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: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante 5 Stars ***** (Book 2 of The Neapolitan Novel Series)

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Reviewing a book without giving away too much is always a challenge. Set in the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1960s—a place beset by poverty, domestic violence, and male domination— Lenu, our narrator, and Lila, her best friend,  are now sixteen and seventeen years old. Their conflicted but dependent relationship continues—supportive/competitive, admiring/contemptuous.

The girls’ lives have taken a more divergent path. Lenu earns her college degree on a full scholarship, is greatly admired and respected, and has published her first book. She has a number of unsatisfactory but convenient relationships with men but continues to pine for Nino. Lenu is still secretive about her sexuality and still has not learned to share her true feelings. Lila is the mother of a small boy. Her marriage is in a shambles with her shrewish, destructive, self-centered, combative, blatantly sexual nature, i.e., sexual with everyone except her husband. With a ruined reputation, still, there are no shortage of men to pick up Lila’s pieces.

Lenu is once more forced to question Lila’s motives when Lila’s decisions put her at odds with Lenu’s deepest, but still carefully hidden, desires.

Some thought-provoking images:

Lina refers to her wedding ring, ” …what is this gold circle, this glittering zero I’ve stuck my finger …”

Lenu is complimented by Armando, Professor Galiani’s son and the rare center of attention when she attends a party with Lila at the professor’s  home, ” He was absolutely the first person to show me in a practical sense how comfortable it is to arrive in a strange, potentially hostile environment, and discover that you have been preceded by your reputation, that you don’t have to do anything to be accepted, that your name is known, that everyone knows about you, and it’s the others, the strangers, who must strive to win your favor and not you theirs.”

After the party, Armando shows a romantic interest in Lenu, but her confidence has eroded, “I was pleased because he obviously liked me, and I was polite, but not available. Lila’s words had indeed done damage. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, my tone of voice was false, I was ignorant…”

After Lenu has broken Antonio’s heart, his sister, Ada, captures the truth as she tells Lenu, “You have no feelings, just look how you treated my brother.” I reminded her with an angry snap that it was her brother who had left me, and she replied, “Yes, anyone who believes that is lucky: there are people who leave and people who know how to be left.”

An amazing character study, we witness the push and pull of everyday life, some more obvious than others, as characters attempt to jockey into position to realize their desired end result, some successful, some always behind the eight ball. Why? Because there’s always another bigger, badder character without scruples or loyalty, who will stop at nothing to attain what they want, and to keep everyone else from getting theirs. One- upmanship always at work.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full-time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name7, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  My Brilliant Friend has already aired on HBO. The Story of a New Name is now airing on HBO. Although I do not know the time frame, book three is scheduled to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. Hopefully, the fourth book will be added to this list.

Ciao bella!

 

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, 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: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Book Review: Educated : A Memoir by Tara Westover (2018) 5 Stars *****

Told from a heart broken by wretched memories, the story begins with seven year old Tara and takes us through adulthood. Born and raised in the remote mountains of Idaho in an extreme Mormon fundamentalist/survivalist family, Tara learns to hate herself as she and her family wait for the End of Days. Even after all of her successes, it takes her many years until she can accept herself as deserving of the opportunities and accomplishments afforded her. Carrying emotional and physical scars throughout her life, we see once again that when a child is abused by a loved one, they do not grow up to hate that person, they grown up to hate themselves. The truth is: We never truly escape our upbringing, no matter how far or how fast we run.

The family does not believe in birth certificates, hospitals, doctors, insurance, public education, western medicines, supermarkets, cleaning, organizing, or questioning patriarchal authority. The children are primarily home-schooled to a point, but the education stops before they are reading, writing and doing basic math problems at a level of literacy. Tara is seventeen years old until she attends a school full time. The siblings are divided in their desire to be educated. Three of them, including Tara, desire higher education and life’s work outside of their parents’ closed world. Tara’s father is more accepting of this decision for his sons, but believes Tara’s aspirations are the work of the devil and an abomination against the Mormon religion. Tara is called a whore by her father whenever she expresses a desire to attend school. He does not understand or accept her desire for more than marriage and motherhood.

Tara and her six siblings are expected to work in the family businesses. Living under the thumb and in the shadow of their father’s junkyard/scrap metal and gasoline siphoning businesses occupies their existence. The main problem with Tara’s father? He is bi-polar and unconcerned about the unsafe conditions under which he forces even his young children to work. He refuses to allow protective helmets, heavy gloves, proven-safe equipment, or methodical procedures. He forces them to work with flammables as he unconcernedly uses acetylene torches and other igniters nearby. He even forces ten year old Tara to ride on top of a pile of junk as he dumps it and Tara into a container, impaling her leg with a metal spike. As a result, his children suffer broken bones, burned bodies, brain damage, scarred and disfigured faces and body parts, and loss of limbs and fingers. Name calling destroys self-esteem. Threats of physical violence, not only from Tara’s father but also from one of her bi-polar further brain- damaged- from- accidents brothers, destroys aspirations.

Tara’s father’s stubborn decisions resulted in two serious car accidents while returning to Idaho from a family visit to Arizona. He decided twice to make the long journey by driving through the night. Tara’s father forced one of his sons to drive despite protestations of fatigue. Tara’s mother was seriously brain damaged during this first accident. Even after the tragic events of this first time decision, Tara’s father demanded the same departure from their second trip even though they would be driving into dangerous white-out blizzard conditions. Their car went off the road and the family received serious injuries once again. His reaction? Not his fault. Not a bad decision at all. Things happen.

The main problem with Tara’s mother? Tara’s mother is a celebrated mid-wife and herbalist/healer which serves to bring in most of the family income. Self-centered. No backbone. Untrustworthy. Manipulative. Although she sees the cruel exploitation her husband imposes on her children, she does little to stop him. To add insult to injury, she has a different story for each person she speaks with. She promises her children to back them up, then recants and plays a bait and switch and presents the opposite of the truth to extended family members. She backs up her husband, no matter what.

Somehow, Tara works her way to success by part-time jobs, independent study, self-teaching, attending classes and schools of higher education. Tara receives a lot of help from college professors—guidance, advice, scholarships, grants, and other financial aid, opportunities to study abroad and eventually is graduated from Cambridge in England as a brilliant scholar, and goes on to Harvard for a PH.D. Tara also has an exceptionally beautiful singing voice which she recognizes as a gift. You would think a highly acclaimed scholar with an angelic singing voice would be able to shed her past for a sense of pride. and happiness. But, no. On paper, Tara notes her accomplishments and talents, but this intellectual assessment never makes it to her heart.

Tara is a loner and does not make friends easily. She is unsophisticated in social graces. She wears black pants and a black blouse at a black tie dinner at Cambridge, having no idea how a woman should dress for such an occasion. For many years, she bathed once or twice a week, never using soap. She became a pariah for openly not washing her hands after using the restroom. She never cleaned up after herself, threw out rotted food, washed her dishes, wore anything other than men’s oversized jeans and shirts. She smelled bad. Her home smelled bad. Although Tara knew she did not fit in, she hardly asked for guidance and persisted in being herself, believing that it was her prerogative.

Despite the emotional pain and physical threats she endures during her visits, Tara continues to visit her family periodically, attending funerals and family holiday dinners. Her parents sometimes visit her at school but it always ends badly. She often gives up hope and vacillates between achieving her goals and giving in to her father’s demands of mediocrity and conformity within his extreme belief system. Eventually, Tara walks away and does not look back until she has achieved her highest honors. The price she pays is high. She gains herself but loses her family. In time, Tara reconnects with her two education-minded brothers and an aunt. Her parents have spread the rumor that Tara is demonically possessed and that they fear for their safety. Many of the relatives accept this, so she is permanently ostracized from that group.

This is an amazing story. Hard to imagine that someone in this situation can accomplish so much. It demonstrates how outside help from powerful, well-placed people can turn a person’s life around and put them on a path to success and accomplishment. The sad thing is that Tara tells her story as a robot, lacking emotional connection to her diary entries. It reads like a newspaper account, devoid of feelings. The words are there, but the pain is buried so deep, that Tara must disassociate herself from the events. Although Tara is aware of her amazing accomplishments, she is not happy inside. The book ends as it begins with facts, not feelings. What of Tara’s personal life? It would seem she does not have one.

What was the result of Tara’s education? She now knows that discovery and knowledge do not lead to brainwashing. It’s possible to read and learn, then analyze and dismiss. Exposure does not mean acceptance. This is something Tara wishes her father could accept.

 

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

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: 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: Inheritance-A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, And Love by Dani Shapiro

Book Review: Inheritance —A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (2019)
5 Stars *****

What if the results of your Ancestry.com DNA test reveal you were a test tube baby? Your social father is not your biological father. Your religion is not pure. Some of your relatives are really not. Your half-sister apparently isn’t. You have a first cousin you never heard of. Your mother has made vague, off-hand comments throughout your life. To boot, you don’t look anything like anyone in your family, which has invited comment and wonder.

In this memoir, the author shares her journey of discovery: testing for fun, disbelief at the results, phone calls and social media for contact, archived newspaper articles and Google for research, emails for reaching out. Leaving the author bewildered, grateful, and open to the people who began to contact her—relatives she never knew she had— she still hopes for word from a half-brother or half-sister, maybe out there searching and/or unaware of the secret Dani Shapiro uncovered.

At fifty-four years of age, living in Connecticut, Dani and her husband lightheartedly spit into a vial to mail to Ancestry.com for DNA testing. Two months later, the test results revealed that Dani was not the pure bred Orthodox Ashkenazi Jew she believed herself to be. After disbelief, shock, and anger, Dani and her very supportive husband, Michael, accepted the fact that Ancestry.com does not make mistakes.

Dani, being a writer and educator, and Michael, being a journalist, were both adept at research. They tracked down the (now closed) Farris Institute for Parenthood on the campus of Penn State University in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania. Further research and interviews led them to the truth: Many doctors and medical students at this facility donated their own sperm which was mixed with the sperm of husbands with  low sperm counts, and therefore, fathered countless children, of whose existence they were unaware. Knowledge of this practice was kept from the fathers to protect their feelings and acceptance of their wives’ pregnancy results. The donors were promised anonymity and privacy. It is most likely that the mothers knew of this deception. If it were not for scientific advances in DNA testing, the likelihood of discovery was slim.

“One article I came across was a widely circulated 1958 wire service story that appeared in newspapers such as The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and The Tampa Tribune:(excerpt)

Test-Tube Baby Practice Grows; Now 30,000 in U.S.

Some 40,000 American children owe their start in life to test tube science.

     Dr. Edmond Farris, director of the Institute for Parenthood in Philadelphia, said in an interview that  even his estimate of ‘30,000 to 40,000 test tube tots’ may be low. No one really knows exactly how many test tube children there are in the U.S. because there is no law requiring doctors to report on this practice.”

Both parents are now deceased. The real heartache for the author is that her beloved father, her social father, is not her bio-father after all. It was his love and encouragement that sustained her throughout her life. Her mother, aloof and critical, was not the one who made Dani feel loved and accepted. It is being fragmented from him, that hurts the most.

The cover nags at me.  An empty dress, so sad, like seeing lost, empty shoes. A girl without substance? Without identity? Without her heart-felt father? Beautifully written, the author’s soul is gently revealed.

 

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

Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos  (2019) 3 Stars  ***

If you look closely at the cover photo, this seemingly abstract design will morph into three pregnant women’s bodies. This is the kind of farm where surrogate mothers grow babies inside their bodies for wealthy clients who either cannot conceive or maintain a pregnancy or who prefer not to go through the physical, time consuming inconvenience. It is a work of fiction based on true stories from the author’s experience with Filipina and other Asian, South American, and Caribbean women who have worked as nannies, baby nurses, housekeepers, and cleaning ladies.

A take-off of The Handmaid’s Tale?

The story is set in New York’s Queens and Westchester Counties. “Golden Oaks hired women to be surrogates. If you were chosen to be a Host you lived in a luxury house in the middle of the countryside where your only job was to rest and keep the baby inside you healthy. According to Mrs. Rubio, Golden Oaks’ clients were the richest, most important people from all over the world, and for carrying their babies Hosts were paid a great deal of money.” The Hosts are taught that their work is sacred since, “These are the types of people you will be helping at Golden Oaks. People who are changing the world.”

The problem in this Utopian farm is that the Hosts are treated like chattel, losing their independence, privacy, and personal contact with family and friends. The clients who pay for their services have the power to dictate how much personal freedom is to be allowed. The Hosts are constantly monitored for stress levels, too much weight gain, consuming junk foods, negative thoughts and attitudes, and the power to incite rebellious or questioning behaviors.

After her marriage falls apart, Jane, the predominantly main character, leaves her baby daughter in the care of her trusted cousin so that she might accumulate great sums of money to help herself, her baby and her cousin. Timid, quiet, innocent Jane soon learns who she can and cannot trust as the manipulations of the staff at Golden Oaks, her family and friends all conspire to keep her from fully understanding the plight of her child and the family and friends she has come to mistrust.

In the abrupt, unsatisfying ending, it all works out for Jane but the the fate of the other characters with their tangled webs is ignored. This book plods along with weighty extraneous details and musings. The pace quickens about three quarters through when an apparent injection of caffeine moves the action.

Sorry, but this book is an example of it’s who you know with its numerous positive reviews on the back cover. “Firecracker of a novel, relevant, timely, page turner, chilling, highly original.” Really? Ho-hum as far as I’m concerned.

Joanne Ramos, born in the Philippines and raised in Wisconsin, is a Princeton University graduate who apparently suffers from priviledge guilt. The author hired a Filipina nanny for her kids. Was this an exploitation? Why in her Author’s Note is every immigrant a victim if they have to work hard in menial jobs to get started in a new country? All of our immigrant relatives—parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins— did the same. And yes, they also sent money home to help struggling relatives. The difference is previous generations were thankful for the opportunities. They viewed themselves as empowered whereas today’s immigrants are portrayed as victims by Ms. Ramos. Yes, it’s tough starting life over in a new country but please, let’s not magnify the economic disparity. Everyone has to start somewhere. Most immigrants improve their standard of living after a few years so let’s praise them instead of pitying them. Looking down on their situations judge them as inferior. Allow them to rise in their own time, in their own way. 

 

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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