A trip to the grocery store and the library in the village near her home causes eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood, also known as Merricat, suA trip to the grocery store and the library in the village near her home causes eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood, also known as Merricat, such anxiety that she has to follow a strict routine visiting the grocer, the library, and Stella’s for a cup of coffee before she starts home only on Fridays and Tuesdays.
Pride prevents Mary Katherine from skipping her stop at Stella’s, although the stop is unnecessary, and pride prevents her from running home when one of the residents begins to quiz her on her sister, Constance, suggesting the siblings and their frail Uncle Julian should pack up and leave the Blackwood family home.
The reason? Constance Blackwood was suspected and, later, acquitted of poisoning her parents, younger brother, aunt, and Uncle Julian by putting arsenic in the sugar bowl. Mary Katherine survived because she was sent to her room without supper; Constance survived because she eats neither berries nor sugar. Yet suspicion casts a long shadow over the family, and few in town are willing to visit the home and associate with the young women. The arrival of their cousin, Charles, unsettles both the sisters and the village, and Merricat is determined to protect her sister at all costs.
I would not have expected a crime novel to have such a dreamy feeling to it. Creepy, yes, but the tone taken in this novel places in a rather odd position between crime novel and psychological thriller. On the very first page, Mary Katherine introduces herself, informs the reader that she is a fan of Amanita phalloides (the death-cap mushroom), and states in a matter of fact manner that everyone else in her family beside her sister is dead. She appears to be cold, distant coping with this loss and the marginalization of her family by created a new, more structured order.
Yet there is something innocent about her presentation of the villagers and her attachment to her cat, Jonas; something introspective and whimsical about the way she views her life and hammers expensive family heirlooms to trees. It is easy to fall right in line with Mary Katherine’s psychosis, and I found myself loathing the villagers who attempted to visit her home and reviling the simple beauties and joys of her reclusive life.
And then, of course, the ending — I will refrain from spoilers but I will state that I felt so unsettled by this novel that it took me some time to dive into another one. Shirley touches on humanity — the way people cope with loss, the ability of a mob to form despite evidence to the country — that I was loathe to pick up another novel and, inevitably and unfairly, compare the two authors....more
Out of the blue, Daniel receives a phone call from his father in Sweden informing him that his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. AccordiOut of the blue, Daniel receives a phone call from his father in Sweden informing him that his mother has been committed to a mental hospital. According to Daniel’s father, his mother, Tilde, has begun to imagine everything from a seemingly innocuous encounter with an elk to accusing the local community leader of harming his adopted, teenage daughter.
Daniel immediately books a flight to Sweden borrowing money from his same-sex partner -- whom he has kept secret from his parents for years despite them living together in London -- and planning to spend an extended period of time helping his mother patch her suddenly fragile mental health back together.
However, before he can board his flight to Sweden from Heathrow, Daniel receives a phone call from his mother informing him that his father is a liar and is working in cahoots with the community to cover up the crimes inflicted upon this poor girl. Torn between his parents but refusing to believe the woman who raised him is now crazy, Daniel agrees to listen to his mother’s story and decide whom to believe and whom to trust.
This psychological thriller alternates between Tilde and Daniel's point of views as Tilde tries to sway her son's understanding of events and Daniel tries to determine what is truth, lie, or imagination. The reader faces the same dilemma -- believe Tilde or dismiss her story just as her husband has done. And Smith never allows one side of the story to hold sway for long introducing past events -- namely, the story of Tilde and her closest friend during her childhood -- to unsettle the so-called truth the reader has latched onto.
I'm rather surprised by all the criticism for this novel, which seems to largely stem from comparisons to Smith's Child 44. After nearly six years, I've come to associate Smith's name with suspenseful, quality writing rather than particulars about his previous novel and I found this novel supported rather disputed this association.
A deeply engrossing book, I found myself listening to the audiobook even after I arrived home from work in the evening. I'm so pleased two narrators were used to narrate the audiobook -- James Langton as Daniel and Suzanne Toren as Tilde -- because, otherwise, I'm afraid I might have struggled to keep the narration straight. Two narrators also highlighted the hesitation and lack of truth on either side of the conversations between Daniel and Tilde....more
Set against the backdrop of the 1890s New York upper class society, Wharton’s fourth novel tells the story of Lily Bart, an unmarried woman, beginningSet against the backdrop of the 1890s New York upper class society, Wharton’s fourth novel tells the story of Lily Bart, an unmarried woman, beginning with her visit to Lawrence Selden’s apartment. Lily has feelings for Lawrence but must marry a wealthier man in order to keep her social standing.
An unexpected visit by Lawrence causes her to change her mind and a series of events — innocently accepting money from her friend’s husband, alarming Lawrence by changing her mind about him, incorrectly being accused of adultery — leaves Lily in social ruin. Attempting to fight her way back to high society, Lily is advised by her two remaining friends to marry — quickly. Lily refuses their advice working as a personal secretary and, later, in a milliner’s until her inheritance arrives and she can save herself.
Married to her principles but trapped by a society with rigid expectations for her life, Lily Bart quickly wormed her way into my heart much in the same manner that Emma Woodhouse did. There are aspects of her character that would be easy to dismiss or derive — her constant sabotage of her own prospects due to snobbery, her refusal to associate with people who offend her sensibilities, her inability to reconcile herself with the reality of her situations — but each of these characteristics can be viewed through a favorable lens. She is deeply committed to her principles; she is a victim of a society where women are, tragically, confined to rigid gender roles and left unequipped to deal with scandal or reduced circumstances.
And, once again, Wharton explores the hypocrisy of the elite society in Manhattan presented a woman whose reputation is left in tatters by rumors and gossipers who hold unmarried women to different standards. Lily is viewed as a whore because she accepted financial support from a jealous woman’s husband yet society is willing to accept her with open arms if she inherits a substantial fortune or marries a man. Lily longs for independence and to marry for love yet society’s expectations for her constrain her access to money and her ability to function independent of society.
Interspersed amongst this larger critique are smaller yet still pointed criticisms of a society confined by an old code of morality but fixed on money and conspicuous consumption. The parties Wharton describes in great detail are lavish affairs, but there is always an air of superiority and suspicion surrounding the attendees as the old families and “blue blood” must decide to reject or accept the flood of “new money” during the Gilded Age.
While most people seem to consider this novel to be Wharton’s lesser work due to it being her first, I actually enjoyed this novel more than The Age of Innocence due to both to the brilliant of her critique and the character she created in Lily Bart....more
**spoiler alert** Rosemary Cooke, the narrator, begins her autobiography in the middle: a seemingly bizarre incident where an unknown woman becomes vi**spoiler alert** Rosemary Cooke, the narrator, begins her autobiography in the middle: a seemingly bizarre incident where an unknown woman becomes violent in the middle of a cafe after her boyfriend breaks up with her and Rosemary joins in by climbing on the table and dropping her glass of milk. The charges against Rosemary are dropped after a phone call to her father, who extracts a promise from Rosemary that nothing like this will ever occur again and that she will discuss the incident when she arrives home for Thanksgiving.
Yet the adults in the Cooke family do not discuss problems affecting the children -- not Rosemary's arrest, not Rosemary's brother who is a fugitive wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism, and certainly not Rosemary's sister who disappeared one day without trace or explanation. The loss of their sister affects Rosemary and her brother in different ways and at different stages in their lives. For Lowell, the loss immediately changes the course of his life; for Rosemary, the loss is only examined after her arrest.
Fowler has the distinction of being one of the first American authors nominated for the Booker Prize with this novel. It is not hard to draw parallels between her novel and her upbringing based on GoodReads' brief autobiographical sketch -- born in Bloomington, Indiana to a father who studied animal behavior, particularly learning, and eventually became a student at University of California at Davis.
The link to animal behavior is revealed about a third of the way into the book, although readers familiar with the narrator of Franz Kafka's Report for an Academy will probably pick up on it earlier. (I have not read any of Kafka's work, but this particular book was discussed at length in a history course I took in college.) The cover of the novel also gives this particular point away, but I will caution that the rest of my review contains spoilers.
As the novel moves from the middle of Rosemary's story to the beginning, it is slowly explained that Rosemary and her sister, Fern, were included in an experiment designed to test the learning abilities of humans and chimpanzees. Roughly the same age, Rosemary is raised alongside a chimp named Fern (yes, that Fern) whilst her father and his team of graduate student document their behavior and cognitive abilities. As Rosemary reaches the age where she should be entering kindergarten, however, a single event -- a single like -- makes it apparent that the research project can no longer continue and Fern is removed from the Cooke family.
This is not the first novel I had read featuring chimpanzees and addressing the ethics of performing research tests on the animal, even something seemingly as harmless as sign language proficiency. In that regard, I think the novel failed to foster the same emotional connection between the reader and the topic at hand.
Fowler's novel certainly provides new insight -- I was particularly struck by the statement that chimps will skip any unnecessary steps to get food out a puzzle box after a demonstration while human children will copy each step regardless of its necessity -- but I felt the family dynamics were not as developed as they could have been.
I understand that Rosemary's family members were largely removed from her life and that her memory of events as a small child are supposed to be unreliable, but she seemed unable to connect with or understand their emotions, which hinder the plot given that she is a narrator. Harlow, the woman who freaked out in the cafe, and Rosemary's landload, Ezra, were given far too much importance for a novel supposedly focused on family.
There is a clear agenda behind the novel; one that seems to echo those taken in other novels I have read on the topic. I would not say it challenged my perceptions or opinions the way other books have, but the decision to address research on the ability of chimps to learn languages and human behaviors through the close bond of a human child raised alongside a chimpanzee was an interesting one, although it was not as executed as well as I had hoped....more
This collection of short-form comics produced by Sacco for various journalist enterprises reports from conflict zones around the world — Gaza, ChechnyThis collection of short-form comics produced by Sacco for various journalist enterprises reports from conflict zones around the world — Gaza, Chechnya, Iraq — and as well as from areas trying to reconcile with the aftermath of those conflicts — migration from war torn African nations to Malta, the war tribunals for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, poverty amongst the Dalits (“untouchables”) in India. At the end of reprinted comic, Sacco offers thoughts on the way the comic was originally presented — what he would have changed, how “serious” journalism viewed the work, how he address the idea of being “balanced” in his presentation of such events.
Of the six sections in Sacco’s collection, I found “Migration” and “The Caucasus” to be his strongest works. In “Migration”, Sacco returns to his family’s original homeland of Malta (they later immigrated to Australia) to interview the African immigrants said to be “invading” the island nation of Malta and the Maltese who are struggling to reconcile their reputation for hospitality, which dates back to St. Paul’s shipwreck in Acts, with this wave of immigrants.
I have largely encountered this issue in an academic setting where particularly attention was paid to the Italian government’s policy so I appreciated the chance to understand the issue on a more intimate scale. Sacco states in his recollections at the conclusion of the chapter that his sympathies are with the migrants — a fact that is rather obvious in the panels of the comic — but he does give the Maltese an opportunity to express an wide range of opinions and fears within the story. An interesting balance of subjectivity and neutrality not often found in typical news outlets or in academia.
“The Caucasus” was the most informative section; my knowledge of the conflict in Chechnya is largely constructed by the search for answers by journalists and the public following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The events on the ground are far more complicated than can be explained in a five minute news segment or a forty-page comic and Sacco does seem to oversimplify in his explanation of the conflict. But the deep human suffering presented within each panel is so moving, so beautifully rendered that I wanted to head right down to the public library and check out as many books on the history of Chechnya as possible.
My only complaint about this collection and Sacco’s work, in general, is that each panel is so text heavy that the comic becomes overwhelmed and forgotten. I understand the desire to provide as much background information as possible; Sacco often addresses issues and places not covered in American media and poorly understood by the public. But I constantly found myself focusing on the text that I would forget to look at the drawing behind the text book and had to remind myself to stop and appreciate them....more
Raised in a Mennonite household haunted by remembers of religious persecution in Russia, Elfrieda and Yolandi are expected to conform to particular exRaised in a Mennonite household haunted by remembers of religious persecution in Russia, Elfrieda and Yolandi are expected to conform to particular expectations for their life and live in a community where people gossip and whisper about the nonconformists. Elfrieda, known as Elf to her family, is a progeny at the piano offering her an opportunity to escape from the insular community and her sister, known as Yoli, an example of someone who is able to leave and live a glamorous, wealthy, and happy life.
Twenty years or so later, Yoli's life has dissolved into a mess -- two teenage children who are distant and moody, a divorce, existence near the poverty line -- and the happiness in Elf's life is evident only at the surface because, like their father, Elf wishes to end her life. Still struggling to cope with her father's suicide, Yoli is trying to do everything in her power to keep her sister hospitalized and alive but must eventually decide which course of action is most appropriate for her sister.
Toews' book was largely favored to win the 2014 Giller Prize; The Globe and Mail's infographic on the 2014 shortlist stated that nineteen members of their thirty member panel selected Toews' novel as the winner. I can clearly see why it was so heavily favored given the topic as the moral and ethical dilemma of suicide, particularly assisted suicide, can be explored in a myriad of complex, logical, and emotional ways.
Yet I found Toews' exploration failed to incite much of an emotional reaction on my part. She sets the characters up to have this complex religious upbringing only to largely drop their history as the story progresses. The lack of insight into the characters and their largely inauthentic responses was not something I expected after learning the book is semi-autobiographical.
Primarily, I think I struggled with the book because the reader's understanding of Elf is filtered through her sister making it difficult to truly view Elf or, for that matter, Yoli as separate characters as they each come to terms with Elf's desire to commit suicide. There seems to be no reason for Elf's suicidal tendencies because Yoli does not believe anything can explain her sister's severe depression. In other words, her "green eyed monster" attitude towards her sister's life seems to color not only her interactions with her sister but her willingness to understand Elf's mental health.
There also isn't much of a narrative structure to this book as it jumps from past to present within chapters. The past is meant to explain the present; the present continues on in a series of mundane activities with Elf's suicides interrupting Yoli's tortuous hatred for her own life. I rarely find novels written in steam of consciousness work for me and this novel was no exception....more
On the outskirts of Reykjavík, a human skeleton is discovered half-buried — the victim’s hand outstretched towards red current bushes — in a shallow gOn the outskirts of Reykjavík, a human skeleton is discovered half-buried — the victim’s hand outstretched towards red current bushes — in a shallow grave near the former barracks of American and British military personnel during World War II after an infant is spotted chewing on a human rib bone. An archeologist is called to exhume the body; the soil at the site painstakingly examined for clues as to how long the body laid in the grave. And Inspector Erlendur is dispatched from Reykjavík to investigate whether the body — sex unknown — was the victim of murder or merely a unsanctioned burial.
At the same time, Erlendur is engaged in a frantic search for his daughter, Eva Lind, who is both pregnant and addicted to drugs. The search forces him to both interact with his ex-wife, who hates him with a passion, and confront the sins of his past, particularly as they relate to his strained relationship with his daughter and son.
This narrative is intertwined with one set in the past during the height of the war that, while clearly related to the skeleton found buried in the shallow grave, maintains and adds to the mystery and intrigue in the novel. There certainly are parallels between the past and Erlendur’s personal history, but the Indriðason typically addresses some aspect of Icelandic culture and history in his novel allowing him to elevate his novel above the typical.
In this novel, he explores how the police turn a blind eye to events occurring within an individual’s home — domestic violence in the past narrative and drug abuse in the present — until they spill out on the streets. Eva Lind’s drug abuse falls outside of the interest of the police (and, largely, her father) until she is found in a pool of her own blood bear the Hlemmur bus station; the domestic abuse suffered by the woman in the past falls outside the interest of the police until her husband commits a more public crime.
This is easily my favorite police procedural by Indriðason of the five I have read. The crime, if slightly obvious, is solved in an intriguing way and Indriðason finally allows the reader to understand both Erlendur and his character’s past. The psychological insights into the character push the novel above the standard detective fare, and I hope the next book I read in this series will continue such excellent storytelling....more
During his coverage of the Bosnian genocide and the Balkan conflict, Sacco worked with a rather shady character known as a “fixer” – someone who can aDuring his coverage of the Bosnian genocide and the Balkan conflict, Sacco worked with a rather shady character known as a “fixer” – someone who can assist foreign journalists with gaining access to the frontlines of the conflict, the warlords and gangs running the countryside as the nation is torn apart, and victims to provide stories to color the news articles being written about the region.
Sacco’s “fixer”, known as Neveen, was a former solider involved in the conflict if not the genocide itself, although he claims to support the multiculturalism of the former Yugoslavia. He knows exactly who to talk to in order to help Sacco find the best sources; he knows exactly what to do to extract the highest price for his services.
Nearly ten years later, Sacco returns to Sarajevo intent on meeting up with his former fixer. His focus in this short graphic memoir is not the conflict itself but rather the “fixers” and how the new Bosnian government has decided to deal with the people who profited in a time of war.
The history and the timeline are rather muddled in the memoir as Sacco alternates between the past, the present, and the memories Neveen claims to have, but I found that to be the most beautiful aspect of the book. How do journalists determine truth and lies? How do journalists inform and construct their narratives?
Sacco readily admits that he cannot verify Neveen’s claims that he is a Serb who did not join the Serbian Army, that he singlehandedly blew up multiple tanks. And, instead, he presents such stories as shades of grey allowing the reader to understand how complicated truth and reconciliation are following genocide and war.
I wish the narrative had slowed a bit and Sacco had included more background information. The shades of grey become a bit overwhelming without much firm truth to ground yourself in, and it was not always clear from the drawings exactly where in time and space or which person was the focus. (Particularly problematic when there are two people with the same name.) But I appreciate the book for what it did offer and I certainly would like to read more of Sacco’s work in the future. ...more
This is the third novel by Flanagan I have read, and I have come to realize that he and I are never going to click in the way I want. I can see why hiThis is the third novel by Flanagan I have read, and I have come to realize that he and I are never going to click in the way I want. I can see why his body of work is so celebrated; moments in his two previous books continue to haunt me and I'm sure particular scenes from this one will as well. But it takes such an extraordinary amount of effort on my part to finish his books -- I listened to half of this one on audio whilst following along with a printed copy -- that I cannot say I have ever enjoyed the experience to the same degree as others do....more
Since a 2000 earthquake opened cracks in the lakebed, Lake Kleifarvatn has lost nearly twenty percent of its surface revealing trash, remnants, and aSince a 2000 earthquake opened cracks in the lakebed, Lake Kleifarvatn has lost nearly twenty percent of its surface revealing trash, remnants, and a skeleton dating from the Cold War of the 1960s with a large hole in the skull. Attached to the skeleton is a heavy communication device – possibly a radio transmitter – bearing inscriptions in Russian, and Inspectors Erlendur, Elínborg and Sigurður Óli begin to suspect the body might belong to one of the Russian spies that infiltrated the island nation during the height of the Cold War in order to report on the American military base.
Interspersed with the present-day investigation are the recollections of a time with left-wing students would be sent from Iceland to study in communist East Germany by the Icelandic Communist Party. These recollections begin with the arrival of the narrator in East Germany continuing through the students’ disenfranchisement with the communist cause until the narrative pulls together to explain the present-day mystery. Clearly, one of these students is the skeleton found in Lake Kleifarvatn and the reader is meant to be kept on their toes as to who it might be.
This is supposed to be the sixth book in Indriðason’s series – the fourth translated in English – but it read like it was meant to be the first in the series. Erlendur and the rest of his team are introduced to the reader as though they are unfamiliar to the reader, and some of the details added to their characters in this novel made the characters feel entirely new. Elínborg has an interest in cooking – a detail I cannot remember from previous books – and produced a cookbook; Erlendur has reunited with his son for the first time, but I could have sworn he made an appearance in an earlier novel. (Maybe an argument for reading the series in order rather than the haphazard jumping around I’ve been engaged in.)
I do not normally read novels about the Cold War, although I am interested in the time period, but I cannot say this book stood out amongst those I have read set in that particular time period. The novel presents the events in the past in a way that felt bereft of emotion, structured and, well, formulaic in its presentation of communist East Germany.
Unfortunately, these past recollections splice the novel so poorly that they interrupt the flow of the narrative and tarnished the mystery on either side of the timeline. I tried my best to focus on the present-day mystery and the characters I have come to enjoy but there was little there to sustain my enjoyment until the end. I finished the mystery not entirely sure I had solved the whodunit in my mind because Indriðason tried to do too much in this mystery and, unfortunately, it failed to meet the high standards I have come to associate with his work....more
Subtitled “Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me”, Forney’s memoir chronicles her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, her attempts to find the right foSubtitled “Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me”, Forney’s memoir chronicles her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, her attempts to find the right formula of medication, and her struggles to reconcile the source of her creativity (which Forney believes to be her manic phases) with her identity as an artist. She spends some time detailing the famous artists who were either diagnosed with or believed to have bipolar disorder – Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, etc – and the way these artists were institutionalized as they cycled through depression to mania and back again or made multiple suicide attempts as she debates medication versus creativity.
This deeply personal memoir addresses a subject often spoken in hushed whispers with such humor and wit that even in her darkest moments, Forney manages to make her readers see the spark of creativity lurking beneath. There is something so beautiful about the candid and frank way she discusses mental health, sexuality, growing older, and the changing of friendships that accompany every major shift in an individual’s life.
The style of her drawings follow the swings of her bipolar disorder – crazy jumbles at the height of her mania, listless pencil drawings during the deepest part of her depression – and I particular enjoyed her use of darkness and light to represent these so-called phases. One of the most poignant panels in the comic was the distorted shape of her own hand – dark and clawed versus light with fingers curled into an okay sign – as she asks:
“Is bipolar disorder a curse, a source of misery and pain? A dangerous, often life-threatening disease? Or an inextricable even essential part of many creative personalities? A source of inspiration and profound artistic work?”
The way she frames this question, the way she places it in the context of other artists helps to capture the fear such a diagnosis can bring. I started recommending this book to friends even before I finished it because I just loved the way she handled the topic and the way her drawings compliment and contradict her topic. A great example of how comics can be a medium for topics normally considered forbidden and misunderstood....more
Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by a military junta since a coup in 1962 and has largely been demonized by the governments of Western couBurma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by a military junta since a coup in 1962 and has largely been demonized by the governments of Western countries, particularly the United States. The ruling generals use isolation as a tool of social control – censors monitor the papers and remove stories with scissors, the leader of the opposition won a Nobel Peace Prize but is kept under a decade-long house arrest, and insurgent-controlled regions are cut off from the world and the rest of the country.
Delisle traveled to the country with his wife and toddler son after his wife receives a posting from Doctors Without Borders (referred within the text by its French acronym, MSF). The organization is trying to open up clinics in the less populated, poorer regions of the country, although the government is stalling the efforts in an attempt to keep resources within their control, and Delisle spends much of the year he lived in the country in Yangon alone working on comics and caring for his young son.
As unsettling as I find Delisle’s evident animosity towards the way his child interrupts his work, something about being a father seems to made him more adventurous. Unlike the travelogues written when Delisle was single, this one is never encumbered by boredom or a refusal to overcome language barriers. He readily admits that his son, Louis, opens up opportunities he would not normally have to interact with residents of the country – people always seem to go gaga over an infant – but he seems to be more excited about the prospect of exploring the country now that he has become a father.
Instead of shutting himself off in his hotel room and trying to make bleak connections between reality and fiction, he travels to multiple attractions within the city, develops a new obsession with figuring out how to pass by Aung San Suu Kyi’s house during his daily walks with son, and is eager to visit the more rural parts of the country with his wife on an MSF-sanctioned trip. He still longs for the comforts of home and tries to devise a plan to get him and his family passes to the Australians-only club, but he seems to take a more self-deprecating view of Westerns such as himself in the country.
There are Westerns such as his wife in the country attempting to do good (i.e. bring medicine and clinics to underserved populations), but there are others willing to turn a blind eye to the poverty and the regime’s suppression in order to extract oil who live in mini-estates with guards. Yet all of them want to belong to the beautifully maintained compounds like the Australians-only club Delisle becomes obsessed with and all of them are willing to engage in the same dance with the regime in order to get what they want. This presentation brings up several contradictions and questions for the reader to ponder over.
Delisle continues to utilize black and white pencil drawings, but his drawings in this book were probably the best out of the four travelogues by him that I have read. I really felt like I was able to appreciate the beauty of the pagodas, experience the heat of the omnipresent sun, and understand the bleakness of life under such a controlling regime. On the later point, there are several amusing frames where Delisle learns about the bird flu through a rumor from an employee of the World Health Organization and then proceeds to freak out about the potential pandemic because the government strictly controls both the news and the import of Tamiflu. It was a nice blend of political commentary with the realities of everyday life....more