Thursday, April 24, 2008

Book Reviews of Early 2008 Favorites

As promised, below are my book reviews of three recent favorites. I hope you'll read one or two and that they bring you as much enjoyment as they did me.

The Middle Place is a warm, poignant and funny memoir written by Kelly Corrigan. The title refers to being a parent and someone's child at the same time. With humor and candor Kelly Corrigan shares her memories of finding a cancerous lump in her breast, and the harrowing and brave journey through her treatment - chemo, surgery and radiation. Throughout the book, Kelly perfectly weaves stories from the past and present and introduces us to her wonderful family, especially her incredible dad, George, and the memories of her youth growing up in Philadelphia. Kelly's hope, strength and resiliency, lovingly instilled by her family, are put to the test when during her treatment she finds out her dad is suffering from bladder cancer. Despite the tragic circumstances, the book never becomes maudlin or depressing. The Middle Place is a must read for all those woman (and men) residing in that middle place. More than a memoir, I found The Middle Place to be a loving tribute to an incredible man, and the indelible bond between a father and daughter.

I started reading Remember Me after I'd finished The Gathering by Anne Enright, and it was such a welcome departure from the dark subject matter of my previous read. Remember Me is imbued with a wicked sense of humor and an irresistible charm. It's a wonderful, funny and romantic novel. The main character is Lexi Smart, who wakes up in a London hospital convinced that it's 2004 and she missed her dad's funeral. In fact, an accident has left her suffering from amnesia and it's three years later. Lexi wakes up to find she's no longer overweight, no longer "Snaggletooth" or "Snagglehair" for that matter, and no longer has "Loser Dave" for a boyfriend. Instead, she's a successful business woman, with a great body, perfect teeth, and an even more perfect rich and gorgeous husband, Eric. What more could a girl ask for, right? Well, it's all complicated by the fact that her old friends and now current employees hate her, the old Lexi Smart seems to have completely vanished, and though there's no chemistry between Lexi and Eric, there's plenty with Jon, her husband's colleague who shares a few secrets about the new Lexi which leave her reeling. The romance and humor keep the story fresh and light and make it a quick read, perfect for summer or when you're in the mood for a good laugh.

I read the Joy Luck Club years ago, and I found The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan to be as compelling and moving a book as that first bestseller. The story details the strained relationship between Ruth Young, a ghostwriter or "book doctor" of self-help books, and her mother, LuLing. In the first part of the book we learn of the struggles Ruth faced in dealing with her mother throughout her life, and her current fears and concerns about her mother's forgetfulness. The second part deals with LuLing's past as detailed in the writings she saved for her daughter many years ago before her memory lapses. Ruth finds her mom's writings which are in Chinese, the first which starts "these are the things I know are true", and she decides to have them translated while she stays with her mother to take care of her after LuLing is finally diagnosed with Alzheimers. The portion of the book which consists of the memoirs, which includes the story of LuLing's life in China and that of Precious Auntie, her mute caretaker or nurse maid, are for me the best part of the book. The trials in LuLing's life are numerous, and as you read you're filled with a profound sense of respect and admiration for everything she overcame. Precious Auntie's character and story are pivotal in shaping LuLing's life, and the relationship detailed between these two women is poignant and heartbreaking. There were many a Kleenex moment during some of the passages in this part of the book. Ultimately, as Ruth discovers the truth behind her mother's life, the differences and bitter memories of her childhood fade away. The Bonesetter's Daughter is a great book, which deals with the relationship between mothers and daughters, murder, betrayal and ultimately survival and redemption.