This installment: an unlikely love- and- death conjunction; a Canadian novel about a “queer bird”; a boomer “romance”; a graphic memoir about mania; a suspenseful novel that’s perfect airplane reading ; and a tough yet funny memoir about surviving bad medical prognoses (that plural’s deliberate).
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A totally satisfying original romance. I didn’t want it to end, knew how it would end, and actually let out a full sigh of contentment when I closed it. (That doesn’t happen often.) Will is upper class and handsome. He was a financial player with an adventuresome life until an accident turned him into a quadriplegic. Now he’s back home, bored and miserable and mean and ready to end it all. Lou, from the village, needs a job. She’s a tough and spirited, afflicted with low self esteem, but determined to find ways to engage him back into life. There’s a six-month deadline. Her boyfriend Patrick is in training, a hunk of self-absorbed muscle. Elements of Pygmalion for sure as she discovers the power, say, of classical music. Her forthright clumsiness and big heart shove through Will’s defenses and of course they fall in love. Ahh.
Y, A Novel by Marjorie Celona
A nameless bundle of baby is left outside the YMCA in Victoria, BC. That’s Shandi, now Shannon, who’s shunted from foster home to foster home. Finally ends up with Miranda and her daughter Lily who do as well as they can, but Shannon’s a queer, resistant bird after her first abandonment and worse along the way. In alternate chapters we get the tragic story of her birth. Against all odds but with fierce determination she tracks down her original parents when she turns 17. Beautifully written and compassionate amidst the dreck of how people hurt each other and come through for each other as well.
Out of Warranty by Heywood Smith
Well I won’t read those Shades of Gray books but I admit I read this one because I was curious what a falling-apart boomer romance would be like. Cassie, a widow, has a condition that costs a lot to treat and no good health insurance. Jack, divorced and one-legged, is equally afflicted. Their meetings in the doctor’s office are not auspicious but she ends up helping him try to clean up his run down place—mold must be banished. She tries dating but each swain proves wanting. (Those episodes are droll.) Being allergic to furry pets, her kids got her a potbellied pig, Juliet, pretty cute. Atlanta setting, lots of references to Christian values, and you know who end up together…So I was both appalled and entertained in equal measure.
Marbles by Ellen Forney
A graphic memoir subtitled Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me. This genre is particularly good at conveying complex internal states. (I’ve read a number of graphic depictions of mental and physical shall-we-say challenges.) She’s bi-polar, lesbian, and an artist—triple threat. She was lucky to find a good therapist but the search for the right balance of drugs took a decade.She also shares history about crazy artists and explores the ongoing questions of creativity hampered by medication. Lively, thoughtful, candid.
Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner
I read this on a long uncomfortable plane ride back from Mexico, in the grip of the flu, and it’s a tribute to the details and suspense that I could actually escape from the snuffles and cramps through its pages. A “perfect family,” handsome and prosperous, is kidnapped under baffling circumstances. He’s a contractor responsible for huge government projects; she’s just discovered his infidelities and is masking her sorrows with pills. Their 15-year-old daughter has secrets of her own. There’s a scrappy detective, Tessa, who has her own sorrows , and a handful of really sadistic thugs. Bang up ending. Gripping, to be sure.
Most of Me – Surviving my Medical Meltdown by Robyn Michelle Levy
Parkinson’s and breast cancer in her mid-forties-- that’s a double header in my book. I relish reading about what tough experiences people go through and how they survive and even thrive. Ingredients that helped her: humor, creativity, a great support system, joie de vivre. Although not at first when she thought she was just grumpy, depressed and dragging. Her father also has Parkinson’s, a stinking disease regardless. She’s laid off from her British Columbia broadcasting job which has been getting harder. She’s been wrangling with her 13 –year- old daughter. But finally a definitive diagnosis, good therapy, meds and then (can you believe it?) a lump. Boy, can Levy be funny, as in this mock weather report: “It’s September. The forecast calls for heavy showers of advice from oncologists and a flood of anxiety. Expect seasoned support from breast cancer survivors. There is an 80% chance of scattered thoughts and indecision.” By some miracle, she’s doing OK for now, though significantly impaired. This is actually a feel-good book.
Back next Monday