Friday, December 30, 2016

What My Mother Gave Me - Elizabeth Benedict

Many women writers share their memories of gifts from their mothers and the impact those gifts had on their lives.  I'd hoped for a wider range of experiences; it seems the majority of writers are from privileged backgrounds, East Coast dwellers, which makes the reading seem somewhat self-indulgent.  It could be that they were intended to be more light-hearted and brief than the title led me to believe.  I wouldn't recommend it.

Published:  2013  Read: December 2016  Genre: short story memoir

The Hours - Michael Cunningham

In 1925 Virginia Woolf published "Mrs Dalloway" and broke new literary ground by writing about a single day in the life of a middle-aged woman.  Cunningham piggybacks on the style of writing and story line to provide a parallel story using Woolf as a character in his tale of three women's lives intertwined for a day. Having read Mrs. Dalloway this summer, I relished the intricate way the author used Woolf's own life story with her own style to bring his characters to the end of their day.

Now to watch the movie!

Published: 1998  Read: December 2016  Genre: Fiction

Left for Dead - Beck Weathers

Sub-title: My Journey Home from Everest

Finishing up on my 2016 reading posts!  I picked this up at a Christmas book exchange.  It's the first person account of one of the hikers in an ascent on Mt Everest.  He suffered frostbite, was "left for dead" and lost almost both of his hands.  He shares how his obsession with mountain climbing almost ruined his family.  Not particularly good writing but a compelling tale and lessons even for those who don't go off climbing mountains.

Published: 2000 Read: December 2016  Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, Adventure

Monday, November 28, 2016

1776 - David McCullough

Known for his detailed historical writing, the author of this book recounts the events in America in the fight against the British in 1776.  There's little preamble or postscript; he starts the story in January and moves through to the end of the year, covering the battles in Boston, New York and New Jersey.  It's a different portrayal of George Washington then I am familiar with, showing him at times as an indecisive general and at others an inspiring leader. Reading of the challenges and near misses encountered by the Army it is remarkable we succeeded.

As a genealogist, it's interesting to see all the names of the soldiers and officers involved and it peeks my curiosity to research the lines of some of them!

Published:  2005  Read: November 2016  Genre: History

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson

This was a recommendation of one of my book clubs recently.  It's an entertaining tale, tongue in cheek, of a 100 year old man who leaves his nursing home on his birthday.  He runs into trouble at the train station but its nothing new for him as we soon find out.  He's been in the middle of a lifetime of historical events.  His laid back "let's see what happens" outlook gets him into and out of precarious situations and provides the reader with a lesson in some 20th century conflicts.

The writing reminds me of an English version of the author Carl Hiaasen

Published: 2009  Read: November 2016  Genre: Fiction

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bel-Ami - Guy De Maupassant

I can't remember where I picked this book up, but I recognized the author and it ended up on my nightstand.

It's a story of ambition and callousness in a young man wanting to move up in society, whatever it takes.  He goes through girlfriends and wives and eventually the daughter of a rival to achieve his ends.  Okay read.

Published: 1885 (this translation 1975)  Read: November 2016  Genre: Classic fiction

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Shelter - Jun Yun

This was a painful, depressing book to read and I didn't like it because of that.  One of my reading group's chose it for this month's read.  It is the story of a family; a young husband and wife and 4 year old son and the husband's parents.  The son and his parents are distant because of the father's violence and the mother's acquiesence.  A violent crime forces them together.  Their lives go from awful to miserable to unbearable.  There is no redemption in this book, just the harsh reality of lives destroyed and continuing to damage the next generation.  Ugh.

Published:  2016  Read: October 2016  Genre: Fiction

The Year Without Summer - 1816 William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman

Sub-title: and the volcano that darkened the world and changed history

This was written by a history professor and his son, a meteorologist.  The story was told in the first 25 pages and dragged on for over another 200.  It explains the effect that the volcanic eruption of Tambora Mountainin in Indonesia had on weather across the U.S. Eastern states and Europe for the next two years.  It gets bogged down in reciting first person accounts and minute details.  The areas experienced massive crop failures which contributed to civil unrest and population shifts.  A good reference for those interested in 1816 to 1818 history and a glimpse of the potential impact of any future severe weather disturbances.

Published:  2013   Read: October 2016  Genre: history

Leaving Earth - Helen Humphreys

This is a fictionalized account of a real event where two women, one a well-known aviator, the other a newcomer brought in at the last minute, establish a flight endurance record by circling a coastal town for twenty-five days.

It was a short book and fascinating to read the details of surviving with in-air refueling and meager food supplies, cold, wet clothes, boredom and lack of regular sleep.  The story revolves around the younger woman's awe at the experienced pilot and their coming to respect each other's talents and all too human shared experiences.

Published:  1997     Read:  October 2016  Genre: Historical fiction

After the Fall - Kylie Ladd

A story of two couples where the spouse of one falls for the spouse of the other and the aftermath of the affair.  I liked the style of storytelling, where we learn the viewpoints of each of the four people as they alternately are tempted, suucumb, discover and mourn their relationships.  Worth reading.

Published: 2009   Read: October 2016   Genre: Fiction

The Truth of the Matter - Robb Forman Dew

A mother adjusting to her children going off to start their own lives after WWII and coming back later to put down roots.  Quick, not very memorable read.

"...she was afraid she was losing the ability to love the people in her life.  It seemed to her that the protective passion that had governed her existence for all the years the children were growing up had just evaporated into thin air.  And too, although she had never thought that she expected reciprocity for what was simple, instinctive maternal love, she continued to be surprised every time she saw a look of annoyance cross one of her children's faces when she said something...that implied a particularly intimate knowledge of their personalities."

Published:  2005  Read: October 2016  Genre: Fiction

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Places in Between - Rory Stewart

This was a great read, providing recent and historical context for the people and country of Afghanistan.  The author tells of his walk in January 2002 across the country surviving on the generosity and kindness of the Afghan people.  Reading it humanized the people I've been conditioned to think of as our enemies and gave me insight into the multiple cultures that exist today and have been there for centuries.  Rory weaves ancient Persian history into the war-torn reality of the present to illustrate the complexity of applying modern Western democratic ideals to the region.

Highly recommended.

Published: 2006  Read: September 2016  Genre: Memoir

That's Not a Feeling - Dan Josefson

Now for something completely different.  This book was weird and hard to read and that was intentional.  We're taken inside the mind and memories of a teenage boy hospitalized in a strict, behavioral modification school for troubled teens.  We experience the  psychobabble lingo and eccentric headmaster and baffled staff.  It's funny in parts but dark and sad in whole.

Published: 2012  Read: September 2016  Genre: Fiction

The Nun - Denis Diderot

Where do I find this books?  Maybe I should start including pictures of the covers because in most cases that's contributes to my decision to pick them up from the used bookstores.

This is a very old book about a joke that was played on a soft-hearted gentleman.  His friends pretended to be a young woman forced into a convent who pleads with the gentleman to help her break her vows and leave the convent.  She tells her story of being a child of her mother's lover passed off as a daughter of her husband, but shunted to the cloistered life to prevent her from making claims on her family's estate.

It still has relevance for today because it illuminates the way women were treated as property to be bought or disposed of as desired.  It shows the strength of character required to stand up for oneself and stay true to your convictions.  A different read.

Published: 1972 (originally written 1760)  Read: September 2016  Genre: Fiction, Classics

Loving Frank - Nancy Horan

Frank Lloyd Wright is an icon here in Arizona and I was interested in reading some historical fiction about his life.  This is the story of his love affair with one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney (that's a real name).  She was a feminist in the early 20th century and they admired each other's intellect which sent sparks flying.  It's quite a story.

The tale had an added bonus for me because it describes the life of women (albeit the upper class) during the 1900-1920 time period and I'm researching that era for a story about my great grandmother.  The women advocating for women's rights are referenced throughout: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jane Addams, Emma Goldman, Grace Trout, Else Lasker-Schuler, as well as detractors like the Reverend Billy Sunday.

Mamah was a translator for Ellen Key (author of Beauty for Everyone and The Morality of Woman). Elsie explains the name-calling she's received, saying "It's a very effective method: Attack the personal character of the thinker, and you will kill her ideas.  I have been forced to live a careful life as a result".

I learned the source of the name of FLW's Taliesin - it was the name of the main character in a play by Richard Hovey about a Welsh bard who was part of King Arthur's court, a truth-seeker and a prophet, who's name meant 'shining brow'.

I noted this quote while reading:

"It is not sufficient to be a mother; an oyster can be a mother.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman."

A great read with lots to offer.

Published:  2007   Read: September 2016  Genre: Historical fiction

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

I put off reading this because when my book club discussed it I didn't think I'd be interested in it.  I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the story, however implausible.


"It's a fact of life, I suppose, that the younger generation must try to take over and run the lives of their elders.  I think my son tries to organize my life because it's easier than his own---give him a sense of being in control of something in a world that is not quite ready to put him in charge."
 "...the Major marveled anew at the way so many people were willing to spend time and energy on the adverse judgment of others."
 "At our age, surely there are better things to sustain us, to sustain a marriage than the brief flame of passion?"  'Your are mistaken Ernest', she said at last.  'There is only the passionate spark.  Without it, two people living together may be lonelier than if they lived quite alone'."
 "But we, who can do anything, we refuse to live our dreams on the basis that they are not practical."
"Sometimes I think God created the darkness just so he didn't have to look at us all the time."

Published:2010  Read: September 2016  Genre: Fiction

Bitter is the New Black - Jen Lancaster

Sub-title:  Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office

Sarcastic, witty, funny, poignant 20 something reels from being laid off in the bust and gets her priorities straight - maybe.  Enjoyable read.

Published: 2006  Read: September 2016  Genre: Memoir

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin

This is an historical fiction account of Ann Morrow Lindberg, the wife of Charles Lindberg who was the first to cross the Atlantic solo.  I didn't enjoy this book at first.  I was frustrated at the passivity of Ann and her acceptance of whatever she was told to do.  Later in the book I realized this set the stage for her futuer growth as a person with her own ideas and desires.  I was familiar with Lindberg's Nazi admiration but was not aware he had fathered other children with three other women in Germany.

It was sad and disturbing to see how celebrity and public life is so destructive and disruptive to the individual and their family.  A good read.

Published: 2013  Read: August 2016  Genre: Historical fiction

Friday, August 26, 2016

Aberration of Starlight - Gilbert Sorentino

This was a difficult book to read, I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the reviews ahead of time.  It's the story of four people, a young boy, Billy; his mother Marie; her father John and a travelling salesman Tom Thebus.  They are visiting the Jersey shore for the summer, staying in a boarding house.  Their experience of the same events is told from each of their points of view, using different narrative styles--dialogue question and answer, internal reflection, letter writing.

It's a clever way of telling a story but  I didn't realize it was the *same* story until the third time it was told by a different person. I was confused with the timeframes and further distracted by the different writing styles.  The book makes an interesting commentary on how we each experience reality and how our individual pasts color those perceptions.

There was really no end to the story, though it did progress from the youngest person's view (Billy's) through to the oldest (his grandfather, John).  I'd recommend it as an example of different writing technique but it's not a pleasurable read.

Published: 1980  Read: August 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 1-56478-439-8

Taft - Ann Patchett

I've gone back and forth on this author.  I've read several of her works (The Magician's Assistant, Bel Canto, Truth & Beauty).  This was written back in 1994 and is not one of her best.

A sister and brother come to New Orleans from Tennessee looking for work at a bar run by John Nickel, a former drummer whose girlfriend Mario has left him with their son in tow.  The girl, Faye Taft, barely 18, and brother, Carl, are trying to put their life together after their father died and their mother sinks into grief.  The story revolves around John's increasing involvement in their predicament while he deals with his own sadness of his son being away.

I didn't connect to any of the characters as the story jumped from one to another as John tells of their relationships with flashbacks to the children's life with their father and his to his early days with Marion and their son.

It was a sad, inevitable tail spin into near tragedy without much point.  Not recommended.

Published:  1994 Read:  August 2016   Genre: Fiction

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Music Lesson - Katharine Weber

Part mystery, part self-reflection, this is the tale of an art historian who is numbed to life after the loss of her daughter when she has a visit from a long-lost cousin from Ireland.  He's charming and intoxicating and she has fallen madly in love when he asks her to help his cause by stealing a famous Vermeer painting.  Patricia is agreeable as she too sympathizes with the Irish desire for independence. She's vulnerable and malleable and finds herself deeply involved in the theft.

Some quotes:
"Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end.  That's a given.  How you respond to these losses, what you make of what's left, that's the part you have to make up as you go."
"Even if life has to be a seris of losses, I still choose life".
The story is not quite plausible but the downward spiral into dark places is uncomfortably reminiscent of those times we chose the wrong path.

Since its's a mystery there's a nice twist at the end, a satisfying wrap up.

Published: 1999 Read: August 2016  Genre: Fiction/mystery

p.s.  Once again, I found bookmarks and bits of ephemera in a book.  The first bit I noticed in this one was a news clipping with a brief summary of the book, maybe from The New York Times?  There was a handwritten note on the side of the clippng in pencil "Huntings Badger 25" and a second line underneath "1-16-2000".  Nice script, presumably a female's, tucked before the back cover.  About halfway through the book was a torn white piece of paper, ragged on one edge and glue residue on the narrow side, most likely from a discarded envelope.  Someday I need to write a story about the bookmarks found in books.


Altar Music - Christine Lore Weber

This is the story of several women's lives shaped by their faith and its conventions.  There is a mother who disregards the warnings of her priest and pays the consequence in her marriage.  Her daughter lives in the shadow of her disappointment and her granddaughter takes their resignation with their circumstances as a calling to be a nun.  I found the characters difficult to follow and their limited choices within their Catholic faith frightening.  It was a moving story of the individual's struggle to have a life within the boundaries of their society and the impact of their sacrifices on themselves and those around them.

Published: 2000  Read: August 2016  Genre: Fiction

The House at the End of Hope Street - Menna Van Praag

This is a sweet story of a shy, bookish college girl finding the confidence to be who she wants to be.  Alba has had a bad experience with her advisor resulting in her leaving school and arriving at the house at 11 Hope Street in Cambridge, not knowing what to do with her life.  The caretaker, Peggy, welcomes her to stay for 99 days to figure things out.  The house has been a sanctuary for women who have lost hope and need a place to find it again.  The walls of the house are filled with pictures of previous guests, famous authors, poets and suffragettes.  The house and the pictures communicate with Alba and a couple of other down on their luck women, Greer and Carmen, goading them into pursuing their dreams.

I enjoyed the literary references throughout the book and there's even a recap of the famous women included at the end of the paperback.

Some quotes:

"We all have to make choices,  Since we can't have two lives, only one.  But, most of those choices we make fresh every day, not just once.  So, if you regret something, if you want to change your mind, you usually can."
"Some people don't have what it takes to be happy.  It's not an easy thing, you know.  It takes great courage and determination, to keep locking for light in all the darkness of life."
An entertaining summer read.

Published: 2013  Read:  August 2016  Genre: Fantasy fiction

ISBN: 978-0-14-312494-8

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Amateur Emigrant - Robert Louis Stevenson

This is an old book written after the author had travelled from Scotland to America in the "economy" berths of the ship called the second cabin to observe and experience the journey among the working class people.

Robert Louis Stevenson was 28 years old on this journey and had yet to write his books (Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) or poems (A Child's Garden of Verses).  It is the first part of a trilogy on his travels to and through America.

The book offers a glimpse of what it was like to travel to America in the late 19th century and the everyday people that made the journey.  One passage caught my attention.  The author is reflecting on the workmen he met while aboard:

Culture is not measured by the greatness of the field which is covered by our knowledge, but by the nicety with which we can perceive relations in that field... whether great or small.  Workmen...did not perceive relations, but leaped to a so-called cause, and thought the problem settled.  Thus the cause of everything in England was the form of government, and the cure for all evils was, by consequence, a revolution.  
...the true reasoning of their souls ran thus--I have not got on; I ought to have got on; if there was a revolution I should get on.  How?  They had no idea.  Why? Because --because--well, look at America!
To be politically blind is no distinction; we are all so, if you come to that.  At bottom, as it seems to me, there is but one question in modern home politics, though it appears in many shapes, and that is the question of money; and but one political remedy, that the people should grow wiser and better. 
My workmen fellow-passengers were as impatient and dull of hearing on the second of these points as any member of Parliament...  They would not hear of improvement on their part, but wished the world made over again in a crack, so that they might remain improvident and idle and debauched, and yet enjoy the comfort and respect that should accompany the opposite virtues; and it was in this expectation...that many of them were now on their way to America. 

The book was not published until after Stevenson's death at 44 and was thought shocking by his family that he would travel in this fashion and that certain passages were too graphic.

For a genealogical twist, I looked up and recorded Stevenson and his parents in Ancestry so I could search for the record of his trip and I found it, though the recorder wrote his name as "Stephenson" on the manifest when he arrived in America.

Published: 1895 (this edition, 1998)  Read: July 2016  Genre: Memoir

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Leopard - Giuseppe di Lampedusa

This book was another RV park swap.  It had fantastic reviews on the back cover, claiming it to be a masterwork and when I researched it, I discovered it is considered one of the 10 best historical novels of all time.

It's the story of a Prince of Sicily in the 1860's when Italy evolved from several separate states to a united country.  I was ignorant of the political entities and geographic boundaries in Italy and was suprised to learn that while in the U.S., Lincoln was being elected and South Carolina seceded, Italy had not united into a single country.

The Prince, known as the Leopard for the family crest, is the patriarch who foresees that the forces of unification will change their way of life forever.  The history of the struggles and eventual triumph of the revolt unfolds through his eyes as he observes the impact on the future generations.

The book was published posthumously, the author having been a real, and one of the last, Princes of Sicily.  It was based on the life of his grandfather and created quite a stir at the time because of its holding up of the aristocracy's decadence and the expression of regret for the unification.  It's difficult to appreciate the impact it had at the time.

I found it to be a challenge to read and a fantastic lesson on the history of Italy in the 19th century.

Published:  1960 (in English, original Italian in 1958)  Read: July 2016  Genre: Historical fiction

The Black Veil - Rick Moody

I picked this up in an RV park on our travels to Alaska this summer, swapping it for one that I had already read.

The author tells his life story in a stream of conscious fashion with long rambling sentences with many, multiple phrases.  He weaves in the writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne's (The Scarlett Letter, Twice Told Tales) and others, drawing parallels to his family from Hawthorne's short story, The Minister's Black Veil."  It's a convoluted means of tracing family tendencies through generations in an attempt to explain his own life and writing.  It could be considered very pretentious or strikingly original.  Either way, I wouldn't read more of his writing.

Published: 2002  Read: June 2016  Genre: memoir, auto-biography

Monday, July 4, 2016

Please Look After Mom - Kyung-Sook Shin

A touching story told from four different individual perspectives of a Mother who is lost in a subway station and her family's efforts to find her.

We're first introduced to the oldest daughter and third child.  She's single, a successful author, and often frustrated by her mother's demands and worries.  Then there's the eldest son, doted on from birth, who realizes how much his mother's love has supported him.  There's the husband who is lost suddenly without the wife who did everything for him and the children to where they came to accept it as the norm.  Finally, there is the voice of the mother, comforting them in their loss.

For a young author, this story has an older, mature voice.  Her characters are not terrible people; they've just never before not had their mother's presence as a given in their lives.  They each go through grieving her absence - anger at each other, guilt, sadness, each coming to realize how much they really didn't know about Mom.  It describes the self-sacrificing that can be exhibited by mothers, in particularly Korean mothers.

The martyrdom of Mom gets a bit unreal and the ending doesn't have the longed for resolution, but it works.  I enjoyed the story and was pulled through the book to the end. Good read.

Published: 2009  Read: July 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 978-0-307-59391-7

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I finally found a used copy of this book in Anchorage.  I havea copy of The Hours at home, its a recent book and movie that's based on this one and wanted to read Woolf’s book first.  

Written in 1925 after the first World War, the book was groundbreaking in its style, a ever-flowing internal conversation of the characters as they go about one day in June in London. 

Mrs. Dalloway is a fiftyish matron who is hosting a party for her social class in the evening.  She and her guests' musings are woven throughout the day, punctuated by the chiming of Big Ben and other city clocks.  Their intertwined pasts unfold from different perspectives revealing how they came to be the persons they are in the present. It is a commentary on the upper class at that time, internal relfection, and the loneliness created by societal expectations that still resonates with truth for today as well. 

Published: 1925  Read: June 2016  Genre: Fiction, classic

ISBN: 978-0-15-662870-9

Tapestry of Fortunes – Elizabeth Berg

I have always enjoyed this author’s books.  She writes the way women speak to and about each other, capturing the sisterhood of shared experiences. 

This book is the story of Cecilia, a single, professional motivational speaker whose best friend recently died.  She is grieving and regretting not having done the trips and adventures they had spoken of over the years because she enjoyed working and didn’t take the time.  She decides to make the big change that is long overdue.  

She sells her home, takes leave from her job and moves into a shared house with three other women; Lise, a divorced physician with an estranged 20 something daughter; Riley, a gay, rebellious, newspaper advice columnist and Joni, a professional chef with a belligerent boss.   She fulfills a commitment to her friend and volunteers at a hospice.  

When she receives a postcard from her first love, she embarks on a road trip with her roommates to discover if the flame is still bright.  Each of them is exploring a way to heal or move on from relationships.  Their camaraderie feels genuine and familiar.  While the knots are tied up a little too neatly in the end, it was a satisfying read that reminded me of the power of friendships.

Published: 2013  Read: June 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 978-8129-9314-1

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Bookstore - Deborah Meyler

Oh, this was a good read!  A young English woman comes to NYC to study art history on a scholarship to Columbia and takes a job in a bookstore.  She falls in love with Michael, a suave, rich, intoxicating man who loves her, leaves her, loves her and leaves her again and pregnant.

She learns some life lessons through it all, finding true friends through the bookstore.  A feel good book that was like having a very good fresh bagel and coffee.  I liked her dedication: "To my father..who taught me how to be happy".  Well said.

Published: 2013  Read: June 2016  Genre: Fiction

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Someone Not Really Her Mother - Harriet Scott Chessman

This was a quick read, a different style for telling of the fading memory of a mother and the reaction of her daughter and granddaughters.

Hannah is losing her present memory but those of her past in WWII and losing her family become sharper and confused with today. It's hard on her only child, Miranda, and challenging for her two granddaughters just beginning their adult lives.

I think the book could have had much more substance with deeper stories about the daughter and her husband and her relationships with her daughters.  The character development was sketchy and left the reader to fill in the blanks.

Published:  2004  Read: June 2016  Genre: Fiction

Chronicler of the Winds - Henning Mankell

translated by Tiina Nunnally

This was another find at a book exchange in a campground on our travels this summer.  The author is well-known (but not by me) for his Kurt Wallander mysteries however this story is a departure from his usual writing.

Nelio is a nine or ten year old boy in Africa, living on the streets after his village was attacked by bandits and he escaped their insane violence.  The narrator, Jose, finds him shot on a theatre stage behind the bakery where Jose works.  He carries him to the rooftop where over the course of nine days, Nelio tells him the story of his life before dying from his wounds.  Jose chronicles the story carried by Nelio’s last breaths. 

It’s a short tale that seeks to reveal how humanity can survive evil and violence if we would pay attention to even the least of ourselves. 

The translator is the same woman who translated Smila’s Sense of Snow, another Norweign book that I enjoyed much more than this one. 

Published:  1995 (translated 2006)  Read: June 2016  Genre: Fiction, philosophy

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dear American Airlines - Jonathan Miles

A quick read that I picked up at the used bookstore.  The protagonist is a former alcoholic poet, now translator, who is on the way to redeem himself by walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding when his flight is cancelled and he is stuck in O'Hare overnight.  Out of frustration, he writes a letter to AA revealing a life of great plans and poor execution, joys and disappointments (mainly in himself) and a quest for meaning and sustained hope.

It's funny and relatable, having spent unintended time waiting in airports over the years.  An enjoyable read.

Published:  2008  Read: May 2016  Genre: fiction, humor

The Hummingbird - Stephen Kiernan

Finally, a wonderful read!  It's been a slow year without much sure-fire reads.  This book was very satisfying.

This is the story of a hospice nurse who goes to care for an elderly history professor who is dying of cancer.  Her caring spirit is tested by his sarcastic, negative banter.  When she returns home after work, she must deal with a husband suffering from PTSD after having served in Iraq multiple tours.
She breaks down the barriers built by the professor by reading his unpublished manuscript that describes the bombing of the Oregon coast by a Japanese pilot during WWII and the subsequent relationship of the town and the pilot in the post war aftermath.

Her compassion is absolutely inspiring.  The author lets us know how she feels yet contrasts it with how she reacts, both to the professor and her husband.  There are lessons to be learned here.  Highly recommended read, my pick for best so far this year.

Published: 2015  Read: May 2016  Genre: Fiction

Brand Luther - Andrew Pettegree

I enjoy reading non-fiction and learning about things I knew very little about.  This is a different twist on the history of Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant faith.  The author describes the life of Luther and the rise of his movement as the evolution of a "brand" - a recognizable symbol for a product or service. He suggests that the success of Luther's teachings were attributable to the popularity of the pamphlets and other publications written by Luther that were printed and published across the German empire in the language of the people and recognizable by the title page design that was tightly controlled and overseen by Luther himself.

 To start with, I didn't know it was so far back in time, the later 1500's.  It was fascinating to me how the popularity of Luther's writing created a printing industry.  The geography of the area also influenced the spread of the writings. As a marketing major, I found it a worthwhile read.

Published:  2016  Read: May 2016  Genre: non-fiction

Slade House - David Mitchell

Aquirky story about a house down an alley where once you enter you may never leave.  The author sets the mood well and draws you into the mystery.  Worth the read.

Published: 2015  Read: April 2016  Genre: fiction

ISBN 9 78081299868

You Are Not a Stranger Here – Adam Haslett

I loved the way this author tells a story.  His first couple of sentences immerses you immediately in the action. Something is happening, and then the full picture unfolds.  His characters are facing life issues that in one way or the other we can relate to.  Ordinary people bear their sorrows and find in some cases a fellow spirit.  I have to see what else this author has written.

Published:  2002 Read: May 2016 Genre: Short Story fiction

Monday, April 25, 2016

Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony - Lewis Thomas

I've been trying to purge my book collection of those I don't absolutely love.  I either need to read them again and discard or trade or give them away.  This book of essays was from the collection of my friend Teddi,  It was written in the 70's and 80's when the threat of nuclear weaponry was a major fear.  Lewis Thomas was a "poet-philosopher of medicine" who commented on world issues from a medical perspective.

I'd read another of his well-known books, The Lives of a Cell some time back.  He was an early medical professional who wrote to explain complex topics, similar to some of my other favorite medical writers like Oliver Sacks or Atul Gawande.

He is often quoted and I can understand why when I ran across these clips:

"...the only question I am inclined to turn aside as being impossible to respond to happens to be the one most often raised these days...the question about stress, how to avoid stress, prevent stress, allay stress.  I refuse to have anything to do with this matter, having made up my mind, from everything I have read or heard about it in recent years, that what people mean by stress is simply the condition of being human, and I will not recommend any meddling with that, by medicine or any other profession."
"there can be no promise that we will ever emerge from the great depths of the mystery of being".
[On why humans have such a long period of life before adulthood] "Language is what childhood is for."
[On the uniqueness of our existence in the universe] "We [humans] can go four ways at once, depending on how the air feels: go, no-go, but also maybe, plus what the hell let's give it a try." 
He also discussed in one essay a book about the memories of the survivors of Hiroshima titled Unforgettable Fire.  I'll have to check that one out.

The title of the book is from one of his essays of the same title, where he muses on the end of life.  I found a recording on YouTube of Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony and listened to it while writing this review.  I like it when a book takes me beyond its covers.

Published: 1980  Read: April 2016  Genre: Essay

ISBN 0 670 70390 7

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Absent Mind - Eric Rill

I'm always drawn to stories about aging, death and dying, just one of my many quirks.  This book tells the story of a family losing their father to Alzheimer's disease.  Saul, the father, reflects on his illness and each family member shares their perspective and experiences as he continues to decline.  It's a touching portrayl of the slow, inexorable path of this horrible disease.  The feelings and interactions of the family members with Saul and with each other are realistic.  The author shows us how the actions of a person can be interpreted in different ways, leading to misunderstandings and incorrect judgments.

It's a quick read on an all-to-common experience these days.

Published: 2015  Read: April 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN:  3 1740 08610 6352

At the Edge of the Orchard - Tracy Chevalier

This was a book my step-daughter got me for Easter, by the author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which I read many years ago.  It's the story of a family in the 1800's that moves from Connecticut to Ohio to create a homestead and grow apples.  The first half of the story tells of their struggles in Ohio and the second half is the life of their son who heads west for a better life.

I found the book painful to read because the mother, Sadie, is a mean-spirited, broken woman who abuses applejack and takes out her unhappiness on her children and husband.  He's completely absorbed in raising the apple trees and blandly overlooks her nastiness as long as the orchard thrives. Johnny Appleseed is an occasional visitor to the family, feeding Sadie's need for hard cider.

The story shifts abruptly to their son, Robert, who strikes out as a teen for the west. He quickly wanders across America, ending up in California during the gold rush.  He hooks up with a botanist in the Calaveras big trees area, collecting seeds of the giant trees to be exported to England, all the time keeping a secret of his family's past.  We visited this park back in 2008 and I liked the backstory this book provided on its use in the 1800's.

There's a lot of research here on the life of pioneer settlers but with unlikeable characters, the story is hard to enjoy.

Published: 2016  Read: April 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 978 0 525 95300 5

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Forty Rooms - Olga Grushin

I heard about this book on the NYT Review of books podcast.  The story of a woman's life is told as a series of experiences in different rooms in her life, from the nursery where she is a small child to the foyer of her home in old age.  The heroine is not given a first name; we know her only as Mrs. Caldwell.  Her life begins in Russia as a child with a vivid imagination.  She loves words and early in her life composes poetry to capture the world around her and the one she imagines.  But her dreams are thwarted by the expectations of the life of a female - relationships, marriage, children, and a home. Throughout the story she faces choices and her decisions leave her wondering if she should have chosen differently.

I liked the style of the book and the writing was lyrical. Each chapter is titled with the name of a room and a phrase hinting of the content.  There is a dreamy, reflective quality to the writing that is reinforced by the conversations she has throughout her life with her imagined friends and her thoughts.  Some examples:

"For this, I know at last, is why I am here: to experience deeply, my senses a heartbeat away from exploding, then take everything I am feeling - the insignificance of being human, the enormity of being human...and use the best words I have to convey it all...and make it bright, make it personal, make it forever."
"Now, as always, you have a choice. must remember this: Whenever you come to a fork in the road always choose the harder path, otherwise the path of least resistance will be chosen for you."
For what, after all, is the difference between a memory and a fantasy?  Are not both a succession of imprecisely rendered images further obscured by imprecisely chosen words and animated only by the wistful effort of one's imagination?  And who is to say that a vividly imagined moment of happiness is not, in the end, more enriching to the spirit than a hazy semi-recollection of some pallid pastime?" 
I was left unsettled in the end, wondering if I have made the best choices in my life, if I've chosen the harder path.  I think that's a sign of a good story, it makes me think.

Published:  2016  Read: April 2016  Genre: Fiction

ISBN:9 781101982334


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Disobedience - Jane Hamilton

I've read "The Book of Ruth" and "Laura Ryder's Masterpiece" and tried to read "A Map of the World" by the same author. This one gave me the same feeling as her previous ones - almost worth reading, but in the end, unsatisfying.

This title is the story of a teenager who reads his mother's email and finds out she is having an affair.  Over the course of about a year, he angst over her infidelity.  Intertwined is the story of his father, a history teacher and his sister, a preteen obsessed with the civil war and its reenactments.  It's a story of family relationships and family tolerances, secrets and weaknesses.

For me, the son's character was inconsistent; at times sounding childish and at others mouthing adult observations for the author's convenience.  I just didn't care much for any of the characters.

Published: 2000  Read: March 2016  Genre: Fiction

I Had To Survive - Dr Roberto Canessa

co-author, Pablo Vierci

This is the story of one of the 16 people that survived the plane crash in the Andes Mountains in 1972, that was told in the movie, "Alive".  Dr Canessa was one of the two boys (they were 19 years old) who hiked out from the crash.  All these years later, it is still astonishing that so many of the 45 passengers and crew survived for 70 days.

The story is told in first person by Roberto and then later in the book through interviews with his family and patients.  Dr Canessa became a renowned pediatric cardiologist, working to save newborns with malformed hearts.

His story of survival is inspiring but it is what he did with his life afterwords that is worth reading. How he provides hope to families whose children have heart problems and how he cares for them as people and not just patients is evident in the testimonials of the parents and their children.  He comes across as a modest, humble, but driven individual.

I think the story read unevenly, however because of the translation from Spanish.  The language at times seemed flowery and overly dramatic, like reading newspaper stories from the late 1800's.

I took from this book the lesson that we all have survived some experience in our lives that has shaped who we are today.  It is what we've done going forward from that experience that can make our life continue to make a difference in the world.

Published: 2016  Read: March 2016  Genre: Auto-biography, memoir


Friday, March 25, 2016

Becoming Odyssa - Jennifer Pharr Davis

Sub-title: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

I picked this up on the library's "Get Outdoors" shelf.  My husband has hiked the trail to various lengths for several years and I was interested in reading another person's account.

Before reading, I knew nothing about the author.  The jacket told me she'd become a record holder in hiking the trail in the fewest number of days.  This story is about her first hike at the tender age of 21 after finishing college.  She was naive and inexperienced and sheltered and the hike changed her life.

I enjoyed the fast pace of the story, with each chapter beginning with an introduction to the next stretch of the trail and then her experiences traversing that stretch.  She chose to hike alone for most of the way, reflecting on her reactions, her thoughts and her ability to persevere.

As my husband, who also read the book, pointed out, everyone hikes their own hike.  Just like life; we all have our own view of how we experience our existence and those with share it with.

Published:  2010  Read: March 2016  Genre: Adventure, auto-biography

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Mockingbird Next Door - Marja Mills

subtitle:  Life with Harper Lee

Two years ago in November I went with my good friend Kathryn to the Nashville book festival.  It was marvelous.  A weekend of listening to southern writers discuss their books and the writing process.

We heard Marja Mills explain the writing of this book at the festival.  At the time, there was a controversy going on as Harper Lee had denied authorizing the biography.  When Harper Lee died recently, my library displayed this book and several others related to the famous author and I finally picked it up to read.

Marja Mills was a journalist sent from the Chicago paper she worked for to research and report on Harper Lee the year Illinois made "To Kill a Mockingbird" the Illinois book of the year.  She makes a connection with Nelle Harper Lee and her sister Alice and returns to their small town when physical disability forces her to leave her job for a while.  She lived next door to them for over a year.

As I read the story, I felt I was reading about the unfolding of a friendship.  Two people from different parts of the world find their commonalities and share the everyday activities of life.  I didn't feel the author exploited their friendship, though she was aware of its special qualities. Some may see it as taking advantage of a pair of older women who wanted to have their memories recorded.  I think everyone has a need to tell their story before they are gone and forgotten and Marja happened to be there with a sympathetic ear and a journalist's skill for capturing those stories.  I also think Marja was where she needed to have someone help her see what her own life was shaping up to be.  I suspect that the fuss was due to Lee's declining capacities as she was nearing the end of life and lost her sister, Alice, and not any betrayal of their friendship.

To me, it's the story of Marja learning to slow down and appreciate the daily rhythm of life and of Nelle deciding to trust and share that life with someone.  Nelle Harper Lee is revealed as a lover of words and writing, fun loving and shy, intensely private and loyal.  It is a shame she did not keep writing while she was alive.

Published:  2014  Read: February 2016  Genre: Biography

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo

subtitle: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

What a delightful little book!  One of my book club ladies recommended this to the group in January as a good way to start the year.  The author is a professional organizer but she doesn't advocate using bunches of boxes and clever storage solutions.  Her emphasis is on only owning what brings you joy.

Her advice begins with noting that if you declutter a little bit at a time you'll never finish.  She advocates you "tidy up perfectly and completely in one fell swoop", that is, less than six months or so.  There are only two kinds of work involved; deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.

At this point in the first couple of chapters I could relate.  I've always been a neat person and like things clean and in their place.  But as I read on, I realized just having a place for something doesn't mean I should continue to keep it.  More specifically, we need to chose what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.  The way to decide what to keep is to "take each item in one's hand and ask: 'Does this spark joy?'  If it does, keep it.  If not, dispose of it."  Easier said than done.  So, the further chapters describe how to proceed.

She points out that things have physical, functional, informational and emotional value - a thing is worth something, we insist, or it could still be used, or has information we might need or has sentimental value.  A thing might even be rare.  She recommends piling things up of each group in one spot from all over the house and going through them in this order: clothing, books, papers, miscellany and lastly, mementos.  She points out "that to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."  I smiled at her suggestion of thanking each possession for how it served you before getting rid of it.  So often I find myself mourning what I was going to do with something, the dreams or plans it represented.  Saying thank you for serving as a part of that dream to an object is more positive.

When getting to the "where to put it" part, she recommends asking your house.  That is, look around your house and see where it makes the most sense for a thing to be stored.  She points out to store things vertically, rather than stacking them, for ease of access and visibility.  She dismisses the use of elaborate storage systems and recommends simple shoe boxes for gathering up small items.

Toward the last chapters she addresses the hardest items - those that represent an attachment to the past or a fear for the future and points out that "the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."

I found the book inspiring and a different way of viewing the stuff that I've accumulated.  I think I'll pursue her ideas in choosing what I really want to live with.

Published in U.S. : 2014  Read:  February 2016  Genre: Self-help, non-fiction

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Tidewater Morning - William Styron

I've been in a reading slump lately.  Nothing seems very compelling or read-worthy.  This short book of three stories about the author's youth were well written but didn't leave an impression.  I've been researching for our trip this summer, reading travel guides and maps and planning RV needs.  If anyone has some "you've got to read this" titles to recommend, let me know.

Published:  1993  Read: February 2016  Genre: Fiction (short story)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hitler's Niece - Ron Hansen

I took this book on the plane and back to Salt Lake City, Utah where I attended a genealogical conference.  I was so worn out each evening I hardly read any of it at night and ended up finishing it when I returned home.

The book is based on the facts of the period and actual quotes and known activities of Hitler.  It tells the story of the relationship between him and his half-sister's daughter, Geli, or Angelica.  I found it difficult to read as the evil henchmen surrounding Hitler and the monster himself are described as weird, sad people with inflated egos and strange personal habits instead of the calculating leaders of the genocide of WWII.  I'd not known that his niece died in his home where they lived together, an apparent suicide that the author gives a different twist.  Not recommended.

Published:  1999  Read: February 2016  Genre: Historical Fiction

Spinoza in Love - Martin Skogsbeck

I enjoy choosing odd looking books at used book stores.  This one caught my attention because of the description on the back cover.  It is a fictional account of the life of Spinoza, a 17th century philosopher written based on the known facts and accounts of his life.  His story is told from the point of view a a school friend who reflects back on their friendship while at the same time unveiling the evolution of his philosophy.

With philosophy being obscure and difficult to read for me, especially in the original texts.this story spiked an interest to research more about Spinoza and his influence.

There are several places in the story where his thinking is described through the interactions of the characters.


" form judgements by applying reason.  You don't allow handed down dogma, 'accepted wisdom' nor other people's opinions to dictate what you should believe.  The only truth you accept is the truth you arrive at yourself.  To me, this is the very definition of philosophy: seeking knowledge through reason".

"Love is nothing else than the enjoyment of a thing and the union with it.  Some of these things are transient, others eternal and imperishable.  The greatest love of all  is the love of God."

"You will not have a problem [with not showing gratitude to someone] as long as they understand that they made you happy.  Be aware that those who nevertheless expect gratitude are not concerned with your happiness.   Their aim is rather to have you indebted and get you under their power.  In this case, you are better off not accepting the gift in the first place."

[asking him on his death bed if people will read his books] "Do you really think that in three centuries...people will understand that God and Nature are the same?  And that all that happens is determined?  Will they agree that scripture cannot be taken literally; that revelation, prophecy and miracles are merely symbolic and never actually happened?"

A challenging and thought-provoking read.

Published:  2014  Read: January 2016  Genre: Fiction, philosophy

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dead Wake - Erik Larson

Subtitle: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

I read this for one of my book clubs, though it seems I've been on an "oceans" kick of late.  I really enjoyed the author's earlier books: In the Garden of the Beast, Isaac's Storm and The Devil in the White City.  This one did not disappoint.

The Lusitania was an ocean liner in the early 1900's that was sunk on a voyage from New York City to Liverpool on May 17, 1915, during World War I, before the Americans joined the fighting.  Almost 1200 people died and two years later America joined the war.

The story goes back and forth between the passengers on the ship, President Woodrow Wilson's state of mind after the death of his wife earlier in the year and its effect on his response to the tragedy, and the German U-boat captain and crew.  It's a fascinating slice of history and a fresh reminder of the atrocities that are committed when countries wage war.

I was expecting to find a list of the passengers and where they were from but it was not included in the book.  I found one at a site dedicated to the ship---had to check for ancestors!

Published: 2015  Read:  January 2016  Genre: History

Infectious Madness - Harriet A Washington

Sub-title: The Surprising science of how we "catch" mental illness

The cover caught my eye on this one when I was in the library.  The author discusses studies and case histories that indicate that some mental illness may be caused by infections and our bodies immune system's reaction to them.  She refers to some conditions which were in the past attributed to mental illness that are recognized today as being caused by bacteria, viruses or other pathogens.  Without treatment, a disease would lead to dementia and bizarre behaviors associated with mental illness.

Once anecdote is that in 1872 cat ownership became popular in America.  That same year brought a sharp rise in U.S. schizophrenia rates.  Cats carry a zoonotic infection (a disease humans acquire from animals) that causes schizophrenia.

Paresis was once a familiar species of madness, given to one in five patients in mental asylums in New York by the 1920s.  Individuals experienced coarsening of the personality followed by mania, vivid delusions, and dementia and it was viewed as a punishment for depravity.  It was found to be caused by the disease, syphilis, which today is treated with antibiotics.

She points out the tendency for the medical community to maintain the status quo and dismiss different hypotheses for the cause of an illness, and suggests it is a reason more research is not done on the role of infectious agents in mental illnesses.

She relates cases of autism, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, OCD, and other mental conditions being linked to infections such as strep throat, influenza and measles.

The author has a B.A. in English and completed a fellowship in Public Health at Harvard and in medical ethics at Stanford.  She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2008 for her book Medical Apartheid, about the treatment of African-Americans in the health care system.

While the science was not rigorous I thought the subject had merit and I agree with her that in the future we may find closer ties between infections and their impact on our mental health.

Published:  2015  Read: January 2016  Genre: Non-fiction, medical science

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pirate Hunters - Robert Kurson

Subtitle: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a legendary pirate ship

In late 2015 I read the author's earlier story of shipwreck divers.  They are back in this story searching for a pirate ship.  Like the earlier book, its about more than just diving for treasure.  There's the story of the men who do this and why they are driven to pursue the dream, sacrificing their relationships, their finances and their health.

I learned that only a couple pirate ship wrecks have been found.  The one John Chatterton (from the earlier book and his new partner John Mattera are searching for lies near the Dominican Republic.  It's known as the Golden Fleece.  It was an English vessel that was stolen by an English sea captain, Joseph Bannister, who somehow turned pirate and terrorized the seas for a time.

I love reading the history of the past and the challenges of locating the ship in the present.  The divers are passionate, larger than life personalities that the author captures, warts and all.  Great read.

Published: 2015  Read: January 2015  Genre: Adventure non-fiction

ISBN: 9 781400 063369

Deep - James Nestor

I have a great best friend with varied interests and she has led me to topics I never would have discovered on my own.  This book, about deep water freediving, is her most recent share.

I was fascinated from the first chapter where the author described his first encounter with competitive freediving.  The physical limits of the human body are tested and pushed to the limit to achieve a condition that hearkens back to our ancient sea roots.

I enjoyed learning how practitioners learn to hold their breath for several minutes while diving and the physical changes that happen that allow them to go deeper and longer underwater.  Great read.

Published:  2015  Read: December 2015  Genre: Science, non-fiction


The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

I liked Margaret Atwood's early books.  They were a mixture of real life and futuristic possibilities with a sense of foreboding (Handmaid's Tale, for example).  This book feels very familiar.

A couple who are living out of their car after the economy collapses joins a planned community where you are given a home for a month and then work in the prison as a prisoner for a month.  This looks better than trying to live in a car with unsavory characters attacking in the middle of the night so they agree to join.  Problem is, once in, never out.

People being human, the wife falls for a seductive lover and the husband retaliates with his own affair and then the management of the place gets involved and the couple wants out.

The problem with this book is it is so much a rehash of her earlier tales without the punch.  The ending just limps along without really generating any hard thought.

Not a good way to finish up the year; not recommended.

Published:  2015  Read: December 2015  Genre: Speculative Fiction

  • ISBN-13: 978-0385540353

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

I'd waited to read this bestseller because of all the hype, contrarian that I am.  I don't care much for mysteries and the inevitable plot twists and turns.   To my mind, mystery writing is like being a magician - you need to divert the reader's attention, mislead them so they don't see the sleight of hand and identify the perpetrator.  Hawkins does a masterful job of keeping you guessing without stretching credibility.

Rachel, a divorced woman sees the backyards of homes in the neighborhood where she used to live as she rides the train to work.  Her self-esteem is shattered from the divorce and its instigating event and she daydreams about the people and the perfect lives that she sees passing by, finding her life wanting:
"Let's be honest: women are still only really valued for two things - their looks and their role as mothers.  I'm not beautiful, and I can't have kids, so what does that make me?  Worthless."
Then a woman in one of the homes goes missing and she thinks she has information that could help find her.  She's a poor witness, having become an alcoholic and still harassing her ex-husband and his new wife.  She recognizes her failings yet continues to give in to her depression and self-hatred:
"Drunk Rachel sees no consequences, she is either excessively expansive and optimistic or wrapped up in hate.  She has no past, no future.  She exists purely in the moment.
She continues to struggle to be sober and the story tracks her redemptive action that resolves the mystery.  A great read, sorry I waited so long!

Published:  2015  Read: December 2015  Genre: Fiction, mystery

ISBN: 978-1-4104-7776-7

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

I really like this author.  I loved her biography of her daughter, Paula, and her early books had a mystical quality about them.  The last one I read, Maya's Notebook was a disappointment but I was willing to try again.  I shouldn't have.

The Japanese Lover begins with our heroine, Alma, in an assisted living facility by her own choice, one that dismays her family, undoubtedly part of her motivation.  She befriends one of the workers, Irina, and her grandson, Seth and Irina try to figure out where Alma goes on her frequent excursions from the home.

We're taken back in time as Alma shares her life story with Inna.  She was sent to America to live with relatives during WWII and never saw her birth parents again.  She grows up privileged and loved by her relatives and falls in love with the gardener's son.  The gardener and his family are imprisoned in the Japanese internment camps and the young lovers are separated.  Their love never dies and they stay in touch throughout life but conform to society and never come together.

I don't know if its Allende's translators of the last couple of books, but her prose is flat and repetitive. The story goes off on tangents with characters (Alma's long lost brother) showing up for a few pages then disappearing again.  I was disappointed.

Published: 2015  Read: December 2015  Genre: Fiction