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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.

Carry On Book Review

August 22, 2016

Carry On Book Review | MothersCircle.netDear Mother’s Circle Readers,

Here’s a book you’ve got to read: Carry On by Lisa Fenn. I am trying hard not to be a book review site, but I’ve been reading like crazy (I’m kicking butt in my Goodreads Challenge) and the deeper I get into this being-an-author thing, the more I’m connecting with other writers and find myself committing – and volunteering – to do reviews.

As a parent, you’ll be grateful for this book review. I devoured Carry On and found myself underlining and marking passages with hearts, stars, smiley faces and even some tear drops. I loved this book and its powerful story; I’d recommend it as a family read or an independent read for older kids and teens. There are so many things to discuss, so many life lessons and conversation starters.

Carry On tells the story of how an ESPN journalist featured two wrestlers, each with their own disability, one blind and one without legs, and found herself becoming entwined in their lives. Eventually Fenn became their mentor, their family, and their Guardian Angel as Dartanyon wrote on his emergency contact form describing her “Relationship to Student.”

I’m almost not sure how to begin, what to share with you about this inspiring, heart-wrenching, hopeful story. It made me reflect on so much in life, in our society, and on our current journey within the foster care system. I was moved by the challenges these boys faced, by their growth and insights, like this quote from Leroy.

History is like gravity. It can pull you down. We wanted to succeed, but we needed someone to show us how – someone who believed our potential was more important than our past.
– Leroy

Carry On is the evidence that mentoring works, that caring about another person – really investing in someone – makes a difference. I love this video from Josh Shipp and this story made me think of his video: Every kid is one caring adult away from success. For Leroy and Dartanyon, Lisa Fenn became that one caring adult.

Questions bubbled and and I pondered the effects of poverty, how long a person carries trauma, the power of forgiveness and open-mindedness and many other issues. A good book is certainly one that prods thought and pushes us to see the world in new ways.

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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