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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

How Does It Feel to Be 82?

Dory by Sallie Bailey

Dory by Sallie Bailey

I asked my friend Sallie Bailey that question because I think the more we know about aging, the less chance we’ll waste a lot of time being freaked out when we get there. Sallie is an award-winning artist and writer (here’s a link to her website). She’s practical and smart, and she said I could quote her, so here goes.

Frankly, it’s a pain. Literally. Arthritis has taken its toll. Joint replacements help but there’s a lot that brings me up short, limiting my mobility. I’m very fortunate that I’ve dodged all the major bullets – no serious health problems. The brain still functions. I firmly believe that creativity is the answer – I think we writers/artists have an enormous advantage. It’s my opinion that our ceaseless brain activity keeps that organ healthy – keeps it young. I have more ideas than I can carry to fruition. Time can be a problem there – but it’s always been a problem.

That brings up another facet of aging well – curiosity. Many of the normal occurrences of aging surprise me. Physical changes – some small, some more pronounced. I observe and reflect on them.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been gifted with a fine sense of the ridiculous. Laughter certainly helps. My father, mother and brother lacked that. Our youngest son and my brother’s oldest daughter have it. (The niece, knowing I’m partial to art glass, sent me on my 80th birthday an art glass marble on a little base along with the note that it was to replace any marbles I might have lost!) My husband has it – actually both arthritis and a sense of humor.

Death? I don’t like the idea of dying at all. I don’t don’t believe in an afterlife and I don’t like the idea of missing anything. On the plus side – people like us leave footprints. They may be lost but they’ll always be there to be found – art, writing, whatever. Another plus – at least someone else will have to clean out our dresser drawers………

I love what Sallie said about being curious and having so many ideas that time is a problem. As long as we’re hungry, life is good. I have another friend who’s in her early eighties and when we get together to talk about the novels we’re writing, we get so excited we talk over each other. We drink wine and rant about our ambitions and dreams.

Want to feel inspired? Here’s a short video interview with a 94-year-old artist who’s making money on his paintings. Thanks to David Kanigan for the lead.

Readers, I’m curious. What is it like being your age?

Leave a comment

44 Comments

  1. Your friend sounds lovely! My boyfriend’s grandmother is 87 and very lively. She is a great company and very much into computers and techonology lately. I thought about her while reading your post.
    Oh, and the video really impressed me… what a wonderful spirit!

    Reply
    • Cristina, I read that seniors who spend time on the Internet are up to 28% less likely to be diagnosed as depressed. Good for her.

      Reply
  2. We definitely have to remain active and curious. Great post. xo Laura

    Reply
  3. Sixty two is awesome. I finally feel like myself. I can pick and choose what I want to do…how much I want to participate. My skills are still appreciated and now I can actually see why!!! My earlier life was so filled with self doubt. I can be productive or lazy and I am just fine BEING. In fact, for the first time I have the opportunity to just be. I love where I live and the people I know. I feel more connected than ever in my life.
    Sure I hurt some and I am not nearly as physically strong as I want to be and not as athletic as I used to be or want to be, but life is good, I am happy and content , curious, active and wondering what is next. I just read a headline that 69 is supposedly the most happy age. WOW, can’t wait!

    Reply
    • Nanci, thanks for that. There is plenty of research that says people are happiest at the first and last thirds of their lives, and the most difficult is the middle. So we’re in one of the better times of our lives. Why don’t people talk about this? What a cool time to be alive.

      Reply
  4. I love the idea of humor as we get older. I’m lucky that rarely does a day go by that my husband and I don’t laugh about something. It cleans the soul.

    Reply
    • Cathy, I accompanied my mom who is 88 to the Midwest the past few weeks, and I think she might have been feeling bored and insular, because her old happy self returned. We laughed so hard we almost had accidents, and we’d lie awake late at night, talking for hours. We shared a room w double beds, and it was so fun. I told her it was like being away at camp.

      Reply
  5. Sue Shoemaker

     /  July 26, 2013

    You mentioned “musical references” in your review of GOODBYE, EMILY. The tune that is playing in my brain these days is “When I’m 64” by the Beatles. In just over two weeks…I get to reach that milestone birthday…and to me the coolest part is I have three little grandchildren…not “exactly” Vera, Chuck and Dave…but close…Emma, Ryan and Jacob. Since they are 4, 3 and 2 it’s a bit difficult to get all three “grandchildren on MY knee”…but I may have to make that a 64th birthday photo request this year.

    I loved in the video when the artist, Hy Snell, shares his age…94…and then he changes that to 94 and a half! He embraces every bit of his age! That stands out to me because I embrace my age too. My mom died at 61 years 10 months…and now I have outlived her by more than two years. I am fully aware that every day is a gift…and every year contains the potential for creating and sharing more love, relationship building, joy, learning, growth, experience, adventure, friendship, peace and opportunities for making beautiful memories.

    When I turned 50, I began taking tap dancing lessons again after a 30 year absence. In September I return to my 15th year of classes…tap, jazz and clogging. I LOVE clogging! I am not an “artist” like Hy…I am a dancer…and my prayer, my hope, my intention is that I am dancing when I turn 94…I mean, 94 and a half!

    Reply
    • Sue, there is so much of beauty in your comments. I could reply for paragraphs, but I can’t add to it. Just, thanks for writing. How uplifting.

      Reply
  6. Great Post Kudos to you Sally. Hi Lynne 🙂
    Hmmm, being 59 is sort of a holding pattern, it’s too early to retire (for me financially) but I’m lusting after it.
    I like my life I’ve finally learned how to say no. Life’s too short to do something you hate.
    Now if you get wind of something a reviewer/blogger could get rich on let me know and I’ll quit this day job. 🙂
    deb

    Reply
    • Oh, Deb, if it existed, we’d all be doing it! Good on ya for learning to say no, BTW. Signing on for half as much is like being twice as fast – you get done at the same time and can relax and enjoy life.

      Reply
  7. Chico

     /  July 26, 2013

    Reblogged this on Sixty and Single Again.

    Reply
  8. I’m climbing the stairs to 70 and have never been as busy or curious as I’ve become since my retirement. So far, I’m still limber, wear high wedgies, volunteer at a bookstore, and read and write a lot.

    Reply
    • Tess, you’re an inspiration – keep it up. Nothing teaches like example. And if we’re going to change the perception of aging in this country, people like you will be the teachers.

      Reply
  9. I loved your post. Aging has been an interesting phenomenon for me. I am much more curious about the process than ever before. ‘Every time I get a new ache or pain, I wonder if it’s “normal” for a fossil of my age. One custom that I have initiated in my family is the custom of doing something memorable on your “Big O” birthdays (50, 60, 70 etc. are Big O birthdays). At 50, I bought myself an anniversary band (I am single) with 5 diamonds…one for each decade. At 60 I rode an elephant. Next year, I will be 70. I am open for suggestions for celebrating this milestone. Sky diving and hot air balloons are out because of my fear of heights.

    My friend Lydia will be 100 in September. She still lives on her own. She rides a stationary bicycle every day and marches in any Peace Rally that comes along. Just this year, she sold her car. She decided on her own that she shouldn’t drive anymore. I can’t even imagine myself living to be 100, but if I do, I’m certain I will not be as well preserved as Lydia.

    Reply
    • That’s a good call about skydiving. It’s riskier than people think due to the possibility of equipment failure or other mishaps. There are many other ways to celebrate turning 70.

      Reply
    • Natur, next year I’m going to spend a week with my friend of 43 years when we both turn 60. We’re going to Jekyll Island to hang out on the beach, drink wine, and talk. Oh, and check out the history of the area, eat well, and talk. And did I mention wine? That’s enough for me. Plus skydiving scares me.

      Reply
  10. Shelley Charlesworth

     /  July 26, 2013

    Great video about the 94 year old artist. I liked what your friend Sallie wrote. So glad you had a fun time with your mom. I’m a 65 year old retired teacher. My husband is 74. We lost our parents and aunts and uncles to heart disease, cancer and strokes. They were not examples of successful aging. You are right we must remain curious and keep learning! I also think what we eat and how much exercise we get is important to successful aging. We began eating the whole foods/starch/plant based way 3 years ago. We were semi-vegetarians who ate dairy products and eggs and fried foods. Since we began the WF/SPB way of eating we both have more energy, better mood, clearer thinking and we sleep better. Our aches and pains went away! Hubby lost 40 pounds – without ever being hungry – and got off his all his Rx drugs and got his blood sugars under control.

    I read about an inspiring woman doctor who died last year at 114. Here is some more info on her:

    Life Lessons from 114 Year Old Doctor

    “No milk after the baby is weaned! No juice, no tea or Cokes. Only water. That cow out in the pasture never had a drop of milk after she was weaned, and look how strong and healthy she is.”

    By the time Leila retired in 2001, at the age of 103, she had cared for thousands of children through a career that spanned seven decades. She began practicing medicine before there was baby food and before many immunizations were developed. Yet as medicine progressed over the next 70 years, Denmark remained true to an early belief: good parenting, good nutrition, and common sense afford a child a good chance at a healthy life.

    Dr. Denmark’s most famous simple prescription for longevity is “love what you do and eat right.”

    Drink only water

    We need to think about everything we eat and drink

    Children and adults should eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juices

    “Let’s do” is easier than do

    Anything you have to do is work and anything you love to do is play

    During the Great Depression, 11,000 of America’s 25,000 banks closed (Save what you can, appreciate what you have.)

    Never raise your hand or your voice to a child

    Parenting has gone out of style

    http://www.sparkplugpeople.com/dr-leila-denmark-turning-112/

    http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2012/04/georgias-famed-dr-denmark-dies-114/

    Reply
    • Shelley, there’s a lot of wisdom in what you shared, thanks. I recently stopped using artificial sweeteners because I read that sucralose kills beneficial bacteria in the gut, and the result of THAT is a reduction in serotonin. Serotonin helps with sleep, depression and anxiety. As a person who had C.Diff. for five months (a few years ago) I am VERY excited about nurturing good bacteria!

      Reply
  11. Sallie’s words of wisdom strike a chord with me. Even though various ailments like arthritis have cramped my athletic style, my mind soars with ideas. As she says, creativity just may be the answer and I love her idea of savoring “fine sense of the ridiculous.” Laughter does help ease the pain and the human connections heals the soul. So, so grateful to have connected with you, Lynne. Every week your postings inspire me to keep on, keepin’ on.

    Reply
    • Oh, no, Pat, it’s the reverse. After reading your book, Home Sweet Hardwood, I don’t think I’ll ever complain about my maladies again. And thank God we don’t need much body to write.

      Reply
  12. I’m sending this to my writer friend who is 73. Although she laughs like a school girl and has won numerous writing awards, her body is starting to betray her. She will love this enlightening post by your delightful friend, Sallie.

    Reply
    • Kathleen, my body has betrayed me off and on since I was in elementary school. At 59 I now know to expect it will happen with some regularity, and that when it does, I plow through it as best I can. Then when I recover I celebrate – usually by rejoicing so much in my mobility that I mess myself up. Recently I started walking every morning. On the fifth morning, I got a case of sciatica that stopped me for 3 days. No matter. I wait, take care of myself, and let it pass. Then do the max with what I have. It’s all I know.

      Reply
  13. Madeleine

     /  July 26, 2013

    As a Type 2 diabetic, staying healthy is a major focus. I’ve controlled diabetes now for over 10 years by diet and exercise alone and have no long-term damage.

    Among the highlights this past year were turning 73, returning to Seattle from the east coast (never to move again), starting a book about how to manage your own health, and getting married to my long-term BF The Engineer at the top of the Space Needle, A sense of humor helps a lot, and he and I find much to laugh about every single day.

    Reply
  14. I think that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is very important in addition to Lifelong Learning for an active, creative and productive longevity. It’s predicted that increasingly more people will live to be 100+. How many of us will be prepared to live up to 40 more years of retirement age? Like Lydia whose very close to the 100 mark it will probably take some new ideas by Boomer/Elders to make the path to 100 somewhat easier. Whether it’s good habits like Lydia s riding a stationary bike every day and marching in any peace rally that comes along OR maybe working on something in Liberal Arts such as being a writer (that’s me), a painter or maybe even a candlestick maker. Everyone of us has some dominant talent(s) that could be discovered and through Lifelong Learning they will be able to produce a new book (that’s me) a new painting or maybe a new candlestick idea to be marketed to new customers.. GO 50+ Seniors Go!

    Reply
  15. Senior, you are right in every way. Two years ago, I wrote about my friend Iris who was in her 80s. She’s still doing the life learning thing, social media, and a ton of other activities (and she looks great.) Here’s a short post about her: http://anyshinything.com/2011/05/21/dare-to-dream-after-middle-age/ Also, my mom who is 88 just decided to start making plush animals for the local firehouse to give to children in the event of trauma. At times she gets tired and discouraged, but she says “you have to fight it. Otherwise life’s not worth anything.”

    Reply
  16. Thanks for the post. I think you’re on the mark with using the wisdom of those who are a little ahead of us on this journey.

    For myself, I realized just the other day that I don’t think I’ve gracefully or fully made a transition into a midlife mindset. I still struggle against the losses of physicality from appearance to ability and energy. Of course I’ve blamed a lot of the way I feel lately on grief, and that may be valid. But underlying it all is a resistance to acceptance of aging and mortality that I still wrestle with.

    Good post.

    Reply
    • Your feelings are logical and natural. We see getting old as a precursor to death, and the annoyances and indignities that go with having a body that’s got 150,000 miles on it – well, it ain’t easy or pretty. So my strategy is to root out the good stuff and focus on that. But you should give yourself time to grieve your mother. This is no small thing! Nurture yourself; grief takes energy and can rob you of what you need to get through the day. Rest, veg out. Read. Talk. Eat too much. Sleep if you can. You get the idea. Best wishes.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your kind words. I actually lost both of my parents in January of this year– Mom on the 12th and Dad two weeks later on the 26th. I’m still trying to patch myself back together.

        Reply
    • Sue Shoemaker

       /  July 27, 2013

      CM…becoming an “adult orphan” so quickly may play a part on how you are feeling right now. Once our last living parent transitions, we are thrust into a new role…ready or not. Now we are the “elders of the tribe”…when just a short while ago we were someone’s child/daughter.

      It may feel “disorienting.” “Nurture yourself”…as Lynne has suggested…as you walk this path of healing toward peace.

      Reply
  17. Lynne, what a great post. And inspiring.

    At 67, I’m about half way through writing my first novel. First Husband, age 70, rocked the house on his Stratocaster at church this morning. Keep moving, keep growing, keep learning, keep laughing, and especially keep loving.

    Reply
  18. I’d love to inspire someone! Heh. Actually we are most aware of how lucky we’ve been–and still are.

    Reply
  19. Great post. Words like yours help me remember old age doesn’t have to be a time of utter helplessness.

    Reply
    • Oh, far from it, TWD. In fact, I’m thinking of quoting Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” My mission is to encourage older folks to let their light shine, to accept the truth of their own power, and in so doing liberate not only themselves but the next generations. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  20. OH Lynne — thank you for this. It was a treasure for me to read Sallie Bailey’s words of wisdom. Curiosity and creativity with a splash of physical limitations (my take away message on aging). I try to have both Cs and take ibuprofen for the latter.

    Reply
  21. Enjoy your blog very much. I plan to follow you. I have just recently retired and am blogging – humorously I hope – about how it feels to give up a career after 40 years, how it feels to age, to have an empty nest, all of those things baby boomers are now dealing with. If you are interested in checking me out, you can find me at http://rosythereviewer.blogspot.com/. rosy

    Reply
    • Rosy, I’m very interested in exactly that transition. I’ll check your blog out right away. Thanks for mentioning it and best wishes.

      Reply
  22. I am turning well….not 80 but getting there. What does it feel like to be entering the 70’s? I look in the mirror and ask who is that older person. I don’t feel my age. I am as young as I was when I was at my peak. Now the problem is, I don’t remember when I was at that peak. I hurt a bit more in the morning and exercise a bit less or not as strenously; but I still feel young and in my prime…now all I need to do is figure out where I put things. I think I have gremlins! Thanks for the blog!!

    Reply
    • And thanks for coming by, E. I love your attitude. It just occurred to me that I hurt more when I was younger – in my heart and soul. I was lonely, married badly (twice!), felt aimless and discouraged, and had other problems of youth, but my body worked better and my skin was prettier. Now, I’m happy, productive, in love with husband and family including adorable grandbabies, and as busy and excited as a heart and soul can be, but my body – well, you know. Which age would I rather be? Oh, this one, for sure.

      Reply

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  • Lynne Spreen

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  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

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  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

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  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

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