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THE STORY OF OUR LIVES: A Novel about Friends ~Helen Warner

Monday, February 12th, 2018

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES is a wonderful read about four friends who meet at University and remain friends over the course of their lives.  I just cozied right into this story and enjoyed the lovely conversations and problem solving involved in the women’s lives.  The language was supportive and yet the friends were able to speak clearly to each other and challenge the best of their endeavors.  Secrets were uncovered over the years and those lead to positive interactions and healthy outcomes.

There are several love stories within the book and that makes for fun dialogue and group attention.  The 4 women meet for long weekends nearly every year to catch up, enjoy their transitions and offer work related changes and opportunities.  Two of the women have big jobs in Television and Communications, one just wants to be a wife and mother to her wealthy fellow, and the fourth is a single parent who must make survival decisions about her work so she can fully parent her child.  Each character has a particular crisis to overcome and it is just terrific to understand how the friends draw together to assist in the resolutions and better outcomes.   The men in the story are definitely a part of the story, yet only one male is developed and helps with the parenting parts of the stories of their lives.

I loved the different cottages that the women spent their weekends at and how they divided up the cooking and the tasks at hand while keeping relaxation and true connections their highest priority.  This gave me a bit of a travel perspective about the UK and other warm and trendy spots for 20 – 40 somethings to be attracted to and enjoy.  I, of course, like the English expressions which are so precise compared to casual Americanisms and slang.  These women were driven to stay connected and not lose the friendship because of lack of attention to words and communications.

In the last several years I have read a number of best friend stories.  Communications and intentions to hold on the friendship seem to be the most successful role of these stories.  Being a friend is a considerable amount of work and it makes me think that younger women need to know that it is work and the communication skills are tantamount in the process.  THE STORY OF OUR LIVES did have glamour and a number of crisis points, the writer’s words flowed and the sentence structures were good and made the story move without feeling sloppy.  I would have loved to have such a nice group of friends in my younger years and rather envied the women in this story.

A lovely rainy afternoon read and a joy to know that maybe there are such nice groups happening currently.

About Helen Warner

Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.

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A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS: A Novel ~Ashley Hay

Monday, December 4th, 2017

A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is set in Brisbane, Australia and it is a combination of words that are at once poetic, descriptive, psychological and commanding and they draw the reader into a wonderful story, which holds the mind and demands attention – softly.  The main character truly is a house and it tells the tale of the two women who have lived there and their lives.

Elsie Gormley was the first resident of the little house with the huge backyard that touched a swamp and a park.  She was newly married and was delighted with her house and her husband.  She was the mother of Don and Elaine, twins.  Elsie loved her role as a mother and took it very seriously not without some worry and stress but she felt called and safe in that task.  She also had quite a relationship with the birds that came to her feeder and felt they were omens of good.  Her partner was a good man and took care of the yard, the house, and wallpapered every room with a different paper.

Lucy Kiss, her toddler Tom and her husband Ben have just purchased their first house after travelling for years.  For Ben it is coming home and he remembers being with his single mother in Brisbane and how hard it must have been for her and how terrific she was as a “mum”.  As he travels he worries about Lucy and her beautiful parenting and then her irritations.  Lucy is new here and has no friends yet and is isolated in her new house.  She is comfortable with being a mother and yet she is trying to hold on to her “self” in this new circumstance and situation.  She has mother worries and sometimes does not feel safe.  She thinks about Elsie a great deal.

Elsie has had a stroke and is confused so her children pack her up and move her to an apartment in assisted living.  Her story is the most complete as it weaves through Lucy’s in the house.   Lucy and Ben are busy planting trees in her backyard, lots of trees; Clem would not have liked this at all.

Birds and water play the game of connective tissue in this well written story.  If you have the opportunity to curl up and just savor and enjoy this read, I would put it very high up on your reading list.  A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is a top of the line read.

Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. (TLC Book Tours)

About Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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WRONG HIGHWAY: A Novel ~by Wendy Gordon

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Wrong Highway finds the reader at West Meadow, Long Island in New York about 1986 and we are thrust into a tale about two sisters; one a high energy mother of four who is very free spirited and the older sister a perfectionist mother of one who does everything just as responsibly as she is able.  We begin at the New York World’s Fair years before when Debbie is watching Erica enjoy the fair and dancing in a fountain scooping up coins.

Erica is not working outside her home, as her boys are 9 years, 5-year-old twins, and a new baby girl.  Her financial analyst husband is traveling all the time for his company and making a huge salary.  The family wants for nothing.  Erica is curious and busy driving the kids in Vance Volvo to their huge list of activities.  She plays with her children and enjoys them so very much.  She has a great deal of time on her own and fills it with exercise classes and beautiful clothes.

Debbie, a hairdresser, is worried about her son Jared, who is becoming a hyperactive and interestingly negative teen, who is experimenting with drugs.  Jared’s activities are counseling sessions, and doctor’s appointments and listening to music.  He wanders and cuts school a great deal and has stopped participating in sports.

Erica calls upon Debbie to rescue her when she has car trouble or needs emergency childcare.  Debbie calls upon Erica to befriend her son and help him through these troubled years.  Erica and Jared explore the friendship idea through smoking weed and heavy metal music.   Jared begins to open up about his strict parents and reveals a family secret, which Erica has been guessing about for years.  We travel through a world of Bah Mitzvahs and Sabbath dinners at their parents home.   It is quite a year; hold onto your hat and turn up the volume on the 80s hits you so enjoyed.

The author has found a new home for herself in Portland, Oregon as I think growing up on the East Coast was not her comfort zone.  She has captured the society and culture very well of the Eastern seaboard and all the programs and routines being practiced during this time period.  I think the story would be very different and yet similar if we were looking at the West Coast or the Midwest or South.  I think “weed” was being practiced in all those areas and fitness and teens were acting out after Vietnam too, but not so much “meanness” in the West.  We can witness the breakdown between the “haves” and the “have nots” beginning as it is captured in this small family paradigm.

I was in the early parenting stages during this time and the parents around me were beginning to struggle and making schools perfect for their child was just as important as having a garden and growing organic veggies.  Our kids were not being shipped off to so many activities, childcare, and camps but rather the parents were going to camps with their children and they wanted fun things to do that the parents enjoyed participating in as much as the children.  Family secrets were highly privatized to shield imperfections and the downward mobility financially.

Wendy Gordon has truly shared an interesting time period with quite a fascinating fictional story, which allows a look back and makes one want to turn up the volume and explore your old record collection.  What were we doing?  What were our secrets?  A very revealing read about family secrets and the effects of war on a society.

TLC Book Tours sent this book to Patricia’s Wisdom requesting a review.

From the Cover:
Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast.  She received a B.S. in Nutrition from Simmons College and an M.S. in clinical Nutrition from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.  She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet.  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children.  This is her first book.

Wendy Gordon Blog
Wendy Gordon Facebook

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THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A Memoir of the Time Undone ~D.A. Hickman

Monday, April 11th, 2016

“Despite a crushing loss…here we have a warmth of spirit, understanding and compassion in a distancing world.”  (Madeline Sharples – from cover)

I believe that there is a need within each of us to read this book.  Yes, it is a well written memoir with lovely poetic sentences and descriptions, it is a poignant telling of a son’s life, it is a sociologic study of our society and culture, and most of all it is an amazing tribute to  a mother’s grief and the deepening of a spiritual journey into an awakening.  THE SILENCE OF MORNING is a book we need.

Suicide is a difficult end to a life and even with a note; there is rarely a possibility of verifiable understanding.   What was the truth of this life or this moment, which made the decision possible?   What enabled suicide’s success?  How will a Mother/ Parents and family create the mythology to answer all the questions or create the story that will bring release to the grief and sorrow?  Dare I intimate that there might be a letting go of the life and only memory left?

We are also drawn into a study with all the pomp and considerations of a master research paper.  We are invited to take a look at schools now and then.  We can observe the role of teachers and philosophy of schools and how the child will react or would have been received differently now.  Hickman catches the restlessness of a generation and the incredible work an educational system must engage in to meet the needs of children and get the “job done” for a future of usefulness and output with reward.   The study looks at the War on Drugs and how the need for entertainment grows and grows along with the lure of the “high” and the demands of addiction.  How does a society remedy this dis-ease and free the individual caught within its seductive nets?  Have we learned and do we know how to stop the progression?  Are we as a people all addicted to something?

There are nearly perfect descriptions in this telling of landscape and interactions and just beautiful memories of family – breathtaking.  There is a poetry of words and pivotal theological quotes and explanations.  Reading can free tears.

This is memoir which asks the tough questions, puts words to grief and opens the heart to an exploration of the depth and width of personal growth and spiritual path-finding and it is “Holy and beautiful and heartbreaking.” (Cover quote)

In the author’s own words:  “How do we better understand the human condition, the quest for inner peace?  How do we tap into the deeper mysteries, embracing challenge and loss as we go? How do we distance ourselves from a malcontent culture focused on excitement, escape, and excess?  And despite it all, how do we deepen our perspective…commit to sustained personal growth?”

“I will always be a dedicated student of society looking for the essential story, the universal message: a path with less suffering, deeper awareness.  Everything we experience is a reflection of the human struggle to somehow right itself against the rocky waves of time.  So on and on we walk…always into a deeper version of ourselves.”

Hickman’s Blog:  SunnyRoomStudio.com
Hickman’s Facebook

THE SILENCE OF MORNING is a part of my personal library and I am delighted to be sharing it with you.  I think we all need to read this memoir.

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