Disaster Falls

Gerson, Stephane. Disaster Falls: a Family Story. New York: Crown, 2017.

Reason read: a selection for the Early Review Program of LibraryThing.

Grief is hard to explain to another individual. As a listener, unless you have experienced the kind of trauma that changes your whole life it is hard to wrap your brain around it. How does one comprehend an emotion like grief? You may recognize pieces of trauma like how small recognitions in a foreign town you swear you have never visited before give you a sense of deja vu.
Gerson’s story might be redundant in its telling, but that is a part of the grieving process; to tell the story as many times as possible to anyone who will listen. You go over details, searching for truths; for explanations and when you have exhausted your examination you do it again and again, hoping for a different outcome. It’s a never ending cycle of trying to find the Why in tragedy. Especially when the real tragedy of the situation is they (the Gerson family) had real misgivings about the falls before even running the rapids. They had doubt and doubt is the great provoker of the “what if?” game.

I connected with Gerson on one small detail: how chronology becomes “before the accident/after the accident”. For me, everything relating to time became either “before dad died” or “after dad died”. If someone gave me a date I would quickly calculate which side of death my father was on. I say this as a matter of fact, but it is a product of my grief.

Confessional: my aunt lost her son five years ago. In the days, weeks, months and even several years following his death I seriously wondered if she would die of a broken heart and my family would be burying her as well. Her grief was profound and in some ways, complete. It took over her entire existence. I can only imagine Gerson suffered the same hollowing out as my aunt. As my grandmother once said after losing my father, “no parent is supposed to bury a child.”

As an aside: people have been reviewing Disaster Falls since late September so I feel a I am a little late to the party. Not as late as the people who will win an advanced copy in the next month or so, but late just the same.

Author fact: Gerson lost his father in the exact opposite manner of losing his son. Whereas as his son was taken suddenly, Gerson’s father planned his death to the minute.

Book trivia: no photos

September ’10 was…

Sorry – forgot to post this!
September. As the song goes, “wake me when September ends” (thanks, Green Day). I got married in September just so I would have one happy memory (my wedding was freakin’ awesome). It is the one good thing to look forward to celebrating each year. Except this year. Considering how bad this September has been I am amazed I even remembered I got married in this damned month. Between Indiana being sick dying (on our anniversary no less), the anniversary of my father’s passing (18 years), my grandfather still being in hospice and my other insane family issues I can’t sleep straight. I don’t know when I’ll find mind rest again. But, here are the books that kept me somewhat sane:

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre ~ I feel bad not being able to finish (or even like) this book. For years I’ve wondered about it.
  • Moo by Jane Smiley ~ was this ever a movie? I still can’t get over how caustic it was!
  • Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ this should have been a movie, too!
  • Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott ~ just told my mom about this book last night. Something I would reread if I had children.
  • Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle ~ this had me believing…for a minute.
  • The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty ~ my biggest head-scratcher this month. Seems like I have read this before somewhere.
  • The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler ~ it is interesting the way people have influence over others without wanting (or even trying). I read this in four days time.
  • The Heartbreak Hotel by Anne Rivers Siddon ~ a little redundant but I read this in honor of back to school month and because I had it ready on a shelf.
  • Report From Ground Zero by Dennis Smith ~ because I haven’t been sad enough

For LibraryThing’s Early Review Program:

  • Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann ~ this was intense!

I was supposed to get another book but I haven’t seen it yet. I am not going to even mention the title in case it never arrives. Even if it does comes I won’t be reading it in September.

For fun (started):

  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver ~ my husband bought this for me as an anniversary present because he knows I love, love, love Ms. Kingsolver’s work. And to think I didn’t get him anything. I did end up making one of this favorite meals for the very first time, chicken pot pie.

Between Parent and Child

Ginott, Dr. Haim G. Between Parent and Child: the Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1965.

This book starts off with the best introduction, “No parent wakes up in the morning planning to make a child’s life miserable” (p 1). As soon as I read that I knew I was in for a good read. Between Parent and Child is all about psychological perception and what you say (as a parent), how you say it, and even what you don’t say, can influence a child both at that moment and years down the road. What Dr. Ginott offers up is common sense advice about how to communicate with small children and even teenagers. His advice is no-nonsense and extremely practical. It is so straightforward it seems simple, a no-brainer, if you will. The ah-ha moment is not in what to say, it’s how to say it to avoid conveying a message you do not intend. Choosing tone as well as the right words are crucial to emotionally intelligent communication with a child. My one naysayer comment? Many, many times Dr. Ginott suggests mirroring the child’s emotion to illustrate understanding. The go-to catch phrases are “You wish you could play with Sam,” “You wish you could have ice cream for dinner,” and, “You’re angry about losing the game.” Here’s where I would get annoyed. I dislike anyone telling me how I feel. As a small child I probably would have connected with someone “understanding” me… but as a teenager I wouldn’t appreciate dad calmly regurgitated what I just angrily spit out.

I would recommend Between Parent and Child to anyone – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers. In short, I would recommend this book to anyone who is around children of all ages. If I were planning to have a child I would also plan on reading Between Parent and Child several times over. Once while pregnant and definitely more often during my child’s formative years. Maybe even during labor just for good measure.

Favorite quote, “Often after getting angry at their parents for not listening to their argument, children will present their case in writing” (p 56). Yes, but what Dr. Ginott doesn’t mention is that after getting said missive parents often ignore it.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Babies: a Reader’s Guide” (p 30).

September ’10 is…

September is the storm before the calm – literally since Earl is raging up the coast! School is back in session. A new hire is on the premises. Things are a little crazy right now. Here are how things look for books at the moment:

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre ~ in honor of the Cold War starting in September
  • Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott ~ in honor of National Family Month
  • Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Pyle ~ in honor of Bigfoot being spotted on September 16, 2007 in Pennsylvania (yay for the Northeast Sasquatch!)
  • Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ a companion read to Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.
  • Moo by Jane Smiley ~ in honor of school being back in session

I’m also in the process of reading a few food books and an Early Review book. More on all of that later.

Nothing Right

Nelson, Antonya. Nothing Right: short stories. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Antonya Nelson’s humor comes at you in a slow and subtle way, almost like a Mona Lisa sly smirk. The entire collection of short stories is what a peepshow is to an adolescent boy; the reader is allowed in the living rooms and lives of the characters for only so long before the curtain is dropped and the scene goes dark. Nothing Right leaves you wanting more and always asking, “what happened next?” The perfect hook for a sequel. The one drawback to leaving so much to the imagination? The characters didn’t stay long enough for me to truly garner an interest in them personally. I wanted to know what happened next in terms of plot but not character. All of the stories circle around family dynamics; the good, the bad and most certainly, the ugly.

  • “Nothing Right” (title story) starts tongue-in-cheek although the reader is yet to see the irony. Hannah stares at brochures about taking care of babies while her own baby, 15 year old trouble-maker Leo, sees the district attorney  about a bomb threat he made at school. Hannah’s troubles only deepen when Leo goes on to father a child…
  • “Party of One” is a rather bizarre story about a woman trying to convince a married man to end his affair…with her sister.
  • “Obo” bothered me the most. I didn’t understand Abby at all. A pathological liar, she convinces her professor to take her to his wife’s family home for Christmas; all because she has fallen in love with the professor’s wife.
  • “Falsetto” – Michelle tries to cope with her parents’s devastating car accident while caring for her much younger brother and simultaneously re-evaluating her perfect relationship with her boyfriend.
  • “Kansas” is about a family’s drama when 17 year-old niece Kay-Kay disappears with her three year-old cousin.
  • “Biodegradable” is about a married woman who has an affair with a scientist.
  • “DWI” is about a married woman who loses her lover in a drunk-driving accident.
  • “Shauntrelle” is about a married woman who admits to an affair thinking her lover will be happy with taking her in. She is wrong and loses both men.
  • “Or Else” is about a man who misses the life he had with his childhood friend’s family so much that he pretends he is still part of their lives.
  • “We and They” is about a family in competition with their neighbors until they adopt a child who sides with the enemy.
  • People People” is about two sisters who couldn’t be any more different from one another.

I Go Back

Olds, Sharon. “I Go Back to May 1937.” The Gold Cell. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

I must have read “I Go back to May 1937” a dozen times. It’s so personal, so haunting, so intriguing. The narrator (presumably Olds) wishes she could go back to the time just before her parents got married just so she could stop them from getting that together. She wants to warn them of the hurt they will cause each other and their child. Instinctively you want to know more – hurt each other how? Physically? Mentally? Is she talking about divorce? She does say “he is the wrong man.” But!But.But, to stop her parents from falling in love and getting married is to undo her very existence. It’s a dilemma of curious proportions.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).

Good Enough Parent

Bettelheim, Bruno. A Good Enough Parent. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

It’s funny that this was written in the year I graduated from high school and went onto college. I consider 1987 one of the biggest “brink” years – standing on the brink of something bigger. However, reading this 21 years later reminds me of something else: homework!

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids (and the fact I’ll never have kids) that I didn’t find A Good Enough Parent all that interesting. Instead it was rather dry and psychological. Nancy Pearl says this book is a must for any new parent. I honestly do not know when any new parent would have the time! Pearl also goes on to say, “Be forewarned: Bettelheim’s perspective is very psychoanalytical” (Book Lust p 30). He does make the text a little easier (interesting) by including personal anecdotes and compelling stories to punctuate his point.

Lines I like: “None of this holds true for what happens between a parent and child. Anything that occurs in their relationship is heir to a long and complicated history” (p 5).
“I feel that a parent’s most important task is to get a feeling for what things may mean to his child” (p 14).
“Parental anxiety makes life very difficult for parent and child, since the child responds to the anxiety of the parents with even more severe anxiety” (p 41).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Babies: A Readers Guide” (p 30).