Expecting Adam

Beck, Martha. Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic. Ready by Joyce Bean. Tantor Media Inc., 2012.

Reason read: my mom’s birthday falls in the month of November. Read in her honor.

I love it when overly intellectual people have to rely on unscientific phenomenons like faith and hope and magic. I think being able to let go of factual reasoning and open our minds to blind trust stretches our narrow minded boundaries a little wider. Beck speaks to having a premonition before her son, Adam, was born. There had been almost mystic signs he was not going to be an ordinary child. Throughout Beck’s pregnancy inexplicable events pushed her to believe in decidedly unscientific miracles. The problem is both Beck and her husband, John, were obsessed with facts. Overly driven to be successful (two Harvard degrees each), they couldn’t wrap their brains around giving birth to a Down syndrome baby. Expecting Adam is the story of letting go to perfection; the releasing of ambitions; the saying goodbye to lofty goals…and saying hello to an angel.

As an aside, Beck made some references that I was unfamiliar with, enough so that I needed to look them up and keep track:

  • Deng Xiaping
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

 

Lines I liked, “It works for me to think that I will be lumped together with the right-to-lifers, not to mention every New Age crystal kisser who ever claimed to see an angel in the clouds over Sedona” (p 8), “If we saw people as they really are, the beauty would overwhelm us” (p 308), and “Not I think that the vast majority of us “normal” people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash” (p 317).

By the way, I thought that the word retarded wasn’t political correct and should be avoided at all cost. Or, is it one of those words you can use on yourself and it’s okay? All I know is it was jarring every time I saw it in print.

Book trivia: There is a lovely picture of Martha and Adam on the back inside flap of Expecting Adam. It made me smile.

Author fact: Beck is a Harvard grad, receiving multiple degrees in sociology (B.A., M.A. and a Ph.D). I guess this is what we would call this a serial student.

Nancy said: Nancy said Expecting Adam “is a unique mixture of sophisticated humor, satire, self-deprecation, and spirituality.” She also called it, “hysterically funny” (More Book Lust, p 172).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nagging Mothers, Crying Children” (p 172).


November New

What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:

Fiction:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
  • Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
  • Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.

Nonfiction:

  • Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
  • The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.

Fun: nothing decided yet.

Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.

 


I Dreamed of Africa

Gallman, Kuki. I Dreamed of Africa. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Reason read: Read in honor of Gallman’s birth month.

This has got to be one of the most heart wrenching yet uplifting books I have ever read about one woman’s life experiences in Africa. After divorcing her first husband Kuki marries the widower of a friend (Kuki survives the same car accident that her friend did not). Paolo convinces Kuki and her young son to move to Kenya, a far cry from the life of privilege in Italy. There, Kuki and her son, Emanuele Pirri-Gallman, fall in love with the land, the animals, and the people of Ol Ari Nyiro. Even after Paolo is killed in a tragic accident, Kuki is determined to stay in Africa. Pregnant with his child, Kuki buries Paolo at the ranch and continues to carry out their dreams. Three years later, even after her seventeen year old son dies of a lethal snake bite, Kuki is even more determined to stay on the ranch. She buries Ema next to Paolo and slowly, through grief and time, finds new purpose to her life.

Author fact: So. I was poking around the internet and found out just last year Kuki had been shot twice while trying to defend her land. What the what???

Book trivia: Gallman includes a bevy of beautiful photographs, mostly in color, of her world. Some of the pictures are drop dead gorgeous. Some of the pictures are drop dead tragic, as well.

Nancy said: Nancy included Kuki’s I Dreamed of Africa because it was one example of a writer writing about her life in Africa following World War II (p 76) although the war is never part of Kuki’s story.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dreaming of Africa” (p 76).


The Millstone

Drabble, Margaret. The Millstone. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1965.

Reason read: June is national family month.

Rosamund is pregnant. In her world, this might be okay if she was married and looking to start a family. The problem is, she is a Renaissance literature scholar pursuing her doctorate and living off mommy and daddy while they tour Africa. She only became pregnant right after her first and only sexual encounter. She’s as naive as they come. She had been dating two guys at once and was still a virgin…until she met George (who she thought was gay and therefore had nothing to worry about). It is very telling when she asks herself, “I wondered on how many other serious scores would I find myself ignorant” (p 44). Just wait until you read how she thought she could make herself miscarry.
But, all is not lost. When Rosamund decides to keep the baby and starts to experience motherhood first hand a new personality emerges.

Lines I liked, “The gin kept me gay and undespairing and I thought that I might ring up George and tell him about it” (p 20), “She just stared straight ahead and the word that was written on her face was endurance” (p 75), “I knew something now of the quality of life, and anything in the way of happiness that I should hereafter receive would be based on fact and not hope” (p 158).

Author fact: A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble are sisters.

Book trivia: Drabble writes in pages-long paragraphs that I sometimes found distracting. Of note: there aren’t any chapters so finding good stopping points was tricky.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 6).


Everything You Ever Wanted

Lauren, Jillian. Everything You Ever Wanted: a Memoir. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Reason read: As a member of the Early Review program for LibraryThing I occasionally review uncorrected proofs. This is my book for March/April.

It is safe to say I devoured Everything You Ever Wanted. In the midst of reading four other books I made time for Everything every single day. But, here’s the thing – her writing is so clear, so honest, so raw that I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to savor every page, every sentence, every word (much like I did when I reviewed her earlier work, Pretty).
Lauren wrote Everything You Ever Wanted for her adopted son, Tariku; how she came to be his forever mom, his real mom. But, here’s the beautiful thing about this book – if you know anything about Jillian Lauren you know she has had a colorful past. She is a self proclaimed former addict and slut.  With her tattoos and rocker attitude she doesn’t look like the perfect candidate to adopt a child, much less one with special needs. But Everything You Ever Wanted doesn’t sugarcoat any of her experiences, past or present. It wasn’t enough to say, “hey – I have a rough history but here’s how I got beyond it.” No, she let her past struggles give her strength to deal with new ones. This is a great read for anyone who thinks they “blew it” earlier in life and can’t start over. Even the end of Everything You Ever Wanted has shafts of sunlit hope. Despite her sex & drugs former lifestyle, Lauren and her husband want to adopt for a second time to give Tariku a sibling. By now all the agencies know her story. SPOILER ALERT: she doesn’t tell you if they are successful, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

Confessional: it is so frustrating to review an uncorrected proof! There are so many great sentences I wanted to pull out of Everything You Ever Wanted if nothing more than to say, look at how beautiful this writing is!


Price of Silence

Long, Liza. The Price of Silence: a Mom’s Perspective of Mental Illness. New York: Hudson Street Press, 2014.

Liza Long is a single mother trying to raise a son with a mental illness. She will tell you this fact many times throughout The Price of Silence. Many will recognize her as the author of the blog post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” Price of Silence is the long version (excuse the pun) of that post. This was a hard book to read on so many different levels. I felt that Long was trying to justify the blog post that thrust her into the spotlight. If not justify, then to at least explain it further; to clarify points. I felt she was defending herself against many different misconceptions, the biggest misconception being what it is like to raise a mentally ill child. Long is desperate to make the world understand that there is an unfair stigma attached to the treatment of mental illness (stigma is something else she mentions a lot). A physical injury is treated with urgency while “anything above the neck” is hemmed and hawed over with head scratching and no clear treatment plan. A physical injury has a logical explanation while the violent outburst of an autistic does not. There is a lot of hand wringing that takes place in The Price of Silence but it is effective. I was drawn into Long’s story and felt her frustrations clearly. Long was able to articulate the facts along side her feelings, something that isn’t easy to do while in the midst of the turmoil.

As an aside, I often wonder if Long would have allowed her blog post to be renamed, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” had Mrs. Lanza survived her son’s attack. I feel the post was renamed for shock value and to possibly draw in misinformed reader; the one who read it simply because he or she thought there had been a mistake and the real Mrs. Lanza was still alive. I wanted Long to call the post, “I Could Have Been Adam Lanza’s Mother” (much in the same way Dave Matthews could have been a parking lot attendant. Mr. Matthews is not a parking lot attendant of course, but the point being anything can happen. Lanza’s story could have been Long’s.)

Reason read: As a member of LibraryThing’s Early Review program, this was the June selection. I should note that Price of Silence should go on sale August 28, 2014.

Author fact: Long has a blog here.

Book trivia: This copy of Price of Silence promises an index at publication but I do not know if the final version will include photographs or any other personalization.


Wildwater Walking Club

Cook, Claire. The Wildwater Walking Club. New York: Voice, 2009.

This book was not on my list. Not indexed in Book Lust, More Book Lust or Book Lust To Go. It wasn’t on an Early Review list for LibraryThing. I didn’t request it from anyone, either. So. Here’s how I came to read this book. It just showed up on my doorstep. Just like that. Here’s the back story as far as I understand it: I have mentioned Just ‘Cause more than once in this blog (and even more in the other one) so, if you have been paying attention you know that Just ‘Cause is near and dear to my heart. It is a nonprofit organization that supports two different charities, the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden and the Massachusetts General Hospital Oncology Center. More organically, we are a group of women who walk 60 miles every year to raise money. Like I said, it’s very near and dear to my heart and soul. Along the 60 miles (over the course of three days) we women make amazing memories and cultivate fabulous friendships.

One such amazing friend calls herself “the other Heidi S” because there are two in the group. One Heidi is bad enough, but to have two, both with the same last initial….well, it’s an endless joke. This Heidi S and I *must* have spent some time talking books. There are so many different conversations that happen on the walk I can’t really be sure. But, this Heidi S sends Miss Stella Grace this book, The Wildwater Walking Club with no explanation. Completely out of the blue. I haven’t a clue. I really don’t remember having even the smallest of conversations about this book. We could have. I’m sure we did. Really, so much stuff is shared I can’t keep it all straight. (The one thing I do remember finding out is we both went to Pies on Parade for the first time last year…but that’s a story for another time.)

Anyway, in the mail arrives this cute package, tied up in brown string. It’s Claire Cook’s Wildwater Walking Club and I read it in three days. Bing Bang Boom Done. It’s cute. The plot is super simple. Noreen is a woman who just lost her job and her boyfriend all at once. Realizing she is a corporate has-been with no personal life and a little extra weight she decides to take up walking. Along the way she recruits two other women from her neighborhood. Before long they have formed a club, are planning trips and vandalizing the neighborhood together. Of course, it’s chick lit so you have to have a little man trouble called dating, a little mother grief and a lot of laughs. It’s a cute book from the woman who brought you Must Love Dogs (Okay everyone! Time for a collective “OH!).

I could relate to Noreen on a few levels. Her relationship with her mother is strained. She thinks mom is constantly comparing her marriage-less, childless life to her siblings (all married with children, all leading very full lives). Her job was all that she knew and until she was laid off she didn’t realize how much it was affecting her personal life. And the one thing I’ve always known, walking makes everything better on so many different levels.