Showing 451 - 460 of 519 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

The Mourner's Bench

Dodd, Susan

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

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.

View full annotation

Don't Hurt Laurie!

Roberts, Willo Davis

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

View full annotation

Past Forgiving

Miklowitz, Gloria

Last Updated: Dec-21-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

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.

View full annotation

Summary:

Carl Elliott and John Lantos have brought together a collection of 12 essays that explore the complex work and person of Walker Percy. Personal reflections and stories capture the importance of Walker Percy in the lives and work of several of the essayists, while others offer commentaries on various aspects of Percy's life and work. All of the contributors reveal their affection and appreciation of Walker Percy as physician, novelist, and philosopher.

In addition to the editors, the contributors include Robert Coles, who was Percy's friend; Ross McElwee, the documentary filmmaker; Jay Tolson, Percy's biographer; author and historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown; scholars Martha Montello and Laurie Zoloth; and physicians Brock Eide, Richard Martinez, and David Schiedermayer.

The collection covers many topics and themes. Percy's biography is reviewed: the early losses of his father and grandfather by suicide, the early death of his mother, his medical education and subsequent struggle with tuberculosis, his turn from medicine to philosophy and literature, his marriage and conversion to Catholicism, and his long and productive life as a philosophic novelist.

The essays explore Percy as both physician and patient, and how, as diagnostic novelist, he gives us characters and stories that caution about the technologic-scientific worldview that dominates not only medicine but western life. The many wayfarers are discussed, including Binx Bolling from The Moviegoer, Will Barrett from The Last Gentleman, and Dr. Tom Moore from Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome. [These novels have been annotated in this database.]

Percy's spiritual and religious views are reviewed, along with his moral concerns about a post-modern world before anyone had coined the term. The problems of isolation, alienation, and struggle for meaning are apparent in all of his works, and many of the essayists explore the connection between his novels and these existential concerns. The importance of Kierkegaard in his work, his theory of language, and his early essays are discussed.

The contributors give examples of how Walker Percy's life and work are incorporated in medical education and the practice of medicine, both in personal and theoretical terms. Percy's work reminds practitioners of the necessity for human connection in the midst of scientific and technologic paradigms that distance practitioner from patient. Likewise, medicine and medical education shaped Percy the novelist, where keen observation and sustained searching for answers are to be found in all of his fiction.

A feminist critique of Percy's development of women characters, reflections on physician characters in Percy's work, his personal struggle with a family history of depression, and his attitudes about psychiatry and psychoanalysis complete the collection.

View full annotation

Summary:

The short stories and poems collected in this attractive large-format volume are arranged in sections that focus on particular problems and crises children may face that isolate them from "normal" peers. Themes include sickness, disability, hospitalization, loss, conflict, developmental change, and loneliness.

The stories are simple, most 2-3 pages followed by a few questions to talk about. Each story is accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations. Characters featured in the stories represent a range of ethnicities and socio-economic situations. An introduction gives guidelines to help adults use the book as an instrument for helping children cope with difficult times.

View full annotation

Another World

Barker, Pat

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nick and Fran move into an old house with their family: Miranda, thirteen, Nick's daughter from a previous marriage (her mother has been hospitalized with depression); eleven-year-old Gareth, Fran's son (who was almost aborted); and a toddler, Jasper, the child of both. Fran is pregnant again. Nick tries to hold them together as a family, but must also take care of Geordie, his grandfather, who is dying of cancer at the age of 101.

Geordie believes that what's killing him is a bayonet wound he received in World War I. As his disease progresses, the old man relives the war, especially the battle in which his brother died, with increasing vividness. After Geordie's death, Nick learns that in the battle he had killed his wounded brother who may, he thinks, otherwise have survived.

Geordie tells the story in an interview with a historian working on memory and war, and confesses that he hated his brother. She gently tells him that "a child's hatred" is different, but he--like the novel itself--refuses to see this as mitigation. Geordie's tale resonates both with what Nick learns about the house he bought--in 1904 the older children of the family living there were believed to have murdered their two-year-old sibling--and with Gareth and Miranda's resentment of Jasper, which has near-fatal consequences.

View full annotation

Our Mutual Friend

Dickens, Charles

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The multiple plots of Our Mutual Friend, Dickens's last complete novel, twine around the miser John Harmon's legacy of profitable heaps of refuse ("dust"). Harmon dies and leaves the dustheap operation to his estranged son John, on the condition that he marry Bella Wilfer, a young woman unknown to him. When a body found in the Thames is believed to be the younger Harmon, travelling home to receive his inheritance, the dustheaps descend instead to Harmon's servant Noddy Boffin ("The Golden Dustman").

Boffin and his wife respond to their new status by hiring Silas Wegg, a "literary man with a wooden leg" to teach Boffin to read; arranging to adopt an orphaned toddler from his poor great-grandmother; and bringing the socially ambitious Bella Wilfer into their home, where she is watched and evaluated by John Rokesmith, a mysterious young man employed as Boffin's secretary.

Rokesmith is actually John Harmon, who has survived betrayal and attempted murder and is living incognito so that he can observe Bella. Boffin's negative transformation by his wealth, Bella's moral awakening as she witnesses the changes wealth produces in Boffin and in herself, and the developing love relationship between Rokesmith and Bella form one key sub-plot.

Another is the romance between gentlemanly idler Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam, the daughter of the waterman who finds the drowned body. Class differences and the obsessive love and jealousy of schoolmaster Bradley Headstone threaten their relationship, but they are finally married with the help of the crippled dolls' dressmaker Jenny Wren. The smaller plots that interweave these sensation/romance narratives comment on the hypocrisy of fashionable life ("Podsnappery") and the destruction of the family lives of both rich and poor by an industrialized, materialistic society.

View full annotation

The Hours

Cunningham, Michael

Last Updated: Aug-18-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Hours begins with a reconstruction of Virginia Woolf's 1941 suicide by drowning. What follows is an exploration of despair and tenacity, of the reasons that some people choose not to continue living, and of the things that enable others to go on. Patterned as a kind of theme and variations on Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, this novel has three strands, each tracing a day in the life of a woman: Virginia Woolf herself, in 1925, as she begins to write Mrs. Dalloway; a middle-aged 1990s New Yorker named Clarissa Vaughan, but nicknamed "Mrs. Dalloway" by Richard, her ex-lover, an acclaimed writer who is dying of AIDS; and Laura Brown, a young mother in Los Angeles in 1949, pregnant, depressed, and reading Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

Laura's small son, Ritchie, we gradually realize, has grown up to become the Richard in Clarissa Vaughan's story and, as the hours pass in the day-long story of each woman, patterns intertwine. Clarissa (living as a lesbian, so following a path that Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway was offered but chose not to take) is planning a party for Richard. Laura is preparing a birthday dinner for her husband but after a visit from the woman next door, whom she kisses in a moment of profound but disruptive empathy, she checks into a hotel room to read, and to consider suicide. Woolf, recognizing the deep connection between her mental illness and her writing, tries to flee from the faintly suffocating safety of her home and husband.

Each woman survives, and all three days end with a sense of qualified and temporary happiness, drawn together, I think, by the fictional Virginia Woolf's decision about her novel: throughout the day she has thought about her main character, and has intended the book to end with her suicide. Late in the evening, having returned home, Woolf decides to let Mrs. Dalloway live: "sane Clarissa--exultant, ordinary Clarissa--will go on, . . . loving her life of ordinary pleasures, and someone else, a deranged poet, a visionary, will be the one to die."

View full annotation

Perpetuum Mobile

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Jul-09-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A doctor and a magistrate are driving down a country road in a rainstorm on their way to an autopsy. The doctor says he doesn't notice the weather. "I feel a strange oppressive dread," he says. "It seems to me as if some misfortune were about to overwhelm me." The magistrate scoffs at this. They decide to stop at a country home for the night.

The doctor mentions his foreboding to the pretty widow who lives in the house. When they go to bed, the drunken magistrate, who thinks the widow was flirting with the doctor, encourages his colleague to visit the woman's room. The straightlaced doctor not only refuses, but also prevents his companion from visiting her.

The magistrate blows up in anger and the two men go home. Three days later the autopsy remains to be done. Once again, the two set off to the autopsy, but this time they are waylaid by a tavern and decide to stop and have a few drinks.

View full annotation