This is one of the most beautiful but also one of the most harrowing books I've ever read. So many times I had to walk away from it because of the ineThis is one of the most beautiful but also one of the most harrowing books I've ever read. So many times I had to walk away from it because of the inexplicable horrors that were visited upon an innocent child, but I was drawn right back to it because I had to know what happened to him, how he learned to survive.
The story starts out seeming like a "coming of age" novel about a group of friends who all graduated from the same New England college and move to NYC to make their way in their respective careers. But it becomes clear that it's the "little life" of Jude that we're focusing on as we're given, little by little, the details of his horrific childhood, and it's a wonder he survived, let alone achieved such success in college, in his career, and with these very important, very special friendships. But even with all that he's accomplished, with everything he's gained, nothing can erase his nightmare past and the emotional and physical damage that was done to him. He becomes more and more broken as time goes by, even with all the people in his life who have come to love and care for him.
A sad, but at the same time hopeful, look at humanity....more
I don't normally like to read books about war, but something about this story intrigued me: During WWII, a group of 24 soldiers and WACs, based in HolI don't normally like to read books about war, but something about this story intrigued me: During WWII, a group of 24 soldiers and WACs, based in Hollandia, New Guinea, decided to take a day-long pleasure cruise, a flight to an area of New Guinea dubbed Hidden Valley and Shangri-La for its natural beauty and its isolation. They would only do a fly-by, where they could view it all from above. But just as they approached the region, something went horribly wrong and the plane crashed into the mountainside, then burst into flames. Among those who managed to survive was a WAC, Margaret Hastings, who happened to be from Owego, NY, not far from Syracuse, my hometown.
It's a captivating story on its own, but Zuckoff did an exhaustive amount of research, and also included excerpts from diaries of those involved, to try to recreate the events that unfolded as accurately as possible.
Margaret had severe burns on her feet but somehow managed to walk miles and miles, down the mountain and through thick brush and rugged terrain, as did Ken Decker, another survivor, while suffering from burns on the back of his body and a gaping head wound. The survivors had no food and no medical supplies to try to treat their injuries. But they knew they needed to try to get to an area where they could possibly be seen by any rescue teams looking for them, so they kept moving.
There had been rumors about the inhabitants of Shangri-La -- giant, cannibalistic primitives – which posed another dangerous, frightening threat as the survivors made their way through the jungle. What would happen if they encountered these “savages”?
Even after they are eventually spotted by a rescue team flying overhead, it is another month before a plan can be devised to get them out of the jungle, since no plane has ever landed there and there is no area that is suitable enough to act as a runway for any aircraft. There are many options discussed – some of them pretty wild, including the method ultimately used – before they're finally able to leave.
Incredibly fascinating, our capacity for survival under the direst of circumstances. ...more
Seven exquisite, heartrending stories about love and loss. Each one touched me so deeply, though some hit closer to home than others. Just a couple quSeven exquisite, heartrending stories about love and loss. Each one touched me so deeply, though some hit closer to home than others. Just a couple quotes that resonated:
"I am writing about women, about love and humiliation. Men do it to us, but mostly we do it to ourselves. We love the wrong people; we love at the wrong time. We think that we can make it right, reconcile the irreconcilable. We are like game-show contestants who don't know when to stop. We could go home right now with the money and the washing machine, but we want the car so we keep going and we get the answer wrong, or choose the wrong door, or spin the wheel too hard, and then we have to go home with nothing."
"You meet someone, you fall in love, you marry. You meet someone, you fall in love, it turns into a disaster. You meet someone, you fall in love, but one of you is married, or both are; you have or don't have an affair. You meet someone, you fall in love, but you are never quite sure if your feelings are returned. You meet someone, you fall in love, but you are able to keep your feelings mostly hidden; occasionally they cough, or break a dinner plate, or burn down the kitchen (accidentally? on purpose?), but mostly they stay out of sight when other people are around.... An outsider who happened to glimpse it might be horrified -- might ask you in a whisper if you needed to be rescued: Wouldn't you like to call in the authorities? But no, you're fine. It's your own lunatic household..."
The third in Ford's Frank Bascombe series. Frank is now 55 and reached what he calls the Permanent Period. Recent events (a prostate cancer diagnosis,The third in Ford's Frank Bascombe series. Frank is now 55 and reached what he calls the Permanent Period. Recent events (a prostate cancer diagnosis, his second wife leaving him, his relationship with his son Paul, concerns about his daughter Clarissa, to name a few) have made him become more introspective. I would say there's a bit of existential angst, except Frank doesn't believe in existentialism.
At one point he is sitting in a bar in the middle of the day, waiting for his smashed car window to be fixed at the repair shop next door, when grief for a son who died decades earlier suddenly overtakes him, right then and there. He struggles to understand what's happening to him. "More tears are falling. I could laugh through them if I didn't have a potentially self-erasing pain in my chest. What is it that I'm supposed to accept? That I'm an asshole? (I confess.) That I have no heart? (I don't confess.) But what would be the hardest thing to say and mean it? .... And of course the answer's plain, unless we're actors or bad-check artists or spies, when it's still probably plain but more tolerable: that your life is founded on a lie, and you know what the lie is and won't admit it, maybe can't. Yes, yes, yes, yes." "A lot of things seem one way but are another. And how a thing seems is often just the game we play to save ourselves from great, panicking pain." So many quotes like these just pulled me right in with him as I found myself relating to these thoughts more than I'd care to admit.
It's not a page turner, but he gives us many things to reflect on, and his dry, dark humor shows up ever so subtly here and there along the way to keep things from getting bogged down in the "Life's Deep Meaning" analysis....more
Started out laugh out loud hilarious, then kind of fizzled towards the end. But still worth the read! Fun book for music fans, or people who like to lStarted out laugh out loud hilarious, then kind of fizzled towards the end. But still worth the read! Fun book for music fans, or people who like to laugh....more
This is a beautiful "middle grade" book that everyone should read. It's simply written, as it is meant for kids, but its message is one we all need toThis is a beautiful "middle grade" book that everyone should read. It's simply written, as it is meant for kids, but its message is one we all need to remember. August Pullman is a 10-year-old who loves Star Wars, his Xbox, and all the usual things 10-year-old boys love. But what sets him apart is the craniofacial disorder that he was born with that makes him look, well, different from everyone else. The older he gets, the more aware he is of the stares and the "look-aways" from people when they encounter him. His mother has home-schooled him for most of his life, but unbeknownst to him, they've decided to enroll Auggie at Beecher Prep. He's horrified, to say the least, but he bravely accepts this new challenge. Middle school can be a horror show for most kids even without the added difficulty of looking "weird." Each kid brings his/her own insecurities and fears with them, and some will choose an easy target to take it out on. Auggie, not surprisingly, gets picked on by a few and largely ignored by most. There are a few who were chosen by the principal at the beginning of the school year to act as sort of Auggie's ambassadors, and only Jack really sticks it out. Although Jack is not without fault. He's new to the school too and sees Auggie as a bit of a handicap to his own ability to fit in. But in the end he comes around and they remain the best of friends. Summer is a classmate who takes it upon herself to go out of her way to befriend Auggie. She is the person we'd all like to be, in a perfect world, but most of us fall far short, even as adults. Towards the end of Auggie's difficult first year, there is a class trip which ends with some kids from a different school terrorizing Auggie, and he gets some help from the unlikeliest of places, causing a sudden shift in Auggie's social standing at Beecher Prep. I guess one criticism could be that things wrap up too neatly and perfectly at the end, but it is a kids' book, and the important thing is the message: BE KIND! One of the teachers in the book, Mr. Browne, introduces the students at the beginning of the year to what he calls Mr. Browne's Precepts. They will be given a new one every month, and they will discuss it together and also write an essay on what that precept means to them. The first precept, for September, was from Wayne Dyer: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. ...more
Kim Gordon's memoir, focusing heavily on her years as the bassist for Sonic Youth with now ex-husband Thurston Moore but also giving us a glimpse of hKim Gordon's memoir, focusing heavily on her years as the bassist for Sonic Youth with now ex-husband Thurston Moore but also giving us a glimpse of her life pre- and post-Moore and Sonic Youth. It's not a conventional memoir by any means -- we wouldn't expect conventional from Gordon. Her story is told in bite-sized pieces, starting at the end with the last Sonic Youth performance amidst the breakup of her marriage and then going back to her childhood, moving chronologically for a while, from California to the early, gritty years in NYC, and then looping back and forth through time, seemingly as though you're listening in on a conversation she's having with herself, reliving the past in her head, with all its ups and downs, trying to figure out what went wrong in her marriage. As fascinating as all of it is, it must have been very difficult for her to write not just about the painful parts but also the happy times, looking back through the jaded reality.
(And if Kim Gordon can be cheated on and walked away from, it just further proves what I've always said: MEN ARE PIGS!)...more
Wonderful YA book about a fifth-grader with cerebral palsy who cannot walk or talk, who finds her voice through the help of some special people in herWonderful YA book about a fifth-grader with cerebral palsy who cannot walk or talk, who finds her voice through the help of some special people in her life and is finally able to express herself and let others know just how special she is. ...more
A compelling memoir. Shannon Moroney is a newlywed, happily writing out thank you cards for wedding gifts, when the police show up at her door. Her huA compelling memoir. Shannon Moroney is a newlywed, happily writing out thank you cards for wedding gifts, when the police show up at her door. Her husband of one month has just committed violent sexual assault against two women, and her life will never be the same again.
In the aftermath, she soon realizes she's being ostracized and not wanted back at the school where she'd worked for a long time, cutting off one line of support and normalcy. She finds out who her friends are, and aren't. She spends years trying to convince people she is also a victim of her husband's crime, that she does not condone what he did, while at the same time still being supportive to him and to his victims. She must learn how to navigate a new world of prisons, lawyers' offices, courtrooms, police stations, while trying to get on with the day-to-day and figuring out what she is going to do with the rest of her life. She learns about restorative justice and starts volunteering with a group that facilitates this kind of healing for everyone involved in a crime - victims and perpetrators.
It's an interesting look at the criminal justice system from a different point of view. Not much thought or emphasis is placed on the loved ones of the perpetrator in our system of justice, and they're often deemed guilty by association. Great read....more
I was excited to read this book, to learn, or review, some important moments in history - musical and political - and initially it was doing all thatI was excited to read this book, to learn, or review, some important moments in history - musical and political - and initially it was doing all that for me. The book moves chronologically in time, each chapter at first focusing on one song and the meaning and movement behind it. In later chapters the author seems to move to focusing on a whole genre, or what one band was working on during that period, and that's where it started getting fuzzy and where I started losing interest. I found myself skimming, then skipping over sections. I just didn't care anymore, except looking for songs to go back and listen to for fun. Maybe I'm proving the author's point in the end. As he writes in the epilogue, in this age of social media "activism" and instant newsfeeds, does anyone want or need protest songs anymore?...more
Like a kinda funny joke that gets repeated ad nauseam until it's no longer funny. I thought I would love it since I was once a cursing mommy myself, bLike a kinda funny joke that gets repeated ad nauseam until it's no longer funny. I thought I would love it since I was once a cursing mommy myself, but it was just too ridiculous and repetitive....more