In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
Published by Scribner, 2012
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In this novella, adult siblings Cal and Becky pull over for a rest stop by the side of an old church. On the other side of the road, a field of impossibly tall grass spreads to the horizon. From it, they hear a young boy pleading for help, and his mother, begging them to stay away. Against the mother’s warnings, the two venture into the grass to try and help; a decision they will quickly regret.
Father and son writing duo, King and Hill, do a great job of creating tension and unease. The fever dream of events that unfolds is as disorientating for the reader as it is for the characters, with several horrifying tableaus that are sure to linger in the mind. I can’t say the plot itself did much to satisfy, however; this being a conceptually driven story that hinges around its atmosphere and key set pieces rather than a particular arc. In that respect, I found it to be the kind of read that is somehow weaker than the sum of its parts. Still, it’s morbidly entertaining if you want something unapologetically strange and disturbing to fly through well within a couple of hours.
Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish by Rani Shah
Published by Dey Street Books, 2020
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The primary aim of this book is to encourage us all to follow the many examples of self-care and wisdom found throughout the natural world, by simplifying our daily lives and prioritising our own health and wellbeing. It does so by sharing fascinating facts about the weird and wonderful creatures we share the Earth with, and exploring what principles we as humans can take from them to apply to our own routines.
It has to be said that a few of the equivalent self-care tips for people were very tenuously linked to their animal counterparts, but I consistently enjoyed the gentle, warm tone of the book. The highlight for me was definitely the plethora of fun, interesting facts I picked up along the way (like how porcupines have evolved to have a coating of antibacterial oil on their quills, to reduce the risk of infection when they accidentally cut themselves on them). By imparting knowledge in small, bitesize chunks, and finding ways to make it applicable to our everyday lives, it’s the kind of read that educates stealthily, focussing on genuine interest and readability, and successfully avoiding the dreaded feel of a school lesson.
I appreciated the way Shah brought everything together at the end, by highlighting the sad reality that many species referenced throughout the book are currently at risk of extinction, and why it’s critical that we redress the balance of our lives to reconnect with simpler, kinder, and more natural ways of being. After all, ‘caring for nature is self-care for us all.’
Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
You can pre-order a copy of Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish by clicking here.