Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love

I got up early this morning to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Quite simply, I loved this book and it may have made a profound impact on my life! Oddly enough, it was a book that has been out for awhile (2006) and I never had any interest in reading about some lady traveling around seeking herself. But I found it for $.70 at Goodwill one day and decided to try it.

As the sub-title states: "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia", this is a true story of Elizabeth's Gilbert search for happiness. Coming off a hard, bitter divorce, dark depression, then an impossible love affair, she decides to go away and find God. First, she goes to Italy and learns pleasure...just in being, enjoying friends, food and landscape. She stays there for, I believe, 3 months. By then, she feels emotionally and physically restored and is ready to travel to India, where she spends 4 months at the Ashram, learning to mediate and seek God on a higher level. This is the part of the book that I found so inspiring and yet simple.

Elizabeth's time in the Ashram is shared with various people who come and go, also seeking their own spirituality. I was most struck with her friend, Richard, from Texas. In his own way, his wisdom is ancient.

I wish that I had read this book years ago (although it hadn't been written) because I would have used some of the wisdom in my own work with clients. In one instance, Elizabeth is talking about her inability to let go of David (the affair), stating that after a year, she still can't let go of him. Richard suggests that she give it another 6 months. "Just keep throwin' six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time."

Elizabeth then goes on to lament that David was her soul mate. Richard's response:
"He probably was. Your problem is you don't understand what that work means. People think that a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll every meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can't let this one go. It's over, Groceries (his nickname for her). David's purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job, and he did great, but now it's over. Problem is, you can't accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You're like a dog at the dump, baby-you're just lickin' at an empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And it you're not careful, that can's gonna get stuck on you snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it."

What wisdom! And that is just a sampling of Richard's wisdom! He should write a book, too! (***Note: just found this online: Check it out!)

Anyway, Elizabeth spends 4 months in India learning various ways of mediatation, then travels to Bali and it appeared to me that there she spends her time (again, I think it was 4 months) living the life that she had learned to live and appreciate over the past year.

I even learned a new way to meditate that I have been trying for the past 2 days. And I never in my life, have ever had the desire to do so!

The book certainly left me with wanting to know how Elizabeth's life has been going for the past 3 years! I highly recommend this book. It is very easy to read and reads like a novel...very entertaining. I think that this book, and it's messages will stay with me for a long time.

New List of Summer Recommendations

While reading through the magazine Woman's Day (August 4th issue) I saw that they had a site for readers:

On the site, they state: "Every couple weeks we will submit new reviews for books we love so you can find a page turner of your own. Settle in and find a new story to enchant you."

I thought it was a great list of books and wanted to share it with you. I have marked (*) the books that I want to read, and commented on those that I have read. It might be worth checking out the site every so often to see what is new they are recommending. Each book has a brief review with it. Here's an example:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
This story of two Jewish cousins who set out to make it big in the world of comic books in the 1940s is funny, sad, exciting and touching all at once. Much more than a glimpse inside the world of comics, this novel's historical backdrop give it a much deeper and richer meaning. And even though it's more than 600 pages, the story seems to go by in a flash thanks to Chabon's inspired prose. He's a truly gifted writer. -- Angela Ebron

The books listed on the site so far are the following:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafron-good book

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

*The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

*The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

*Broken: A Love Story by Lisa Jones

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult-one of my all-time favorite books! I highly recommend it!

Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob by Bob Delaney with Dave Scheiber

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller

Belle in the Big Apple by Brooke Parkhurst

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet by Jancee Dunn

*Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

*The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides-excellent read

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson-another excellent read

The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult-good, but not her best

*Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

How Not to Die by Jan Garavaglia

*Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff

Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen with Sherry Suib Cohen

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

The Kite Runner by Kahled Hoseini

*Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Romantic Movement by Alain de Botton

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

*The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards-I loved this book

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Cheer! Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders by Kate Torgovnick

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

*The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

*Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Perfectly Imperfect by Lee Woodruff

Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon-see my last review!

Hope that this gives you some more ideas for books TBR! It sure did me! Let me know if you have read any of these and would recommend them!

Friday, July 17, 2009


I just finished Meridian by Alice Walker. It was written in 1976 and tells the story of Meridian Hill, a student at an Atlanta college. She attempt to find her place in the on-going revolution that is occurring, but is not willing "to kill for it". It was an interesting book. I saw a piece on-liine from the New York Times reviewing the book and it pretty much covers it for me, so here it is:

May 23, 1976 Meridian By MARGE PIERCY MERIDIAN By Alice Walker. In "Meridian," Alice Walker has written a fine, taut novel that accomplishes a remarkable amount. The issues she is concerned with are massive. Events are strung over 25 years, although most occur between the height of the civil rights movement and the present. However, her method of compression through selection of telling moments and her freedom from chronology create a lean book that finishes in 228 pages and goes down like clean water. Although this is only Alice Walker's second novel, it is her sixth book. She has published poetry, short stories and a study of Langston Hughes. She writes with a sharp critical sense as she deals with the issues of tactics and strategy in the civil rights movement, with the possibility of interracial love and communication, the vital and lethal strands in American and black experience, with violence and nonviolence, holiness and self-hatred. In spite of many sharply sketched minor characters (for instance, the young woman dying of a kidney ailment who says "Don't sit there. . . . You blocks my view of my husband"), there are only four important characters: Meridian's mother, Mrs. Hill, dour, narrowly religious, frightened and unloving; Lynne, a Jewish civil rights worker from the suburbs who marries and loses Truman the "Ethiopian prince"; Truman, a painter, who shifts and slides with the times; and Meridian herself, a black woman who cannot lie and for whom ideas are simply real and to be acted upon with her life. What Walker wants to say about history and choice she works out through a 10-year-long triangle; of Meridian, Truman and Lynne--their misadventures, their ability and inability to love or forgive each other, the dreadful believability of how they flay and feed and comfort by turns. Meridian has been passionately in love with Truman, who leaves her for Lynne, whom he later abandons along with their daughter Camara. By the time he wants Meridian, she no longer wants him because her life of total commitment to struggle in the black small towns of the South is meaningless to him, an increasingly commercial artist. Lynne cannot go back where she came from and she does not belong in the black community either. Meridian, the protagonist, is the most interesting, an attempt to make real in contemporary terms the notion of holiness and commitment. Is it possible to write a novel about the progress of a saint? Apparently, yes. With great skill and care to make Meridian believable at every stage of her development, Walker also shows us the cost. For every exemplary act of bravery for the black community (standing up to a tank so black children can see a peepshow) she pays an immediate price in her body. Asked by a group of temporary revolutionaries if she can kill for the revolution, she infuriates her friends because she cannot say an easy yes and spends a decade worrying the question. Walker has put "Meridian" together carefully, on every level. For instance, the lost dead black child is a motif running throughout. In ignorance Meridian got pregnant and had to leave high school. When she is offered a college scholarship for her work in civil rights, she gives her baby away to relatives and goes. She feels that giving up her child is a sin and a shame, and after aborting Truman's baby, she is sterilized. She is haunted by having failed to win her mother's love, by the great lack of mothering and nurture; and by her own failure as a mother. Her inability to forgive cripples her. At the same time she is aware that without that harsh choice, she would have accomplished nothing. Her life would have been wasted and she would have taken out her emptiness and frustration on hr baby, whom she could not love. That theme is played out in the story of a child of 13 who bears a baby and kills it, after she has bitten its cheek like an apple, and is put in prison, Lynne, whose daughter Camara is raped and murdered, loses her child and almost her reason. One of Meridian's acts on behalf of the black community in a small town in Alabama is to force the end of the flooding that menaces the children. The city has closed the swimming pools sooner than integrate them. In the hot weather, black children wade in the ditches behind their houses, where the city without warning flushes the reservoir of excess water. "It was Meridian who had led them to the mayor's office, bearing in her arms the bloated figure of a five-year-old boy who had been stuck in the sewer for two days before he was raked out with a grappling hook. . .To the people who followed Meridian it was as if she carried a large bouquet of long-stemmed roses. The body might have smelled just that sweet, from the serene, set expression on her face. They had followed her into a town meeting over which the white-haired, bespectacled mayor presided, and she had placed the child, whose body was beginning to decompose, beside his gavel." I do not find the ending successful. Walker consciously rejects death. Meridian's political commitment is not to end in martyrdom: there have been too many martyrs to her cause. Still, we need some other equivalent of death or marriage to round off a tale, and Walker has not found one here. We are told that Meridian has brought off a successful change from victim to fully responsible protagonist: that she no longer need punish herself physically, have fits, go blind because she acts for her people and herself, and that she believes she could kill if she must to prevent more martyrdom. But telling is not enough. She has ceased to be one sort of committed person and become another. Some act is needed to make real the change and it isn't there; but that's a minor failure in a tight, fascinating novel. Marge Piercy is a poet and novelist. Her latest poetry collection is "Living in the Open."

It is an interesting, complicated story. Although it was written about 33 years ago, it still seems quite relevant and in tume with these times.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Rapture of Canaan

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds was published in 1995, and I just got around to reading it. I ended up loving this book. I had trouble, at first, getting into it, but I think that was my problem, not the book! I was distracted while reading the first couple of chapters, and had trouble following the story, but once I settled into the book, I really liked it.

It is the story of a young girl, Ninah, who lives in a very strict, "religious" community, that her grandfather started (ie. made up). She finds herself attracted to a young boy, James, and becomes his "prayer partner". She became pregnant by James and when she tells him, he is quite frightened by what the community might do to him, as the leader/grandfather is very harsh on "sinners". Shortly before Ninah became pregnant,one of the young men was found guilty of drinking and his punishment was to spend the night in an open grave. James was terrified of what might be done to him, Ninah and the baby.

James handles the situation in a horrifying way, leaving Ninah to go through the pregnancy alone. She stays with her grandparents, and is isolated from the rest of the community. Her grandmother, Nana, takes care of her, both emotionally and physically, until the baby is born.

I am leaving out lots of stuff here, because the story is so good, I don't want to give anything away.

The story tells of Ninah's strength, courage, and moral convictions. Her ability to be resilient despite all of the religiosity is uplifting and amazing.

On a personal note, Nana reminded me a great deal of my own dear sweet Nanya, my grandmother, who was always there for me with unconditional love and support. That made the book even more enjoyable for me!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

well, nuts!

Since finishing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I have been having miserable luck getting into another book. Read 65 pages of The Memory of Water...gave up. Read 65 pages of Moo...gave up. Am now trying to read The Rapture of Canaan and so far, not getting into it...but will give it 65 pages too. I hate it when I don't have a good book to read! Or maybe The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo spoiled other books for awhile? No, surely not....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I loved this book written by Stieg Larsson. Here, listen to the blurb on the back:

"...combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into a complex and atmospheric novel.

Harriett Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption."

What more could one want? The story is written very well and kept me engaged the whole time...I could hardly put it down. Part of the attraction for me was that the book takes place in Sweden (where I visited when my daughter was going to school in Uppsala....beautiful place!).

I thought that the characters of Mikael and Lisbeth were very knew these people. Parts of the story are rather shocking, but just very interesting. I am really reluctant to say more about the book because I don't want to give anything away!

I was rather puzzled by the events at the end of the book...the mystery had been solved, and there were still 80 pages left in the book. I thought it a rather odd way to end a book, but am guessing that the ending was leaving room for a follow-up book.

The author does have a book coming out this month, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which appears to be about Lisbeth Salander again, so that will be interesting. I will be anxious to read it when it comes out. I definitely recommend The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.