my apples and their tomatoes

I picked up Apples & Oranges: My Brother & Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner because it implied that it could answer the question of how you get along with people with opposing ideologies, i.e. your rabidly Republican uncle who thinks your gay friends should be shot, or your disgustingly liberal cousin who thinks that all the rich people should be placed in work camps.  You have to see them on holidays, you genuinely like them as people, but how do you get around these sometimes-insurmountable obstacles to polite conversation?

Well, the book had no answers.  And I don’t blame the author, I blame the idiots who created the sales pitch and tag lines and whatnot.  What the author was writing was a very personal book about trying to be close to her brother as an adult, after years of aggravation and fighting.  Yes, they had differing political views, but that was not the core of their disconnect, it was merely another symptom, a hot-button to blame for the anger and lack of communication.  Brenner does a decent job of exploring their childhood and their extended family relations, trying to figure out exactly where the pattern originated and maybe find a clue as to how to overcome it.

I thought the book was good, but not great.  Brenner is a journalist and can clearly write a good sentence, but I didn’t think the book was all that interesting.  I love memoirs, but this one didn’t hold my interest.  It seemed like the kind of book that was therapy for the author rather than something meaningful to be shared with readers. On the plus side, I now have a favorite kind of apple – Honeycrisp.

Living in Portland means that I live in apple country.  And being a conscious shopper, I try to buy local as much as possible. I am also trying to eat healthier – more fresh fruits and vegetables, for example.  The problem is, I’m not a big fan of apples, at least not the uncooked kind (give me a baked apple pie with caramel and ice cream and I’m yours forever). In A&O, the brother grows specialty fruits – mostly apples and pears (much of the book takes place in Washington state). Learning about the fruit-growing business was one of the ways that Brenner reconnected with her brother. So there was a lot of talk about apples, and he often rhapsodized about the Honeycrisp, so I picked one up at New Seasons on my next shopping trip. To my surprise, it was significantly different than your basic Granny Smith or Red Delicious – and yummy.  Who says reading isn’t good for ya?

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