Showing 131 - 140 of 220 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

The Way We Live Now

Sontag, Susan

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Way We Live Now consists entirely of fragments of conversation among friends concerned about a friend with AIDS. They confer on the telephone, over coffee, in the halls of the hospital, about the patient and his illness. They speculate, prognosticate, share anxieties, trade innuendoes of guilt and blame, pool their medical knowledge, and criticize the medical establishment.

The patient never appears, and indeed, we never meet a fully-fledged character, but only hear the orchestra of voices that wryly and accurately reflect the mediated and fragmented character of modern community life. News travels among them like an electric current, carrying shock waves of fear and pain. Their pooling of medical lore results in an eclectic mix of remedies that reach from chicken soup to the patient's favorite jelly beans.

By the end, several of the characters, represented only by voices in the conversation, have had to come to terms not only with the impending loss of their friend, but with their own various and unsettling responses. The disease, clearly AIDS, is never mentioned by name.

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Summary:

The aim of this collage of anecdotes from medical history is largely to entertain, though it is pointedly instructive in its focus on reasons for and results of medical mistakes, misapprehensions, and serendipitous breakthroughs. Gordon's dryly humorous skepticism and general irreverence is balanced by an obvious delight in the intellectual play that characterizes the history of science.

The stories he tells range from Hippocrates to the present with a heavy focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes a good representative collection of visual art and photography documenting moments in medical history upon which Gordon casts a cold but twinkling eye. Chapter titles such as "Discoveries in the Dark," "Sex and its Snags," "Odd Practices," and "Freud, the English Governess and the Smell of Burnt Pudding" give a bit of the book's flavor.

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My Mother Dying

Johnson, Hillary

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The title of this variegated narrative hardly does it justice. Though some of the most eloquent passages are about the lingering death of the author's mother, Ruth Johnson, from esophageal cancer, it is, just as centrally, the writer's memoir of growing up with the woman she has just seen through her final years of diminishment and loss, and commentary on her mother's art as testimony to her quirky, original, unconstrained, sometimes jaundiced, often hilarious view of the human comedy.

Hillary Johnson returned to Minneapolis from New York to be with her mother and stepfather after years of only intermittent contact and in the process of reentering her mother's life, came to reassess her own. Ruth chain-smoked, drank freely, lived spontaneously, painted uninhibitedly (40 illustrations include examples of her artwork) and often bestowed her art without price wherever it was appreciated. She was a local celebrity and the daughter, who has achieved her own success, finds in her mother's life a new measure of her own. In retrospect, she recognizes the costs, both to her mother and to herself, of the bohemian way of life she knew as a child, and the pain she didn't at the time fully recognize as such.

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Light from an Eclipse

Lagomarsino, Nancy

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In poetry and prose the writer chronicles her father's final months as Alzheimer's disease progressively seals him into a world where those who love him can't follow. Each short segment details a moment on the writer's journey as witness to his losses: moments of confusion--his and her own, uncertainty about appropriate diplomacy, invention of new activities and rituals to keep him linked to love and alive.

With sure, spare language, she sketches in her own memories, bits of family stories, irrational feelings, the different way she comes to look at home, at family relationships, even at familiar objects. More a song than a story, the collection of vignettes offers both comfort and realism to those on similar journeys of slow loss.

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A Time to Keep Silent

Whelan, Gloria

Last Updated: Aug-11-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

At thirteen, Clair's mother has died, her father has withdrawn, and she suddenly stops speaking. Uncertain what to do with or for her, her father, a pastor, opts for complete change and follows his own dream, leaving an upscale suburban parish for a remote one among the rural poor in the northern Michigan woods. Furious, Clair strikes a deal with him that if she doesn't like it in six months, they'll return.

In the course of that time, while her father builds new kinds of relationships and trust among the local people, Clair discovers and becomes friends with a girl her age who lives mostly alone in a makeshift shelter, avoiding the attentions of her laissez-faire chain-smoking grandmother and, more importantly, her violent father who is temporarily in prison and therefore unable to hurt her.

From this girl, Dorrie, Clair learns a great deal about survival, both physical and psychological, and ultimately, surprised by an emergency into the necessity, learns to speak again. As the six months draw to a close, she finds her sisterly bond with Dorrie, whom her father has invited to live with them, and a growing appreciation of the natural setting and local people have made her not only willing, but eager to stay and make a new life where she is.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Twelve-year-old Lily Star has lost her father and moved from a cabin in the woods on the river where she grew up fishing with her father, and where she knew the natural creatures as neighbors, to an apartment in the nearby city where she and her mother continue to run the family hardware store. While she still loves the river, she finds it hard to "forgive" it because it drowned her father in a boating accident. She also resents the fact that an important stretch of land along the river is being fenced off by the man to whom the cabin was sold--T.R.--a recluse in a wheelchair. Through a series of unpleasant encounters, Lily gets to know him and learns that he had been a pilot and was disabled in an accident.

The bond the two discover over time has to do with somewhat parallel paths of healing: he needs to "forgive" the sky as she does the river. She persuades him eventually to go boating with her. Even a fall in the water doesn't discourage him from taking on new life and hope by accepting Lily's invitations to get to know the river, the land, and the neighbors. Lily's hopes that he might remain and marry her mother are disappointed when he decides to return to work with planes, though he can no longer pilot them, but the friendship that strengthened them both in their struggles with grief and loss makes it a parting full of promise.

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If Nathan Were Here

Bahr, Mary

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

The narrator of this straightforward little story about the loss of a friend is a young boy who is remembering what he and Nathan did together. He goes through a series of routine events he and Nathan shared, including teasing Nathan's sister about her pitching arm, nibbling strawberries on the way to school, and practicing their speeches together. The children in class make a "memory box" commemorating Nathan, but his best friend, the narrator, can't participate. His feelings are too complicated. With a little help from an old neighbor, a little time alone in the treehouse and other places he and Nathan frequented, he discovers new possibilities of friendship in Nathan's sister and ways of remembering Nathan that are all his own.

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Wintering Well

Wait, Lea

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

It is 1820 and Cassie lives on a farm in Maine with her parents and three brothers. One of them, Will, damages his leg with an axe as he hears Cassie scream while he is chopping wood. The gangrene and days of near-death suffering that ensue eventuate in amputation of the leg. During this crisis Cassie is Will's primary caretaker, partly because she feels the accident was her fault.

Their father wants to let Will die, as he feels there will be no life for him as an amputee. But Will survives and he and Cassie go to live with an older married sister in town where Will finds he has talents and options that might never have occurred to him had he simply grown into the farming life he loved. The year following the accident in this way opens both Cassie's and Will's imaginations to other kinds of lives to be lived. For Cassie it awakens a longing to do medical work, as caring for Will has made her aware of the deep satisfactions of caregiving.

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Anna's Corn

Santucci, Barbara

Last Updated: Jan-25-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Anna's grandfather, who used to take her for walks in the cornfields and "listen to the corn" with her, dies. Before his death he gave Anna her own kernels to plant when spring came. Anna, mourning her grandfather when spring comes, doesn't want to plant the seeds; she wants to save them. But her mother points out that if she doesn't plant them, she'll never hear the music from them that her grandfather taught her to hear. She tends the corn and listens. It isn't until fall that she hears the song and crackle of the corn she shared with her grandfather. After the harvest she gathers her own seeds to plant in the coming year.

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Riding the Flume

Pfitsch, Patricia Curtis

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Set in 1894 and based on a history of the logging projects among the California sequoias, this is a story of Francie, whose sister died in an accident six years earlier. She chafes under her parents' excessive protectiveness since Carrie's death. She loves the woods, and longs to do something to keep the loggers from cutting down the ancient sequoias, especially the oldest and largest, a tree over 2500 years old. Through a little sleuthing based on her sister's diary, she finds out that the property on which the ancient tree sits actually belongs to an old hermit, not to the logging company.

In an effort to get the company to stop before cutting the oldest tree, she rides the dangerous log flume into town to alert the one journalist she knows will support her cause. They arrive in time to save that tree and some of the others, and, perhaps as importantly to Francie, her mother and father begin to see her not only in terms of their loss of Carrie, but as a young woman independently interesting, daring, and very much alive.

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