Thursday, May 31, 2007


Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alfred A Knopf, 1988, 348pp

When I read One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1999, it made a huge impact on me. It is one of those books I will never forget. At the time I had not ever read such a book and was introduced to a new part of the world and a new type of writing; South America and magic realism. Now I am not so innocent. I've read Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Amado and others. Sad really, because all that experience probably lessened the impact of Love in the Time of Cholera.

Still it was a wonderful read. The story takes place on the Caribbean coast of Columbia in the 1800s. Throughout fifty-one years, nine months and four days, Florentino Ariza nursed his unrequited love for Fermina Daza while a cholera epidemic raged in various parts of the country. Fermina repudiated her promise to marry Florentino, accepting instead the proposal of Dr Juvenal Urbino, one of the richest men in the city.

While the book follows these characters for over fifty years, it is also a meditation on love of many kinds: married love, lust, passion and fidelity. Garcia Marquez can put you into the heart of every sort of character but what amazes me is his equally brilliant portrayals of the hearts and minds of both men and women.

I had a deadline for completing the book, as we were discussing it in a reading group. I would have enjoyed a more leisurely reading mode because there is much to savor. After 300 some pages of wondrous storytelling, the last 40 pages moved into an even more incredible realm, a complete surprise which left me deliriously happy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Viking Penguin, 2006, 334 pp

This was a big seller at the store where I work and a book club favorite. I read it for one of my book clubs, where it provoked such a violent discussion that one member quit the group.

The subtitle is One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer who turned her quest for emotional healing and peace of mind into a bestselling memoir. Her writing is witty, spunky and full of new-age sentiments. The book is almost chick-lit meets memoir but I liked it anyway.

After a bitter divorce that dragged out for two years, brought on by Elizabeth's decision not to have a baby, she decides to take a year off and travel. Miraculously she gets an advance on the book she will write about it all, which pays for the trip. She spends four months each in Italy, India and Indonesia. In Italy she eats, each day being a quest for the perfect meal. In India she prays by practicing Yoga at an ashram and achieves her goal to see God. In Indonesia she hangs out with a holy man, an herbal healer and a new love.

Some people in my reading group felt that it was all about her (well, it is a memoir) and that she sold her soul by writing the book. Personally, I enjoyed reading about her travels, her spiritual journey and the events of the physical places where she went. The whole tale was far enough out of mainstream American life to make it engaging and exotic.

Monday, May 28, 2007


The Higher Power of Lucky, Susan Paton, Atheneum Books, 2006, 134pp

This is the book that won the Newbery Award for 2007 and sparked a loud controversy because it contains the word scrotum. So ridiculous. Ten year old Lucky Trimble lives in a trailer in the high desert of California with her guardian Brigette. Lucky's mother died when Lucky was nine and Brigette is the former wife of Lucky's father, who abandoned Lucky's mother when Lucky was born. The father doesn't like children.

But now Lucky is worried that Brigette is planning to return to her home in France. Lucky has a part-time job sweeping the patio of the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, where the many different 12 step program groups hold their meetings: Alcoholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc. Lucky calls them the anonymous people and likes to eavesdrop on the meetings to hear the stories of how they hit rock bottom and found their higher power.

She also has a best friend named Lincoln who only cares about tying knots. Then there is 5 year old Miles who would prefer to live on cookies and who totes around a battered copy of Are You My Mother? (he lives with his grandmother.)

So to convince Brigette not to leave, Lucky does a dramatic and scary thing. As in all Newbery Award winning books, she meets with life threatening dangers and uses smarts and pluck to survive. There is a happy and sob-inducing ending.

I used to play gigs at a coffeehouse in Joshua Tree, a high desert town full of losers, loners and bail bond offices. Patron gets her invented town of Hard Pan just right. When I was a single mom and always dumping my kids with my sister and various babysitters, my 5 year old son's favorite picture book was Are You My Mother? I loved The Higher Power of Lucky, but then I totally got all the references to the 12 step programs and other fairly sophisticated concepts. I wonder if kids 9-11 would get it. I have not yet met a kid who has read the book. Have you?

Oh yes, and right near the end, Patron defines scrotum--correctly.