Showing 211 - 220 of 227 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

Looking After: A Son's Memoir

Daniel, John

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this reflective memoir, a son in his mid-forties recalls the final years of his mother's life, the mystery of her changed being as she succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, and the long weeks and months he spent as caretaker, confronting the mystery of his own life and the role of memory in it by witnessing at close range the closing down of both life and memory in her. The book is candid about the whole range of feelings--including the most unexpected and unwelcome--associated with the difficult decision to bring an aging and infirm parent into one's household, care for her, reconfigure family life, and consent to the disconcerting inversion of parent-child roles.

Each of its forty short chapters is a lyrical moment. Daniel weaves memories of his mother's life--musing about those parts he can only know second hand--and exquisite portraiture, with ongoing reflection about his purposes in writing; what gifts there may have been in the difficult process of seeing her through a difficult passage into death; and how some of those gifts unfold only in the aftermath. His speculations about the inner life of an Alzheimer's patient add nothing to medical understanding, but model a deeply edifying kind of compassion and will to imagine beyond the failures of mind and body to a silent, inarticulate self that still deserves to be honored.

View full annotation

Sheila's Dying

Carter, Alden

Last Updated: Dec-10-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jerry, a basketball player, is going with Sheila, who hates Bonnie, who volunteers at the hospital. After bouts of intense, unfamiliar pain, Sheila learns that she has cancer of the ovaries and intestines. Sheila lives with an alcoholic grandmother; Jerry, with a single working mother and sister. The story treats Jerry's desire for sex, his friends' avoidance, and the dilemmas he faces as taking care of Sheila cuts into school and team commitments.

He wonders whom to tell, what to say to Sheila, and how to stick with a girl through defacing illness. He finds he's not in love with her. He's unsure how to handle his own family obligations as he realizes that he's the only "family" Sheila can count on. But he stays with her until the end.

His fidelity has little to do with romantic love, but rather with a larger kind of love he's learning. Sheila's death is partly a relief. Jerry needs to regroup and go on with his life after this cataclysmic hiatus. The going on, it seems, will involve Bonnie, the hospital volunteer whom neither Jerry nor Sheila appreciated until her unseasonable maturity helped them in time of need.

View full annotation

A Time for Dancing

Hurwin, Davida Wills

Last Updated: Dec-09-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Julie and Samantha have been best friends since they met in a dancing class at age nine. Now, at sixteen, they are closer than sisters, at home in each other's families, sharing everything, imagining their futures together

Julie, who has been feeling unusually fatigued and experiencing hip pain, finds, after several misdiagnoses, that she has diffuse histiocytic lymphoma, a type of cancer. She begins a course of aggressive chemotherapy and with it an inner journey that gradually distances her from family, friends, and in particular Sam--in ways none of them could have predicted.

Love is stretched for all of them beyond where it has had to reach before. There are periods of silence, odd pretenses, and conversations of unprecedented intimacy as Julie, her parents, and her best friend chart their bumpy course through shock and various tactics of accommodation to final acknowledgment that Julie is dying. Julie's own accelerated growth into an enlarged consciousness of the shape of her own life and destiny, and Sam's growth into a kind of emotional and psychological independence she'd never known before are the focus of this story, each girl narrating her own side of the story in alternating chapters.

View full annotation