GriefTag Archives

Book Review: Starting Over: Stories by Elizabeth Spencer

Ripper by Isabel Allende

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Harper 
  • Release Date:  01.28.2014

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On the release of her first novel in 1948, Elizabeth Spencer was immediately championed by Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty, setting off a remarkable career as one of the great literary voices of the American South. Her career, now spanning seven decades, continues here with nine new stories. In Starting Over, Spencer returns to the deep emotional fault lines and unseen fractures that lie just beneath the veneer of happy family life. In “Sightings,” a troubled daughter suddenly returns to the home of the father she accidently blinded during her parents’ bitter separation; in “Blackie,” the reappearance of a son from a divorcee’s first marriage triggers a harrowing confrontation with her new family; while in “The Wedding Visitor,” a cousin travels home only to find himself entwined in the events leading up to a family wedding. In these nine stories, Spencer excels at revealing the flawed fabric of human relations.

I also recommend:

My Review:

It says something when an author can boast that they have been writing for seven decades.  Seven, folks.  Elizabeth Spencer creates a nearly perfect set of short stories with Starting Over: Stories.  Some of these stories broke my heart, moved me to tears, and made me put the book down out of sheer self-preservation.  I’m a fairly recent convert to the power of the short story (by recent, I mean within the last few years) so for a collection to move me as deeply as some of these stories moved me…well, let me just say that it doesn’t happen as often as I like.  Had I read a collection like this during my years of “not-a-fan of short stories,” I think I may have had a come to Jesus moment a little sooner.

There are quite a few solid stories in Spencer’s collection, but I want to talk the most about a particular story.  “Sightings” is a story about a young girl who has come to visit a father who she has partially blinded.  During her time with her father, very little comes out.  Actually, very little comes out in the entire story.  However, Spencer uses tension and some really deft writing to make her reader understand what is fully going on here.

Spencer’s grasp on the intricacies of writing from different viewpoints and of portraying each character in a way that is true to not only themselves in the story, but transcends the story to read life, is something that should be marveled at.  During “Sightings,” I felt like I was there, in the story.  It was a shock to see it come to an end because I had become so invested in such a short time period.  This story alone makes the collection worth owning – but don’t let me talking about just one story convince you that there aren’t also other worthy stories inside.

I think this book is one that would appeal to both the short-story lover and the reader who just wants to finally “get” what short-stories are about.  Spencer writes in such a way that I never felt as if the portraits were over my head and I found myself often making friends within the few pages allotted to each story.  Starting Over: Stories  is definitely one to be watching for.

If you have read this story and would like to be linked, please let me know!

 

Book Review: Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson

Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Viking Adult
  • Release Date:  7.11.2005

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n this finely wrought portrait of western American life, Ron Carlson takes us to the small town of Oakpine, Wyoming, and into the lives of four men trying to make peace with who they are in the world.

In high school, these men were in a band. One of them, Jimmy, left Oakpine for New York City after the tragic death of his brother. A successful novelist, he has returned thirty years later, in 1999—because he is dying.
With Carlson’s characteristic grace, we learn what has become of these friends and the different directions of their lives. Craig and Frank never left; Mason, a top lawyer in Denver, is back in town to fix up and sell his parents’ house. Now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most important thing they can do.

I recommend:

My Review:


When I pick up a book I hope for one of two things: first, I hope that it will be grab you by the seat of your pants good and that I will not be able to put it down because of one or all of (writing, story, characters, setting, voice, passion) my favorite things; second, I hope that if I do not found myself in a grabbed position, that there is something in the book that I cannot stand so much that it’ll allow me to put the book down without feeling guilt for not finishing it.  Unfortunately, a lot of books do not meet either of those two things – they fall somewhere in the middle and that is exactly where Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson landed.

You see, there’s nothing bad about this book.  It had all the right things to make me love it. Writing: beautiful, if I want to be cliche, I could even say lyrical.  Story: interesting enough, a dying friend coming back to the small town he grew up with and the reuniting of a band of friends who experienced tragedy in their youth. Setting: very interesting, I spent a few years of my life living in Laramie, Wyoming so a lot of the setting appealed to me in that it made me experience a re-awakening of memories from that time.  Voice: a little on the weak side, I was distracted with all of the back and forth from modern to history time. Passion: I think this is where, ultimately, the book lost it for me.  It was just. so. slow.  I wanted to care, but the story was unwinding in such a leisurely manner it honestly put me to sleep a few times.

And that’s the kiss of death for me.

Because I was interested in the book enough to feel guilty about abandoning it; yet, I wanted to abandon it so much.  I wanted to just set it aside and conveniently forget about it in the hopes that I could save myself that guilty feeling.  But I didn’t, so I forced my way through to the end and ended up with a lukewarm book that I wished I could love more.

So there it is. My review of Return to Oakpine.  It’s not exciting, and honestly, I’d be surprised if anyone actually read this through to the end, but if you did surely you can sympathize with me when you come across a book like this that you just feel guilty over – like there was just something missing and, no matter how hard you wish, you just can’t find it in the story.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Largehearted Boy | It’s Either Sadness of Euphoria | Thoughts in Progress

 

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Candlewick Press
  • Release Date:  8.27.2013
        

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

I also recommend:

My Review:

It’s not often a book moves me to tears.  Not the kind of tears that I sometimes shed because I believe that the book is calling for tears and it’s okay to push a few out – but aching, heart-break-showing tears that involve looking away from the page because I just cannot bear to continue to read until the weight has left my chest.  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness woke something in me, a memory of a feeling, that overwhelmed me and felt as if it was choking me and in spite of … no, because of that awakening, I walked away from this story feeling as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

A Monster Calls is a story based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, an author I had previously had zero experience with.  But if she had ideas like this, ideas that sparked this beautiful, heart-wrenching story, then I can say with certainty that her works are being put on my TBR list…and then bumped to the top – as soon as I can get my hands on them.  Similar to John Green, Patrick Ness has crafted a story that deals with grief and hope and self-doubt and blame.  Ness took a simple concept, the monster, and turned that concept on its head, much like the monster does in the three stories he tells to Conor.

Then there is Conor.  It is not often that I feel like I need to physically reach into a book and hug the main character, but boy did I feel that urge over and over again as I read this story.  He is such a self-reliant young boy going through something that no child should have to deal with alone.  And while, as an adult, I understand the actions (although I did not necessarily agree with them) of the adults surrounding him, I felt such empathy for Conor because a child should not have to understand why his father can’t be with him, nor why his grandmother is the way she is.  Conor, in this story, is a great example of what it’s like when a child’s needs are not placed above all else and he has to find his own way.  If only every child in this world had the monster to hold his or her hand.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot and winding path taken in A Monster Calls, but I do want to say that this book ranks near the top of the list for best books read this year.  I should have known when I saw it was Patrick Ness writing that my heartstrings would be tugged.  But even more so, I love the message this book conveys – that everything is not always as simple as it seems and sometimes you have to look at life from a different angle to understand what is truly going on.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Dear Author | Bookshelf Fantasies| Bite the Book

 

 

 

Book Review: The Why of Things by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

The Why of Things by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

  • Method of Obtaining: I received an advance copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: Simon and Schuster
  • Date Published: 6.11.2013
        

Since the tragic lossof her seventeen-year-olddaughter less than a year ago, Joan Jacobs has been working hard to keep hertight-knit family from coming apart. But it seems as if she and Anders, herhusband, have lost their easy comfort with each other and are unable to snapback from their isolation into the familiarity and warmth they so desperatelyneed, both for themselves and for their surviving daughters, Eve and Eloise.The Jacobses flee to their summer home in search of peace and renewal, but momentsafter they arrive the family is confronted with an eerily similar tragedy: thatsame evening a pickup truck had driven into the quarry in their backyard.Within hours, the local police drag up the body of a young man, James Favazza.

As the Jacobs familylearns more about the inexplicable events that led up to that fateful Juneevening, each of them becomes increasingly tangled in the emotional threads ofJames life and death: fifteenyear- old Eve grows obsessed with proving thatJames death wasnt an accident, though the police refuse to consider this;Anders finds himself forced to face his own deepest fears; and seven-year-oldEloise unwittingly adopts James orphaned dog. Joan herself becomesincreasingly fixated on James mother, a stranger whose sudden loss so closelymirrors her own. With an urgent, beautiful intimacy that her fans have come toexpect from this bitingly intelligent writer (The New York Times),Elizabeth Hartley

Winthrop delivers apowerful, buoyant, and riveting new novel that explores the complexities offamily relationships and the small triumphs that can bring unexpected healing. TheWhy of Things is a wise, empathetic, and exquisitely heartfelt story aboutthe strength of family bonds. It is an unforgettable and searing tour de force

I also recommend:

My Review:

Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop takes on the hard subject of suicide in The Why of Things. This is not made readily apparent, and I would not have been aware that this was the subject of the book had I not read the summary of the plot beforehand – so put out of your mind any thought of the heavy-handed nature some more angsty books use to get the message across.

What I think of when I consider The Why of Things as a book is the word gentle. Every incident, every action of Evie, Eloise, and their parents comes across as something gentle or quiet. This book doesn’t deal with the violent aftermath of grief and anger that suicide can leave in its wake – rather it deals with what happens after time has passed and the loved ones are left just asking “why?”.

Although Winthrop does not claim to answer the “why” in a way that we would consider to be cut and dried, the book left me with the impression that I had just had a glimpse into the life of a family who is on the path to recovery and of two daughters whose lives have been forever altered by the loss of their sister but who have managed to pull through.

This was a beautiful read. It didn’t have drive or make me feel as if I absolutely had to pick up the book, but I wanted to pick it up because I became invested in the lives of the people in the story. What more can you ask for in a good book?

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

The Book Wheel | Ploughshares 

 

Book Review: The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

  • Method of Obtaining: I received an advance copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Atria Books
  • Release Date:  9.13.2011
        

Together for over a decade, Kyra and David Winter are happier than they ever thought they could be.  They have a comfortable home, stable careers, and a young son, Michael, who they love more than anything.  Yet because of their complicated histories, Kyra and David have always feared that this domestic bliss couldn’t last – that the life they created was destined to be disrupted.  And on one perfectly average summer day, it is: Michael disappears from his own backyard.

The only question is whose past has finally caught up with them: David feels sure that Michael was taken by his troubled ex-wife, while Kyra believes the kidnapper must be someone from her estranged family, someone she betrayed years ago.

As the Winters embark on a journey of time and memory to find Michael, they will be forced to admit these suspicions, revealing secrets about themselves they’ve always kept hidden.  But they will also have a chance to discover that it’s not too late to have the family they’ve dreamed of; that even if the world is full of risks, as long as they have hope, the future can bloom.

Lyrical, wise, and witty, The Winters in Bloom is Lisa Tucker’s most optimistic work to date.  This enchanting, life-affirming story will charm readers and leave them full of wonder at the stubborn strength of the human heart.

I also recommend:

My Review:

When I picked up The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker I was definitely in the mood for some family drama reading. I got chills with the opening section and felt immediately connected to this small, 5-year old child named Michael. Then, he was whisked away and the story began to unfold.

The Winters in Bloom is a novel that explores not only the disappearance of Michael, but the past histories of his parents. Both are overly cautious for reasons of their own. For David Winter, it was tragedy of one kind, and for Kyra, tragedy of another. And both their pasts intersect in a twisting, winding turn of events that had me guessing until the end of the book.

While I enjoyed very much the “unputdownable” nature of The Winters in Bloom, I do have a bone to pick with it, however. The introduction of the book gave me this awesome, fantastic character in Michael and, aside from a few moments here and there throughout the story, there really wasn’t much more time spent with him. As a result, what time there was spent with him seemed a bit gimmicky – like he was fairly one-dimensional and, as a result, the end of the book came off as a bit fake. I wanted to feel a powerful emotion of some sort when I got to the ending pages, but instead, I found myself speeding up my reading just because I wanted to finish and had lost that momentum of caring about Michael after the big reveal of who did it happened.

With that said, the rest of the book leading up to the reveal? Kept me guessing and was highly entertaining.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Teresa’s Reading Corner | Romancing the Book | That’s What She Read

 

 

 

Book Review: Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick

Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick

  • Method of Obtaining: I received an advance copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Tor
  • Release Date:  5.14.2013
        

Melinda Soto, aged sixty-four, vacationing in Mexico, is murdered by a fellow American tourist.

Back in her hometown of Reno, Nevada, she leaves behind her adopted son, Jeremy, whom she rescued from war-torn Guatamala when he was a toddler—just one of her many causes over the years. And she leaves behind a circle of friends: Veronique, the academic stuck in a teaching job from which she can’t retire; Rosemary, who’s losing her husband to Alzheimer’s and who’s trying to lose herself in volunteer work; Henrietta, the priest at Rosemary’s and Melinda’s church.

Jeremy already had a fraught relationship with his charismatic mother and the people in her orbit. Now her death is tearing him apart, and he can barely stand the rituals of remembrance that ensue among his mother’s friends. Then the police reveal who killed Melinda: a Seattle teenager who flew home to his parents and drowned himself just days later.

It’s too much. Jeremy’s not the only one who can’t deal. Friendships fray. But the unexpected happens: an invitation to them all, from the murderer’s mother, to come to Seattle for his memorial. It’s ridiculous. And yet, somehow, each of them begins to see in it a chance to heal. Aided, in peculiar ways, by Jeremy’s years-long obsession with the comic-book hero Comrade Cosmos, and the immense cult of online commentary it’s spawned.

Shot through with feeling and inventiveness, this is a novel of the odd paths that lead to home.

I also recommend:

My Review:

When I received Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick from Tor, I have to admit, I was taken in by the pretty packaging. It’s beautifully bound, has a gorgeous, simple cover, and I wanted to pick it up and read it right away. So I read the inside description and I was immediately moved from interested to confused. Tor is well-known for publishing fantasy and sci-fi (through the Forge imprint) so what was a book about grief and murder doing in my hands?

I almost let it get to me. Almost. So let this be a lesson – don’t let first impressions get the better of you.

What I found in this book were many, many good things. First, it’s smart writing. I’m graduating from a small, liberal arts college this Saturday, and the descriptions in this book (from both students and teacher’s perspective) of college life are spot on. Especially the literary class descriptions. In fact, I found myself wanting to take a course that was described and it actually gave me a research bug of my own. But it’s not all the school part that is the smart writing – it’s all just intelligent, good, solid, story-telling.

Secondly, there is never any promise about answers. Because that is not what this book is about – the jacket flap will tell you that much. Instead, through a rather genius way, the story is told through a mirror. That mirror? The medium of a comic-book-type set of heroes created by four computer science kids. It’s actually quite brilliant… and once I understood what was happening the Tor publisher clicked for me.

What I love most about this book was it reminded me that fantasy fiction isn’t all high fantasy or urban fantasy. It also includes comic book heroes, Korean dramas, Japanese manga… you name it. Fantasy is fantasy – it’s taking real life and seeing it through unusual means. And it doesn’t require a dragon – a comic book hero works quite as well.

 

 

 

Book Review: Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy via the publisher.
  • Published by: Hyperion
  • Release Date: 9/11/2012
        

ife is good for Maura Corrigan. Married to her college sweetheart, Pete, raising three young kids with her parents nearby in her peaceful Chicago suburb, her world is secure. Then one day, in a single turn of fate, that entire world comes crashing down and everything that she thought she knew changes.

Maura must learn to move forward with the weight of grief and the crushing guilt of an unforgivable secret. Pete senses a gap growing between him and his wife but finds it easier to escape to the bar with his friends than face the flaws in his marriage.

Meanwhile, Maura’s parents are dealing with the fault lines in their own marriage. Charismatic Roger, who at sixty-five, is still chasing the next business deal and Margaret, a pragmatic and proud homemaker, have been married for four decades, seemingly happily. But the truth is more complicated. Like Maura, Roger has secrets of his own and when his deceptions and weaknesses are exposed, Margaret’s love and loyalty face the ultimate test.

Reason for Reading:
  • I enjoy a good, family drama.

I recommend:

My Review:

I really, really wanted to read Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff – mostly because I enjoy a good drama centered around the overcoming of a tragedy. So when I saw the summary and the author combination here I couldn’t wait to crack it open and get emotionally involved.

There were things that Woodruff did extremely well in Those We Love Most – those being the tension between family, the struggle to put the pieces back together, the vulnerability after walls come down in grief. I felt intimately connected to every member of the family at different moments throughout the book. But in spite of that intimate connection, I still felt as if I was held at arms length.

I think ultimately where the breakdown occurred was in the number of people Those We Love Most dealt with. There were some family members who were on the outskirts, just barely into the story and, as a result, made me feel as if I was still a stranger to what was going on – but the juxtiposition then of having other family members bared completely to me made me feel as if I wasn’t a stranger. So ultimately I ended up slightly confused and unable to connect. I just can’t think of a better way to put it.

I still recommend reading this book – I think it has some important messages on dealing with grief and guilt, and what happens when trust starts to fracture. I just wish it had been easier for me to connect with.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Booking Mama| Unconventional Librarian| Reads for Pleasure

Book Review: The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

 The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
  • Published by: T.S. Poetry Press
  • Release Date: 2/15/2012
 
       

Marian McKeever and Ben Ellis are not typical young lovers in 1957 Dublin, Ireland; she’s Catholic and teaches at Zion School, and he’s Jewish and a budding journalist. The two plan to wed, but their families object to an interfaith marriage. And when Marian becomes pregnant, she doesn’t tell Ben. Coerced by Father Brennan (a Catholic priest who is also her uncle), Marian goes to Castleboro Mother Baby Home, an institution ruled by Sister Paulinas and Sister Agnes where “sins are purged” via abuse; i.e., pregnant girls are forced to mow the lawn by pulling grass on their hands and knees. Marian is told that her son, Adrian, will be adopted by an American family. The riveting storyline provides many surprises as it fast-forwards to 1967 where Marian and Ben are married and have a 10-year-old daughter. Marian’s painful secret emerges when she learns that her son was dumped in an abusive orphanage not far from her middle-class home and Sister Agnes is his legal guardian. Thus begins a labyrinthine journey through red tape as the couple fight to regain their firstborn child. Ultimately, 12-year-old Adrian is placed in the Surtane Industrial School for Boys, which is rife with brutality and sexual abuse at the hands of “Christian Brother Ryder.” Though unchecked church power abounds, this is not a religious stereotype or an indictment of faith. Hateful characters like Brother Ryder are balanced with compassionate ones, such as a timid nurse from the Mother Baby Home. Father Brennan deepens into a three-dimensional character who struggles to do what is right. Henry weaves multilayered themes of prejudice, corruption and redemption with an authentic voice and swift, seamless dialogue. Her prose is engaging, and light poetic touches add immediacy. For example, when Marian returned to Mother Baby Home after 11 years, she “opened the car door and stepped onto the gravel, wanting to quiet its crunch, like skeletons underneath her shoes.” Echoing the painful lessons of the Jewish Holocaust, Henry’s tale reveals what happens when good people remain silent.

Reason for Reading:

  • The title – it’s quite the eye-catching one.

I also recommend:

 My Review:

I attempted to read The Whipping Club a few months ago, but the edition I had made it difficult to follow and, unfortunately, I had to DNF it. So I was happy when I received a hard copy of the book and was able to read it without all of the false stops and starts the e-copy I had gave me.

In The Whipping Club, Henry moves us between past and present and the lives of Marian, Ben, and their children Adrian and Jo. There’s just a little bit of everything in this book to make it a hard, heavy read – religious tensions, abuse, rape, forced adoption, neglect, family tensions … you name it. As a result, I really struggled with wanting to pick up the story. Not because it wasn’t written or paced well, mind you, but just because the subject matter was so darn heavy and I was dying throughout the book for just a glimpse of hope. Just a glimpse.

I think this book has a lot to recommend it to book clubs – there is enough material in it to give fodder for multiple, serious discussions. But if you are wanting a feel goodl, all’s well that ends well, story then this isn’t the one for you. In addition, keep in mind that even with the improved format in hard copy (and the e-copy is probably fine too, I had received an advance copy) that it’s still difficult to transition between past and present as there were no real boundaries throughout the book, so engage actively with the text for sure.

About the Author

Deborah Henry attended American College in Paris and graduated cum laude from Boston University with a minor in French language and literature. She received her MFA in creative writing at Fairfield University and has the passionate support of many first-class novelists including Jacquelyn Mitchard, Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler, Da Chen, Michael White, Martine Bellen, Caroline Leavitt, Dawn Tripp Susan Henderson and Irishman Thomas Cooke, Emmy-award winning writer and director. Her first review of THE WHIPPING CLUB, a Kirkus Review earned a Kirkus Star. Deborah is an active member of The Academy of American Poets, a board member of CavanKerry Press and a patron of the Irish Arts Center in New York.

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For more reviews on The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry,

please visit the book tour.

Book Review: What Happened to My Sister by Elizabeth Flock

What Happened to My Sister by Elizabeth Flock

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
  • Published by: Ballentine Books
  • Release Date: 8/7/2012
 
       

Nine-year-old Carrie Parker and her mother, Libby, are making a fresh start in the small town of Hartsville, North Carolina, ready to put their turbulent past behind them. Violence has shattered their family and left Libby nearly unable to cope. And while Carrie once took comfort in her beloved sister, Emma, her mother has now forbidden even the mention of her name.

When Carrie meets Ruth, Honor, and Cricket Chaplin, these three generations of warmhearted women seem to have the loving home Carrie has always dreamed of. But as Carrie and Cricket become fast friends, neither can escape the pull of their families’ secrets—and uncovering the truth will transform the Chaplins and the Parkers forever.

Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more.

Reason for Reading:

  • The summary caught my eye.

I also recommend:

 My Review:

This book blew me away. In a very good way. What Happened to My Sister by Elizabeth Flock is the continuation of a story titled Emma and Me, but I did not know that. I had never read anything by Flock, and picked up What Happened to My Sister knowing very little about it.

That did not at all distract from the powerful impact this book had on me.

It always astonishes me when authors are able to really get inside the head of young, abused girls. Carrie, or Caroline, has been abused in nearly every way you can imagine, and she is so beat down by those who are supposed to love and care for her, that when she speaks so politely or matter-of-factly about eating paper with ketchup that my heart just aches and aches for her. I found myself wondering if I would be able to recognize her, like Honor, the other main character in this book.

What Happened to My Sister moves between two narratives, but doesn’t take the traditional route of alternating chapters. The story goes on through as many chapters needed for Carrie before moving to Honor and picking up – so instead of feeling disjointed, it moves smoothly through the timeline. It worked so amazingly well, people.

It’s hard to gush and recommend a book like this without wondering how it will impact others who pick it up – so let me warn you. The story here is of some really heavy matter. It will bruise, if not break your heart, to read Carrie’s story. It’s not a light, or humorous read – but it’s a book that should be read and discussed. It made me examine my own heart, and opened my eyes, and has given me a nudge to start seeing those around me in public places. The Carrie’s of our world are out there, and they need as much help as they can get.

About the Author

Former print journalist Elizabeth Flock reported for TIME and PEOPLE magazines before becoming an on-air correspondent for CBS News. Her acclaimed debut novel, BUT INSIDE I’M SCREAMING, chronically the psychological struggles of a young television reporter in New York, was released in 2003. Her second novel, ME & EMMA, became a New York Times bestseller and was an Indiebound (formerly Booksense) Notable Book of 2005. EVERYTHING MUST GO, Elizabeth’s third novel, loosely based on a clothing store in Connecticut, was published in 2007. Elizabeth’s books have been translated into seven languages and published in twelve countries.
Her fourth novel, SLEEPWALKING IN DAYLIGHT, came out in 2009, and was chosen as an Indie Next List (formerly Booksense) title. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SISTER, a follow-up to ME & EMMA, will be published by Random House on August 7, 2012.
Elizabeth Flock lives in New York City.

For more reviews on What Happened to My Sister by Elizabeth Flock,

please visit the book tour.

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

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Reason for Reading:
  • This one caught my eye from the few reviews I’d seen.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything-his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving in the basement of a local church. There Ben is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider.

But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trev, in the advanced stages of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.

Though begun with mutual misgivings, the relationship between Trev and Ben evolves into a close camaraderie and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur as they embark on a road trip across the American West to visit Trev’s ailing father. A series of must-see roadside attractions sidetrack them into an adventure highlighted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark.

My Review:

With The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving I was treated to a somewhat snarky, somewhat endearing, and fully heart-breaking story as I followed Benjamin Benjamin (yes, you read that right) through the passage of healing from a terrible tragedy.

Benjamin’s life is pretty much in shambles, and now he has completed his training to take care of folks in need in their homes – and as a result fortune favors him with a young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Their meeting was fortuitous … for both.

With enough humor to take what would have otherwise been a dismal story, Jonathan Evison weaves the story of Benjamin’s present and past into a story that had me flipping pages quickly. There was crude humor (but really hilarious stuff) and enough touching moments that I actually said “aww” out loud and had to catch my breath before I started to cry.

Evison gives us a full cast of characters, ranging from the teenage runaway, to the ex-wife, to the strange neighbor lady and her pets. There’s high speed chases, road-trips, family bonding, and accidents that will make your heart seize up as you consider the implications of it all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it’s not often I recommend a book by a male author for one of those beachy, summer reads but I think that The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is easily one of those books I can recommend for just that.

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Nefarious Fiddlesticks| Bookreporter

  • The publisher provided this review copy via NetGalley.
  • Published by: Alonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Release Date: 8/28/2012
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