Thursday, May 16, 2019

FOLDED WISDOM :: Joanna Guest

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Every morning for 14 years, Bob Guest--artist, husband, father and man of routine who was "ahead of his time"--sat down to write notes to his children on a 6x9 pad of paper. Often folded like little footballs, the notes were tucked into lunchboxes or waiting on the kitchen counter. His daughter, first-time author Joanna Guest, was seven when they began. As an adult looking back at the more than 3,500 notes (out of roughly 4,775) that survived time and the family washing machine since 1995, Guest found wisdom and meaning in them that she couldn't fully appreciate as a child.

In Folded Wisdom, Guest shares the inception of the notes and how they progressed as she and her younger brother, Theo, grew older and their life problems became more complex. Bob was sparked by a desire to encourage Theo to read, and was dedicated to connecting with his kids. One of eight children of a rear admiral in the navy, Bob had a "minimal" personal relationship with his absentee father.

The notes, which often included puzzles and drawings, ranged from snippets of love and encouragement to pages of thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, deal with life and say "I'm sorry." As insightful and charming as the notes themselves, Guest's narration winds between photographs of the real deal. Folded Wisdom is a wonderful testament to love and to Bob's success in perpetuating thoughtfulness and value in expressing ourselves to others.

STREET SENSE: Charming as hell. The advanced copy did not include color illustrations, but a few of the pages can be found with a Google search. They make me want to go track down a finished copy. Who wouldn't love to wake up to something like these notes each morning? This book made me want to meet Bob. What a beautiful testament to fatherhood he, and thus this book, is.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  The unsung hero of Folded Wisdom is Guest's mom, who never read the notes (until now, I presume) unless she was rescuing one from the wash, saying "They weren't addressed to me." Thus my favorite passage is actually from the Acknowledgments:

To my mom, Gloria--I know you think you had nothing to do with all of this, but the truth is you had everything to do with it. You found every note you could. You stored them in a safe place. You moved them all from our tiny two-bedroom apartment into a big old house. Then, when asked if you knew where they were, you said yes.

COVER NERD SAYS: Probably because I am a person who relates to order and organization, this cover is a bit jarring to me. As I look closer I can see that it's a bunch of folded football notes, but until you read the book that might not be particularly clear. I think fewer notes on a background would have been more appealing to me, but it's not all about me (despite everything you just read). I also would have thought this book to "cutesy" for me, but it's not (whether because it's less cutesy inside or I'm more cutesy inside, who knows? (But you can guess).

No comments:

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP