Saturday, October 13, 2018

Room


Room
by Emma Donoghue

Finished the frightening story of Jack’s and Ma’s captivity at the hands of Old Nick, a demented man who kidnapped Jack’s mother at age eighteen while she was attending college.  The book, Room, by Emma Donoghue, was inspired by another case similar to the one she tells.  The story is told from the perspective of the five-year-old youth who was born in the room. The boy is convinced by his mother to play ‘dead’ as she rolls him up in a carpet to be taken away by Old Nick, which he does.  The escape plan works. The youth escapes from the truck he was being carried in to be buried and a passer-by notices his fall from the truck and calls the police.  The last half of the book follows how Jack and Ma are brought to the hospital to begin the recovery process and his meeting his previously unknown grandparents.  The difficulties for re-integration are harder than one would imagine.  A tough read based on true stories, as hard to believe as it is.  When we lived in Syracuse, there was a very sick man holding a woman in captive underground in a similar way for years.  The question remains, how can people cause this much pain to others?  Well written, but the subject matter wasn’t a hit for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed

Really enjoyed reading Cheryl Strayed’s book on advice called Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.  Strayed is asked to respond to real life people and the problems they face.  From addiction, lost love, mental health, money, and abuse, Strayed offers a refreshing and non-clinical approach through the lens of someone who has her own struggles. She is all too familiar with having an abusive father, a mother with addictions, living in poverty and learns to be self-driven from the age of thirteen. While some may be taken aback by her aggressive and ‘no-nonsense’ take-care-of-yourself attitude, she comes from a place of care, honesty and true love for self and others.  An author by training, Strayed was asked by a friend to respond in column format and the book is a collection of submissions collected over the years.  She is blunt, she is witty, and she is honest.  I really enjoyed the book and was reminded to be honest, be caring and to never stray away from who you say you are as a person.  Refreshing is the word I keep coming back to.  I highly recommend it…truly!  A good read.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In the Time of the Butterflies


In the Time of the Butterflies
by Julia Alvarez

Finished another RA Favorite book, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.  The book is a historical fiction set in the Dominican Republic during the era of the dictatorship of Trujillo, a man who ruled with an iron fist, having those people who challenged him killed.  The story follows three Mirabal sisters whose life included education and challenging Trujilo’s rules.  It eventually led to their death in a “car accident”, which didn’t seem like an accident to most.  The book is a creative recreation in that the author used notes and stories from others but also used some poetic freedom.  I enjoyed the various characters’ views on each chapter of their lives, one chapter for each character.  A sad story of injustice in the DR.  Well written, moving story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Uprising

Uprising
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

It still amazes me how many books I read that have a connection to NYU in some way. This time, a character in the story was an NYU second-year law student attempting to assist the main character.  It reminds me how lucky I am to be working at NYU, a place that impacts so many people!  The book, Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, describes the story of three young women all brought together by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (located in a building I can see from my office window in Kimmel Center). The book chronicles the stories of the three main characters and how their lives lead to their employment at the factory.  All three are immigrants who face the struggles of working in sub-human conditions for menial wages under barbaric supervisors.  It is a retrospective story in that one of the small children whose father owned the factory begins trying to find a woman who lived through the fire. She happens to be one of the three woman whom we meet throughout the book.  The three fight against the factory by forming a union, which meets resistance.  The events leading to the fire, the inferno itself, and what happens to the three friends is detailed in the following chapters.  The story ends full circle noting that the sole survivor of the three women carries her two friends with her as a memory through her own children.  Amazing to imagine the cruel and inhumane ways people were treated in the US….  But have we really completely changed?  An important story to never forget.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon


Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
by Patty Lovell

Always great to read a book that makes you smile, especially when it teaches you a lesson. This children’s book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, does just that.  In this very short picturesque book, Molly Lou is taught by her grandmother to embrace who she is: a small, bucked-toothed girl with a voice that squeals.  It is when she moves away to a new town and starts school that the kids – one in particular – pick on her, but because she believes in herself, she is not afraid to run strong, use the teeth to her advantage, and sing proudly.  Through these three actions, she wins the praise of her new classmates in the face of the biggest of bullies, Ronald Durkin.  It ends with Molly Lou sending a letter to her grandmother thanking her for the reminders!  Wow…nice message in this day and age of so many haters.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stiff


Stiff
by Mary Roach

I finished a very strange favorite book called Stiff by Mary Roach.  The book details the history of the human cadaver.  From the history of gravediggers exhuming bodies to make a living (selling them to science) to how the human body decays to how to embalm and everything in between, this book chronicles every aspect of the body after death.  Chapters are “self-contained” and focus on all things related to the body once someone dies.  Roach explores how cadavers are used as test subjects for car crashes, transplanted parts, practice bodies in the lab for medical students, new methods for embalming, cannibalism, and whether Jesus could have suffered on a cross based on the pictures on the cross.  She finally wraps up the book with her own thoughts on whether she will donate her body to medicine after her death.  I actually learned a great deal, but I’m not so sure I wanted to know all I found out.  It is a “niche read”, one that you’ll probably either love or find disturbing….  Parts of it were hard to read after lunch to be honest.  Just shows the great diversity of interests NYU students have in terms of reading materials. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How to Walk Away


How to Walk Away
by Katherine Center

What happens when your boyfriend takes you on his airplane without a license, asks you to marry him, you get stuck in a storm, crash and then wake up in the hospital…paralyzed?  Welcome to Margaret Jacobsen’s nightmare.  Chip, her long-time boyfriend – the calm, cool, collected, WASPy, all-American guy – loses his cool, but manages to escape the plane crash unscathed.  He is unable to look at his “deformed” newly-asked fiance.  Katherine Center’s book How to Walk Away is a clear ‘chick-lit’ novel that is rather depressing, but it leaves the reader realizing there is a glimmer of hope, if you build it for yourself.  After a lengthy rehab, Maggie finds a way to realize that one creates their own lemonade out of lemons.  She endures despite never regaining her ability to walk, losing her fiance, falling in love with her physical therapist while in the hospital and then driving him away, watching her father leave her mother when it is learned that he is not the biological father of her sister, and many more hardships.  You can’t really have more drama!  Well, all things bad can turn bright…at least for those who work at it.  Cute book, somewhat predictable, but a pretty soft read.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Circe


Circe
by Madeline Miller

I haven’t ever been a fan of Greek mythology books, but this updated version was actually quite good.  In Madeline Miller’s book Circe, we are told the story of the ‘ugly’ daughter of the God of the sun, Helios, a mighty God among the leaders of the universe.  Circe is isolated from the rest of her family and is ultimately banished by her father to a remote island for eternity. There, she discovers that she has the powers of a witch, something that her father had long described her as, but she had never discovered her power.  On the island, she builds her repertoire of abilities.  Many of the greatest mythological figures make an appearance to grapple with her, including Daedalus, Medea, and Minotaur.  Circe falls in love with a sailor, Odysseus, who ventures onto the island and finds out she is pregnant with his child after his departure.  As their son, Telegonus, grows up, he desires to be reconnected with his father, the ruler of Ithaca.  But Telegonus soon learns that fate has bad things in store for him.  His visit brings about the death of his father, an escape with his half-brother, Telemachus, and his mother, Penelope.  Circe is constantly challenged to survive family bitterness & rivalry, and the Gods rule over all mortals.  The book is readable and enjoyable.  It is a story of love lost and holding on to the one thing you want in life.  Circe is brave, courageous, and beats all of the odds.  Classic read into today’s language.  Enjoyed this one!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Dog's Purpose


A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron

Every dog lover will shed a tear for W. Brice Cameron’s book A Dog’s Purpose, and every dog hater should read it to better understand the relationship between a pet and his/her owner.  The book is narrated through the dog, which is an interesting twist. It is broken into a three-phase story that begins with a dog being adopted by a family and given to a 9-year-old boy, Ethan, by his parents.  A deep and rich relationship develops, and the dog, Bailey, shares lessons learned as the mutual bond builds between the two.  Bailey helps save Ethan’s life when a fire is started by the evil next door neighbor, is by his side during his parents’ divorce, and then later in life when Ethan requires rehab from an injury and moves to the grandparents' farm. Bailey notices relationships and gains a keen sense of love, evil, obedience, and of rules.  The first part ends with Bailey’s death, being brought to the veterinarian to be put down.  Tears flow, but that’s not the end of the story.  Bailey is re-born, into another life, as Ellie, a canine rescue dog for the police.  He saves lives, learns new lessons with two very different owners.  He learns about love, gentleness, and how to smell and find victims in tragic situations.  He experiences death when searching for and finding lifeless bodies.  Again, the story ends at the vet with Ellie being put down.  More tears, but then the third part starts and Bailey/Ellie is a new dog, a lab.  This time his owners are not so nice. They eventually bring him to the outskirts of town to die, but with the lessons “Buddy” (his new name) has learned, he comes full circle.  His nose brings him to Ethan’s grandparent’s farm.  This time, Buddy has a new purpose…he finds Ethan, forty years later, as an older, lonely man and he helps Ethan to learn and love again.  I won’t ruin the ending, but yes, more tears.  I really enjoyed the book and it also made me appreciate my dog Roman so much more.  What lessons has he learned, and what is his purpose for me?  I’d add this to your list!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bright Ideas


Bright Ideas
by Eric Coble

I never know what I will receive as a favorite book from our Tisch students, but, in this case, a play was the reading option of choice.  The play is called Bright Ideas by Eric Coble.  The story focuses on the life of Josh and Gen Bradley, parents of three-year-old Mac who will be entering daycare.  Mac’s parents are hyper-sensitive, thinking about every single thing needed for their son to be successful and prepared for the world after daycare.  Josh and Gen become neurotic after visiting one center, realizing it isn’t the best one in town.  The best in town, called Bright Ideas, has a 98% placement rate into Ivy League colleges! The couple takes the shocking step of poisoning a parent whose child goes to Bright Ideas to open a space for their son as he is next on the waiting list.  After getting Mac into Bright Ideas, the parents do whatever is necessary for their child to win the “Golden Pony” excellence award. They go so far that they almost kill Mac’s teacher by loosening the blades on her lawnmower! The book is a social commentary on the lengths parents will go to get their child to be a superstar at all costs.  Very dark humor with a gentle message: let kids be kids.  Interesting note, my MFA Directing faculty member was the Artistic Director for the show’s first production at the Cleveland Playhouse in 2002.  A total overboard on many levels of what is happening.  Fun to see staged, I’m sure.