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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

September 22, 2009

I don’t know what motivated me to pick up a children’s book, but I’m glad I did.

Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is the story of Edward, a china rabbit who considers himself to be an exceptional specimen. In fact, Edward never ceases to be amazed by his fine figure as he admires himself in the window, waiting for his mistress, ten-year old Abilene, to come home from school each day.

Edward’s biggest frustrations are condescending adults who treat him like a common bunny, and Abilene’s tendency to squeeze Edward so tight it wrinkles his fine suits (she just loves him so much).

Edward’s life begins to get complicated when Abilene’s grandmother, Pellagrina, tells Abilene & Edward a bedtime story of a princess who loved nobody.  Edward knows this story is directed at him, and Pellagrina’s last remarks, “you disappoint me,” haunt him through the night.

As the book continues, Edward embarks on an accidental journey through which he discovers the joys and pains of love and loss.  I loved the story of this humorously self-aware china rabbit who grows to be tenderly selfless and kind.

Overall Rating: 5/5

I knew I’d lost it when…

September 17, 2009
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Have you ever had a moment where you realize, mid-breakdown, that you have REALLY gone overboard?

Today’s episode of “I knew I’d lost it when” occurred in my kitchen, as I found myself in tears—literally, tears, plural, from both eyes—over a can opener that I cannot find.  This was seconds after I’d looked in the correct place (caddy which holds serving utensils, etc), all the likely places (silverware drawer, potholder drawer, foil drawer, dishwasher, etc) and resorted to every other odd place (lazy Susan, refrigerator, under the refrigerator, behind the refrigerator—how a can opener could end up there I don’t know—every cabinet, through everything again, around the living room, in the laundry room….yes, I broke down.  And I cried.  I don’t think I’ve cried in eleven months.

Now before you think I’m completely crazy and refer me to the asylum, this didn’t come out of thin air.  It had been one heck-of-a day, week, and month.  And all I wanted to do was enjoy a nice dinner, and well, it’s all very frustrating.

Thankfully, I am now calmed down and managed to find something else to eat.  But my can opener is still missing.  Should you happen across it, I’d be ever-so grateful.

UPDATE: I noticed that the can opener had reappeared on Sunday; or it was never missing….  It remains to be seen if my sanity will similarly come home.

Little Bee

September 17, 2009

Have you ever finished a book surprised to realize you’d become attached to the characters, and were truly sad to see them go?

I found this was the case with Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  Compared to The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, this book is no light read.  And yet, it’s the sort of book that causes reflection which is too good to pass up.

The story centers around two women: Little Bee, a teenage refugee from Nigeria, and Sarah O’Rourke, British journalist and mother dealing with the death of her husband, Andrew.  The characters, who had met in a horrific setting in Nigeria two years prior to the beginning of the book, come together again and discover their experiences have bonded them, for good or bad.

I found myself wanting to polarize the characters.  Little Bee seemed a flawless, innocent victim of war in Nigeria and unfair treatment in England.  Sarah, along with her late husband Andrew, seemed driven solely by selfishness and indulgence.

It’s Sarah’s late husband, Andrew, whose conscious causes him to reflect on his selfish actions and contemplate his life.  Flashbacks cause the reader to reflect along with the characters.

  • When events cause you to really see yourself, do you like what you see? Is redemption possible after you’ve made a mistake?
  • What will you sacrifice for a stranger? What will you sacrifice for a loved one? Are your answers different?  Should they be?

I was initially drawn into the story by allusions to events in Sarah & Little Bee’s past that were gradually revealed throughout the book.  But without realizing it, I grew attached to Little Bee, Sarah, and Andrew as I discovered their growth and development as they choose to sacrifice for one another.  The result was a truly moving story and characters I was sad to part from.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Health Reform: Why I can’t form an opinion

September 17, 2009

Today, a confession.  I don’t know where I stand in the health reform debate.

You may think this doesn’t really matter.  But for me, who spends most daylight hours inside considering things health-insurance related, I really should have an opinion.  I guess my problem isn’t a lack of opinion, but rather conflicting opinions.

It’s the old angel/devil on the shoulder shtick.  The left side argues for reform in the form of a nationwide Massachusetts health plan: universal insurance; employer/individual mandates.  It’s good that everyone has coverage, and it’s only fair that everyone pays for it.  The right side prompts me to consider how an individual mandate could impact me: I haven’t been to a doctor in 1 1/2 years (and even that was driven by vanity: a visit to the dermatologist for acne medication).  Why, when I have no need for medical care, should I pay thousands of dollars a year for mandatory care that I don’t need and will probably not use?

The only problem with the angel/devil shtick, is that I can’t figure out who’s the angel & who’s the devil.  I remain torn & undecided.

Recently, a news article caught my eye:

Young Adults May Pay Big Share of Health-Care Reform’s Cost

It wasn’t news to me that 10 million of the uninsured are young adults who largely “self insure” because the monthly premium just isn’t worth it; or that, under any health reform proposal, young adults would be required to “help dilute the expense of covering older, sicker people,” and that “this group could even wind up paying disproportionately hefty premiums — effectively subsidizing coverage for their parents.”

What I find remarkable, however, is the absence of feedback from this huge group who are likely to be impacted by health reform more than any other. Where are the opinions of these 10 million?  Why does no one question the proposed solution?

Is it a reliance on employer coverage, or government subsidies, that will hopefully result in a positive impact (cheaper care)? Are they altruistic? Are they apathetic?  Or, like me, are they just undecided about what’s best?

Regardless of my political persuasions, I don’t write this post in an attempt to rake up political debate.  I’m just incredibly curious.  Where do my peers stand?  Am I alone in my (lack of consistent) opinions?

Fall

September 15, 2009

This morning, I grabbed a jacket on my way out.  To me, this is a sure sign of change.  With mixed feelings, I’m facing up to the fact that fall is here.

In many ways, I love fall. I love fall colors:  I think mother nature’s most beautiful gift are the trees she decorates with red, orange, and yellow. I love fall clothes:  Once I’m able to accept the fact that summer is over, I love the warmth that turtlenecks, long sleeves, jackets, and scarves provide. I love fall food.  Nothing beats pumpkin pie, candy corn, and warm & delicious soups & stews.  Really, fall should be my favorite time of year.

And yet, it’s hard for me not to regret the end of summer and think of fall as a harbinger of the cold, snow, and ice that is winter.  Too often I hibernate early, and I miss out on the leaves, the clothes, the food, and all the great things about fall.  This year, I’m determined to enjoy the last days of semi-warmth to the fullest, though how exactly that will be done is still to be determined.

Am I alone in my love/dread of fall?  What are your favorite things about the season?  What do you do to enjoy fall/prevent pre-winter blues?

Love Walked In

September 14, 2009

It’s not often I’m captivated by a book within three pages.  But I was drawn to Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos because of the beautifully poetic prose and what started as an intriguing plot.

Alternating chapters tell the stories of two characters: thirty-something Cornelia, with an abounding adoration for classic movies and fantasizing; and eleven-year old Clare, with a penchant for books, lists, and thoughtful insights beyond her years.   Cornelia’s story begins with romance as Martin, a Cary Grant look-alike, walks into her life.  Clare’s story is a more serious account of how she conceals her mother’s increasingly manic-depressive behavior.

As both Cornelia’s romance & Clare’s mother’s mental decline progress, you begin to wonder how these characters relate to each other.  And predictably, after a hundred pages of wondering, it’s confirmed that Clare is Martin’s mostly-forgotten daughter.

Cornelia & Clare bond instantly over everything, seeming more like sisters than mother & daughter.  Through all of this happy bonding, Clare tries to cope with the uncertain future of her world, with a mother who’s gone missing and an overwhelmed father who wishes he could disappear.  Meanwhile, Cornelia tries to cope with her uncertainty about which of the stunningly handsome men in her life she is actually in love with: Martin, the man she’s been looking for since childhood, or Teo, the beautiful and smart childhood friend who Cornelia suddenly & dramatically begins to see in a new light.

While the elegant writing continues, its novelty wears out while the intrigue & interest of the story diminishes at an accelerating pace as every twist is predictably and outlandishly resolved.  Happily, the book ends well, but left me wishing the journey to the end had reached the potential of the first pages.

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

Get rich quick

September 9, 2009

Today I got a call from my landlord informing me that he couldn’t cash this month’s check.

Rent Check

I guess I’ve been stressed lately. Luckily he’s a nice guy, and a new check is in the mail.