Showing 171 - 180 of 220 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
Skye Johnson, a high school swimmer, is training for state finals when a new boyfriend distracts her from her single-minded pursuit of athletic championships. As the romance begins to turn abusive, she finds her boyfriend becoming more of a problem in her life than her brother, who has Down's syndrome, and who accompanies her almost everywhere because he needs supervision.
Her divorced, single mother holds down two jobs and can't be home to care for Sunny, the brother, so he has been largely Skye's responsibility since she entered high school. Sunny wants to learn to swim. Skye knows he is teachable, and could be prepared for the Special Olympics, but doesn't want to devote time to training him, so she secretly arranges to give him lessons with her babysitting money.
A serious confrontation with her boyfriend leaves her with an injured hand which prevents her swimming in the state competition, but which, it turns out, allows her to be present when Sunny swims in the Special Olympics. She finds herself deeply proud of him, and able to see again why she loves this brother whom she's regarded for some time largely as a burden.
This memoir of a clinical psychologist (also a professor of psychology) chronicles her own depression over a period of a year and a half, from early symptoms, through near despair, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization to recovery. The journey is detailed, not only in its treatment of her emotional states, but of her struggle to maintain family and professional life, keep her house and office organized, and attend to a dying friend.
As her bouts of panic and disorientation grow more apparent, first to herself and finally to others, she seeks refuge in spiritual retreats and in conversation with colleagues, ultimately submitting to treatment. She names the emotional "undercurrents" suggested in the book's title with moving precision: panic over sudden disorientation, anxiety about what to keep secret, frustration with her own unreliability, dread of small duties and ordinary appointments, heartache over her faltering efforts to be a good and present mother.
The consent to hospitalization costs a great deal in humility, in risking a controversial treatment, and in letting go of a professional persona she doesn't know whether she'll be able to retrieve. But clearly the book is written by a woman whose clarity is a testimony to regained mental health and exceptional intellectual clarity. It is not a professional record, but an intensely personal memoir of what was both an encounter with serious mental illness and a spiritual journey.
Marina, a fourteen-year-old recently transferred from a mental hospital to a boarding school, can't speak. Her muteness is a reaction to trauma; in a moment of fury at her mother, her father threw photographic acid in the car window and, instead of hitting his wife, hit his daughter's face. Severely scarred, both inside and outside, resentful of her mother and bewildered by her father's pain, anger, and now imprisonment for assault, she records her daily life tentatively in a journal assigned, but not read by, a favorite English teacher at her new school.
The girls in her dorm have been apprised of her problem and treat her mostly with respect, but only one of them is fully able to keep making the moves that open a door to friendship. Despite Marina's silence, even in sessions with the school counselor, she begins to heal as she makes her journal (the text of the story) a safe place, allows herself to be included in the family lives of her teacher and friend, and finally summons the courage to visit her father, with whom she retrieves the language she needs, finding, as the title suggests, she has "so much to tell him."
Gabriel McCloud, 18, has just been killed by driving his truck into a tree while intoxicated. The small town goes into shock. The chapters of the novel are narrated successively by key people in Gabriel's life: his girlfriend; a teacher who saw his potential and gave him extra chances he needed; his embittered and violent father; his two brothers, an uncle who has been estranged from the family for years; the son of the local mortician; a buddy; the sheriff. Each of them goes through a particular kind of shock, grief, and reflection following the loss.
Jennie, Gabriel's girlfriend, pregnant with Gabriel's baby, decides to take herself to the beach and commit suicide. She sits for some time on a rock that will soon be buried by the rising tide, but is eventually spotted and rescued by a man she has feared and despised: Gabriel's father. The various voices that give us vantage points on Gabriel's difficult life and violent death testify also to how important even the life of a somewhat wayward, underachieving, confused teenager can be to a community of people who recognize him, some belatedly, as a gift.
Ten-year-old Becky Zaslow is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) just before her class talent show. The sudden changes in her world include a hospital roommate whose experience with chemotherapy has left her rude and embittered; a lively nurse who levels with her; and parents who react strongly and differently to her illness. Even though the treatments leave her bald and weakened, she shows up at the talent show just before her bone marrow transplant, to the acclaim of all but one of her classmates.
A key coping strategy for Becky is an increasingly vivid fantasy life in which she finds friends among a herd of zebras and one monkey. Holding her stuffed zebra, she "travels" to Africa to escape the pain and trauma of treatments. Gradually she loses ground; as her body gives way, her mind and spirit move increasingly to the other world where an old zebra offers wisdom and help for the crossing she is about to make. She dies, leaving behind a journal that becomes her younger brother's incentive to learn to read, a task he has been resisting.
Raina is 17, living alternately on the streets with a boyfriend addicted to hard drugs and at home with an abusive mother, also an addict. She has been victimized by a succession of her mother's live-in boyfriends and lost a young brother to an accidental overdose: he swallowed some of his mother's pills while the mother slept and seven-year-old Raina was watching him.
Margaret Johnson is 45, Raina's teacher at an underfunded, overcrowded public school where Raina's life of squalor is more typical than not. Her own story is told in chapters that alternate with Raina's story and with the texts of autobiographical compositions Raina gives her but refuses to discuss. Only when Raina finds herself pregnant, shortly after her boyfriend has been killed in a drug-related accident, does she take Ms. Johnson up on her repeated offers of help.
She lives at the teacher's home for awhile, runs away to her own home, unused to kind treatment and afraid she'll disappoint the teacher and be thrown out, goes to a shelter, has her baby, and finally returns, having nowhere to go. Ms. Johnson, with some hesitation, takes her and the baby in and the three begin to work out a life together, knowing it will involve difficult change, but willing to bet on love against the odds.
Traumatized from a small plane accident that killed his parents and sister and injured him, Finn has returned to his grandmother's farm in Vermont where he's always spent happy summers, to regroup and continue his life. His trauma has left him unable to speak.
At the farm he is surrounded by the healing presences of his grandmother, an old summer friend, Julia, and the animals. Between painful flashback memories of the accident, Finn begins to allow himself to enjoy moments, especially in the tolerant and undemanding presence of the girl and the woman who are also grieving, but who find ways to help him reclaim life and the present.
Visiting an old childhood hideaway in nearby pine woods, Finn and Julia run into drug dealers who use the isolated spot for their transactions. Finn finally finds his voice when he is forced to rescue Julia in the midst of a spreading fire from an abandoned well into which she was dropped by a panicked drug dealer who feared exposure.
In short chapters that alternate between remembered scenes of abuse, reflections upon those scenes, and tributes to the natural beauties and human kindnesses that tempered years of domestic violence, the author provides a galling, but not sensationalistic, record of what child abuse looks and feels like. Only when she was older and mostly beyond the reach of a father who routinely beat and sexually abused her and her siblings did the author find out that her father had been dismissed from a police force for gratuitous violence and had subsequently submitted to electroshock treatments for mental illness.
The title describes the nature of the narrative; in its deliberate discontinuities it testifies to the stated fact that there are places where memory has left a blank. Much of the telling is an attempt to piece together a story of recurrent violence, felt danger, and arbitrary rage that seemed at the time both regular and unpredictable.
The sanity of the narrative testifies to the possibility of healing. The writer makes no large claims for final or complete release from the effects of trauma, but does strongly testify to the possibility of a loving, happy, functional adult life as healing continues.
The story is a letter written by a 24-year-old woman to her niece who was given up for adoption. Bitte Liten, from a close Norwegian family, remembers the summer she was 12 when she was sent away during the last months of her sister's pregnancy to stay with her uncle. Her sister, 15, unwed and pregnant, had found adoptive parents for the child, but Bitte, imagining the pleasures of being an aunt and helping care for a baby, wanted her to keep it.
While at her uncle's, she visits her aging favorite aunt in a nursing home. Her aunt, sinking into dementia, doesn't remember her. This leaves her reflecting on how much of life is memory of the past and dreams of the future. Her period comes that summer for the first time, and with it, a new understanding of adult responsibilities and her sister's predicament.
She writes her sister to tell her she understands her decision and will support her. In return, her sister invites her to be at the hospital the day the baby is born. There Bitte meets the adoptive parents as well as the baby, says hello and goodbye to her little niece, and comes to understand something new and harder about what love looks like. Twelve years later, she records all these memories for the niece who has grown up as someone else's child.
Erin Bennett, a high school senior, faces the possibility of missing out on the senior play because of the violent headaches that have afflicted her since her sister's death a year before in a car accident. No physical cause has been found for the headaches, and her parents have insisted that she see a psychotherapist. Erin goes, resentfully at first, and after a few weeks begins to accept the possibility that her continuing pain may have something to do with the stress of unresolved grief which is exacerbated by various trigger events.
She is cast in West Side Story opposite David, to whom she takes an instant dislike, though she has the haunting feeling she has seen him before. Attracted to her, he pursues her despite fairly direct rejection, until Erin figures out where she's seen him: she took her sister's place once in clown costume and makeup at a party where he was also a clown.
David, whose little sister is hearing impaired, helps bring Erin to a place of acknowledging the ways in which she is hanging on both to her grief and to unresolved anger at her sister's boyfriend. She also blames herself for the accident, since she asked her sister to take the car on an errand in her place.
At a final counseling session, the therapist helps Erin and her parents understand how, in focusing attention on Erin's headaches instead of their own unattended grief, they have become "stuck" in a loop of stress and alienation. Going through a trunk of her sister's things, Erin finds a way ritually to say good-bye and joins David at a party with a renewed willingness to choose life and a hope that she can free herself from both blame and pain.