Librarian review: A mother’s reckoning : living in the aftermath of tragedy

From Andrea Kalinowski
Author: Sue Klebold
Title:   A mother’s reckoning : living in the aftermath of tragedy

“I am tired of being strong. I can’t be strong anymore. I can’t face or do anything. I’m lost in a deep chasm of sorrow. I have 17 phone messages and don’t have the energy to listen to them. Dylan’s room is just as the law enforcement people left it, and I can’t face putting it in order,” this was Sue Klebold’s journal entry of May 1999. In A mother’s reckoning: living in the aftermath of tragedy by Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan discusses the issues which brought Dylan to the point of committing the Columbine shooting.

Sue Klebold is boldly honest in this thought-provoking book which is partly memoir and partly exhortation to view our loved ones, most especially our pre-teens and teens, as vulnerable to brain health issues. Sue would further like to change the terminology “mental health” to “brain health” as she sees this as a way of removing the stigmatization associated with individuals suffering mental disease. Sue hopes that with this change, people would view the brain as just another organ and, therefore, follow a regular health routine of continuous wellness checks. In hindsight, she recognizes signs which she attributed to normal teen behavior as being indicative of depression such as excessive sleep, irritability, etc. She does not use this as an excuse for Dylan’s behavior. Sue maintains throughout her memoir that Dylan, even though he should have been in treatment, had choices and that he made disastrous ones. Once I started this memoir, I could not tear myself away from its pages.

Primates of Park Avenue : a memoir

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author: Wednesday Martin, Ph.D.

Title:   Primates of Park Avenue : a memoir

Would you be surprised to know that an anthropologist moved to a populated area, studied the natives, and found herself starting to blend in with them – and that this populated area is the Upper East Side of Manhattan? That’s exactly what happened to Wednesday Martin. She found herself in an area where you couldn’t swing a Birkin handbag without hitting a trophy wife – an unfriendly trophy wife, to boot. The “natives” were snooty, obsessed with their bodies and wardrobes and emotionally cruel to a newcomer. Author Martin unexpectedly finds her views becoming increasingly influenced by theirs, much to her astonishment. Yet, when Martin sustains a tragic loss, she finds the very same women rallying around her and providing a surprising – and welcome – amount of emotional support. Could it be that we are all really members of the same tribe – or will our social and financial differences always keep us apart? Decide for yourself when you read this interesting and often humorous true story.

Staff Review: Do no harm : stories of life, death, and brain surgery

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Henry Marsh

Title:  Do no harm : stories of life, death, and brain surgery

Do no harm: stories of life, death, and brain surgery by Henry Marsh was an engrossing read. One point which I found especially intriguing is that the author admits his fallibility. Henry Marsh is a British neurosurgeon. He has worked in private practice and in the NHS (National Health Service). In addition, Henry has been on both sides of the operating table at various times in his life. His own son, a mere infant at the time of the diagnosis, needed a tumor removed and Henry himself underwent surgery for retinal detachment. Henry also broke his leg. Being on both sides of the operating table has given him an understanding of the levels of patience some of his patients require as they wait for and then undergo various examinations and surgeries. Dr. Marsh admits that he has performed surgeries against his better judgment. These surgeries were mainly an appeasement to the patient and/or the patient’s families who had difficulty accepting that nothing more could be done for their loved one(s). In reading Dr. Marsh’s memoir, I got the impression that he does not feel that life should be torturous, that sometimes the best thing to do is to let go. To my way of thinking, we treat, in general, our pets with more compassion than we treat our fellow human beings. We are allowed to euthanize our pets but our fellow human beings are sometimes subjected to heroic medical efforts without consideration being given to the quality and not quantity of life. What does it matter if a person gains six months of life if those six months are spent in a vegetative state? I have always found medicine fascinating and this book furthered my knowledge base. It strengthened my enthrallment though I recognize I am not physically capable of pursuing this field, much to my dismay.

Smoke gets in your eyes : and other lessons from the crematory

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author:  Caitlin  Doughty

Title:  Smoke gets in your eyes : and other lessons from the crematory  

What? An interesting, informative, and occasionally amusing book about death and cremation?In a word, yes. Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician, has managed to pull off this seemingly incongruous combo. She recounts her experiences work-wise, beginning with her first job as a crematory operator, and gives a lot of background information about what she refers to as the “death industry.”  Witty, irreverent, and sometimes graphic, this memoir provides food for thought.

Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? : a memoir

From  Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Roz Chast
Title:  Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? : a memoir 
You’ve undoubtedly seen Roz Chast’s artwork and cartoons, and probably derived pleasure and a few laughs from them. The answer to the question posed by the title is, “Yes, we could talk about ‘something more pleasant, but we’d miss out on the valuable story this book delivers.’ ”

Roz Chast’s parents were elderly, and were slipping slowly, but unfortunately, surely towards their last days. Chast, their only child, is thrust into the role of caretaker, a role she certainly didn’t consider to be one she desired. She details, in remarkable frankness and candor, her varying emotions towards this – many of which emotions are less than pleasant. Her artwork, which is featured throughout the book, elevates it to an even higher level. This is a book for adult children of elderly parents, for parents themselves, for caregivers, or for anyone. A particularly important piece of take-away information is to have that potentially uncomfortable talk about medical treatment at the end, last wishes, etc., while you can still have it comfortably and coherently, instead of waiting until all hell breaks loose and then fumbling around in the dark.

The tao of Martha : my year of LIVING, or why I’m never getting all that glitter off of the dog

From  Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Jen Lancaster
Title:  The tao of Martha : my year of LIVING, or why I’m never getting all that glitter off of the dog 
When I read the first review of this book, I wasn’t too interested in reading it, as it seemed to have the potential to be seriously annoying. The book is actually better than that, but not by an awful lot. The author basically decides to spend a year of her life asking, “What would Martha do?” and proceeding to follow Martha Stewart’s rules and principles. The book is occasionally humorous, with a sprinkling of seemingly gratuitous four-letter words. It also made me wish I had as much time on my hands as the author seems to have.

I hate to leave this beautiful place

From Catherine Given
Author:  Howard Norman
Title:   I hate to leave this beautiful place

I would place this book in the top five books I’ve read.

By the author of “The Bird Artist” and “What is Left the Daughter,” this book is not — as the title might suggest, and as I first feared — the story of a terminal illness. Rather, the book’s title derives from an Inuit folk tale about a man transformed into a goose, who utters the title sentence at the onset of winter. “I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place” is a pensive, unforgettable memoir about love, beauty, grief, poverty and peace as well as cultural differences, the literary life, shamanism, and mental illness.

In what Norman calls “associative patterns” rather than original chronologies,” the topics and beloved landscapes he says are covered here include a” bookmobile and an elusive father in the Midwest, a landscape painter whose plane crashes in Saskatchewan, a murder-suicide in my family’s house, a Quagmiriut Inuit rock band specializing in the songs of John Lennon; and in Vermont, a missing cat, a well drilling, and my older brother’s requests to be smuggled into Canada.” A good memoir gives the reader snapshots and a linear life story. Norman’s associative patterns instead create a richly textured mosaic.