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Thursday, April 28, 2011

THROWING OFF THE YOKE OF FAMILY EXPECTATIONS

Teensie MacAllester is the youngest of three sisters in a small college town in Georgia, where her father was the college president and where her sister and brother-in-law "hold court" as a professor and now current president. Both older sisters have assumed their "entitled" places in the good life.

Meanwhile, Teensie, who earned her diminutive name from one of her sisters who had exclaimed, upon first seeing her, "isn't she teensie?", has tried to carve out a life for herself in Atlanta as a nurse. Until her father calls her home to care for her ailing aunt; then her mother, when she falls ill; and finally, her father himself, aptly named "King."

While she defers her own dreams to help out the family, since neither sister is ever available for these chores, her father promises to leave her the home and its contents when he dies.

Fast-forward a few years, and we see Teensie and her sisters as they hear their father's will read. King MacAllester did not change his will to reflect these promises, and even though his attorney (and family friend) knows what his wishes were, he can do nothing. So Teensie is soon drawn into a struggle to hold onto her share, as well as protect the things that were hers alone.

Throughout this delightful and emotional tale that had me wanting to shout "no!" at every injustice, Teensie stays true to her loving soul, her "Friday's child" demeanor, while slowly, but surely, moving forward and away from the path her family wishes to dictate for her. She refuses to remain as the family "slave," a role her sisters had already decreed for her by each insisting that she move in and help them with their families, and instead strikes out on her own.

While her path forward is not smooth and even, with many obstacles cropping up at every turn, she finally claims her own dreams.

Friday's Daughter, taking its theme from the days-of-the-week rhyme that denotes that "Friday's child is loving and giving," spotlights a drama of extreme sibling rivalry and competitiveness against a backdrop of small-town life. The author carries it off with just the right emotions to elicit the reader's investment in Teensie's triumph, and then delivers that triumph in unexpected and joyful dollops. Five stars!

Friday, April 15, 2011

A JOURNEY TOWARD RECOVERY -- THROUGH THE RAIN

From the moment that Brooke Shields and her husband began the journey toward parenthood, nothing was easy. Undergoing fertility treatments and IVF, suffering a miscarriage, and then experiencing a very difficult delivery with first child Rowan seemingly set the stage for what came next.

In Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, Shields describes her experiences and the overwhelming feelings that almost turned her life into a horror film. She talks frankly about how she came to accept that she was suffering from postpartum depression, a very real medical condition, and how she finally took the necessary steps to recover (with the help of medication and therapy).

When examined in the context of her life at the time, from the difficulties toward conception and the losses she had suffered—deaths of a good friend and also her father—the stage seemed set for the disastrous postpartum period. Further, she was unable to exercise at first, due to complications in the birth process, and had to also adjust to a dramatically different lifestyle.

Shields described her recovery process in some detail, and in the last portion of the book, she also shares how she finally begins to balance her work and parenting roles.

The book was easy to read and relatable: an honest and straightforward portrayal of a condition that could descend upon anyone. Four stars.

Monday, April 11, 2011

GIVING VOICE TO OUR WORST THOUGHTS...AND MORE -- A REVIEW

Author Augusten Burroughs has hit a home run again in this funny, sometimes acerbic collection of true anecdotes that reveals the dark thoughts we all sometimes have, and then carries them out to their seemingly insane conclusions...but with wit and that satirical twist.

These snippets are not presented in any particular chronological order, but begin in childhood, with memories about a Tang commercial, and lead us through the panicky drinking days and the one-night stands.

One of my favorites is the chapter about a rat he finds in the bathtub in the middle of the night, and the panic that ensues. Described beautifully in this excerpt:

"The fact was: if a rat/thing managed to claw its way out of my tub and enter the main area of the studio apartment, I would never be able to locate it. Everywhere there were mounds of foreign magazines, month-old newspapers, a thousand or more empty sixteen-ounce beer cans. I happened to live in squalor that was more than four-feet deep throughout the apartment. If the rat/thing made it into my debris field, it could easily make a nest for itself under the bed in an old aluminum beef vindaloo container or it could simply die beneath an old copy of Italian Vogue. It could die and it could rot."

He then creates a scenario in which he quests for a way to eradicate the rat that had me rolling around with laughter, imagining myself in a similar situation.

And then there's the chapter on telemarketers, and how they call numerous times at night and repeatedly, with the "frequent urgency of dumped boyfriends." Now who hasn't wanted to seek revenge on them? Well, read on and learn....

There are thoughts about almost anything that may have crossed your mind, but that you were afraid to articulate. This author crams Magical Thinking: True Stories with all of those thoughts and more.

As I turned the final, very satisfying page, I wanted "seconds." But instead, I'll just have to occasionally pick it up again and savor the moments. Five happy stars for this one!

Click to Buy Web of Tyranny

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Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City NovelHanna's DaughtersMiss Hildreth Wore BrownElizabethSolomon's OakSolomon's Oak

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