Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

Book Review: Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict (2020) 5 Stars ***** Acclaimed, Well-Researched Historical Fiction

We first meet Clementine Hozier in 1908 in London, England when she is about to marry Winston Churchill. “I think about the bishop’s description of my future—as a hidden force for good upon my important husband. Is that all anyone expects my life to be? I may be only twenty-three years old to Winston’s thirty-four, without the education, accomplishments, or nobility of my intended, but my life will not serve solely as the invisible prop for my husband.” Cat, as she is affectionately called by Pug, have an interdependent, loving relationship throughout their marriage. While Pug supplies the caché and the opportunities for social and political crusades, Pug’s beloved Clemmie is the wind beneath Winston’s wings. Clear-thinking, focused, adept at charming listeners and presenting arguments, Lady Clementine always remembers to take care of the little people who may be suffering, sees to it that their burdens are lifted but always with compassion, respects confidences, bites her tongue when expedient, and by doing so, raises the esteem in which her husband is held. You see, Winston Churchill was not always a star. His politics were generally at odds with the powers that were. He lacked charm, attractiveness and wealth, was high-strung, got knocked around as a political pariah, and was bereft of public relations strategies that came so easily to his wife.

Lady Clementine literally and figuratively saved her husband’s life numerous times. His path to glory was a hard one, and his Clemmie was there to help him forge on to fulfill the destiny so clearly foreseen by Lord Asquith. “I know it will seem small consolation at the moment, but I promise you this, Clementine. I will protect Winston as best I can so that—in the future—he can play the role to which he was born.”

Winston Churchill foresaw the horrors of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin years before they were unleashed in full force upon the world. Prime Minister Chamberlain of England and members of British Parliament along with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States, ignored these impending threats, and followed policies of appeasement as they were blind-sided by the realities of the world situation. Only after Germany, Italy and Russia had forcefully invaded a number of European and north African countries and Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, did Great Britain and the United States view the world with their eyes wide open.

As much as Lady Clementine understood and most often welcomed her role in her husband’s life and in history, this is not to say she often found it overwhelming. Her husband’s neediness, demands for constant attention, affection, and praise, refusal to act without her advice on even the smallest matters, all served to subjugate her into the role of alter ego. Her own needs were most often neglected. She suffered a number of miscarriages and the death of their two-year-old daughter. Her relationships with her four still living children were strained, as they were left with nannies and other caretakers while she traipsed around the world, most often at the behest of her husband. While she thrived on her independence and power to influence, Lady Clementine lost the balance between home and family and her function as emissary for her husband and country. Like most women today, a choice often has to be made to leave one or the other behind, or to moderately succeed, rather than excel, with both.

As one who served her country and her husband well, Lady Clementine expresses the dissonance of her life, “The sun sets in swaths of shimmering gold against the sharp line of the horizon where sky meets land, as it descends, I feel an unfamiliar tranquility descend upon me as well. All the strain and struggle that have comprised my life—my lonely and strange childhood, the wild swings of my unusual marriage, my struggle with motherhood, my compunction to constantly prove myself worthy, the tumult of two wars, even my pervasive sense of otherness—seem to fall away. In the vacuum of calm, I see with unexpected clarity that, without my unique hardships and failings, particularly with my children, I could not have become the Clementine who forged this path through politics and history, and without me, my husband could not have become the Winston who helped deliver peace to this broken world.”

Well-written with beautiful, evocative language, this book is an excellent choice for readers who love history, strong women characters, excellent examples for college courses in women’s studies, and realistic love stories that take us away from the mundane into the world of the movers and shakers of the world.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 5 Star *****

This is one of those books that will stay with you for the rest of your life. A police procedural and depressing family saga rolled into a compelling story of love, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, drug addiction, hopelessness, personal weakness, suspicions, and lack of trust, leads us to our main character, Philadelphia Police Officer Michaela (Mickey) Fitzpatrick, emotionally bereft, overwhelmed by responsibility and fears, grappling to find a safe place to call home for herself and her young son. Having virtually never felt reciprocal love while growing up, Mickey finds it difficult to maintain relationships. Mickey and her drug addicted sister were raised by their cold, aloof, hyper-critical, neglectful grandmother after the drug death of their mother and abandonment by their father. Always hungry and cold, inappropriately dressed and most often left to fend for themselves, these sisters struggle through life in what becomes a tug-of-war between adherence to rules and laws and the mean streets of drug ravaged Northeast Philadelphia. Unfortunately, both girls become victims to the predators of the community and streets. Often trusting the wrong people and dismissing the right ones, it’s hard to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mickey becomes obsessed by the search for her missing sister. Is she the latest, but maybe yet not found, victim of a serial killer targeting drug-addicted young girls of the street?  Her attempts to solve these crimes and capture the perp, lead Mickey down a path of police cover-up, suspicious behavior, and mistrust of commanding officers, as well as those she once considered friends. This lack of trust irreparably damages Mickey’s relationships. The community does not know what to believe. As these things go, the top brass turns the tables on Mickey so that she is now under investigation by Internal Affairs.

The book is well-written with simple sentences and language, with chapters alternating between past and present. Instead of using quotation marks ( ” ” ) around dialogue, the author uses a dash ( – ) before each line where the character speaks, but does not use punctuation to separate ideas within these lines. It’s a simple technique for the author, but perhaps confusing for the reader.

The author makes a point to show how there is often honor among the down-and-out population of the streets. They can be believed. They know the truth, but can be reluctant to express it for fear of personal safety. Many desperately want to stop their downward spiral, but the pull of the drugs and the pain of withdrawal require great strength with a strong and constant support system. Many of the victims of the street lost the love and encouragement of their family and friends years ago.

Significance of title: The long bright river is where the spirits of these victims of the street congregate en masse with bright shining faces begging not to be forgotten.

Happy ending? Many misconceptions, hidden agendas, lies, and manipulations come to light. Relationships are examined, but not trusted. Truth is revealed, but not accepted. Explanations are given, but not believed. The truth is when kids are emotionally abused, they grow up hating themselves, not their abusers. We cannot shed the negative messages of our childhood. They rear their ugly heads when we least expect it—always the reminder of what we fear is the real us that we try to keep hidden from the world.

Things are resolved, but no happy ending here.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Book Review: Long Bright River by Liz Moore (2020) 5 Star *****

This is one of those books that will stay with you for the rest of your life. A police procedural and depressing family saga rolled into a compelling story of love, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, drug addiction, hopelessness, personal weakness, suspicions, and lack of trust, leads us to our main character, Philadelphia Police Officer Michaela (Mickey) Fitzpatrick, emotionally bereft, overwhelmed by responsibility and fears, grappling to find a safe place to call home for herself and her young son. Having virtually never felt reciprocal love while growing up, Mickey finds it difficult to maintain relationships. Mickey and her drug addicted sister were raised by their cold, aloof, hyper-critical, neglectful grandmother after the drug death of their mother and abandonment by their father. Always hungry and cold, inappropriately dressed and most often left to fend for themselves, these sisters struggle through life in what becomes a tug-of-war between adherence to rules and laws and the mean streets of drug ravaged Northeast Philadelphia. Unfortunately, both girls become victims to the predators of the community and streets. Often trusting the wrong people and dismissing the right ones, it’s hard to identify the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mickey becomes obsessed by the search for her missing sister. Is she the latest, but maybe yet not found, victim of a serial killer targeting drug-addicted young girls of the street?  Her attempts to solve these crimes and capture the perp, lead Mickey down a path of police cover-up, suspicious behavior, and mistrust of commanding officers, as well as those she once considered friends. This lack of trust irreparably damages Mickey’s relationships. The community does not know what to believe. As these things go, the top brass turns the tables on Mickey so that she is now under investigation by Internal Affairs.

The book is well-written with simple sentences and language, with chapters alternating between past and present. Instead of using quotation marks ( ” ” ) around dialogue, the author uses a dash ( – ) before each line where the character speaks, but does not use punctuation to separate ideas within these lines. It’s a simple technique for the author, but perhaps confusing for the reader.

The author makes a point to show how there is often honor among the down-and-out population of the streets. They can be believed. They know the truth, but can be reluctant to express it for fear of personal safety. Many desperately want to stop their downward spiral, but the pull of the drugs and the pain of withdrawal require great strength with a strong and constant support system. Many of the victims of the street lost the love and encouragement of their family and friends years ago.

Significance of title: The long bright river is where the spirits of these victims of the street congregate en masse with bright shining faces begging not to be forgotten.

Happy ending? Many misconceptions, hidden agendas, lies, and manipulations come to light. Relationships are examined, but not trusted. Truth is revealed, but not accepted. Explanations are given, but not believed. The truth is when kids are emotionally abused, they grow up hating themselves, not their abusers. We cannot shed the negative messages of our childhood. They rear their ugly heads when we least expect it—always the reminder of what we fear is the real us that we try to keep hidden from the world.

Things are resolved, but no happy ending here.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (2019) 3 Stars *** (Adult, YA)

Feisty, accomplished, self-motivated twenty-six year old Austin, Texas firefighter Cassie Hanwell starts out with a bang when she clocks sleazebag Heath Thompson, City Council Member, in the jaw, leaving him with a concussion, when he surreptitiously grabs Cassie’s arse while presenting her a valor award at a public awards dinner. Needless to say, Cassie’s once meteoric rise on the road to lieutenant is derailed.

Fate has a way of sometimes opening doors before the last one has slammed itself closed. At her long-hated, estranged mother’s timely, insistent request, Cassie opts to move out of state to picturesque Rockport, Massachusetts to help her  mother who is losing her eyesight, realizing a one year’s absence will help tempers cool and allow her to get back on her horse in the future, so to speak. Fire Captain Harris, after admonishing tomboy, loner Cassie not to giggle, cry or wear lipstick (a totally unnecesassry move), uses her connections to secure Cassie a position in a fire house near her new home. First day at her new job, guess who gets gobsmacked by the hot, sweet, chivalrous rookie Owen? Let’s not leave out the hazing endured by both newbies by this apparently supportive, congenial, fun-loving group. Cassie has multiple opportunities to flex her muscles and display her superior intelligence. She must constantly prove she’s one of the guys, and she does, and wins, of course.

I’m not a fan of romance novels, although I adore love stories like Dr. Zhivago, Out of Africa or even Ghost. This book doesn’t do it for me. Shallow, immature situations, dialogue, actions, and reactions. Sugary sweet forgiveness theme after serious betrayal. This is exemplified by the “bad firefighter” being invited to the parties after he does a number on Cassie and Owen. Also, while Cassie’s mother suddenly abandoned her and her father on Cassie’s sixteenth birthday, when she runs away with the man of her dreams, penitent mom now explains that she was never guilty of betrayal, only abandonment, and both Cassie and her dad are comforted by this news. (???) (Huh?) The Epilogue abruptly closes the most important plot points of the book, which deserve full development, rather than a cursory mention. Was the author meeting a deadline commitment?

This book is so lightweight that it is also appropriate for young adult readers. Lessons learned: Women can be as tough as men. Firefighters, even those whose weaknesses and sorrows may temporarily lead them astray, live by a special code of honor, and always forgive those who have trespassed against them.

“I forgive you for all of it. I forgive you.”
“Why the hell would you do that?”
“Because that’s who I want to be,” I said.

What are the things that are saved in this fire? Nothing that can be put in a box!

 

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (2019) 5 Stars *****

Every few years, we come across a book that we recognize as a work of art: a masterpiece for its writing, its story, and its truths. This is one of those books. Spanning a one hundred year period, this fictional story, based on the author’s familial experiences, captures the life, struggles, and emotional turmoil of Mariastella (Stella) Fortuna from her cursed beginnings in Ievoli, Calabria in Italy through her emigration to Hartford, Connecticut in the United States from the 1900s to the present.

The story is told in the third person by Stella’s granddaughter. The emotional anguish is so intense that the third person point of view thankfully protects the reader from a total immersion in Stella’s sorrow, frustrations, and disappointments. The book is so real and the character(s) so relatable, that I felt feisty Stella’s pain, and that of her mother, the sainted Assunta. So much emotion subtly revealed in the nearly 500 page revelation!

The often harsh patriarchal, male dominated society, the rapes, incest, psychological and physical abuses, the near starvation, the ravages and finality of disease, the injustice and absurdity of being ruled and overruled by men who operate without intelligence and with purely selfish motives both on the political front as well as in the home, the prejudices encountered within Italy and magnified one thousand times as experienced upon admission to the United States, paint a picture of suffering, despair, bias, suspicion and mistrust. With the traditions and laws of the land counter to the rights of women, their only recourse is to pray to God for deliverance, justice, and mercy for themselves and their young children since neither the male members of their families nor the government offer protection. The men? With everything stacked in their favor, they confiscate and squander any dowry or work savings from their wives and children with impunity. If women are lucky enough to marry a man with integrity and a brain, the family life can be blessed. If not, everyone is up the creek without a paddle. Many marriages are arranged, or since there is no dating, couples attracted to each other by beautiful, sparkling eyes across the village square are betrothed and married on their second and third meetings. Life for women is a crapshoot.

Where are the streets paved in gold rumored to abound in L’America? Disappointment and disbelief fill Stella’s heart as she views the street below her tenement building in Hartford. Instead, the streets are paved with desperate people, push carts, and shanty town shelters for the homeless.

Stella is ahead of her time. She fears the loss of her autonomy. She wants to live on her own as a single woman in charge of her own life, dependent on her earnings to cover the expenses of rent and daily life. Her father will not allow this. Stella fears marriage, sexual relations, pregnancy and childbirth. She eventually agrees to marry Carmelo, a kind, loving, patient suitor. Stella, being Stella, gives him a run for his money. I had to wonder what Carmelo saw in her to pursue her as his wife despite the cruel way she treated him. This handsome, loyal, solid citizen wanted only her and ignored the scores of eligible women who desired him as their husband. It seems that Stella got the better end of the deal.

As in most Italian families, Stella’s is a closely knit one. Her younger sister, Tina, and her mother, Assunta, are her best friends. Stella manages to live to one hundred years old despite the many scars that bear witness to the numerous near death experiences that would have killed a lesser person. How is Stella even still alive? She believes she is cursed by the ghost of the first Mariastella who died from the flu as a toddler because their miserable, neglectful, self-centered, perverted father refuses to leave his home in the bad weather to call for the doctor. Throughout most of the book, Stella believes her dead sister is jealous of her life, intelligence, and beauty and haunts her existence for living the life she should have had.

Nearer the end, Stella looks at another person as the source of the curse. A person who is always there in the nick of time to save her from certain death. A person who lives vicariously through Stella’s accomplishments and kindnesses. Are Stella’s conclusions misguided? Can negative energy create disaster in someone’s life? What happens when using protection against the evil eye doesn’t work because the culprit appears as an innocent, indispensable and loved, and is never suspected as a source of malevolence?

Each death or near death experience coincides with the natural progression of Stella’s life. Chapter headings have two titles: one for the cause of the near death and one for the corresponding stage in Stella’s life. Cognitive Development, Growing Pains, Education, Immigration, Marriage, Motherhood, Change of Life, Dementia all bring terrible physical disfigurement. Somehow, each tribulation serves to strengthen Stella rather than diminish her. She openly becomes overwhelmed near the end of her life and resorts to wine and solitude as an escape. This complex character has not come through life unscathed. Is the saying wrong? Does God give some people more than they can bear?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Book Review: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (Middle Grade)

Book Review: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016) (Middle Grade) 5 Stars *****

Finally! A kids book award finalist that truly deserves serious consideration. A book that excels in its story, messages, characterizations, relatable experiences, and … ta da…is well-written! Seventh-grader Castle Cranshaw, has nicknamed himself Ghost because of his now you see him, now you don’t ability to run away from danger. With a school file folder filled with examples of Ghost’s bad behavior, we have a perfect example of a kid gone wrong who has no idea how to fix himself. Two local, upstanding men serve as role models when they  literally and figuratively, save Ghost’s life.

Raised in poor, rundown Glass Manor by a loving, striving mother, lonely, troubled Ghost suffers from the memory of his now imprisoned drug-addicted father shooting at him and his terrified mother three years earlier.  Seeking refuge at the local convenience store owned by elderly, hard of hearing Mr. Charles, Ghost and his mother are hidden in the back storeroom while Mr. Charles calls the police. Ever since that horrific day, Ghost stops in daily to see Mr. Charles and to buy a small bag of his favorite sunflower seeds.

Ghost tricks the school track coach into allowing him to do a test run even though try-outs had passed. True to his name, Ghost impresses the coach with his run and, with his mother’s permission, is invited to join the track team. Mrs. Cranshaw is skeptical at first, but acquiesces after Coach Brody promises to kick Ghost off the team at the first sign of trouble in school or if his grades are negatively impacted. The daily structure and strict rules of conduct imposed on the team members turn Ghost’s life around.

This improvement in behavior comes slowly since Ghost does not know how to ignore a fight. The victim of constant teasing because of his ill-fitting clothing, cheap sneakers, bad haircut (done by his well-meaning, broke mom), lack of friends, cringe-worthy butt of jokes neighborhood, jailed attempted murderer of wife and child imprisoned druggie father, Ghost has to deal with more than he can bear. He loves his mother and knows she’s doing all she can. As a matter of fact, this hospital cafeteria lady is studying to become a nurse with online courses. This makes Ghost very proud.

Let’s get back to Ghost and his poor choices. Immediately after being allowed on the track team, Ghost manages to stay out of trouble for seventeen hours and two minutes. Ghost knows there’s a lot at stake but he can’t seem to help himself. Knowing Ghost’s background, the school principal cuts him some slack involving an altercation between Ghost and a school bully who pushes all of ghost’s buttons by reciting a list of Ghost’s most embarrassing family secrets and throwing a piece of greasy chicken at him during lunch. Coach Brody also decides to go easy on Ghost after hearing the details.

Ghost’s sneakers are old, ill-fitting and an improper choice for running track. Ghost’s shoelaces become untied during a race, causing him to trip and fall. He can barely contain his embarrassment and decides to cut down his high-tops with scissors to make it easier to run. Needless to say, this plan backfires since running is not easier and the insults and teasings come in by the truckload. In Ghost’s desperate, misguided way of thinking, now the only solution is to steal a pair of beautiful running sneakers. He manages to leave the store unaccosted, but no one is buying the story about the gift from his mother explanation.

When Coach Brody goes to the local sporting goods store to purchase new team uniforms, he is shocked to see a still photo shot from the store surveillance camera on a bulletin board showing Ghost escaping with his stolen merchandise. The coach confronts Ghost and takes him back to the store in shame and pays for the sneakers with his own credit card, a string of warnings, and much-needed lectures.

Ghost, who has not had too many people to count on in his life, begins to trust the adult males around him and to seek their counsel. He has friends, belongs to a team, and is admired by his classmates. His attitude and expectations have changed.

At the end, Ghost proudly runs a race in his new uniform and new sneakers, with his mother, aunt and cousin cheering him on from the bleachers. Who wins? No one knows. The author does not tell us. I believe the goal is to improve Ghost’s self-esteem to a point where it doesn’t matter whether or not he wins this time, because he can win in the future. Ghost is an all-around winner and we can only hope he will now follow that path through life.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019) 4 Stars ****

You’ll need patience to delve into this psychological mystery. The most important plot points unfold slowly while hints are given as to the surprise ending. Pay attention to the musings and confessions of the main character, Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist, and the admonishments (perceptions?) of Professor Diomedes,  director of the Grove, a psychiatric facility in England. Theo applies for and is given a position as a psychotherapist at this facility. He is obsessed with making the silent patient, Alicia Berenson, talk after six years of self-imposed silence after brutally murdering her beloved husband. Theo tells us, “There was no time to waste: Alicia was lost. She was missing. And I intended to find her.”

Relationships intertwine. All characters have secrets. Spouses, psychiatrists ( also psychotherapists), patients, aides, and neighbors are not as they appear. They all have complicated histories with Alicia Berenson. Each one offers up a piece of the puzzle as Theo Faber breaks rules and traditions, employing unconventional methods to get to the bottom of things. An excellent question: What truly motivates him in this seemingly impossible goal?

Alicia refuses to talk, but this formerly acclaimed artist, who has become even more popular after her scandalous act, has painted a self-portrait, entitled Alcestis, which is her non-verbal explanation for her state of mind at the time of her out of character violent episode. Looking for cluesTheo reads Alcestis, a Greek myth. “Alcestis is the heroine of a Greek myth. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia’s situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me. Until one day, the truth came to light—”

Theo is perceived as a person with his act together. Professor Diomedes repeatedly warns him against becoming entangled with his patients so much that the barriers between them fade, and the therapist and patient become one. Theo is convinced that he is above any such danger. He is in control of all things and has no fear of any weaknesses—other than loving his wife way too much. He is obsessed with her, their relationship, her impact on his life. Hmmm.

“What?” is what you will say out loud at the ending which is quite a surprise for most readers, unless you’ve been tracking the opaque clues. This adds a pop to this book and increases its esteem. Otherwise, it might be perceived as tedious reading for some. I believe the ending makes it all worthwhile. Be patient. It’s labeled a psychological mystery for a reason.

Any fan of psychology and psychotherapy will enjoy this book. The mind often creates its own reality. Can we truly let go of our pasts and the incidents and people from our childhoods? Or do these memories stay with us, waiting for the right moment for revenge?  Hmmm.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanem (2019) 4 Stars ****

We’ve got a supernova book here! Hot commodity! Steven Spielberg bought the film rights in 2017—two years before the book was finished! Shades of the movie Gaslight, and the book The Woman In the Window by AJ Finn, this psychological thriller will have you asking, in the words of Aretha Franklin’s song, Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Four stars because I often had to re-read to keep the plot points and characters straight in my mind. A lot of alternating between points of view and past and present time, made this a labor of love. A lot of work, but well worth it!

After their wedding, the couple move from Manhattan to Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. Living the life of luxury, Nellie gives up her job as a pre-school teacher/ waitress, and devotes herself to the seemingly impossible task of becoming pregnant. As time goes on, Nellie becomes fat, bored and boring, and her beloved husband finds himself a prettier, younger, less complicated and needy (he thinks) replacement. Nellie is not taking this sitting down and obsesses over interfering in the new couple’s marriage plans. Nellie’s actions are overt and covert, but she is not the only behind the scenes, in your face,  manipulator. The line forms on the right! Only Nellie’s best fried and aunt are as they appear. The rest of the cast have agendas and manage to keep their motivations and shenanigans hidden.

By the way, what is the significance of the title? Is there more than one wife? Which wife is between Character A and Character B? Is there a Character C and Character D with the same problem? Character E and Character F? Is this a theme that circulates from beginning, middle to end? Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not.

Sabotage, interference, surveillance, tapped phones, and confrontation go undetected or are sloughed off as the work of perceived enemies. Those who appear guilty are probaby not. But yet, we have Nellie and Richard competing for the role of injured party. Can you guess who the real victim is? Can you guess what motivates the perps? Can you guess how many times Richard has played out this scene? Do you know whose aborted pregnancy comes back to haunt her? Probably not. The plot is so complicated with red herrings and wild goose chases that the reader is taken off track, and must manually be put back. I’d still like to know how Steven Spielberg knew ahead of time that this would be a great book for a movie adaptation. Are the authors that good, or does Spielberg have the instincts of a bloodhound when it comes to these things?

I look forward to the movie. Any ideas for actors to play the roles? If you have anything to share, please get in touch.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016)  (MG) 4 Stars ****( Middle Grade Book)

We meet our main character, ten year-old Raymie Clark, on June 5, 1975, as she attempts to take baton twirling lessons from eccentric Ms. Ida Nee. Louisiana and Beverly, also in Raymie’s group, meet each other for the first time as they all decide to make baton twirling their talent so each one can enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Events conspire to prevent any actual baton twirling from taking place. Unforgiving Ms. Nee looks at any delay as an excuse to refuse to teach the girls. No one learns baton twirling, but the trio establish a much-needed supportive friendship which quite literally saves lives.

Initial impressions are dispelled as the girls slowly reveal the truth about their situations. Sunny Raymie, living with her kind, responsible mother, is heartbroken since her insurance agency owner father ran away on June 3 with the town dental hygienist without saying good-bye. Fragile Louisiana, prone to fainting spells, is being raised by her eccentric grandmother since the supposed death of her flying trapeze act parents in a drowning accident. Feisty Beverly lives with an alcoholic, physically abusive mother since her father left Florida to become a cop in New York City. The girls are desperate for loving attention, answers, and support. They give it to each other as they also receive it from responsive adults in the community.

At first, competitors for the crown, the girls judge Louisiana to be the most needy and deserving of the $1,975 prize money and encourage her to use her beautiful singing voice as her talent. The Three Rancheros, as Louisiana names the group, support Raymie through the death of a beloved neighbor, save a pitiful howling dog from the dog shelter, and help Raymie retrieve her book about Florence Nightingale from the senior nursing home. Beverly, always the independent, unconventional voice of reason, picks locks to illegally enter premises to achieve what they set out to do.

In the end, Raymie literally saves Louisiana from certain death by drowning and is eternally grateful to her swimming instructor who taught her how to save Louisiana before he went away, and also remembered to say good-bye before he left. Raymie is now known as Raymie Nightingale. “It was the easiest thing in the world to save somebody. For the first time, she understood Florence Nightingale and her lantern and the bright and shining path. She understood why Edward Option, the librarian, had given her the book. For just a minute, she understood everything in the whole world … She was Ramie Nightingale, coming to the rescue.”

This is a simple, charming book, low key but increasingly powerful near the end. To be honest, I found it boring and uneventful in the beginning and almost stopped reading. The pace picked up and the events and characters became more complex. Reading this book is like spending a lazy day where nothing seems to happen but suddenly it does. I’m happy I continued with this sweet, emotionally satisfying story.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell

Book Review: Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell (2019) 5 Stars *****

In case the name Candace Bushnell sounds familiar, Candace is the originator of the Sex in the City series starring Sarah Jessica Parker who played Carrie Bradshaw— sweet, lovable, conscientious, reasonable, head on straight kind of young woman who sometimes is confused what the right thing is, but acts anyway and accepts the consequences. Always analyzing, studying, wondering, Candace and Carrie Bradshaw both share these qualities. In Candace’s newest book, the dating situation of today’s middle-aged New York City/Hamptons woman is explored and explained. Not a pretty sight. Society and life have changed since the 1980s when the sexes were not at war, men dominated situations, and most women still needed men for financial security, impregnation, and social acceptance.

Voila! Times have sure changed! I laughed out loud quite a few times as this book analyzes and presents today’s dating situation in a very true light. No lofty philosophies going on here. Often ridiculous and shallow, modern dating in our society has gone down the tubes. Dependent on social media for interaction, women and men are swiping left, right, and any which way to hook a date for Saturday night.

Today’s middle-aged woman often finds herself with an ace up her sleeve. Educated and financially solvent, she can improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles, get that tummy tucked, and all body fat sucked out while having her female parts lifted, made bigger, and rejuvenated. The Mona Lisa Technique makes the vag supple and slippery, like in the old days! Three treatments for $3,000 in the doctor’s office. This technique does for women what viagara does for men. A lot more costly, but it works!

So, many of these women, after being dumped by their back-stabbing husbands for a younger, money-loving replacement, now have the means to attract their very own boy toy. This physical perfection combined with a beautiful home in a tony neighborhood, especially a Hamptons house with a pool, a fancy car or driver, open-minded family and friends, an upwardly mobile string of invitations, enough spending money to flash around, now allows this once defunct woman to play very nicely with friends. So the boy toys are not permanent? Who cares? There are more where that one came from. A lonely life? Not as lonely as the one before!

Now, there is a whole new set of things to consider. Beware of the hot man who needs a temporary place to live. You might have to forcibly kick him out. Beware of the Tinder online dating hookup. Men openly expect to have one way sex, whereby a woman’s lipstick would get very smeared. (I’m trying to be delicate here.) Beware of the guys who look young and innocent. They could be underage jailbait looking for a blackmail opportunity. Check out those drivers’ licenses! Beware of the rich much, much older man who sees his face and body from forty years ago when he looks in the mirror. Eyesight problems? No, perception problems. Arrogance such as this never goes away.

Funny and sad at the same time.

Despite all the rejects, bad experiences, users and losers, there are nice men out there—not enough to go around, but if you’re lucky and allow the quiet, open, honest, hard-working, thoughtful men into your life, who knows?

I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Candace Bushnell, at the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night in August of this year. Friendly. So pretty. Sweet. Kind. Gentle. And with the new man in her life right next to her, his handsome face proudly beaming whenever he looked at Candace! Congratulations to Candace for finding happiness with someone deserving of her love.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

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