How can We Are Not Ourselves be a debut novel? If you had the opportunity to hear Matthew Thomas explain it, it would make sense. Ten years, yes ten yHow can We Are Not Ourselves be a debut novel? If you had the opportunity to hear Matthew Thomas explain it, it would make sense. Ten years, yes ten years of hard work, tweaking and self- editing before he even tried to sell his manuscript. Ten years. Thomas' diligence paid off in a bidding war for his novel and with glowing early reviews from professionals and readers alike.
It was enlightening to hear Matthew Thomas speak at R.J. Julia's in Madison, CT this past Monday evening. It also makes my thoughts on We Are Not Ourselves harder to express. Not only did I really like We Are Not Ourselves but I liked Matthew also. These two things combined make we want to get this right but unlike Matthew I don't have ten years.
Simply stated We Are Not Ourselves is an impelling saga of a multigenerational Irish family and their life in New York. Would this description alone make you want to read this? We Are Not Ourselves has beautiful language, a well-constructed plot, is atmospheric and has characters with great depth. What makes this one stand out in a crowd of good books and worth your time to commit its 600+ pages? For this reader it was the feelings it evoked. It is like watching ordinary people with ordinary dreams and passions, a window to their soul or self.
Eileen Tumulty, daughter, wife, mother is at the center and the driving force of much of the novel. The author's thoughts on naming her were quite interesting but I leave you to your own conclusions. We meet Eileen as a young girl and it is here, like most of us, that her self is formed. She is the daughter of an alcoholic mother and a father who is like the mayor of the local pub. Early on Eileen becomes fixed in her caretaker role. These things should make Eileen a strong woman with the power to be whatever she wishes yet somehow she becomes a shadow of what?, circumstance?, choices?, leading to her own undoing. She wants, she yearns, she strives, and the quest is always just a bit beyond her reach. She is a sad rendering of a smart woman and it is hard for me to like her. Ed Leary, her husband became my focus. A man who is content to just be. A college professor who truly believes motivating and teaching his students is far more important than position or money. A man with a brilliant mind that is slowly falling apart. Clues are given, the thought of Alzheimer's is there but it is kick in the gut when it is confirmed. Connell, the offspring, their son. The relationship between Connell and his parents bears close attention. The father/son affinity is powerful and doubly sad in consideration of Ed's disease. Watching this sensitive boy dropped in the middle of this nest was painful.
In the end I haven't disclosed much.We Are Not Ourselves is a book that needs to be digested in its own way by each reader. I do feel it is worth your time. Read a few reviews. Consider the subject matter. Enjoy. ...more
The Hook - In June of 2006 Nineteen year old Reggie Shaw grabs his cell phone, climbs into his SUV and heads off to work. It’s just an ordinary day. AThe Hook - In June of 2006 Nineteen year old Reggie Shaw grabs his cell phone, climbs into his SUV and heads off to work. It’s just an ordinary day. Approximately 35 minutes into his ride, two men are dead and three families lives are changed forever.
I’m a minority, one of the unconnected so to speak. I own an old tracfone, rarely on and even though it’s capable of sending a text message I never have. The premise in my quick summation above grabbed me immediately. I’m in the camp that texting while driving is distracted driving. To go a few steps further, I also believe cell phone use is problematic. But what about listening to audio books, the radio or even my passenger’s chatter; are these considered distractions to our attention to the road? Should these all be banned and be punishible crimes? Matt Richtel blends Reggie Shaw’s story with scientific studies that texting and daily use of our devices is not only addictive behavior but a deadly a deadly mix behind the wheel.
The Line – “At one end of the hall at which he found himself, heedless justice in threadbare robes were biting their fingernails or closing their eyelids, at the other end was a ragged rabble. There were lawyers in all sorts of attitudes, the passage begins, and goes on to describe this mess of humanity, all absorbed and self-absorbed participants, even the inattentive judges” and then concludes “for men felt herein the presence of that great human thing which is called law and that great divine thing that is called justice.” a quote from Les Misérables that Judge Willmore kept in the upper right drawer of his desk and came under the heading “A Place for Arriving at Convictions”. It seems appropriate as Reggie Shaw comes to trial for his part in the deaths of the two men.
The Sinker – Should be required reading for teens applying for their driving permits.
A Deadly Wandering is aptly titled as this is just what happens when Reggie Shaw takes to the road that fateful day. He weaves in and out and over the line until the accident happens. I would not do this review justice without giving name to the two rocket scientists killed that day. Keith O’Dell and Jim Furfaro, brilliant men, husbands and fathers. Many others play a part in the investigation and the tragedy of what happened that day when Mr. Shaw’s, Mr. O’Dell, and Mr. Furfaro lives collided.
Matt Richtel has written a compelling, thought provoking piece of investigative journalism. I challenge you to read the book and continue to text. ...more
Big Little Lies is a story with lots of angles. I loved it and I think you will also.
We know right from the start that someone has died at the annualBig Little Lies is a story with lots of angles. I loved it and I think you will also.
We know right from the start that someone has died at the annual Pirriwee Public School Trivia Night. Who? Well, you'll have to read Big Little Lies to find out. It' all began at the kindergarten school orientation. Jane the new Mum hasn't got a chance with the rank and file as before orientation is over her son Ziggy is accused of hitting a quiet little girl. Amabella just happens to be the daughter of one of the most outspoken and nasty Mums you'd ever want to meet. What transpires will remind you why parents should stay out of their children's quarrels, allowing them to choose their own friends. Pirriwee Public would be funny if it didn't ring true. But that's not all folks. There is much more going on in this lovely seaside community. Secrets run amok and I didn't have a clue. Big Little Lies is funny, heartbreaking and quite plausible. ...more
If I could buy stock in books The Walt Longmire Series by Craig Johnson would be one of my top picks. The series is just that good. When I try to explIf I could buy stock in books The Walt Longmire Series by Craig Johnson would be one of my top picks. The series is just that good. When I try to explain its appeal to me I stumble a bit but always say I love the characters and their development, how I can see Absaroka County, Wyoming due to Johnson's expertise, enjoy the sprinkling of Cheyenne and Indian lore and find fun in the humor.
Another Man's Moccasins enjoyment is not so much the story as it is the structure. I liked the way this mystery of two murders, one in present day of a Vietnamese girl, the other which takes Walt flashing back to his first murder investigation while a Marine in Vietnam is presented in alternating segments. Separated by over forty years these two narrations bring us new insight to the makeup of this sheriff. The inclusion of Virgil White Buffalo, a bigger than life homeless Crow Indian just increased my pleasure of this the fourth in the series.
A bit of a mystery but more a psychological study of Mia, the good girl. The story is told in multi-characther point of view using befoяe and afteя foA bit of a mystery but more a psychological study of Mia, the good girl. The story is told in multi-characther point of view using befoяe and afteя for a non-linear presentation. The author is leaving the use of the backwards r up to you. I'll have to think about that a bit more.
The Good Giяl is an interesting debut. It is a story of familial strife, sibling rivalry, independence, self discovery and at its heart a love story. In the beginning we realize Mia, a twenty-something art teacher living away from home has gone missing and her mother Eve is beside herself with worry. Mia is really not the good daughter. She is the one who pushed her father James' buttons by refusing to follow in his footsteps by seeking a law degree. She has been a bit of a wild child, experimenting with drugs, getting in minor trouble, all things James, a high ranking Chicago judge, has been able to fix. But he can't fix the disappearance of his daughter after realizing she truly is missing and not just off on some lark. Very soon we realize that Mia is the pawn in a kidnapping for ransom. The kidnapper hires a second party to make the snatch and the story spins from here. Who, why, what? All the characters are detailed and well done if not always believable.
I liked it, I really liked it and then...can't tell you anymore as you'll have to draw your own conclusions.
A solid debut by an author I'd like to hear from again....more
My initial interest in Gabriel Weston's debut fiction was prompted by an article I read about her memoir I liked that she pushed the envelope and willMy initial interest in Gabriel Weston's debut fiction was prompted by an article I read about her memoir I liked that she pushed the envelope and will admit that surgeons are not infallible. They are human, they make mistakes. I know that Direct Red: A Surgeon's Story., a collection of twelves stories about her work in surgery, this still predominant male world and the patients she treats, will be read by me one day. In the meantime I picked up her debut novel Dirty Work to see what she's got.
Dirty Work is the story of Dr. Nancy Mullion, an obstetrician gynecology surgeon.
Nancy's specialty is abortion. She practically does these in her sleep until one day when something horrible goes wrong. The patient on her table is bleeding out and rather than being able to stop it, Nancy freezes, necessitating an emergency call to Nancy's supervisor who must take over in an effort to save the patient. Nancy is brought up before a review board. This method is used to give us the past, the present and possibly the future of who Nancy is.
Early on Nancy explains to us that surgeons pick an organ to look after.
"We gynecologists have the womb to look after. ... And whichever specialty we choose, each of us has to do something ruthless to keep our patient safe: We have to forget about the human significance of the organ we're operating on."
In a flashback she describes when she became herself:
There is a point in each of our lives when it seems that the real story begins, when we become the self that all our ensuing life somehow trails out from This may just be the time, around three or four, when memory begins. But my birth, in this sense, occurred during one flowing American fall. This is when I became myself. The girl before this time is a shadow like a soul who is practicing how not to become. She is the background, the hole in the fabric fro which the real shape is cut"
This is not an easy read as Weston explores the emotionally charged subject of abortion. Imagine what it would be like to be the outcast, the one who does the dirty job of terminating pregnancies? Her protagonist is low on the totem pole in the rank of surgeons. She lives without support from her peers, a solitary, sad, lonely role.
Fair warning, Dirty Work has scenes describing abortion that may be offensive to some. It certainly made me think, took me back to my own pregnancies, miscarriages and time training as an LPN. It has the makings of a good book discussion if participants can respect the view point of others....more
I'm becoming a huge fan of the Walt Longmire Mystery Series. The mysteries are entertaining, not horribly violent, have lots of action and are darn riI'm becoming a huge fan of the Walt Longmire Mystery Series. The mysteries are entertaining, not horribly violent, have lots of action and are darn right fun. What is bound to keep me coming back is the strong characterization.
Walt Longmire has been Sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County for almost twenty-five years and has seen his share of the good and the bad. This provides lots of fodder for a complex man, one I am getting to know as the series progresses. Vic, his tough cop deputy and his long time friend Henry Standing Bear play solid roles once again. Walt accompanies Henry on a road trip to Philadelphia. Dog, yes that's his dog's name goes along for the ride, a canine presence to become fond of. Walt is looking forward to visiting with his lawyer daughter Cady, but can't say the same for meeting her boyfriend, too serious a relationship in Walt's opinion. Before Walt can say hi, Cady is seriously injured in a fall down some stairs leaving her unconscious and hospitalized. The boyfriend is suspected of pushing her and the chase is on.
Having watched the TV series before reading the books, I have been curious about Walt's relationship with Vic, even questioning the route it's going on TV. No question here as the sexual tension boils over when Vic arrives from Wyoming to see how Walt's doing. It's interesting to see Walt's reaction to Vic's advances. He's not saying no but he's been celibate for a long time, feels awkward and is not certain how to act. Vic claims its just sex but it is not that easy for Walt.
Somehow Craig Johnson is able to include his ongoing western themes of Cowboys, Indians, horses and Henry's Cheyenne spirituality in the City of Brotherly Love and makes it work. Can't wait to see what happens in book four....more
What starts as a memoir project for college student Joe Talbert progresses to far more than a good grade. Talbert's decision to interview elderly CarlWhat starts as a memoir project for college student Joe Talbert progresses to far more than a good grade. Talbert's decision to interview elderly Carl Iverson, a man accused of murder. Iverson has recently been sent to a nursing home as he awaits death from pancreatic cancer seemed like a unique topic to write about. Early on Iverson declares his innocence and Talbert is quickly caught up in trying to get to the truth. I was thoroughly engaged in this quest. Talbert is young, has a lot to learn, carries some heavy baggage and past secrets of his own. Talbert's desire to succeed, let alone continue his college education is thwarted by finances. His alcoholic mother makes his life even more difficult when she shirks her responsibility in caring for his autistic brother, Jeremy. Jeremy is an excellent character who adds much to the whole, balancing roles of other participants in the story.
I couldn't decide if there are going to be further adventures for Joe Talbert and his brother. I couldn't decide if I'd like that or not. What I do know is that Allen Eskens debut novel The Life We Bury is good. Whatever Eskens writes next is on my list.
In addendum I would like to comment on these observations by character Carl Iverson. It seems when faced with impending death it's the little things that brought him pleasure and appreciation. Iverson states "Did you see...the snow?" Talbert states "Yeah I saw it. Quite the storm." Iverson "Glorious." Then consider this NPR Ted Talk How Does Misfortune Affect Long-Term Happiness? by Dan Gilbert who talks about Moreese Bickham, 78 years old, spent 37 in the Angola State Penitentiary. Upon his release he says these words "I don't have one minute to regret. It was a glorious experience."
I'm not certain if Allen Eskens read or heard that use of Glorious by Bickham and included it in his story but it seemed serendipitous to me, particularly in light of a 100 days of happiness project I am doing.
At another time Iverson quotes "We are surrounded every day by the wonders of life, wonders beyond comprehension that we simply take for granted. I decide that day I would live my life--not simply exist." Something to keep in mind as I go about mine. ...more
Classic Picoult, Leaving Time is the story of a teen searching for her missing mother. Using her now fIf I were an elephant I'd trumpet Leaving Time.
Classic Picoult, Leaving Time is the story of a teen searching for her missing mother. Using her now familiar and equally comfortable format of multi-charachter point of view each character provides a piece to the puzzle of what lead to Alice's disappearance from the New England Elephant Sanctuary soon after a co-worker is trampled to death. The cast, Jenna, the daughter, Alice, the mother, Virgil, a cop, and Serenity, a psychic, all play their part in taking us to a satisfying conclusion. The sanctuary itself resembles character as this habitat depicts the study of elephants and Alice's research into how they grieve. Picoult blends nature and nurture to balance the plight of Asian and African elephants with the yearning of a child to find her mother.
My sincere thanks to Ballantine Books for providing the e-galley of Leaving Time to be published October 2014. ...more