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By Joy Birnbach Dunstan
A Book Review by Victoria Schmidt
Joyful Musings is a collection of vignettes from the life of Lakeside author Joy Birnbach Dunstan, whose column of the same name appears each month in the Ojo del Lago. Subtitled “Growing up, self-discovery and reflections on life north & south of the border,” it’s not the standard memoir that takes us from birth to the current moment through chronological chapters. Sharing the author’s unique view on her life the book is grouped into three sections: Self-Discovery, Family Matters, and South of the Border. These literary snapshots are down to earth and presented thoughtfully.
I laughed at the story of her brother and his hilarious night of sleepwalking and the image of Joy driving through a small Oregon town with a dead goat strapped on the roof of her car. I could relate. Not about the goat…but about suddenly finding yourself doing something you’d never imagined dealing with.
Each chapter marks an event or discovery in her life. We learn about the challenges she faced, obstacles she’d met, and things she’s learned. Lakeside readers will particularly enjoy the last section, South of the Border. Dunstan’s writing style is informal, yet she has a way of painting images with language in a poignant way. As she describes her son, she says “The tides of his life roll in and out, perpetual as the ocean, invisible as the wind. One day I’m packing him off to the babysitter, the next day he’s babysitting for a neighbor. Not so long ago he collected Matchbox cars, then soon he had his own full-size car he could really drive. You can no more tell the precise moment the tide turns and begins to recede than you can tell when one stage of life evolves into the next.”
As a visual person, the only thing I felt the book lacked was some photographs or drawings illustrating some of the points of each chapter. I could imagine some Thurber-esque illustrations that would have been a delightful addition to this book.
The format of Joyful Musings makes it an easy read, either straight through or savored one chapter or story at a time. Dunstan’s first book, Joyful Musings is 176 pages, published in 2010 and sells for $150 pesos at Diane Pearl’s. It is also available at Amazon, as a Kindle book for $2.99 USD, and in a paper edition available online for $12.95 USD. A delightful read awaits you.