Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday Salon: Hospital

You haven't seen much of me this week.

I've spent last nine days with my mom at the hospital at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.  I will undoubtedly be spending the next days, weeks, months helping my mom and dad at their home.

I'm still reading. I'm still blogging. I'm here. Be patient with me.

While I have these hours today, while my aunt is here helping out today, let me catch up on the reviews of the books I've read:

History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky
Bialosky uses the diaries and letters of her younger sister, Kim, to tell the story of Kim's life and death. Kim was only twenty-one when she fought with her boyfriend and chose to kill herself. Bialosky has reflected on the events for twenty years before writing this book, a story that includes little poems and reflections from Kim's writings and little stories from the author's own life. It's a poignant memoir.

Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg, your first half-dozen books were keepers for me; I could read lines from these books over and over again and they would make me cry and laugh at the same time, every time. Not so your last three novels. (I feel terribly sad telling you this. Yet I feel I must tell you this.)

You start with a promising premise: A man and woman marry, both feeling great misgivings about the wedding, and later divorce. But it never felt like you loved these characters like I felt you loved your characters in past books. And that's what I thought was missing from the last few books.

I probably will continue to try your novels, but if it continues to feel like you are just going through the motions, I probably won't finish them. (Please know that I write this painful review only because I loved your first books so much.) Honestly, the design of the cover is the best part of this book.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
This is a zinger of a novel. (And why, why, why, I ask, am I reading this novel at this time? So mysterious.) No one is looking after Mom and, after a while, Mom just wanders off. Her family doesn't even realize she is missing until she has been lost for some time.

And where does she go? No one knows for sure, but her family sees her, or what they think is her, everywhere.

Told alternately from the point-of-view of the various family members, this is a powerful story. I think I would love it even if I wasn't trying harder than I've ever tried in my life to Look After Mom myself.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Do they get any sadder than this story? It's the story of a family, trying to survive in the wilds of 1870 Texas while the head-of-the-household is off herding cattle, who takes up with an old ugly mutt. The older son, Travis, is trying to protect his mother and little brother from wild bulls and boar coons and bears and sickness and hunger. In the process the family comes to love an old good-for-nothing dog. (And you know what happens....I'm not giving anything away, right?) The death of Old Yeller has to be one of the most painful scenes in childhood literature.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
A young girl and her dad---an elementary school librarian---decide to make a vow to read together every night. And they do so, extending the original promise from 100 nights in a row to just seeing how long "The Streak" could last. Amazingly, the girl and her dad ended up reading 3,218 nights in a row, until the girl went off to college.

Alice Ozma (Do you see how much reading impacted these lives? Even our author's name!) tells the story of the reading adventures she and her dad shared for all those years in a lovely story of the power of sharing books.

Rescue by Anita Shreve
Peter Webster is an EMT. One night, he runs across a drunk driver who has smashed her car into a tree. Webster finds himself drawn to this woman and he begins to visit her and help her. Before he knows it, he has a child with her and marries her. The woman, Sheila, soon abandons her husband and young daughter.

Fast forward to present day and we find Webster trying to deal with his teenage daughter, now deeply troubled. Webster reconnect with Sheila in an attempt to save his daughter.

You know what you get with Anita Shreve. She will not let you down with this book.

Photo Op: 52 Inspirational Projects for the Adventurous Image-Maker by Kevin Meredith
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart

Though I've signed up for one and attempted to sign up for another, I haven't actually attended a photography class yet. It will happen one of these days. In the meantime, I'll focus on reading wonderful photography books like the two I've read in the last few weeks. These books are filled with great ideas for great picture taking; I probably could just skip the photography class and try out ideas from these books.

And that's it for the reviews. I could certainly use some light reading at this time in my life. I'd love to hear your suggestions.

And don't forget about
my June Giveaway here at Readerbuzz...

Anna and the French Kiss!


  1. I hope all is going well for your mom. She is definitely at the best hospital with the best doctors for her diagnosis!! I love reading your reviews and plan to download The History of a Suicide. It sounds rather interesting and I had a friend who committed suicide, too. So, maybe it will shed light on such a horrible ordeal. I am sad to hear about Elizabeth Berg's book. I love following author's whose work I first read and I know this is hard for you, too.

  2. My prayers are with your mom and you and your whole family. I know it's not easy. I will always be here to read your blog whenever you are able to post. Sometimes we need to step away to attend to what's really important.

    Love, Belle

  3. Having spent way too much time at MDA with my wife the last four years, I wish you and your parents all the best.

  4. I'm thinking of you and your family and hope that you are all being looked after and surrounded with love.

    There are some great books here, I now want to read History of a Suicide and Reading Promise.

  5. My best to your mom. You definitely need some much lighter reading. Try these:
    Exposure by Therese Fowler
    American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
    The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
    Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews

    Don't forget to take care of yourself too!


  6. I am sending you good vibes for your mom and for your family! Cancer is a really rough thing; we got the chance to be there for my grandpa while he went through chemo, but my grandma's cancer took her before she could undergo treatment. *hugs*

    Glad you are reading. Take a little time for yourself. :)

  7. Yes,good thoughts for you and your mom. And I applaud your reading choice of Rescue...loved it. As someone recommended, Exposure is a great book to read right now, and I see Summer Rental on that person's list. I have it on my Kindle now. I've enjoyed Mary Kay Andrews' books.

    Take care...and here's MY SUNDAY SALON POST

  8. Sending positive thoughts your way. Hoping for a full and complete recovery for your mum.

  9. It's good that you can be there for your mother. Hang in there. And if things get bad, maybe get some Maeve Binchy. Her interconnected novels that center around Tara Road always make me happier.

  10. My best to you and your family.

  11. So sorry to hear your mum Debbie. You sure do need some lighter reads! I haven't heard of History of a Suicide before. It certainly does sound intense, and represents the toll a suicide takes on a family, that her sister has ruminated on this for more than 20 years. Old Yeller was fantastic. I'm interested in The Reading Promise, I'm still reading to my 10 year old, although not every night now. It's such a joy.

  12. So sorry to hear about your thoughts are with you and your family as you navigate this difficult time.
    Seems like you've been reading some heavy stuff lately -- The Reading Promise is one that I've wanted to read since I first heard about it; I'm glad to see that you found it to be "lovely"

  13. I'm praying for your family. That can not be easy.
    My mother loves reading Anita Shreve. I haven't read any of her work myself, but I may pick one up someday :]

  14. I'm so sorry to hear what's going on with your family. I'm keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  15. I'm really sorry to hear about your mom.

    Wishing you and your family all the best.

  16. Hope your mom is doing better - wishing the best to you and your family.

  17. I used to use Old Yeller with my sixth graders. It's a wonderful book, but I had to give it up. They just couldn't take it. Even when I pointed out to them that we knew what's going to happen from the very first paragraph because the author tells us. It was just too much for us all in the end.

    It sounds like you have a long road ahead. I hope you'll be able to find some refuge here. It can be nice to have a break from it all in cyberspace.

  18. I'm sorry to hear about your mother.

    Your first three books sound great...

  19. It's so tough watching your parents age and having to take over the role of caregiver for them. I hope you find some light reading and things go well for all of you.

  20. Thinking of you and your family. Hang in there!

  21. I hope everything goes well with your parents. I'm keeping you all in my thoughts.

  22. Deb, very sorry to hear about your mom's illness. I went though that with my mom as well. Stay strong.


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