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Sunday, July 31, 2016

#43 - The Plague and I - Betty MacDonald

Title:  The Plague and I
Author:   Betty MacDonald
Genre:  Memoir
Category:  Non-Fiction
Rating:  B
Published:  1948
Dates:  7/22/16 – 7/30/16

The Pines where Betty MacDonald spent her nine months recuperating from tuberculosis (TB) is actually Firland, a sanatorium located in Seattle, Washington.  Betty wrote about how she learned that she had TB – then just as much the terrifying killer that cancer can be now – and that she must enter a sanatorium for treatment.  It meant such an upheaval in her life that she could not help but be dismayed.  What would become of her two daughters while she was recovering?
Such a story is hardly the basis for comedy, yet in this case with Betty MacDonald at the helm we find that after the initial shock had passed, her natural buoyancy reasserted itself and from the day she entered the hospital until the day she left, she proceeded to laugh at her illness, the other patients, the nurses, the doctors and – mostly – at herself.
She, of course, had her bad moments when the despair and tragedy underlying what she saw and heard refused to be pushed astern, but she gritted her teeth and rode the waves with cheer and her funny bone intact.
Since this book is set near where I grew up and I’d always wanted to read more of MacDonald’s stories this fit the bill.  If you decide to read this book and like it you may be interested in another memoir by her, The Egg and I.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#42 - My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout

Title:  My Name is Lucy Barton
Author:  Elizabeth Strout
Read by:  Kimberly Farr
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  B
Published:  2016
CDs/Hrs:  4/4
Date:   7/19/16 – 7/27/16

From a simple hospital visit comes a tender story about a relationship between one daughter and her mother. 

Lucy is slowly recovering from surgery.  Her mother, with whom she hasn’t spoken in many years, appears at her bedside.  Over the course of five days, the two exchange gossip from the past.  These stories seem to reconnect them.  Below the surface though lies tension that governed Lucy’s life and caused her to escape her troubled family, helped her become a writer, divorce her husband and define her love of two daughters.  Strout tugs at our heartstrings as Lucy’s life unfolds because we, too, can identify with incidents similar to our lives.  Short and bitter-sweet.

#41 - The Color of Water - James McBride

Title:  The Color of Water
Author:  James McBride
Read by:  Jo Jackson and Susan Denaker
Genre:  Biography
Category:  Non-Fiction
Rating:  B
Published:  1996
Date:   7/23/16 – 7/27/16

Subtitled – A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, McBride takes us to the public housing projects of New York City where he and 11 brothers and sisters live.  They are all black.  James knows there is something different about his mother.  When asked, she would declare – “I’m light-skinned,” and change the subject.  As years went by, James learned about his mother, her Jewish background and the mysteries of her life that unfolded, bit by bit.  In short, Ruth McBride eventually told him her story of being a rabbi’s daughter, born in Poland and raised in the South, who fled to Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put the twelve children through college.

This book is also on the list of 75 best books in the last 75 years.  An engrossing story and on the best-seller list back in the mid- to late-90s.  It is truly a classic.