Confessions of a Skittish Catholic from Idaho

What do you know about Idaho other than potatoes or maybe that Ernest Hemingway killed himself here? NAN KILMER BAKER grew up in this sparsely populated northwestern state, a skittish Catholic raised in a town full of eccentric characters who intrigued her enough to write about them years later.

Welcome to NAKED JOY, where the author’s heroine AUNT MILLIE raises peacocks, sews an elaborate wardrobe for her detergent bottles, campaigns for JESUS and ignores her sinister husband. Tortured by her mother’s hideous shoes and insensitivity, BAKER is traumatized when before she knows the word “cancer,” the town surgeon cuts off her neighbor CLAIRE’S right leg. An unforgettable visit to the prosthetic factory results as she joins CLAIRE and her glamorous mother while they shop for the perfect new limb.

HEMINGWAY chose not to write about Idaho, perhaps because he wanted to keep it as his secret getaway. And get away is what BAKER longs to do while growing up in the “Gem State.” She escapes to attend college and spend a romantic year “studying” in Italy. Next the graduate heads east only to find work as a night receptionist catering to more lunatics. After enduring odd jobs and grad school, she marries and moves to Japan. There tragedy strikes, so the shaken new mother moves on to Thailand to experience a cavernous house full of maids, geckos, and the occasional snake.
Eventually our world traveler returns to the states where she suffers “Reverse Culture Shock” and subjects herself to the horrors of retail. Not cut out for sales, she moves on to survive a stint as a spy while living outside the nation’s capital.

A collection of charming, quirky, occasionally disturbing tales, NAKED JOY pulls back the curtain on life as observed through the probing eyes of a sensitive, small town girl turned worldly woman. While some writers have stories, others have their own unique voice and way of looking at matters. Warm, witty, and honest, Nan Kilmer Baker shares both.

My Review

I liked getting to know author, Nan. I enjoyed reading about the author's Aunt Millie and her "coverlets" in the chapter titled "The House Dressing". She would knit her coverlets for everything from dish detergent bottles to toilet paper. Nothing was left "naked" Even today, Nan gets a little embarrassed if she sees an household item "naked". I got a big smile on my face as I also grew up around this concept. Yet, I can't remember dish detergent wearing dresses but I can remember the toilet paper. In fact, I still have a few covers that my Nana had. The "coverlets" were the cute, fancy way of hiding items.

Another chapter that I enjoyed reading was "Like Butter" in where the author was a little girl and she used to sneak into her neighbor's kitchen to eat a swipe of real butter. This is back in the time where butter was supposed to be bad for you.

While, I did enjoy reading this book, I did not find a strong connection to the stories within this book. More than not, it seemed that I was like "that was fine" versus more like "I just enjoyed what I read" like some of the chapters I spoke about above. Yet, overall, I did like the author's writing and would read another book by Nan.  


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