Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

From  Sandi Rosenthal

Title:  Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

Author:  Ayelet Waldman

Through 90 percent of the book I hated the main character. She is spoiled, careless and self-involved. She had an affair with a married man who had a young son; he left his wife and married her. Then she proceeded to treat his 5 year old son, her step son, with such carelessness and unconcern that I almost put the book down. At the end of the book, she has a realization that turns her around.  

Mockingbird

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Kathryn  Erskine

Title:  Mockingbird

Just this past year, I have been reading some of the titles my nephew has been reading and, boy, was I pleasantly surprised by the advanced themes they tackled. My nephew is eleven and his recommendations have included Dave at night by Gail Carson Levine, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Out of my mind by Sharon M. Draper, and Wonder by RJ Palacio. All of these books deal with children in unique situations. Out of my mind is an expose of a young girl trapped by cerebral palsy in a silent world while Wonder deals with a young boy with two facial deformities. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine was my latest read of his recommendations and it was terrific. A young girl, suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, is forced to come to terms with her brother’s death. Asperger’s Syndrome can be characterized by problems with social skills and communication difficulties. The main character, Caitlin, struggles to show empathy and make friends. She has difficulty understanding why her brother’s death is so hard for her father. Devon was Caitlin’s main instructor in how to cope with life and she now needs to learn new coping techniques. Caitlin and her father, according to Caitlin’s research in her best resource, a dictionary, need to find “closure.”  Caitlin is not sure how to attain closure but she and her father triumph in the end and attain their goal of closure.

The possibilities

From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Kaui Hart  Hemmings
Title:  The possibilities 
The Possibilities, by the author who wrote the novel that became the Academy Award-winning film, “The Descendants,” is the engrossing story of a woman in Breckenridge, Colorado, whose son is killed in an avalanche. As she copes with her grief, surprises surface – and they don’t seem to be good ones. She finds out disturbing things, and then has to deal with a mystery girl who pops up out of the blue and immediately insinuates herself into the family. The Possibilities is an easy read and compelling story.

Big girl panties

From Andrea Kalinowski
Author:  Stephanie   Evanovich
Title:  Big girl panties
Big girl panties by Stephanie Evanovich caught my eye for two reasons. The first of the reasons being the author’s last name, Evanovich. I later discovered that Stephanie Evanovich is the niece of Janet Evanovich, one of my favorite authors. The second reason the book caught my attention was the title. I have oft heard or read “It’s time for you to put on your big girl panties” and so the title resonated with me. The way I understand the expression is that the time for wailing against fate is over and it is time to confront your demons. The main character, Holly Brennan, used food as a crutch and comforter during her husband’s final days. Now she is overweight and determined to change her life. When a chance encounter puts her in a plane seat next to Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer, it seems fate is lending a helping hand. Logan is, as all personal trainers are, in prime physical condition and snobbish with it. He is one of the perfect people and has difficulty in comprehending how life can sometimes overwhelm personal wisdom. Both characters undergo a needed transformation. Holly’s transformation is only skin deep because inside she was already a fine example of a human being. Logan, through his training of Holly, transforms into a better human being. I enjoyed this book immensely because it demonstrates that growth is always a choice.

Son of a gun : a memoir

From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author: Justin St. Germain
Title: Son of a gun : a memoir
The author’s mother was murdered when he was young. He sets out to figure out why his mother dated horrible men and married five of them. When I got to the end of the book I was still waiting for something of compelling interest to happen.

The Cat

From  Andrea Kalinowski
Author:  Edeet Ravel
The Cat
The Cat by Edeet Ravel is an inside look at the torturous path to recovery from grief. It is a fictitious work but the author so clearly paints a picture that you are drawn into the mother’s agony and suffering. The protagonist is a divorced woman, raising her sole child, a boy, out in the countryside when he is killed by a motorist. Elise, the mom, after the tragic loss of her son, contemplates ending it all. The only thing binding her to this plane and this miserable existence is her son’s beloved feline, Pursie. You feel the wretchedness of Elise’s condition and cheer her as she takes stumbling steps back into the world of the living. She pays a psychiatrist to help her deal with the overwhelming epistolary response to her son’s death. The doctor wades through and selects a few letters, which he feels, do not minimize or negate the trauma Elise has suffered. An inside look at grief, sorrowful but well-written and worth the read.

The other side of suffering : the father of JonBenet Ramsey tells the story of his journey from grief to grace

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  John Ramsey 
The other side of suffering : the father of JonBenet Ramsey tells the story of his journey from grief to grace
John Ramsey has suffered more loss in his life than most could bear.  You may know him as the father of the murdered child, JonBenet Ramsey. You may not know that he also lost his oldest daughter from his first marriage, Beth, in a car accident.  He also lost JonBenet’s mother, Patsy, to cancer in 2006. He shares the real story of the aftermath of JonBenet’s murder and why he “lawyered up” quickly. He tells of the nightmare of living under suspicion by the Boulder, CO police and of the paparazzi chasing him, his son Burke, and his wife. He also found kindness in unlikely places, when strangers would approach him with comforting words. He also had a supporter in the detective Lou Smit, who posited the intruder theory, and later became friends with John.

 This is a heartbreaking memoir as well as a spiritual biography.  John regrets that he had practically no relationship with God when his life was going well. He went to India recently as part of his spiritual quest, which was life-changing. He shares the mistakes he has made: “Our ability to make good decisions is damaged after tragedy, because we are not thinking clearly. The best thing I could have done was to put my life in park for a while. I was eager to start climbing again and didn’t realize I hadn’t stopped the fall yet. Here are some suggestions for stopping the fall, the first being, and if you get no other point of advice from this book, please hear this one: After you have suffered a tragic circumstance in your life, press the pause button and put your life on hold. Do not make any big decisions or moves. Focus on stopping the fall first. Realize also that this ‘life hold’ will be necessary for longer than you think.”

 A friend of John’s told him that “Hope is the belief that your best days lie ahead of you”. After grieving for 15 years, John finally has hope.

To Selena, With Love

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Chris Perez
To Selena, With Love
Chris wants you to know that he is more than “the widower of the Queen of Tejano music ,Selena Quintanilla Perez.” Chris was the guitarist for Selena’s band. This is a loving tribute to the Latin music superstar who was gunned down by her fan club president in 1995. Selena won Grammy awards and was poised to be a crossover artist in the same way as Gloria Estefan when she died. But her fans loved her not just because of her music. She gave so much of herself in each concert. She spent lots of time signing autographs after her concerts and made a special effort to reach out to her young fans and those who were sick or disadvantaged. She also adopted animals, including several dogs. Chris tells of her adventurous and daredevil side, where she learned how to ride a motorcycle, went bungee jumping, and loved to drive her cars fast.  She also loved celebrating Christmas and the simpler things like cooking and cleaning the house.  As a child of divorce, Chris never thought much of marriage. But Selena broke down his defenses and taught him how to love.  She had the most exuberant spirit and loved to try new things. He says her laughter was contagious. Chris’s first love was rock and roll and heavy metal music, which he has returned to since Selena’s death. This book is a rare glimpse into the life of a multi-faceted performer.

No time for tears: surviving grief in America

From  Jackie  Cantwell
Author:  Judy  Heath
No time for tears: surviving grief in America 
Judy is a psychotherapist who used to practice in Huntington, but moved to Charleston, SC. She is an experienced bereavement specialist who counseled firemen and cops after 9/11. This is an excellent book with concrete, real-life suggestions to help one who is grieving. The author shares case studies of individuals crippled by grief who were able to function again through talk therapy.  There are chapters designated for each type of grief, such as loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, a pet, etc.  There are also sections on how children and the elderly handle grief.  There are pointers on how to re-frame the experience for those who blame themselves for their loss. She also addresses how to cope with the things that well-meaning people say to the survivor, which usually have the opposite effect.  Judy’s compassion and calm tone come through in each passage. She seems to possess a special empathy with grievers because, as she shares in the beginning, she lost her infant son. Judy describes different symptoms and behaviors in grievers and when to seek professional help. There is an excellent resources section in the back with organizations which help different types of sufferers.