Friday, August 21, 2015

Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

This is the love story of Rachel and Andy. So pure and simple from the start, but like all love stories, the journey to happiness is not an easy one. You'll find yourself rooting for these two flawed characters, wishing they could go back to the days of innocence, knowing that the obstacles they face may never lead to happily ever after.

They meet in the emergency room of a hospital, both just eight-years-old and in need of a friend. Rachel's congenital heart defect defines
her life; the endless surgeries, the constant fretting and over protectiveness of her devoted mother, the restrictions involving physical activity, and the ever-present pink, jagged scar running down the center of her chest. Andy is a lonely, often angry child, not knowing where he belongs. Being biracial and never meeting his father has already jaded his view of the world. This particular night, he's waiting for a doctor to set his broken arm, a result of a careless unsupervised walk on a railing, while his mother partied with friends. The connection between Rachel and Andy on this fateful night is apparent from the beginning. Little do they know it's the start of a romance that will be tested over time.

Over the course of many years, Rachel and Andy will meet again and again. And over the years, their differences become quite apparent. Rachel's doting and indulgent parents enjoy treating her like the"Jewish Princess" that she is. In comparison, Andy's poor upbringing, hand-me-down clothes, and meager surroundings make him feel resentful and unworthy of her affection. Eventually, as they go their separate ways, hard work pays off for both of them. Andy's superb running skills take him to The Olympics, and Rachel's promising career in social work becomes a reality. However, with success, comes scandal and infidelity. Thoughts always return to that first chance meeting years ago.

In typical fashion, Jennifer Weiner uses her skill as a writer to engage the reader in a compelling  and emotional story that offers an astute insight into the perils of falling in love. Much like her All Fall Down  (reviewed August 2014) this novel appeals to the hope in all of  us that we can survive even in the darkest of times.

Only in the end will you find out if Rachel and Andy's fairy tale comes true.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day by Day

Day by Day
The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter
by Elizabeth (Liz) Thompson

Author Liz Thompson knows what it's like to face adversity. She's lived with severe hearing loss since childhood. This deeply personal narrative, told with grace and dignity, is undoubtedly a triumphant story. Her journey was not easy, the obstacles many, and the struggles real. This is her diary of success.

Liz Thompson is currently a columnist featured periodically in the This Week suburban newspapers distributed throughout the Columbus, Ohio Metropolitan area.  Her career as a writer has spanned many years and taken her countless places across the United States. She and her husband are pleased to call Ohio home once again. The numerous articles she has written over time (and letters written to her by grateful readers) actually motivated her to write this book published in 2008. These pieces are liberally interspersed throughout the book, offering an enlightening insight into the world of those who live each and every day with hearing loss. They reveal the struggles and challenges she faced along the way. The reader has the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge about the deaf community, about the art of communication, and how all individuals deserve acceptance and respect.

Liz describes the isolation and loneliness often associated with hearing loss ; the elementary-school teacher, who turned her back on the class making lip-reading impossible, the impatience of others when she couldn't respond to a comment or question, and the lack of self-confidence when tackling a new job. Her love of music and singing began to slip away as her hearing deteriorated, leaving a major void in her life. The added diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at age thirty-six would be the final "straw" for many people, a reason to stop trying. But as Liz reiterates over and over in her book, life is about attitude. And that positive attitude is quite evident if you look at her life today.

Liz found true love with her second husband, she's the proud grandmother of three, and is a successful writer.  She received a cochlear implant on April 22, 2002, opening up a world that others take for granted. Her words of encouragement have buoyed the spirits of so many of her readers and given hope to those who may experience despair. As Liz says, "separate the word dis-ability and put special in front and you have special ability". Wise words that put a whole new perspective on living and functioning with a "disability".

As an individual working in the field of education, I have seen first-hand the progress made in our schools and society. Watching a child with a cochlear implant interact with peers is extremely gratifying. Seeing that same child accepted and embraced by friends is hard to describe.  People like Liz Thompson paved the way for those facing challenges today. Very few of us have picture-perfect lives. Liz chooses to live hers with courage and faith; a fine example for all of us to follow and teach our children.

I encourage readers to take the time to read this book. You will learn interesting facts about the background and history behind the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, and the complexity in learning American Sign Language. You will also marvel at one woman's success against all odds. A true inspiration about living life to the fullest, regardless of limitations.


Friday, August 7, 2015

The Night Sister

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

Alfred Hitchcock was known as the "master of suspense". He had the uncanny ability to put movie goers on the "edge of their seats" in so many of his acclaimed films.

References to Hitchcock are throughout Jennifer McMahon's latest novel; a riveting, eerie tale flavored with fantasy. Much like her popular The Winter People (reviewed March, 2014) she writes about the paranormal, leaving the reader with unanswered questions.

The year is 2013. Policeman Jason Hawke is summoned to the Tower Motel to investigate a grizzly murder scene. A difficult job under any circumstances, but even more so tonight. He stares down at the long blond hair covered in a massive pool of sticky blood. Even with her face turned away from him, he knows it's Amy, his childhood friend. Now she is an accused murderer. A rifle lies next to her body. A scrawled piece of paper with the words "29 rooms" flutters on the floor. A clue from the dead? Upstairs, he finds the bodies of her husband and son. Then Jason hears a soft whimper outside the bedroom window on the roof. The mirror image of Amy huddles against the chimney, soft moonlight shining on frightened eyes. Miraculously, Amy's daughter has somehow survived.

The Tower Motel was once a successful tourist spot in rural London,Vermont in the 1950s. Now it's a crumbling mass of broken windows, rotting boards, and overgrown weeds. As children in the 1980s, Amy, her friend, Piper, and Piper's little sister, Margot, used to spend their summers exploring the abandoned grounds and solving mysteries like the disappearance of Amy's Aunt Sylvie. She was an aspiring actress who told her family she was leaving for the lights and fame of Hollywood. She was never heard from again  When the girls unearth her packed suitcase, they realize Sylvie may never have left at all. After another appalling discovery, Amy decides to break all ties with her friends. They must never reveal to anyone what they know.

Until today, twenty-five years later, when Margot tells Piper Amy is dead.  Childhood  memories return.....

Like a good old-fashioned horror movie, this is one of those books best read with the lights on. Outlandish, ghoulish, and scary, it's a page turner in every sense of the word. Pay attention to the span of years, as it changes from chapter to chapter. I found myself reading passages over again to establish the relationship between characters. From there, it was hard to put down...

Sometimes "it's easier to pretend the things that frighten us the most don't exist at all".