This is a second book by Shouse. Her first (Living in the Land of Dementia) focuses on her relationship with her mother, who is living with dementia.This is a second book by Shouse. Her first (Living in the Land of Dementia) focuses on her relationship with her mother, who is living with dementia.
This book is broader. It's a product of Shouse reading, interviewing, observing and participating in arts-based activities for people living with dementia.
The book offers advice to care partners (family members or paid caregivers such as activity directors) on how to engage people living with dementia through painting, drama, music, contact with nature, etc. She and her partner Ron traveled throughout the US and beyond the US to see how people living with dementia can engage in relationships, make observations about the world around them, and create inspired and inspiring work.
Shouse produces a rich, imaginative, hopeful and caring book with a lot of examples in each chapter and with resources in the end matter gesturing to services, experts and research. Yes, dementia presents a number of challenges, but it's refreshing to read something other than the doom-and-gloom reports describing the problem. Here is a book that looks for opportunities and celebrates the possibilities available if people open their minds, hearts and souls and engage creatively. ...more
I've read _Girl with the Pearl Earring_ by Tracy Chevalier, which I quite fancied. And I find the novel Jane Eyre to be complex in both its content anI've read _Girl with the Pearl Earring_ by Tracy Chevalier, which I quite fancied. And I find the novel Jane Eyre to be complex in both its content and its reception. And I like classics reimagined--as long as the authors have enough skill to weather comparisons. Consequently, I was beguiled by the premise of this collection of short stories inspired by Charlotte Bronte's line "Reader, I married him."
To catch the allusions to Jane Eyre in these stories, I had to review a list of characters since it's been about 5 years since I've read C. Bronte's substantial novel. And I've only read it once. (Gasp! I may reread it this winter.)
Twenty-one award-winning, contemporary authors contribute to this collection, offering a variety of short stories. If I'm going to read and ponder them all, I might as well write up a little about each story (as I go).
Note: the stories are much richer than I convey because I would spoil the fun if I elaborated any more.
* Marks the ones that are my favorite, but I strongly recommend the entire collection.
*Hadley, Tessa. "My Mother's Wedding" takes place during a hippie-style wedding in Pembrokeshire, Wales and is narrated by the mature bride's daughter. 5/5 stars for me for style, characters, plot and interesting echoes of Jane Eyre.
Hall, Sarah. "Luxury Hour" is narrated by a young mother trying to find her bearings in a world that keeps giving her vertigo. How much of this is her doing? How much is fate? 5/5 for being amusing in every sense of the word.
Dunmore, Helen. "Grace Poole Her Testimony" provoked me to read this short story twice because it takes a few twists and turns and bumps up against the novels in wild ways. The sentence style was a bit hard for me, but I think it's purposefully choppy to convey characterization. 5/5 for being provocative.
Gunn, Kirsty. "Dangerous Dog" takes a meta-analytic approach because the narrator is a student in a creative writing class. I like the complexity this story take by alluding to Jane Eyre while also being choked full of self-scrutiny (writers on writing). 5/5 for being playful and smart at the same time.
Briscoe, Joanna. "To Hold" is cold and calculating, but for a very good reason. I can't really rate this because the characters' morals are 2/5, but the crafting is 5/5, so does that average to a 3.5/5? I'm having a hard time being objective.
Gardam, Jane. "It's a Man's Life, Ladies," like most of these short stories, focuses on how a woman's life is constrained so heavily by who she married and how the man, the parents and duty often overrule the woman's heart. 4/5 because I had to read it three times to read between the lines, but maybe that's my flaw as a reader and not hers as a writer? The fact that I was compelled to read it three times speaks well of Gardam!
*Donoghue, Emma. "Since First I Saw Your Face" draws on historical documents to imagine the personal life of a married woman with many children--as told through the eyes of a woman she meets while recovering from *cough cough* ill health. I've read Donaghue before (The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits) and her historical fiction short stories. 5/5 because she animates interesting and unheralded tales from history in a compelling manner.
Hill, Susan. "Reader, I Married Him" could have been shorter or more complex. 2/5 because a very good premise from an historical couple with a scandalous marriage could have been handled better. The last half was extremely repetitive and thin for me.
Prose, Francine. "The Mirror" is a haunting retelling of Jane Eyre. I kept thinking about the film Gaslight and wondered if I was inferring too much--until Prose mentions the film directly. 4/5 because it was a little bit overwrought, drawing a bit too much attention to the story's construction, but it got under my skin for a few days after reading.
*Shafak, Elif. "A Migrating Bird" was a fascinating microcosm east meets west as told through a girl meets boy story fashioned by a Turkish born author. I liked it so well that I want to read more by Shafak. 5/5 for the emotional and cultural complexities conveyed through deceptively simple means.
Wyld, Evie. "Behind the Mountain" is a character analysis of a social misfit on the surface, but the character narrating comes under scrutiny as well. 5/5 because even though the plot is thin, every sentence is packed with great detail about characters that I could read this dozens of times and find something new to ponder with each reading.
*Park, Patricia. "The China from Buenos Aires" takes Jane Eyre global by having a Korean-ancestry narrator from Argentina living in NYC and thinking about the pragmatics of marriage offers. 5/5 because it takes twists and turns yet ends up feeling like a homecoming.
Vickers, Salley. "Reader, She Married Me" takes Rochester's point of view and adds some detail about Bertha that I feel may be inspired from the Wild Sargasso Sea. But I'm not sure. 4/5 because I can see the mechanism of the storytelling a bit too much, and there is more telling than showing. But worth reading for the alternative POV and how it enriches the other two people in the original novel's love triangle.
*Chevalier, Tracy. "Dorset Gap" conveys its narrative in a carefree manner thanks to Ed, the narrator's tone. However, there are metaphors that connect this seemingly casual tale to long-established archetypes. 5/5 for the ease in which old and new are bound together in this tale.
Mohame, Nadife. "Party Girl" has a narrator who is Muslim and constrained yet adopting very modern and nontraditional viewpoints and behaviors. 5/5 for representing the complexities that some Muslim young women experience.
Freud, Esther. "Transference" explores the complex dynamics that a young women experiences during therapy. 3/5 because it did more telling than showing and read more like an exposition on psychological theory than a work of fiction.
Grant, Linda. "The Mash-Up" tells a tragi-comical tale of Jewish young woman and a Persian young man. 5/5 for referring to some very serious social, cultural and psychological issues while maintaining a comical tone.
Shriver, Lionel. "The Self-Seeding Sycamore" describes the plight of a recently widowed fifty-something woman, trying to maintain the garden that was her deceased husband's passion. 4/5 for telling a story about a mature woman. However, I wish Shriver had not unpacked the metaphor of the sycamore for readers so thoroughly. I like to do some of that work myself.
Niffenegger, Audrey. "The Orphan Exchange" not surprisingly alludes to the novel Jane Eyre's earlier chapters. The setting is more modern, an alternate reality or a futuristic society where some of the evils are further magnified. 5/5 because the story focuses on one of the most earnest relationships of Bronte's novel.
Serpell, Namwell. "Double Men" was difficult for me to read. I decided that because it's set in Africa (probably Zambia, the author's native country) and depicts life unfamiliar to me, maybe it's my lack of knowledge that made it difficult, so I read it again and charted out the relationships among the half dozen or so key characters. 4/5 for a story that makes interesting observations about people and has some interesting metaphors.
McCracken, Elizabeth. "Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark" does a good job of using a day trip to describe a lot of personal history for Bruno, the point of view character. We get a lot of back story about Bruno without straight exposition. The story does allude to the collection's prompt, "Reader, I married him." 5/5 if I judge it on its own merits without evaluating the Eyre tie in. (Or maybe I'm just to dense to see it because of the gender play.)
Macdonald's book delights in part because it defies genre.
The book describes her complex relationship with a goshawk she is training to hunt. She desMacdonald's book delights in part because it defies genre.
The book describes her complex relationship with a goshawk she is training to hunt. She describes the bird's body movements, its hunting grounds, its prey and other aspects of the sport--or rather the art of falconry. However, the book is far more than a nature book. The catalyst for procuring the Hawk is her father's sudden death. She's processing her grief while immersing herself in the world of falconry. From time to time, she shares stories about her father, but more often she describes her grief, the physical and psychological distress.
Despite Macdonald's ability describe wildness to the point where she seems more animal than human at times, she invokes quite a bit of civilization. Even as a child, she read voraciously about falconry. She draws from hobbyist magazines, monographs, and historical records (some dating back hundreds of years). She gestures to symbols for hawks and other birds of prey used in artwork from a variety of time periods and cultures. I was surprised to discover that the most frequently invoked cultural object is the British author.
About a fifth of the book is focused on the life and writings of T. S. White. While Macdonald does discuss his life and career broadly in a few places, for the more part, she does a close reading of White's book _The Goshawk_ (1954). Macdonald read White's book about training a hawk when she was a school-aged girl. After she loses her father and gains a goshawk of her own, she rereads _The Goshawk_ with great care, noting White's misguided techniques and describing possible deep psychological motivations for his goal, methods and reactions to the act of training his goshawk.
One of the most powerful aspects of the book is the complex dialectic Macdonald describes between nature and civilization, symbolized most pointedly in the relationship between hawk and falconer. Does the bird become more human when trained? Does the human become more wild? Can a human being observe nature without the filter of civilization? Or are people doomed to always overlay templates from art, history, literature, culture, or even personal psychological needs--rending it impossible to live purely in a state of nature?
These are interesting questions, ones that she addresses overtly while discussing White but also questions she poses to herself and her relationship with her goshawk. Hint: there are no easy answers to the question of how nature and civilization creates a commerce of action and meaning.
Like other reviewers, I did at times worry about Macdonald's psychological state. She describes several moments of extreme distress--she withdraws from others, eats poorly, sleeps little, falls into financial difficulty, pushes herself too far while going on long hunts or physically challenging hunts. She falls into fuzzy thinking and antisocial behavior. However, I never grew too concerned. Afterall, I was holding her finished book in my hand the entire time. And it takes a lot of discipline and focus to produce a book. I had concrete evidence that she pulled through.
The writing style itself is evidence of strength and resilience. Macdonald has a powerful imagination and a lyric writing style. She demonstrates a great deal of intrapersonal intelligence (see Howard Gardner). Because she can observe her own thoughts and feelings with such intensity and nuance, I at times felt as though her grief was magnified. She was able to dramatize and explain in painstacking detail her thoughts and feelings. This might have increased her own suffering, but her ability to verbalize her grief process will certainly serve to guide and comfort other bereft people. It can also help readers offer compassion to those who are grieving.
Even though she does not describe her own writing process, I kept imagining her reclusive time being filled in part with faithful journal keeping. Her time with the goshawk is so thoroughly described, she much have been writing frequently.
So, yes, the hawk helped her process her grief, but the act of writing itself keeps her teathered to the world, helped her hold on to the sanity required for forming words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. In writing this book, she was able to exert control over a world that turned to chaos when her dad died. And out of that chaos, she created something beautiful and powerful to offer the world. ...more
While the book has elements of a guidebook, the author conveys a lot of personal detail so that it reads largely like a memoir. Shaffer has several prWhile the book has elements of a guidebook, the author conveys a lot of personal detail so that it reads largely like a memoir. Shaffer has several practical tips, but the relationships and emotions are the most salient elements. The book does come with a workbook that separates out the practical material in handy reference and "to do" list formats.
Shaffer is one of five siblings who are children of a widowed mother. When Shaffer travels the two hours to visit her mom after a not-too-long haitus, it's clear that her mother can no longer care for herself.
Shaffer chronicles the next five years of caregiving, which includes decluttering, repairing and decorating the home; organizing financial information; hiring home health care workers; and working with hospice for nine months as her mother prepares for her own death.
Shaffer includes a lot of detail about her various organization systems. True, she's extremely organized, energetic and thorough. However, I found the stories about her family relationships (mother, flashbacks to her father, boyfriend, siblings) to be the most engaging part of her story. When a parent becomes vulnerable and dependent, extended family dynamics shift and become more emotionally charged. It's a tough time for everyone.
If you have never had a close friend or relative share their caregiving journey with you, I highly recommend reading this book for a vivid description of one journey through late-life care. It's difficult yet at times very rewarding to care for an aging parent. ...more
Timmerman illustrates the global nature of the US food industry by traveling to a variety of counties to see where are food comes from and who produceTimmerman illustrates the global nature of the US food industry by traveling to a variety of counties to see where are food comes from and who produces and harvests our food.
Coffee from Columbia. Chocolate from the Ivory Coast. Bananas from Costa Rica. These three chapters highlight the poor living and working conditions behind these US staples. Timmerman is a witness to child laborers and forced laborers (in essence, slavery).
Lobsters from Nicaragua. This chapter illustrates how diving is dangerous and the rate of disability high--with no medical benefits provided. Buying from food companies who mistreat their workers makes me complicate. Now if I order lobster, I will visualize young men in wheelchairs or grave markers for very young people who died so that I can have a luxurious meal. No, thank you.
And apple juice from several countries--combined in the same bottle/box of juice. This chapter points out that American apple growers are having trouble making a profit, yet China is selling a lot of apples.
I don't know if I will buy apple juice again unless the origins are more transparent. China has a bad reputation for contaminated foods and polluted environment. The US uses dehydrated apple concentrate in the mix with apples from the US and other countries. What pesticides may we be ingesting?
In his concluding chapters, Timmerman asks Big Picture questions and provides resources. For example, he explains the meaning behind emerging food labels that aim to explain the economic, environmental and political processes behind the foods. He encourages people to buy organic and fair trade foods and to do more to shop locally.
If we follow his admonitions, we (middle class) Americans can spend a little more on our food (going from 15% of our monthly budget to 20%?). We might have to cut back on some of our luxuries in other areas of our life, but we will do more to bring better working and living conditions to others. ...more
I wasn't prepared for the specifics of Marxism, Socialism, and Judaica discussed in Abramky's book, but I am still glad that I read it. I enjoy readinI wasn't prepared for the specifics of Marxism, Socialism, and Judaica discussed in Abramky's book, but I am still glad that I read it. I enjoy reading books about books, so the title caught my eye. Sasha Abramsky is the grandson of Chimen Abramsky, a revered book collector who filled his London home with thousands of books, hence the title.
But this isn't (just) a family memoir. The grandson is a scholar, so he discusses the contents of the book as well as the historical, political, and academic context of Chimen Abramsky's book collections.
Chimen lived outside of Moscow as a youth and later studied in Jerusalem and then London. He was a faithful follower of Marx and then Stalin, hoping that Communism could user in a more just political system. Over time, Chimen (and other European and American Communist party members) came to understand the horrors of Stalin's rule. Chimen left the party and tempered his ideals to be a progressive.
By moving from room to room of his grandparents' house, Sasha reviews his grandfather's life while reviewing Chimen's collection of books, letters, pamphlets and other documents. We also meet many members of the salon that Chimen and his wife hosted at their home.
As a person married to a book enthusiast, I am afraid to let my husband see this book. On the other hand, I admire the life that Chimen built as a book collector, book seller, book cataloger, an educator and as a host of lively political debates. He made a great contribution to many people's and developed a great collection that is now dispersed over several libraries and available to future generations of scholars. ...more
I went to Kirkus Review specifically to find a contemporary, edgy, sassy book to read. Sure enough, Luiselli delivered.
On the surface, the story is sI went to Kirkus Review specifically to find a contemporary, edgy, sassy book to read. Sure enough, Luiselli delivered.
On the surface, the story is set in Mexico and features a security-guard-turned auctioneer named Highwayman. Just below the surface, it's a story about storytelling. Well, the subject of storytelling really isn't a subtext since there are passages the overtly demonstrate Highway's storytelling. The chapters themselves are named after literary devices (parabolic, allegoric, etc.). The Afterward explains that Luisella was commissioned to write the book as part of an art gallery show, and the author brings in others to help her collaborate. (Read the afterward for a more thorough explanation about that. I read that first, and it helped orient me to the book.)
This book would appeal to students / professors in MFA programs who are reading a lot of 20th / 21st century literary criticism and reading a lot of hot-off-the-press short stories, novellas.
I do admit that I found the chapter that employs allegories to be a bit too long and a bit too bizarre. Otherwise, I found the book very engaging. It was a great tool for reanimating that part of my brain that was in overdrive as a grad student studying English language, literature, rhetorical criticism and literary criticism. ...more