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review 2018-10-20 17:43
Raw, unfiltered, and achingly honest
When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi,Abraham Verghese

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a posthumous memoir/biography from a man who was both in the prime of his life and the beginning of what promised to be an illustrious career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. The terminal lung cancer which was already making its way through his spinal column wasn't part of the plan...and yet Paul chose to meet this challenge head-on as a way to understand and learn how the inevitability of death can be explored by those shepherding the way. How does the mind and brain (seen as two separate entities here) play a role in this? He first approached this topic through the lens of literature which he had always been interested in (hence the beginning of the book which would eventually be published after his death) but he then moved on to his direct experience as a doctor and then as a patient. Paul was interested in the bigger picture of what exactly death means and he kept trying to parse it out by asking, "Where did biology, morality, literature, and philosophy intersect?" (pg 41). He didn't shy away from the ugly underbelly of cancer treatment and how it's seen from both a medical professional's standpoint (best practices, proven remedies, etc) and the one receiving the care (uncertainty, despair, anger, and frustration to name a few). Facing mortality and asking the tough questions are the overarching themes of When Breath Becomes Air but this is also a quiet story about a man coming to terms with the fact his life was about to end. I don't want to give away all of the details because I really think you should read this one if you never read another book about death (although why stop here?). I didn't know if I'd be able to continue it at several points (there were tears) because it mirrors so much of what my dear friend, Jessica, went through during her battle with cancer. But I am happy that I persevered. 10/10

 

This quote blew my mind because I feel I'm constantly justifying to people why I do the work that I do even though some of it doesn't compensate me at all (the blog) and the one that does is probably never going to make me financially solvent (children's librarian). Looking at the bigger picture is hard if you are cutting out the crucial bits like death which comes for us all.

Indeed, this is how 99 percent of people select their jobs: pay, work, environment, house. But that's the point. Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job - not a calling. - pg 68-69

If I remember correctly this was a quote from Paul's wife and I think it perfectly encapsulates why this is such an important book. It's why I've read and reviewed so many books around this topic over the past year. 

Paul confronted death - examined it, wrestled with it, accepted it - as a physician and a patient. He wanted to help people understand death and face their mortality. Paul's decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don't celebrate enough in our death-avoidant culture. - pg 215

Side note of interest (at least to me): Lucy, Paul's widow, found love again with a recently widowed father of two...who's spouse also wrote a book about her journey of dying. That book is The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and yes it's totally going on my TRL.

 

What's Up Next: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-10-04 23:59
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield  for Deadlands
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

[10/05/18  Edited to add: I managed to upload a bad picture of my bingo card.]

 

This is such a good book I want to be a better writer to do it justice in my review. Waiting longer for inspiration is just not on though: my memory will let the details blur and the experience fade. 

 

Setterfield is a writer who's greatest flaw is not being prolific. Actually, that may be the only flaw. She has once again crafted a work of fiction that has a convincing Victorian setting with a modern sensibility directing the reader's attention to characters and incidents that a true Victorian wouldn't, but logic suggests that they are all valid. She manages to tell quite a few stories and examples of the craft of storytelling within a greater story of amazing events. While many writers succeed at making a house a character within their fiction, Setterfield has made part of the Thames a character, nor was she stinting in permitting this character moods. Okay, on the winter solstice the usual group are sitting around drinking in the Swan, an inn distinguished by the storytelling within. The door opens, a man, his face a bloody mess staggers in clutching a large doll in his hands.

 

Over the course of one year we watch the repercussions of that moment: how it affects characters major and minor and also, this is the tricksy bit, we watch how those events become stories. Yes, many stories dependent on point of view, and skill, stories becoming more stories as that one event is observed (or not), in light of new events, and then, still later developments. The metaphor is well served: there is an attempt to trace the roots of the story back to the beginning, which you can't do any more than you can trace a river back, fractally there are always more branches feeding in.

 

There is so much: there are clever half-starved orphans, prosperous farmers, the family of innkeepers, the town midwife, the minister, servants and animals, wealthy distillery owners, thieves and blackguards, despite the extensive cast one never feels that the author is coasting by with stereotypes or with every character having the same voice. There is plot and pathos enough for Dickens, and despite the 21st century sensibility there's none of that business of giving a character clearly modern ideas.

 

There is, of course, a supernatural element as well as a few mysteries, dreadful crimes and moments of grace. Everything is here, told my a humanist in the Pratchett vein, but without the jokes and footnotes. It is a lovely, suspenseful book that I couldn't bear to put down in order to post updates. Read it soon: give it to yourself or someone you really like as a gift for one of the several solstice-adjacent holidays. Just the thing for long winter nights by the fire.

 

ARC from publisher

 

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review 2018-09-28 17:45
Snowflakes over Holly Cove - Lucy Coleman-:

 

If, like me, you're a reader who likes to empathise with the story's characters, feel every emotion, and experience something magical as you turn the pages this is the story for you.

 

Christmas has always been important to Tia, even when her life is hard, Christmas is time to celebrate and escape. After the death of her mother, Tia struggles to come to terms with her loss. Her job is busy, and she hopes this will get her through the grief that threatens to destroy her. Her latest assignment has her living in a picture perfect cottage by the sea, the setting is breathtaking, and straight away she feels its healing presence. Life gets complicated, and she still has Christmas to face, but will Tia emerge stronger at the end of this experience?

 

The vividly described coastal setting comes alive the first time Tia visits the beach you can feel the sea spray on your face and appreciate the power of the sea. The characters are varied and realistically portrayed, you can imagine having a conversation with them. The perfectly orchestrated romance is lovely and gentle and full of magic in this poignant, story of coming to terms with life's setbacks and valuing family and friendships. There are many lighthearted moments to offset the heartaches, rather like life itself.

 

A festive read that you can enjoy all year long with characters to treasure in a perfect Christmas card setting.

 

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Source: wp.me/p3i8vQ-5CF
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review 2018-08-28 04:18
Grief Cottage
Grief Cottage: A Novel - Gail Godwin

I read one or two of Godwin's books long before I began tracking my reading with any kind of purpose, but when I saw her new book on NetGalley, I was eager to read it. Pitched as a mystery/ghost story and a moving exploration of grief, it delivered on all counts for me. I almost wanted to call it Grief Town, because everyone in this book is grieving, far beyond Marcus' loss and whatever happened in the ruined cottage down the beach. Godwin's story comes alive with her deft prose, her quirky and compelling characters, and her evocative setting. It's not so much a mystery — since the missing pieces are not all that hard to put together — but it's a story of loss, love, and how to carry on when things don't work out the way you planned. Perfect beach read, if you are still able to do that, but trade that in a pinch for a comfy chair by the fire with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate.

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review 2018-08-27 11:08
Review: “Come Back To Me” (The Lost and Founds, #5) by Edmond Manning
Come Back To Me - Edmond Manning

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

 

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