Showing 1031 - 1040 of 1226 Fiction annotations

Range of Motion

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Apr-16-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Lainey's husband, Jay, has been in a coma for weeks, now extending into months. She takes care of their daughters, visits him daily, finds what solace is possible with her resilient, tough-minded, and compassionate neighbor, Alice, and continues to believe he will wake up when the medical staff have largely given up hope.

As she sits with him, trying to adjust and foster her hopes, bringing familiar smells, textures, and sounds from home in the hope of triggering response, she imagines his state of mind. Interludes that work a little like prose poems suggest something of the liminal state he may inhabit. Lainey meets a fellow visitor at the nursing home whose wife dies after having been comatose for 6 months.

Lainey's life is kept from complete inward focus by Alice's efforts to keep her going out, and by Alice's own problems which include a straying husband who finally reveals that he's been struggling with homosexuality and has fallen in love with another man. Jay finally awakens and life returns to something like normal, but with an abiding awareness of the mystery of consciousness and memory, and a heightened sense of the preciousness of consciousness, choice, and the ordinariness of daily life.

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Cold Mountain

Frazier, Charles

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel chronicles the long journey home of a Civil War soldier, Inman, to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The story begins in a military hospital, and Inman's neck wound, a long difficult-to-heal horizontal slice received in battle, is drawing flies. Inman is a moral man, and the brutality and killing he has witnessed on the battlefield lead him to leave the hospital AWOL and journey secretively, by foot, back to Ada, his love.

The trip is perilous; Inman is subject not only to the difficulties of near starvation and a poorly healing wound, but also the cruelties of people he meets along the way. However, every so often, he is also succored by compassionate people, such as the goat woman who provides the cure for his neck wound, if not for the wounds inside. Intertwined with Inman's story is Ada's: her preacher father dies of tuberculosis, leaving her utterly unable to provide for her own basic needs on the farm. Fortunately, a self-reliant young woman, Ruby, joins Ada on the farm, and helps transform both the farm and Ada.

The book details the ways of nourishment: physical (precise descriptions of food, its paucity and preparation) and nonphysical (themes of love, generosity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual questing underpin the book). Cold Mountain itself provides both types of nourishment by offering hope, goals, shelter, food and a place where love and forgiveness are possible despite the savagery of man.

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Black and Blue

Quindlen, Anna

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Black and Blue is a novel portraying the new life of Beth Crenshaw, formerly Fran Benedetto, after her escape with her son Robert from a passionate marriage that had turned into an abusive nightmare. It chronicles how she left, why she stayed, and what she gave up--materially, professionally, emotionally--in her attempt to find a safe new life.

The book, written in the first person, includes many flashbacks as she chronicles the early signs of her husband Bobby’s rage that turned on her, her successful attempts at denial, the years of hiding her secret, her attempts at protecting her son from the knowledge of his father’s malevolence, and the final destructive act that gave her the courage to leave. Winding her way from New York to Florida, covering her tracks, helped by an underground network of women committed to saving battered women’s lives, Beth attempts to start over, always with the background noise of her history and ubiquitous fear of her husband’s appearance.

He does, of course, eventually show up at her home--Robert misses his father and phones him--and after beating her one last time, takes Robert with him. At the story’s end, we find Beth in a new marriage with a new daughter Grace, but her life is forever marred: "There’s not a day when I haven’t wondered whether I did the right thing, leaving Bobby. But of course if I hadn’t, there would have been no . . . Grace Ann. Your children make it impossible to regret your past. They’re its finest fruits. Sometimes its only ones."

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Winning

Brancato, Robin

Last Updated: Mar-26-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

When we first meet Gary Madden he's face down on a hospital bed rigged to be turned every two hours to prevent bedsores. His head is in a brace and he can move neither arms nor legs. He was carried off the football field the previous week with a spinal cord injury and doesn't yet know what his prospects are for recovery. Eventually he learns that he has some hope of recovering at least partial use of arms and upper body, but virtually no hope of walking again.

His parents, a faithful teacher, a bewildered girlfriend, and a few awkward but good-hearted teammates find their various ways to see him through months of adjustment, some of them more helpful than others. They all have something to learn in the course of caregiving: his mother has to struggle not to be overprotective; his girlfriend has to find new ways to interpret his moods and her own as they try to imagine what future their relationship could possibly have; his closest friends know little about the nuances of sickroom diplomacy, which makes sometimes for comedy, sometimes for unintended pain.

His English teacher who has recently lost her husband in a car accident, turns out to be a significant mentor in transition as she forces herself to reach beyond her own loss to help him in his. One form her help takes is to open his imagination to other ways of living, through literature and poetry, and to a metaphor for how to live that might work better than "winning."

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The Chief of Medicine

Brody, Howard

Last Updated: Mar-10-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A woman medical student finds herself in a hierarchical dilemma while rotating through her internal medicine clerkship. She is helping to take care of a middle-aged man who has been hospitalized for a diagnostic work-up. As a consequence of invasive procedures ordered by his physicians to determine the cause of his symptoms, the patient has suffered serious complications and is moribund. The doctors are evasive with the patient and his family, who beseech the medical student for an explanation. Even though she has been instructed by the physicians to refer all issues back to them, she follows her own convictions and tells the truth: "Your father is dying."

As a result of this "insubordination," she is called in to see the head of the department, a man of "legendary diagnostic skill" with a long tenure at the hospital. He says that he will have her dismissed, and launches into a long diatribe, making the case for a paternalistic medicine in which the patient needs to believe that the physician is omniscient and possesses quasi-magical healing powers. "Miracle, mystery, and authority," he says, are at the heart of what physicians can do for their patients and to undermine these is to do harm to the vast majority of the sick. Having made his point, he terminates the interview but reinstates the student, who, it is suggested, is so grateful (for his advice or for not being dismissed?) that she kisses him.

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The Road to Wellville

Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the fall of 1907, Will and Eleanor Lightbody, a wealthy, neurotic couple from Peterskill, New York travel to Battle Creek, Michigan to immerse themselves in the routine of the famous sanitarium run by corn-flake inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. They meet Charlie Ossining who is seeking his fortune in the fickle market of Battle Creek's breakfast food industry. The Lightbodys have just lost their infant daughter and Eleanor is taking Will to the "san" for the cure. An inveterate meat-eater with a sexual appetite, Will was addicted, first to alcohol, and then, to opium, after his wife spiked his coffee with an off-the-shelf-remedy for drink.

At the sanitarium, they must occupy separate rooms, refrain from sex, and piously eat inflexible non-meat diets. Therapies include five daily enemas, exercises, "radiated" water, and an electrical "sinusoidal bath," which accidentally fries one of the residents. Kellogg is gravely disappointed in Will's inability to toe the "physiologic" line, but he is more deeply disturbed by his adopted son, George, whose chosen life on the street is a perpetual embarrassment.

Worried about his sexual prowess and deprived of his wife, Will becomes obsessed with his beautiful nurse and opts for the stimulation of an electrical belt; equally frustrated and bent on self-starvation, his wife turns to the quack "Dr Spitzvogel" who specializes in nudism and "manipulation of the womb." Brought to their senses by humiliation, Will and Eleanor go home.

Meanwhile, Charlie has joined with George Kellogg and borrowed from Will to keep his business afloat, but he realizes that he has been swindled. He only narrowly escapes jail, during a fiery commotion created by George who is then murdered by his adoptive father.

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The Cider House Rules: A Novel

Irving, John

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This long (598 page) novel manages to portray serious moral questions while spinning an entertaining tale with complex characters and plenty of humorous touches. Wilbur Larch is the young physician who chooses to offer women either "an orphan or an abortion" in early 20th century rural Maine. Homer Wells is an orphan who just cannot stay permanently placed in a home and who gradually grows up as Larch's surrogate son and apprentice. Just as Homer realizes that he opposes abortion on principle, he is swept off to a coastal apple orchard. There, additional moral rules are called into question, particularly in a very nontraditional set of family and sexual arrangements.

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A Thousand Acres

Smiley, Jane

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Smiley's novel, King Lear (see King Lear in this database) with a shocking twist, portrays the enduring violence of incest to body and spirit. The narrative voice describes her family--a wealthy farmer and his three daughters. Family relationships are explored, especially the hidden roots that shape and define behaviors and conflicts, some lasting a lifetime.

The disclosure of a horribly dark secret explains the personalities of the three daughters and, for two, their metaphoric afflictions (infertility and breast cancer). Smiley's novel is layered with rich complexities, but none more powerful and astonishing than the core event, the sexual victimization of two vulnerable teenage girls who, as the story unfolds, are permanently scarred. Through a reinterpretation of Lear, Smiley demonstrates the cost of this hideous form of male domination and female victimization.

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The Idiot

Dostoevski, Fyodor Mikhailovich

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Prince Myshkin is an epileptic returning from a sanitarium. On the train, he meets Rogozhin and they become friends. Myshkin visits his distant relatives, the Epanchins, a fashionable family. General Epanchin gives him a job and he fascinates Madame Epanchin and her daughter, Aglaya, with his innocence and awkwardness.

The Prince boards with Ganya, a schemer who wants to marry Aglaya for her money. Ganya is also involved with Natasya; though innocent, she is a kept woman. Myshkin pities Natasya; in their innocence they are two of a kind. He offers to marry her, but as she is worried about ruining his name, she runs off with Rogozhin. Shortly afterward, she runs away from Rogozhin and disappears. Rogozhin assumes she has run to Myshkin and with Ganya plots the Prince's death.

Meanwhile, Aglaya has fallen in love with Myshkin, but his bizarre talk disturbs the family and when he falls into a fit at a party they ban him from the house. Aglaya also grows increasingly jealous of Natasya. The two women meet and Aglaya resolves to give up the Prince. At last, Natasya agrees to marry Myshkin but on their wedding day, she elopes with Rogozhin, who murders her. Myshkin returns to the sanitarium.

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Nana

Zola, Emile

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As the book opens, Fauchery, a drama critic, is waiting for the hottest play in Paris to open. "The Blonde Venus" has bad music and bad actresses, but a new star, Nana, who appears on stage clad only in a diaphanous wrap brings down the house anyway. Nana is an experienced concubine. She exploits the hysteria caused by her nearly nude performance to win Steiner, a wealthy banker. Steiner buys her a country house where she entertains other lovers to win more gifts. Here she also has a brief affair with the penniless student George.

Steiner soon sets her loose and she takes up with Fontan, an actor. She tries to be domestic and kind, but Fontan beats her, then abandons her and she turns to streetwalking. Threatened by the police, who in order to prevent the spread of syphilis can imprison women and perform mandatory gynecological exams, she quickly searches for a new, wealthy lover. She finds Muffat whom she humiliates, trampling on his uniform and sleeping with whomever she likes. One day, Muffat finds her in the arms of young George and then with his elderly father-in-law. Nana also brings home Stain, a streetwalker, to be her lover and confidant.

Young George finally grows so jealous of Muffat and of his brother, another of Nana's conquests, he kills himself in her bedroom. Her other lovers must step over the bloodstain to approach Nana's bed. Soon after, Nana catches smallpox and dies miserably, the disease ravaging her beauty. She dies in 1870 just as the Franco-Prussian War begins.

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