Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Rules of Inheritance

Title:  The Rules of Inheritance
Author:  Claire Bidwell Smith
Publication Information:  Hudson Street Press, Penguin Group Inc. 2012. 295 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book came as a paperback uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "There's something incredibly lonely about grieving. It's like living in a country where no one speaks the same language as you."

The Rules of Inheritance is the memoir of Claire Bidwell Smith. She is a licensed therapist specializing in helping patients through grief. This book tells the story of her very personal journey. She is an only child of loving parents. When she was fourteen, both parents were diagnosed with cancer. She lost both parents to the disease in the following few years. This book tells the story of her journey through tragedy.

The book is not a chronological story of what happened. Rather, it captures moments that depict Claire's passage through the various stages of grief. The five stages of grief are based on a model introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The structure of this book works well. The lack of chronology ceases to matter a short while into the book. The book has so few characters, and the story is punctuated by such major events that it is clear where each section is in the chronology of Claire's life.

This is not a pretty story. It is, however, a real one. It tells  the story of regrets - things she wishes she had done or things she wishes she had told her parents while she had the time. An emotion we can all relate to. The book also tells the story of self-destructive behaviors she adopted to get through this time. Again, feelings and actions we can all relate to even if our choice of escape might be different. It tells the story of loneliness even when surrounded by people. Again, sometimes a universal emotional. It finally tells the story of hope and survival. Something we all need to believe in.

This book is not an easy read. But it is a worthwhile one. It provides a window onto this human experience in a captivating and heartfelt book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Dressmaker

Title:  The Dressmaker
Author:  Posie Graeme-Evans
Publication Information:  Atria Paperback, Simon and Schuster, Inc. 2010. 443 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading its description in the Costco Connection magazine.

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes joy and sadness feel like the same thing."

The Dressmaker is the story of Ellen Gowan set in Victorian England. Her happy childhood ends abruptly, and life brings struggles and successes, joy and sadness. She and her mother are forced to leave their home.

They are helped by relatives, finding love and acceptance, but also abuse and struggle. They travel to London to create a life for themselves. Further life events ensue, including a love affair, a job, a home, a child, and friendship. The story follows an expected course to an expected conclusion.

This book reminded me of A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. The premise is the same - a woman in trying circumstances who overcomes adversity to reach success and happiness. The situations are different, of course. The Dressmaker covers a much shorter time frame, telling the story of perhaps a decade as opposed to generations. There are fewer characters, and the characters are not developed beyond the one dimension that captures their role in the story.

In other words, The Dressmaker was a pale version of other books of this genre. Not a memorable book. However, an easy, entertaining story in which to lose yourself for a while.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Snow Child

Title:  The Snow Child
Author:  Eowyn Ivey
Publication Information:  Hachette Book Group. 2012. 389 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading its description on GoodReads.

Favorite Quote:  "You did not have to understand miracles to believe in them, and in  fact Mabel had come to suspect the opposite. To believe, perhaps you had to cease looking for explanations and instead hold the little thing in your hands as long as you were able before it slipped like water between your fingers."

The Snow Child is a re-interpretation of an old Russian tale. This version tells the story of Jack and Mabel, an older couple who long to have a child but have given up of hope of ever doing so. They have recently relocated to Alaska in an effort to escape a life surrounded by other people's children. Yet, their sadness accompanies them.

As the story goes, one day after a snow storm, they build a child out of snow - a little girl. Lo and behold, the child comes to life. They name the child Faina and grow to think of her as their own. The book follows what happens over the coming years.

The book does make reference to the Russian tale fairly early and reveals the ending of that tale. However, even knowing the possible ending had no effect on how much I enjoyed the book. The story is beautifully written. The writing makes you feel the longing of Jack and Mabel. It draws you into the solitude and the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. It captures the wild and ephemeral nature of Faina.

This story blurs the distinction between what is real and what exists in our imagination. I am still reflecting  on who Faina was. However, as the quote above suggests, perhaps I will stop looking for explanations and just enjoy the wonder of the story. This is Eowyn Ivey's debut book. I can't wait to read more!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Home Front

Title:  Home Front
Author:  Kristin Hannah
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2012. 390 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book came as a paperback advance readers' edition from the publisher.

Favorite Quote:  "It doesn't matter what you think of the war, you have to be grateful to the warriors, of whom we ask so much. To whom we sometimes give so little."

Home Front is a story of a soldier and her family. It is a story of war. But not the political or national or ideological view of war. A story of war from the perspective of those who fight and those who love them - on the home front.

Jolene is a member of the National Guard. She joined the military out of need following a very difficult home life and childhood. Michael and Jolene have a troubled marriage as both struggle to cope with their past and their expectations. They have two children - Betsy and Lulu.

Everyday life is about children, schools and careers. Michael is an attorney. Jolene flies Black Hawk helicopters for the National Guard. Life goes on. And, then, Jolene is deployed. The book then deals with what happens after - soldiers on the front, those at home trying to cope, and veterans when they return home.

I do not know many military families. So, I can't say how accurate a picture this book portrays. For me, it was a heart wrenching image of the sacrifice soldiers and their families make. No matter what the differences that create a war, the sacrifices of the soldiers on any side of a war are immense.

The story is a dramatic one. This book is not a political discussion on the "right" or "wrong" of war. It is rather a tribute to individual soldiers and a commentary on the veteran's services provided for them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Goodnight Ipad - A Parody for the Next Generation

Title:  Goodnight iPad - A Parody for the Next Generation
Author:  Ann Droyd
Publication Information:  Blue Rider Press, Penguin Group Inc. 2011.

Book Source:  I read this book based on how much we loved the original and how much I can relate to being plugged in.

Favorite Quote:  "Goodnight gadgets everywhere."

Goodnight iPad is a parody of the beloved children's classic, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The book tells the story of a tired mother who is made more tired by all the electronics buzzing and beeping and tapping around her. From the iPad to text messages, from Facebook to video games, from e-readers to viral videos, this book manages to hit the highlights of our technological world. The text is accompanied by vivid color illustrations.

 The book is dedication reads "and for everyone who is as hopelessly plugged in as I am." The author's pseudonym itself is a play on technology. The printing information is presented as a "license agreement." So, it's technically a children's book, but it has a lot of humorous appeal for adults.

This book is a gentle, light-hearted reminder to all of us to unplug. Maybe even to read this book. At least sometimes.  As the book back cover says, all our electronics will still be there waiting for us in the morning. Now, I think I will turn off my blog - made possible by all this technology - and go share this book with the technology buffs in my house. I think they will appreciate it as much as they did the original. We will spend our unplugged time talking about how plugged in we are!