This was a good, fast-paced read that included good character development as well as a busy plot. I was particularly struck by the idea of Artificial...moreThis was a good, fast-paced read that included good character development as well as a busy plot. I was particularly struck by the idea of Artificial Intelligence developing into something more, and the questions that brings up. The only bummer in this book is the feeling we're all doomed and it's just a matter of a few years before idiots destroy the planet. Other than that, hey, a fun read!(less)
An interesting read. It covers the life of a majestic and friendly wolf who spent several years in the company of humans. The narrator, a kind-hearted...moreAn interesting read. It covers the life of a majestic and friendly wolf who spent several years in the company of humans. The narrator, a kind-hearted but realistic writer, first discovered the wolf who would be named Romeo when the young animal moved in on a community near the Mendenhall Glacier. The book is almost as interesting for its descriptions of human behavior as compared to the wolf variety. In the end, you're left pondering the various subspecies of humans as much as the real animals among them. An interesting look at the divergent political and social forces in modern Alaska.(less)
This book was recommended to me as erotica for older people, and it is erotic, but the sex is a metaphor.
At least, I assume that's what Rae, the 58-ye...moreThis book was recommended to me as erotica for older people, and it is erotic, but the sex is a metaphor.
At least, I assume that's what Rae, the 58-year-old author, intended. Rae suffered through a horrific childhood. At some point, as an adult, she fell in love and began living with (and taking care of) Eli, who toward the end of their 18-year relationship is bipolar, sick, and has threatened her.
At the beginning of this memoir, Eli is in agonizing decline, and has no one but the long-suffering Rae to help him. Here's how that looks to Rae, just as Eli is about to be sent home from a psychiatric hospital:
"I'm filled with dread. My worry is that, because Eli is unstable and I have no idea what his medicines are anymore, I once again have no control over my life. His mood is my reality. His rage is my nightmare. Because his hospital psychiatrist has refused to speak with me since Eli was admitted (since Rae and Eli aren't married), I have no idea about the current status of his treatment and state of mind. What will I be walking into?"
In despair/desperation, Rae begins an affair with Eli's best friend, Jim. Yes, I know. It sounds like a non-sequitor, but bear with me. Jim, 67, is tall, beautiful, confident, bohemian, adventurous, and horny, and Rae hasn't had sex in five years. Jim is realistic; at one point early on he says, "It's occurred to me that you are probably the last girlfriend I'll ever have." Rae says her Catholic upbringing, which has always taught self-restraint, is in the distant past. "The deeper I get into this, the deeper I'm willing to go." She has been serving and sacrificing for Eli, and she and Jim are, even as they make mad, passionate love, ever-aware of their mortality. Both would incite appetite. Rae sees herself as breaking free, finally doing something for herself, reawakening her 58-year-old body, making discoveries. Cool if it were true.
But there's something missing in this story. Rae may see it differently, but I don't think she's describing her evolution as much as (a)distracting herself from horrific problems, and (b)finding another man to run her life, albeit a compelling and pretty man. In spite of asserting that she trusts Jim absolutely, she describes him as willing to do just about anything, anywhere to satisfy his sexual hunger, to the point where she is frequently embarrassed in public.
In what I consider borderline rationalization, Rae explains Jim's sexual aggression as her preference. She declares that she will never tell him "no" (except for certain agree-upon exclusions like torture.) She cautions the reader against deciding she is being deferential to Jim; no, she is the one in the drivers' seat. She wants to find out where he can take her. "I want the best of Jim, all that his sixty-seven years of experience with sex and women and fantasy and longing have brought to him...I wish for him to perform as a high-functioning artist does...I desire spontaneous and creative flow..."
At first I was convinced. It seemed a fresh, new way of thinking: to respect the experience of this vibrant and interesting man, to present herself as a palette upon which he, the artist, will paint - for her pleasure. She makes a pretty good case. And maybe one view might be that in doing so, she is living, really experiencing life, giving herself one last, best meal at the finest table she'll ever see.
I have mixed feelings about that. There are clues here to the contrary, in support of believing that maybe she sees Jim as someone she'd really like to depend on, if only that were a more reasonable expectation of this confirmed bachelor. For example, she calls him a couple of times during various awful emergencies with Eli, and then castigates herself for laying this on Jim - for asking for his help, for bringing her problems into his life. She is a camp follower in some ways, escaping into the fantasy that is Jim. Not that that isn't a therapeutic way to handle her tough circumstances, but there's too much indication here that she's still not ready to decide for herself how she will live her life. But that is only my opinion, and you may see it differently.
In any case, the sex is very hot, and this book does illuminate the experience of life in later years. It also, and this is no small thing, exposes how completely f***ed-up this country is in re: caring for poor and mentally ill people.
I rated it four stars because it's compelling and interesting, and also good discussion material for book clubs (and maybe therapy groups.) Worth checking out. (less)
Maggie's Turn is a missed opportunity. There's no particular narrative voice, not much emotion, and the main character doesn't face any real challenge...moreMaggie's Turn is a missed opportunity. There's no particular narrative voice, not much emotion, and the main character doesn't face any real challenge while she's on her journey. In fact, this book could have been written in the POV of the husband, who gets hit with many character-forming challenges while Maggie kind of sails along. I think the writer has promise, but this story feels too careful, as if she were afraid to cut loose and just write.(less)
I like stories about people who are at middle-age or older. This was a good, down-to-earth main character trying to find her way with plenty of obstac...moreI like stories about people who are at middle-age or older. This was a good, down-to-earth main character trying to find her way with plenty of obstacles in her path. A fun beach read.(less)
This was a page-turner. I still can't believe what I just read. What a fabulous memoir. The writing was great, and my emotions ranged from one extreme...moreThis was a page-turner. I still can't believe what I just read. What a fabulous memoir. The writing was great, and my emotions ranged from one extreme to another. Such resilience this little girl had, and bit of luck too, as she could have died at the hands of these animals who raised her, no matter how wounded they themselves may have been. I congratulate Ms. Person on her tenacity, and for managing to create a good life for herself in the end. (less)
In this spellbinding debut memoir, Kathleen Pooler describes growing up in a loving and nurturing family, only to have her life turn dark with two abu...moreIn this spellbinding debut memoir, Kathleen Pooler describes growing up in a loving and nurturing family, only to have her life turn dark with two abusive marriages. The big question of why is the compelling story line of this book, and informative to all who read it.
Kathy is a Baby Boomer, and her descriptions of childhood evoke rich nostalgia. I enjoyed reading about the cultural touchstones of our early years. However, like many girls at that time, Kathy was reared to be of service by loving, well-intended parents and a Church that preached obedience, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. She matures into a hard-working, fun-loving and intelligent young woman. She earns her nursing degree and a full scholarship to postgraduate school. She builds a career, raises two great kids, and develops many solid and nurturing friendships.
Yet when it comes to choosing a husband, she somehow ignores all the red flags. As we watch Kathy endure two soul-crushing marriages, we wonder how she could make such choices, but she comes to understand her reasons, and they are universal. I have personally made those mistakes, and I'll bet many readers have, as well. This book not only sheds light on Kathy, me, and perhaps you, but how we raise our daughters in this culture. In fact, I was angered by the complicity of the families of the two husbands. I don't want to spoil the story, but the insights she gains and shares in the final chapters of the book are illuminating. It's almost as if this book is an owner's manual for life itself. I enthusiastically recommend it.(less)
(spoiler alert) Often I wish I could ask an author what thematic question drove the need to write a particular book. In the case of "The Sense of an E...more(spoiler alert) Often I wish I could ask an author what thematic question drove the need to write a particular book. In the case of "The Sense of an Ending," judging by my own reactions and those of reviewers, I think the answer doesn't matter. The reactions are so varied and from one extreme to the other, that I must conclude the story is a Rorschach test. Like the famous ink blot, what you see in it reflects yourself.
For me, a person obsessed with aging thoughtfully as opposed to sleepwalking through one's life, the story was really satisfying. It begins with Tony telling of his first twenty years, but the next forty - all of his adulthood to this point - are addressed in a few dismissive sentences. Then, in his retirement, an incident occurs that goads him to try to return to the circumstances of his youth, and this, finally, prompts introspection.
"In Adrian's terms, I gave up on life, gave up on examining it, took it as it came. And so, for the first time, I began to feel a more general remorse, a feeling somewhere between self-pity and self-hatred, about my whole life. All of it. I had lost the friends of my youth...the love of my wife. I had abandoned the ambitions I had entertained. I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded-and how pitiful that was."
Some provocative thoughts in this book. For example, Tony considers the "question of accumulation." In the same way that one can accumulate wealth, or build on experiences, cannot one also accumulate negativities? "Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down..." You may not agree with him on this or any other observation, but at least, now in his sixties, he's finally thinking, and his thinking prompts our own.
Again, back to the ink blot. Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Signature of All Things" addresses the suitability of certain humans for a life on earth. Some don't have the drive to survive, in spite of great gifts. And here we are again, in "Sense...", with Adrian, a genius, who as a college student commits suicide rather than bear up under a horrific development he has caused. Whereas unremarkable Tony lives a long and comfortable if unexamined life.
And how Tony worshiped Adrian - Tony, who always imagined the grass being greener everywhere outside his own self. Tony was drawn to the exotic, the extremes, in Adrian and Veronica, but neither was particularly functional. Yet Tony, functional and unremarkable, survived much more ably than either of these two.
The title of this book seems appropriate. In the last part of his life, Tony gets a sense that he has wasted his adulthood, that his chance is past. In internal dialogue, he says, "There is unrest. There is great unrest." Let's hope so. (less)
UPDATE: It's been a few days since I wrote this review, and the book keeps resurfacing in my mind. It is about evolution (physical and social), and th...moreUPDATE: It's been a few days since I wrote this review, and the book keeps resurfacing in my mind. It is about evolution (physical and social), and the duty, or one might say, the privilege of being able to choose to keep fighting no matter what. In that sense, I have to say it's an empowering read from Ms. Gilbert.
REVIEW: This book is well-written and extremely interesting. The story begins in the late 1700s with the first twenty years of Henry Whittaker's life, as well as the entire eighty years of his daughter, the main character, Alma. They are fascinating people, and the times as well as the settings are wrought in expert detail. I was astonished at the effort Gilbert put into it.
The subtext (if not the theme) of the book is evolution, both biological and sociological, and I think the reason Gilbert went into so much detail, however well-crafted and entertaining, was to demonstrate various aspects of evolution - or the resolute lack thereof - in of each of her characters. Thus we follow the lives of Alma, her father, her mother, Prudence, the insane friend, the insane husband, the Tahitian missionary, the Tahitian missionary's son, et. al. And I'm just getting started. Even Roger the dog evolves in order to triumph at life. Okay, I'm kidding about him. Sort of.
I'm not going to describe the entire book. Plenty of other readers will do that. However, I will say that there is a transcendent scene toward the end, when Alma and another scientist/big thinker debate the evolutionary logic of altruism. I was entranced by this unanswerable question and their discussion of it. However, that was just the icing on the cake. The main takeaway of the story, for me, was that we all have a chance to live our biggest life possible, if only we try as hard as we can and never, never let ourselves weaken. It's an empowering theme. I recommend this book, with the caveat that the evolved reader manage its length by discreetly skimming, thus saving her energy for the rest of life's battles. (less)
The objective of this book, according to the author, is "to inspire people through storytelling to imagine their own future in powerful and positive w...moreThe objective of this book, according to the author, is "to inspire people through storytelling to imagine their own future in powerful and positive ways." Pauley weaves her story into the telling of those anecdotes, so there's a nice rhythm. She's relentlessly cheerful and self-effacing, and uses her broadcaster cadence in telling each story. The result is a kind of tonal flatness, no real highs or lows. Yet there is still enough in this book for me to feel it was worth reading.
Here are some takeaways:
*instead of empty nest syndrome, one reinventor saw the newly available time as "a gift box that I could fill somehow." That was a refreshingly take. *the idea of "packing for your future." What might you take with you into very old age, that you can look back upon and think, "I'm glad I did that. I'm at peace because I did that." Also, to be willing to happily give up on some things, like running a marathon or learning a foreign language. *the idea that "self-discovery is not a prerequisite for reinvention. It's the payoff."
The only knock on this book is broader than one book or Jane Pauley herself: it's a lack of candor about the fact that only a certain economic group can indulge in unpaid dream-chasing. A good number of older people will never have that luxury, and I think we should acknowledge that. Now, if somebody would come along and write a book about "How I Reinvented Myself While Enduring Chronic Illness and Simultaneously Working Three Minimum Wage Jobs," that would be noteworthy.(less)