Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss

1768805308_1791358539Rebecca and Alex.  The 196os.  Pasadena, California.  The Autobiography of Us is a tale of growing up, becoming best friends, betrayal,  moving away, and never being able to sever a friendship.

Rebecca is the daughter of parents who, with great effort, appear to be wealthier and happier than they actually are.  Rebecca does everything expected of her.  She doesn’t have a best friend until Alex appears at her high school and despite her immediate popularity, becomes Rebecca’s best friend.  Their friendship is complex;  Rebecca and Alex are opposites in so many ways, yet they complete each other and they save each other.  Rebecca is a good stereotype for the 1950s, while Alex reflects the 1960s.

They follow different paths as they go to college, and there is a life changing betrayal, but then most betrayals are.  Even that is not enough to break the bond between these two women.  After college, they marry and move on, they have their successes and disappointments, often thinking of the other.  Years later, they are reunited. 

As I read, I became increasingly intrigued, often flipping back thinking I had missed a detail.  Sloss tells the story onion style, peeling back layer after layer until, at the end, I finally understood.  While this isn’t really a happily ever after tale, it is an interesting statement on love and friendship, and the bonds that time and distance can’t erase.  Worth the read…

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there was an old woman by Hallie Ephron

15818191Evie Ferrante is resigned when she gets the call from her sister about their mother.  She knows it is her turn to take care of her, Ginger, her older sister,  has been doing most of the care-taking of late, but the call couldn’t have come at a worse time with Evie’s big exhibition only months away.  Nevertheless, when Evie arrives at her childhood home she is shocked to see just how dilapidated it has become, inside and out.  As she tries to make the house somewhat habitable, Evie begins to find things that just don’t make sense, like the brand new flat-screen television on the wall,  all the empty expensive bottles of liquor in the garage and then there were the brown envelopes stuffed with cash…

Evie is unable to get any answers from her mother who is in and out of consciousness in the hospital.  While at home, Evie rekindles her friendship with her elderly next door neighbor Mina Yetner, who herself has been having memory lapses that she is unable to explain.  Before Mina’s nephew convinces her to go into a retirement community, Evie needs Mina’s help figuring out what is going on with her mother and the entire seaside community.

Hallie Ephron is the  Edgar award nominated author of “Never Tell a Lie”.  This is mostly a novel of suspense with a little mystery although it is fairly clear from the beginning that someone is up to no good.  Ephron uses standard ingredients-a series of events that become more and more sinister, strong characters and character relationships and a straightforward plot.  However, what really gets you reading and keeps you reading are Ephron’s strong relatable characters that are easy to identify with, so you want to finish the story, delay dinner, stay up late…This is a fun entertaining read.

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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

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Another delicious read…Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is the fictionalized autobiography of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, from her days as a privileged teen through her tumultuous years married to the author of The Great Gatsby, to her final years in an institution.  Theirs was a passionate love story, always against her parents wishes, and despite their wild life, Scott’s alcoholism,  money problems, and infidelities.  Zelda often is portrayed as crazy and the source of her husband’s troubles.  Fowler shows there is more to Zelda’s story that parties with famous people, public scenes and frequent travel. 

What I found interesting was that though Zelda was creative and talented in her own right, she had to publish her work as if in collaboration with her husband.  Her mental health issues would likely have been different with today’s treatment and attitudes.  Zelda appeared to love being a mother, but rarely spent time with her daughter Scottie, leaving her care almost exclusively to nannies.   Much of her public life was an act to try to “be” the characters in Scott’s books–she was the Lindsey Lohan of her time. 

With the movie Gatsby coming out soon, this is the perfect book to whet your appetite.

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Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother

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I preface this book recommendation by saying I will pretty much read anything Linda Greenlaw writes–  I’ve been a fan since a friend invited me to join her at a reading for The Hungry Ocean.   If you have a chance to hear her speak, do.  She is fantastic.

Lifesaving Lessons is the latest installment in her episodic memoirs and relays her experience as a legal guardian for “Mariah,” a teenager who runs away from her abuser while living on Isle Au Haut.  Greenlaw doesn’t sugarcoat anything in this candid account; she also does not overdo it or try to shock you any more than she is shocked by what Mariah has survived.  She is upfront with her doubts and misgivings about her role, as well as with her determination to do what is right.  You begin to understand the depth of  the strength of her island community as well as the unsettling and no longer trusting feelings that come from realizing they are living with a predator in their midst and in need of healing.

In the acknowledgements, Greenlaw says telling this story is self-serving (book deal) but I would disagree.   Part of Greenlaw’s rising to the occasion is telling the story.   Character is built and heroes are made by doing the right thing, and that is rarely the easier choice.  I have admired Greenlaw for her no nonsense determination and her many successes, from fishing to writing, but have a new admiration for her “accidental mother” ing skills.  This is well worth the read.

 

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