Showing 181 - 190 of 223 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.