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Posts Tagged ‘bereavement’

Sometimes, you read a book that you love so much, you want to tell everybody you know to read it. This is one of those times.  This book is beautiful, sad, moving and funny.

The book is narrated by Enzo, a dog of indeterminate breed, who is on the eve of his death. He is not scared though, because he is convinced that he is going to be reincarnated as a man, and will finally be able to speak, and will be the proud owner of a pair of opposable thumbs.  Unlike many books where the narrator is an animal, this is not written as a comedy, although parts of it did make me laugh out loud.  

Enzo narrates his life, from the moment he was picked out of a litter of puppies by his master Denny, and a deep bond of love and loyalty was formed.

Denny meets Eve and they have a daughter, and for a while all is well with the family, but then a tragedy strikes them, and life starts to come apart at the seams.  Throughout all of Denny’s problems, Enzo is right there by his side.  He sees the sacrifices Denny makes, and how Denny has to put his dreams of becoming a champion race car driver to one side.

Enzo displays far more humanity than many of the humans in the book.  He is a deeply intelligent dog, who is frustrated by his inability to express his thoughts to the people around him.  He loves watching tv, and especially videos of Denny’s races.  He is certainly a beautifully drawn character, with an incredible soul.

Through his eyes, we also get to know Denny incredibly well (after all, someone’s dog sees that person at their highest and their lowest!) Denny was another extremely well portrayed character, but of course he is not the true hero in this tale!

The title is an allusion to Denny’s motor racing, which is a theme which runs throughout the book.  However, you certainly do not need to be a racing enthusiast to enjoy this book (I am not one, although I did learn some interesting facts about Formula One along the way)!

I also don’t believe that you need to be a dog lover to enjoy this read (although I am certainly doggie crazy).  This book was very moving indeed, and made me cry, but also made me smile through my tears.

After finishing it, I wished I had read it earlier, but simultaneously wished that I hadn’t read it yet, so that I still had that pleasure to come.  Highly recommended!

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is the second book in the Big Stone Gap series.  I really really liked it, just as I liked the first one. This book picks up 8 years after Big Stone Gap ended. Ave Maria and Jack Mac have been married for 8 years, and their daughter Etta (a delightful character) is growing up fast! However, it’s clear that the years between this book and the last one have brought tragedy and grief to Ave and Jack, which has had an effect on their marriage. Ave finds herself growing nervous when a predatorial woman comes to town, with her sights set firmly on Jack, and it isn’t long before rumours are flying around the small town of Big Stone Gap, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Etta struggles to decide what she wants out of life and marriage, and ends up going to Italy for the summer to see her Italian family. However, events in Italy take an unforeseen turn…

As before, the book is populated with eccentric and lovable characters. However, I think less time is focused on the supporting characters than in the first book of the series. This book does not suffer for that – Ave is a flawed but very likable character, and it is difficult not to root for her.  Jack and Eva are also entirely believable, and even at this stage of the series, the characters start to feel like old friends.

A lovely read – ideal for curling up with on a cosy Sunday afternoon!

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Quite simply, this film is amazing.  Jeff Bridges (my all time favourite actor) is Max Klein, a man whose worst fear becomes realised when he is in a plane crash. However, Max not only survives the crash, but also leads other survivors to safety.

Surviving the crash causes Max to feel invincible, and he believes that nothing can kill him.  This causes tension in his marriage, and between Max and his son, who are unable to understand Max’s new attitude.  The only person who Max is able to connect with is a fellow survivor from the flight, Carla, a woman whose blames herself for her baby dying in the crash.

I feel that Jeff Bridges should, at the very least, have been nominated for an Oscar for this movie – his performance is simply outstanding,  Rosie Perez, who played Carla, was in fact nominated.  Also marvellous were Tom Hulce as the mercenary lawyer representing Max and his late business partner, and Isabella Rossellini, who played Max’s wife, struggling to come to terms with the change in her husband.

I found myself totally immersed in the story and lives of these characters; the film is totally compelling.  The story itself was beautifully told, showing how extraordinary events can have an effect on people far beyond anything they could have imagined.  The isolation felt by the two main characters was almost palpable.

Some people apparently believe that Max actually represents Jesus in this film.  I mention this because it’s an interesting point of view; however, I don’t actually agree with it.  But the movie is open to interpretation, and I love movies that make you think – this is definitely one of them.

The ending of the movie is particularly outstanding, but to single out one scene is perhaps unfair (there are many wonderful and moving scenes in this film; another that comes to mind is the scene where Max deliberately crashes his car to prove to Carla that she could not have saved her child, and therefore was not to blame for the child’s death).  This is simply a terrific film throughout.  Highly recommended.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Peter Weir

Writers: Rafael Yglesias

Main cast: Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez, Tom Hulce

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This book is narrated by Nicky Dillon, a 12 year old girl, who when walking in the woods by her home in New Hampshire with her father, one wintry afternoon, comes across a newborn baby who has been abandoned.

Days later there is a knock at their door, and a young woman is standing there…

Nicky and her father are battling their own demons as they try to come to terms with the sudden deaths of Nicky’s mother and sister two years earlier, and have cut themselves off from the world since the tragedy.  However, the discovery of the baby has unforseen consequences, which force them to face people again.

The only detrimental thing I would say about this book (and I guess I am nitpicking here), is that I found it a little bit hard to empathise with the characters, but that did not really detract from my enjoyment.  However, for a storyline with such potential for some real exploration of the characters, this does feel like something of a missed opportunity.

However, there is plenty to recommend the book – it’s a real page turner, and a quick read despite the subject matter.  It definitely made me want to seek out more books by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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I don’t mind admitting that I was a little bit disappointed by this book.  Not that it wasn’t good – just that I expected more.  The book tells the story of two men, and the narrative switches from one to another throughout the book.  The first of the men is Moritz Daniecki, who fought in the Austro-Hungarian army and survives fighting in the Great War, only to become a POW in Siberia.  In 1917, determined to see the love of his life, Lotte, again, Moritz has to trek over the Russian Steppes, encountering danger and hardship along the way.  He does not even know if Lotte is still alive, or if she still wants to be with him, but the memory of her love is enough to make him keep going.

Leo Deakin wakes in a South American hospital in 1992, having survived the bus crash which killed his girlfriend Eleni.  Leo sinks into a depression, from which it seems that there is no way out, but he is about to make a discovery which may change his life forever.

The connection between these two men is not revealed at first, although I guessed it very early on.  Although the book is an easy enough read, at times I did find myself on the verge of getting bored with it, and even getting slightly irritated.  That’s not to say that it isn’t well written…I just found it very difficult to engage with the characters.

That said, the characters are certainly well drawn.  I preferred Moritz’s story to that of Leo, and felt that the cold and tough conditions which Moritz had to endure were very well described.  Had the entire book been about his story, I would have enjoyed it far more.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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