Posted in books, family

Mom Takes a Sick Day and a review of Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda


I’ve been sick the last couple of days. Not deadly sick, and nothing stomach related (although that is going around. Hoping it skips our house), but I was down with a slight fever, a sore throat, and a raging headache. I feel better this morning (meaning a slight headache and no more fever, although I am VERY STUFFY), so back at it. Mom’s don’t get days and days to be sick.

(Now, I shouldn’t say Moms, because I know quite a few dads who are the main caretakers at their houses. Kudos to you, you deserve it.)

I am the last one in my family to get sick. The girls and I rub DoTerra OnGuard essential oils on our feet nearly every night. We all got sort of sick (the girls over Christmas, me this week), with colds. Husband refused to take oils (even on his feet) and he got SICK.

And you know what it means when is man gets sick. He’s the sickest sick person ever. At least my husband is.

He cannot do ANYTHING when he doesn’t feel good. He sleeps in. He eventually gets up, plops down on the couch in the living room and gets mad when he gets disturbed. He can’t help with anything and refuses to move. And he bellows for help.

Yesterday I took a sick day from work (I get to work from home, which sounds good, but is kind of harder. You get to be a stay-at-home mom while working. Sometimes great, sometimes not), really just to sleep. But did that mean anything in the morning? Nope. Get up, get the girls moving, get breakfast and lunches made, get them on the bus. And then I went back to bed.

And slept until about noon. It was glorious. Then I woke up and read, And read. And read. (I played a couple of rounds of Trivia Crack in there, too). I finished a long book (which I am reviewing today) and I started a new one.

So, part of this sick day was to get better, but I probably could have worked through it. A bigger part of the day, I think, was mental health. A day in my house, quiet, without noise or distraction, to sleep, to read, to REST. I think I needed it.

And now I’m refreshed and ready for the last two days of this week; and then a three-weekend (MLK Day is Monday), where we have just a little bit going on.

I can handle this.

And now Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda.

The Dutch. What is up with the Dutch? First I read Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool (which I reviewed here and here), which were good books, but verrry dark, all about really screwed up families. I mean really screwed up. And then I meet the Sigerius family in Bonita Avenue and realize how really screwed up they are. I mean REALLY screwed up. This is NOT a happy family. This is NOT a happy book.

But I think reading should stretch you, make you think, sometimes make you uncomfortable. This books scores on every level.

The story swirls around Siem Sigerius, the patriarch of the Sigerius clan. Siem, the dad, the beloved math professor and head of a university, the ex-Judo champion, the dutiful father and husband. The wife, two doting daughters. But there is more to this family than we realize.

Right away, his oldest step-daughter, Joni, brings home a boyfriend that took a compromising picture of Siem, naked, ready to take part in a college ritual with students. It endears him to a majority of the college population, but portends poorly for Siem. Aaron becomes tight with the family, and with Siem, especially.

Through varying narrators, we learn Siem’s story, the most reliable seeming to be Aaron. Siem is not Joni and Janis’ (the sister we hardly ever hear about) father, but their stepfather. Their father disappeared right when Siem showed up, and Joni could care less (should tell us something). AND he has a son, whom he pretty much abandoned when he became a stepfather.

Siem falls for Tineke, the girl’s mother, while they are both married and living on different floors of a house. Her husband disappears (that’s all we know of him), and Siem moves into their flat. His wife and son get to listen as he becomes father and husband to a new family.

His career takes off, and his genius takes him and his new family to Berkeley and Boston on his rise to the top of the math world.

Meanwhile, his abandoned son becomes a criminal, in and out of prison for escalating crimes, all obvious cries for attention.

The heart of this story is that the perfect family is far from perfect, and that smart and beautiful don’t add up to ‘respectable.’ Their duplicitousness seems to drive Aaron(Joni’s boyfriend) to psychosis; he splits from reality when he splits from Joni (and the family), the family’s secrets sending him over the brink into a world of madness. Wilbert, Siem’s real son, is awful, but he’s very honest and truthful in his criminality. I wish we could have known the second daughter, Janis; I think her observances would have made this book more interesting.

I hated these characters, but the story is still compelling. The mystery of what happens to these people kept me reading. I give it 3.5 stars. But don’t expect happy, light reading. It’s dark and deep and dank. This will not restore your faith in humanity, or make you happy in the end. No smiles. No cheeriness.

But this book is still worth a read. Stretch yourself. Go for uncomfortable. It’s good for you. And then go for a light, cheery, funny book next. The soul can only stand so much darkness.



I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

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