Showing 411 - 420 of 451 annotations tagged with the keyword "Parenthood"

Outside Passage

Scully, Julia

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled, A Memoir of an Alaskan Childhood, this spare, compelling work recalls young Julia's difficult and unusual life in a splintered family living "at the edge of the world." When Julia was born in 1929 the family had just moved to Seattle and entered an economic crisis--"somehow, my father had been bilked out of their money." (17) The marriage went downhill as poverty and the father's serious illness compounded an underlying conjugal incompatibility.

Julia was only seven years old when she and her older sister Lillian found their father dead--a suicide. "Nothing is said about how my father died, or even, in fact, that he is dead." (8) Not long thereafter Julia's mother, Rose, without any explanation or advance warning, left the girls at the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum; there they remained for two years. Rose went to Nome, Alaska to try to find work. "Meanwhile, I strive to be a model orphan. I do all my chores . . . I'm quiet, do well in school, am extremely polite. And most of the time, I'm afraid." (33)

There follows another stay in a different orphanage. Here "I never hear my name . . . No one ever touches me. And, in my memory of that time, that place, I am always alone." (72) Finally, they join their mother again in a remote mining outpost of Alaska where Rose operates a roadhouse. Moving with the seasons back and forth between the outpost and the city of Nome, Julia's life takes on a semblance of normalcy. The environment is strange but interesting, the men who frequent the roadhouse are rough but friendly--there is a sense of camaraderie.

As Julia reaches puberty she becomes subliminally aware of a relationship between her mother and the owner of the Nome liquor store, Cappy. Cappy is married--his family is back in Seattle. There is never any open display of affection between Cappy and Rose, but he eats his meals with them and is almost a surrogate father to Julia and her sister. Suddenly Rose decides to move the family to Fairbanks. Here there is a "secret scenario" that Julia only pieces together many years later. As the events unfold in Fairbanks, Julia knows only that her mother is "distracted, not there." And that a man "carrying a small black satchel" comes to the house and leaves her mother moaning in bed.

Once more, Rose leaves her now teenaged children behind as she returns to Nome. It is wartime and Lillian and Julia find jobs at the military base in Fairbanks. As suddenly as they came to Fairbanks, they are summoned back to Nome--no questions asked, no explanations given. Cappy's son is missing in action. Once again, Julia cannot understand the silence, the absence of grief displayed--"Isn't anybody sad? Isn't anybody upset?" (181) Rose's relationship with Cappy quietly ends.

As Julia finishes high school she fantasizes about leaving Nome, going to college, becoming a journalist--fantasies inspired by Rosalind Russell's role in the film, His Girl Friday, and by Sinclair Lewis's critique of small town life in the novel, Main Street. "I begin to discern, vaguely, tentatively, that somewhere there exists a world where the accepted language is the one that Sinclair Lewis speaks--a language of ideas and, even, of feelings." (212) Indeed, as the book jacket notes, the author graduated from Stanford and became a magazine editor; she lives in Manhattan.

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The Veteran

Massad, Stewart

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is the narrative of an old doctor. Once greatly admired, he is now ridiculed by young doctors who find his techniques outdated and his lectures boring. His specialty is microbiology; his lab works on AIDS. His daughter asks him to support a group demanding that researchers release without so much delay the preventive drugs they are developing for AIDS patients. The doctor refuses on the grounds that the drugs need more testing. Later he finds out that his son is dying of AIDS.

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Fortress of Chairs

Harvor, Elisabeth

Last Updated: Jul-03-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This first collection of poems includes a series of strong and well-crafted personal narratives. Several deal with the poet's experience in nurse's training. For example, in "Down There" she recalls childhood baths when she would squat and pour a jug of warm water between her legs ("down there") as she washes post-operative women and thinks of the intensely poetic hospital questions, "Can you make wind? / Can you make water?"

In "We Were Gulls" she visualizes the nursing students on Ward Nine and evokes their encounter with a repulsive old man who said, "there isn't a one of you / I wouldn't give a squeeze to / if I could hold you / in my arms / right here in this bed." In "In the Hospital Garden" she recalls the titillating episode of a doctor's wife who gave birth to a "radiation mutation."

But the poet's nursing is not confined to the professional sphere--in "Madame Abundance" she speaks of her son's "string of drool" against her own "milk-dampened blouse of the breast." Poems like "Night Terror," "The Street Where We Lived," and "At the Horse Pavilion" bring the reader into the love and pain of family life. "How long will it last?" the poet asks in one of her poems. In another she answers, "I live alone / I live alone / I live alone / I live alone."

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A Widow for One Year

Irving, John

Last Updated: Jun-25-1998
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A family's tragic event--the death of two teenage boys in a car accident--is both the stimulus for a mother's abandonment of her husband and daughter and an ongoing thread weaving its way throughout the rest of this immense story (537 pages) told in three major parts.

Part 1 (1958) is the story of Marion and Ted Cole and their four-year-old daughter Ruth. Struggling to keep afloat in her grief-filled life, Marion is a beautiful, 39-year-old woman who, with her husband Ted, a hugely successful children's author/illustrator, lives an elegant life on Long Island. The focus of Part 1 is Marion's affair with Eddie, a 17-year-old hired by Ted to be his personal assistant but who turns out to be part babysitter to Ruth, and "companion" to Marion. This part of the story is sexy and comic, even as it is full of relentless grief.

Part 2 (1990) finds Ruth as a hugely successful novelist in her thirties. Her life is one long unending string of "bad" boyfriends, and one long question regarding how her mother could abandon her and why she fails to reappear. While in Amsterdam on a book tour, she comes up with the idea for a new book that takes her to the storefront prostitution district of the city, where her authorial curiosity and adventure is met with violence. In this section of the book she marries her agent, has a baby, and seems to be finding contentment for the first time in her life.

Part 3 (1995) occurs four years later, when Ruth as a 41-year-old widow and mother, falls in love. The story comes together finally with the reappearance of Marion Cole, now in her seventies and herself a moderately successful author who had been living quietly alone in Canada.

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The Proving Grounds

Tregebov, Rhea

Last Updated: Jun-13-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Stonecrop: Poems January 1987 to May 1989, the first of two sections in Rhea Tregebov's collection, is a series of poems about loss and potential loss, especially concerning her son's life-threatening asthma. In "Vital Signs" she writes, "When we almost lost him, I almost lost myself."

Later, when her son's condition had stabilized, she writes in "Runt," "We can hope to break the cycle." More than two years later, the poet rejoices in her son's growth as he says "Bony" while "turning his head against the hard nest of my shoulders" ("Respite").

Other poems in this series are eloquent responses to other personal losses. As Rhea Tregebov writes in "Sleep," "it is the dust of stars I touch, the dust of cold brilliant stars / we somehow are." "Faith in the Weather," the book's second section, contains poems dealing with a variety of other topics. From a literature and medicine point of view, "How We Know the Animals" and "The Right Thing" are particularly noteworthy.

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is in the form of a villanelle, a French verse form derived from an Italian folk song of the late 15th-early 17th Centuries. Originally reserved for pastoral subjects, modern poets from W. H. Auden ("Time Will Say Nothing") to Dylan Thomas (Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night) have employed it for more somber subjects.

The strict definition of a villanelle adheres to the following pattern: five tercets followed by a quatrain with the rhyming scheme of a1ba2 aba1 aba2 aba1 aba2 aba1a2. Williams's "Villanelle," like Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," obeys this convention while relating a bereaved, haunted mother's lament over her dead daughter.

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A Personal Matter

Oe, Kenzaburo

Last Updated: Mar-05-1998
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A father whose child is born with a brain hernia tries to flee his responsibility for the child. In his shame, fear, and confusion he turns to alcohol and an old girlfriend and also agrees to give the child only sugar-water. The child wills to live, however, and finally the father, who has deserted others during his lifetime, realizes he cannot desert his son. He allows the surgeons to operate even though the child's future is uncertain.

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Home

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Feb-27-1998
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is a short bittersweet story of a father's (eventually) successful efforts to teach his seven year old son about the "evils" of smoking. The father, a prosperous and recently widowed prosecutor, begins his "lesson" by first trying to explain the nature of property (his son had taken his tobacco); in the voice of "the nursery" he tries to compel his son not to smoke again.

Then, trying to recapture the teachable moment after this first attempt fails, the father reminds himself that the modern teacher must stand on logic in order to help the child form the necessary principles. Learning should be based neither on fear nor on desire for rewards he tells himself--but he fails again.

Finally the father realizes that he must enter his son's world in order for his son to understand him. This he does through an improvised story wherein a young prince "abandons" his aging father through an early death due to smoking. The connection is made and the young son swears to not smoke again. The father then reflects on the power of story in the lives not only of children, but of us all.

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Past Wildflowers

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the third volume of poetry by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. Charach's poems evoke a wide array of experiences and topics, ranging from surreal dream poems to images of family vacations, from an adolescent biker ("White Laces") to medical imaging techniques ("MRI" and "The Use of Contrast to Study the Spine"). Charach's tone is generally light, frequently insightful, and often surprising.

While "healing" poems are scattered throughout the book, one section ("The Calling") focuses on images of Charach's medical specialty, psychiatry. In "Psychiatrists on the Subway" the poet imagines an off-duty psychiatrist who "sets his ears / on the night table / and prays for a night of long silence / from a God who prefers / to listen." In "Newton" he invites the reader to glimpse the professional life--but with a grain of salt--as he muses about a colleague who "gave so much Electro-Convulsive therapy / he wore wooden cufflinks and rubber-soled Wallabies."

"The Naked Physician" presents an image of a kind and gentle doctor whose failure to be a good husband and father "will be recorded in the final light." Other outstanding poems in this collection include "She Will No Longer Take Her Food," "Equipoise," "Someone Else's Fire," "Labour and Delivery," and "Past Wildflowers."

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Geek Love

Dunn, Katherine

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Geek Love is the saga of a traveling carnival, the owners of which try to save it from financial failure by using ingested chemicals and toxins to create the birth of amazing freaks for the show. The outcome is a family that is both proud and vain about its specialness. The narrative unfolds the intricacies of greed and jealousy that tear the family asunder, resulting in the deaths of some members, the madness of others, and the escape of one.

It is Olympia, the hunchback albino dwarf, who lives on to tell the story of the Binewski clan. Central to the heyday of the carnival is Doc P, a physician of questionable credentials who performs bizarre operations in the traveling hospital that moves with the carnival. The story moves relentlessly toward a climax and denouement that is sufficiently unimaginable to be consistent with the cast of characters.

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