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MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY: A Novel ~Fredrick Backman

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY is one of the most delightful reads I have enjoyed in 2017.  I can highly recommend this book and I want to tell you it was just what a needed to read and I will read it again I am sure of it.  I had a sense of contentment when I finished reading and I found several good chuckles along the way.  The book was a present from one of my daughters who knew I had read Backman’s book A MAN CALLED OVE and enjoyed that one too.  MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY was even better and perfectly timed.

Elsa is seven and about to turn eight.  She has been cared for by her super powered, “different” Granny all of her life and her mother has been working to support them.  They live in a large house, which is a series of “flats” that Granny calls ‘the castle’.  Granny and Elsa have lovely adventures and sometimes a bit crazy adventures along the way.  The book starts with one adventure that did go a bit wrong and Granny was in trouble for her actions.  Elsa needed to wait patiently while the adults figured it all out.  Elsa thinks about people’s actions and interprets them, as only a seven year old about to turn eight is able.  She is often “spot on” in her analysis even if she is “different”; she can figure out people.  Granny has guided her world though the telling of fairy tales about a new land with seven segments and dragons, warriors, and cloud animals.  Granny teaches Elsa that everyone has a super power and she just has to find it. The duo develops their own special language – maybe.

“You can’t kill a nightmare, but you can scare it.  And there’s nothing so feared by nightmares as milk and cookies.” (page 209)

Granny gives Elsa a big task to undertake and Elsa is determined to comply with Granny’s wishes.  She takes on the role of warrior to complete the mission that involves discovering and delivering envelopes to a number of different people.  Elsa must not be afraid and helpers begin to be discovered to assist her on the mission.

“I’m going down to pick up the spare chairs in the cellar storage,” he says and tries to smile at her like stepdads do on days when they have an extra-strong sense of being sidelined.” (page 209)

Everyone is different and nobody needs to be normal in The Land-Of-Almost-Awake and I loved that idea.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if everywhere was like that?

One is reading about life and death, the importance of serving others and loving the self.  It is a story about the heart beating with a comic accuracy that is just a joy.

I wrote down nearly 40 phrases that I just loved and thought contained a wisdom that would make a difference in my life.

I did have one small item of contention – very minor.  On the cover of my book is a little girl with a black lab and I believe the dog in the story was a Great Pyrenees, Lionberger, or Newfoundland each much hairier than a lab – just saying!

FREDRICK BACKMAN is also the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, both of which were #1 bestsellers in his native Sweden and are being published around the world.  He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children.

Fredrick Backman Twitter
Fredrick Backman WEB
Fredrick Backman Wikipedia

Related:
The Moon Sisters
By The Wayside
All The News I Need

ALICE IN BED: A Novel ~Judith Hooper

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Interesting title for this book and it captured my attention and made me want to read it even before I knew much about the story!   When I learned it was about Alice James the sister of psychologist William James and writer Henry James, I did not hesitate to pick the book up and read.

I liked everything about this book – everything.  The writing was just perfect for the 1870s and captured the full image I had of Cambridge, Massachusetts I had tucked in my head.  The family is now living in Cambridge after being “hotel” children all over Europe.  Their Father being a lecturer and an interpreter of the “Divine Philosophy”.  There is little formal education for the children and lots of chaos in the family’s style.   Mary and Henry James are the parents of 5 children.  Bob, Wilki, William, Henry, and Alice.   Aunt Kate also lives with the family and they are surrounded with the elite of society.  Their home is located right across the road from Harvard Square.

Alice may prove over time to be the most intelligent of the family, but she is stuck with being a WOMAN and so no privilege is extended her way.  At about age 13, she begins fainting daily in the late mornings and is taken to numerous doctors about the “falls” and gets a number of bazaar diagnoses.  The medications make it worse; probably the corsets and crinolines and heavy-duty tight, restrictive women’s clothing also contributed to her ailment.   Women with hysteria diagnosis abounded.

Alice adored her brothers especially William who was thought to be a hypochondriac.  William was a talented painter but Father made him go into science and he became highly interested in the mind; studying very intently.  Henry abandoned his Father’s rules and took up writing and spent many years living in Europe.   On a trip to England at age 38, Alice fell and lost the use of her legs. She   was established in an apartment in England in a Spa City and could not travel again.  She began writing a diary which after her death was published and people were amazed how she understood politics and society and was so keenly aware of what was happening all around her and her caustic and keen sense of humor.

I kept wondering if I would describe this story as a biography, historic fiction, or a well-researched expose’.  I think I will use all three.  I enjoyed the detail and the feisty pro-woman stance, and how they fit evenly into the culture and the expectations for the traditional woman of that era.   There were several mentions of Emerson in the story but nothing about Margaret Fuller who would have been a kindred spirit to Alice.

History comes alive and I am very happy that TLC Book Tours sent me an advance PDF file to review this story.  I am sure I will read this book again in the future -Paperback.    I say that because my copy did not translate properly onto my Kindle. The print was so small, I had to keep stretching the page to be able to read it and the page then floated and would not move forward properly to turn the pages.  In the 390 page read I am sure I used up over an hour keeping the page in front of me.  This proved to be disconcerting.  (Hard copy it is 325 pages)

“Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.”

Judith Hooper writes a fine story and this is her premier novel – a very good work.  I know that many people will love this story and this history lesson.

“Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.”(TLC page)

Related:
Margaret Fuller
Hannah Coulter
Daughter of Sand and Stone

FREEDOM FROM GUILT AND BLAME ~Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Freedom from Guilt and Blame is a small book of only 46 pages, and it is a valuable tool to have on your shelf or reader.  Lots of gems are found in this self-help text and they are well explained and defined.

If I were still working as a counselor, I would have a number of copies of this book to share with clients and students.    Lancer, a lawyer turned Family Therapist has a way with words that is helpful and easy to understand.  Her definitions of guilt, blame, shame, anger and self-esteem are worth the price of ownership.  Then she takes her precise definitions and uses anecdotal evidence to show their outcome and manifestations.   One does not need to guess how guilt plays out in their own relationships and actions because of her precise explanations.

The definitions and examples are accompanied by exercises that allow the reader to fully participate in their own understanding and in changing behaviors that are not leading to healthy outcomes.   The exercises on self-forgiveness are most helpful in removing sticking points and letting go.

When I was working with teens, I would have shared copies of this book also.  I found it very valuable to give young people the facts and the coping skills to use those facts to their advantage as they grew.  Such as, most teens will experience depression as they learn deeper emotions.  They do not understand that everyone needs to learn to deal with depression and learn skills for changing those emotions and making them useful.  I would teach a session on depression with young people and then we would recognize and learn new mechanisms for behaviors and develop resilience.

Young people would learn and understand FREEDOM FROM GUILT AND BLAME; would find it useful to have on their shelf for future reference when they were caught in an emotional loop of behaviors.  When people of all ages know and understand they can make different choices.

A very helpful book to read, reference and keep handy.  Good ideas and exercises for starting a successful New Year and making changes in one’s life and behaviors.

From the book:

This is the second book I have reviewed from Darlene Lancer. “Darlene Lancer is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has helped individuals and couples improve their lives, their self-esteem, and relationships for over 27 years.  She maintains a private practice and coaches internationally.  She is an expert in the area of codependency, addiction, and relationships.  Ms. Lancer is a quoted authority and sought after speaker and lecturer at colleges, universities, and on radio.  One can read many of her articles at http://whatiscodependency.com or follow her work on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CodependencyRecover .”

Related:
Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You
If You Leave Me Can I Come With You?

STONE MATTRESS: Nine Tales ~Margaret Atwood

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

I discovered that I could pre-order this book a full month before it would appear on shelves at the library or bookstore, I did just that.  I just felt hungry for the incredible writing of Atwood and as though I had been fasting and not indulging for a very long time.   I was not disappointed in the least.   I have already read the tales twice and will come back again to enjoy.

“A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy. Vintage Atwood creativity, intelligence, and humor: think Alias Grace.” (From Amazon’s page)

There is a creative psychological component to Atwood’s writing which just holds me to her words and the play she gives them.  The first three stories are loosely connected by an early on romance and Alphinland, Revenant, and Dark Lady play with growing old, loss of a partner, and the choices made early on in a life returning to be studied as the body can no longer comply.  Ice and snow and winter are big themes as is escape and control.

Lusus Naturae is about a child born with a defect and how she learns to cope with her situation; is it really coping or more the hiding mode? What society fears?  As a man is “kicked out” of his relationship he purchases a storage unit at an auction and is amazed to discover its contents and the preserved relationship within its walls.    I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth and The Dead Hand Loves You are again exploring the writer’s world and where it has taken the author  or the character and then brought them back with some kind of protection or blindness to deal with the reality of the moment.

Stone Mattress brought revenge on an artic discovery cruise for a horrible crime perpetrated on a young girl, which radically changed her life and future.  The writing was precise, cold and successful; a bit chilling for the reader.   Torching the Dusties is about a woman with Macular Degeneration who can only see the periphery of her world, she is living in a senior center that is now under siege by a group calling themselves “Our Turn” and burning down home care buildings and the residents living there.   Once again the theme is about growing old and coping, worth and vision, and adversity and control.   Fascinating story and I am so glad I read it a second time.

The political climate of the day is so subtle and yet shouts of what we do not hear clearly within all the noise around us in our world.

I am very fond of Margaret Atwood as a writer and she is so prolific I can honestly say I have not read all of her work or even come close – just the highlights.  I am very fond of short stories and combining that fondness with this author’s tremendous skill was a gift to my experience.   I could not put this book down and just enjoyed it cover to cover several times.   I rate this highly and humbly top of the line and believe my readers would not be disappointed and instead relish this book –  STONE MATRESS

From the book:

“MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays.  In addition to THE HANDMADE’S TALE, her novels include CAT’S EYE, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; ALIAS GRACE, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; THE BLIND ASSASSIN, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, ORYX AND CRAKE, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize.  She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.”

Related:
Our Love Could Light the World
Olive Kitteridge 
The Boys in the Boat
The Signature of All Things