Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jackie's July Picks

Building A Home With My Husband by Rachel Simon

It's a wonder that Rachel and her husband, Hal, are together at all--they are very different people. Rachel is a writer and an advocate for people with disabilities with an admitted problem with physical things like the third dimension. Hal is an architect who designs the physical world and a musician who creates his own world. These two dated/lived together for 13 years, broke up for 6 years, and
then, finally, got married. Then their house got burglarized, prompting at first the need to move, but that was just not affordable in the current economy. So they decided on a green renovation. This of course results in all the expected trauma and drama--though theirs
goes to an extreme not experienced by many (I don't want to spoil it for you). But the interesting thing about this book is that it's not only the house that gets renovated--it's Rachel and Hal and who they are together that goes through the most amazing overhaul. This book is full of insights and philosophical ponderings about the relationships of people to each other, their geographic place, their material things, their memories and much more. It certainly has its funny moments, but don't be fooled by them--this is a book with great depth.

How Shall I Tell The Dog? by Miles Kington

This is the last work of British author and humorist Miles Kington, an editor for Punch, writer and reviewer for the London Times and columnist for 22 years in The Independent. Written as a series of letters to his agent, Kington explores the many ways to "cash in on cancer" with book ideas, displaying great grace and humor while staring down pancreatic cancer with less than a year to live. It's gallows humor to an extent, but very creative and very British, and shows the indomitable nature of the man. For instance, at one point he declares that one of the 100 things he wants to do before he dies is learn to whistle with two fingers in his mouth. Another idea was, as his last literary effort, to write "Cancer, the IFAQs" (infrequently asked questions), featuring
such topics as 'Who is the patron saint of cancer' (after all there is one for everything else, right?) or 'Do people who are born under the sign of Cancer actually suffer more from cancer than people born under other signs?'. Serious issues are addressed as well, but always in a light tone, making this a book of many laughs and very few tears, though much regret that such a charming voice is no more.

What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen

44 year old Alice was sick. Months of tests and doctor's exams left her with a portfolio of diagnosis--early menopause, a bladder disorder, middle age loss of muscle tone, a malformed reproductive system because of her mother's use of DES, sore breasts from wearing underwire bras, anemia, depression, and a large lump in her lower abdomen. Finally a new doctor sends her to the hospital for an emergency CAT scan and the real problem is revealed--Alice is 6 months pregnant (despite having an internal exam by her gyn just 4 weeks before who somehow missed the fact there was a baby in there). Which is a REAL problem given all of the medications she's been taking, no pre-natal care until that point, her age and the condition of her uterus. Her story is horrifying--a litany of medical malpractice and callous behavior that ran a chill up and down my spine. Her agony is palpable and haunting. You won't forget her story.

Last Light Over Carolina by Mary Alice Monroe

This new novel by the author of Time Is A River takes us to the coast of South Carolina and into the world of the shrimping industry, hit hard by the current economy and imports of foreign shrimp to American markets. It's the story of Bud and Carolina, whose decades of marriage is on shaky ground. It's also the story of a down on its luck town who, when emergency strikes, pulls together and takes care of its own while forgetting all the rivalries and resentments and worries that generally plague them. The story moves back and forth between the present and scenes from Bud and Carolina's past, giving depth and background to the characters to this well told story.

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