May 2016 Reviews

The Glass Family

by Leonore H. Dvorkin

Copyright 2012

 

Have you ever wondered what your glasses in the kitchen cupboard would say if they could talk? Well, this short, whimsical one-act play might give you some ideas. The action is centered around four glasses of varying sizes and takes place at night after all the humans have gone to bed, and the glasses are left to their own devices. They talk about their neighbors: the plastic glasses that don’t break when they’re dropped, the fancy glasses in the dining room that are handled with care and never allowed to associate with other glasses. They describe how good it feels when they’re washed in hot soapy water in the kitchen sink, making you wonder if their humans have a dishwasher. They reflect on how horrible it would be to break and have their pieces swept into a dust pan and tossed into the garbage. They banter about this and that all night until they hear the alarm clock upstairs and other signs their humans are stirring. Then, they fall silent.

Leonore H. Dvorkin is also the author of a novel and a memoir. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Her husband and son are also writers. She and her husband help other authors publish their books online in eBook formats through Amazon and Smashwords and in print through CreateSpace. With their help, my memoir, My Ideal Partner, will be published sometime this summer. You can learn more about their publishing services here. Leonore also tutors foreign languages and teaches exercise classes in her home. If you click on her name above, you’ll be taken to a Website where you can learn more about these services.

Having some experience in theater, I told Leonore that her play could be produced in conjunction with other one-act plays. She said she’s looking into that. I hope one day, her work can be featured on stage.

***

The Apartment

By Danielle Steel

Copyright 2016.

 

Four women share an apartment in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen: a shoe designer, a writer, an investment broker, and a doctor. They’ve been living there for years and become best friends. In the course of almost one year, two of them lose jobs and boyfriends. The third gets married, and the fourth becomes pregnant. The book opens in the fall, and by June of the following year, the apartment is empty except for one.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and I wasn’t impressed with the male narrator. His portrayal of female characters seemed forced, and I think the book should have been read by a woman. Otherwise, Danielle Steel has done a terrific job with another must read.

***

Midwives

By Chris Bohjalian

Copyright 1997

 

In March of 1981, you’re a midwife delivering a baby in someone’s home during an ice storm. After a long, difficult labor, the mother stops breathing. Numerous attempts to revive her with CPR fail. The mother is clearly dead, but the baby’s heart inside the womb still beats. What would you do?

In this novel, midwife Sibyl Danforth is in such a situation. Unable to get her patient, Charlotte, to the hospital because of downed phone lines and impassible roads, she uses a kitchen knife to perform a Cessarian and saves the baby. Her apprentice tells authorities Charlotte was still alive when Sibyl first cut her open. This starts the ball rolling on an involuntary manslaughter charge against Sibyl.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of sibyl’s daughter Connie, fourteen at the time, who later becomes an obstetrician. Connie talks about her life growing up with a midwife for a mother: her mother’s long absences while delivering babies and accompanying her mother to births when baby-sitters weren’t available. Bit by bit, she reveals the details of the fateful night in March of 1981 when Charlotte died. She then shares the details of the investigation, her mother’s arrest, and the long months before the trial begins in the fall. She talks about the trial itself, two agonizing weeks that changed the lives of her and her parents. The trial appears not to be just about whether Sibyl is guilty but also explores the question of home versus hospital births.

I’ve always found the topic of childbirth fascinating, probably because I’ve never experienced it. My mother once said that having babies isn’t bad, and you forget about it right away. That may have been because my brother and I were born in a hospital, and she was given gas during the difficult parts of her labor. Nowadays, I understand that with an epidural, hospital births are almost pain free.

Okay, enough of my reflections on childbirth. This book is a definite must-read. In fact, I might even recommend it to teen-aged girls, although it has some graphic descriptions. Maybe after reading this, girls might think twice before having unprotected sex.

***

Society’s Child: My Autobiography

by Janis Ian

Copyright 2008

 

This book was on sale at Audible for only $4.95. Remembering the author’s 1975 hit “At Seventeen,” I decided to read her memoir. She starts by describing a California audience’s negative reaction to her 1967 hit “Society’s Child.” She then talks about her life growing up. Her father was a music teacher, but because he was on an FBI watch list in the 1950’s and 60’s, he couldn’t have tenure no matter where the family went. They moved often.

When Janis was ten years old, she learned to play the guitar at a summer camp and got hooked on music. She described how playing and singing became a solace from the difficulties associated with moving from one place to another, being molested regularly by a dentist in one town, and her parents’ eventual divorce. She started writing songs as a teen-ager, and her music career took off. Her family was living in New York, and for a couple of years, she went to a performing arts high school but dropped out because teachers and even the principal resented her fame.

She describes in detail the next few decades of her career, writing songs, making records, touring, and her relationships with both men and women. During this time, she drifted between New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville and traveled overseas. She explains how she was inspired to write “Society’s Child,” “Stars,” “Jesse,” and “At Seventeen.”

At the end of the 1970’s, she married a man who turned out to be abusive. After ten years of putting up with him while still performing and making records, she left him and drifted in and out of several relationships. At the end of the 1980’s, she moved to Nashville and took a break from performing to write more songs. She then discovered her accountant had been purchasing insecure stocks by forging her signature. As a result, she owed a huge debt to the IRS, and they hounded her for years until she was finally able to pay it off. During that time, she battled chronic fatigue syndrome, and through a miraculous twist of fate, she found a true partner.

In 1998, doctors discovered a tumor on her liver, but when it was removed, it was found to be benign. Janis describes how she got into writing articles and short stories as well as songs and made a comeback in the performing world, creating her own record label. The book ends after she talks about how she and her partner were married in Canada five years after her cancer scare.

The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible features Janis Ian narrating it. She sings snatches of her songs, accompanying herself on guitar or piano during her reading. As she describes how she wrote certain songs, she plays and sings passages she is discussing. It’s fascinating to learn how her writers’ imagination works.

Like her, I wanted to be a singer, but I’m glad I’m not after reading her memoir and that of other performers. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the grueling hours or the lack of privacy if I became famous, and I’m sure there were times when she didn’t, either, but I enjoy living the life of a performer vicariously by reading such books as Society’s Child.

***

Losing to Win

by Michele Grant

Copyright 2013

 

In Belle Haven, Louisiana, a small town economically ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill, Carissa, a high school English teacher, is chosen as a contestant on a reality TV show in which people compete to see how much weight they can lose in three months through a grueling regimen of diet and exercise. The last thing Carissa wants to do is lose weight while millions of viewers are watching, but family and friends, concerned about her health and the town’s economy, convince her that this would be good for Belle Haven. She then meets the other contestants, most of whom she knows, and to her dismay, she learns that one of them is Mal, her high school sweetheart and now a professional football player who was once her fiancé.

As the author takes us through the contestants’ lives over the next three months, we learn that Carissa broke up with Mal because she no longer wanted to take a back seat to his career. Mal is recovering from an injury and hopes to get back into the NFL. As the two are forced together, things heat up between them, but what about the future? Does Carissa still love Mal, and is she willing to give him another chance? Has Mal realized there’s more to life than football? Who wins the weight loss contest?

I don’t usually read this sort of thing much anymore, but for some reason, I was drawn to the story. Maybe it was the light, steamy read I needed after the seriousness of Society’s Child. I was reminded of the phrase, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow, we die.” A friend once told me that when you diet, you die in a way. The pun would have been perfect for this book because the contestants do just that. They eat, drink, and are merry the night before the competition starts. Then they die-et.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

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