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Book Review: Wally Lamb – I’ll Take You There

December 14, 2016

ill-take-you-there-coverAbout I’ll Take You There
by Wally Lamb

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper; First Printing edition (November 22, 2016)

In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer’s life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit and in some cases relive scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

My review

I have loved Wally Lamb’s work for years and had the joy of meeting him this past October at Reading With Robin’s Evening With Authors. He is a gracious, fun, and kind man; it was wonderful to meet the man behind the words.

I’ll Take You There visits many locals that I know from “real life” and that drew my attention right away, it’s always fun to read about the places we know. My parents attend plays at the Garde Theatre in New London, Connecticut, my home state. Incidentally, today marks the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings, I grew up in Newtown and so much of who I am and what I love is wrapped up and tied into Newtown. My prayers and love are with the families who lost children and loved ones that horrible December 14th, and my prayers and love are with all those who have their hearts still in Newtown in any way.

So that side-track isn’t actually unlike Felix, Lamb’s protagonist who has a voice that is friendly and conversational, who is at times distracted into other thoughts and stories – or by ghosts. I’m not a big fan of the supernatural so this was harder for me to comfortably accept as a reader, though eventually it didn’t jar me so much. It was a creative tool to give us backstory and depth into his family relationships, to interact with the past in a meaningful way and allow us to live historical scenes with the characters.

In Twenty Years Book Review

July 1, 2016

In Twenty Years book review | MothersCircle.netI had the privilege of reading Allison Winn Scotch’s new book, In Twenty Years, before today’s publication date. I have loved Allison’s other books including, The Theory of Opposites, so I dove into In Twenty Years eagerly and it didn’t disappoint.

The story is about six close friends who live together in college (shout out to Penn, my brother’s alma mater). Their “connector” (don’t we all have friends who keep us linked and in touch?) has them all write a letter to their older selves, twenty years from senior year. Now, as those of us in our 40s know, when you’re in your twenties, the forties seem far off and kinda old, but boy it comes upon us quickly.

The book begins with their letters, which we don’t get to read until the characters reread them in about twenty years.

We were twenty-one. We were allowed to believe impossible things.

In Twenty Years explores the idea of what happens during the years in which we become adults: What happens to friendships, our ideals, our confidence, our goals and aspirations? Can we change and if so, do we change or are we the same really? What secrets do we keep from one another and from ourselves?

Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo – Book Review

March 17, 2016

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo Reveiw | MothersCircle.netA story of immigrants and adoption, a mother’s journey and self-exploration, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman, was a book filled with gorgeous, rich sentences, and the requirement of some close reading.

The conflict between superstitions and traditions and the immersion into another culture, even decades later, is powerful, as are the discoveries of what lies within relationships. Familial bonds, marital and in-law relationships and the dissection of what it really means to be a mother, a parent, a family.

Fear and loneliness, blame and self doubt, lies and truths all tangle together throughout Maya’s tortured journey.

Fishman crafts sentences that forced me to underline and reread them to savor the just-right combinations of words. Some examples:

“Alex rose, the sofa giving him up with a sigh,”

“‘For my father, there’s no gift without a con wrapped around it. You divide what he says by half and subtract, and you start getting closer. He speaks in Fahrenheit, but the truth is closer to Celsius.'”

“…the value of pragmatic deceit…”

“The night shift regularly put him in acquaintance with the glitches and flaws of human design.”

“…every obsession withers if you just hold down the obsessive…”

“…when he agreed to unshell himself, the world loved him.”

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