21 March 2011

Sing You Home

Zoe and Max have tried for 10 years to have a Baby. After many rounds of IVF, miscarriages and a particularly devastating stillbirth, Max is done. He leaves Zoe and sinks back into drink, dissolving their marriage.

Heartbroken over losing her husband and her hopes of being a mother, Zoe throws herself into her work as a music therapist. She sings with dying children and elderly Alzheimer's patients. After accepting a request to work with a suicidal teen girl, Zoe finds herself growing closer to the teen's school counselor, Vanessa. Her friendship with Vanessa helps her heal from the wounds left by her husband's flight and gradually blossoms into love.

After Zoe and Vanessa wed, Zoe realizes that although she is too old to successfully submit to IVF again, Vanessa is not. Zoe contacts the clinic where 3 frozen embryos still remain only to learn that she has to get her ex-husband's permission to use them.

Max, however, has Found Jesus and is part of an ultra-conservative Evangelical congregation that abhors "the homosexual lifestyle." Although he does not want the embryos so he can become a father, Max also does not want Zoe to have them so she can raise children in her "deviant" relationship. He sues to gain custody of the embryos, intending to give them to his devout brother and the sister-in-law he secretly loves.

In Sing You Home, Jodi Picoult again addresses a number of timely topics - what does it mean to be gay? Are embryos children or property? What happens when religious conviction asserts itself in the courtroom? What does it mean to be "a family?"

There have been some fairly hostile reviews of this book on Amazon, which I just don't understand. Does the book follow a formula? Yes. As in many of Picoult's previous novels, the story is told in chapters narrated by several key characters. A complex court case addresses controversial ideas.

However, just because Picoult uses similar devices from book to book does not mean they stop working. Having read her other novels that are told by several narrators and involve a courtroom drama did not make this book any less compelling. I was thrilled to get a copy and read it straight through, riveted by the characters and hoping for a positive (fair) outcome.

If I had any criticism of this novel, it may be that while many characters are fully drawn - for example, we come to care deeply for Zoe but can see she is flawed - the "bad guys" are more broadly drawn. Pastor Clive is the cliched self-righteous conservative. Then again, people like him do exist... It may have been nice to round out the characters a little bit by perhaps showing a member or two of the devoutly Christian community in support of Zoe's right to have children. Overall, though, the book is so strong that this is not a dealbreaker.

Another stellar book by Jodi Picoult!

Oh. Almost forgot. This novel comes with a cd of original songs that are meant to enhance the storytelling. I actually have not listened to the disc yet, though I plan to take it in the car with me this morning. The book stands on its own without the music, but may very well be enhanced if you play the songs at the start of each chapter as the author recommends.

28 Weeks

How Far Along?

28 weeks yesterday. Only 83 days (or so) to go!

Appts coming up?
I failed the 1-hour glucose screen, so I am going to take the 3-hour test tomorrow. I am trying to not worry about it; I have heard that many women who fail the 1-hour pass the 3-hour, so that's my hope. Whatever happens, I'll do what I need to to keep Tex healthy.

Thoughts about where you're at in your pregnancy?
Kind of surreal. I know, logically, that we have less than three months. But it still seems like forever away sometimes.

What are you working on?
Finally made an appointment to talk to a pediatrician. Otherwise, same as last week: Figuring out when we will have the nursery painted and what needs to be done before then (i.e., moving the cat's litter box, switching dressers, finding a new home for the desktop computer...). Really want to have it painted before our "friends/couples" shower on April 10, which will be held at the house.

Complaints or worries?
Tiny bit concerned about the possibility of gestational diabetes, but tryng to stay Zen about it. Not much else to worry about in terms of Baby. Oh, but it has been frustrating to try to find maternity clothes. Old Navy has some dresses on their website but not much in the stores. I just want a few sundresses and full-panel skirts without spending too much money. Ugh.

Have been staying away from candy in the lead-up to the three-hour glucose screen, so I would love a little bit of chocolate.

Happy moments/blessings?
Dinner with A Friday night. Visit with Gram Saturday. TIme spent with my sweetie pie nieces Wednesday and Thursday. HUGE savings at Borders (including The Help on unabridged audio for $5.99 - Squee!). Bought Kristen's shower gift. Puppy is recovering well from surgery. E-chatting with Robinista... Lots of good in my life.

Any fun things coming up?
Still need to get to CPL this to renew my library card. Going for elective 3D ultrasound on Friday (yay!). I feel like there is more going on this week, but my brain is tired. ;)

Minding Frankie

There is a reason why Maeve Binchey is one of my go-to "comfort authors." Reading her novels is always a bit like visiting a cozy village where you are welcomed by the neighbors and invited to curl up by the fire with a cup of tea to observe and become involved in their lives.

Naturally, then, I was ever so excited to be the first person at our public library to get the newest Maeve Binchey book, Minding Frankie.

When the book opens, Noel is merely (barely) existing, trudging from one drink to the next, trying to avoid his devout parents and, indeed, interactions with anyone else at all. He is shocked out of his alcoholic complacency by the discovery that he has fathered a child with a young woman who now lies dying of cancer.  Knowing that her child's birth will kill her, the mother reaches out to Noel and begs him to raise his daughter in a loving home.

Determined to do his best, Noel gives up drinking and - with the help of his no-nonsense American cousin, Emily - endeavors to build a life for his daughter, Frankie. Eventually, the entire close-knit community rallies around to help, particularly when an unforgiving social worker tries her best to find errors that will prove Noel is unfit to be a father.

Binchey reintroduces locales and characters from previous books (I was especially glad to see the twins, growing up and following their dreams of catering) alongside the introduction of new friends. Her characters are rarely perfect, but rather complex, flawed, real people.

Loved this novel and look forward to seeing Frankie grow up in future stories. If you've enjoyed any of Maeve Binchey's previous books, I recommend this. No, it isn't groundbreaking, unpredictable, highly original Literature, but it is top-notch, heartwarming storytelling.

Winter's Bone

I was drawn to the novel Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell after hearing all the buzz about the film version.

The novel focuses on 16-year-old Ree Dolly who lives in poverty in the Ozarks. Ree is responsible for caring for her two young brothers and her mentally ill mother, though she dreams of joining the Army and escaping one day.

Her father, Jessup, a nearly legendary master of cooking meth, has left the family once again. When Ree finds out that he has put the family home up as collateral for his latest bond and that if he doesn't show up for court in a week she and her family will be kicked out, she sets out to find him.

Ree encounters a lot of resistance along the way from extended family and neighbors who do not like her asking too many questions. She refuses to give up and things reach a head when she pushes too hard - and is pushed back.

Highlighting family ties, friendship, loyalty, and persistence within a bleak, isolated community, Winter's Bone is a lyrical and compelling portrait of a world many of us are unfamilar with but which surely exists. You won't soon forget Rees Dolly or her clan.

The Radleys

Dr Peter Radley and his wife, Helen, live a normal, if uninspired, life in small town England. Their two teens can be moody and aren't popular at school, but that's the way of many teens.

What the children haven't been told is that their family are Vampires. Having made the decision to follow The Abstainer's Handbook (rife with rules like "Be proud to act like a normal human being"), they see no reason to raise the children as anything other than "normal" teens.

While Peter and Helen both struggle with their heritege from time to time, they accept the sacrifices they have made to live a middle-class life and trudge through day after day.

Despite their best efforts, however, their world is turned upside down on the night Clara is attacked by a classmate, instinct takes over, and the unthinkable occurs. A call is made to Peter's rogue brother for help as the family tries to come to terms with this "new" reality and to clean up the (literal) mess.

Among the scores of sometimes formulaic vampire fiction crowding the shelves, The Radleys by Matt Haig is original and entertaining. The chapters are super short, which led to me devouring the book quickly (oh, just one ore chapter before bed...). This novel has enormous teen appeal and might ake a good choice for an intergenerational book discussion group.

I highly recommend The Radleys by Matt Haig and am looking forward to reading more of his work.

14 March 2011

Week 27: Hello, Third Trimester!

How Far Along?

27 weeks yesterday. Only 90 days (or so) to go!

Appts coming up?
I get to take the 1-hour glucose test tomorrow to rule out gestational diabetes. I hear it's time consuming and yucky-tasting. Yay.

Thoughts about where you're at in your pregnancy?
Excited to be in the third trimester, although June still seems far away.

What are you working on?
Figuring out when we will have the nursery painted and what needs to be done before then (i.e., moving the cat's litter box, switching dressers, finding a new home for the desktop computer...). Really want to have it painted before our "friends/couples" shower on April 10, which will be held at the house. Trying NOT to stalk our registries now that baby shower invitations have gone out.

Non-Baby related, I need to get back on track with my 101 things in 1001 Days list. I also have about 3 book reviews to write and post here. Eventually. Also hoping to buy a gift for my sister-in-law K's baby shower sometime this week. And need to get to CPL to renew my card.

Complaints or worries?
A few days ago started getting heartburn for the first time in my life. In fact, I wasn't even sure what it was at first! Some Maalox helped and it hasn't been a constant/every day issue. A little sore when I sleep. But, seriously? Overall, I have no pregnancy related complaints. If this Baby is as good once he's here as he is now, we will be so lucky! 

Non-pregnancy related, I got a crappy pedicure the other day that left me with a few cuts on my feet. Ugh.

Not so much.

Happy moments/blessings?
There have been so many these past few weeks!

Just a few:

I have the best Sweetheart ever. I have amazing, generous friends who are planning a couples/friends shower for us after the one originally planned fell apart. I have a wonderful mother-in-law and stepmother who have planned a lovely shower for family/family friends at a local teahouse. One of J's closest friends came to visit on Fat Tuesday and a lovely time was had by all. The furniture exchanged our 3-month-old couches with no trouble at all. WOrked a few more hours than usual, so nice check coming on Wednesday. I ordered a $90 diaper bag I have had my eye on for only $45 today. I was able to spend some time with my nieces nd nephew this past week. It's a beautiful day and one of my pre-pregnancy sundresses still fits (it was a little big before) so I am wearing a dress today!

Any fun things coming up?
Hoping to get to CPL this week to renew my library card. Chilling with my Sweetheart while he's off work. Not "fun," but glad our puppy is getting surgery on his nails tomorrow so that it is done.