Showing 1181 - 1190 of 1213 Fiction annotations

The Book of Mercy

Cambor, Kathleen

Last Updated: Nov-22-1996
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Book of Mercy is a novel in which each member of a family tries to deal, in individually idiosyncratic ways, with his or her abandonment, as a family and as individuals, by their wife/mother.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Sarah's mother, a lively, successful lawyer, discovers she has metastatic cancer. The story covers the months between her diagnosis and death. Sarah's dad is a minor character; there is little portrayal of his relationship with the mother, or with Sarah, except when he's announcing bad news. Sarah finds herself reacting in unexpected ways--feeling hateful, angry, detached, paralyzed, inclined to deny the whole thing.

The supporting character is Sarah's friend, Robin, whose mother has agoraphobia, never goes anywhere, knows few people, and rarely allows Robin to invite Sarah over. Sarah comes to understand this problem for the first time when her own mother's illness opens channels of communication between the girls.

The moment of the mother's death is described briefly but vividly: "Mom suddenly lifted both hands, pressed them hard against her forehead. She looked at me once, her eyes huge, and for an instant, it was as if she were pleading with me." The mystery of what her mother might have wanted in that final moment haunts Sarah--a reminder that death leaves questions with no answers. As the story ends, Sarah rereads a note from her mother which concludes, "'Don't let anybody tell you differently. What we're going through stinks. It just plain stinks." The novel ends with this emotional truth, making little attempt to soften it by speculation about afterlife.

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The Wishing Box

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Nov-22-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Agnes Higgins envies her husband Harold's ability to have brilliant and captivating dreams, nightly exotic dreams which he can recount to her in vivid detail. Agnes's dreams, when she has them, are ugly and frightening. Harold begins to coach Agnes in techniques for achieving perfect dreams. Agnes practices. She becomes progressively preoccupied with learning how to dream, but is unable to achieve a satisfying result. She becomes depressed, insomniac, and finally takes a fatal dose of sleeping pills. Harold finds Agnes "with her tranquil features set in a slight, secret smile of triumph . . . ."

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Annie's Monster

Corcoran, Barbara

Last Updated: Nov-01-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Annie, daughter of an Episcopalian priest, inherits a wolfhound from a woman in the parish. While on a walk, she and her huge dog discover a homeless woman in an old abandoned shed. The woman is mentally unstable, having escaped from a mental institution. Originally suspicious and threatening, she finally calms to Annie's spunky attentions and tells her the problem: her condition can be controlled with a drug they administered in the mental hospital, but conditions in the hospital were so dehumanizing she's unwilling to go back even for medical relief.

Annie makes a project of helping the old woman, though her father objects, preferring the institutional solution. Annie finds an ally in her father's assistant, a more socially active priest. With his help Annie makes the parish and her father aware of problems in institutions that care for the mentally ill. Her father finally admits to the congregation that the parish ought to be more invested in local social services.

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A Summer to Die

Lowry, Lois

Last Updated: Oct-31-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Meg tells the story of the summer of her fifteen-year-old sister’s death. One night Molly awakens covered with blood, Meg calls their parents, and Molly goes to the hospital where she remains for weeks, undergoing tests. It takes Meg a long time to let herself realize how bad it is, even after the magnitude of the illness is visible on Molly’s ravaged body.

Much of the medical detail in the hospital scenes makes clear how advanced the disease is, but Meg masks her growing fear with disgust, projecting her fear onto doctors she decides must be using Molly for experiments and exaggerating the seriousness of her condition. Unable to open herself to an empathy that would require both an unusual act of imagination and courage to face grief, Meg focuses on the bizarre visible effects of Molly’s illness and on her own altered daily life. Her oddly "selfish" perspective, understood as a self-protective strategy, makes complete sense.

In the midst of the slow progress of Molly’s leukemia, Meg develops friendships with an old man and a young couple expecting a baby. Both contacts help normalize her world, provide her with "reality checks" and give her a quality of attention her parents can’t manage at the time. After the baby is born, Meg gains a new perspective on the precarious miracle of life and finds the courage to go to the hospital to see Molly, now in the final stages of the disease. Meg and her parents are emotionally reunited in their loss, and in the final chapter Meg reflects on the paradox of healing that doesn’t cover over loss, but allows life to be good again in different terms.

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Waiting for Johnny Miracle

Bach, Alice

Last Updated: Oct-30-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Written for young adults by a volunteer in a children's cancer ward, the novel features an adolescent twin girl whose bone cancer separates her definitively from the active life she knew, and from the twin with whom she has lived her whole life in deep empathy. In the hospital she goes through a predictable period of adjustment when restlessness, loneliness, rage, and homesickness dominate. Eventually, though these feelings do not disappear, they are modified by the discovery of new forms of companionship that arise among those who share her confinement, fear, and recognition that the terms of her life have irrevocably changed. The camaraderie she experiences in the hospital teaches her both a new kind of friendship and new ways of understanding family relationship. The ending may disappoint some readers; several patients arrange a sexual encounter for a friend down the hall so she won't die without having been through that passage.

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Doc

Graber, Richard

Last Updated: Oct-30-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Brad, son and grandson of Boston doctors, resists acknowledging what is happening as his beloved grandfather succumbs to Alzheimer's disease. The family's resignation to the loss simply fuels his denial. His father, a senior physician, has to confront both his own father's dementia and his son's denial.

The rest of the family conspire from various points of view to make Brad accept what is happening to his grandfather and how the family system has to change in response. The old man, they point out, gets mean as well as disoriented. The father urges Brad not to divert his energies from "normal" adolescent occupations to trying to rescue his grandfather from an inevitable fate. Brad's response is to insist that his grandfather might get better, and to resent ever more deeply a family he sees as abandoning the old man.

In a final scene the old man is almost hit in an accident. Brad races to call his father, returning in time for his exhausted and confused grandfather to collapse against him on the sidewalk. Brad's father refuses to resuscitate him, recalling the old man's prohibition against extraordinary measures. In that moment of decision Brad comes to understand his father's predicament, his professional responsibilities, and the complexity of his relationship to the man he has known as grandfather. Letting his grandfather go, he also lets go of an adolescent resistance to his father's point of view, and crosses a threshold into adulthood that is both sobering and liberating.

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As I Lay Dying

Faulkner, William

Last Updated: Oct-29-1996
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Addie Bundren is dying in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. As she dwindles, her five children, husband, a scattering of neighbors and the country doctor move about her. Each is given a chapter named for him or her, to provide evolving and unique viewpoints on Addie's life and death.

When Addie has finally breathed her last, the action begins: Anse, Addie's husband, has promised her that she would be buried in Jefferson with her own family. The nuclear family sets out in their old wagon. Floods, injuries, irrational decisions, disagreements, fire, and the full mental collapse of one of the children plague the journey. Addie is eventually buried in Jefferson, but in the process of getting her there, the reader learns the sweet and the sordid about this poverty-stricken and profoundly dysfunctional family.

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A Girl's Story

Bambara, Toni Cade

Last Updated: Oct-25-1996
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

What occurs when a young woman begins to menstruate and has had no preparation for it by her mother or anyone else? Toni Cade Bambara's fictive account illustrates how a normal event in the female life cycle is transformed by an uninformed child into a terrifying event. Rae Ann, whose mother died years ago, has been raised by her strict grandmother, a woman not inclined to talk about matters relating to sex.

While such ignorance seems unlikely in today's television society, the poignant and compelling story provides a useful introduction to discussion about crucial questions associated with growth and development and family behavior. Especially strong is Bambara's graphic portrayal of the physicality of menstruation and how an unprepared adolescent might respond; every female reader winces with understanding for behavior that is both humorous and full of pathos.

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Cousin Pons

Balzac, Honore de

Last Updated: Oct-25-1996

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sylvain Pons earns a meager living conducting at the ballet and giving private music lessons. He is very fond of fine food and fine art. Over the years, he has satisfied the latter craving by slowly accumulating pieces that now clutter the small apartment he shares with his friend Schmucke. Sylvain doesn’t know it, but the collection is worth a surprising amount of money. He satisfies his taste for fine food by frequently going to dinner at his cousin Marville’s house.

Marville’s wife dislikes having Sylvain at her table, for he is rustic and abrupt. He is finally kicked out completely when he tries to find a suitor for the Marville’s daughter, Cecile, and bungles the job. Shortly afterwards, Sylvain falls ill. His portress, Cibot, enters the rooms to nurse him, recognizes the value of his art collection and schemes to get it. She gets Remonencq, who runs a nearby pawn shop, and Elie Magus, a Jew with an eye for art, to help her.

The attack begins when Cibot convinces Schmucke to sell some of Sylvain’s paintings in order to pay for the doctor bills. The plot thickens as Sylvain’s doctor and an attorney get involved. The attorney goes to Madame de Marville and convinces her to fleece Sylvain or risk a smaller inheritance from Sylvain. Her husband regretfully agrees also.

Meanwhile, Sylvain has become suspicious of Cibot. He struggles out of his sick bed to find Magus studying the collectibles in his bedroom. The other rooms are empty. Sylvain realizes his friend Schmucke has been duped, and he plans a counter-attack. He writes a false will, leaving all his money to Cibot for her service at his final illness. He leaves it where she will see it. He then writes a second, true will that leaves his money to the crown on the condition that they grant Schmucke a lifetime annuity.

Sylvain then dies. Schmucke becomes the new target of the others’ greed. They nearly convince him to sign a paper forfeiting most of his inheritance, but when he realizes that the Marvilles are accusing him of having duped their cousin he falls ill and dies. The money passes on to the Marvilles. The attorney gets an important new job; the doctor gets a sinecure, and Magus gets the pictures. Even Cibot is rewarded; she gets an annuity and marries Remonencq after he kills her husband.

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