Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I selected this book as somewhat of a novelty.  Another book by a different author with the same title was released on the same day.  That's an unusual event in the publishing world. I felt it only fair if I was reading one to also read the other.  I loved Life After Life by Jill McCorkle and posted a review of it earlier.  I didn't enjoy Life After Life by Kate Atkinson quite so much.

Ursula Todd is born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  The midwife is stopped at the local pub due to a driving snowstorm and unable to make it to Sylvie Todd's bedside.  Each time we think the worst has happened to this baby, the author rewinds the tape, leading the reader down a different path where the doctor does make it through the snow, or the servant uses the kitchen shears to cut the cord to give Ursula another chance at life.

At pivotal points in a young girl's life, Ursula's choices are simply undone and her path reset to something different.  The new path didn't necessarily lead Ursula to a better place, only a different one.  Each turn became more tedious than the last. As a reader I often found myself lost and confused as to where I was supposed to be in the story.  There was an awful lot of rehashing of the same conversations and events. Boring!

I think this is an interesting concept for a story, however I began to feel like it was Groundhog Day, repeating itself over and over again.  Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if Ursula had been a likeable character, but she wasn't.  Maybe if her mother, brothers and sister had been more appealing I would have enjoyed the book, but they weren't.  I'm not one to stop reading once I start, but I'll admit I skipped alot of the middle hoping the end would bring redemption.  Unfortunately, it didn't.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home by Sue Halpern

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home by Sue Halpern

Lately things have been difficult.  My 92 year old stepmother, June, had to be moved to assisted living.  She'd been living alone and it became apparent that she couldn't care for herself any longer.  She thought she was doing a fine job and there in lies the problem.  Navigating the world of home care aides, long term care insurance and assisted living facilities is not for the faint of heart.  Throw in a senior citizen who doesn't want to budge and let the headaches begin. 

We found a lovely facility for her (but don't tell June it's a facility) that has therapy dog visits on its list of activities.  When I found A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home I thought maybe it would give me some insight.  I am open to any and all kinds of advice because like I said earlier, I had unexpectedly entered a new place with a new set of rules. 

Pransky is a therapy dog with a funny name and a huge heart.  She and her master, Sue set off on the journey to become a licensed therapy dog.  Sue intended to spend their time at the county nursing home.  What they learn about life is fascinating and what they learn about each other is amazing.  The book walks through the people they meet at County, Pransky often introducing Sue to people she might have avoided if Pransky hadn't tugged to enter a certain room, a room that wasn't on her list of those requesting a visit from a dog.  Each patient had a story to tell about a life that had been well lived. 

Pransky only wanted a rub behind her ear from everyone she met.  Sometimes she also got a biscuit or a scrap of lunch that fell to the floor.  Sue came with the preconceived notions that we all as humans, have about other people.  As a team, they made a difference to people facing a time in their lives that is not usually the most pleasant.  While Pransky never changed, Sue learned many life lessons she never would have without the love of a good dog.

While I struggle to decide whether A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home is the story of a dog or the story of the end of life, I did find comfort in reading it.  What I did learn is that none of us knows what hand we'll be dealt in life.  We should relax and feel the love of a good dog any chance we get.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...