Book Review – Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

If you know Ontario, you know the places like Crow Lake. The tiny towns, the stone of the Canadian Shield, the smell of the lakes in the summer, the way the trees grow. Mary Lawson effortlessly creates a fictional space out of this real world. Crow Lake the town isn’t real but Crow Lake (Vintage Canada, 2002) the book convinces you it is.

Our narrator is Kate. Late twenties, trying to explain the tragedy of her life. Of her siblings’ lives. While Kate is currently living in Toronto, teaching and researching at a university, most of the story is of her childhood and is told in memories and flashbacks.

At the age of seven, Kate lives with her family in Crow Lake. Her father has a good job at the bank in the next town. She is the oldest daughter, with a baby sister, Bo, and two older brothers. Luke, nineteen, has just been accepted to teacher’s college but Matt, seventeen, is the truly brilliant one of the family. He has a passion for the world around him and he and Kate spend many happy days at “their pond”, observing insect life and the natural world.

Then, as it sometimes does, tragedy darts into their lives to change their paths forever. Their parents are killed in a car accident. In an effort to keep the family together and give Matt his chance at further education, Luke gives up his place at college to stay home with Bo and Kate and allow Matt to finish high school. As Kate’s narration slowly unfurls this history, interrupted with peeks into her present where she prepares to return to Crow Lake to celebrate her nephew’s eighteenth birthday, it begins to be clear that Matt has never left Crow Lake.

It is Kate’s intense adoration of her older brother that drives the novel, as well as being crux of much of the tension. From the very beginning, Kate is filled with admiration for Matt. She credits him with instilling in her her love of nature and of learning, of being the reason that she is where she is. When someone asks her if she ever had a teacher who inspired her at a young age, she says yes and we know that she means Matt. And yet, we also see that he is not much a part of her current life.

The novel is well-paced, with a terrific rate of revelation. There always seems to be something left unrevealed, so I always wanted to keep reading. At the same time, I never felt like Kate was withholding information, or as though the story wasn’t being told quickly enough. When the final punch – the final tragedy of the Morrison family as Kate remembers it – is revealed, it comes both as a surprise and as an inevitable outcome of the characters that Lawson has created.

My major problem with Crow Lake in fact may not be much of a problem at all. Perhaps it’s even one that Lawson intended. Mainly, I felt that Kate was admiring the wrong brother. While Matt is definitely a likeable character and there is an easy affection between them, I thought it was Luke who is the true hero of this story. It is Luke who makes that initial sacrifice. And then seems to continuously sacrifice himself up on the altar of his family. While the final tragic revelation belongs to Matt, it’s not hard to imagine how it would be a blow to Luke as well. Kate seems to brush much of this aside in favour of her obvious preference and admiration for Matt and the connection they share. In this, perhaps, Lawson has captured something truly human. The blindness love gives us so that all we see is the brilliance and tragedy surrounding the one we love most. There are hints though that the reader may be intended to see more. In particular, Luke and Matt are tested in one similar way and their responses are vastly different, as are the outcomes.

Read Crow Lake and you’ll want to sit quietly by a pond, watch the insects skate soundlessly across the surface, tell your loved ones you forgive them after all.

Book Review – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry goes down the street to mail a letter and ends of walking across England. This is the basic plot of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Bond Street Books, 2012) and it has many of the hallmarks of a classic hero quest.

Harold is a decent guy, recently retired, married to Maureen, father to David, middle-class, Baby Boomer. He mows his lawn a little more than necessary and he continues to wear a shirt and tie six months into retirement (and, indeed, almost throughout his pilgrimage, which I found rather charming). Harold is very, very English.

The letter he sets out to post is to Queenie Hennessy, a former colleague whom Harold hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie has written to tell Harold she has advanced cancer, that there’s nothing more to be done, and to say good-bye.

A chance encounter with a young girl at a gas station somehow convinces Harold that if he can walk to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Queenie is in hospice, he might save her life. Feeling that his note could never thank Queenie for what she once did for him, Harold begins his pilgrimage.

Harold is woefully unequipped for such a journey, both physically and in terms of equipment. (Frequent mention is made of the fact that he wears yachting shoes and I had to look up what those were. We call them boat shoes here. Again, very English.) As the novel and his journey progresses, Harold simplifies even more and this represents his newly found freedom, as well as his increasing separation from the rest of the world.

At one point Harold’s wife, left behind by a husband who said he was mailing a letter at the end of the street, visits a doctor and tells him that Harold has Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t, but I wouldn’t necessarily have been surprised if that was the direction the plot took, especially because Harold’s father’s death from Alzheimer’s is mentioned frequently. And, in fact, the ending seems to suggest that this is possibly how Harold will die too. Maybe this whole novel actually is a tale of the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s?

Mostly, I had to wonder why on Earth Harold thought he could stop terminal cancer. Harold really seems convinced, at points, that he is walking to save Queenie’s life, though at other points he is convinced he is being foolish. Harold frequently struggles with wanting to turn around and go home but always something convinces him to continue. Usually the fact that he is helping Queenie by walking. The book never much points us to one judgement or another so it’s hard to say what we’re supposed to think. Is this a realistic story where Queenie will die? Or is this a fantasy where Harold can actually save her?

Part of the problem is that so much of Harold and Queenie’s relationship is withheld from us. Anecdotes and history are doled out slowly through Harold’s reminisces, as if there is some larger secret, but it’s mostly unnecessary. We can’t help wondering – as many peripheral characters do – if there is a romantic link between Harold and Queenie. In Harold’s mind, we see that question answered by his reflections on her physical plainness. Which doesn’t really answer our question and is rather offensive.

The only person who doesn’t seem to worry about this possible romance is wife Maureen. She worries that Harold has left her but never seems to think that Queenie Hennessy could be the deciding factor. She alternates – realistically, I think – between anger at Harold and missing him desperately. Maureen bothered me at first because she seemed to be that shrill stereotype, the nagging wife who cleans the house too much and smothers her son so that his own father can hardly have a relationship with him. It seemed as if the novel was using her to excuse Harold’s behaviour. Fortunately, as the story progresses, we get to see more of Maureen, more of her fragilities, her doubts. We also get to see her as Harold remembers her and how much he loved her. As Harold recalls the good memories of his marriage, we too become more sympathetic and gentle toward Maureen and, eventually, it’s their relationship that we worry about the most.

I enjoyed a lot of the time focused on Harold’s walk. His highs and lows seemed realistic – swings from complete confidence in his quest to utter discouragement, often corresponding to the weather or how his feet feel (those pesky yachting shoes again). Overall though, these scenes went on too long. There’s a tedious section where Harold is joined by a group of wannabe pilgrims. It was boring, too long, and added nothing to the plot or to what we knew and learned about Harold. By two-thirds of the way through the novel, I was ready for Harold to arrive in Berwick-upon-Tweed and his walking scenes started to feel like filler.

While Harold is charming and parts of his journey are interesting, I didn’t find the walk itself offered much tension. I was reasonably sure that he would reach Berwick-upon-Tweed and I was reasonably sure that his arrival wouldn’t make a difference to Queenie’s health. Am I cynical? Maybe. I do understand the disbelief a grieving person might have that someone they care about could die before they’re ready. But I also know that death doesn’t wait until we’re prepared. I think the novel agrees with me here, because before the end arrives, the story really reveals itself to be about Harold and what walking is doing in his life, rather than Queenie’s.

Throughout the novel, the sacrifice that Queenie made for Harold is alluded to but not revealed until almost the end. Withholding this information felt pretty unnecessary and, in fact, deflated the impact of the final reveal. On the flip side, there is a surprising reveal near the end that caught me off guard and added a good deal of new meaning to what had come before.

In the end, the conclusion is sweet, fairly heart-warming, and decently satisfying. And, ultimately, that’s really what this novel is.

El Bachelore – What Went Wrong?

I’ve reached the point with The Bachelor that I reach in just about every season. Boredom. I enjoy the first few episodes and I enjoy the last couple of episodes but in the middle…you lose me. Next week is Hometown Dates which I always enjoy so I think I will likely be back to recapping then.

In the meantime, I thought I would go back and revisit my predictions from Episode One and see what I was right about and what I was horribly wrong about.

The four Ladies who we will witness introduce El Bachelore to their families next week are: Clare (who’s crazy), Nikki (who’s probably not a nice person), Renee (who’s a really nice person), and Andi (who I have almost nothing to say about).

Here’s the post where I made wildly speculative predictions about the show after one episode.

I predicted:

  • Chelsie would last only 2 or 3 more episodes. This was false.She was just now sent home in episode 6. Good for you, Chelsie, I guess…
  • Renee would make the top 5. This was true! Mostly because it’s kind of a vague prediction. I don’t know what will happen to Renee. For her sake and for the sake of her kid, I hope she gets out of there quick.
  • Andi would be “the jealous one” (This was false) but would make it to the top 4 (This was true). I can’t remember why I thought Andi would be jealous. She seems like she needs a lot of reassurance, though at the same time she is easily reassured. I think she has it in her to be in the final two. Maybe?
  • Nikki would make it to the final 4. This was true. I’d forgotten that I found her very cutesy in the first episode. That vanished quickly.
  • Clare would be in the top 5. This was true and, again, kind of vague. I’m fairly certain Clare will be in the final 2 at this point. I still really, really hope she doesn’t show Juan Pablo the DVD that her deceased father made for her future husband. Because there is no way she is actually ever marrying this guy.
  • Amy L. would go on 2 or 3 dates before being eliminated. This was false. I’m not sure if Amy L. even went on one date before she was sent home at the end of the second episode. Was she on the dog group date?
  • Cassandra would be eliminated shortly before Hometown Dates. This was true? Again, kind of a vague prediction. Juan Pablo sent her home in the middle of a group date on her birthday in episode 5. What does that count as?
  • Kat would be eliminated the episode after she got her first one-on-one date. This was false. Kat got a one-on-one in episode 2 and stayed around until episode 5 (I think), which was a long time to “date” someone without ever having an actual conversation with them.
  • Chantel would be eliminated in the next episode. This was false. She was not but she was also never a real contender and whether or not that is racism is not an argument I feel equal to.
  • Victoria would be eliminated in episode 3. This was false. Victoria was sent home after becoming alarmingly drunk in episode 2.
  • Lucy would last for a few group dates to be “quirky” and then be sent home because Juan Pablo already has a four-year-old in his life. This was true. Nailed it.
  • Lauren would get the first one-on-one date. This was false. A prediction based on nothing other than the fact that someone had to get that first date. Lauren never got a one-on-one date, got a lame “I have a daughter” excuse when she tried to kiss the guy who had already kissed multiple other women, and then got sent home.
  • Elise would make the top 8. This was false. I think maybe she made the top 12? So…good for her?
  • Alli would not last longer than 2 more episodes. This was false, surprisingly. Alli lasted several more episodes and was eliminated in Vietnam, but we almost never saw her so it was as if she was eliminated after the first episode.
  • Kelly would be sent home and Molly would stay. Sadly, this was false. Molly the dog was left to wander Bachelor mansion alone after Juan Pablo and the Ladies left on their jet-setting travels. Hopefully she and Kelly are somewhere swimming in another pool right now.
  • Sharleen would be the normal girl who left of her own volition. This was true! Go Canada! Though Sharleen actually stayed much longer than I thought she would and seemed to find it harder to leave our sleazy bachelor than I thought she would.

There. Now you’re all caught up. Join me next week as we involve more friends and family in this embarrassing spectacle!

Book Review – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

After years of my life spent in bookstores, I was excited to read Robin Sloan’s first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Harper Perennial, 2012).

It was, therefore, disappointing to discover that the story I thought was about books was actually an ode to technology. To the point that I began to wonder if this novel was sponsored by Google.

Following the economic downturn, Clay Jannon finds himself unemployed and under-experienced. A timely premise that most twentysomethings these days can identify with. Despite his background in computers and technology, Clay finds that the only job he can get in San Francisco is at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, manned by the eccentric Mr. Penumbra. The concept of a 24-hour bookstore is intriguing and San Francisco seemed like the perfect location for this juxtaposition of old world knowledge and new-found tech.

Clay takes on the night shift. Customers are few and far between. Those who do come in don’t purchases books but instead borrow them – old, encoded tomes from what Clay refers to as “the Waybacklist”. When his curiosity gets the better of him, Clay finds himself stumbling into an ancient secret and a world he never knew existed. Along the way, he meets a cute girl named Kat who works at Google and wants to help him crack the code using modern technology.

The introduction of Kat also introduced my main problem with the novel. Clay and Kat go out on a date where they talk about…Google. Kat loves working for Google. She’s enthusiastic and excited and wants to tell everyone what Google can do. This is her entire character. We never learn where she’s from, what attracts her to Clay, what kind of food she likes. In fact, we learn that Kat pretty much only eats food from Google. Which, apparently, they add supplements to. It was around this time that I started to feel suspicious of Google. If my job dictated what I ate and told me they were adding supplements to my food to increase my productivity, I’d be out of there so fast.

The real problem with the novel though is that all the characters are like this. Each can be defined by one or two characteristics. Clay’s childhood friend, Neel, is a millionaire geek. Clay’s roommate, Mat, builds models. Clay works at a used bookstore but likes computers. None of them have depth and so there’s no reason to particularly care about any of them. I think the story wanted us to feel some tension between Kat and Clay and to worry about their relationship but I just couldn’t. There was nothing to them.

As the story progresses and as Clay and his friends seem to grow closer to solving the mystery of the Waybacklist, it seems as if technology has been the answer all along. There could be some interesting questions raised here about the value of work that takes time, or the value of a group of people achieving something together rather than a machine. Unfortunately, the novel lacks that depth and I’m not sure what message it’s trying to convey. There is a great moment where they make a technological attempt to crack the code and we see the mirrored disappointment of Kat and Mr. Penumbra. Mr. Penumbra’s disappointment comes from the fact that maybe there is no deeper meaning to the code he’s spent most of his life trying to crack, while Kat’s comes from a disbelief that Google could ever fail her.

What is interesting about the novel is when we get glimpses into the different worlds of knowledge. Whether that’s Google headquarters, an underground secret library, or a museum storage facility, this is where the novel shines. The descriptions are fascinating and offer a fun look into all the ways we store knowledge, as well as a look at what people find worthwhile.

While investigating one of these places, Clay has a realization:

I’m really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.

This seems to be the cohesive thought that binds the novel together. It’s an interesting observation and one worth exploring. I just wish we’d had better characters to accompany us on the journey.

Happy Made-Up Long Weekend!

Here in British Columbia, we have this new holiday that we get to celebrate every February. It’s called Family Day. I can’t think of it without being reminded of that Simpsons upside where the card companies make up Love Day.

Nonetheless, it’s a stat holiday in February, so I’m really not complaining.

It’s been uncharacteristically cold around here lately.

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Trust me, that’s cold for our part of the world.

Don’t believe me? This is the ocean in front of our house right now:

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The ocean is frozen.

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Looking down from the deck. The ocean is frozen.

Also frozen – Trout Lake, which is located not far from us. (Does every town in Canada have a Trout Lake?) So this weekend (after a very productive Saturday round of errand-running) Peter and I were driving home along the highway and we saw this sight:

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Someone ice skating on Trout Lake. Within seconds, Peter had pulled over the car and we were gingerly stepping onto the ice ourselves.

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That’s a first for me. I finally feel like a real Canadian!

To continue our Canada celebration, we took advantage of that extra day off and spent some time in the city. I love visiting Vancouver, which is always both familiar and new. After several uninterrupted months here in our small community, the amount of choice you find in Vancouver is delightful and overwhelming.

One of my favourite Vancouver spots:

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Possibly because it’s where these live:

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Not because it’s where these live:

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Blurry selfie.

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Night-time boat trip.

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And the grey Vancouver view from our hotel.

 

In Which I Cook A Large Piece of Meat

Recently, I cooked a roast by myself for the first time. It was an exciting and nerve-wracking time.

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While pot roast is not on my list of top ten favourite foods, it still seems like one of those “Things an Adult Should Know How to Do”. So I chose a day that I had off and I took on the challenge.

Research was a must.

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In the end, The Joy of Cooking and the internet were the biggest helps. I always appreciate The Joy of Cooking when it comes to basic instruction. Cook with Jamie can be helpful when it comes to learning about cuts and flavours of meat but he tends toward the overly fancy. I wanted basic, basic, basic.

Since I hadn’t exactly planned this out in advance, I just took what vegetables I already had and cut them up. That’s carrots, potatoes, and two different types of onion halves.

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This is the serious part, where the rings come off and you have to touch raw meat.

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Then comes the hardcore hand-washing part.

You can also tell that things are serious because now I’m wearing an apron.

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The recipe I (sort of) followed called for a brief searing of the meat in hot oil. (Hence the apron. The burns on my arm from the last time I used hot oil are just about healed.) What the recipe didn’t remind me to do was cut off the strings around the roast. Whoops.

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Some quick finagling and I snipped them off without burning myself. Yay!

Then in go the vegetables.

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Also, it goes without saying, but our Le Creuset pot that we received as a wedding gift is AWESOME. I love that thing.

I try to keep some sort of broth on hand as much as I can but I almost never buy beef broth because I don’t like the way it tastes. Probably would have gone better with a pot roast, but you use what you have, right?

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Then you wait. Our roast was a little on the small side so it was finished faster than the recipe called for (about two and a half hours). I am always nervous about serving meat that may not be cooked properly (especially chicken) but I just got a meat thermometer (not pictured) which was super helpful in allaying my fears. My previous solution was generally to cut into things and check visually.

In the meantime, I read my book with a rather fitting title.

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I neglected to take a photo of the finished product so instead enjoy this photograph of my dinner table, ready for food.

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That’s my cooking trick: If you’re unsure how the food will taste, at least make the table look decent.

The pot roast got good reviews from Peter. I thought it was okay. Now that I’ve done the basic, next time, I’ll try for something with a little more excitement/flavour.

Book Review – I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Having previously read The Book Thief, I should have suspected that Markus Zusak is not a straightforward novel writer. Yet the conclusion of I Am The Messenger (Knopf, 2005) still came as a surprise to me.

Ed Kennedy is a nineteen-year-old cabdriver. He’s from the rough side of town and he’s on the right track to go nowhere in life. He plays cards with his friends Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey (who he’s in love with) and he hangs out with his smelly dog, The Doorman. He’s about to be another nobody in a town full of nobodies.

The novel begins in the middle of a bank robbery which Ed, almost inadvertently, foils. He has a brief stint of local fame, testifies in court, and goes back to his mediocre life.

Except, someone’s taken notice of Ed now. A playing card, an ace, arrives at Ed’s door; a cryptic message that sets Ed on a mission. He doesn’t know who wants him to deliver these messages or why, only that he has to. And that being the messenger is quickly changing his life.

I loved the creativity of this novel. Ed’s missions are each unique. Some are funny, some are horrifying, some are lovely, and some are frustrating. Almost all are reminders that the smallest action might change a life.

The language of the novel is great, particularly the dialogue between Ed and his friends. Their voices evoke the low income backgrounds they come from and seem to be trapped in. It’s a unique dialect that grounds the novel in reality

The mystery of what the next message will be and who is behind them pushes the action forward well and Zusak does a terrific job of maintaining that tension throughout.

There is, however, a particular style he uses through the novel that started to drive me crazy. Short sentences, lots of paragraph breaks, lots of repetition. Since the story is told from Ed’s point of view, perhaps it was an attempt to show his thought process.

To get inside his head.

Show how a guy like Ed thinks.

See how this works?

Doesn’t it get annoying?

It reminds me of sensationalist magazine articles and it felt overly dramatic and like a space-filler in a book that is really not that long. Zusak is a better writer than that.

And the ending. At first, I was only surprised and, truth be told, a little impressed at the statement Zusak makes with his conclusion. But the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I grew and the more it felt like a cop-out. (“It was all a dream!” That kind of cop-out, although that is obviously not the ending.) The more I wanted the novel to end before Ed returns to his house that final time. I wanted the novel to finish on its own terms, true to its own world and that’s not the ending Zusak gives.

Nevertheless, it does offer plenty to think about and that’s a good thing in any story.

El Bachelore – Episode 5

Like I’ve said previously, I knew nothing about our Bachelor going into this season. Five episodes in, I’m ready to form my opinion. I don’t like him. Let’s delve into why.

We’re in Vietnam and there are eleven ladies left.

“This is, like, nature! It’s water, trees, sun!” – Clare describes Vietnam. And what nature is

One-on-One Date #1: Renee

“He kind of makes my hands hurt a little bit.” – Renee

Is that a thing? That happens to people when they’re happy? That’s a thing that happens to me when I’m dehydrated. It is hot in Vietnam; maybe you’re dehydrated, Renee.

“I can’t wait to make her enjoy the day.” – Juan Pablo re: his date with Renee.

It’s early in the episode, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Surely, that’s a language slip-up and he doesn’t actually think he can force her to enjoy anything.

Then Juan Pablo takes a pedi-cap and gives Renee a ride and this actually made me really mad. I hope they paid the owner of that pedi-cab so so well because that is his livelihood right now and they’re playing with it like it’s a toy. I haven’t been to Vietnam but I’ve seen pedi-cab drivers in Asia and they work hard and don’t get paid much and it’s not a joke. However, I can only blame Juan Pablo so much; some producer probably warrants most of the blame behind this dumb idea.

Juan Pablo and Renee go into a dress shop so that Renee can get measured for a Vietnamese-style dress. Kind of cute. Until Renee is getting her bust measured and Juan Pablo leans in and then says the measurement out loud. Sorry, I couldn’t help those italics. I would be totally humiliated if someone, anyone, did that to me on camera. Renee’s bust measurements are between her and the lady with the measuring tape.

“That is so cute.” – Juan Pablo, upon seeing Renee in her new dress.

He’s uses cute a lot and it’s not really the right compliment. If I have a fancy new dress on and I’m trying to impress a guy, I don’t want to be told I’m cute. I want to be told I’m beautiful. But, again, maybe a language thing.

Over dinner they talk about their kids and they’re the same age (32) and seem like they have some stuff in common. Renee says she’s hot and then Juan Pablo blows in her face. Gross.

Throughout the episode, we see Renee discuss how much she wants to kiss Juan Pablo but there’s no kiss. Juan Pablo has decided that he won’t kiss her because she has a son. (Never mind that Cassandra also has a son and he has kissed her. This guy is so inconsistent.)Why on earth can’t he talk to her about this? Why is it his decision whether they kiss or not?

She does get the rose.

“I see her and I see myself.” – Juan Pablo re: Renee. I think that’s supposed to mean they have a lot in common but it does sound narcissistic, right?

Group Date: Sharleen, Chelsie, Kat, Clare, Kelly, Andi, Alli, Danielle, Cassandra

“Today we’re going to do really traditional Vietnamese things on our group date.” – Juan Pablo

I bet you’re not.

They partner up and get into these round basket boats. Clare doesn’t have any friends so she partners with Juan Pablo.

“The first time in anyone’s life that having no friends is an advantage.” – Kelly

“There’s no bottom.” – Clare, as she rows on the river. I really don’t want to be mean but she just doesn’t seem that smart.

Clare and Juan Pablo continue to have a romantic time together while eight other women watch. They kiss where everyone can see them even though Sean told you not to do that, Juan Pablo!

“My date has been with Alli. Juan Pablo has been around my date.” – Chelsie

Then we see Juan Pablo and the Ladies walking along a road and Juan Pablo stops and asks a man if they can have food. Oh, wow, so spontaneous and totally unplanned! Juan Pablo and the Ladies put on hats and see how the farm works and do what looks like a very minimal amount of work.

“We should have this back in America.” – Cassandra re: farms? You think you should have farms in America, Cassandra?

Andi is not wearing her hat.

She expresses some of her doubts to Juan Pablo about how she’s only been on group dates so far and he reminds her that she once got a rose so she should be happy. Not to armchair psychologist all over this, but that sounds like abuser talk to me. “Don’t be upset, I once, several weeks ago, did one tiny nice thing for you.”

“We’re going to have a real meal here!” – Chelsie, as they sit down at the table. Why this surprises her, I have no idea. Chelsie is so clearly not going to “win” this thing that I’m glad she’s at least being amazed by everything.

“I’m just going to be Clare.” – Clare, regarding her strategy for dealing with the fact that the other girls don’t like her.

Notice how people only say that when people don’t like them? Aren’t you bothered that no one likes you? Wouldn’t you at least pause to evaluate your own behaviour?

Conversely, this is something Peter and I say to each other when one of us recognizes we’re being annoying. Actually, we say, “Just Blaze being Blaze” which is a reference to the hilarious Bachelor spoof, “Burning Love.” Basically, it’s short hand in our house for, “I know I’m being ridiculous.”

The group date transitions into the evening and Juan Pablo pulls Clare aside for the first alone time because, you know, they haven’t spent most of the day together already.

“Should we just take the rose down there and give it her.” – Kelly. Kelly’s great. She clearly has no interest in Juan Pablo and is having a great time travelling the world. Kelly’s a champ.

“She has to love me.” – Juan Pablo’s response when he’s asked what he looks for in a woman.

Right there. I think that’s the moment when I fully recognized what a tool this guy is.Really, buddy? That’s your number one requirement in a wife?

Juan Pablo and Clare go back to his suite and go swimming. Yes, while the group date is still going on. They must have been gone for so long! That’s so incredibly awkward!

“I need to believe that he sees me as a panda in a room full of brown bears.” – Sharleen

That is a delightfully odd analogy. Is it because she’s part-Asian?

Juan Pablo kisses Andi but, no surprises, Clare gets the rose.

“I can’t control a lot in this situation.” – Andi

And that is a sign that you are in a terrible situation.

And now…the drama.

After the group date ends, Clare sneaks back to Juan Pablo’s suite to go swimming with him. Apparently, swimming in the warm ocean has always been a dream of hers but she’s from California so that’s really a dream she could have fulfilled in an afternoon while back home.

Clare proposes a swim in the ocean and Juan Pablo immediately responds positively and grabs his swimsuit. We see them in the ocean, there’s a lot of making out.

“We just went for it…pure bliss. In every way.” – Clare

So, yeah, there’s some sexual innuendo and it’s hard to say what really happens but Clare is over the moon and compares her feelings to a baby giraffe.

The next morning we hear Juan Pablo talking about Clare and he seems pretty into her.

“She’s sexy. She’s got something I like.” – Juan Pablo says of Clare.

End of Drama, part one.

One-on-One Date #2: Nikki

Nikki and Juan Pablo rappel into a hole in the ground, at the bottom of which is, supposedly, the gate to hell. Fun Date!

Nikki is afraid of heights and doesn’t want to do it and it seems like Nikki never likes anything.

“Should someone call my mom and tell her I love her?” – Nikki

I did like Nikki better in this episode than the last one, though she doesn’t strike me as someone I’d particularly want to hang out with.

Why does Juan Pablo have a backpack while they rappel? What does he need to carry?

Also, it is never explained how they get out of the hell cave.

“I think I’m super compassionate. I think I have a huge heart.” – Nikki, explaining herself to Juan Pablo over dinner.

Who talks that way about themselves? I hope I’m compassionate but I don’t believe I always am.

“She cares a lot about people and that’s too attractive to me.” – Juan Pablo re: Nikki

What does that mean? Regardless, Nikki gets the rose so I guess that’s a good thing.

Rose Ceremony

Drama, part two.

Basically, Juan Pablo regrets his behaviour with Clare, whatever that behaviour may have actually involved. Instead of owning his side of what happened, he seems to blame Clare.

“I’m too fair.” – Juan Pablo tells Clare, which is only true if he’s talking about his hair colour.

“What happened, happened.” – he says, which is certainly not what she wants to hear.

“It’s not about being fair, it’s about your heart.” – Clare responds, and I kind of agree with her, at least, if this were real life.

But then Juan Pablo brings up his daughter and how she shouldn’t see what he did, which she shouldn’t because she’s four and there’s no situation in which a four-year-old should watch The Bachelor. But why shouldn’t his daughter see him swim in the ocean with a woman? That seems to make it clear that a lot more went on that night than just swimming.

Clare starts to cry because she feels Juan Pablo is saying she disrespected him and his daughter.

“Look at me and listen to me and don’t cry anymore.” – Juan Pablo says to Clare

You have to be a certain kind of jerk to ever tell anyone not to cry. If they are upset and they are crying, saying, “Don’t cry”, is not even remotely helpful.

“It’s not okay, otherwise you wouldn’t have brought it up to me.” – Clare

Good point.

“Stop crying or I’m not going to tell you anything.” – Juan Pablo to Clare.

Right there. He is trying to control her emotions. If he’s doing that now, with the cameras on, what is he going to do in a year when she gets upset?

“There was no miscommunication, there was no misunderstanding.” – Clare tells the camera. This is true. Juan Pablo did not hesitate to go with her. He is, after the fact, trying to make this out to be her fault.

Clare goes off to cry alone and Juan Pablo follows her and then he asks,

“What happened?”

This guy is making me so mad.

She’s crying and he just keeps telling her, “Look at me.” Until finally he says, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“If he didn’t think it was right he shouldn’t have done it. I would have respected that.” – Clare. That’s the bottom line, really. He’s allowed to regret it. He’s allowed to express that to her. But he’s not allowed to act like she is the only one to blame.

The actual rose ceremony is pretty non-dramatic. Kelly, Alli, and Danielle go home, which is not at all surprising. Juan Pablo cries but I strongly dislike him now so I don’t care.

Next week: New Zealand. I don’t know if I can watch this…

Searching for the Polar Vortex

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While most of the continent seems to be cursing the polar vortex and staying inside, it’s been sunny and (relatively) warm around here, so this weekend Peter and I went in search of snow.

We found it.

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A little off-roading, a little ditch-crossing, and a lot of mud-splattering but found snow.

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We followed the tracks of some four-pawed beastie through the woods though we never met the creature.

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We sank in snow past our ankles and, in some parts, heard ice crack below our feet.

Then we went home for hot chocolate.

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