Some Thoughts on and Beyond Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday


Image from Cupcake

I was so excited to share my purchases from Saturday’s bookstore trip that I completely forgot to tell you that I finally finished Becoming! I am happy I read it. I loved Michelle Obama’s voice and her approach to her life as a political spouse. I appreciated how she wanted to keep things in perspective for her family. Since I’ve already written two posts about the book, I’m going to stop there. The last thing I will say about it is that you should read it if you haven’t already!

Once I finished up Becoming, I was finally able to move on to one of the titles I borrowed from the library a few weeks ago: Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry. Based on what I’ve read about the book, I had certain expectations about the level of writing and the plot. And wow, did Halliday deliver some quality writing. Her sentences are thoughtfully written and beautifully crafted. Her characters are complex and yet somehow familiar. They feel like people I could have known or people I could be. I know she’s written short fiction before, but I am amazed that this is only her first novel.

That being said, this book stumped me a little. I knew from reviews that the plot was not straightforward, but I was prepared to figure it out as I read. I’m not sure I did. I think I see the points at which the three sections of the book meet, but I’m not confident. Maybe I’m not supposed to be, and perhaps that’s the point.

A lot of readers may be frustrated by a novel like this because it seems more like three novellas or stories in one. I think at one time, I would have been frustrated because it’s not straightforward. Over the years, I have gotten more patient with and more curious about experimental forms of writing and plot.

Maybe part of that patience comes from the fact that Halliday is a woman? This is something I’m going to have to process a bit more, but I think that most of the “non-standard” novels I’ve read have been written by men, and I often get annoyed with them.  I often find that they write books that are “out there” for the sake of being provocative, rather than focusing on creating a compelling narrative. Am I missing the women who are doing this? Or have readers traditionally given male writers more flexibility on how they can write?

These questions dominated my initial interest in this book, which was Halliday’s relationship with Philip Roth.  Based on what I know about it, their affair is somewhat reflected in the text, but I think this is indeed fiction and not a thinly veiled biography. In the end, the book as a whole, a thoughtful and well put together narrative, won out over gossip and speculation. I like how Halliday was able to use her own experiences as inspiration but made the story into something else entirely.

I may need to put this one on my “to reread” list. This is something I do when I enjoy a title or when I know I can get more out of it on a second read. With Asymmetry, it’s a little of both. I found each section to be full of delicious language that I wanted to pore over and savor. Moving from one part to the next jolted me out of my usual middle-of-the-novel complacency, which I liked. It’s definitely the type of book worthy of a reread.

A Perfect Saturday at the Bookstore

IMG_1892 copy

I have had a gift card to a local bookstore in my wallet for over a year now. My parents gave one to me and one to my fiancé the Christmas before last. Since then, it has been torturing me. I imagine it has been calling out “use me! Think of the books!” But I resisted its pleas. My bookshelves are packed with titles I haven’t read yet, and I’ve started to store the overflow under my dining room table. I live in a New York City apartment, so there is only so much space I can use for storage.



But then my fiancé came up with a perfect excuse to use our cards: We should read a book together! We have never done this before, and I was excited when he suggested the idea. We could have gone to the library (you know how much I love the library) and borrowed the book, but we read at very different paces. I’m not sure when we’d actually be able to return it.

And so, on a beautiful New York Saturday afternoon, with the trees budding and dogs playing in the park and everyone shedding layers and enjoying the sun, we took a walk down to the bookstore. Well, he walked. I skipped. I was pretty excited.

Here’s what I bought:

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
This is the title my fiancé suggested reading together after he heard Wilkinson interviewed on WNYC. Spy novels are not my go-to reading material, but as I said, I was pumped to read something with my partner and try something new! I don’t know of too many spy novels written by women of color, or people of color for that matter, so I am glad that this genre is on its way to no longer being dominated by white men.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I knew I was buying this as soon as I saw it on a table near the front of the store. So many people have told me how great this book is, and I love the cover! I am also trying to incorporate more novels in verse into my reading life. I read Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint last year and was thoroughly engrossed, amazed at how I could be so invested in a story with so few words on the page.

Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley
I have a love-hate relationship with yoga. I always feel great after a class, but I usually end up falling over at least once, and I am always comparing myself to the other people in the class who look like pros. I like Stanley’s message that everybody, literally every body, can do yoga. It’s refreshing to see someone tackle the idea that yoga is for one kind of person who looks and moves a certain way.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
From what I’ve heard of this book, it falls into a category I like to call “smart fun.” It’s written well but is still funny and an easy, enjoyable read. It’s the kind of book you could take on vacation, but feel like you’re engaging your brain. Sex scandals involving politicians are not new, but I am curious to see how Zevin approaches the topic. I also love books told from multiple points of view.

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
Historical fiction is my catnip. It combines my love of reading and great story-telling with my fascination with history (yes, I am a nerd, thank you). I have not read much historical fiction/fantasy, but I think this is the perfect place to start. I also had no idea who Wilson was until this book came out recently. Based on what I’ve read about her and her work, I may have found a new favorite author.

5 Great Books By Women, About Women, That You Should Read


Photo by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash

I am still reading Becoming, which I posted about a few days ago.  But while I’m wrapping that up and gathering my  thoughts on it, I wanted to share some books I read last year I thought you might enjoy! I have always tried to prioritize reading books written by women, even before taking on this year’s project, and there are so many wonderful titles out there that I can’t help but highlight a few extras.


A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

This book focuses on friendships between women and how they can be wonderful, fulfilling, and complicated all at once.  It was fascinating to read about some of my favorite authors and their writing processes and support systems, and I’m thinking a lot about that as I integrate writing back into my life with this blog.  I love the fact that Mirdorikawa and Sweeney are writing friends. The introduction by Margaret Atwood is also great!


The Amputee’s Guide to Sex by Jillian Weise

I have never been a huge poetry fan.  It usually feels over my head. But this slim volume packed an emotional punch that I really appreciated.  I have mild cerebral palsy, and it is difficult to find books with characters and voices that I can relate to when it comes to navigating dating and sex when you have physical differences.  Weise is bold and brave in her honesty about finding and maintaining physical relationships with partners. It is a level of honesty I crave when I read.


The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

What I initially thought would be a fun, laid-back read quickly turned into a smartly-woven tale covering mental health, domestic abuse, love, and family.  Lovejoy Cardew is smart but guarded, and I loved following her as she overcame her past to create a happy future for herself. Plus, the story takes place mostly in a bookstore, which was fantastic.  Because, come on, who doesn’t love a bookstore?


The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but I was excited to read this one when I heard that the protagonist was a female attorney in 1920’s Bombay.  Massey’s writing is intelligent and gripping, and Perveen Mistry is a strong woman who is not afraid to use her brain. I am so excited for the second book in the series to come out in May.


The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

This is a great pick if you have a long weekend coming up when you know you just want to curl up with a good, long book.  I loved the two timelines between contemporary and 1660’s London, and I learned so much about a Jewish community there that I never knew existed.  Ester and Helen are both fighting for respect for their academic achievements, and Kadish weaves their stories together beautifully.


What are some titles by female authors that you’ve read?  Are there any that I should add to my TBR?  I am really enjoying reading only women so far this year and seeing the diverse stories we have.  I would love more suggestions!