Wednesday, September 26, 2012

January First

Wow!  Captivating story of a father whose small child exhibits symptoms and is eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic.  Michael Schofield takes us through about three years in the life of his family as they grapple with his severely disturbed daughter and all the ups and downs of caring for someone you love who causes you so much pain. 

I could not put this story down. I turned the pages to find out if they ever felt relief, if they ever got a correct diagnosis, or if they adjusted her medication so that she could be calm and stop hearing voices.  I turned pages to make sure Michael and his wife stayed married and if their son Bodhi survived the onslaught of sister malice.

It was a raw energetic work, and yes, it was written too soon.  The girl in the story January "Jani" Schofield is probably not even 10 years old yet, so I know there is a lot more to this story and I do think given time, a different story might be written.  But in this instance, the recentness of the story, works.  There is a real immediacy that makes my pulse quicken.  This tale needed to be told.  January is one of the youngest children to be diagnosed as schizophrenic.  It does not normally present in children so young.

The author has produced a blog so that interested readers can follow along with  the progress his daughter makes and how is family is coping.  

This is a stunning, gut wrenching, draining story of a father's struggle to maintain his own sanity, keep his family safe and try to do right by his little girl.  I can't recommend it enough.  It was out in print on August 7th so you can probably find it on-line or at your local bookseller.  I am glad to lend mine as well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Le Road Trip

One of my favorite books  of the past few years was a little talked about memoir/sketchbook about a traveling woman who decided to stay put: When Wanderers Cease to Roam.  Her book and drawings and musings about life off the road were so captivating and so thought provoking that it sent me on several writing journeys of my own.  I give it as a gift quite frequently, and I use it for prompts for the many writing circles I run.

When Vivian Swift published this second book modeled much after the first, I knew without looking that I wanted a copy.  She recounts her roadtrip to France that she takes with her new husband.  What they see, where they go and those little travel adventures you have when visiting a foreign country.

Le Road Trip: A Traveler's Journal of Love and France is much like Wanderers in that it is a beautiful book with quirky observations, lovely sketches of all the author does and sees, a breakdown of the phases of a trip from beginning to the inevitable bad travel days to the parting.  This journal is full of reminiscences of past trips, quotes, and the little details that many over look: a mermaid door, the color of the sunset, a cat at a rooming house,  a particular cheese and wine at a cafe.

Ms Swift is taking a post wedding trip with her new husband, a man who is clearly her kindred spirit, so this book in a way is something of a love story--or perhaps a love tribute.   Because of the eclectic, poetic nature of the book, I am a little unclear as to how long the trip was and some of the day to day itinerary was a tad jumbled.  But it really did not matter.  The whole journal was a tribute to adventurers and travelers every where.  It made me a lot nostalgic for the road and anxious to try my hand at my high school french in Paris.  Everything is better with croissant.

Fun fact: did you know that France is the number one tourist destination by far?

This is another lovely book worth owning. Buy it if you can.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

All gone: a memoir with refreshments

There is a scene somewhere in the middle of this book that I can't quite shake.  The author is a teenager-frustrated with math homework, and stands up and makes a gesture at the skies as if to say, "I give up."  The author's father mistakenly thinks his daughter is going to hit him and punches her in the face.  She retreats to her room and her mother comes in and demands that she go apologize, "your father thought you were going to hit him first," she says.

I recount the scene because it is shocking and because it illustrates a bit about what was off about this memoir.  All Gone, a memoir ostensibly about Alex Witchel's mother's descent into depression and dementia, had this strange undercurrent of a story about her relationship with her father that was only hinted at and seemed the true story of this memoir.

Ms Witchel clearly loves her mother beyond all measure and is devastated to watch her formerly strong, independent, educated mother fall into mental disarray.  It is a very true story to which many of us can relate.  Her writing is clear and unadorned and when she finally settles down to tell the story, during the last half of the book, it comes through quite sadly and clearly.

But up until then the book seemed to be all over the place, a bit about childhood, a bit about nana, a bit about how she got to be a writer, some food writing,  and little stories and anecdotes about her horrible relationship with her father.

It felt not quite ready to be written.  This is a complaint I have made frequently about memoirs, and I think this is a perfect example.  At the time of this writing it appears that her mother and her father are still alive. The story feels like it is still in full swing to me and not over yet. It also explains why she may not have explored as much about her relationship with her father as she should have.  The missing stories about him could fill another chapter or two.

The author is a food writer by trade and includes food memories and recipes throughout which I always love. I am definitely going to try her potato latkes.

I recommend this book if you have a parent going through end of life issues related to dementia or if you love food memories and recipes wound up in the narrative. It is an early review book and I would be glad to share it with anyone who asks.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Found Book

A friend found this on a book swap table in my office, and when I expressed interest she handed it over to me.  It was a short, sweet, afternoon read.   Nora Ephron wrote a lot of award winning screenplays and books, most notably, one of my favorite movies: When Harry Met Sally. The observational every day humor she uses in the movies comes through in her short essays.  The last few chapters clearly point to the fact that she knew she was dying, so finishing the book leaves a little lump.  Her humor addressed aging, technology and memory and parts left me laughing out loud.

Ms Ehpron died this past summer of pneumonia brought on by leukemia with which she was diagnosed in 2006.

Fun side note from wikipedia: Nora was married for a few years to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame.  She always knew who deep throat was and would tell anyone who asked. No one believed her.

Good airplane read or rainy day on the porch.  I remember Nora Ephron.