Sunday, June 6, 2010
Vacation, over ~ Books in my Mailbox
After a week of sun, sand, good food and lots of reading, we are back home. It is hard to switch gears back into "reality mode". At least I have today to do laundry and rest before it is time to go back to work tomorrow.
I finished two books while I was gone....In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White, and Hide and Seek by Jack Ketchum. I will be posting reviews for those some time this week. I brought 10 books with me, and thought that I would get through more than 2, but it didn't work out that way. Two of the books that I started I couldn't get into....big disappointment. I did have a nice, relaxing week, though. Vacationing and reading at the beach is always good therapy!
While I was gone, I received a few books in the mail:
Blood Echoes by Thomas H. Cook:
Alternately horrifying and deeply moving, this fast-paced true-crime report by Cook (Early Graves, The City When It Rains- -both 1990, etc.) focuses on the murder of six members of the Alday family of rural Seminole County, Georgia, on May 14, 1973. The slaughter was the work of three brothers--Carl and Billy Isaacs and Wayne Coleman--and of a slow-witted black man, George Dungee. The quartet were on the lam from Baltimore, where Carl, Wayne, and George had recently escaped from prison. Billy, the youngest, was along for the excitement. Spotting the trailer home of Jerry and Mary Alday, the four men, short on cash, pulled into the yard and began rifling the place. In the midst of the burglary, Jerry and his father arrived home and were promptly shot to death. A while later, other family members arrived: each was murdered. The last to appear was Mary, who was killed after being raped repeatedly. Then the murderers took off in her car and began roaming the South, staging holdups and stealing cars. Eventually arrested in West Virginia, they were returned to Georgia to stand trial. Billy turned state's evidence, and the three others were given death penalties--but the sentences were appealed, with two overturned. Today, a totally unrepentant Carl is apparently still manipulating the system and issuing statements such as, ``What did [the victims] ever do? No one would have ever paid any attention to them, if I hadn't come along and killed them.'' In Cook's capable hands, the cumulative effect is shattering. And when the author writes of the sufferings of surviving Alday family members--the loss of their farm, or their reliving of the tragic events with each new judicial maneuver--his words prove sensitive and resonant. An immensely involving work that shifts from the repellent to the heartwarming and back and asks important questions about the clash between criminals' and victims' rights.
Please Excuse My Daughter by Julie Klam:
A woman's hilarious, bittersweet account of growing up in a family of career-shunning, dependence-seeking women and her journey to a state of twenty-first-century self-reliance.
Julie Klam was raised as the only daughter of a Jewish family in the exclusive WASP stronghold of Bedford, New York. Her mother was sharp, glamorous, and funny, but did not think that work was a woman's responsibility. Her father was fully supportive, not just of his wife's staying at home, but also of her extravagant lifestyle. Her mother's offbeat parenting style-taking Julie out of school to go to lunch at Bloomingdale's, for example-made her feel well-cared-for (and well-dressed) but left her unprepared for graduating and entering the real world. She had been brought up to look pretty and wait for a rich man to sweep her off her feet. But what happened if he never showed up?
When Julie gets married to a hardworking but not wealthy man-one who expects her to be part of a modern couple and contribute financially to the marriage-she realizes how ambivalent and ill-equipped she is for life. Once she gives birth to a daughter, she knows she must grow up, get to work, and teach her child the self-reliance that she never learned.
Delivered in an uproariously funny, sweet, self-effacing, and utterly memorable voice, Please Excuse My Daughter is a bighearted memoir from an irresistible new writer.
It Takes A Worried Man by Brendan Halpin:
Will people really want to read the rantings of a pouting, grouchy, grumbling, whiny 32-year-old? They will when they meet Halpin, a teacher in a Boston charter high school and the husband of a 32-year-old woman with Stage 4 breast cancer. Few books on breast cancer feature the husband's perspective (David Tillman's beautiful In the Failing Light, LJ 5/15/99, is a rare exception). Halpin's view is so in your face, so funny, so foul-mouthed, and so honest that everyone will want to read this and cheer for his wife, Kirsten, and their four-year-old daughter, Rowen. This is the yearlong diary of Kirsten's ordeal, which included high-dose chemotherapy and stem-cell replacement. Halpin describes every day, every complaint, every fear, along with his favorite (and not so favorite) music (loves the Carter Family, hates Dan Fogelberg), TV shows, movies, and food (especially food). He doesn't let family or friends off the hook except maybe the folks from the Unitarian Church where he belongs who do his housework, even cleaning the toilets, and his students, whom he truly loves teaching. Fortunately, there is no ending to his story. Kirsten is alive, her tumors are still palpable but considerably smaller, and she celebrated her 33rd birthday. According to Halpin, that "has to be enough." The language is graphic, which is to be expected of most 32-year-old males, but this book should not be missed. Highly recommended. Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal"
What about you? Did you get any good books last week?