Books Read in July 2008

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
When Thomas’s husband Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered and now he has no memory. His rages and hallucinations make it impossible for Thomas to care for him, and she sadly realizes he must live in an institution. This book is the blue-print of how she re-builds her life around a great tragedy that came from nowhere and changed her life. She does so with patience, grace; courage, and great guilt. Her new support system is composed of three dogs who keep her warm at night and moving during the day.
This little book reveals that you might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
This is the story of three women, who are all in love with the wrong men. Madeleine is attracted to her sister’s fiancĂ©. Frieda, a runaway, becomes the muse of a loser rock star. And Bryn, who is set to marry an Englishman, finds herself still in love with her ex-husband. Then there’s Lucy, who witnessed a tragic accident at the age of twelve, and spends four decades searching for the “Third Angel” who her Father insists is real.
Although it sounds like it could be a great book -- it was a dud. I waited for the stories to come smashing together and the Third Angel to rise and give me a big “ah-ha” moment, but alas (!) only got a mediocre “ho-hum.” Great cover art though.

So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger
Set in 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket is living the soft life, and can’t seem to get another book written. His best-selling first book is years behind him and he lacks inspiration. Enter Glendon Hale, outlaw, and wise old boat-maker. Hale’s looking for forgiveness and decides to find the wife he abandoned years ago. Becket decides to travel with him to the Wild West not only for adventure, but perhaps the inspiration he needs for a new book. But traveling with a fugitive has its challenges, and although he misses the quiet Minnesota life with his wife and son, he may never get home.
The tone of this book reminds me of writers Kent Harup and Mark Spragg. Unfortunately it’s not nearly as well crafted. It’s an adequate story but who wants to invest time for just adequate?

The Sister’s Mortland by Sally Beauman
Summer, 1967. 13 year-old Maisie and her older sisters are having their portrait painted by starving artist, Lucas -- who eventually becomes famous. All three sisters live with their Mother and Grandfather in a medieval abbey that has been in the family for generations. Of course no medieval abbey is complete without the ghosts of Nun’s and a history of recurring tragedy. The tragedy de-jour will haunt the family for twenty years until a close friend sets out to unravel what really took place that summer.
The writing is fine. It’s a perfectly acceptable read. If, however you only read three or four books a year save yourself for something better.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Kostova's first novel, ten years in the writing, is a pretty decent retelling of the ever popular Dracula tale. Late one night (it has to be, right?) a16-year-old girl discovers a mysterious book in her father's library and is launched on a journey to find her father who has mysteriously disappeared. As she searches, she begins to understand her family has a connection to Vlad the Impaler – and that could have something to do with why she’s never met her Mother. Appetizers anyone?
This is a well-written book, with absorbing history of the Impaler. I’m not a Dracula fan, but found it a good solid read. Dracula fans would love it. Also if you have the attention span of a spoon be warned – it’s a long, long book.

Fear of Fifty by Erica Jong
From the author of Fear of Flying (18 million copies in print worldwide BTW) this is Erica Jong’s midlife memoir and begins appropriately on her fiftieth birthday. It’s sprinkled with witty and honest glimpses into her life as a Jewish American princess, her rise to fame, her quirky and sometimes wild thoughts on sex and marriage (yes, even after all these years,) aging, identity, motherhood and family life.
When this book was first published in 1994 I was a mere 30-something – so it’s no wonder I missed it. Now at fifty-something, I can identify. Buy this book for all your women friends in the appropriate age-group and have a party.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
The hummingbird’s daughter is Teresita Urrea, the author’s aunt and ancestor. Teresita was a medicine woman of the Yaquis and Mayo tribes whose magical healing power was legendary in Mexico. She became Saint of Cabora, and during her lifetime inspires revolution in Mexico – sort of a Mexican Joan of Arc. Urrea spent 20 years writing and researching the story – which spans 1873 to 1906.
This is the kind of book you become so interested in, that once you’ve finished reading it you spend hours researching the characters, the history, and the landscape – anything to stay connected with the story. Great book.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson’s 1962 book started a new environmental movement in America. Her research was stellar, and her love of the natural world legendary. Thanks to her, ten years after the publication of Silent Spring, DDT was banned in the U.S. I re-read this classic as a belated tribute to Carson’s 100th birthday. She was born in 1907. Just call her the “Godmother of Green.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just want you to know how much I enjoy your book reviews...I usually agree with all your comments. (Reminds me of someone
else I use to know)