Saturday, May 24, 2008

"School's out for Summer" and a book review!

The old Alice Cooper song reverberates in this household this week - "School's out for summer, school's out forever!" I finished yet another year of first grade while Jennie graduated high school in a downpour!! It was the first rained out graduation that her high school has had in its 30 year history~! It has been "May Madness" around here as celebrated with proms, banquets and honor ceremonies and thrown in report cards, finals, field trips, birthdays and jobs!! At times we felt like our head was in a whirl but we didn't want to complain ~ our baby girl was graduating! After 5 graduations we are really finished.

Graduation turned out to be a very intimate thing. Due to a string of powerful thunderstorms and hail the school decided to move the ceremonies inside. They split the senior class into 2 groups and held one ceremony in the gymnasium and one in the auditorium. Due to seating capacity each senior got 3 tickets for family. After out of town family arrived we all pow-wowed and Jennie decided that she wanted just Rich and me there. It was somehow just the perfect decision - two of us were there when she was brought into this world in the operating room and now two of us were there, holding hands, and introducing her and ready to release her into the world! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, company was gathering and enjoying long visits and glad not to be out in the elements!! Typically graduation here means sitting in a football stadium on hard metal bleachers for several hours while 700 ( this was a very small graduating class compared to most years) students graduate. The temperatures are many times in the 100s even at 6:30!! Thursday night it was 60 degrees!! We wore winter sweaters and boots, slogged through the rain with our rarely used umbrellas and sat on padded seats in the auditorium. Rich actually said that this was his favorite graduation!!

As the week got busy or life felt wild and wacky I kept a book by my side that was like reading a poem. Love Walked in by Marisa de los Santos was the perfect companion for this wonky time. Each word was carefully chosen and it was a feast for my eyes and feelings. Cornelia, a manager of a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Clare, an eleven year old girl struggling with an unstable mother, and Martin Grace, a Cary Grant look-alike form a triangle of a relationship when their lives converge in the coffee shop. I read the book slowly after a recommendation from
Lesley's Book Nook.

My favorite passage was on page 190 and stemmed from a similar experience in my own life:

"But that's not what I did. What you have to remember is that I'd organized my life in such a fashion that I'd never had to take much responsibility for other people, for their well being or their whereabouts. I'd never had anyone to keep track of, so I'd never had anyone to lose, and if you've never had anyone to lose, you don't know the proper way to behave once you've found her. Which is just an excuse, of course, because although I didn't know, I could have imagined the proper way to behave."

When my son disappeared at SeaWorld 22 years ago I truly felt this way - this passage resonated with me and I kept going back to it so as not to forget the passion and the feelings. I don't think I've ever seen in print how my head felt when I had the experience. Kudos to an author who could do it! Terrific book, delicious writing - the perfect kick-off to a summer of reading!!! 4.75/5

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Keturah and Lord Death

I finished book #1 for the Quest#1 (Once Upon a Time) Challenge and it was a keeper!! A beautiful book that has stayed in my mind for a few days now. The kind that mixes fairy tale and allegory, that paints and picture with words.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt feels like a classic. I felt compelled to read this when I read a recommendation on a library website and I was drawn in from page one. The language is lyrical; perfect for the time and setting.

A fairy tale or sorts, Keturah lives in small village in the country of Angleland long ago. She follows a great stag into the forest one afternoon only to become totally lost. After three days she is nigh to dying and Death himself comes to her. She begs for more time. Time to marry her true love and hold her own wee babe; a bargain is made with Lord Death. Much like Scheherezade she tells him a story promising to come back the next night and finish it in exchange for one more day to find her one true love.

I loved how Death becomes a character, so handsome and not a "grim reaper", but still feared and respected. She felt compelled to fulfill her promise to Lord Death no matter how she tried not to. Was she in love with Death herself? Set in medieval times of peasants, lords of the manor, midwifery, and plague, the language was lyrical and phrases were quaint.

My one complaint was how time was treated. It seemed that in 24 hours more happened or was accomplished physically than would be possible or probable. I realize that I am more than nitpicking but it kept nagging at me. When I finished the book I had time to really ponder it and I decided that when faced with death that time does do weird things. It both speeds up and slows down. It's just altered. Keturah is faced with death every minute - so perhaps it was appropriate as well.

What a terrific book. Truly worthy of being a National Book Award honoree. I have recommended it to many in the short time since I finished it and I'll be looking for more like this - I read that Mette Harrison might be another match if I enjoyed this. It will be hard to find and equal!