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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

MORAL, LEGAL, & ETHICAL DILEMMAS: BACKDROP FOR TRAGEDY

When Rose McKenna and her family move to a small Pennsylvania town, they are hoping for a more supportive environment. But this has not turned out to be the case, and the bullying that traumatized young Melly in previous settings has followed them to this small, peaceful town; for Melly has a large birthmark on her cheek, and suffers regular taunts and teasing.

Volunteering at the school in the lunch room offers Rose the opportunity to oversee things and to provide a safety net, of sorts. But on one tragic day, the cafeteria explodes, endangering lives. Rose's efforts to direct the children outdoors to safety, and then return to find her daughter trapped in the bathroom, leads to applause for the "hero mom," only to have the tide turn drastically when other mothers blame Rose for endangering another child. For seemingly, Amanda, one of the biggest bullies, did not make it outside to safety and lies in Intensive Care in a coma.

The media frenzy skewers Rose as negligent, with hints of criminal prosecution and lawsuits hanging over her head, even as she sits beside her daughter's bedside, awaiting her recovery from smoke inhalation.

Moral, legal, and ethical themes provide a backdrop for this series of events, beginning with the media frenzy, legal posturing, and serious dilemmas that have arisen from the tragedy. Rose is determined to get to the bottom of what happened that day, but as she asks questions, more arise, leading her down a pathway and on a journey to construction companies, local factories, and politicians. Wending her way through her questions, she uncovers more and more clues pointing to blackmail, conspiracy, and murder.

What connects a construction company, a potato chip factory, and a politician? What do any of them have to do with the fire in the cafeteria? And what unique situation lies at the center of it all?

Scottoline has a talent for leading the reader on a nail biting journey, turning those pages rapidly in the pursuit of answers to these questions. I couldn't help but love the characters of Rose, her husband Leo, and especially the plucky Harry Potter reading Melly. Save Me is about so much more than the initial questions of who you would save during a tragedy. It led to questions about responsibility, negligence, and what nefarious individuals might do for profit and fame. Five stars.

Friday, May 20, 2011

THEMES OF MEMORY, JOURNEYS, & STRUGGLES -- A REVIEW

Themes of memory, journeys, and the struggles through life's obstacles populate this memoir by a woman who has been spotlighted in memoirs by her sons.

Each of these three individuals—Margaret, her son John Elder, and her son Chris (Augusten Burroughs)—has a different and unique story, and the points on which they differ are not as important to their individual stories as the themes they share. Memories of pain, addiction, and mental illness.

Margaret Robison's The Long Journey Home: A Memoir takes the reader from her early childhood memories in Georgia, and the emotions that dominated her life there, to her marriage to John Robison and their years together in the North. With the couple finally settled in Massachusetts, we begin to explore Margaret's creative pathways, from poetry readings, workshops, and finally to this memoir that chronicles everything, as she remembers it: Her bouts with psychosis and various hospitalizations; her painful tyranny at the hands of an incompetent psychiatrist; and her long journey back to functioning after a stroke.

In the final pages, she delves a bit into the pain she felt after reading her son's portrayal of her in his memoirs. Her son Chris, who changed his name to Augusten Burroughs, soon after "erased" her from his life. Her thoughts on his books illustrate the sometimes unreliable memories of our lives. When our memories are guided by emotion, they reveal the feelings behind the events more than the actual facts of what happened.

As I struggled to piece together this author's story, I sometimes felt bogged down by the numerous incidents and the sometimes repetitive details. In the end, I decided to grab the emotion of the story, even as I applauded the author's ability to survive some extremely difficult experiences. For this effort, I designate three stars.

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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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