Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
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Pray For The Heathen

In little more than 24 hours I will board a flight bound for The Zion Curtain, more popularly known as the Rocky Mountains by the rest of the world. The Curtain guards The Latter Day Saints from the abominations of the rest of the world. And I am about to drag my worldly ass back to Zion.

It has been nearly two years since this day. It sounds silly, but I am nervous. Afraid to experience my reactions upon arrival to a place that caused and still causes so much conflict in my heart and mind. Not only the Mormonism... but old friends and lovers, family turmoil, all of it wrapped up and presented to me once I step off the plane. Not like a bouquet of welcome home flowers... more like a swift punch in the gut.

No, I'm not seeking out old friends and lovers, really. But they're there. In the sights and smells of my old stomping grounds. In the places of our past. The mountains where we skied and hiked, the bars in which we drank, the classrooms where we tried not to fall asleep, the roads we travelled, houses in which we passed our teens and early twenties... dark corners I could traverse with my eyes closed, corners that echo still with the whispered secrets of my past.

Am I the same girl that left? No. Yet I feel the same. I am still me. Still Monica Butler. But I'm not. I'm Monica Bielanko now. The Girl Who has scrapped her way through two years of living in Brooklyn. Will Salt Lake City seem smalltown now? Or will it fill my heart with nostalgia and comfort? Will friends seem the same or have we grown apart with time and distance? If they are the same will I find that comforting or distressing because I have outgrown them like a pair of jeans that no longer fits. Will I long to visit those friends to find out or will I stay holed up at Mom's house taking silent stock of my past and grappling with my future?

My life changed as suddenly as a car wreck. And right now, something is wrong. Whether I was injured in the crash or am just having trouble adjusting, I don't know. What I do know is that I need a break from this Brooklyn scene. Maybe I've forgotten who I am.. lost in unfamiliar territory with nary a face from my past. Thing is, I won't know until I step off the place, see the sights, greet old friends. One can only speculate how one will feel until it happens. When I am face to face with all that I ran from two years ago.

I noticed recently that I've stopped reading. For many reasons. I miss it. I miss losing myself in a book, looking up shocked to find the world still there, startled that two hours somehow slipped by. Becoming aware of my surroundings after wending my way through an amazing read. So my question to you is this; HELP! What are some great books you've read? Non-fiction, fiction, whatever. The flight is 6 hours and I want to spend most if it reading. What book changed your life? For me it was the following; The Diary of Anne Frank, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher In The Rye, Outsiders, Roots... I know there are more.. but the list is long and not necessarily distinguished. What books would you list? No need to be pretentious. If a Danielle Steele novel rocked your world, tell me about it! Anything! Old books or new, I want a list to plow through.

On a side note - thank you so much for all the emails you've sent me. I've read every single one and I can't tell you what a lift each has given me. I promise to get back to you all because it blows me away that perfect strangers take time out of their lives to send me their thoughts and good wishes. I was telling The Surge the other day that I recently realized how important a role this blog has played in my life. After losing interest for a time there I was intrigued to find how much I missed it and how important this outlet is to me for defining my feelings, if only for myself.

Reader Comments (79)

Since you have a 6 hour flight I would recommend...
Marley & Me (John Grogan) about a man & his dog a really great story. Beware it does make you laugh out loud and also cry! Being a HUGE DOG lover it was something very understandable. Also I really liked... "For One More Day" (Mitch Albom) he also wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven. With my mothers passing away and going through a divorce at the sametime at the age of 30 this was a really good book. GOOD LUCK and have a safe trip!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJrLouie
One Hundred Years of Solitude. Definitely changed my life - and does it again every time I read it, because I'm at a different place in my life and I understand more each time I read it.

Possibly the greatest first line in prose.

First read it stoned on the front porch my sophmore year of college. Have re-read it at least 4 times since, each time straight, and I never tire of it.

Have a good trip.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMary
When I flew in the SLC, it would never fail that they were welcoming some boy home from him mission, huge signs that said "Welcome home Brother So and So!".
Good luck with going home! Don't let it suck you back in!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
That was so beautifully written. You'll have a wonderful time.

I simply love going back to NZ for a visit. It is so incredibly exciting flying in and seeing land for the first time in over 3 hours from Australia. Then getting off the plane and the warm, humid air that greets you and then the wonderful smell of NZ and the lush greenery all around, and all the incredibly genuine, friendly, open people and the old friends, pies, Mum's roast beef, my dad's dog Spike, the beach,
barbeques, and, and, and.

God I love that land. Wouldn't like to live there again at the mo. But for a holiday, it's brilliant.

I really hope you'll have an awesome time Monica!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
a fine balance by rohinton mistry - my #1 of all time: makes real life seem like an annoying interruption to the consuming story

the secret life of bees by sue monk kidd - a sweet quickie to get back in the reading game

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by mark haddon - another great quickie

warning: the above mentioned books are all sob-worthy in a hurts-so-good/nyc-marathon kind of way

a short history of progress by ronald wright - fascinating, easy read, a fair warning without doomsday feel

blink by malcolm gladwell - how our crazy brains make snap decisions - to our benefit and detriment
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentergina
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It changed my life!

Also the old standard Pride and Prejudice
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentere.
I've still not read Pride and Prejudice so if you read it, post a review here! Just reading that post gave me anxiety for you going home and the feelings you will have. Please tell me you're going to blog while you're there. If not I may go into withdrawals. The best book I've read recently is Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld but I think I remember that you've read that one. What about Cold Mountain? I really lost myself in that book. Have a safe trip!

PS - the post about the marathon was beautiful!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
The Red Tent. Changed how I viewed organized religion, and with your Morman upbringing, it may help to shed some light on some thoughts you have about religion and how it all even came about.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Get an Erica Jong book - if you haven't read it - Any Woman's Blues would be good for what ails you right now.

Love, sex, alcohol, creativity, hoplessness and the struggle of arguing with the self while's all in there.

Best of luck in your quest. They say you are most uncomfortable, and feel the most dread, right before you make a huge step towards really understanding this riddle of existence. Keep breathing.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
Yeah, nothing can make me get lost faster than an Austen. Sense and Sensibilty does the same thing for me.

For less literary fare, go get the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. The first one is called Dead Until Dark. They get increasingly better, and one of them is sexy as hell.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
Welcome back to the Wasatch front. I hope your visit will not be filled with family, friend, and old lover drama. If it happens, don't let it overwhelm you and ruin your visit. Hold strong in knowing you are going home in a short time....but most of all enjoy the family, and friend drama, because you will miss it one day when The Surge is on tour, and Max is asleep...and you are home alone on a cold, night in wonderful Brooklyn.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterIsaac
Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk
American Psycho, by Brett Easton Ellis
Replay, by Ken Grimwood
The Peaceful Warrior, by Danny Millman

Anything by Truman Capote.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdesiree
American Psycho is amazing! A must read. It will be strange to know you are in Utah considering that I live here and only discovered you after you moved to New York City. Have a great time and bring a coat!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib
The best fiction I've read recently is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - Excellent. The best non-fiction I've read recently is the 2006 Best American Essays (great for writers of personal essays (i.e. bloggers)). Two of my favorite classics are Lolita and A Separate Peace.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCover Your Mouth
I recently finished Little Children by Tom Perrotta & thought it was a good read....nothing like yet another tale of unsatisfied suburbanites.

Steven King's the Cell...not high-brow reading, but this story kept me engrossed & the plot was fast-moving.

On vacation, I found a book in the house we rented called the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It's a memoir of the author's horrific, neglected upbringing. It's told in a matter-of-fact, even humorous way...not in a boo-hoo, poor me, manner. It's always nice to read about a family more fucked up than your own ;-).

Good luck & enjoy your trip!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy
1.The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
2.Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
3.Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
4.Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
5.Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin
6. Any kind of poetry written by Dorothy Parker
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeg2Defer
Currently, I am in the middle of 5 or 6 books. Finally I had to just pick one to finish before starting yet another one and reading basically a chapter at a time from each and taking probably 6 months to finish any one of them.

I settled on A Good Life by Jay McInerney. But that's not necessarily what I'd recommend. I don't know if any books have "changed my life," but I am a voracious reader and always have a good book to recommend.

One of my favorites, or probably I should say my favorite, is Charles Buskowski, now famous (?) for having been played by Matt Dillon in a film I've yet to see. I really liked Post Office, but almost all of his novels are wonderful. I think you might like them (if you can overlook some of the cruder aspects) quite a bit if you haven't already read them, that is. He has quite a way with humor, even about serious subjects.

I like lots of nonfiction and biographies, some favorites in that genre are Lust for Life (about Vincent van Gogh), Frida (Khalo), The Rice Room by Ben Fong Torres (he is a music journalist, so might speak to you).

Others I can see right now by glancing at my bookshelf from my spot in bed: Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Michael Chabon)--I really liked that one a lot, City Boy by Jean Thompson, about a young marriage and the tensions that affect it, and Through the Children's Gate, which is a series of essays about family and New York and is one of the 6 or so books I'm currently in the middle of. It's really well written and very insightful/interesting.

I love a post involving books (although I know yours was about much more than that) can't you tell? Good luck going "back home." I used to break out in hives, literally, whenever I went back. That pretty much answered most of my questions about going home for me. Hope yours are easily resolved as well.

(By the way, I've written about some of these books, and others, on the "Books" category on my site if you want to take a look--

A lot of the books at that link somehow relate to the San Francisco Bay Area (since that's what that site is about), but most should be of interest to people living elsewhere, too. They are in the end, just good writing, not just good writing about a particular place.)
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermm
7. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeg2Defer
Meridian by Alice Walker is a favorite of mine that I read over and over
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
I second Eat Pray Love and Siddhartha.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Smith
8. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
9. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
10. Warrior of the Light: A Manual by Paulo Coelho
11. Eleven Minutes: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

Sorry, but I forgot them and just had to add to the list. Uh,I think I'm done now.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeg2Defer
The Glass Castle (amazing, I thought I had a dysfunctional childhood until I read
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCassie
Cat's Cradle-Vonnegut.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleggo
Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live by Doug Hill
Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
Carburator Dung... by Lester Bangs
Big Bad Love by Larry Brown
Tumble Home by Amy Hempel
Lummox by Mike Magnuson

Those were life changing me to read again and then taught me things about good writing. Mike Magnuson rules. He drinks wine and rides bikes semi-professionally and kicks ass at prose and the drumset.

November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJB
I "third" "Eat, Pray, Love." Even before I read what other people wrote, I thought that would be the perfect book for you right now...what you're going through. It has changed my life. Hope you enjoy it!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentern
None of these books changed my life but they all are an excellent read.
It’s a variety of genres so I hope you will find something you feel like taking with you on this trip into the past.

Monica - Good Luck.

Margaret Atwood – The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, Alias Grace
Ernest Hemingway – Garden of Eden
John Fowles – The Magus
Herta Muller – The Land of Green Plums
Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness
Patrick Suskind – Perfume
Stephen King – Pet Sematary
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercrazygoing
Man, this is a great list. I'm going to have to bookmark this page so I can work my way through all of the suggestions. My picks are:

The Count of Monte Cristo
It - Stephen King
and if you've not read Harry Potter yet you totally should!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLJ
Have a great time Monica...

Anything by Wally Lamb is a great read but my favourite is 'She's Come Undone.'
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
I hope you post from Utah---> love to hear how everything goes.

A short list of books that have interested me, lately:

'The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas', Gertrude Stein
(typical G.S. prose and a mind-bending way of writing her autobiography)

'Miracle Strain', Michael Cordy (thriller with a genetic/religious twist)

'Cold Sassy Tree', Olive Ann Burns (such a storyteller, Olive Ann! A sweet story about small-town life in the South)

'Lolita', Vladimir Nabokov (everyone knows it, but I just love his use of words... they truly are lyrical. Hard to believe his first language was Russian)

PS Don't let the Mormons get you down!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren D.
One I love is Ham on Rye,by Charles Bukowski.Ham on Rye is a narrative of Bukowski's childhood and young adulthood, through his autobiographical character Henry Chinaski. It begins with his earliest memory, that of several pairs of legs viewed from beneath a table.
Simultaneously comic and poignant, Ham on Rye is a novel that studies three influences that had a huge impact on the artist's life and work:

1.) His father's cruelty
2.) His severe, disfiguring acne
3.) His early experiences with alcohol

Throughout his art a sense of being an outcast is felt, a sense of alienation, and a distinct rugged individualism. In Ham on Rye Bukowski analyzes his early life and tells the story of how Bukowski became Bukowski.

Chapter Twenty of Ham on Rye describes young Henry Chinaski as he encounters cruelty among his friends, among the adults in the neighborhood, and at home as well.

Later, in Chapter Fifty One of Ham on Rye we find Henry as a failing young college student and fledgling alcoholic writer.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershugadeluxe
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
This one's not going to win any awards but it's certainly engrossing. Have a safe trip, Monica.

The Dirt...Confessions of the Worlds Most Notorious Rock Band (Motley Crue)
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTab
Oh no way! I just read through the whole list and thought I still had a new one to add, until the last post.

The Time Traveler's Wife is hands down my all-time favorite piece of fiction. Not that I'm a big time reader...but this is such a beautiful love story. And I've always been intruiged by the idea of time travel that I really got into that part of it too.

I think that it could be a beautiful movie if it's done right.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterktphotog
Nothing very sophistacated here, but I loved 'Case Histories' by Kate Atkinson. It was riveting to me, and I don't have a lot of time to read. I am always reading a book, but I cancelled things to read this book. You might like it - there are three really compelling stories happening at the same time. So...that is my suggestion..
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKDS
Good Luck Monica! Enjoy, let it be what ever it is and know that you are exactly where you are meant to be at this exact monment in time.

The Kite Runner - AMAZING!
A Million Little Pieces - I don't care that it is not all true, he is an amazing writer
I Hope You Have A Good Life - Campbell Armstrong
Tending Roses - I forget the Author

Fun Reads:
Bitter is the New Black - Jen Lancaster
Something Borrowed - Emily Griffin
Something Blue - Emily Griffin
Just finished the last 2 in the last week....great quick reads that just take you away!

I hope you have a very safe flight.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermap
Marely and Me was also FANTASTIC.....def. makes you laugh and cry!
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermap
girl sometimes everyone needs to hit home to clear their mind and regain their focus. A break is always surely needed. I love good in bed, by jennifer wiener, its light where you want it to be . emotional where you need it to be and funny as hell. But really you should just fly from SLC to Great Falls , Mt. and come to my smashingly sexy party ... it's a cocks and / vixen party sorta like a vicars/ tarts party ala' britain! Wishing you a safe trip mama!
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
Fiction: The drowning people, by Richard Mason.
It didn't change my life but is a very well written book.
The very beginning of this book catches your attention, it starts this way: "My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon. At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success... It was I who killed her."
When you start you can't stop until it's finished!
Good luck for your trip home,
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSerena from Italy
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a fave of mine.

A wee bit o' encouragement from my own journey of re-re-rediscovery: I realized a short time ago, that I am shaped by the events of my past, my perception of the good bits of me, me weariness and fear of the bad bits of me, and it all gets bounced around by the day-to-day happenings of life. It's a constant action-reaction. These threads, as corny as that sounds, are the bits of the total me-blanket. Sometimes it's cold, stiff, and damp, but sometimes it's downright cozy.

Life, gotta live it . . . you'll get there and it'll feel grand.

Enjoy the ride.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjellybeans
Good morning all people here. I noticed a spelling fault in the post!"until I step off the place" It must become "the plane" off course! Haha! So it is home you travel now? I am a jealous human! I want to go but there is ayatollah. Is it the piza incident that made you get away?

I like a book read a lot in a weekend or lunch.

I have a comendation for you.

1. Harry potter and the stone: IT IS ENTERTAINING!

2. Bill Bryson books: is very funny and smart! Writes about Europe and the worldhe is from Iowa Des Moines and been all in the world like Hamad!

3. Der Steppenwolf from Herman Hesse, in the sixty years lots of yhoung people read and liked. Searching of soul it is the content. (also sidharta from a same author is nice). at first i did not understand, but now i know it is about accepting your own as a human and becoming a nicer person; i was a wolve in a past.

4. The perfume from Patrick Suzkind, scary and a lot murders but a whole lotsa nice!

5. Collecte d works from Edgar Allen Poe, quoting the raven "NEVERMORE" LOL

6. Lovely Bones from Alice Sebold: a small girl gets killed by the neighbour in pop corn field and she talks about afterlife and a remaining family from a cloud in heaven. the ayatollah would not like. I cryed a tear reading this.

7. Ian Kershaw Hitler biographie! Very big but very good! Also: Albert Speer for Nazi history (joachim fest is writer) literture
We need to study from a past!

8. Nick Cave: And the ass saw the angel; it is from a singer from Down underneath, very dark like in the old testament from the JEWS (i do not hate a jew)! Writing skills is excellency!

9. HENRIK IBSEN: Ghosts! about ghosts from past that haunt; very good playwrigh.19th century It is nice.

10. Guy de maupassant: 'une vie' (=a life). 19th century . about a life from a woman with many hardships but she survives "i think" (don't want a spoiling!)

I hope i am not a brag; i read when during lunch the box wrapping machinery is closed and there is not a noise.

Buy buy!

Hamad your friend
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHamad your friend
The time traveler's wife is one of my favourites as well.

Or 'Running with Scissors' and 'Dry' by Augusten Borroughs
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkiaora
All Families Are Psychtic by Douglas Coupland
The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
Tideland by Mitch Cullin
The Dog Walker by Leslie Schnur
Eve Green by Susan Fletcher
The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
Missing Mum by Joyce Carol Oates
Confessions of a toxic bachelor bt Ric Marin
OUT by Natsuo Kirino
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Eleven Minutes by Coelho Paulo
The Shadow of Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

ups! it's a lots but you should find something for yourself. have a nice reading. and great time at home!

November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
i second Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski
one of my favorites.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlc
I loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights is a good one by Emily Bronte. I also recommend Angels and Demons by Dan Brown I just finished this one and it was a page turner. Anything by Stephen King is good my favourites would have to be Hearts in Atlantis, Black House or Dolores Claiborne. Have a great flight :)
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarazy Cashew
ANYTHING by James Patterson, he's really talented and comgining romance, mystery and suspense. Also, a guilty pleasure....Nicholas Sparks. Good reads. Bring tissues.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfancythis
Apparently Hamad turned into Borat this week. Cool.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
Have a safe trip and please blog from Utah! I live here and it's exciting to think that you'll be blogging from here instead of far away in New York. I hope you find what you're looking for. I've been reading your blog for a year now and I love love love it. You're very talented and I admire your honesty with yourself.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Blue Like Jazz and Searching For God Knows What - Donald Miller

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nightime - Mark Haddon

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination - Helen Fielding

November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBaron
First, I will say that Beg2Defer and I seem to have incredibly similar tastes in books. He swiped a few of my favorite recommendations. And here are a few more. I am a total bibliophile and have found that I’m starting to reread books and realize about ¼ of the way through that it sounds *very* familiar. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.

East of Eden – John Steinbeck
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Nearly anything by Milan Kundera, Graham Greene or Charles Dickens
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglass Adams
War and Peace (Seriously. This book has some serious stigma, and I caught a lot of flak when I read it, but it is so worth it. Such a great book).
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Also wrote 100 years of Solitude, as aforementioned. Which is also totally worth the read)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (this book changed my life in high school)
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLucia Dreamer
I just read a hilarious book by Christopher Moore called " A dirty Job". It is about death so I think you would enjoy it...very funny.
Also " The Lovely Bones"...amazing novel!

November 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkat

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