Monday, July 16, 2012

An American Family by Peter Lefcourt

I hadn't read any of author Lefcourt's other books but  I looked at some reviews and saw that they were mostly satires. This one was supposed to be a detour from that, so that was good enough for me. 
As I thumbed through the book, I noticed lots of small paragraphs and they were not conversation. I wondered how it would read. As I began, I noticed how easy these little snips of writing flowed right into the next. I really enjoyed Lefcourt's style. The characters were many, but easy to remember. 
The story is about five generations of the Perl family, Polish-Jewish immigrants. The story spans from the early sixties until 2001 and encompasses all the American history in-between. The patriarch, Nathan Perl has five children. Three from his first marriage to Ida and two from his second marriage to Lillian. The oldest is Jackie, a lawyer who has gotten himself mixed up with corrupt city officials & businessmen. Michael is an entrepreneur, stuck in a desk job because he is married w/children. Elaine, seems to be the most secure of all the children but as she gets older, even Elaine makes some changes. Stephen, the scholar, is a reluctant gay man in the time of AIDS and Bobbie the baby sister , is what you would call a hot mess who ends up a rich record producer ! There are several other characters who add to the craziness ( I mean this in a good way) of this family, Uncle Meyer and Yetta and various in-laws. I usually shy away from novels with so many characters, most authors cannot give you a real sense of dynamic when there are so many. But Lefcourt pulls it off in grand style. I don't want to give the plot away, but I will say that I shed a few tears at the end of the book, for all kinds of reasons. For the Perl family, because the author made them so real to me... for my own family, because the Perl's are every family.....just so many reasons. 
 I really enjoyed this book. I am so glad I read it, it also is worth re-reading at some point. Now, that says something about it, doesn't it ?
Note: The only thing I found kind of odd, was that the photo on the cover was taken from another novel, by Dan Fante, about his father. I assume IT IS John & Dan Fante. Kind of weird to grab a photo that was just on a novel not too long ago. Whoever is responsible should get whipped with a wet noodle, as we used to say!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Gotta love a woman who can write a fake orgasm scene like no other.
Nora Ephron has written some of our favorite lines in our favorite movies. I was saddened to hear of her passing last month, what a great talent. I own a copy of when Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, two all time faves. I have watched them so many times and then when I run into them while I am channel surfing, I still stop and watch them. I had never read one of her books, although when her latest came out I thought I should pick it up. I have seen interviews that she has done and I tell you, she is FUNNY.
So last week in a second hand store, I first stopped in the used book section. I love to scan all the shelves, hoping something will catch my eye. Well, sitting right on top of a pile of books that had been perused and then not put back on the shelf was a copy of Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck...."
Of course, that is THE lament for women of a certain age, tee-hee. I picked it up and put it in my cart. I felt like it was put on that pile just for me to see. I read it in a couple of days. It was hilarious and sooo witty and intelligent. So many of her quirky issues are issues for all women. She touches on beauty regimens, raising kids, and then in the final chapters she touches on death and dying. At the  time she wrote the book (2006), she had just lost a close friend and was still grieving. I could feel her pain, but I could hear bit of laughter, too, as she recounted conversations with her friend about what to do when her "time" came. Only because I knew that Ephron's time was limited , did I see that her words were very poignant as she tells her readers how she would like to be remembered when her own time came.
Such a good book...required reading for every woman over fifty.
R.I.P. Nora Ephron.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

The pain that a human being can inflict on their fellow being is mind boggling. Can you imagine giving birth and then having that child sold to another person for a life of cruelty and hard work? I can't get my mind around that. Such is the story that author Leveen tells us. Mary Van Lew Bowser, born a slave to the rich Van Lew family of Richmond, was able to stay and work with her mother, Minerva, at the Van Lew mansion.  Her father, Lewis, was owned by another Richmond slave owner, so she saw him only on Sundays. She had more of a "family" life than most slaves. Bet Van Lew was the abolishionist daughter of the Van Lew family, and so bought the slaves from her mother and freed them. Which created a dilemma for the parents of Mary Van Lew. Freed slaves had to leave Virginia within one year of their freedom,they could never return. Bet Van Lew sent Mary to Philadelphia for an education, supplied her with living expenses and spending money. Her mother Minerva, stayed behind and kept secret her freedom so she could stay with her husband. 
When Mary learns that her mother has passed and that a war will break out between the north & south over slavery, she heads back to Richmond and life as a "slave". She has to keep her freedom secret. She ends up working in a mansion, the Southern White House,  for Jefferson Davis and his wife and she ends up working with her former owner, Bet Van Lew, as a spy for the Union Army. 
Leveen has created a rare look into the world of slavery, the Civil War and the toll it took on human life. Real people, in a true story of bravery. This book is well written, and well worth your time.