Showing 1071 - 1080 of 1213 Fiction annotations

Operation Wandering Soul

Powers, Richard

Last Updated: Sep-18-1997
Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Richard Kraft is about as burnt-out as a fifth-year resident in pediatric surgery can be. Overwhelmed by his stint in an inner-city, public hospital in Los Angeles, he seeks to hide from the misery of his patients by avoiding any personal connection with them. Then he meets twelve-year-old Joy, an Asian immigrant trying desperately to learn the puzzling ways of her new culture. She speaks words that trigger memories from Kraft's own childhood as the son of a U.S. agent in Joy's country, and he loses his distance.

He performs surgery on a life-threatening cancer in her leg, pulling back at the last minute in an unreasonable fear that he will hurt her if he cuts too deep. The implied result: incomplete excision of the cancer and a death sentence for the child he now tries, unsuccessfully to avoid. His avoidance is repeatedly foiled by Linda Espera, the physical therapist with whom he is falling in love and who will not let him abandon the emotional needs of any of the children in Joy's ward.

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Memento Mori

Spark, Muriel

Last Updated: Sep-16-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Seventy-nine year old Dame Lettie Colson begins to receive anonymous phone calls from a man whose message is, "Remember, you must die." Soon, her octogenarian brother, her senile sister-in-law, and many of their tottery friends begin to receive similar phone messages.

The novel takes us through a year or so in the lives of this group of eccentric elderly upper-class Brits and a few of their not-so-privileged servants and caretakers. As they pursue the source of the "memento mori" message, we discover a complex matrix of infidelity and deception, ranging from youthful love affairs and harmless perversions to manipulation and blackmail. In the end, though, Death will not be denied.

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The Universal Donor

Nova, Craig

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Terry McKechnie works in the emergency room in a Los Angeles hospital in the early 1990’s, and is having an affair with Virginia Lee, the new wife of an old friend of his from medical school. Virginia works with snakes. She is attracted to danger. She falls in love with Terry immediately after deciding to marry the reliable Rick, with his predictable dermatologist’s hours and habits.

Virginia is bitten by a rare snake and drives herself to Terry’s hospital. The drive is terrifyingly described, time seeming to move at two speeds at once, as Virginia sits stuck in traffic trying not to panic, the terse prose capturing her efforts at clarity even as the rapid effects of the venom begin to cloud her thoughts. Because she is allergic to horses, the antivenom, made of horse serum, cannot be given to her, and she begins to bleed. Unfortunately, she also has an extremely rare blood type.

As well as being a doctor, Terry is a "universal donor": his blood can be given to people with most other blood types without danger of rejection. His gift fails him at this point, however: Virginia must be given blood of her own type. One person has such blood: a psychopath on the run from the police whom Terry had previously allowed to escape. The novel’s plot culminates in Terry’s search for and encounter with the convict, in which he persuades him to give his blood (and, necessarily his freedom--he is arrested in the hospital) and Virginia survives.

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May's Lion

LeGuin, Ursula

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

May's Lion is really two stories in one: the first is narrated by a woman who knew May, the story's protagonist, when the narrator was a child, and she retells the story May told her about the time a sick mountain lion came into her yard. Uncertain of what to do, she called the sheriff's office. Police officers shot the lion because, according to May, "there was nothing else they knew how to do."

The second story is the narrator's fictionalized recounting of May's story. In this version, May (now called "Rains End") finds the lion in her yard, and in spite of her own fear she believes he has come for a reason. She offers the animal a bowl of milk, and sings softly to soothe him. She realizes "He had come for company in dying; that was all." This she offers him, and the lion dies there in her yard.

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The Giant's House

McCracken, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Giant's House is narrated by Peggy Cort, a young librarian in a small Cape Cod town in the early 1950s. She falls in love--and her life becomes inextricably tangled--with James Sweatt, a young boy who suffers from gigantism.

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Talk Before Sleep

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jul-30-1997
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Determined not to like Ruth Thomas, Ann Stanley is immediately smitten by her charm and force of personality, and especially by her vitality--a vitality that too soon succumbs to breast cancer. As one of a cadre of women almost obsessively devoted to the care of a dying Ruth, Ann nurses Ruth through her final illness, until--in a move curiously like the decision of Charity (also dying of cancer) to keep Sid, her husband, sequestered from her final trip to the hospital, in Wallace Stegner's far superior novel, Crossing to Safety--Ruth flies to Florida to die at her brother's house.

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World of Wonders

Davies, Robertson

Last Updated: Jul-25-1997
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the third novel in Davies’s major work, The Deptford Trilogy. While it is not necessary to read the novels in this trilogy in sequence, doing so makes each story more complete and interesting, and clarifies the relationships between some of the characters. This particular novel tells the life story of the unfortunate boy introduced in The Fifth Business, who was spirited away from his Canadian home by one of the members of a traveling side show, the Wanless World of Wonders.

Magnus Eisengrim, now a master magician, describes his life as an innocent child who was introduced not only to rape, but to the sad world of the "freak" show, as he traveled throughout his formative years with these unfortunate people. The main good which came out of this was that he developed empathy for the members of the side show, and that he taught himself the skills of magic and became an accomplished magician. A turning point in his life occurred when he got away from this terrible environment and became an understudy for a famous English actor. In emulating this man, he moved on to become a marvelous illusionist.

The last part of the story is concerned with Magnus’s role in making a film about the life of Robert-Houdin; he finally tells his life story to the group of people with whom he is working. In this group there is a friend from his early life--a man who treated him badly when he was the actor’s understudy and who doesn’t now recognize him--and the director who is trying to help the group work together. Another important character is a woman with a physical disability which had so altered her appearance that it had warped her world view; Magnus helps her come to grips with her situation. The descriptions of the interactions among these unusual characters are Robertson Davies at his best.

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One True Thing

Quindlen, Anna

Last Updated: Jul-24-1997
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a truly beautiful novel; its many stories remain with the reader for a long time. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the myriad of issues which are manifest as one family deals with the terminal illness of the mother from cancer.

A daughter, who has never considered herself close to her mother, is forced by her father to leave her job as a journalist in New York, to come home and become the primary caregiver. Over a period of several months the mother has chemotherapy and eventually gives up to the slow deterioration of the disease. During this time the mother and daughter rebuild a relationship and come to have mutual respect for each other. One poignant aspect of the relationship is their establishment of "The Gulden Girls Book and Cook Club" as they read old classics together and the mother teaches the daughter the cooking secrets which she has cherished.

The father, a college professor and former mentor of the daughter, absents himself from the home as much as possible, unable to deal with the issues. The female oncologist is very helpful and understanding with both the patient and the daughter. A wonderful hospice nurse gives welcome support. The question of assisted suicide becomes an issue after the mother's death; the daughter is arrested. There is a surprise ending which should not be revealed here, but offers a good forum for discussion.

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Adrift on an Ice Pan

Grenfell, Wilfred

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Easter Sunday April 1908, at St. Anthony on the tip of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Grenfell is summoned sixty miles south to a boy with osteomyelitis who had been operated two weeks earlier. "The people had allowed the wound to close," he said, and the lad needed immediate attention to save not only his leg but his life. Grenfell set out with his komatik (dog sled) and his eight best dogs. "A lover of dogs, as every Christian man must be," Grenfell writes how each was as "precious as a child to its mother."

To save a few miles, he takes a short cut across a bay, but the ice breaks up beneath him, his komatik sinks, and one dog drowns. He and the other dogs climb out of the water on to an ice pan, which drifts out to sea in an offshore wind. In the cold and solitude, he decides to stab three dogs with a small knife, stifling their cries and struggles with his numb hands. He skins the animals for their warm hides and assembles their frozen legs into a flagpole from which he waves his tattered shirt.

After a day and a night on the ice, he is rescued by "five Newfoundland men . . . with Newfoundland muscles in their backs, and five as brave hearts as ever beat in the bodies of human beings." On shore the frostbitten and snowblind doctor is greeted with tears and rejoicing. Many feared he would be lost. But, he says, he had not been afraid in the face of immanent death; he felt merely regret for lost opportunities. And the sick boy? Two days later he was brought to hospital by boat, operated, and cured. Grenfell closes his "egotistic narrative" by describing the brass plaque dedicated to the memory of the three sacrificed dogs: it proclaims "not one of them is forgotten before your Father which is in heaven."

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The Second Coming

Percy, Walker

Last Updated: Jul-22-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Will Barrett, the protagonist of The Last Gentleman (see this database), returns in this novel, having retired early from a lucrative law practice. A widower, he lives in an exclusive North Carolina suburb where he has become "the world's most accomplished golf amateur."

Suddenly, his golf game turns sour and "hidden memories" pop up. Among these memories is the truth about his father's suicide: when Will was 12, his father killed himself in a "hunting accident," but had also tried to kill Will to "protect" him from an inauthentic existence. While Will is struggling with his own "death in life," he meets Allison, a neurotic 20 year old woman who has escaped from a mental hospital and is living in an abandoned greenhouse on some property that she has inherited.

Other characters include Father Weatherbee, a decrepit old Catholic priest who was once a missionary in Mindanao, and Jack Curl, a charmingly smooth Episcopal priest, who is trying to establish affluent "love communities" in North Carolina. Will decides to challenge God, "I shall go into a desert place and wait for God to give a sign. If no sign is forthcoming, I shall die . . . . " Ultimately, he finds his "sign" in Allison; they choose life, fall in love, and get married.

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