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Archive for the ‘unconditional love’ Tag

Lotsa Luck   Leave a comment

9781400067244

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom is a great title, because it can be uttered in different ways: with a note of sarcasm or with an emphasis on appreciation. Thanks to Bloom’s strength as a story teller, the reader is the lucky one.

From the onset, this is a captivating story of how families get by, not in a financial way but emotionally. It’s a look at the way we create families when those we’re born into cause disappointment and pain. This is the case for all of the main characters. Twelve-year-old Eva, abandoned by her unmarried mother, is left to live with her father and his daughter, Iris. Iris’s own mother has recently died and the girls are motherless, but now each has a sister. The two are as different as salt and pepper, but together they add zest to what could otherwise be uneventful lives.

The book has a surprisingly large number of significant characters who appear like traffic cops signaling directions. Bloom moves her characters from Ohio to Hollywood to Brooklyn – and points beyond. Yet, no one is superfluous.

Love, both carnal and platonic, is a major force, but the strongest elements are familial connections. Eva and Iris support each other’s strengths: Eva has brains, Iris has beauty. Both have limited common sense. The appeal of Bloom’s writing escalates as the friends/family they add to their circle grows. At times it seems far-fetched, but mostly it’s a matter of luck, the kind we all know: good and bad.

Lucky Us
Four Bookmarks
Random House, 2014
240 pages

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Storytelling At Its Finest   3 comments

Maya

Isabel Allende is a master storyteller. Her characters have depth; their lives are full of mystery, love and befuddlement. Her most recent novel, Maya’s Notebook, is no exception. Well, it is, because it’s exceptional – even for Allende.

Maya is a 19-year-old girl on the lam on a remote island off the coast of Chile, her grandmother’s homeland. Maya was raised in Berkeley by her grandparents, a couple remarkable in their differences and their passion for life. Maya’s father floats in and out in a minor role; her mother doesn’t even rate that distinction. Several stories are told through Maya’s journal. She recounts her magical childhood, her arrival in Chiloe’ and counters these almost idyllic recollections with the explanation of why she is in hiding. The book’s first sentence, while seemingly melodramatic, creates suspense: “… if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure my enemies were no longer looking for me.”

Maya writes of her past and present in chronological order until the two eventually intersect. She begins with how her grandparents met and moves into how, as an infant, she came to live with them. Allende builds tension through Maya’s descriptions of her avalanche of mistakes made as an adolescent. Grief and environment contributed to one bad decision after another. Yet, a sense of calm surfaces as Maya relates her life in Chiloe’ while learning to appreciate the world around her and her place in it.

Maya’s Notebook
Five Bookmarks
Harper Collins, 2013
387 pages

Parenting Without Boundaries   2 comments


If you read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin be sure you have
someone with whom you can talk about it.

This disturbing, yet compelling, story unfolds through a series of letters written by
Eva to her absent husband, Franklin. The purpose of the letters is to try to under-
stand how their 15-year-old son, Kevin, could murder seven classmates, a teacher,
and a school cafeteria worker.

Through a clear almost detached, yet very personal, perspective Eva expresses the
difficulty she has in relinquishing her independence to become a mother. Following
Kevin’s birth, she continues to lack a natural maternal instinct. Still, Eva is not
without heartfelt emotion and empathy; she simply has difficulty showing these traits
to Kevin.

On the other hand, neither is Franklin completely blameless; although his side of the
story is not told. As seen through Eva’s eyes, Franklin maintains a vise-like grip on
the image of a happy, American family. His perception does not include discipline,
respect to others, or a recognition that there are two sides to every story.

Kevin is simply a bad kid, albeit an exceptionally bright one. The concept of uncon-
ditional love falters under Shriver’s pen. Parents are bound to examine their parent-
ing style and question whether it is the right approach. It is easy to be critical of
Eva and Franklin, but it’s hard to know if anyone else could have parented Kevin with
a different outcome.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Three Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2006
432 pages

(I wrote this review several years ago, but decided to post it here.)