Anna In-Between

Nunez, Elizabeth. Anne In-Between. New York: Akashic Books, 2009.

Reason read: Anna In-Between reflects on childhood. Every time my birthday nears, so do I. Read for myself.

Thirty-nine year old Anna returns to her parents’ home in the Caribbean islands. Anna has been in New York City as an in-demand editor for almost eighteen years, returning to her Caribbean home periodically for short visits. She returns, not because of a longing for her country, but only to check in on her aging parents. They appreciate the visits but feel Anna has lost touch with her roots. It is as if Anna cannot wait to bolt from her childhood memories, the color of her mixed-race skin, and her emotional parents.
On this particular trip, Anna discovers her mother has advanced stage breast cancer and is appalled her parents have been aware of the growing tumors all along. It is inconceivable they chose not to do anything about the disease growing in Beatrice’s breast. With Anna’s insistence of medical care ever increasing, Anna’s parents finally visit a doctor to begin treating the disease with chemotherapy. Anna’s mother, however, draws the line at traveling to the United States for necessary-for-survival surgery, strongly believing her dark skin will warrant sub par treatment.
Mother and daughter are locked in a cultural battle; mother accusing daughter of becoming too Americanized as if it were akin to catching a different debilitating disease. [As an aside, their fight reminded me of my own battles. My mother is convinced I no longer have the capacity to take care of my childhood home; as if the ways of Monhegan are too foreign to me as now I live with running water, working lights, and an automatic thermostat.] Anna In-Between is the dance of expectation. Mothers want so much for their daughters that reality seems like a constant disappointment, an “you can never do anything right” attitude. Been there! Beatrice is not entirely to blame in all this. Anna has her assumptions, too. She has so much pent up resentment towards her mother she thinks Beatrice blames her for a failed marriage, is disappointed in Anna’s less than impressive career, and is embarrassed by Anna’s less than impeccable appearance. It is hard for Anna to empathize; to see Beatrice as human when she feels like such a failure herself. I won’t spoil the plot, but I can say Nunez’s gift is a satisfactory non-ending with a healthy dose of hope. For Anna and Beatrice.
Interestingly enough, Nunez refers to the locale of Anna In-Between as “the island” as if she doesn’t want to put a pin the map of where the story actually takes place.

Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad.

Book trivia: Anna In-Between was reviewed by Edwidge Danticat. I just finished reading The Farming of Bones by Danticat last month.

Nancy said: Pearl said she has enjoyed the novels of Nunez and made mention of Anna In-Between (Book Lust To Go p 58).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).


February Fixed

I am consistently running (yay). My head is finally screwed on straight – somewhat (yay). Things are not perfect but I can say February is mostly fixed.

Fiction:

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – in honor of Charles Dickens and his birthday being in February. Weird, I know.
  • Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez – in honor of my childhood.
  • Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology edited by Virgil Suarez and Delia Poey – in honor of Cuba’s reformed constitution.
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley – in honor of February being friendship month.

Nonfiction:

  • Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – in honor of Clark’s birthday.
  • All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. – in honor of February being Civil Rights month.
  • Barrow’s Boys: A stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming – in honor of Exploration month.

Leisure:

  • Making Tracks by Matt Weber – a Christmas gift from my sister.

January Jinxed

January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.

Fiction:

  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
  • Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
  • The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
  • The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
  • The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).

Fine, Thanks

Dunnewold, Mary. Fine, Thanks: Stories from the Cancerland Jungle. Texas: Black Rose Writing, 2019.
Release date: 10/24/19.

Reason read: this was a November pick for the Early Review Program from LibraryThing. I haven’t posted one of these in awhile (didn’t get chosen for October, forgot to make a selection for December, and November – this one -only came just recently).

My very first surprise takeaway from reading Fine, Thanks is how calm and pragmatic Mary is while describing her relationship with breast cancer. How is this possible when she went went a healthy mammogram to a “cancer everywhere” magnetic resonance image less than a year later? From discovery, treatment, and recovery there is a smattering of humor, a touch of sarcasm, more than a healthy strain of emotional bravery, and yes, to be expected, anger. For the most part, she is detailed and detached in such a way that a reader can relate in the abstract if he or she has never experienced breast cancer, or nod knowingly if it has been a nightmare reality. I have to wonder how many people diagnosed with any stage of breast cancer have whispered a sage yesyesyes at every truthful, clear-headed, powerful sentence Dunnewold wrote? Even when she points out the obvious I found myself making note of my emphatic agreement. For example, it is common sense that people would pay more attention to something when it relates to them directly. The greater the relationship the more one is willing and apt to sit up and take notice. But when Dunnewold points that out it becomes something different. Yes. She writes like a storytelling river; at times a crashing torrent of yelling words and roiling feelings. At other times her words are a gentle trickle of quiet and graceful acceptance.
Confessional: My favorite moment was not the height of her bravery during diagnosis or even treatment, but rather when she ended her search for religion. Odd as that may seem, it’s true. Her viewpoint awoke something deep within me. Not in the jolting sense of an abrupt aha moment. there was no visible lightning strike. But rather in the slow dawning of discovery; the way that a patch of sunlight plods across the carpet illuminating a slight discoloration in the pile never noticed before. A subtle stain. Oh. Ohhhh…now I see. There were a few of those moments.
Second favorite part – the laugh out loud moment or as I call it, the “snort coffee out the nose” moment was when Dunnewold described the “unanticipated side effect of cancer” in conjunction with pie crust. She owes me a cup of coffee.
As an aside, what is it about animals? I was f.i.n.e. with the ending of Fine, Thanks. I could close the book with a sigh of satisfaction…until I got to the epilogue. Having just helped my sister adopt a dog named Rubie…ugh.


It’s Not About the Bike

Armstrong, Lance. It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.New York: Berkley Books, 2001.

I read this in one sitting, again as a passenger on a trip from Maine. I had the luck (?) of traffic on my side so instead of the usual 4.5 hours to get home it took us over six.

I will be 100% honest. I don’t know what to think about this book. When I first finished it I was expecting some sort of lesson to be learned, some sort of moral to the story. Instead I found the ending as well, an ending. The end. I’m not sure why it wasn’t more for me. I guess it’s because in comparison with Matthew Long’s recovery back to athletics Long’s process was more drawn out, more detailed. I felt that Long’s experience was more painful and not as easy to cope with emotionally. I think that was due, in part, to how little time Armstrong spent describing his road to recovery. In comparison to Long, Armstrong made it a much simpler process with much less emotion. To be fair, one man was hit by a bus and another was hit by cancer in three different areas of his body. Only two similarities really rise between the two men. Both men were ordained by doctors to die and both had an insane willpower to defy all odds and, ultimately, get back to the sports they loved so much.

Everyone knows Lance Armstrong’s story – man with cancer defies the odds and wins the Tour de France a shocking seven consecutive times. But, as the title of Armstrong’s story suggests it’s not about the bike. Instead it is about a different kind of competition. Fighting cancer. Ultimately, as near death moments will do, cancer changed him. It woke him up to the possibilities of a fuller, more meaningful life. He never would have become a philanthropist without the experience of personal pain. It’s Not about the Bike is that journey from hotshot cyclist to a powerhouse with a greater purpose.

Favorite lines: “If there is a defining characteristic of a man as opposed to a boy, maybe it’s patience” (p 65). “During our lives we’re faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope” (p 69). Finally, “We watched the World Series and tried to act like we were interested in the outcome – as much as anybody really cares about baseball before brain surgery” (p 110 – 111).

Author fact(s): Two of my favorite details about Armstrong as the person (and not the writer) is he is also a marathoner (three times) and allegedly agnostic.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23)


Fall Asleep Forgetting

Packard, Georgeann. Fall Asleep Forgetting. New York: Permanent Press, 2010.

I have a love-hate relationship with books like Fall Asleep Forgetting. The problem is Packard’s writing is too good. Like a delicious meal I couldn’t slow down when it came to eating it up; devouring whole chapters at a time. What’s wrong with that? In truth, this is a book meant to be savored slowly. The writing is delectable, deliriously rich and expressive. One minor distraction is character focus is a little out of focus. I would have preferred Claude as the obvious heroine rather than swirled in a mishmash of other incredibly strong personalities. Because Fall Asleep Forgetting really is about Claude and her strange involvement with a married couple, Paul and Sloan, that fact really needs to be teased out. Paul is dying and his wife is bisexual and mentally ill…sort of. Claude is caught up in their relationship until it becomes her relationship, her obsession, but as I mentioned before, she is not the only one. There is nine-year-old Six and her parents Rae and Sonny, Cherry the transvestite owner of the trailer park where most everyone lives and her partner Barton, and elderly Mr. and Mrs. Saugerties. Each one of these characters has a unique and tantalizing story.

Quotes that I really hope are kept: “Once your parents hate you for who you are, the scorn of others in mere child’s play” (p 42), and “I see now that equal parts repulsion and attraction make for the most voracious form of lust” (p 124).

Personal note: I was really excited to see e.e. cummings quoted at the beginning of the chapter called “The Curving Support of Feather Pillows” (p 129). ‘Milly and Maggie and Molly and May’ is a great poem. My only argument would be against calling it a poem about just Maggie because Milly, Molly and May all had important parts.


October 2009 is…

October is a full month of spooky. October is a small 5k charity run and a 10k walk. October is homehome and everything emotional. October is also Mary’s memorial, the death of a few trees (finally) and the end of warmer weather. For books October is the hope of:

  • Crocodile on the Sandbank  by Elizabeth Peters ~ in honor of National Crime Prevention month
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan ~ in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ in honor of October being Group Reading Month
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ in honor of Halloween (sci-fi being a little scary to read)
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle ~ in honor of Halloween ( a story about ghosts)
  • House on the Strand by ~Daphne Du Maurier~  in honor of National Starman Month

For LibraryThing ~ I did get an October Early Review book. As always, I don’t want to name it until I actually see it.