Thursday Book Feature: A Tale of War, Trust, Acceptance, and Love


The War that Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Copyright 2015.

Right before the start of World War Ii, Ada, age ten, and her brother Jamie, six, flee London to a village in the English countryside, along with other evacuated children, mostly to escape their abusive mother. Despite a club foot, Ada learns to ride and care for horses. Although a teacher claims she’s not educable, she learns to read, write, knit, and sew and becomes involved in the war effort. She eventually realizes that even though she has a disability, she’s not a bad person.

Told from Ada’s first person point of view, this book is written for children but in such a way that adult readers don’t feel as if the narrator is talking down to them. It was chosen by my regional talking book library’s discussion group.

I like the way Ada describes her abuse and later the explosion of bombs and the state of wounded soldiers. The author doesn’t try to shelter young readers from reality. War, trust, acceptance, and love are themes to which we can all relate. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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His

While working on music I’ll sing next week at Greenhouse, I decided to perform a song I hadn’t sung in years, Vera Lynn’s “Yours.” As I was practicing this, I realized that I feel the same way as the woman in the song. This was popular in 1941, so I think it’s safe to assume that the woman is singing this about her loved one fighting overseas during World War II, wondering if he will return and knowing that even if he doesn’t, she’ll always love him and no one else.

My husband Bill isn’t fighting overseas. He left this world four years ago and isn’t coming back. I’ll always be his and could never love another man. Please click this link to hear me sing the song.

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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

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Glenn Miller Brings Back Memories

Abbie-1

Thanks to Glenda Bealle for inspiring this post. I recently had an opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert. As the seductive strains of “Moonlight Serenade” flowed through the theater, I got goosebumps and was moved almost to tears, wishing my father was still alive and sitting next to me at that moment.

His father played the saxophone in a band before World War II, and Dad was born in 1936 while the band was touring in Pueblo. The family settled here in Sheridan in 1938, and in 1940, Grandpa Johnson started the family’s coin-operated machine business.

Dad once told me that Grandpa fought in the war and lost part of his hearing as a result of constant artillery fire. He may have continued to play the saxophone afterward, but I’m not sure. In any case, Dad grew up appreciating jazz and passed that on to me as evidenced by a poem I posted here a while back.

I’m not sure where my mother was born on December 7th, 1935, and I no longer have her obituary. I do know that she did most of her growing up in Colorado where her father was a school principal in Berthed. She once told me about her birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She and her family were driving to the countryside for a picnic when the news came on the radio. Her father turned the car around and drove back to town. Needless to say, there was no birthday celebration that year.

My late husband Bill was born on October 18th, 1942 in Fowler, Colorado. Growing up on a farm, he wasn’t exposed much to big band music and never appreciated it much except for vocals. In fact, he was fond of saying that since he couldn’t see anything, he fell in love with my singing voice. You can read more of our story in my new memoir. I wish I’d taken time to learn more about my late parents’ and husband’s lives growing up during the Glenn Miller era.

I bought a CD at the concert that night, and now, “Pennsylvania 6-500” fills my home office, as I edit this. Is there a singer, band, or type of music that gives you goose bumps, moves you to tears, and/or brings back memories? Please tell me about it.

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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

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

March 2016 Book Reviews

Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew. Copyright 2015.

 

Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of Kate Mulgrew until I ran across this book on Audible with her reading it for only $5.95. I enjoy reading about the lives of actresses and other celebrities, and this book didn’t totally disappoint.

She starts out by talking about her life growing up in Dubuque, Iowa in a large Irish Catholic family. In a parochial school, the nun who taught fifth grade sparked her interest in poetry and acting by encouraging her to enter a poem recitation contest. In high school, she decided to graduate as early as possible and become involved in local theater. She describes how her younger sister Tessie became a willing slave to her big sister, the star.

After moving to New York, Kate discusses how she studied at New York University and took lessons at the Stella Addler Acting Studio for a year. Stella had a rule that while in her program which usually lasted a couple of years, an actor couldn’t work professionally. However, when Kate had an opportunity to star in a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and in Ryan’s Hope, a television soap opera about an Irish family that runs a pub, she couldn’t resist. She left the studio with Stella’s blessing, and her career took off.

She then describes how she played role after role on TV and stage and her affairs with one man after another. At one point, she became pregnant and decided to give up the baby for adoption. She describes her feelings of guilt, even before she signed the final papers, and how she tried to find out about her baby a year later before moving to L.A. to star in Mrs. Columbo. Her experience was similar to that of Philomena but had a more positive outcome.

She eventually married Robert Egan, a director of an acting company in Seattle where she was working. She describes that and the birth of her sons and how she juggled their care and her career. Someone predicted that she could never be a natural mother, and she wasn’t.

The marriage ended in divorce about five years later, and she describes how she met Tim, a politician who was a friend of her mother’s, in Ireland where she and her sons were vacationing. She then details how she landed the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek Voyager. She describes how her seven-year stint in this role affected her relationship with her sons and their surprising reaction when she took them to the first season premiere at the Paramount Theater in L.A.

I would like to have known more. When Kate finally met her daughter, whom she gave away at birth, she promised to introduce her to her sons, but how did that pan out? Did her sons throw spit balls at her daughter like they did at the screen during the first season premiere of Star Trek Voyager? By the end of the book, it’s pretty obvious she married Tim, but he had two daughters so I’m wondering if they became a big, happy family. I’m also interested in her role on Orange Is the New Black, but I suppose a memoir must end somewhere. To learn more about Kate Mulgrew, click here.

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Palisades Park by Alan Brennert. Copyright 2013.

 

This novel, based on the author’s experiences with this New Jersey amusement park, spans almost fifty years. In 1922, eleven-year-old Eddie enjoys visiting the park with his family, swimming in the pool, riding the rides, viewing the side shows, and eating his fill of hot dogs, French fries, and cotton candy. Eight years later, he returns to the park to work and meets Adelle. They marry on a carousel, and after having two kids, they eventually open their own French fry stand in the park.

After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941, Eddie enlists in the Naval Reserve, much to Adelle’s annoyance, but she and the children do their best to carry on while he’s away. At the end of the war, when Eddie returns home after serving in a non-combat position on a Hawaiian island, Adelle, who has always wanted to be an actress, runs off with a magician who was one of the attractions in Palisades Park, leaving Eddie and the children to fend for themselves.

Their daughter Toni aspires to become a high diver after witnessing such acts at the park. At eighteen, she leaves home for Florida where she trains with a lady high diver and soon becomes the Amazing Antoinette, traveling all over the country to different carnivals and amusement parks, diving off a 90-foot tower into a tank filled with six feet of water, sometimes while on fire. Her brother Jack takes an interest in art at first but enlists in the Army during the Korean War, returns home traumatized by battle, and becomes a writer. Eddie, inspired by his years of service in Hawaii during World War II, opens a restaurant specializing in food and drinks from the islands. The book ends in 1971 after Palisades Park is bought by a real estate conglomerate and turned into high-rise apartments. The author leaves us with the impression that life goes on.

This book reminded me of two amusement parks I visited when I was younger: Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, and Elich Gardens in Denver. I liked faris wheels and carousels but wasn’t too fond of roller coasters or haunted houses. I didn’t get much out of side shows due to my limited vision but would probably have been able to see someone diving off a 90-foot tower into a flaming tank while on fire. To learn more about Alan Brennert’s books, click this link

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On My Own by Diane Rehm. Copyright 2016.

 

In a memoir by this National Public Radio talk show host, she discusses her husband’s death, their life together, and how she manages without him. She starts by talking about how her husband John died in an assisted living facility after years of suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. When it was clear no more could be done for him, he decided, with the support of his doctor, to starve himself. After ten agonizing days without food, water, or medication, he died peacefully in June of 2014.

Diane describes the memorial service and then shares many aspects of her life with John: how they met and married and lived together and raised two children, how her radio broadcasting career took off, and how John supported her through that and other trials and tribulations. She expresses guilt for moving John to an assisted living facility instead of giving up her career to care for him at home. After John’s death, she became involved in a movement to pass legislation to allow patients to die with the help of a physician. When NPR executives expressed ethical concerns, she was compelled to cut back on such activities. She also talks about her work to raise money for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s research. She reflects on grief and her eminent retirement from broadcasting.

I downloaded this book from Audible and enjoyed the author’s narration. I could identify with the agony Diane felt in the ten days leading up to John’s death. Fortunately, my late husband Bill only lasted three days after it was determined the end of his life was near. Even with oxygen, he struggled. Many times during those three days, I wished he would just die so we both could be at peace. It wasn’t until he heard me play my guitar and sing his favorite songs for the last time that he felt he had permission to go.

Diane Rehm plans to retire from broadcasting sometime this year. Once free of National Public Radio’s ethical constraints, she plans to become more of an advocate for a patient’s right to die with a doctor’s help. Six states have already passed such legislation, and I hope that someday, all fifty states will allow residents to die with dignity. To learn more about The Diane Rehm Show, click here.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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A Song About Apples? Not Really

During this time of year, our thoughts turn to apple pie, apple butter, apple sauce, etc. Years ago when I was single, I had an Apple computer and an idea for a satirical song I didn’t get around to writing. At our last Behind Our Eyes writers’ group meeting, it was suggested as a prompt that we write about apples, and the idea re-surfaced.

“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” was a song I sang many times in the fifteen years I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home. It was made popular by Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters during World War II. You can learn more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Sit_Under_the_Apple_Tree_(with_Anyone_Else_but_Me) . To hear the original Andrews Sisters version, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPJZTRqQ1Xw .

Nowadays, in light of our troops in the Middle East and today’s technology, this is how the song might have been written. Click on the link below to hear me sing it.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/start%20up%20apple%20computer.mp3

DON’T START UP YOUR APPLE COMPUTER

I e-mailed Mother.

I e-mailed Father.

Now I am e-mailing you.

I love my mother.

I love my father,

and you know I love you too.

 

Don’t start up your Apple computer with anyone else but me,

anyone else but me,

anyone else but me, no, no, no,

don’t start up your Apple computer with anyone else but me

till you come flying home.

 

Don’t go surfing the Internet with anyone else but me,

anyone else but me,

anyone else but me, no, no, no,

don’t go surfing the Internet with anyone else but me,

till you come flying home.

 

You’re on your own, but you’re not alone

in that desert far away.

Be true to me if you care for me

and listen when I say,

“Don’t start up your Apple computer with anyone else but me

till you come flying home,

till you, till you come flying home.”

What do you remember about apples?

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

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