Archive for ‘Reviews’

2009/06/07

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness is a great book. It is an amazing story of how Chris Gardner went journeyed from being a homeless, single father to a multimillionaire while maintaining his relationship with his son and later daughter. It makes me know that I can do it too. I’m not homeless, but just to think how hard he struggled, how far he had to go. My leap should be no where near as hard.

It also resonated with me as I have yet to meet my biological father. It was good to read how he did one day meet his, and like him, my father is somewhere in Louisiana.

I also noticed how he was thankful for all the people who helped him along the way, who gave him breaks. It shows that there are really no “self-made” successes, everyone has help along the way. However, he did work extraordinarily hard with commitment and passion. Those things brought him to the notice of the individuals who could help him. So, in a way, you do make your own breaks.

I look forward to reading his latest book, Start Where You Are.

I also finished The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Book 4) today. I’m currently reading Mindset, Financial Peace Revisited and Fault Line.

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2008/10/18

An Unfinished Marriage

An Unfinished Marriage. Anderson, Joan. Broadway Books, New York (0767908716) 2002.

I have never really read much about relationships or marriage. I have read a fair amount of biographies and memoirs, but never a memoir about a marriage and certainly not one from the woman’s point of view. However, I find myself wanting to know more about other people’s relationships and marriages, the ups, the downs, the trials and tribulations. But most of all how they came out of it on the other side with the relationship or marriage intact and often stronger.

In A Year by the Sea, Anderson, an empty nester, tells her story of “running away” from her marriage and living alone in her family’s summer cottage on Cape Cod. It is a year of soul searching, growth and renewal. A year in which she reconnects with her true and authentic self.

An Unfinished Marriage is the story of the struggle of Joan and her husband, Robin, to reconnect. He retires from his job and moves to Cape Cod seeking a reconcilliation. She feels wild and free after her year and is used to and happy doing things on her own and not having to answer to anyone or even communicate her plans for the day to anyone.

I recall asking my uncle for marital advice before heading down the aisle. He handed me a passage from The Prophet in which Kahlil Gibran likens matrimony to the oak and the cypress trees: “Stand together, yet not too near – for the pillars of the temple stand apart and the oak and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” Perhaps, unknowinly, I tok the prophet’s advice when I ran away from home last year. The institution of marriage had permeated my very being; my focus was always on “us,” so that I became incapable of being conscious of “me.” Devoted as I was to the role of good wife and helpmate, I worked mostly in my husband’s shadow, until a sort of toxicity set in that poisoned the air we breathed. By the time I left, we had become more like incestuous siblings than husband and wife.

I suppose that is why we now seem to be giving each other room, fighting against a life of routine, facing each other with both detachment and cautious acceptance….

It is a struggle because they have been apart for a year. Robin struggles with not having a job to go to daily. Then Joan, the consummate caregiver, is injured and Robin must become the caregiver. And then they decide to remodel and expand the cottage since they will both be living there together year round and expecting visits from their two sons and their wives.

There is much drama and many lessons to be learned. Anderson is transparent and an excellent writer. She has an uncanny way of capturing conversations and using them to illuminate her thoughts and feelings.

I appreciate this book. My parents divorced. Both my aunts and my uncle on my mother’s side divorced, though my uncle remarried years ago and is still married. Most of our friends, siblings and cousins have divorced at least once or have never married, though some of those have been in long term relationships. My wife’s parents have been married for more than fifty years. So, there are few examples of long marriages that have survived the travails in our immediate environ and this books gives me another glimpse of that and what it takes to make it happen.

I’ll leave it to you to read An Unfinished Marriage and see how it turns out for Joan and Robin. Do yourself a favor, though Anderson does give some history of her year alone in this book, you’ll understand this one better if you first read A Year by the Sea.

Oh, by the way, I found another good review of An Unfinished Marriage over on Cynthia Harrison’s blog.

2008/09/01

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I first saw Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert months ago in the new books display at the local public library. I put it on my list of books to read, but forgot about it. Then I saw it listed on one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, but still didn’t pick it up. Then my wife, LEB, started reading it. The third time was the charm and once she finished reading it I read it.

LEB and I talked about it a little before I read it. She said some of her female colleagues at work disliked the book and only read the first few chapters because they thought it was too whiny. I did not feel that, I felt Gilbert accurately described depression and classic codependent behavior. I think that those who described it as whining must have never experienced depression themselves or been close to someone in the depths of depression. If they had, they must not really have understood what was happening. Depression is an illness, not the fault of the individual. And most people have no control over it without intervention of medicine and perhaps the skills that can be imparted by cognitive therapy. In fact it has been shown that in depressed people the brain is physcially not functioning properly, see Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel G Amen.

Anyway, back to the book. After an interminable, contentious even viscious divorce Gilbert departs on a year long journey around the world. She divides her trip into three sections and three countries: Italy, India and Indonesia. She decides to experience pleasure in Italy gorging herself on wonderful Italian food and wine, diving into the sensuality of the surroundings. Her descriptions of place, food and folk make me long to be in Italy. In fact, I could read a passage, close my eyes and be there. Surprisingly, or maybe not if recall the Epicurean philosophers of Greece, Gilbert learns a lot about herself in Italy.

The next stop is India at the ashram of her Indian Guru. Here she explores devotion and seeks closeness to God. Again, I can see and feel in my minds eye and body the 3AM meditative chanting and the devotional scrubbing of the floors, which is her job of service for most of her stay. I never much considered visiting an Indian ashram, but perhaps I should.

Last stop is Bali, Indonesia where the author seeks to balance the two extremes of pure pleasure from Italy and ascetic, devotion in the Indian ashram. Again the scenes and interactions with people are perfectly depicted. I can imagine myself partaking of the expat life in Bali.

I haven’t described them, but the book is filled with wonderful characters that Elizabeth meets along the way. She is the type of person who makes friends easily and quickly wherever she may go. This is a talent, a skill of which I am most envious.

All in all, this is a great book. Pick it up and read it, you won’t be disappointed.

2008/07/20

The Hard Way by Lee Child

I just finished reading The Hard Way by Lee Child. It was a good read. Lee Child writes in a compelling manner that creates true page turners. I absolutely didn’t want to put this book down. In fact I just started reading it late Friday night. This is the tenth book by Child featuring the character Jack Reacher. Over the last few weeks I’ve read all ten. If you’re a fan of hard-boiled detective fiction or espionage fiction with a military sland these books are for you. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them. They have all been page turners that I can’t wait to finish but am inevitably sorry to finish because I want more. Give them a try.