I love Roz Chast's work and this is a very honest book about the aging and death of her parents. Many middle aged people will relate to this story. ItI love Roz Chast's work and this is a very honest book about the aging and death of her parents. Many middle aged people will relate to this story. It takes place in Brooklyn and the descriptions of place, emotions, and personality are deep and insightful. A wonderful example of this genre. ...more
If you have an interest in true crime stories, or in what it is like for families who face the unthinkable sorrow and rage of losing a child to murderIf you have an interest in true crime stories, or in what it is like for families who face the unthinkable sorrow and rage of losing a child to murder... if you wonder what goes on behind the scenes and "the rest of the story" that is not explained on CNN or tabloid TV or in popular magazines...if, in short, you are a person who thinks and wants to know more before jumping to conclusions, then "The Death of Innocence" is a book you will find fascinating.
Written in 2000, John and Patsy Ramsey share the story of their family and how it was ripped apart when Jon Benet was murdered on Christmas night, 1996. You'll also learn some things that might surprise you, like the fact that beauty pageants were not a primary focus of Jon Benet's life and many of the videos and pictures shown on TV were released without the Ramsey's permission (sold by videographers and photographers at these pageants to the media) and Jon Benet's parents' dismay and revulsion as the clips were altered to make their daughter seem provocative.
A few years before Jon Benet's death, Patsy battled ovarian cancer (Patsy Ramsey eventually died of ovarian cancer at age 49 in 2006). She describes this battle and John describes changes within his business, and this puts the story into context as we learn of their life together, their children, and their ties to Georgia and Charlevoix, Michigan. We learn what the police did not do, what the FBI did, what leads were never followed up on... what happened to Jon Benet was a terrible crime, but what happened to the lives of the Ramseys was also terrible.
I've also reviewed the book "Columbine" on Goodreads as well as "The Great Deluge." I enjoy learning more about the details behind headlines. With each book I read, my view of CNN, FoxNews, even the ABC/NBC/CBS nightly news programs deteriorates. PBS and NPR are the only news organizations I trust at this point, and even then, just as a starting point to learn more about any event that might interest me. I have let go of the need to jump to conclusions, but do like to learn more because, as a writer, I think it is helpful to gain insight into these stories and the very human lives behind them.
This is a well-written book and I admire the editor who, I can imagine, had a difficult task. Not because of any lack on the part of the Ramsey's writing, but because of the wealth of information, anger, sorrow, and details that all were likely considered and culled through to come up with a readable, sensible story...I know from my work experience how difficult that can be, and it is a testament to the Ramseys that they ended up with a book so well-written....more
I had first read "Building a Home with My Husband: A Journey through the Renovation of Love" when it was published in hardcover under that title. It wI had first read "Building a Home with My Husband: A Journey through the Renovation of Love" when it was published in hardcover under that title. It was released in paperback under the title "The House on Teacher's Lane."
Recently, I had a long drive ahead of me, and settled in to listen to the audiobook version of "Building a Home with My Husband." I had listened to Simon's "Riding the Bus with My Sister" on the drive to Philadelphia and absolutely loved it (also having read the book years earlier). Simon narrated "Riding the Bus..." and I found her voice, pacing, inflection just perfect to narrate her story. The drive flew by listening to her experiences with her sister Beth and, having an adult son with disabilities, I could relate to so much in "Riding the Bus with My Sister."
Having already read "Building a Home with My Husband", I knew what it was about and had enjoyed the story when I read it, particularly because at the time I read it I was thinking a lot about marriage and home-making and the nature of relationships between people who love each other, especially if those people are creative types.
As I listened to the audiobook version of "Building a Home with My Husband/The House on Teacher's Lane" I was again struck by Simon's honest, open-hearted style of writing...how she builds a story, weaving the very personal events of her life, but in a way that never sounds self-absorbed or egocentric. Simon tells of her personal experiences as if to say "Have you felt like this? Have you experienced this? I have too. Here's what happened and where it led...Here is what I was able to make of it."
There are several themes within this book, but first I should point out that while the book is about physically constructing a home (a substantial renovation in this case) it is also about the psychological work involved in creating the sense of Home with the person you love. Simon reveals, through glances back to her childhood, just what home and the security or insecurity of it has meant to her throughout her life. Some of her experiences are heart-wrenching and while you may not share those same experiences, the feelings and the effects on a child's and young woman's heart may be familiar to readers.
But, this is not a sad memoir at all. It is one of hope and the hard work that gives hope the impetus it needs to made dreams become reality. If you've ever built a home or undertaken major renovations (I have, more than once), then you will laugh and groan at Simon's experiences. Her descriptions of paint color and budget overruns and subcontractors are lively and wonderful. The author and her husband had to leave their home for a while as the construction on "Teacher's Lane" was so extensive. Simon writes about possessions and packing and trusting that the vision of her husband, an architect who designs with particular attention to the environment and sustainable materials, would come to fruition.
Be aware that Rachel Simon did not narrate "Building a Home with My Husband." It is narrated by Laural Merlington, who, according to the back cover, has recorded over 100 audiobooks. I preferred Simon's voice, as I'd heard it in "Riding the Bus with My Sister," but certainly Merlington is an experienced narrator and this is just my personal preference.
From the back of the audiobook: "Like most people, Rachel Simon lives in an imperfect house. The historic row home has charm, but it's small, dark, and has a gaping hole in the dining room ceiling. Unfortunately, selling is not an option, and Rachel and her husband, Hal, realize they have only one option, renovate.
"Rachel is prepared for the ups and downs that come with any major life change. But what she isn't prepared for are the ways the renovation forces her to confront memories she had long since tucked away and inspires her to repair fractured bonds with those closest to her. From Hal's first design sketch to the last stroke of paint, recollections of a difficult childhood, friendships left behind, challenges with siblings, and an improbably path to marriage come bursting out. Once the dust settles, Rachel comes to profound insights about the construction, demolition, and renovation of personal relationships."...more
The back cover states: "Beginning with her family's harrowing migration out of Saigon in 1975, Stealing Buddha's Dinner follows Bich Nguyen as she comThe back cover states: "Beginning with her family's harrowing migration out of Saigon in 1975, Stealing Buddha's Dinner follows Bich Nguyen as she comes of age in the pre-PC-era Midwest. Filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity, Nguyen's desire to belong transmutes into a passion for American food..."
This is a very well-written memoir and interesting to me because I remember the fall of Saigon and seeing the people struggling to get on the last helicopters out. Ms. Nguyen and her family left by boat; her father, older sister, and grandmother.
It was interesting to me to read about her childhood in Michigan; so many of her cultural references were familiar to me--the snack food, the candy, the music, being more interested in books than in socializing with peers... Growing up with a pretty older sister and visiting families whose ways were so different than hers. But, added to that was the author's mysterious missing mother... and in the end we find out what happened to her and how she was separated from her children, as well as her close relationship with her grandmother.
Nguyen's descriptions of her family life are so well-written I can smell her grandmother's room and sense her father's moods and USA Today had it right when they said "Her typical and not-so-typical childhood experiences give her story a universal flavor."
I look forward to reading other work by this author....more
I am feeling a bit hesitant to write a Review (with a capital R) of this recently published book by Joyce Carol OatesA Widow's Story Joyce Carol Oates
I am feeling a bit hesitant to write a Review (with a capital R) of this recently published book by Joyce Carol Oates for I am not qualified to critique her writing, only my heart and mind's reaction to the story she has told. With that caveat, I will share my impressions with you.
I purchased this book because, while I am not a widow, I am interested in how people adjust to life-altering situations; how they feel and what choices they make moving forward. Relationships are fascinating to me as well, particularly long marriages, mother-child, and sibling relationships.
I had read Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking, a few years ago and it sits with all my "favorites"; so I was curious as to how Oates' book might compare. Not in terms of marriage or grief or circumstance, but in terms of a writer opening her heart and culling from the broken bits of it a story based on an individual's reality as relates to perhaps the most important person in her life.
Right from the start in A Widow's Story I loved the words chosen, the flow of the words and the meaning of the sentences. As an editor and reader, I kept finding wonderful sentences that I was tempted to highlight or underline, but did not. I did mark them with a bookmark and share them with you now; this will give you a small glimpse into the content of the book and the style of Oates' writing in this instance.
There is so much more to this book than any brief review can reveal. Like, The Year of Magical Thinking and The House on Teachers' Lane (by Rachel Simon) and, if I might add, Leaving the Hall Light On (by Madeline Sharples and recently published by the company I founded, Lucky Press), A Widow's Story is an individual story, a unique story, that is encased within the universal experience of our lives as modern women, often as one-half of a couple, as people struggling to make sense of family, loss, and our choices as writers. These are books to be kept in one's home library and to read again; to share with friends going through similar experiences, to give as gifts.
Here are a few passages that stood out to me in A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates (the author uses italics liberally in her writing and I apologize for not incorporating them below, with the exception of book titles, as Goodreads requires cumbersome html formatting just to include italics):
page 74: You made my life possible. I owe my life to you. ¶ I can't do this alone. ¶ And yet--what is the option? The Widow is one who has discovered that there is no option. ... ¶ This determination to manage--to cope--to do as much unassisted as possible--is the Widow's prerogative.
page 122: I am beginning to think Maybe I never knew him, really. Maybe I knew him only superficially--his deeper self was hidden from me. ¶ In our marriage it was our practice not to share anything that was upsetting, depressing, demoralizing, tedious--unless it was unavoidable. Because so much in a writer's life can be distressing--negative reviews, rejections by magazines, difficulties with editors, publishers, book designers--disappointment with one's own work, on a daily/hourly basis!--it seemed to me to be a very good idea to shield Ray from this side of my life as much as I could. For what is the purpose of sharing your misery with another person, except to make that person miserable, too? ¶ In this way, I walled off from my husband the part of my life that is "Joyce Carol Oates"--which is to say, my writing career.
page 141: As I read Ray's critical essays of this long-ago time ["Christabel and Geraldine: The Marriage of Life and Death," which appeared in the Bucknell Review in 1968.], I realize how close we'd been ... We had shared every detail of our teaching jobs--our classes, our colleagues, the high points and low points and surprises of our lives... ¶ I am made to think, not for the first time, that in my writing I have plunged ahead--head-on, heedlessly one might say--or "fearlessly"-- into my own future: this time of utter raw anguished loss. Though I may have had, since adolescence, a kind of intellectual/literary precocity, I had not experienced much; nor would I experience much until I was well into middle-age--the illnesses and deaths of my parents, this unexpected death of my husband. We play at paste til qualified for pearl says Emily Dickinson. Playing at paste is much of our early lives. And then, with the violence of a door slammed shut by wind rushing through a house, life catches up with us.
page 221: There's an ironic appropriateness to my presentation [in Cleveland, shortly after her husband's death]--"The Writer's 'Secret Life': Woundedness, Rejection, and Inspiration"--with its focus upon woundedness--especially in childhood. The writers of whom I speak--Samuel Beckett, the Brontës, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Sam Clemens, Eugene O'Neill among others--are brilliant examples of individuals who rendered woundedness into art; they are not writers of genius because they were wounded but because, being wounded, they were capable of transmuting their experience into something rich and strange and new and wonderful. Tears spring into my eyes when I quote Ernest Hemingway's stirring remark--it's so profound, I wil quote it ot the audience twice:
"From things that have happened and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason."
page 252: The horror is: one of the books which has been nominated for the [National Book Critics Circle] award is my Journal: 1973-1982. Into which--I've just recently discovered--I can't bring myself to look. ¶ How strange it is to the writer, whose life's-blood would seem to have been drained, in order that works of prose be "animated"--given a semblance of life through printed language--when the writer is obligated to revisit the work, at a later time. Sometimes it's a painful, powerful experience--opening a book, staring down at the lines of print and recalling--in the helpless, vertiginous way in which one recalls, or half-recalls, a lost dream--the emotional state of being you were in, at the time of the writing. ¶ In my case--a "posthumous" case--the feeling is But I was alive then! I remember that.
page 360-361: In marriage, as in any intimate relationship, there are sinkholes ... minefields. ...To Ray there was a sinkhole: his family. ¶ The sinkhole was immense, covering many acres: his family, the Church, hell. ¶ This sinkhole nearly pulled him into it, to drown. Before I'd met him, Ray said. ¶ Or so I'd gathered, as a young wife. ¶ ...In writing this, I feel that I am betraying Ray. Yet in not writing it, I am not being altogether honest.
page 361: Another time, when we'd first met ... Ray had spoken hesitantly of his sister who'd been "institutionalized." ¶ This was a coincidence! For my sister Lynn, eighteen years younger than me, had been institutionalized, too. ¶ So severely autistic, Lynn could not be kept at home beyond the age of eleven. She'd become violent, threatening my mother. This was a heartbreaking interlude in my parents' lives, after I'd gone away to college... ¶ But Ray's sister wasn't autistic. ... had not been mentally defective, but shed been--"excitable"--"difficult"--"disobedient." ¶ Of the four children in Ray's family, Carol had been the rebellious one. ...resisted following orders from her parents ... "over-reacted" to the religious climate of the household. ¶ What did this mean? I asked. ¶ She hadn't been a good girl--a good little Catholic girl. She hadn't been devout. She'd been loud, argumentative. ¶ And what happened to her? I asked. ¶ She was institutionalized. When she was about eleven. Like your sister. But for different reasons.
page 379: It's a fact, a man will love his father--in some way. ¶ Snarled and twisted like the roots of a gigantic tree--these are the contortions of familial love. ¶ Yet even now, if Ray were to return--could I ask him about his father? His family? Would I dare? Or would the slightest frown on Ray's part discourage me, and deflect the conversation onto another subject, as it always did? ¶ As a wife, I had never wanted to upset my husband. I had never wanted to quarrel, to disagree or to be disagreeable. To be not loved seemed to me the risk, if a wife confronted her husband against his wishes. ¶ And now, I am not loved. And what a strange lucidity this seems to bring, like disinfectant slapped on an open wound....more
"Leaving the Hall Light On" is a memoir by poet Madeline Sharples of California. Madeline is the mother of two sons. The eldest, Paul, suffered from b"Leaving the Hall Light On" is a memoir by poet Madeline Sharples of California. Madeline is the mother of two sons. The eldest, Paul, suffered from bipolar disorder, which came on suddenly in young adulthood and resulted in his committing suicide at a young age. In the years since that terrible time, Madeline has written poetry, worked hard to maintain her own body and mind in a healthy way, and found a way to move forward, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman whose heart and spirit were broken by the loss of a son, a son whose family tried so very hard to help him in every possible way.
There are so many people with bipolar disorder and so many families who struggle to cope with a mentally ill family member. And, sadly, so many parents who have lost a child to suicide. This is a book you will want to recommend to these hurting families.
Losing a child to suicide brings emotions and experiences to one's life that are different from losing a child to any other type of tragedy. Madeline addresses all of the "tough stuff" of being a parent in this position, but she goes beyond that. Her personality glows and the way she shares so honestly what is on her heart as she moves forward into Life, will encourage readers who face the unimaginable.
I especially appreciated reading about the practical, day-to-day events and steps Madeline took to find peace and an ability to embrace life after Paul's death. She writes about her relationship with her husband, Bob, and their son, Ben, and the book ends on a happy note: the transformation of Paul's bedroom into Madeline's writing room, and Ben's wedding to Marissa in the beautiful garden at Madeline and Bob's home.
My hope in publishing this book (I am the founder of Lucky Press) is that it will be the book that a person can give to a grieving parent; a book that will help them to feel less alone; to help them in their darkest moment as a parent, as a women, as a mother. This is a power that books can have and Madeline's book, the text interspersed with her beautiful poetry and family photos, will hopefully make a difference in the lives of other families....more