GoodReads

Books #45

I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. I read some good books (see below) and then had a rash of duds. Books I just could not get into at all and gave up before finishing. And they were recommended books! So I don’t know. Maybe my head wasn’t in the right space for them or something.

But here are a few good ones to add to your list.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

A friend recommended this book and I liked it a lot! Lori is a therapist in LA. She has an 8 year old son, she’s supposed to be writing a book on happiness. She’s engaged. And then her boyfriend breaks up with her and she finds herself in her mid-40s suddenly floundering.

“I’m convinced that Boyfriend has quickly transitioned into his post-me life completely unscathed. It’s a refrain I recognize from divorcing couples I see in which one person is struggling mightily and the other seems fine, happy even, to be moving on.”

She has writers block, she’s depressed and crying all the time, she’s having some health issues the doctors can’t seem to diagnose. So, even though she’s a therapist, she ends up going to therapy.

“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”

It’s a very interesting read. She writes about some of her clients (names changed, of course) and it was interesting to read about the journey people had in therapy. Even if you can’t relate to her clients there is a little tidbit in each other their stories that I think most people can relate to. Grief. Loss. Big life changes.

“One of the most important steps in therapy is helping people take responsibility for their current predicaments, because once they realize that they can (and must) construct their own lives, they’re free to generate change.”

While I didn’t find her own therapy sessions as interesting as the clients she shared about (Julie in particular), I enjoyed the book a lot!

#2 Women’s Work: A Reckoning with Work and Home by Megan Stack

I liked most of this book. I found it really interesting from a cultural standpoint. There were definitely parts of it I didn’t like, but overall it was a good read.

It’s a memoir about a reporter, Megan, who is living in China with her husband when she gets pregnant and quits her reporting job. They decide to hire help (housework and help with the baby) so she could write a book. She writes about her struggle as a new mom, the lack of sleep that caused some insanity. I could totally relate to that and remembered the haze of early motherhood.

Then, pregnant again, her husband gets a job in India and they move there. She hires help in India, too. She struggles with the realities of having help and the cultural differences and what happens when you try and help “the help” based on your culture.

There were some parts of the book that were definitely uncomfortable. Her privilege definitely came through and was gross, but at the same time, I’m a middle-class white woman with privilege (even though I don’t have hired help), so maybe it’s uncomfortable to read because of that? Who knows. Either way, there were some “icky” parts but some really interesting parts.

#3 Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

I liked this book a lot. I read it in one day! There is a sequel coming out this fall, that I am dying to read, too.

Irene is a 50-something woman with two grown boys and a husband who is away a lot for work. She gets a shocking, and mysterious, phone call on New Year’s Day that her husband died in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean. She’s confused because he was supposed to be in Florida for work. Why was he in the Caribbean?

She flies down there to discover that not only was he lying about where he was most of the time, he had a villa and another life–complete with a mistress and a love child. Irene, with her adult boys, are trying to piece together who he really was because Russ Steele apparently lied about everything.

It was a good book and a fast read.

#4 From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

I loved this book. It was so well written and heart-felt and passionate and sad.

Tembi is an African American actress. When she was in college, she spent some time abroad in Italy for her her Art History degree, where she met and fell in love with her future husband, Saro. They had a long distance relationship for awhile and then got marriage, despite Saro’s family’s displeasure–which caused a family rift.

Saro and Tembi were in love for a long time, focused on their careers and then he got cancer. She nursed him back to health, tried to broker a family reunion to fix whatever drama was going on, and when Saro was well they adopted a baby daughter. Years later, he dies of cancer and Tembi is now faced with healing, dealing with grief, raising their daughter alone, and going back to Sicily once a year to be with Saro’s family.

It’s a truly heart-felt book. You definitely feel for the young widow, feel for the daughter, the mother…She’s trying her best to heal her own grief, while helping her daughter with the loss of her father.

“‘Children, especially those your daughter’s age, are prone to magical thinking. You will need to help her understand what is happening because her brain will want to forget. Her brain and heart will not be able to hold it. One day when she’s sixteen and all her grief is new and fresh, triggered by all the ways he is not in her life, she will be angry and hurt and confused. And mad at you, mad at life. She may say, ‘And you never let me say good-bye to my dad’ or ‘I never got to go to his memorial service.’ And she won’t be making it up. It will be real to her. Children can bury what is too big to bear. That is why you will have the picture.’ “

The descriptions of Sicily are magical. The book is about grief and healing and it’s just really well done.

“…they sat in front of Saro’s childhood home waiting for us. They were prepared for mourning. They had done this before, many times—for themselves, for family, for neighbors, perhaps since the dawn of time. Sicilians were accustomed to welcoming home the dead.”

I can’t recommend it enough.

#5 The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The premise of this book is absurd and unrealistic but totally delightful. Suspend reality, be ready to just read fluff and enjoy it. I read it camping and finished the book in one day.

Olive and Ami are twin sisters. Ami is getting married to Dane. But at the last minute, almost the entire wedding party gets sick, including the bride and groom, so Ami insists that Olive goes on her honeymoon for her. It’s non-refundable, afterall.

So Olive and the groom’s brother, Ethan, whom Olive dislikes a great deal, pretend to be new husband and wife for a free trip to Hawaii. Absurd and predictable, you can totally see where this is going and where it ends up. But still, I liked it. I needed something fun and light and not a deep think and this hit the spot.

#6 Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

This was an interesting story. Molly and Aidan are 30-something and unfortunately, suffered a loss at 20-something weeks pregnant and Molly had to have a hysterectomy. Now they are going the adoption route, which has it’s own ups and downs. But it’s bringing up a lot of ghosts for Molly.

The book spends most of the time in the past, describing one summer in Molly’s childhood. At first I wanted the story to stay in present day but the story sucked me in. It was a good read and a compelling story.

Happy Reading!

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Books #43

It’s been a busy month! But I did find some time to read. And of course, a bunch of books I had on hold at the library all came at the same time. It always happens that way. Anyways, here are some good ones:

#1 Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Wow. What a story, what a book. It took awhile to get through it, but I definitely recommend it. It got on my radar after hearing a podcast (maybe This American Life?) about what happened at Memorial Hospital during Katrina and so when I saw this book I had to get it.

The book reconstructs what happened during the 5 days at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina: when the floodwaters surrounded the hospital and flooded the lower floors, they lost power, the heat was intolerable…

“The hurricane cut off city power. The hospital’s backup generators did not support air-conditioning, and the temperature climbed…Early Wednesday morning, Memorial’s generators failed, throwing the hospital into darkness and cutting off power to the machines that supported patients’ lives.”

It was chaos. They were hearing reports that it was Marshall Law outside the hospital walls. “Thiele thought the hospital would be overtaken, that those inside it had no good way to defend themselves.”

“While the mayor commanded everyone to leave, many didn’t have cars or other means to do so, and officials knew that the city’s plans to help transport them had significant holes, including a lack of sufficient drivers. Residents who could go on their own were already stuck in traffic on the interstate leading out of town. The Superdome, the giant stadium that hosted the New Orleans Saints football team, was designated as a “shelter of last resort.” “

Helicopters would land on the helipad of the hospital roof but then refuse to take patients. “The pilots would not allow pets on board the aircraft and watercraft, creating stressful choices for the staff members who had brought them to the hospital for the storm.”

Pets were being euthanized. The nurses and doctors that stayed behind had to choose which patients could be rescued.

“The ICU filled with screams. Plywood grew wet and buckled. Water pooled on the floors. The metal window frames strained and creaked like the Titanic… The command team announced a shift in hospital operations from “assault mode” to “survival mode.” This unofficial designation reflected news they had received minutes before the meeting. An Acadian ambulance worker on-site had confirmed with his dispatchers that one of the canals in New Orleans had been breached…the sight of the water advancing toward the hospital, pushing the hurricane debris ahead of it, was like something out of a movie.”

And eventually, the rescue boats and helicopters stopped coming.

“…electronic medical records system would be useless. Paper was high technology in a disaster. The electronic medication dispensing cart, new to Pitre-Ryals’s unit, would also shut down, its stock of medicines locked securely inside it… The hospital was stifling, its walls sweating. Water had stopped flowing from taps, toilets were backed up, and the stench of sewage mixed with the odor of hundreds of unwashed bodies.”

Then, at the end, when there was hope of rescue, a few doctors and nurses chose to “speed up” the death of certain patients. Patients that had DNR’s. A patient that was morbidly obese and couldn’t be moved up through the stairwell to the helicopters.

” “When I made my mother a DNR, I did not know it meant ‘do not rescue.’ “ (one of the victim’s daughter’s said that)

“It was a desperate situation and Cook saw only two choices: quicken their deaths or abandon them. It had gotten to that point. You couldn’t just leave them. The humane thing seemed to be to put ’em out.”

The first 40% of the book was the reconstruction of those 5 days. The rest of the book was the investigation and trial and aftermath.

Reading about the truly horrific experiences these people went through (doctors and patients) during those 5 days, I can understand both sides of this argument. It was described as a war zone. I can understand being faced with a scenario where you have no idea if you will be rescued, not sure if you can save everyone, and make a decision about the sickest ones…but at the same time…those patients weren’t given the choice. So I can see how it can be seen has murder (hence the criminal charges and trial).

#2 Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

I heard an interview with this author on a podcast and the book sounded really fascinating. There was a long wait at the library for this book but it was worth the wait. It was a good book and I definitely recommend it. It’s an interesting memoir and it’s also an interesting discussion in medical ethics.

Dani is an accomplished writer, mother, wife. She’s in her 50’s and her on a whim, decides to do one of those DNA kits with her husband. They send it off, forget about it, and then the results come back and she discovers that she’s not genetically related to her half-sister, Susie. This opens up a can of worms she was not prepared for.

“If it was true that Susie and I were not half sisters, my father was not my father. That he was Susie’s father was without question. She looked like him. She had his eyes, and the shape of his face. She even sounded a bit like him…”

“My mind and body seemed to be disconnected. My body wasn’t the body I had believed it to be for fifty-four years.”

It turns out, her parents had difficulties conceiving and they went to a not so reputable fertility clinic in Philadelphia. Back during those days, it was common practice to mix the sperm with donor sperm. Dani, who always felt closer to her father than her mother, has now discovered she was not genetically related to the father she grew up with.

It’s a true crisis of identity and history for Dani. “Why am I? Why am I here? And how shall I live?”

” ‘It’s rare that you get an opportunity in life to stand outside yourself. It’s as if Hakadosh baruch hu is saying, Child, come sit next to me and now, look. Finding all this out is a door to discovering what a father really is. It isn’t closure—you may not get to have that—but it’s an opening to a whole new vista.’ I had been so afraid that blood would be all that mattered. Oh, how I had underestimated my remarkable aunt.”

Thus begins the search for her biological father. And the questions about her whole life (she’s Orthodox Jewish but never looked Jewish) and her heritage. It’s a very confusing, emotional time for her. But the real emotional roller coaster starts when she finds her biological father and they start corresponding through email.

The book is very interesting and a good read!

#3 Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

A lot of people might have heard of the Mutter museum in Philadelphia,a museum of “medical oddities”, but there was actually a pretty important doctor by the name of Thomas Mutter who played an important part in medical history.

He was orphaned at a young age and then sent to a distant relative who was basically a caregiver. Eventually he went to boarding school and then medical school. He became a gifted doctor and a surgeon and created the “Mutter Flap” to treat burn victims. It was an early method of skin grafting/plastic surgery.

“The broken. The diseased. The cursed. People who were considered monsters, even by medical definition. Mütter welcomed them all. An expert and efficient surgeon, he systematically rehearsed every procedure in his mind before beginning it.”

“Monsters. This is how the patients would have been categorized in America. Mutter was used to seeing them replicated in wax for classroom display, or hidden in back rooms away from the public eye. It was not uncommon for these patients to enter the surgical room fully prepared to die. Death was a risk they happily took for the chance to bring some level of peace and normality to their mangled faces or agonized bodies.”

He was renowned for his patient care, his surgical skill, his engaging teaching techniques in the classroom and he became the Chair of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

“Mütter had fought hard to make sure Jefferson Medical College provided recovery rooms to all patients who offered themselves up to the knife at the school’s surgical clinic.”

He performed hundreds of surgeries on patients who were “deformed” and gave many their lives back. He was also the first surgeon to use ether anesthesia during surgery (in 1846).

“Mütter’s fight for anesthesia to be widely accepted—to be adopted by doctors and surgeons as swiftly as possible in order to end what he saw as unnecessary human suffering—proved to be a turning point in his career…It was often a guessing game to determine how much was needed to sedate the patient . . . and how little could be used to kill them.”

He was so ground breaking and fascinating and he tragically lived a short life. His collection of medical “oddities” was bequeathed to a museum which became the Mutter Museum after he died. The book also talked a lot about the time period and the beginning of modern medicine and discoveries. It was so fascinating!

#4 Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

This was a very good book. It started out slow and I almost gave up but don’t give up because the story picks up and it gets very good and by the end you will be crying.

The story is a fictional telling of what it was like for native Hawaiians in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s when there was an outbreak of leprosy and they were rounded up and taken to the island of Moloka’i to live a segregated life. (I read a nonfiction book about this and it was VERY fascinating and I highly recommend it.)

Rachel is just a young girl when she contracts leprosy. She’s taken from her family and sent to Moloka’i to live. She lives in a home for girls and basically spends her life on the island. She grows up, she makes friends, she watches her friends die of the horrible disease. She come of age, she falls in love, she gets married…she has a baby and must give it up the second it’s born. The baby is then given up for adoption to a family off Moloka’i that doesn’t have leprosy.

It’s a touching, heart breaking book and I liked how it ended. It was a long book and there were definitely parts that felt like it dragged a bit and could have been edited down but the story was about a lifetime on this island, so it was kind of hard to avoid.

Would definitely recommend!

#5 My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

I loved this disturbing little book! What a creepy couple! Happily married couple, the husband and his wife Millicent, are living the picture-perfect life. They live in an expensive gated community. She’s a realtor. He’s a tennis instructor. They have two teenagers. They just happen to have a secret hobby: murder.

The husband, goes out to bars and hunts for women. Millicent kidnaps and murders them. But then all of a sudden, things are starting to unravel in their lives and their little hobby has consequences.

It is a gripping, creepy and enthralling book. I could not put it down! I could totally see it as a movie.

Happy Reading!

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