Showing 91 - 100 of 226 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

The Mailbox

Shafer, Audrey

Last Updated: Apr-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

After living with various foster families, nine-year-old Gabe is taken to live with his aging Uncle Vernon in West Virginia. The relationship with his mother's gruff and distant older brother, a Vietnam vet, is distant at first, but warms up over time. But after his first day in 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find his uncle dead on the floor.

Uncertain what to do, he does nothing for a day or two, pretending at school that everything is normal. Then the body disappears and cards with cryptic messages appear in the mailbox that indicate that someone is looking out for him. After a time, a dog appears, too, sent by the mysterious correspondent. Gabe continues to attend school, and to visit his close friend, Webber, whose mother extends healing hospitality and discreet concern to him. His English teacher takes a particular interest in Gabe, noticing both his honesty as a writer and the signs that he is carrying an unarticulated burden.

Finally the police apprehend Gabe and question him about the disappearance of his uncle's body. The mysterious correspondent turns out to be Smitty, a wartime companion of his uncle's, who has lived alone, unwilling to disclose his disfiguring facial injury in public, and isolated by the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress. Mr. Boehm, the English teacher, takes Gabe under his wing, arranges for a proper military burial for Uncle Vernon, and helps Gabe make direct contact with Smitty, then offers Gabe a home with him.


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The Fat Girl

Sachs, Marilyn

Last Updated: Mar-22-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jeff is happily connected to his beautiful girlfriend, Norma, a skilled potter and social success, when "the fat girl," Ellen, enters their pottery class. Finding himself despising her, Jeff feels responsible when one day she overhears his mean remarks about her fat, her awkwardness, and her incompetence. Attempting to atone for his behavior, he visits her at her home and finds himself involved in more than he anticipated when she confides that she is considering suicide.

For reasons he himself doesn't understand until much later, he gradually becomes both friend and caretaker and, as she loses weight under his guidance, a possessive and supervisory boyfriend. Ellen's transformation eventuates in a new sense of her own worth and objectives, and also in a startling confrontation with the boy from whose help she also has to break free.

Readers are left to ponder the implicit connection between Jeff's controlling behavior toward his girlfriend protégé and his ambivalent relationship with a mother whose reaction to divorce has been to control her children in ways that entrap them. Both the protagonists learn valuable and also very painful lessons.

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Summary:

In a fascinating and wide-ranging series of chapters organized by categories of disease or disability that have afflicted known artists, writers, and musicians, Sandblom examines the multifaceted relationship between creative work and illness. He begins his discussions of particular artists usually with basic information about the nature of the affliction and its manifestations; where available, introduces the artist’s own comments upon his or her condition; and then analyzes how particular works represent or implicitly allude to the illness. In some cases the disease is a context; in others a theme; in others a vehicle or tenor of metaphor.

The book is richly illustrated with reproductions of paintings, parts of musical scores, and poems or prose excerpts. Artists and writers under discussion include Bacon, Beethoven, Jorge Luis Borges, the Brontes, George Gordon Byron, Cezanne, Anton P.Chekhov, Chopin, Emily Dickinson, F. (Francis) Scott Fitzgerald, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Franz Kafka, John Keats, Mahler, Thomas Mann, Herman Melville, John Milton, Flannery O’Connor, Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Titian, John Updike, William Wordsworth, and Yeats, to name a few.

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Tortuga

Anaya, Rudolfo

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

An adolescent boy enters a hospital for crippled children. His initiation into institutional life is painful. At first he wants nothing more than isolation and protection from patients he regards as "freaks." But as alliances form and the subtleties of ward life become clearer, he learns new methods of self-identification that have more to do with the peculiar structures of this confined world than with the world outside. Home becomes an increasingly remote reference point and the camaraderie of suffering in exile the dominant source of affirmation.

The story is a coming of age tale intensified by burdens beyond what adolescence is normally required to bear. A boy becomes not only a man, but in some sense an old man before his time, and returns to youth "outside" both scarred and gifted with what suffering has taught him, and with a new sense of who are his "brothers and sisters."

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Antonia Saw the Oryx First

Thomas, Maria

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Antonia Redmond is a young Harvard-trained doctor who has returned to the East African village where she was raised by American parents to establish a medical practice. Her efforts are frustrated by inadequate supplies and funding, an under-trained staff, and patients whose superstitions and mistrust make diagnosis and treatment difficult. She deals daily with a conflict of cultures, trying to maintain her medical methods and standards in an environment where she competes with the authority of native healers.

Esther, daughter of a native healer who has some familiarity with and respect for Western medicine, envies and longs for Antonia’s Western training and attaches herself to her as a disciple. In her encounters with patients, Esther finds that she has an inexplicable gift for healing which baffles her as well as Antonia and complicates their already tenuous relationship. Esther’s gift forces Antonia to reexamine some of her most basic assumptions about what constitutes healing.

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Brigid's Charge

Lamb, Cynthia

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Based on historical records, family archives, and established New Jersey folklore, this story about Deborah Leeds, 18th century midwife and healer, reconstructs the events that led to her being identified as the bearer of the "Jersey devil." An English immigrant brought to Burlington County to marry, "Mother Leeds" worked as herbalist and caregiver in a largely Quaker--and therefore unusually tolerant--community while bearing her own thirteen children. Her extraordinary skill seemed to bespeak not only careful study but powers that some associated with witchcraft.

After 30 years of faithful service, during which time she shared her work with two other women and with her daughter, her position was challenged by a newly arrived Edinburgh-educated physician who undertook to discredit her work and breed distrust among her neighbors by implications of witchcraft. His efforts came to a head when, at the birth of her thirteenth child--who died shortly after birth--he claimed to have seen the child turned to a flying demon, grow scales, and escape into the night. The story is told with great sympathy for the woman's predicament and a lively imagination for the situation of powerful women healers whose mysterious gifts both blessed and threatened their communities.

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Heroes and Saints

Moraga, Cherríe

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This searing play takes place in California's central valley where Mexican immigrants are employed at survival wages to work in fields poisoned by pesticides. Their ramshackle government homes are built over dumps where toxic waste poisons the water. The community has suffered a high incidence of cancer--especially in children--, birth defects, and other illnesses related to long-term intake of toxic substances.

One of the main characters, Cerezita, has only half a body, and often occupies center stage encased in an altar-like contraption where only her head shows. She turns pages, points, and performs other basic functions with tongue and teeth. She is a prophetic figure, willing to see and speak, because seeing and speaking are all she can do, and to name the evils that others prefer to call the will of God.

She seeks and finds intellectual companionship in the local priest who is struggling to find an appropriate way to minister to a parish divided among disillusioned cynics turned alcoholic, pious women who want nothing to do with politics, and the angry young, including one young homosexual who feels driven to leave a loving but uncomprehending family, and reveals to the priest that he has AIDS.

The community has been involved in recent protests that consist of hanging the bodies of recently deceased children on crosses in the fields. This dramatic protest has caused public outrage and attracted media attention. The play culminates in a protest in which Cerezita and the priest are shot down and the young man with AIDS cries out for the community to burn the fields. The curtain falls on burning vineyards.

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Jack

Homes, A. (Amy) M.

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jack, who is fifteen, is just getting used to his parents' divorce when his father takes him out on a boat ride one afternoon and stops in the middle of the lake to explain that the new love in his life is a male, and that he is, and has very likely always been, gay. The shock sends Jack through several levels of reaction, from revulsion to hostility to fear of social ostracism, to grief at the alienation he assumes is now inevitable between him and a father he has loved.

In fact, people at school do find out and he finds the word "faggot" painted on his locker. Discovering that a girl in his class has a gay father in the same social circle as his own puts a slightly new light on his predicament, and gradually Jack comes to a place of peace in learning that he can love his dad without either judging or condoning his homosexuality, and can look forward to an adult life of his own in which there will be complex choices of his own to make, as there have been for his parents.

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My Sister's Bones

Hanauer, Cathi

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Something is wrong with Billie Weinstein's older sister, Cassie, now in her first year at Cornell. She has given away all her clothes except an old sweatsuit and blue jeans. She studies obsessively, convinced she's failing despite a stellar academic record. She rescues food and paper products from the garbage, unable to bear seeing anything wasted. And she's losing weight dramatically.

Even though their father is a doctor, it takes the family several months to recognize and acknowledge all the classic symptoms of anorexia and get Cassie to a psychiatric hospital. In the meantime Billie, still in high school, divides her energies between worrying about her sister, coping with an overbearing father, and finding her way in a relationship confused by sexual pressures and ethnic differences.

Her best friend's large, close, messy, jovial Italian family offers her a refuge from her own much less expressive one, but she discovers they have their own stresses, mostly financial, which drive them suddenly out of town in a moment of crisis. So it's a year of loss, transition, and rapid maturing for Billie, who finds, when her sister comes home with an uncertain prognosis, that she can no longer be the "baby," but has assumed a new, more responsible place in the family system and a new authority over her own life, defined in terms that have less to do with her sister, and more with her own desires and purposes.

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Bless Me, Ultima

Anaya, Rudolfo

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this lyrical tale, Ultima, an old curandera or healer, comes to live with the family of a young New Mexican boy who learns from her about the healing powers of the natural environment and the human spirit. Antonio's family respects her wisdom and legendary power, though some in the community believe she is a witch. Antonio finds himself drawn to her and under her tutelage develops an awareness of the primal energies of earth and sky that affect human lives and fate.

He goes with her to gather herbs and to visit the sick and comes to understand a connection between healing powers and knowledge of nature. Though he never receives a rational explanation of how Ultima foresees events, cures illnesses, blesses or curses, or why and when she chooses not to intervene, he learns that the knowledge healing requires is threefold: knowledge of the patient, the healing substance, and one's own limitations. He learns that healing requires making oneself vulnerable to sickness and to the spiritual as well as physical needs of the sick.

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