Friday, October 13, 2017

review: the hired girl by laura amy schlitz

After the passing of her mother, 14 year old Joan is left responsible for all the cooking and cleaning on her family's farm. Although Joan loves school and her mother hoped Joan would be educated enough to be a teacher, Joan's father insists she stay home to work; such is life in 1911. But Joan is a rebel. She hears of workers going on strike and learns that hired girls can make $6/week, so she declares herself on strike unless her father gives her the egg money like her mother got. Joan's father won't hear of it, which leads to the Catholic Joan leaving home and finding a job as a hired girl for a wealthy Jewish family.

The differences in religion frequently come into play in Laura Amy Schlitz's The Hired Girl, which was inspired by her grandmother's journal. At first there are misunderstandings (such as the need to use different sinks) on Joan's part, but it all becomes more complicated as Joan, who has lied about her age, develops feelings for one of the Rosenbach sons (who is quite the flirt). The Hired Girl unfolds slowly with Joan initially coming across as a whiny child, but she comes into her own as learns to navigate life as a household employee. Throughout the touching epistolary novel, Joan shares her longings and her amazement at her experiences all while staying true to her forthright nature (which gets her into trouble on a number of occasions).
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Monday, October 9, 2017

review: operation enough! by anita dhake

After graduating from law school in 2009, Anita Dhake did not fall victim to the “golden handcuffs;” instead, she lived frugally in order to pay off her loans and accomplish her goal of retiring early. At just 33, Dhake did retire. She began sharing her life (including mom’s recipes!) on a blog called The Power of Thrift; portions of that entertaining and informative blog have now turned into Operation Enough, which fulfills another of Dhake’s goals—writing a book.

Dhake is not a financial advisor by trade, but that makes Operation Enough! all the more relatable. Dhake’s attitude about money was shaped early on when she read Your Money or Your Life as a teenager. Like many other Americans, Dhake took out loans for her degrees, but her early brush with that financial advice book affected how she moved forward after graduation. In Operation Enough, she explains how a bit of good fortune (her law firm offered to pay her minimum student loan payments for a year at the height of the Great Recession) and good planning (she rented an apartment within biking distance of the law firm) combined with frugality (no traveling) allowed her to pay off her student loans just two years after finishing law school. While offering anecdotes from her life, Dhake outlines how to do your own Operation Enough. She frames her tenets around five questions:
What exactly is enough?
How should I spend my money?
How do I save money?
How should I invest?
How should I not spend money?
Her advice is thoughtful, but it doesn’t feel like advice because her writing is engaging and light-hearted. My favorite bit is, “Don’t spend money on crap you personally and specifically don’t need for happiness.” Dhake recognizes that different people have different priorities—she loves to travel, but others might prefer another form of entertainment. She highlights a few things (book, music, movies, etc.) that one might spend wastefully on, then breaks down the opportunity cost. (Anecdotally, I think this can work. I'm reminded of a now-former coworker who wanted to quit smoking. Part of what kept him going while struggling to end his addiction was the knowledge that the cigarettes cost him the equivalent of a nice used car each year.) One of her hardest sections for me was on pets.

I adore my monster and think she’s worth every penny, but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have adopted her had I known that after the Great Recession apartment complexes like mine would begin tacking on a $25 pet rent every month. That said, I'm pretty sure she is necessary for my happiness.

Reading Operation Enough!, you're likely to be inspired to do something about your finances while at the same time being amused by Dhake's clever use of various avatars.
5/5
Review copy provided by the author.