Showing 141 - 150 of 228 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
The title of this variegated narrative hardly does it justice. Though some of the most eloquent passages are about the lingering death of the author's mother, Ruth Johnson, from esophageal cancer, it is, just as centrally, the writer's memoir of growing up with the woman she has just seen through her final years of diminishment and loss, and commentary on her mother's art as testimony to her quirky, original, unconstrained, sometimes jaundiced, often hilarious view of the human comedy.
Hillary Johnson returned to Minneapolis from New York to be with her mother and stepfather after years of only intermittent contact and in the process of reentering her mother's life, came to reassess her own. Ruth chain-smoked, drank freely, lived spontaneously, painted uninhibitedly (40 illustrations include examples of her artwork) and often bestowed her art without price wherever it was appreciated. She was a local celebrity and the daughter, who has achieved her own success, finds in her mother's life a new measure of her own. In retrospect, she recognizes the costs, both to her mother and to herself, of the bohemian way of life she knew as a child, and the pain she didn't at the time fully recognize as such.
In poetry and prose the writer chronicles her father's final months as Alzheimer's disease progressively seals him into a world where those who love him can't follow. Each short segment details a moment on the writer's journey as witness to his losses: moments of confusion--his and her own, uncertainty about appropriate diplomacy, invention of new activities and rituals to keep him linked to love and alive.
With sure, spare language, she sketches in her own memories, bits of family stories, irrational feelings, the different way she comes to look at home, at family relationships, even at familiar objects. More a song than a story, the collection of vignettes offers both comfort and realism to those on similar journeys of slow loss.
At thirteen, Clair's mother has died, her father has withdrawn, and she suddenly stops speaking. Uncertain what to do with or for her, her father, a pastor, opts for complete change and follows his own dream, leaving an upscale suburban parish for a remote one among the rural poor in the northern Michigan woods. Furious, Clair strikes a deal with him that if she doesn't like it in six months, they'll return.
In the course of that time, while her father builds new kinds of relationships and trust among the local people, Clair discovers and becomes friends with a girl her age who lives mostly alone in a makeshift shelter, avoiding the attentions of her laissez-faire chain-smoking grandmother and, more importantly, her violent father who is temporarily in prison and therefore unable to hurt her.
From this girl, Dorrie, Clair learns a great deal about survival, both physical and psychological, and ultimately, surprised by an emergency into the necessity, learns to speak again. As the six months draw to a close, she finds her sisterly bond with Dorrie, whom her father has invited to live with them, and a growing appreciation of the natural setting and local people have made her not only willing, but eager to stay and make a new life where she is.
Twelve-year-old Lily Star has lost her father and moved from a cabin in the woods on the river where she grew up fishing with her father, and where she knew the natural creatures as neighbors, to an apartment in the nearby city where she and her mother continue to run the family hardware store. While she still loves the river, she finds it hard to "forgive" it because it drowned her father in a boating accident. She also resents the fact that an important stretch of land along the river is being fenced off by the man to whom the cabin was sold--T.R.--a recluse in a wheelchair. Through a series of unpleasant encounters, Lily gets to know him and learns that he had been a pilot and was disabled in an accident.
The bond the two discover over time has to do with somewhat parallel paths of healing: he needs to "forgive" the sky as she does the river. She persuades him eventually to go boating with her. Even a fall in the water doesn't discourage him from taking on new life and hope by accepting Lily's invitations to get to know the river, the land, and the neighbors. Lily's hopes that he might remain and marry her mother are disappointed when he decides to return to work with planes, though he can no longer pilot them, but the friendship that strengthened them both in their struggles with grief and loss makes it a parting full of promise.
The narrator of this straightforward little story about the loss of a friend is a young boy who is remembering what he and Nathan did together. He goes through a series of routine events he and Nathan shared, including teasing Nathan's sister about her pitching arm, nibbling strawberries on the way to school, and practicing their speeches together. The children in class make a "memory box" commemorating Nathan, but his best friend, the narrator, can't participate. His feelings are too complicated. With a little help from an old neighbor, a little time alone in the treehouse and other places he and Nathan frequented, he discovers new possibilities of friendship in Nathan's sister and ways of remembering Nathan that are all his own.
It is 1820 and Cassie lives on a farm in Maine with her parents and three brothers. One of them, Will, damages his leg with an axe as he hears Cassie scream while he is chopping wood. The gangrene and days of near-death suffering that ensue eventuate in amputation of the leg. During this crisis Cassie is Will's primary caretaker, partly because she feels the accident was her fault.
Their father wants to let Will die, as he feels there will be no life for him as an amputee. But Will survives and he and Cassie go to live with an older married sister in town where Will finds he has talents and options that might never have occurred to him had he simply grown into the farming life he loved. The year following the accident in this way opens both Cassie's and Will's imaginations to other kinds of lives to be lived. For Cassie it awakens a longing to do medical work, as caring for Will has made her aware of the deep satisfactions of caregiving.
Summary:Anna's grandfather, who used to take her for walks in the cornfields and "listen to the corn" with her, dies. Before his death he gave Anna her own kernels to plant when spring came. Anna, mourning her grandfather when spring comes, doesn't want to plant the seeds; she wants to save them. But her mother points out that if she doesn't plant them, she'll never hear the music from them that her grandfather taught her to hear. She tends the corn and listens. It isn't until fall that she hears the song and crackle of the corn she shared with her grandfather. After the harvest she gathers her own seeds to plant in the coming year.
Set in 1894 and based on a history of the logging projects among the California sequoias, this is a story of Francie, whose sister died in an accident six years earlier. She chafes under her parents' excessive protectiveness since Carrie's death. She loves the woods, and longs to do something to keep the loggers from cutting down the ancient sequoias, especially the oldest and largest, a tree over 2500 years old. Through a little sleuthing based on her sister's diary, she finds out that the property on which the ancient tree sits actually belongs to an old hermit, not to the logging company.
In an effort to get the company to stop before cutting the oldest tree, she rides the dangerous log flume into town to alert the one journalist she knows will support her cause. They arrive in time to save that tree and some of the others, and, perhaps as importantly to Francie, her mother and father begin to see her not only in terms of their loss of Carrie, but as a young woman independently interesting, daring, and very much alive.
Miracle McCloy received her name because, as she's been told many times, she was pulled from the body of her mother shortly after her mother was run over and killed by a bus. Raised largely by her grandmother with her depressed and dysfunctional father nearby, she has learned a great deal about séances, contacting the dead, reading auras, and paying attention to energy fields. But she doesn't know much about how to locate her own confused feelings about her parents, her identity, and her relationships with "normal" kids at school who see her has some kind of freak.
She perpetuates this image by casting "spells" to help fellow students connect with boyfriends. But after her father disappears, and her grandfather's house is destroyed in a tornado, she lapses into mental illness and burns herself badly trying to "melt" as she believes her father did by dancing among flaming candles. She is taken to an institution where an astute therapist and an aunt who realizes how much Miracle needed her combine their efforts to help her recover a sense of who she is--a dancer, a strongly intuitive, intelligent girl with an interesting history and a promising life to live, liberated from the obsessions of a superstitious grandmother and mentally ill father.
Katherine, heading for her senior year in high school, finds herself strongly attracted to Michael, a friend's friend, after a party. As their relationship unfolds, the issue of sex comes up early on, more as an emotional and health issue than as a moral one. Both of them are aware that physical intimacy is both common and complicating. Michael has been sexually active, Katherine hasn't. Their relationship progresses slowly; they are accompanied on various meetings by her friend, Erica, a grounded, practical, wit who has known Katherine all her life, and Michael's friend, Artie, who, with Erica's help, explores and acknowledges some uncertainty about his own sexual orientation.
When they do, by mutual consent, have sex on a ski weekend with Michael's sister, they are sure it seals a love that will be "forever." However, separated for the summer by work that takes them to two different states, Katherine finds herself aware of the limitations of the relationship and ultimately attracted to a tennis instructor, older, more experienced, and interesting in new ways. She takes responsibility for breaking the news to Michael when he comes on a surprise visit and, the summer over, recognizes the loss as a stage in movement toward more complex, probably more satisfying relationships in the future.