Showing 191 - 200 of 222 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
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.
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.
Megan was one of the best players on her school basketball team until she accepted a ride home on the back of a motorcycle that slid on gravelly surface, overturned, and left her with a spinal cord injury. Now, a few months later, in a wheelchair, with no sensation in her feet or legs, she is packed up with all her equipment to spend the summer with the family on the island where they've always vacationed.
At first she can hardly bear being confined to watching from windows or negotiating makeshift ramps where she once ran so freely in woods and rowed so happily on the lake. When a boy appears from the neighboring cabin and tries to make friends she resists at first, but is finally drawn into a friendship that gives her the courage to "pick up the pieces" of her broken life and try new ways of being active, including, at the end of the summer, a wheelchair race on the mainland.
She also finds herself befriending the boy's grandmother, an aging actress turning alcoholic because she can't come to terms with aging and the loss of romantic leads in film. As Megan learns to come to terms with her own limitations, she is able indirectly to help the older woman come to terms with her own sense of loss.
Katie, the twelve-year-old protagonist and narrator, lives with her sister, Diane, and their father, a military man with a violent temper, on a military base in Texas. She remembers their mother, now dead, as a kind, gentle presence, able to temper their father's violence, though Katie begins to realize that the mother had also lived in apprehension of his outbreaks.
The story develops Katie's strategies for coming to terms with the loss of her mother, the fact that her mother never succeeded in protecting her from her father's violence, and eventually the loss of her sister who runs away. She begins to learn how to negotiate with her father and seek and receive nurture both from others and from herself.
Gary, now in seventh grade, has lived with his mother since early childhood when his dad left. His uncle, Rob, has always lived nearby and loved and attended to him like a dad. Gary counts on Rob for basketball coaching, good advice about girls, and understanding about things he can't talk with his mom about. Gary notices one day that Rob looks pale and sick. The sickness doesn't seem to go away. Finally he learns that Rob has AIDS.
For a time he manages to convince himself it was a mistake at the lab and couldn't be true. Ultimately he has to come to terms with it when his uncle is taken to the hospital. With Rob's illness he finds a new kind of maturity in himself, and with Rob's encouragement he initiates a friendship with a girl he's been too shy to approach. After Rob dies, he is surprised at the kind of support he gets from friends, and finds ways to recognize and claim something of Rob in himself.
Izzy, a popular, active cheerleader, happily accepts a date with an attractive senior she doesn't know well, flattered to be noticed by him. At the party her date drinks too much, insists on driving her home anyway, and smashes the car into a tree. Marco suffers only surface wounds, but Izzy's leg is crushed and has to be amputated just below the knee.
During her weeks in the hospital Izzy finds that not only is her whole physical orientation to the world required to change--she suddenly sees every path in terms of obstacles--but her relationship to family and friends changes, too. Her three closest friends begin to avoid her, uncertain what to say or how to include her in their plans. In the meantime Rosamunde, a marginal classmate whose slightly unkempt appearance and quirky behavior makes her entertaining, but excludes her from the "in" crowd, moves into Izzy's world with curiosity, frankness, inventive amusements and a steady, if offbeat compassion.
In her impassive and demanding African American physical therapist Izzy discovers another unexpected source of comfort on terms she doesn't at first recognize as kind. As the story ends, Izzy is back at school, finding her way into a new, more challenging relationship to her body and her peers, and a friendship with Rosamunde unlike any she's known before.
This novel is a fictionalized version of a true story. In 1973 John Cappelletti from Penn State won the Heisman trophy, given to the outstanding college football player each year. When he received the award, he publicly "awarded" it to his little brother, Joey, then suffering from leukemia.
The story covers the two years prior to that event, a period when the relationship between the brothers deepened as John moved upward to fame and Joey's illness ran its slow course toward his eventual death in 1976. It provides many scenes from family life that show the range of ways a loving family of five children and a daughter-in-law collaborate in supporting Joey through hospital visits, remissions, a near-fatal coma, and increasing bouts of severe pain.
Jeff, a college-bound senior, is about to break up with his girlfriend, Christy, when she announces she is pregnant. He had stopped using condoms when she announced she was on the pill. He urges her to get an abortion. She wants to have the baby.
The pregnancy separates them, puts a deep dent in Jeff's plans for college, and hinders his participation on the nationally ranked debate team. He finds himself blamed, blaming, reacting stupidly (he gets drunk one evening and has to be picked up by his mother at the police station), and stuck in denial about his responsibilities until grad night when Christy is taken in for a caesarean section and the baby is born at 33 weeks.
Jeff, whose own father is distant and negligent, finds himself wanting to be a father to the child. As he starts college, he works out a way to share parenting responsibilities and maintain a friendly relationship with Christy even while he begins a new, more mature relationship with a young woman in college.
Second Son chronicles the changes in family relationships that follow disclosure of a son's AIDS. The father's initial response reveals unexamined attitudes that complicate the supportive response he'd like to give. Father and son are brought into unfamiliar and unwelcome intimacy, the former wanting to "fight it," the latter wanting to turn inward, accept his condition and decide how to live out his life.
Father and son find that they handle sickness in much the same way they have handled the other aspects of their divergent lives. A new lover, who also has AIDS, finally provides what the family, tragically, cannot. The story highlights confusions about what family members owe one another and makes clear how the families of the sick need to be healed if they are to become healing communities.
The narrator of this long, lyrical musing is a psychiatrist who works with autistic children. Though much of the narrative is a reflection on her mid-life relationship with a journalist lover who risks death to report on places in political turmoil, her observations about her patients provide a recurrent motif and reference point.
Several long passages detail the fascination and frustration involved in working with her young patients, what she has learned from them about limits, patience, and the semiotics of autism. She also reflects on how that learning has allowed her to understand "normal" people differently. One of the subtle but strong themes of the story is the question of what "normal" means.
A secondary focus is her close attachment to her two grown sons. This is developed through memories of particular scenes of their childhood that she identifies as bonding moments. Another focus is her relationship with her mother, now dwindling into mental incompetence and squalor in her old age. Thinking about these relationships, with lover, sons, mother and patients, is a way of taking stock of how the strands of her life have brought her to a place of qualified peace in mid-life.