the fact that for this post, I’m still using the classic editor, is probably proof of the same. I think I’m quite old-fashioned when it comes to technology. I am rarely the type to try out new functions when they first come out, or even when they’ve been out for a while.

With respect to Sadje’s question of being overwhelmed by new technologies, such as smartphones, I can only answer in the affirmative. Of course, again, this is complicated by the fact that I’m blind. I mean, a regular touch screen can’t be worked by a blind person, so it was no wonder I felt hugely incompetent when my husband tried to guide me hands-on to send a text message on his phone when I was about 29.

I was nearly 31 when I decided I wanted to learn to use a smartphone after all. Thankfully, a blind person who was also a qualified computer trainer for the visually impaired lived in my town. He came by the psych hospital to introduce me to the iPhone. He allowed me to use his iPhone to practise on during our introductory lessons, because of course if I couldn’t learn to use an iPhone there was no point in me buying one myself. Eventually, I not only was found to have the skills necessary to learn, but I mastered the use of the iPhone in half of the amount of course time he’d originally thought I’d need.

Since starting to use an iPhone, I have overcome some of my technophobia, but not all of it. Like I said, I still dread the WordPress block editor.

I’m also somewhat anxious about possibly making the transition from touchID to faceID on a phone. I know, I don’t have to, as Apple released the third generation iPhone SE last March, but with the fact that I now have a second generation SE, it just doesn’t quite cut it, honestly. For this reason, I’m really looking forward to the models going to be released this fall. Then again, if I can’t get faceID to work for me, this might be a lot of money gone to waste (unless I find out soon enough and can return the thing).

I’ve also been thinking of buying an Apple watch. That’s less of a risky investment than the faceID iPhone, as firstly they’re less expensive and secondly it’s not as essential (yeah, I consider my phone to be essential now). Both of these pieces of technology though induce my technophobia. But they’re both also really cool.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (August 6, 2022)

Hi everyone on this first Saturday of August. Okay, that starting phrase gets boring, but who cares? Well, me, but I can’t think of any better way to start my post. I’m joining #WeekendCoffeeShare today. I’ve had five cups of coffee already today and it’s mid-afternoon. Want one too? I hope I haven’t used up the whole pot. Well, it’s a virtual coffee share. Let’s have a coffee and let’s chat.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask about your weather as usual. Ours has been mostly warm, sometimes hot. On Wednesday in particular, the daytime temperature rose to 31°C. Today, it’s only about 21°C. I even wore long sleeves this morning when going out for a walk.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I discovered a function I hadn’t previously known about existed in JAWS, my computer’s screen reader. When you press INSERT+4, INSERT being the designated JAWS key, JAWS displays a menu with special characters to select from, such as the euro sign, the degrees sign I used above, etc. Before I knew about this function, I’d do a Google search for something that’d pop up the character I wanted, copy/paste it into a text document and copy/paste from that document to my blog. However, if I wanted a character that wasn’t yet in the document, I’d need to do a search all over again. Besides, it’d mean having to open a separate app, in this case Notepad, and copy/pasting from there rather than selecting the character from the menu.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that, today, I started on 25mg rather than 27.5mg of aripiprazole (Abilify), my antipsychotic. So far, so good, but I’m not expecting any effects as of yet, as aripiprazole has a half life of 72 hours and the dosage decrease is so small anyway. This is my second decrease out of possibly twelve, each taking three months. That’s an incredibly slow taper, but it’s this way so that any possible changes in my mood and/or behavior can be observed over time.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve been busy crafting this past week. Someone from a neighboring care home has her birthday next week and a fellow resident from my care home has his birthday on the 25th. I asked the woman who has her birthday next week what her favorite color is and she immediately understood why. “Ah, you know when I have my birthday!” she exclaimed. Of course, I didn’t reveal anything else. I am creating a necklace with all polymer clay beads for her. I did this for someone else, who had her birthday at the end of January, and back then it’d taken me weeks to create all the beads. Now, I was able to do half of them in one day. The other half is a little harder, because that color of clay is more difficult to work with.

For the man who’s having his birthday on the 25th, I bought a canvas, which I painted black this week and am going to decorate with polymer clay cookie cutter shapes once I’ve finished the necklace. I am doing his name and a car. Since the challenge theme for this month in the Dutch polymer clay Facebook group is mixed media, I’m also thinking of including some other technique, but I’m not yet sure what.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that today, my husband went to get his new-to-him car, a Fiat Panda. He’s coming for a visit tomorrow. We originally thought of driving to some town or city in the area, but neither of us can think of an interesting one, so we may just go to Subway to have lunch.

How have you been?

How I Was Disciplined As a Child

Hi everyone. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “rules and discipline”. I am going to try to keep this post as non-triggering as possible, but if you endured childhood abuse, you might want to skip this post. Then again, maybe what I endured wasn’t abuse at all? Well, in that case actual survivors might want to skip it because it might come across as invalidating.

My parents rarely set clear rules when I was a child or teen. I can’t remember having curfews and, even at ten-years-old, I was allowed to stay awake in my room for as long as I wanted provided I didn’t wake anybody else.

In this sense, none of the provided questions in Maggie’s original post made much sense. I mean, I was often sent to my room as punishment, but I cannot remember what for. I also was never told how long to stay in my room, so I usually stayed for about an hour then slowly re-emerged.

My parents, both of them, also used corporal punishment. However, I get a feeling that they hit me more out of a sense of powerlessness than out of a righteous wish to set me straight. Unfortunately, corporal punishment didn’t stop when I got older. In fact, the last time I was hit, was when my parents more or less kicked me out of the house when I was nineteen. And then I don’t include the time my mother tried to slap away my hand from my hair to prevent me twirling it when I was 23 but I slapped her hand away.

My parents, like I said, didn’t have clear-cut rules, but they did have expectations about socially appropriate behavior. They had their own words for ridiculing me when I “misbehaved”.

The positive side of there not being many clear rules, was that my parents encouraged me to do things most other teens, and certainly disabled teens, would not have been allowed to. I was allowed on a four-week-long summer camp to Russia at age fourteen, being the youngest of the Dutch participants and the only one with a disability (the program officially catered towards the visually impaired). Then again, when I struggled socially in Russia and for this reason wasn’t allowed back the next year, my parents, especially my father, completely guilt-tripped me rather than showing me support.

I was mostly a rule-follower, insofar as there were rules at all. However, as a teen, I became secretive. I actually had my father drive me to a meeting of people with mental illness when I was seventeen, while I’d led him to believe it was a disability meeting (because one of the people there was in a wheelchair). I’m pretty sure he knew, but he never confronted me.

I don’t have children of my own, so I cannot say whether my upbringing influenced the way I discipline them. However, I did find I got easily triggered when I got the impression my sister and brother-in-law used corporal punishment on my older niece (this was before the younger one was born). Thankfully, they were able to reassure me that they didn’t.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (August 3, 2022)

Hello all! It’s Wednesday again and I thought I’d join in with the Wednesday HodgePodge. Here goes.

1. Do you have a sister? Tell us something about her. If you don’t have a sister, tell us about a friend who has been like a sister. Or tell us about a sister-in-law if you have one who is extra special.
I have one sister. She is two years younger than me, although when we were kids, people always thought we were either twins or she was the older one. She always envied me because I got more attention from our parents than she got (though it was mostly negative attention). In terms of the roles often described in dysfunctional families, she was the lost child, while I was a strange mix of scapegoat and golden child.

Currently, she lives in the far northwest of the country, close by the sea, with her husband and two girls. She will be starting training to become a childcare worker soon.

2. Resister, assister, insister, persister…choose one and explain how it relates to you and your life lately.
All of them relate to me in some way. Well, maybe except for “assister”, in that I don’t really assist anyone myself, but rather am on the receiving end of assistance. As for “resister” and “persister”, they usually go hand in hand, in a kind of paradoxical way.

3. Share a favorite song, book, movie, or television program that features sisters.
A book that’s been turned into a movie comes to mind: My Sister’s Keeper by jodi Picoult. It was the first Picoult novel I read, before I knew killing off her characters was her way of writing (oh, sorry if that’s a spoiler, but the book and movie have both been out forever). In this book though, it made sense. In others, not so much.

4. August 3rd is national watermelon day…are you a fan? Do you like watermelon flavored candy? Besides eating the melon as is, do you have a good recipe made with watermelon?
I do like watermelon, but it’s not like I’m a huge fan. I’ve never had watermelon-flavored candy, so no opinions on that. I don’t really know a recipe with watermelon, but I still need to try it in my fruit infusion bottle. I did try a few pieces of a galia melon in it, but that didn’t taste good.

5. ‘Tis August…what are three things you’re looking forward to this month?
Crafting quite a bit. Several fellow clients at the care facility I know well have their birthdays this month and I want to create them a present. Seeing my husband’s new-to-him car, that he will be getting on Saturday. Maybe driving to some nearby town or city we haven’t been to yet with my husband.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I am so glad that my crafty mojo seems to be returning in time for these fellow residents’ birthdays. Also, if you all have any idea what I could create for my husband’s and my wedding anniversary on September 19, I’d love to know. I bought a heart-shaped canvas that I can decorate with paint, polymer clay and/or other media, but I am truly out of ideas as to what exactly to do.

Reading Wrap-Up (August 1, 2022) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. I finally seem to be getting back into a reading groove again. Let me share what I’ve been up to in the book department. As usual, I’m joining in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?.

What I’m Currently Reading

I just started reading Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie last night. I think I discovered it on BookBub, but I downloaded it off Bookshare rather than buying it on Apple Books or Amazon. The blurb really interested me and, so far, the short chapters and alternating viewpoints, really add to its appeal.

In addition, I finally picked up The Choices We Make by Karma Brown again. I find it surprising I still remember the plot to a degree, given how long I’ve taken to read it thus far.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Only one book and it was one I haven’t mentioned in a reading wrap-up before. Can you see how long it’s been since I’ve done one of these? Yesterday, I finished The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart. I loved the book, but won’t say much more, since I’m planning on writing a review soon. It did get me thinking I really want to find a better book tracking app than GoodReads though. I tried StoryGraph, but that app doesn’t have the default iOS app layout I’m used to and is really hard to work.

What I Think I’ll Read Next

I still have a ton of books I may or may not want to get to. One function I wish GoodReads had, is a Did-Not-Finish shelf. I know you can create one, but it would be so much easier if it were there by default. That way, I could shelf away books I may want to list as having read but that I just don’t find the time for to finish at this point. As it is, these are on my Currently-Reading shelf, which is rapidly clogging up. After the Cure by Deirdre Gould has probably been on it for two years.

Then there is my ever-growing list of books I may want to read someday. I have a ton of romance novels, mysteries and other “easy” adult reading that I downloaded for free off Apple Books or Amazon.

Then there’s kidlit. When my husband paid for the renewal of my Bookshare subscription last June, he noticed I’d been downloading books on unicorns a lot. These are children’s books, of course. Indeed, during the month of June, I read a few books about unicorns, namely the first book in the Unicorn University series by Daisy Sunshine and the first book in the Unicorn Diaries Branches Books series. I think when Six Weeks to Live gets too heavy for me, I’ll make a detour to the next installment in one of these series.

What have you been reading?