Showing 121 - 130 of 223 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

May I Cross Your Golden River?

Dixon, Paige

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jordan, an 18-year-old athlete, finds his joints weak and begins to stumble unaccountably. The local doctor who has known him all his life sends him to the Mayo clinic where a diagnosis of Lou Gherig’s disease is confirmed. His mother, three brothers, sister, and brother-in-law (an Episcopalian priest) accommodate to his illness, with its promise of early death, in various ways.

The family is supportive, though the youngest brother goes through weeks of denial that look like rejection before he allows himself to feel the emotional impact. Jordan’s adored girlfriend can’t rise to the challenge of loving a boy with no future, and distances herself, but leaves it up to him to acknowledge and effect a separation that leaves her free to pursue other relationships, and him to burrow deeper into the loving family that sustains him in his final months. He takes one last trip to the Colorado mountains with his younger brother where they meet an old mountaineer who senses immediately what might be happening and becomes for Jordan the type and figure of the wise old man.

Here as in other stories of this kind, time seems to conflate for the young person facing death; maturity comes in sudden leaps, and a certain calm descends before the end. One of Jordan’s final acts is to serve as godfather at the baptism of his sister’s baby, his namesake. The act and the letter he writes the child gives him a sense of leaving behind a legacy that matters.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This volume nicely supplements the few other anthologies of literature on medical themes currently available in that it covers a wider historical span. Selections from the Bible, Giovanni Boccaccio, William Shakespeare, Rabelais, as well as 18th-century writers including Pepys, Daniel Defoe, Malthus, Schiller, and Goldsmith provide an array of historical touchstones that offer windows onto medical and literary history and points of comparison for the larger selection of works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The selections are mostly short--averaging around 10-12 pages. Each is introduced with lively, often witty, comments by Gordon, whose popular Doctor in the House series was adapted for stage and screen in England, and whose associations with the medical world include an editorial position on the British Medical Journal as well as a wife and two children who are physicians. Many of the selections focus on the figure of the physician viewed variously from the viewpoints of patients, other physicians, and him or herself.

Selections from novels by three Victorian women doctors as well as selections from several physicians’ diaries provide unusual additions to a useful collection of excerpts from well-known literature including works by Scott, John Keats, Jane Austen,George (Marian Evans) Eliot, George Bernard Shaw, Hardy, Aldous Huxley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sinclair Lewis, F. (Francis) Scott Fitzgerald, Waugh, Orwell, and more recent and popular fiction, up through Erich Segal.

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Loose Threads

Grover, Lorie Ann

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Kay, a 7th grader, lives with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is particularly attached to her grandmother, who is diagnosed with breast cancer. Kay’s subsequent waves of response to Grandma Margie’s illness include denial, fear, withdrawal from friends, discovery of a new friend whose mother, it turns out, died of cancer, and discovery of new kinds of intimacy with her mother and great-grandmother. During the illness her grandmother teaches her to knit--one last gift before she dies. After her grandmother’s death, she finds herself a little more grown up, recognizing in herself some of her grandmother’s features and habits, and reclaiming her own life on new terms.

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Invincible Summer

Ferris, Jean

Last Updated: Aug-29-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Invincible Summer introduces illness and death into what might otherwise be a standard teen love story. Here, first love is also a last look at life, and the rites of passage into romance, sexuality, and intimacy are intensified and thrust into profound paradox by approaching death. Robin and Rick meet in the hospital where she has come for a battery of tests, and he for chemotherapy. Both have acute lymphocytic leukemia. He’s been sick for two years. She’s just finding out about her own condition.

Robin lives with her father, who can hardly bear to be around her illness, and her grandmother, who, since her mother died years ago in a car accident, is the primary caretaker. The father’s love has to be understood and accepted in light of his emotional limitations. The book thoughtfully explores how sickness rearranges family systems as well as treating familiar young adult themes of separation from friends, wanting sex, embarrassment about physical appearance, uncertainty of remission, and how to talk about the future.

After Rick’s death, at which Robin is present, Robin recalls a game her mother used to play, called "The Worst Thing." "What’s there to be afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen?" The aim of the game is to look at the worst case until it seems manageable, because for every worst thing, there is some way through to remedy or acceptance. The game, reproduced as internal dialogue, drives to ultimate questions, ending with something like Pascal’s wager--a version of intellectual comfort that will do in the absence of positive faith in the promise of afterlife.

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Dirt Cheap

Miller-Lachmann, Lyn

Last Updated: Aug-28-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nicholas Baran, a one-time student activist, is now in his 40s, teaching at a community college in rural Connecticut after having been denied tenure at an Ivy League school. The tenure denial, despite consistent teaching awards and high performance was clearly politically motivated and instigated by a right-wing professor protecting his turf and the school from a labor-oriented, media-challenging progressive. Nicholas has leukemia, and, upon noticing that he appears to be living in a cancer cluster, begins a private investigation of the large chemical company located just upstream on the river that runs through the town near his neighborhood.

The investigation becomes more intense after he comes upon a local rescue squad retrieving the body of a small boy who has drowned in the river, but whose body reveals effects of considerable acid in the water. Though his wife fears for him and resists his efforts, even to the point of temporarily allying herself (and engaging in a dailliance with) a powerful local real estate broker, Nick finds an ally in his son's teacher, hesitant, but committed to finding out the truth.

Though Nick's disease is progressing rapidly, he and Sandy, the teacher, manage to break into the company's files and retrieve enough damaging evidence to expose deliberate deception of the public as well as documenting the high incidence of cancers in the immediate neighborhood. Before his death Nick manages to supply enough material to the major media to expose the scandal, and leaves a hard-won legacy of truthtelling to his children.

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Butterfly Effect

Humes, Harry

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems offer a rich series of impressions of the speaker's present life, surrounded by family, a garden, and pockets of natural life that evoke memory after memory of a childhood lived in relative poverty with a father whose years as a coal miner damaged his lungs and finally killed him. Allusions to his chronic and worsening illness and his death thread through the poems like a long shadow.

Recurrent images of his blood-stained handkerchief, his coal-smeared face and hands, are echoed in images of the death of an uncle, the deaths of animals, and of a mother strained by poverty and taking frugal measures to preserve small things. The final poem in the collection recalls her in old age, barely able to see, but still "stitching it all together."

The title poem, one of the best, pauses over the famous idea that the flutter of a butterfly's wings might be the source of large effects continents away. Together the collection invites us, without sentimentality, to consider how things are connected over time and come together in memory in compositions one couldn't have anticipated.

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Summary:

This collection of contemporary poems published by the National Association for Poetry Therapy Foundation is accompanied by an introduction and materials for use in support groups and poetry therapy groups dealing with loss and grief. Organized under the rubric, “Seasons of the Heart,” in sections entitled “Autumn,” “Winter,” and “Spring,” they reflect a range of responses to loss, both sudden and gradual.

Poets include Rainer Maria Rilke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Billy Collins, William Stafford, Denise Levertov, and other well-known and widely anthologized poets as well as some less known, but well worth reading. The poetry is skillfully selected, of consistent literary quality, and the accompanying materials helpful in suggesting ways and reasons to enter into the work of reading and writing poetry in time of loss.

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Dear Nobody

Doherty, Berlie

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Helen and Chris are seventeen, living in Sheffield, England, and preparing for their exams in English and music. Both look forward to university and to careers they love. They also love each other. When Helen finds she’s pregnant, she keeps it a secret for awhile.

She and Chris visit with Chris’s tough but sympathetic aunt, who had an abortion years ago. When Helen’s mother finds out, she urges Helen to have an abortion, makes an appointment, signs her in at the hospital, but Helen leaves. Her mother forbids Chris to see her unless he plans to marry her.

Helen begins a series of letters to her unborn baby, chronicling the lonely and also strangely exciting months of pregnancy, decision-making, altered relationship with family and with Chris. (Among other things, she learns that her mother was born out of wedlock, at a time when illegitimacy was a serious social stigma, which accounts in part for her harshness toward Helen now.) Helen addresses her letters to "Dear Nobody," since so many around her who urge abortion want to convince her that what’s in her body isn’t a person.

Chris goes on a hiking trip to France, passes his A-level exams, meets a new girl who is interested in him, and prepares for university, all the time missing Helen. The day she has the baby, he breaks the barrier of silence and bikes to the hospital to meet his daughter. With no clear decisions for the future, the two open a new door at least to friendship and commitment to care for the child.

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Dancing with Elvis

Stephenson, Lynda

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Frankilee's sense of justice leads her to conspire with her mother to kidnap Angelica Musseldorf from a home where there is every evidence she has been consistently beaten and abused. With reluctant cooperation from her father, they take the girl in, confront the parents, and install her in Frankilee's room for an indefinite stay. Angelica, who asks to be called Angel, is not only scarred, but needy--indeed, over time, demanding. As her parents shower her new roommate with attention, clothing, lessons, Frankilee struggles with her deepening resentments. She confides them to Wanita, the family cook, an African American whose long service to the family has given her a place of special affection.

When Wanita's son is killed in an accidental shooting, Wanita abandons the family for a time; she returns, sorrowful, but steady, to see Frankilee through her own trauma. Suspicions aroused, Frankilee decides to do some detective work with the help of a reluctant boyfriend, and discovers that Angel's "parents" are an aunt and uncle with a criminal record in fraud; they have staged abuse in order to situate their orphaned niece with unsuspecting families of means who will take on the expense of her upbringing and education. In her efforts to expose the fraud, Frankilee is attacked by the aunt who is, in fact, violent, but she survives with some stitches and a sobering sense of what it might mean to be both kind and discerning in offering help.

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Balancing Acts

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Max, who has lost his wife after a long life and career together as circus acrobats, reluctantly retires to an assisted living home. There he finds unexpected friendship first in his neighbor, Lettie, a widow who has a gift for uncomplicated kindness, and Alison, a thirteen-year-old he meets when he gives juggling and stunt lessons at the local junior high. The unhealed ache of his wife's slow death from cancer makes Max skittish about opening his heart to either of them, though Lettie offers him patient companionship and Alison, full of adolescent restlessness, unfocused intelligence, and need, desperately wants something of the grandfatherly good humor and wit she finds in Max.

Alison's mother is pregnant with a long-delayed second child and the distance she feels from her parents drive her to lengthy novel-writing and to rather pushy efforts to make Max her special friend. For him, she learns to juggle. She cuts class to visit him, and to go out for sodas with Lettie. Alienated from peers she finds silly, the old people touch a place in her that needs love. After a heart attack, Max comes home with newly raised defenses, and retreats from the budding friendship with both women.

But when Alison runs away to a circus he refused to attend with her, and then to Penn Station, Max goes with her parents and finds her on a hunch. Found, she clings to him like a small child, and he finds himself full of a long-resisted love. On the way home, however, he succumbs to a heart attack. In the final chapter, Lettie helps Alison begin the long, difficult process of accepting mortality, grief, and the possibility of eventual healing from a loss of a kind she finds herself still unable fully to articulate to anyone she believes will understand.

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