Four English ladies retreat from their miserable lives in London to a medieval castle in Italy that they have rented for the month of April. Lottie and Rose are escaping their husbands. Lady Caroline is trying to get away from men in general, and Mrs. Fisher, a grieving widow, wants only to rest and think and not be disturbed. As the weeks progress, attitudes change, and things get interesting when the husbands and landlord show up.
This is a good story, but Elizabeth Von Arnim, like many authors of the time, includes way too much narrative, which slows it down. Because I was curious after seeing a theatrical production of this book, and my regional talking book library’s group decided to discuss it, I slogged through and found the ending, like that of the play, satisfactory. This might be a good book to read during the month of April in a sunny garden, perhaps in Italy. The excessive narrative plus the sun’s warmth may cause you to slip into a peaceful afternoon slumber.
This memoir’s title may be a bit misleading. Erik Weihenmayer doesn’t just talk about his big Grand Canyon adventure but also covers other topics. The book starts with a forward by an American journalist, injured while on assignment overseas, who was inspired by Erik’s work. Erik then touches on his Mount Everest adventure, the subject of a previous book, and how he met his wife and married her on Mount Kilimanjaro. After that, he describes how he led various mountain climbing and river rafting adventures with children and adults who have disabilities. He explains how he formed No Barriers, an organization that empowers people with disabilities through hiking and other activities.
Erik also talks about family struggles: his brother’s battle with alcoholism and subsequent death, the arduous but successful process Erik and his wife went through to adopt a little boy from Nepal, and the child’s struggle to adapt to their way of life, then finding out later his mother was still alive. All this is interspersed with stories of his adventures and finally, how he succeeded in kayaking the Grand Canyon, with its multitude of dangerous rapids. In his epilog, he tells us what became of various children and adults with disabilities whom he helped through his involvement with No Barriers. The recorded version, which I downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio site, and which was produced by McMillon Audio, contains an interview with Erik.
I’m not the adventurous sort, but I always enjoy re-living others’ experiences from the comfort of my recliner, and Erik’s story didn’t disappoint. Members of my regional talking book library’s group chose this book to discuss because they wanted to escape winter and cold weather, but I found myself wrapping my blanket more tightly around me, as I read of Erik and his crew climbing mountains in sub-zero temperatures, so I don’t think this was quite the escape for which they’d hoped. Oh well, sometimes, you don’t really know until you read the book, which has a clear message meant not just for those with disabilities. You should never let barriers, real or imagined, stop you from making dreams come true.
Thanks to Charles French for inspiring this. In his post, he quotes a couple of sentences from books that strike his fancy and asks readers to respond with quotes of their own.
One sentence that came immediately to mind after reading this post was from Charles Dickens Oliver Twist. “But now that he was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once—a parish child—the orphan of a workhouse—the humble, half-starved drudge—to be cuffed and buffeted through the world—despised by all, and pitied by none.” When I read this classic as a teen-ager, I was horrified to learn that poor Oliver suffered a lot of abuse.
Nowadays, I apply the concept of being cuffed and buffeted through the world to how I feel children should be raised. I’ve never been a parent, so I’m going by the experiences I had as a child. Too often, today’s children are coddled and not shown enough discipline.
I’m not saying children should be fed three meals a day of gruel or beaten, but parents need to be more authoritative, and there’s nothing wrong with a few good hard swats on a child’s bottom. That’s the way I was raised, and I’m proud of it. If punishment is swift and sure, children will grow up to be responsible citizens, and down the road, we’ll have less crime and violence.
What about you? Is there a sentence from a book that stands out in your mind? Why? I hope you have plenty of good books to read in 2019.
Christmas 2018 is looking bleak for ten-year-old Miller and his family in rural South Carolina. Miller’s father, a shrimp boat captain, has been forced to dock his boat by rising fuel prices and limited income while his mother works two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. As a result, his parents have no choice but to tell him they can’t afford to buy him the dog he wants for Christmas. To make matters worse, Miller’s brother Taylor, a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, receives a service dog, but a miraculous surprise is in store. Each chapter alternates the storytelling from the first person point of view of Miller, Taylor, and their mother Jenny and is preceded by a quotation from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Recipes are found at the end of the book.
I would like to have known more about what happened to these characters after that miraculous Christmas in 2010. The prologue and epilogue take place in 2015, and we learn that Taylor still has the service dog and is married with a baby, but how did he get to that point? We also realize that Taylor did not reconcile with his high school sweetheart, with whom he broke up after returning from Afghanistan, but how and where did he meet his current wife, and what sort of work did he find once he’d overcome, to a certain extent, his post traumatic stress disorder?
What about Miller’s family’s financial situation? In 2010, after docking the shrimp boat, his father was working whatever construction jobs he could find, but did he end up with more stable work after that? Did his mother continue to substitute teach and clean houses? The prologue would have worked better as part of the epilogue.
I liked the many references to A Christmas Carol. I was moved to tears when Taylor was first presented with his service dog and fascinated by the training process, not unlike that of preparing a guide dog for someone with blindness or low vision. This is a great holiday read. I know it’s a little late now, but maybe you can put it on your reading list for next year.
In Pieces is a touching and sometimes funny autobiography of this well-known actress. Sally Field starts by talking about her life growing up in California. Her mother was an actress who never became popular, and her father served during World War II. After her father returned, her parents divorced, and her mother eventually married a Hollywood stunt man who abused Sally and her older brother. She explains how she became involved in theater as a teen-ager and how she got her first job soon after graduating from high school.
While detailing her career as an actress in television and movies, she describes having an abortion after an affair with a boy she doesn’t remember, marrying a boy she met in high school, giving birth to two sons, divorcing her first husband, then marrying another man ten years later, giving birth to another son, then divorcing her second husband. She also discusses her relationship with Burt Reynolds in the 1970’s while they were starring together. At the end, she talks about how she and her mother came to terms with her abuse at the hands of her stepfather before her mother died. This book includes some of her journal entries, and the Audible version, which I purchased, includes a pdf document with photos.
I always enjoy reading about celebrities’ lives, especially those with whom I’m familiar. Sally Field’s story didn’t disappoint me. I loved the way she narrated it, and at times, I thought it should be made into a movie with Sally Field starring as herself. Maybe it will someday.
Here it is December already, and the start of the holiday shopping season. This would be a great time for you to buy my latest book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. This would make a great gift for someone on your list who is caring for a loved one, but even those who aren’t family caregivers should enjoy my story. It’s about how I met and married my late husband Bill, who was totally blind, then cared for him after he suffered two strokes that partially paralyzed him.
Below is an excerpt which I hope will whet your appetite. This scene took place during the annual Range Writers Christmas party that we hosted a couple of months after Bill was discharged from the nursing home.
One side effect of a stroke is that the person has little control over emotions. Often while listening to a talking book or email message, Bill would start bawling because the material moved him. When I sat next to him, even in public, he frequently put his arm around me and told me he loved me. As we all sat in the living room, laughing and chatting, Bill extended his hand to the woman sitting on the couch next to his recliner, thinking it was me. “I love you, honey,” he said.
From across the room, I heard and saw everything. “Oh, sweetie, that’s Mary,” I said.
Embarrassed, Mary rose and offered to trade places with me. As I sat down next to Bill and took his hand, I said, “I turn my back for ten seconds, and you’re hitting on another woman.” He laughed, and so did everyone else.
After that, I always made sure I sat next to him at parties, and if that wasn’t possible, he always knew where I was.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that little anecdote. Now, I’ll leave you with a recording of me singing a fun Christmas party song and the hope that your significant other doesn’t hit on another during your holiday festivities this year.
This novel about food, family, and mental illness is set in a Maui village off the coast of New Zealand. Main characters include Valerie, a doctor and mother of four children; Elena, her oldest daughter who is pregnant and writes a food blog; Michael, her oldest son, a university student obsessed with surfing and his heritage; her younger son John, sixteen, and her daughter Rosa, eight. Over the course of a year, Elena discovers her partner is having an affair; Michael is diagnosed with psychosis; John leaves school, and Rosa is struggling to make sense of everything. The book includes recipes.
I like the way the author takes us into the minds of each character by alternating the storytelling from each character’s point of view. I found the snippets of information about Maui culture interesting. A review I recently read said this book should be read in November, but I think it could be read any time of year. Since it takes place in a coastal village, it could even be a summer beach read.