Showing 481 - 490 of 519 annotations tagged with the keyword "Ordinary Life"

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of vignettes follows the growth and development of one internist as he reflects on some of the critical experiences that shaped him as physician. The common thread of the work is the celebration of the relationship that can, and perhaps should, be built between the physician and his or her patient in the course of caring: this relationship is the sacred space of the title.

The author accomplishes his self-imposed task of describing this space by presenting situations in his practice life that illustrate the concept. The chronological structure of the collection enables the reader to study the maturation of the author as a self-reflective practitioner over the many decades of his professional life. Many of the stories are very funny; others are wrenching; all are gently told.

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Tuesdays with Morrie

Albom, Mitch

Last Updated: Jan-24-1998
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

Tuesdays with Morrie is a series of lessons a former (and now current) student has with his teacher (and now mentor) about facing one's death and living one's life. The author, Mitch Albom, is an award-winning sports columnist with the Detroit Free Press. A chance encounter propels Albom, guiltily and fearfully, to the bedside of Morrie Schwartz, his sociology teacher at Brandeis University nearly twenty years ago. [This chance encounter occurs electronically--Albom saw Morrie speaking about dying from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with Ted Koppel on the Nightline television program].

Once together again, teacher and student decide to extend the visit over the remaining months of Morrie's life. Their Tuesday "seminars" explore perennial value issues of everyday life: "Family," "Emotions," "Money," "Marriage," "Our Culture," Fear of Aging," etc. The interchanges, fortunately, are studded with "pearls of wisdom" from Morrie.

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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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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This early 20th century novel is largely a tale of complex family and love relationships. It is the story of two brothers who vie for the love of the same woman, a competition that nearly destroys the men's friendship but that also leads the narrative into adventures on the frontiers of the Canadian Rockies during the building of the transcontinental railroad.

One of the brothers is inspired by a country surgeon to enter medicine and the middle third of the book deals with the physician training system of the time. The reader is introduced to representatives of both the finest and the most immoral of practitioners and practices. Running from his broken love relationship, the newly minted physician travels to the frontier where he assumes a pseudonym and practices medicine in the railroad camps. His work is inspired and he becomes a folk hero.

In a parallel narrative, the second brother, now a minister, also goes west, while grieving the fracture in his relationship with his younger sibling. Neither knows that the other has relocated to the Rockies. The remainder of the story details the doctor's work and eventual reunion with his estranged brother.

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Fitting Ends

Chaon, Dan

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, now a grown man, relates the story of his brother Del's troubled life and early death. The real story, however, concerns the narrator himself, as he reflects on his relationship with Del, his father's behavior toward both of them, and on the possibility that he (the narrator) played a role in Del's death.

When the narrator was fourteen, older brother Del--drunk at the time--was struck and killed by a train as he walked along the tracks. But the central event in the story is the narrator's betrayal of Del. Although Del had saved him from falling off a grain elevator roof, the narrator had falsely blamed Del for the near-fatal accident, out of fear of the father's fury, and because "After years of being on the receiving end, it wasn't in my nature to see Del as someone who could be wronged . . . ." [p. 57]

"My father had good reason to believe this lie . . . . " [p. 55] The incident occurred shortly after Del had been released from a juvenile detention facility--detained there for trying to strangle the narrator and threatening their father with a shotgun.

The narrator (later) finds in Del's notebook an essay revealing Del's intention to reform. But with the passage of time after the grain elevator episode, Del reverts to delinquent behavior; a year later he is dead. The narrator never reveals to his father the truth and the family never discusses Del's death.

At times, over the years, as the narrator searches for meaning and closure he believes he can "take all the loose ends of my life and fit them together perfectly . . . where all the details add up . . . ." [p. 68] In the end, however, we are left wondering whether this is possible--for the narrator--or for anyone.

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Kitchen Table Wisdom

Remen, Rachel Naomi

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

The author, a pediatrician by training who has gradually moved into psycho-oncology and training others in relationship centered care, writes about life in this collection of short vignettes and analyses. She blends stories of her own experiences as patient and as woman with those she has gathered from a long history of patient encounters. There is no temporal sequence, but the work is grouped into thematic segments. The author shares selected, carefully garnered and assessed narratives of life events intended to be spiritually healing to those who are ill or who care for the sick.

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A Litany in the Time of Plague

Nashe, Thomas

Last Updated: Jul-02-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Despite its provocative title, this lyric never refers directly to a plague or epidemic, unless both the inevitability and the social indifference of death could be deemed "plagues" in themselves.

The litany of the title is a catalogue of the inability to escape death--the rich, the beautiful, the strong, the witty-- have no extraordinary claim to immunity. Like the poet whose refrain reads, "I am sick, I must die. / Lord, have mercy on us, " the reader is encouraged to "welcome destiny," as he mounts to Heaven, his heritage.

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Summary:

The title refers to the lineage of women who form the unusual community surrounding the central character’s life in the decades following World War II. When we first meet Antonia (Willeke Van Ammelrooy), she is an elderly Dutch woman announcing to herself that today is the day she will die, and when the film concludes, indeed, she does. However, what transpires in-between presents a rich story of birth, death, disability, love, hatred, and, above all, a tenacious sense of nurturing regeneration in spite of harsh and difficult obstacles.

Audiences are swept into a pastoral epic filled with the pathos and joy of human life. In the unfolding flashback, Antonia and her teen-aged daughter, Danielle (El Dottermans), return to her rural birth setting on the day her own mother dies, and where she will become the life force for her daughter and, eventually, for the entire village.

Two women running a large farm seems at first daunting, but we discover that Antonia is a farmer in what might be called a feminist sense: she cares for everything that grows. Not only do her crops thrive under prudent management, but so do the vulnerable, infirm and damaged figures who are brought into her garden and house for recovery.

For example, Loony Lips, an awkward Ichabod Crane of a boy, tortured as the village idiot, is rescued by Antonia to become a productive member of the farm; later, he and DeeDee, Farmer Daan’s sexually abused and mentally limited daughter, who has similarly been rescued by Antonia and Danielle, fall in love and are married. For all of their shortcomings, the couple’s shy approach to one another, and joys for the simple provenance offered by Antonia as their protector, provide an emblem of the nurturing powers in the female household. Audiences squirm with delight as they watch these discarded members of society flourish with embarrassing innocence.

We watch Danielle’s transformation from adolescence to womanhood and find nothing alarming or disconcerting about her lesbianism and her decision to become pregnant without benefit of marriage. Antonia, always acceptant of life’s realities, continues to care for Danielle’s needs by providing emotional and intellectual support in the search for an appropriate man to father the child.

Much later, Danielle’s child is raped by DeeDee’s brother, who had also been raping DeeDee, prior to her rescue from her father’s malevolent and abusive household. Justice is swift. Antonia, magnificent in her outrage, sweeps across the farm and into the village pub where the males are gathered. With rifle pointed at the rapist’s head, she orders him out of town. [Her form of justice is less brutal than that of Danielle, who, having witnessed the rape of DeeDee by the same man, thrusts a pitchfork into his groin.]

Antonia’s farm grows and expands with new life. Seasons come and go, bringing death and rebirth. Happiness and tragedy exist side by side, as exemplified by the opposing viewpoints of Antonia’s positive spirit, and the pessimistic outlook held by Antonia’s life-long friend, Crooked Finger (Mil Seghers), the melancholic, Nietzche-quoting philosopher, who finds life impossible and unbearable. Whether we are watching Antonia’s mother die, or the Catholic Mad Madonna howling at the moon when she should be loving the Protestant man separated from her by the floor in the building they share, or feeling the appreciation of Farmer Daan’s wife’s for Antonia’s strengths--strengths that she herself does not possess--we are woven in the magic of a remarkably simple and yet complex fabric.

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Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Doctor Richard Diver is a young neurologist already gaining great respect for his work. One day, he visits his friend Franz in Zurich. Franz is treating a young American girl, Nicole Warren, who was sexually abused by her father and has suffered a breakdown. Nicole is attracted to Diver and writes him letters after he leaves the clinic. When she is almost cured, Diver returns to the clinic and decides, rather haphazardly, to marry her. Nicole comes from a wealthy family and the couple begin to travel around Europe.

They settle briefly in a cabin by the French Riviera and aim to live quietly so that Dick can finish his great treatise. Nevertheless, Dick's easy-going, giving nature attracts a band of followers. When Rosemary, a budding American film star visits their town, she too is drawn to him. She tells him she loves him but Dick remains true to Nicole.

Several years pass during which Dick still does not finish his writing and indeed does very little towards that end. Nicole suffers several relapses. When Dick runs into Rosemary again, they have an affair. Nicole also takes a lover and finally leaves Dick who has become increasingly dissolute. He drinks most of the day and does nothing.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Montilice, a tiny mountain village in post-World War II Italy, is the setting for this stunning novella. The narrator is a 60 year old priest who is haunted by the request of Zelinda, a woman new to his parish and slightly older than he. It takes the priest a while to get to the essence of Zelinda's request, for she initially approached him with seemingly odd concerns about marriage and divorce. But later he realizes that her inquiries about exceptions to church dogma have to do with the taking of one's life. Zelinda was tired of her existence (as a washerwoman her life was "a goat-life. A goat-life and nothing else . . . ") and she wanted to "finish up a little sooner."

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