Favorite Scenes: Cringing over Cake

Cringe scenes are the best.

They grab me and bring me right into the world of fiction and make me imagine, believe even, that I can help. Take this one, for example, from Little Women:

Younger Amy March: [Jo is curling Meg’s hair] What’s that smell? Like burnt feathers.

Jo: Aaahh!

Meg: You’ve ruined me!

When I read this scene for the first time, I imagined traveling back in time to save the day. Maybe I’d warn the daydreaming Jo to pay attention with the curling iron? Maybe I’d offer Meg a pretty bonnet to hide the damage? Who knows? The fact is that I dripped with compassion for poor Meg, and I would have done anything to fix the terrible cringe-worthy moment.

Oh, life would be so much better if we could all be polished, lovely, and mistake-free all the time.

But where is the conflict in that?

The best cringe scene I read recently is in Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree.

Fish in a Tree is a fairly new book, just out last year, so I don’t want to spoil it. But, oh, I must!

Without giving away too many details, let me tell you this: there is a lunchroom scene flashback that explains the hostility between Ally and Shay. Ally tells the story in a raw, honest, vulnerable voice that makes you want to reach into the pages and hug her. I was crying and laughing as I read it.

Ally and Shay’s relationship is not a boring, old, cliché between a bully and a bullee; no, they’ve come by their animosity toward one another honestly, in the most deliciously cringe-worthy scene I’ve read in a long time.

It’s fabulous. How could it not be? It involves cake. It trumps even the opening scene when Ally gives a less-than-appropriate card to her teacher. Come to think of it, Ally suffers more cringe-worthy moments than I think I could bear, and that’s saying a lot, considering when I was in 7th grade, I looked like this:

BLOG Kristin jr high

Readers will want to hug Ally and to find a way to make her path in life easier, and they will also want to shake and tell her to get a clue. Either way, they will be drawn to walk her conflict-fraught path with her, and that’s what makes her character so magnetic and Fish in a Tree so impossible to put down.

Go read it and have yourself a good laugh, cry, and cringe.


Favorite Scenes: Puffed Sleeves

There are so many wonderful scenes in the world of books, but one of my favorites includes the darling Anne of Green Gables and her yearning for a dress with puffed sleeves.

I read Anne of Green Gables when I was twelve at a time when I could most relate to wanting to be like the other kids. With my stunningly bad perm and gorgeous buck teeth, I always felt somehow that I came up short. But if Anne could find a way to fit in, maybe, just maybe, so could I.

Puff sleeves marilla“Puffed sleeves, Marilla,” Anne says dreamily in the scene when the dress she had always wanted materializes, thanks to Matthew, in her midst. I was so happy for Anne, who finally, finally gets something nice. Something that will make her feel pretty, like she belongs, like she’s as good as the other children even though she’s an orphan with red hair and freckles.

Oh, it’s a beautiful scene, but it only works because of the one a few chapters before it, when we learn about Anne’s yearning.

In it, Anne marches like a trooper to Sunday School all by herself. Until then, she is able to Sunday School dressimagine that at least one of the clean, neat, serviceable dresses that Marilla has made for her has puffed sleeves, but when confronted with the nine other girls in her class who actually have puffed sleeves, her powers of imagination fail her.


While Marilla thinks she is overreacting, I am utterly in agreement Anne’s feeling that “life was not really worth living without puffed sleeves.”

When Marilla chides her for indulging in her own vanity, Anne’s take on the situation is brilliant. “I would rather look ridiculous when everyone else does than plain and sensible all by myself.”

Oh, Anne, you deep-thinker, this phrase explains so much about humanity.  And also about me.

What are some of your favorite literary scenes? Please share in the comments. 🙂


The Smiles Returning to their Faces

My last post was a bit whiny and featured a promise to move more, to be more healthy and such.

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve moved all sorts of things, including numerous backyard stones, which I’m afraid has angered the garden gnomes or the stone gods or Mother Nature or whoever is in charge of the sun, because it’s been pouring for days.

I think it’s adorable that the cold and rain thinks they’re going to keep me indoors now that the calendar says spring is here, because . . . no.

I’ve been out in the sopping wet digging and shoveling and planting and mulching through it all. No, I will not post a picture of myself. I look ridiculous. I will say this: it’s a good thing I haven’t bothered with a manicure this year, because it wouldn’t stand a chance.

Since March, we’ve built a strawberry patch and an herb garden and two new flower beds. As I mentioned, it’s pouring rain out at the moment, so any pictures I could share of our endeavors would be sad and dreary. Instead, I’ll share these:

B morning glories

These morning glories from last year could be glorious once again, if only the sun would come out.

BLOG garden cherry tomatoes red

Sun-kissed cherry tomatoes from last year. Just add sun.

B rosebud

I don’t care what anyone says, a rose by any other name isn’t as nice without the sun.

Garden sunflower Sept 2015A sunflower brought to you by the power of the sun.

You just wait. The sun is on its way. And when it gets here, there will be more pretty things like these. It seems like years since they’ve been here.