Thursday Book Feature: The Ice House

The Ice House
by Laura Lee Smith
Copyright 2017.

Johnnie is an immigrant from Scotland, living in Florida and running an ice factory with his wife. Because of a hefty fine by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration after an accident, the factory may close. Johnnie’s son’s drug addiction has strained their relationship to the breaking point. Then Johnnie discovers he has a brain tumor. Against the wishes of his wife and doctor, he travels to Scotland with a young neighbor in an attempt to mend fences with his son.

Because this book is character-driven, it has way too much narration. In the beginning, I could tolerate it, but as the plot developed, it interfered with the action and drove me nuts. The ending could have been different, and the last chapter gave the book an unnecessary aura of sadness.

If The Ice House still appeals to you, I hope you enjoy it. As for me, reading a book shouldn’t be frustrating, and I prefer an ending that makes me feel good. I doubt I’ll read any more of this author’s work.

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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
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Review: Wishful Drinking

Abbie-1

Wishful Drinking

By Carrie Fisher

Copyright 2008.

 

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you probably remember Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. However, she acted in other films and wrote a novel. Wishful Drinking is a short, humorous memoir covering her life in general, though she shares some anecdotes from her experiences filming the original movie, like how Mark Hamill burst a blood vessel in his eye while filming the Death Star trash compactor scene.

She talks about what it was like to grow up as the daughter of two celebrities, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, how her father left her mother for another woman when Carrie and her brother were kids, acting with her mother in plays and performing in nightclubs while in New York, her on-again off-again relationship with Paul Simon and others, and waking up one morning to find a dead man in bed next to her. She touches on the birth of her daughter, a product of one of the other relationships, and describes her struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. She ends the book with a quote from Star Wars and says no wonder she was mentally ill. She could never get that speech out of her head.

I was a Star Wars fan in the 1970’s, and after learning through The Writers Almanac that Carrie Fisher’s birthday was this month, I thought now would be a great time to read this book. I had to laugh at one point when Carrie Fisher said she was once diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and didn’t believe she had it. It occurred to me that after everything Princess Leia goes through in the original Star Wars series, she would be a great candidate for post-traumatic stress disorder. I wonder if Carrie Fisher ever thought of that. Even if you’ve never heard of Star Wars, I think you’ll find this book delightful.

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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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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The World According to a Cat

You’re a recovering drug addict, subsisting on whatever money you can make playing your guitar and singing on the streets of London. Then one day, you meet a ginger cat who changes your life. Such is the case of James Bowen, the author of A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. These two books tell the story of how this stray cat positively influenced the author’s life.

In A Street Cat Named Bob, Bowen discusses how he took Bob in after the cat kept hanging around his flat and how they developed a relationship. Because Bob was a stray, Bowen didn’t think he would stay with him, but it’s said that cats choose their owners, and this turned out to be the case with Bob and Bowen. The author talks about how he became estranged from his parents and moved to England from Australia to pursue a career in music. He then explains how he became addicted to drugs and shares his experiences on the streets after finding Bob, how he took the cat with him everywhere and how Bob’s presence caused more people to pay attention to him and earned him more money. Eventually, because of police harassment, he was forced to give up busking and start selling editions of a local magazine called The Big Issue.

In The World According to Bob, Bowen recounts further adventures with his cat on the streets. He also touches a little more on his life growing up in Australia, how he was hospitalized frequently as a child with a variety of psychiatric disorders. After a couple of years on the streets with Bob, he was discovered by the media, and he explains how he wrote his first book and how its publication got him off the streets, improved his relationships with his family, and changed attitudes toward the homeless.

According to Wikipedia, James Bowen was born on March 15th, 1979 in Surrey, England. After his parents were divorced, he moved to Australia with his mother and stepfather. His home life was tense, and because the family frequently moved, he was unsettled at school. Continually bullied, he began sniffing glue and was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, schizophrenia, and manic depression.

In 1997, he moved to London, and after living with his half-sister for a while, he spent the next ten years sleeping either on the streets or in shelters. He started using heroine to escape the reality of being homeless. In the spring of 2007, he entered a drug treatment program while busking at Covent Garden and living in sheltered accommodation in Tottenham. This was when he met Bob, and if you read his two international bestsellers, written with the help of author Garry Jenkins, you’ll know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. To learn more about James Bowen, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James-_Bowen_(author)#Early_life . You can also read a newspaper article and view photos of the author and his cat at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2227639/James-Bowen-Best-selling-true-story-busker-got-life-track-thanks-stray-cat-film.html .

James Bowen’s style of writing drew me into his world. I laughed at Bob’s habit of hiding in unexpected places and his delight in playing with aluminum wrappers and other items. Of course these are traits any cat would have. I found myself getting angry at people who confronted Bowen because they thought he was mistreating Bob and an apartment complex manager who complained that Bowen’s guitar playing and singing at two in the afternoon was keeping her tenants awake. I agree that Bowen probably should have gotten a proper job, and of course he shouldn’t have been using drugs in the first place, but given the circumstances, he didn’t know better and didn’t have the self-esteem to consider a career other than busking and selling magazines. These books would appeal to cat lovers, but I also hope young people around the world will read them and think twice before turning to drugs.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We shall Overcome, How To Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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