[Reviews from sources on Amazon.com]
Into the Wild.
Some Alaskans reacted
contemptuously to Krakauer's magazine article about a young man who starved to
death one summer in the shadow of
with the discovery of
McCandless' body and works backward, revealing that McCandless graduated from
Emory University, severed contact with his family, assumed the alias
"Alexander Supertramp," and began two years of vagabondage in search
of Truth in living as advocated by Thoreau and Tolstoy, of whose works
"Alex" was enamored. His earnestness indelibly impressed the
itinerants he easily befriended--whom he, in truth, somewhat callously
jettisoned--as Krakauer reveals throughout this sensitive narrative. A moving
story that reiterates the bewitching attraction of the
Touching the Wild
Concise and yet packed with detail, Touching the Void, Joe Simpson's harrowing account of near-death in the Peruvian Andes, is a compact tour de force that wrestles with issues of bravery, friendship, physical endurance, the code of the mountains, and the will to live. Simpson dedicates the book to his climbing partner, Simon Yates, and to "those friends who have gone to the mountains and have not returned." What is it that compels certain individuals to willingly seek out the most inhospitable climate on earth? To risk their lives in an attempt to leave footprints where few or none have gone before? Simpson's vivid narrative of a dangerous climbing expedition will convince even the most die-hard couch potato that such pursuits fall within the realm of the sane. As the author struggles ever higher, readers learn of the mountain's awesome power, the beautiful--and sometimes deadly--sheets of blue glacial ice, and the accomplishment of a successful ascent. And then catastrophe: the second half of Touching the Void sees Simpson at his darkest moment. With a smashed, useless leg, he and his partner must struggle down a near-vertical face--and that's only the beginning of their troubles. Amazon.com review
One time I saw morning come home
A memoir desguised as a novel. It's not until you're well into this Classic that you realize he's telling the
story about how his parents met and fell in love. You think you've had it rough, read this one! First read it 15-20 years ago and lost track of my copy. Been looking for it. Ordering a new one right now! Timeless classic of two people head-over-heels in love surviving through the depression. This one'll get ya right where ya live!! If you see it in a used book store(it's out of print) pick it up, run to the check-out, race home and cancel your plans for the rest of the day! Thank God for Amazon.com that I've found it again. If I could find a woman like Orlean, I'd marry her in a minute. Why Clair Huffaker isn't a more well known author, I have no idea. He is a natural. I'd like to meet him. Amazon.com
White Goats and Black Bees
Donald and Mary Grant, two
well paid journalists living in
Gap Creek opens with one wrenching death and ends with another. In between, this novel of turn-of-the-century Appalachian life works in fire, flood, swindlers, sickness, and starvation--a truly biblical assortment of plagues, all visited on the sturdy shoulders of 17-year-old Julie Harmon. "Human life
don't mean a thing in this world," she concludes. And who could blame her? "People could be born and they could suffer, and they could die, and it didn't mean a thing.... The world was exactly like it had been and would always be, going on about its business." For Julie, that business is hard physical labor.
Fortunately, she's fully capable of working "like a man"-- splitting and hauling wood, butchering hogs, rendering lard, planting crops, and taking care of the stock. Even when Julie meets and marries handsome young Hank Richards, there's no happily-ever-after in store. Nothing comes easy in Julie Harmon's world, and their first year together is no exception. Throughout the novel, Morgan chronicles Julie's trials in prose
of great dignity and clarity,
capturing the rhythms of
simple and hard."
Seasons of her Life: The Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright
The commencement speaker at
Madeleine Albright's 1959 graduation from
Seasoned Time political
reporter Ann Blackman's biography describes how Albright moved past the expectations
of her time--and the challenges of being an immigrant--to become the
highest-ranking woman in the history of
Through a peripatetic childhood, marriage and divorce, and the increasing demands of her work as a Ph.D. candidate, professor, and United States ambassador to the United Nations, Albright is revealed to be driven and demanding, a savvy diplomat who has forged relationships with world leaders and with a small, sustaining group of powerful American women. Extensively researched and enlivened by anecdote,
Seasons of Her Life is a fascinating study of a very unusual and dynamic woman's rise to power. --Maria Dolan The New York Times Book Review, Jacob Heilbrunn
Gerber, Merrill Joan.
Old Mother, Little Cat.
As Merrill Gerber steps outside her kitchen door on a dreary winter morning, her mind on the burdensome prospect of her regular visit to her mother in the nursing home, she hears the small, forlorn cry of a lost baby kitten. With this scene begins a remarkable, deeply personal narrative by acclaimed fiction writer Merrill Joan Gerber. In a journal covering just less than a year, Gerber weaves together two journeys - one into the joy and renewal of emerging life, the other into the anguished helplessness of again.
Gerber brings unmatched skill, an unerring eye, and unflinching honesty to her first non-fiction book. No one who has ever loved a pet can fail to be moved by Gerber's descriptions of Maxie the kitten - his first days of fear and mistrust, his growing devotion to his owner, his delightful explorations, the profound sense of peace that a purring cat can inspire. Anyone who has witnessed the gradual decline of a beloved parent will be deeply moved to find the experience reflected in Gerber's words. To her mother's grim refrain - "I wish i were dead" - Gerber registers the full spectrum of human response: sorrow and sympathy, impatience and rage, and - along with enormous love - lacerating guilt. With the complex realities of an aging population bearing upon us as never before, Old Mother, Little Cat is clearly an e-book for our times.
Off Keck Road.
Off Keck Road seems an off-putting title for a book--just try saying it out loud. But that might be the point. Mona Simpson, celebrated author of Anywhere but Here, The Lost Father, and A Regular Guy, has written a novel about life's left-behinds. Her characters are people no one really wants, and Keck Road, in a dingy Wisconsin suburb, is a place where no one wants to live. Simpson's story follows tenderhearted Bea Maxwell, daughter of one of Green Bay's leading families, as she befriends first one, then another of the road's residents. Bea herself hails from a fancier part of town, where as a teenager in the 1950s she is busy and happy and not quite like everyone else: "It was as if adolescence--that new word that everyone all of a sudden knew--was a contagion Bea somehow had not caught. She agreed with her reasonable parents that dieting yourself half to death was dangerous. She found high heels ridiculous. She ate casseroles and desserts with the abandon of a ten-year-old boy." Bea never does pair up with anyone, boy or man, and her virginity, as imagined by Simpson, is a lifelong, defining condition: it "seemed an erectness in her posture, something symmetrical, silver." Bea compensates for her lack of love by weaving a tight web of equally not-quite-the-thing friends: Bill, the divorced boss at the real estate agency where she works; June, a single mom; Matthew, a priest; and finally, Shelley, uneducated, clever, a polio survivor. A dual portrait emerges: Simpson shows us a gossipy, exclusionary Midwestern town. And she shows us, in full, Bea, a character who teeters between the conventional (golfer, broker of the year, board member at the church) and the off-beat. The author never forces Bea into the unlikely role of heroine, nor does she judge her curious circle of friends. In the end, Simpson's warts-and-all rendering has a real humanity to it. --Claire Dederer
Bridge to Terebithia (Young adult)
The story starts out simply enough: Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade--he wants it so bad he can taste it. He's been practicing all summer, running in the fields around his farmhouse until he collapses in a sweat. Then a tomboy named Leslie Burke moves into the farmhouse next door and changes his life forever. Not only does Leslie not look or act like any girls Jess knows, but she also turns out to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. After getting over the shock and humiliation of being beaten by a girl, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay. Despite their superficial differences, it's clear that Jess and Leslie are soul mates. The two create a secret kingdom in the woods named Terabithia, where the only way to get into the castle is by swinging out over a gully on an enchanted rope. Here they reign as king and queen, fighting off imaginary giants and the walking dead, sharing stories and dreams, and plotting against the schoolmates who tease them. Jess and Leslie find solace in the sanctuary of Terabithia until a tragedy strikes and the two are separated forever. In a style that is both plain and powerful, Katherine Paterson's characters will stir your heart and put a lump in your throat.
A Year Down Yonder (Young Adult, Newbery Winner, 2001)
Grandma Dowdel's back! She's just as feisty and terrifying and goodhearted as she was in Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago, and every bit as funny. In the first book, a Newbery Honor winner, Grandma's rampagesere seen through the eyes of her grandson Joey, who, with his sister, Mary Alice, was sent down from Chicago for a week every summer to visit. But now it's 1937 and Joey has gone off to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps, while 15-year-old Mary Alice has to go stay with Grandma alone--for a whole year, maybe longer. From the very first moment when she arrives at the depot clutching her Philco portable radio and her cat, Bootsie, Mary Alice knows it won't be easy. And it's not. She has to sleep alone in the attic, attend a hick town school where in spite of her worn-out coat she's "the rich girl from Chicago," and be an accomplice in Grandma's outrageous schemes to run the town her own way--and do good while nobody's looking. But being Grandma's sidekick is always interesting, and by the end of the year, Mary Alice has grown to see the formidable love in the heart of her formidable Grandma.
Peck is at his best with these hilarious stories that rest solidly within the American literary tradition of Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Teachers will cherish them as great read-alouds, and older teens will gain historical perspective from this lively picture of the depression years in small-town America. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell
Elizabeth Berg has a single great gift as a novelist. She creates heroines who are stuck and unhappy, yet deeply sympathetic. This may seem like an easy trick to pull off, but it's not. Think about it: usually when a character is mired in a problem--especially a problem stemming from her own reluctance to change, or fear of commitment, or lack of identity--the reader is ready within a few dozen pages to shout, "Pull yourself together!" and set the book aside. In contrast, Berg's characters seem like enjoyable challenges: problems with actual solutions. In Never Change, Berg uses her gift to great advantage. Middle-aged Myra Lipinsky describes herself as "the one who sat on a folding chair out in the hall with a cigar box on my lap selling tickets to the prom, but never going." And despite a flourishing career as a visiting nurse, she feels as much an also-ran as ever. As the novel begins, in fact, high school seems to be rearing its ugly head again: Chip Reardon, the heartthrob of Myra's youth, has returned to town to live with his parents. Chip is dying from a brain tumor, and Myra becomes his nurse. Berg is not the kind of writer to lay bare the unsettling power dynamics of such a situation. Instead, Chip and Myra become friends and, well, learn how to love each other. It's a testament to the author's strong sense of character that we actually believe--and what's more, care about--Myra's emergence from her emotional cocoon. And the book is full of nice details, like this snapshot of children being read to at a library, "rising up on their knees to see the pictures, resting their hands unselfconsciously on those ahead of them so that they would not lose their balance." Such careful observations, recounted in Myra's voice, make us believe that she is a character worth knowing, and worth saving. --Claire Dederer
Touch the Top of the World
: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See
From Publishers Weekly
In this moving and adventure-packed memoir, Weihenmayer begins with his gradual loss of sight as a very young child. By the time he became fully blind in high school, he had already developed the traits that would carry him to the summits of some of the world's highest mountains as well as onto the frequently hazardous slopes of daily life: charm, resilience, a sense of humor, a love of danger and a concern for others. His eloquent memoir exhibits all these traits. Weihenmayer--a thrill seeker who skydives, climbs mountains and skis--devotes the first half of the book to his adolescence, punctuated by his loss of sight, his mother's sudden death and his diligent efforts not only to pick up girls, but first to figure out which ones were attractive. With its many tales of pranks, adventures and the talents of his guide dog, this half alone is worth the price of admission. He goes on to chronicle his young adulthood, including his teaching career and his passion for climbing, seeded during a month-long skills camp for blind adolescents and blossoming on his harrowing ascent of Mount McKinley. He describes fearsome ascents of Kilimanjaro--with his fiance, so they can be married near the crater summit--El Capitan and Aconcagua's Polish Glacier. Weihenmayer tells his extraordinary story with humor, honesty and vivid detail, and his fortitude and enthusiasm are deeply inspiring. With the insightful intimacy of Tom Sullivan's classic If You Could See What I Hear and the intensity of the best adventure narratives, Weihenmayer's story will appeal to a broad audience.
Things They Carried
"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to."
A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried marks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O'Brien's earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O'Brien's theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is "Tim"; yet O'Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as "Tim" does in "The Man I Killed," and unlike Tim in "Ambush," he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn't make it any less true. In "On the Rainy River," the character Tim O'Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O'Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O'Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of "On the Rainy River" lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn't believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O'Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable. --Alix Wilber --
The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) Young Adult
Make no mistake. The Bad Beginning begins badly for the three Baudelaire children, and then gets worse. Their misfortunes begin one gray day on Briny Beach when Mr. Poe tells them that their parents perished in a fire that destroyed their whole house. "It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed," laments the personable (occasionally pedantic) narrator, who tells the story as if his readers are gathered around an armchair on pillows. But of course what follows is dreadful. The children thought it was bad when the well-meaning Poes bought them grotesque-colored clothing that itched. But when they are ushered to the dilapidated doorstep of the miserable, thin, unshaven, shiny-eyed, money-grubbing Count Olaf, they know that they--and their family fortune--are in real trouble. Still, they could never have anticipated how much trouble. While it's true that the events that unfold in Lemony Snicket's novels are bleak, and things never turn out as you'd hope, these delightful, funny, linguistically playful books are reminiscent of Roald Dahl (remember James and the Giant Peach and his horrid spinster aunts), Charles Dickens (the orphaned Pip in Great Expectations without the mysterious benefactor), and Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies). There is no question that young readers will want to read the continuing unlucky adventures of the Baudelaire children in The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson
The Reptile Room (Series of Unfortunate Events, 2) (Young Adult)
The Reptile Room begins where Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning ends... on the road with the three orphaned Baudelaire children as they are whisked away from the evil Count Olaf to face "an unknown fate with some unknown relative." But who is this Dr. Montgomery, their late father's cousin's wife's brother? "Would Dr. Montgomery be a kind person? they wondered. Would he at least be better than Count Olaf? Could he possibly be worse?" He certainly is not worse, and in fact when the Baudelaire children discover that he makes coconut cream cakes, circles the globe looking for snakes to study, and even plans to take them with him on his scientific expedition to Peru, the kids can't believe their luck. And, if you have read the first book in this Series of Unfortunate Events, you won't believe their luck either. Despite the misadventures that befall these interesting, intelligent, resourceful orphans, you can trust that the engaging narrator will make their story--suspenseful and alarming as it is--a true delight. The Wide Window is next, and more are on their way. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson
Memoirs of a Geisha
According to Arthur Golden's absorbing first novel, the word "geisha" does not mean "prostitute," as Westerners ignorantly assume--it means "artisan" or "artist." To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia--and an M.A. in English--he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous.
The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen's intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western "trophy wife" than to a prostitute--and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman's alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival "as cruel as a spider."
Golden's web is finely woven,
but his book has a serious flaw: the geisha's true romance rings hollow--the
love of her life is a symbol, not a character. Her villainous geisha nemesis is
sharply drawn, but she would be more so if we got a deeper peek into the cause
of her motiveless malignity--the plight all geisha share. Still, Golden has won
the triple crown of fiction: he has created a plausible female protagonist in a
vivid, now-vanished world, and he gloriously captures Japanese culture by
expressing his thoughts in authentic Eastern metaphors.
Left for dead: My Journey Home from Everest
Left for Dead is a deeply personal story, told in first person by a variety of people who contributed to the survival of Beck Weathers during the Everest accident of 1996 that left nine climbers dead. It goes past the tragedy to discuss why Weathers got involved in climbing in the first place, his lengthy and painful recovery, and the all-important relationship with his wife, Margaret (commonly referred to as Peach). Without Peach's hope and tenacity, it's likely that rescue efforts would not have been continued, and Weathers may never have recovered from the hypothermic coma and its dreadful results. The story of their relationship--they were estranged at the time of the accident--is told from both perspectives, and his obsession with mountains seems almost like another family member. The overall tone is straightforward and conversational: children, pets, and clothing feature as prominently as reconstructive surgery and heroic rescues. But no matter how plainly they are told, the events of that climb are sure to bring tears. Rob Hall's last conversation with his wife, climbers disappearing into the storm, Anatoli Boukreev's rescuing three people, and Weathers and climbing partner Yasuko being left for dead are just a few from a long list. Still, you'll find yourself laughing just pages later, when Weathers gets his rescue team to sing "Chain of Fools" while hiking back to safety--you can imagine Peach being in full agreement of that song's appropriateness. The Everest deaths affected people around the world, and this chronicle of one survivor and his family is a hopeful reminder of the good that can result from such tragedies
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. (YA--read along with Amy Laun)
The harrowing survival story of English explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and the ill-fated Endurance has intrigued people since the 1914 expedition--spurring astounding books such as Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage and The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. As Shackleton and 27 sailors attempted to cross the frozen Antarctic continent from one side to the other, they were trapped in an ice pack, lost their ship to the icy depths, survived an Antarctic winter, escaped attacks from sea lions, and traversed 600 treacherous miles to the uninhabited Elephant Island. Leaving 22 men behind, Shackleton and five others sailed 800 miles across the southern Atlantic Ocean in a 20-foot open boat to tiny South George Island, where they hiked across unmapped mountains to a whaling station. In 1916, 19 months after the Endurance became icebound, Shackleton led a rescue party back to retrieve his men. Remarkably, every crew member survived.
Because of Winn-Dixie (Newberry Honor Book, 2001) (YA--Amy read along)
With her newly adopted, goofy pooch at her side, Opal explores her bittersweet world and learns to listen to other people's lives. This warm and winning book hosts an unforgettable cast of characters, including a librarian who fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace, an ex-con pet-store clerk who plays sweet music to his animal charges, and the neighborhood "witch," a nearly blind woman who sees with her heart. Part Frankie (The Member of the Wedding), part Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird), Opal brings her own unique and wonderful voice to a story of friendship, loneliness, and acceptance. Opal's down-home charm and dead-on honesty will earn her friends and fans far beyond the confines of Naomi, Florida. (Ages 9 and older)
The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.
"Like any sisters who live together and share a husband, my mother and aunties spun a sticky web of loyalties and grudges," Anita Diamant writes in the voice of Dinah. "They traded secrets like bracelets, and these were handed down to me the only surviving girl. They told me things I was too young to hear. They held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember." Remembering women's earthy stories and passionate history is indeed the theme of this magnificent book. In fact, it's been said that The Red Tent is what the Bible might have been had it been written by God's daughters, instead of her sons. --Gail Hudson
In his third novel, Lying Awake, Mark Salzman breaks the primary rule of fiction by creating a protagonist who has virtually no external life. Sister John of the Cross, a middle-aged nun cloistered in a Carmelite monastery in contemporary Los Angeles, languished for years in a spiritual drought--"her prayers empty and her soul dry"--until she suddenly received God's grace in the form of intense mystical visions. So vivid have her visions become that they burn a kind of afterglow into her mind that she transcribes into crystalline (and highly popular) verse. The only downside is that they are accompanied by excruciating headaches that cause her to black out.
The story hinges on Sister John's discovery that her visions are in fact the result of mild epileptic seizures. As she learns from her neurologist, temporal-lobe epilepsy commonly brings about "hypergraphia (voluminous writing), an intensification but also a narrowing of emotional response, and an obsessive interest in religion and philosophy." Dostoyevsky, the classic victim of this condition, wrote of his raptures: "There are moments, and it is only a matter of five or six seconds, when you feel the presence of eternal harmony.... If this state were to last more than five seconds, the soul could not endure it and would have to disappear." An exact description of Sister John's visions. The question she now faces is whether to go ahead with surgery--and risk obliterating both her spiritual life and her art--or cling to a state of grace that may actually be a delusion ignited by an electrochemical imbalance.
Using a very limited palette, Mark Salzman creates an austere masterpiece. The real miracle of Lying Awake is that it works perfectly on every level: on the realistic surface, it captures the petty squabbles and tiny bursts of radiance of life in a Los Angeles monastery; deeper down it probes the nature of spiritual illumination and the meaning and purpose of prayer in everyday life; and, at bottom, there lurks a profound meditation on the mystery of artistic inspiration. Salzman made a highly auspicious debut in 1986 with Iron and Silk, a memoir of his years in China, and since then he has dramatically changed key in every book--most recently from the absurdist American suburban chronicle of Lost in Place to the artistic-crisis-cum-courtroom-drama novel The Soloist. Lying Awake is quieter and more sober than Salzman's previous narratives, but it is also more accomplished, more thought-provoking, and more highly crafted. --David Laskin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A Year by the Sea
From Kirkus Reviews
A touchy-feely finding-oneself memoir by a midlife woman who took a year off from her unfulfilling marriage and spent it in reflection by the sea. Anderson, a 50-year-old journalist and author of children's books (Harry's Helicopter,1990; 1787, 1987; etc.), refused to follow her husband when his job transferred him to another state, choosing instead to move alone to their summer cottage on Cape Cod and take stock of her life and marriage. Comparisons with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea are inevitable: both are by women concerned with the creative life, both express a closeness to nature at the seashore, a kinship with other life forms, a response to the ebb and flow of the tides, and both find metaphors in seashells. However, whereas Lindbergh has only a brief holiday at the beach and finds universal themes, Anderson's sojourn is protracted and her focus narrow. Alone, she is self-reliant and self-conscious, adventurous, resourceful, and open. Not all her time is spent in solitude, however: she works in a fish market for extra money, finds a mentor and companion in the widow of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, has house guests, including an old friend, a psychoanalyst, and a priest, hires on as short-term cook for a nephew's film crew, and entertains her husband, sons, and daughters-in-law over Memorial Day. At the year's end, she is more certain of who she is and what she wants. She is ready to live once again with her husband, not in the old stale marriage, but in a new and still-to-be-defined one. A less-than-enthralling journey of self-discovery marred by more than a touch of self-congratulation. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Salzman, Mark (Note: Pasadena's One City, One book selection)
Salzman just gets better and better. His memoir Iron and Silk (1987) was a hit, and his first novel, The Laughing Sutra (1990), was funny and smart, but this book is a jewel. Reinhart Sundheimer was a child prodigy who could coax the very music of the gods from a cello even before he could touch the floor with his feet while seated. He spent his youth studying with an old master and performing around the world. But then, just as inexplicably as it arrived, the magic evaporated, and Sundheimer was left high and dry with no social life to speak of, no sexual experiences, an unsatisfying university job, and a profound sense of failure. This miasma lasts well into his thirties until Sundheimer agrees, albeit reluctantly, to accept a Korean boy as a student. Shy little Kyung-hee is a genuine prodigy whose pure and intuitive response to music acts as a balm to Sundheimer's bruised and neglected soul. At the same time, Sundheimer is summoned to jury duty. He ends up assigned to a case that involves the murder of a Zen Buddhist master by a novice disciple. Sundheimer is forced to broaden his participation in life. He must interact with his fellow jurors, including an attractive woman who tries to get him to loosen up, and consider weighty questions about the meaning of guilt, sanity, responsibility, and the tricky relationship between teacher and student. Slowly and self-consciously, Sundheimer attains a renewed sense of himself and discovers how to find peace in our jarring world. This is a beautiful novel, a veritable concerto. Salzman's intonation is flawless, his themes infinitely ponderable, his symmetry and resolution captivating and uplifting. Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Resonates long after curtain closes, November 23, 2000
Reviewer: David Flood (see more about me) from seattle, wa United States
Few books have touched me like this one. It takes on the hard task of the difficult life shift we must all make at some time or another: when you've gone as far as you can with an art and have to turn to the task of sharing what you know with the next generation. But Salzman never moralizes, he puts you into the mind of a child prodigy -- now as an adult -- who must grow beyond the limited spotlight of the stage. Stalzman has a gift for drawing character, and writing so clearly that it goes into you with the rhythm and life of a well-delivered cello solo. Seems I've rarely been able to stay with a book to its end these days, but this one held me from start to finish. I recommend this to anyone who loves music, loves good literature, and wants to enjoy the beauty and clarity that seems to come straight from the author's heart. Thank you, Mark.
quick read; great for music lover or spiritual person, January 5, 2002
Reviewer: ccjello (see more about me) from Kansas City, MO USA
This story, told by a child-prodigy-cellist turned music professor, alternates chapters about the professor's life, professional & personal struggles with chapters about a jury trial, in which a Zen Buddhist is on trial for slaying a Zen master. As a very amateur cellist, I most enjoyed the writer's frequent and highly descriptive references to great cellists (YoYo Ma, Rostopovich, Janos Starker, Pablo Casals) and composers (Bach, Mozart), the comparison of composers & their music to works of art, the details of the protagonist's efforts to inspire and teach his student, a ten-year old Korean boy. None of the music discussion comes across as academic or pedantic; it's woven gracefully into the novel.
The trial aspect of the book was not a typical fast-paced courtroom drama; it focused more on the parameters of the insanity defense as applied to a religious fanatic, and the trial is resolved in a decidedly undecided way (that's all I'll say).
The novel is more about the protagonist's personal experiences with music, relationships, and jury duty than it is about any underlying story. The protagonist is likeable and, for the most part, very real. He is supposedly a virgin, which didn't come off as believable to me. Minor glitch, though. Overall, a good novel, particularly for a music lover, and a quick read.
How many lives does Mark Salzman have?, May 28, 2002
Reviewer: Grady Harp (see more about me) from Altadena, California USA
THE SOLOIST is a fine novel, interweaving three stories that all center on the narrator: the rise and fall of a child prodigy cellist, the sole member of a jury at a murder trial who finds meaning in a defendent's case, and a teacher of a budding, gifted young Korean cellist. Each story has its own cast of characters beautifully realized, but most important - each aspect of this tripartite novel is told with such informed authority that imagining the author in anything but an autobiographical mode is next to impossible. Just as in his previous novel LYING AWAKE which dealt with the inner thoughts of a cloistered nun, Salzman here shows us he has a thorough understanding of music, music making, and the sociology and philosophy of our court system and our education system. Not that he stops at reportage. Hardly! It is simply his depth of knowledge about everything he writes make his novels deeply committed and inspiring. The reason for writing THE SOLOIST is probably one of encouraging his readers to live in the moment. But it is the loving manner of relating his tale that gets us there, almost without knowing we've arrived. A fine book to encourage a whole town (Pasadena) to read and share as is the goal here. Well worth anyone's time.
Coming to Terms with Life,
Reviewer: naia1 (see more about me) from HI,
As a writer, Mark Salzman is always pushing his limits, and The Soloist is no exception. The story revolves around a music professor, Reinhart Sundheimer, who as a child was an acclaimed cellist. He has been unable to play professionally ever since he became overly focused on pitch. Despite his best efforts, he can never produce a note that is absolutely perfect (no one can), and his playing has lost its spontaneity and fluidity. Clearly depressed by his perceived failure, he has led an extraordinarily isolated and lonely life for years, without even a pet to keep him company. Then two things happen to propel him out of his rut - he is chosen to be a juror in a murder trial, and is asked to give cello lessons to a young Korean boy who is clearly exceptionally gifted.
The murder trial exposes him to a whole new group of people whose lives do not revolve around classical music. It also forces him to question and re-question his beliefs about motivation as he struggles to decide whether the defendant in the trial was insane when he committed the crime. Likewise his cello student, whose parents would prefer he acquire a skill that would be useful in the family's laundry business, helps him get beyond his narrow focus and see his own childhood in a fresh light.
is a complex story, and Salzman does a good job of weaving the past and
present, and amusingly contradictory scenes of Reinhart's life into a
comprehensive whole. The one problem I had was with Reinhart's sudden and
rather unbelievable catharsis at the top of a mountain (
Around the World in Eighty Days.
This is Verne's classic story
of the trip of Phileas Fogg (who is obsessed with time), Passeportout, Aouda,
and Detective Fix around the world on a wager. The book is filled with
beautiful time and space imagery throughout (I would bet that one could write
an entire thesis on all the time and space references in the novel).
Thirty-three years after its publication, the world first learns of the
space/time continuum (although I'm certain Verne was not anticipating
Einstein). Fogg bets his fellow club members that he can circumnavigate the
globe in a mere eighty days. He leaves immediately with his valet Passeportout
and is pursued by Detective Fix, who thinks he is a bank robber. Through many
adventures, including the rescue of Aouda from immolation, they all return to
An Hour Before Daylight
Review from Amazon.com
Carter describes--in glorious, if sometimes gory, detail--growing up on a
farm where everything was done by either hand or mule: plowing fields,
"mopping" cotton to kill pests, cutting sugar cane, shaking peanuts,
or processing pork. He also describes the joys of walking barefoot ("this
habit alone helped to create a sense of intimacy with the earth"), taking
naps with his father on the porch after lunch, and hunting with slingshots and
boomerangs with his playmates--all of whom were black. Carter was in constant
contact with his black neighbors; he worked alongside them, ate in their homes,
and often spent the night in the home of Rachel and Jack Clark, "on a
pallet on the floor stuffed with corn shucks," when his parents were away.
However, this intimacy was possible only on the farm. When young Jimmy and his
best friend, A.D. Davis, went to town to see a movie, they waited for the train
together, paid their 15 cents, and then separated into "white" and
"colored" compartments. Once in
In this warm, almost sepia-toned narrative, Carter describes his
relationships with his parents and with the five people--only two of whom were
white--who most affected his early life. Best of all, however, Carter presents
his sweetly nostalgic recollections of a lost
The Dive from Clausen's Pier
*Starred Review* Packer's first novel is a sensitive exploration of the line between selfishness and self-preservation. Carrie Bell is 23 and has lived in
The Dive from Clausen's Pier is one of those small miracles that reinforce our faith in fiction. It does what the best novels so often do, making the largest things visible by its perfect rendering of life on the smaller scale. It is witty, tragic and touching, and beguiling from the first page." --Scott Turow A riveting novel about loyalty and self-knowledge, and the conflict between who we want to be to others and who we must be for ourselves. Carrie Bell has lived in
Red Badge of Courage.
It was totally unlike any book I've ever read. Usually in books authors focus on EVENTS, what happens around the central character; but in Red Badge, the author focused more on the soldier's thoughts as war, the "blood swollen god," engulfed him, his friends, and his country. The "youth" soldier, the main character of the book, portrays in a sense what thoughts are at the essence of war: fear of death, fear of defeat, and fear of failure. This perception was highly usual for Crane's time, as authors before him portrayed war as a great and glorious and golden chance for victory. Crane, on the other hand, wrote with sarcasm and bitterness, with fear and vulnerability, shedding light on an entirely new view of war which fascinates the reader. He also wrote in changing "moods" or "tones". One minute he'd be caught up in a whirlwind fury of sarcasm and humor; the next, in the blind blackness of fear; the next, in the desperation of a madman. Crane's changing tones are entirely interesting, as in his complex and beautifully visual metaphors and imagery. All of this shows war, battle, in its entirety, revealing to the reader the "riot of emotions" and the confusion that accompanies war and its dehumanizing factors. It's amazing to believe that Crane wrote this book in a little over a week, and at the time of his writing never experienced war. I recommend this to anyone wanting a deeper, more thoughtful reading experience.
Steve Earle does everything he does with intelligence, creativity, passion, and integrity. In music, these strengths have earned him comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, the ardent devotion of his fans, and the admiration of the media. And Earle does a lot: he is singer, songwriter, producer, social activist, teacher. . . . He"s not only someone who makes great music; he"s someone to believe in. With the publication of his first collection of short stories, DOGHOUSE ROSES, he gives us yet another reason to believe.
Earle"s stories reflect the many facets of the man and the hard-fought
struggles, the defeats, and the eventual triumphs he has experienced during a
career spanning three decades. In the title story he offers us a
gut-wrenchingly honest portrait of a nearly famous singer whose life and soul
have been all but devoured by drugs. "Billy the Kid" is a fable about
everything that will never happen in
Olga Ots was born in
Shah, Saira. A Storyteller's Daughter
Born in England and raised on her father's fantastic stories of an Afghanistan she had never known, Shah spends her adult life searching for a mythic place of beauty. "Any Western adult might have told me that this was an exile's tale of a lost
Bender. Sue. Plain and Simple.
From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Marilyn Meyer. In 1967, Sue Bender found herself mesmerized by the dark muted colors of Amish quilts and the haunting beauty of their faceless stuffed dolls. The quiet simplicity of these crafts eventually led her on a journey of self-discovery to two Amish communities in 1982. Not surprisingly, Sue Bender, an over-achiever with two Masters degrees and two careers, found herself strongly attracted to the predictable rhythm of Amish life she encountered. Like her extended retreat, this simple book, describing both the ways of the Amish and their effect upon the author, is an escape for the reader as well. There are glimpses into Amish life: the wagon built to transport benches to the weekly home prayer groups, teenage girls who wear electric blue Nikes under their long black dresses, the democratic selection of a minister by drawing lots, and a no-holds waterfight among the nine Beiler children. Set against this background is Sue Bender's quest to discover inner wealth, to quiet the ramblings of ego, and to explore the part of her existence which values simplicity. With the Amish women as her mentors, she questions the obvious limits of their domain as well as her own frenzied pace. Walking to town one hot sunny day, Sue Bender calls out to the horse-drawn buggies, "Am I on the right road?" It's a question we should all ask ourselves. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Bender, Sue. Everyday Sacred : A Woman's Journey Home
From Library Journal. Applying the symbolism of the empty Zen begging bowl, Bender graciously shares another leg of her spiritual journey, the previous being her stay with the Amish recorded in her best seller, Plain and Simple (HarperCollins, 1989). Listening to the author (who also serves as reader), one has to admire her zest for life and determination for self-discovery as she recounts the experiences that filled her bowl daily and revealed the sacred. She learned that miracles can and do occur when we accept whatever happens to us each day, work from the heart, do less, and listen and relax more. She tells of the power in small things, the beauty in imperfection, and the boundless effects of generosity. Bender's findings are pure and simple and not unheard of; however, it is the fresh context in which she places them that makes Everyday Sacred a special and unique program. Recommended for inspirational collections. Barbara J. Vaughan, State Univ. Coll. at Buffalo Lib., N.Y.Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kallos, Stephanie. Broken for you
From Booklist *Starred Review* Well-crafted plotting and crackling wit make this debut novel by Seattle author Kallos a delight to read and a memory to savor. The compelling story highlights the losses and disjointedness of life and the many paths back to healing for those who seek the way. Margaret Hughes lives alone in a
Hosseini, Khaled. The
Kite Runner .
From Publishers Weekly: Hosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do