Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Estela Carlota, Argentina and Philomena, Ireland

Came across this article on Argentine activist 83 year old  Estela Carlota whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered during a period of military dictatorship. Her new born grand-baby was abducted.  Thirty five years later there is a DNA match. She's been able to reunite with her grandson. The story reminded me of Philomena except Estela had a happier ending. Kudos to the two groups, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which continue to work on finding the missing "children" and reuniting families.

I finished reading Philomena yesterday. It was not as I expected. I thought the book was going to be more about the search to find Mike Hess born Anthony Lee by Philomena and the writer Martin Sixsmith . This was a story written from Mike Hess's point of view ; his feelings, his influences, his demons; and cleverly written from the stories told to Martin by those who knew him well.   The movie trailer looks like it will be more about the search conducted by Philomena and Martin. The weirdest thing is that Martin and Mike Hess met and briefly spoke to each other. As Martin wrote in Philomena,"Fate has a curious way of crossing or nearly crossing the paths of those whose lives it will one day bring together."

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Philomena: Heartlessness, Hypocrisy, Shame

Before adoption of African children and Chinese children by American families, there was the adoption of Irish children. I'm reading Philomena by Martin Sixsmith, a journalist. It is based on the real life story of a pregnant Irish teen and her friend who were abandoned by their families, forced to work for free at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, then forced to sign away their rights to their children by giving them up for adoption to strangers from America. The time period is the 1950s when it was shameful to be an unmarried pregnant woman.

In Martin Sixsmith's own words, this is a story of heartlessness and hypocrisy.  I would say another theme in the story is shame. Anthony and Mary were adopted by an American couple but the Dad did not really want any more children. The couple already had three boys.  Adding two Irish children, one of whom spoke little English, to the family seemed to terrify the Dad and his boys, particularly the third boy. The presence of the children aged 2 and 3  threw the family off balance. While the children could not remember much about their real Moms, they felt incomplete, felt abandoned and were confused by the abandonment. Anthony in particular, renamed Mike, tried to get information about his biological Mom to no avail.

I am on page 243 and Mike is living with his partner Mark who was also of  Irish heritage.

The book has already been made into a movie starring Judi Dench as Philomena.  Audiences in Venice and Toronto gave this movie a standing ovation in the midst of their tears and laughter. I am requesting it through netflix.

Since the movie, there is an increase in the number of people putting their names on adoption registers to trace birth parents or trace children given up for adoption.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Club Pick: Fault in Our Stars

Our book club pick this month is the young adult novel,The Fault in Our Stars, about a teen girl fighting cancer.  There is also a movie out now based on this book.  I am at page 114 and Hazel, the teen battling cancer, wants to visit the reclusive writer of her favorite book, Peter Van Houten,  in Amsterdam with her new-found friend and love interest, Gus. Interestingly, Van Houten's book is about a girl who died of cancer and her story ends in the middle of a sentence to emphasize that the protagonist died or became too sick to complete her thought. Hazel wants to know "the rest of the story" such as what happened to the protagonist's Mom and her possibly con artist fiance.  It is odd that Hazel who is depressed about her own cancer diagnosis would choose Van Houten's book as her favorite.

This book is not as depressing as I thought it would be. It has a 4 1/2 star rating on amazon but I am not sure yet how I feel about it to give it my own rating.

Two coincidences occurred while reading this book.  One was that yesterday that Malaysian Airline that was shot out of the sky was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar.  I pause to express condolences to the families of all the passengers on that flight. Second, just minutes ago today, in the middle of my reading and listening to the TV, comedian Tig Notaro, a cancer survivor walked on the set of a talk-show to talk about her life with cancer and comedy. What message is the universe giving me?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Book Suggestions

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a young Adult novel just made into a movie, was suggested for our bookclub. This article by Brenna Ehrlich is suggesting additional Young Adult books  such as The Future of Us.

For people like me who loved Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, this site is suggesting we would like this psychological thriller, The Silent Wife by A.S. A. Harrison.

Here is my book suggestion. I think if you liked Gone Girl, you readers will like, The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.  In that book, the husband confessed in writing to a crime he committed as a teenager.  The wife finds the sealed letter that says it is only to be opened on her husband's death so she does not open it. She mentions finding the sealed letter to him on the telephone and he returns home early from his business trip.  He acts as if the letter were not important but he goes into the attic to search for the letter the next morning.  His action only indicated to his wife that the content of the letter was very significant to him. Read the story to find out what crime was committed and how it all turns out.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Dissecting a Marriage, Missing Wife, Clueless Husband = Gone Girl

Listen to Gillian Flynn writer of Gone Girl. The book was awesome.  I read until 4:00am this morning.  Dysfunctional families make great stories. This novel had some unexpected twists and turns and some will either love or hate the ending.   Language unnecessarily crude sometimes but this book is definitely  movie material. So what do you know, I searched the internet and discovered the movie will be released October this year starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the main characters and Tyler Perry as the lawyer, Tanner Bolt.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Gone Girl: A Wedding Anniversary,a Missing Wife and a Bitter Husband

I am reading Gone Girl a novel  by Gillian Flynn.  This is the Book Club's pick for June. The setting is Missouri.  It is the day of Amy's and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary and Amy is missing. The story is told from Nick's point of view as  the search for Amy progresses and also from Amy's point of view, before she goes missing. We get Amy's point of view in a diary format.  Frankly the husband is very suspicious.  He is an unhappy man,from a dysfunctional family, who tells these little half truths to the police. Amy is a strange woman with too-perfect New York parents who are writers of a story in which the protagonist is also named Amy. She has these treasure hunts for her husband on every anniversary.  He never is able to figure out all the clues yet she keeps writing them anyway.

I am loving the story so far because there is a lot to keep my attention. Why does Nick have a disposable phone? Why did Amy buy a gun? Where will these fifth anniversary clues ultimately lead Nick?  The clues are little love notes that suggest that she was happy with Nick so who was Amy afraid of really?  I am on page 139 and I am enjoying this.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What Am I Reading This Morning?

So glad you asked me! I am reading Americanah by the fabulous Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is all about race and the immigrant experience. The setting is Nigeria, the USA (New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland) and England. The main characters are from Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze, and this is about their fascinating and terrifying experiences as immigrants to USA and England respectively. Ifemelu seems to be the kind of woman who sabotages herself in her romantic relationships by constantly searching for a love that is beyond her reach.  Obinze is also sabotaging himself romantically by holding on to his love for Ifemelu.  She dropped him without giving him any explanation.

There are several sub-themes in this novel. Black women's love/hate relationship with their hair is one  sub-theme. Interracial relationships is another. The effects of acculturation is yet another.  What I love about the book is how accurately the writer described the black immigrant trying to navigate different aspects of American and British life - the language, race issues, job market, food, dating/friendships. I also liked that the two Nigerian characters and their friends had different backgrounds. Obinze had a privileged upbringing as son of a university professor.  Ifemelu's family was struggling. She had never traveled like some of her classmates. Her father lost his job and had to borrow money to pay the bills. Also, I enjoyed reading the writer's description of corruption in Nigeria and the uncertainties of studying in a university in Nigeria where the professors were constantly on strike for improved wages.

I am on page 293 and I am wondering if Obinze and Ifemelu will find love in each other again.  I am also wondering if Ifemelu will be able to fit into Nigerian life when she returns.

Here is what the author had to say about her book on NPR.    She's correct for a black non-American, "you have to learn what it means to be black in America."

As I read about life in Nigeria, let me also bring awareness to twitter campaigns #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters on this Mother's Day.