Saturday, September 27, 2014

Angel In My Pocket by Sukey Forbes

This book is an account of the journey that Sukey Forbes took after the unexpected death of her 6 year old daughter Charlotte. Ms. Forbes is a member of THE Forbes clan, one of the Boston Brahmin families. Unfortunately, her wealth couldn't help her daughter, who suffered from a rare genetic condition called malignant hyperthermia.
Ms. Forbes gives us plenty of background information on her family, including her relation to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Some of which is pertinent as she communes with nature on Naushon, the family island near Martha's Vineyard, at their former home in Santa Cruz and on trails in metrowest Boston. The book gives an in-depth description of her spiritual growth through this painful grieving process which culminates in a conversion of sorts when she attends a workshop with a spiritualist. Though she claims to have approached the workshop with skepticism and taken every precaution regarding her identity, the medium is able to relate things about Charlotte that only she would know. Ms. Forbes comes away from the workshop both comforted and enlightened about "life after death."
As a first person account of the stages of grief and exploration of life beyond this world, I found the book very satisfying. My only complaint is Ms. Forbes regular asides about her family connections, multiple homes, islands etc. gets a bit repetitive.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

This book is an amazing story and a quick read for those who are looking for interesting non-fiction. Saroo Brierley was born in India, where at the age of 5 he became lost while at a train station with his brother. He tells of his memories of India and his family prior to getting lost. Then he relates the ordeal of  getting lost and spending weeks on the street in Calcutta. What's astonishing is that he survives his time in Calcutta (as a 5 year old!) and gets placed in an orphanage where he is soon adopted by a couple from Tasmania. The second half of the book deals with his growing up years and eventual quest in his twenties to retrace his steps to his family in India using Google Earth. Saroo's painstaking internet search is finally met with success. The last part of the book celebrates the reunification with his birth family. I recommend this inspirational and a culturally enlightening book.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson

If you enjoy libraries and photos, this book is a pleasant diversion and offers food for thought on the role of libraries in America. The author/photographer Robert Dawson, traveled the United States for eighteen years capturing hundreds of public libraries. Initially,  he focused on rural and inner city libraries which were under threat of closure. Eventually Dawson added more affluent libraries to round out the selection. In between the photos are essays by authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, and Amy Tan. All of course, are outlining the ways in which the public library has made a difference in their lives.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This is a collection of essays written by Ann Patchett over several decades. In addition to being a fiction writer, Ann "cut her teeth" and supported herself by being a non-fiction writer for magazines. Being used to her novels, I wasn't sure what to expect. This is non-fiction, but it mostly centers around Ann's life/experiences, so it's not what you might expect say, from Bill Bryson. Nonetheless, if you're familiar with Ann's work and would like to know more about her background, writing process or personal life, it's an easy enjoyable read. For those who want to read only a few of her essays, the ones that focus on caring for her dog, her former teacher (a nun) and grandmother are the most satisfying and touching.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

I've always enjoyed the New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. She has such a wonderfully neurotic perspective on things. So when she wrote/drew this memoir regarding her parents aging process, I was eager to read it. As with most things Chast, her humor here is bittersweet.  Roz realizes over time that her parents are not fully capable of living without assistance. As an only child born to older parents, their care is her sole responsibility. She goes through all the stages: home assistance, hospital visits, assisted living, and finally hospice. Meanwhile, she draws, catalogs and writes as only Roz Chast can do. It's a cautionary tale for all Baby Boomers who can relate to her experience with aging parents. I highly recommend it for highlighting all the aspects of dealing with aging parents and as a reminder of our own journey to come.