Showing 181 - 190 of 220 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

A Prayer for the Dying

O'Nan, Stewart

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jacob Hansen is sheriff, undertaker, and pastor in the little Wisconsin town of friendship. A Civil War veteran like many of the men in his town, he has seen many faces of death and knows how to balance compassion, prayer, and practicality in the presence of grief. When he recognizes a diphtheria epidemic as one after another the people of Friendship fall ill and die, he has to shoulder responsibility for protecting public health.

This means imposing and enforcing quarantine, extending even to the encampment of religious revivalists at the edge of town who mostly keep their distance and their own ways. Jacob's equanimity falters when his wife and baby daughter succumb; he keeps them alive in his mind and unburied for days, unable to acknowledge his own loss, though he helps others through theirs.

Finally he forces a passing railroad engineer to transport the survivors across the quarantine border into a neighboring town for safety, but the train is sabotaged, wrecked, and the fugitives killed. Jacob survives almost alone to return to what is now a ghost town and cope with the grim fate of survival.

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Seasons of Sun and Rain

Dorner, Marjorie

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

When six fifty-year-old women gather for an annual reunion they've come laughingly to call "Camp Men-o-pause,” at an idyllic midwestern lakeside bed-and-breakfast they face a bewildering and sorrowful difficulty unprecedented in their many years of friendship since college: Micky, in many ways a leader and intellectual bright light among them, has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease. She is present and functioning, but has bouts of confusion and memory loss.

She knows a great deal about her own condition and has shared it with the others. Only with one other, Jan, has she shared her desire to be helped to commit suicide when she becomes seriously incompetent, and, enjoined to secrecy, Jan has to bear the burden alone of deciding whether to make Micky that promise.

The story chronicles the week the women spend together, their various thoughts and conversations about their lives, and the ways in which Micky's disease leads them all to reframe their feelings about friendship, loyalty, aging, and medical options. Much about the week is bittersweet; the story ends inconclusively as Jan is unwilling to promise to help Micky die, but all come to some sobering understandings about what it might mean to "see their friend through” a gradual leavetaking that may erase them all from her memory.

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The Mourner's Bench

Dodd, Susan

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Leandra lives alone in the backwoods of North Carolina where she makes a small but sufficient living repairing antique dolls for a dealer who sells them to collectors. The broken and ragged dolls occupy an old "mourner's bench" in her one-room cabin. For ten years she has lived in relative contentment, though she carries the pain of a trip to Boston when her sister bore a defective child who died.

The sister committed suicide soon thereafter. During that visit, as Leandra's sister withdrew into late-pregnancy depression and hostility, Leandra and Wim took comfort in one another's presence and finally fell in love. But after the suicide, Leandra returns to North Carolina with no intention of ever seeing Wim again.

Now, ten years later, he shows up on her doorstep, wanting to spend the final months of his life with her; he has inoperable brain cancer. He knows what course it is likely to take. He wants only to see her, but she insists that if he is to reenter her life, she wants to see him through all of it, even the worst parts.

They weather and cherish the days with gentle humor, frankness, careful sharing of memory, and the deepest love either has ever experienced. Leandra's neighbor, a friend from childhood, helps Wim build an extension onto Leandra's little cabin, one of several ways he finds to "provide for her" as he wishes he could have earlier.

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Don't Hurt Laurie!

Roberts, Willo Davis

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Laurie lives with her mother, stepfather, and two stepsiblings. Her stepfather is often gone on business trips. When he's home, he's generally kind, but oblivious to the fact that Laurie's mother abuses her. She's kept this secret ever since her birth father left when she was three.

When her mother gets angry she takes it out on Laurie, beating her and confining her. In front of other people they both pretend it didn't happen, and they never talk about it. Her mother explains her bruises and scars and frequent trips to the emergency room as a result of Laurie's clumsiness. She has moved frequently, and keeps Laurie from developing friendships.

But Laurie does find friends, first in a new next-door neighbor, a boy with a hospital record of his own who walks on crutches, and then in her stepbrother, who begins to realize what's happening and conspires with her to get help. Eventually she is released from the cycle of abuse when her mother is hurt in an accident and the three children seek refuge with the stepsibling's grandmother. Laurie's stepfather apologizes for his inattention and promises her the safety of the grandmother's home for the summer and their home again when her mother has had treatment for her abusive behavior.

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Past Forgiving

Miklowitz, Gloria

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

15-year-old Alexandra is envied by her friends for dating Cliff, a popular, athletic senior. But his attentiveness, which she at first finds reassuring, gradually becomes a jealous possessiveness that separates her from other friends. She finds she is afraid to make choices without consulting him, or to do anything social without him. Her behavior is not unlike her mother's, who goes to great lengths to avoid displeasing her father who is quick to anger and insistent upon control and order.

Cliff's anger over apparently small differences becomes increasingly violent as time goes on. He forces sex on her and eventually hits her, after which he apologizes profusely with flowers and promises. By the time this cycle has repeated itself a few times, Alexandra realizes she has to escape. Afraid to do so on her own, she ultimately needs the help of both friends and the police.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

The story covers the months from early diagnosis of a retinal disorder through stages of treatment and loss of vision to a six-month stay at a residential facility to train the newly blind in life skills, including Braille. Sally Hobart was a 24-year-old elementary school teacher when she began suddenly and rapidly to lose her vision.

In the months that followed, she went through several surgeries and other treatments that are sometimes successful in restoring vision, but all efforts failed. She was left with very cloudy partial vision--only enough to distinguish colors, light and dark in the lower half of the vision field.

She tells about the fear, the frustrations of partial information and false hope, the tension between herself and her fiancé (they finally called off the engagement), the support (and also confusion and pain) of friends and family, and the emotional adaptation to a whole new life while learning to become independent as a blind person.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

The story begins when Pearl comes home from school one day and learns from her mother that her grandfather has died. The following pages take us first through Pearl's feelings, how friends and family help her, her questions about the ritual of sitting shiva at her grandmother's house, her ways of remembering her grandfather. Her father helps her plant a garden, something she had shared with her grandfather, and when her grandmother sees the garden in the spring, she tells Pearl that her grandpa is still alive through her.

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Summary:

The short stories and poems collected in this attractive large-format volume are arranged in sections that focus on particular problems and crises children may face that isolate them from "normal" peers. Themes include sickness, disability, hospitalization, loss, conflict, developmental change, and loneliness.

The stories are simple, most 2-3 pages followed by a few questions to talk about. Each story is accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations. Characters featured in the stories represent a range of ethnicities and socio-economic situations. An introduction gives guidelines to help adults use the book as an instrument for helping children cope with difficult times.

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East of the Mountains

Guterson, David

Last Updated: Aug-18-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Ben Givens, a retired surgeon whose wife of several decades has recently died, knows he has inoperable colon cancer. The only other person who knows is a friend and colleague; he hasn't told his daughter or grandson, not wanting to burden them with the news. Not wanting, either, to burden them with his eventual care, or to face the inevitable deterioration and pain to come, he decides to take a putative hunting trip into the mountains where he hunted quail as a boy and there to stage what is to look like an accident by shooting himself.

His plans are thwarted, however, when he gets into a road accident, is helped by a young couple, has to attend to an injured dog and later a young migrant worker giving birth. Life keeps intruding on his plans to die. In the course of several long and eventful days, memories of childhood and young adulthood, love, college, the war, medical school, return to give him back the story of his life and eventually lead him to reconsider how that story should end.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

This psychobiographical reading of Katherine Mansfield's stories links the fiction to particular traumas in Mansfield's life and speculates about the various motives at work in her use of personal pain as material for fiction. Each of seven chapters is focused upon a key event in Mansfield's life, including, for instance, the death of her younger sister, maternal rejection, venereal disease, and abortion.

Burgan draws widely upon psychological theory, including allusions to Freud, Breuer, Erikson, Horney and others. She also comments on Mansfield's own extensive writing about her own fiction including material from letters and journals that vex the question of how, whether, and to what extent to read the stories in light of the biographical backdrop.

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