Showing 201 - 210 of 220 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

Are You Alone on Purpose?

Werlin, Nancy

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Allison Shandling is a bright 14-year-old with an autistic twin brother, Adam. She has spent her life being the "good" child, accommodating to her brother's idiosyncratic behavior, learning to weather public curiosity, support her parents, and not cause them further anxiety.

When her parents decide to reconnect with a religious community, she finds that one of the school bullies is the rabbi's son, Harry. He teases her mercilessly about her brother, especially after his father, the rabbi, takes Adam under his wing and tutors him for his bar mitzvah. When Harry is paralyzed from the waist down in a sporting accident he retreats even further into bitterness, but Allison finds herself drawn to him nevertheless.

Against her own "better judgment," she pursues a friendship with Harry, learns that the source of much of his anger lies in the death of his mother and his father's distance, and that the two of them share a sense of being marginalized in families where other critical needs have overshadowed their own very ordinary needs. Eventually friendship blossoms into a first romance as well as inciting both to initiate new conversations with their parents.

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The Cobra Event

Preston, Richard

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The threat of biotechnological warfare and/or terrorism is the focus of this carefully researched and riveting novel by the author of The Hot Zone. The term "science fiction" doesn't quite do justice to this tale which lies just to the other side of Preston's usual domain of literary nonfiction. Though the particulars of this story of a genetic engineer who designs lethal virus bombs to thin the population and the counterterrorist group of scientists who attempt to stop him are fictional, the possibilities of such threats are real.

The counterterrorists are a motley and sometimes contentious group of recruits from the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. military. Their agendas and methods differ, but the immediate death threat to the unsuspecting inhabitants of New York and Washington D.C. unifies them into an effective if not always efficient team. They discover the virus when five cases appear of what seems to be an acute and horrifying permutation of a rare neurological dysfunction that induces violent seizures and compulsive self-destruction by chewing on one's own flesh. The virus turns out to be a graft that could only have been produced by artificial means.

The search for the "mad scientist" with equipment capable of this sophisticated work takes weeks during which a handful of people have to live with the secret that a potential pandemic could literally explode in a local subway. The resolution, while in some ways satisfying, hardly dispels the uneasy implications which invite readers not only to serious reflection on our collective attitudes toward weapons research and development, but to activism.

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California Blue

Klass, David

Last Updated: Jan-16-1998
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

John Rodgers is in his last year in high school in a small northern California town where the majority of the townspeople work in the lumber industry. As the youngest son of a father who was a champion athlete, John has always felt pressured by him to excel in his sport of choice, distance running. His father also wants him to put aside his interest in biology--ecologists are the enemy since they threaten his livelihood by protesting clearcutting of redwoods. John can do neither.

In the middle of his senior year he learns that his father has leukemia and is losing ground rapidly. Never having had a comfortable relationship with him, the illness complicates their relationship which soon becomes even more complicated by John's discovery of a rare species of butterfly in the company woods. Knowing it will alienate him not only from his father but from the whole town, he reports the discovery and takes the consequences; his friends beat him up and he runs away. With the help of a sympathetic biology teacher he returns home to find his way to a "separate peace" with his father and a new, complex understanding of the trade-offs between loyalty and responsibility.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

In this memoir Sheed reflects on his experience of three major illnesses: polio; clinical depression, related to alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction; and cancer. He contrasts the incongruous and paradoxical "inner life" of illness, with the often oversimplified prototypical experience represented by AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] literature, various psychiatric orthodoxies, and popular media.

Issues that arise include the tension between medical authority and patient experience, caregivers' and clinicians' projections, friends' and family's misapprehensions, and the surprises, both welcome and horrifying, that occur in the course of treatment and recovery because no illness, mental or physical, follows a textbook format.

The narrative is a wry examination of games patients play as well as a confession, dry and witty but also extraordinarily perceptive, of the failed and false expectations, pretenses, fears, resistances, rage, and qualified pleasures that characterized his personal odysseys through illnesses that have often been simplified and obscured by popular mythmaking.

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Memory

Mahy, Margaret

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Nineteen year-old Johnny Dart leaves home one night after arguing with his parents--to locate the best friend of his sister. He needs to talk with her as the only other witness to his sister's death, five years since, when she fell over a cliff on a picnic. Haunted by the thought that he might have saved her, Johnny is also convinced his parents and others think it should have been he, rather than his sister, who died.

He shows up drunk at the home of the friend's parents, only to find that she has moved out. In his nighttime wanderings he encounters a disoriented old woman on the streets and follows her home to a dilapidated and disheveled house which, it turns out, belongs to her, though since she suffers from Alzheimer's disease or a related syndrome, has lapsed into extreme disarray and disrepair. He ends up staying to care for her for several days, during which he also locates the old friend.

In caring for the old woman and conversing with the young woman, Johnny manages to come to terms with his own past, the pain of his own losses, and agrees to talk with his parents and a counselor and reorient himself to the present. In the process he learns a great deal about himself, about how he has projected his own fears and guilt, and how caring for another person can release him from crippling obsessions with his own past.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This lively biography is a work of love based on newspaper accounts and an abundance of local anecdotes about "Doc Susie," Susan Anderson, who received her M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1907, and who maintained a single-handed rural practice in the almost inaccessible heights of the Rockies from shortly after her training was completed to 1956. She lived to tell a great many stories about arduous and ill-equipped visits to out-of-the-way sites in lumber camps and makeshift farmhouses in several feet of snow through dangerous mountain passes.

After her death at the age of 90 in 1960 her survivors added their recollections to the body of lore. An authentic hero tale about what made it worth her while to withstand tuberculosis, unreliable transportation and supplies, impoverished patients, snow, and solitude, this book may remind readers of a quality of "gumption" that is one of the still admirable aspects of the American pioneer legacy.

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Axe-Time, Sword-Time

Corcoran, Barbara

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Elinor Golden has had trouble reading and writing ever since a golf ball hit her in the head as a child and left her with permanent minor brain damage. Otherwise quite intelligent and fully functional, she has stumbled through school unable to perform assigned tasks, unwilling to make the nature of her problem any more public than she has to, and often alone with it, since few teachers, even those who know the problem, know how to help her. Even her father, a doctor, is baffled.

It is 1943 and, as the U.S. enters the war, her attention is diverted to problems bigger than her own. She joins a volunteer corps that keeps watch for enemy planes approaching the New England coast. In the course of this purposeful work, she is paired on watch with a young teacher who finds a way to help her read by having her trace letters with her finger. Both her new work and her new reading strategy empower her, and help her cope with the crisis of her parents' separation and the departure of her lifelong friend, Jed, for Dartmouth.

She leaves school and joins a group of paid volunteers to do war work, discovering new areas of competency and satisfaction after years of feeling like a failure. At the same time her friend, Jed, discovers something new in her, and friendship turns to romance as personal hope blossoms in the midst of trouble and war.

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Shadow in the Sun

Grohskopf, Bernice

Last Updated: Feb-04-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fran, a fourteen-year-old from New York, is finally allowed to spend a month of her summer vacation with her aunt of Cape Cod. As yet she is unaware that her parents have put off such a visit because her aunt, a lively, empathetic teacher, has a long-term lesbian partner. Among Fran’s new acquaintances is a girl her age, Wilma, who is confined to a wheelchair and, apparently because of the way her disability sets her apart, as well as her famous father’s divorce and remarriage, is extremely demanding and difficult.

Wilma’s stepmother hires Fran to be Wilma’s "companion" a few hours a day while she rests, being in the final stages of her first pregnancy. With the help of some pivotal conversations with her aunt and a new friend, Jack, Fran finds her way through her own anger and bewilderment at Wilma’s behavior to the beginning of an authentic friendship with her, as well as an understanding of the imagination caregiving demands. Along the way she becomes aware of her aunt’s lesbianism and finds that her other experience has helped open her to acceptance of this difference as well.

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The Medical Detectives

Roueche, Berton

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Case Studies)

Summary:

The 22 short stories in this volume are lively, economically written accounts of medical and epidemiological investigations over a thirty year time span from the mid-1940's to the late 1970's. Similar to the "clinical tales" Oliver Sacks (see this database) and others have more recently popularized, these stories are full of medical detail interspersed with dialogue, and are narrated in the manner of popular mysteries.

Even technical medical problems are made comprehensible to a lay audience without oversimplification. "Eleven Blue Men," the opening story details an investigation of eleven simultaneous cases of cyanosis traced to a particular salt shaker. "The Orange Man" traces the investigation of a rare case of carotenemia-lycopenemia. "The Dead Mosquitoes" recounts a strange outbreak of reactions to organic-phosphate poisoning traced to a batch of blue jeans. All the stories are notable for the relative rarity of the cases on record.

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Recovering

Sarton, May

Last Updated: Jan-30-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

In this journal of her 66th year (one of several volumes of her widely-read journals) May Sarton reflects on the depression of losing a long, intimate friend to acute senility, on living with waves of loneliness in a life of chosen and beneficent solitude, and on a mastectomy which followed quickly upon diagnosis. She weaves together themes of friendship, especially friendship among women, mental and physical health, speculating on psychosomatic dimensions of illness, living with an aging body, and the ongoing issues of self-esteem that aging and solitary women confront in a particular way. Each of the 2-3 page entries is a complete and complex reflection, beautifully developed, and often pithy and poetic.

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