REVIEW: COUNT THE WAYS, BY JOYCE MAYNARD

Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s. She’s an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a red-headed son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted—summer nights watching Cam’s softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don’t make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.

Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam’s negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives—through the gender transition of one child and another’s choice to completely break with her mother—Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.

A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.

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I am a big fan of this author and couldn’t wait to dive into Count the Ways. Not only did I love it, I connected with the characters, the story, and felt so many emotions as I read. Even as the last page approached, I didn’t want it to end. And unlike some books, I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to any of them.

Eleanor and Cam were the kind of couple you wanted to root for, but it was apparent from the beginning that there would be no happy ending for them. I didn’t like Cam for the longest time, annoyed with how he played his “fun” dad role, contributing little to the household in money or actual effort. But when tragedy struck, I also wanted Eleanor to find forgiveness so they could continue.

But since that didn’t happen, the biggest loss, in my opinion, was how he let the children see him as the victim in the tale, and this view of events continued throughout.

Our story unfolds over decades and as time passes, the ebb and flow of life itself is shown to the reader, and I felt the sorrow, pain, and joy of their lives together and apart. A brilliant family story that earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: AMERICA’S RELUCTANT PRINCE, BY STEVEN M. GILLON

A major new biography of John F. Kennedy Jr. from a leading historian who was also a close friend, America’s Reluctant Prince is a deeply researched, personal, surprising, and revealing portrait of the Kennedy heir the world lost too soon.

Through the lens of their decades-long friendship and including exclusive interviews and details from previously classified documents, noted historian and New York Times bestselling author Steven M. Gillon examines John F. Kennedy Jr.’s life and legacy from before his birth to the day he died. Gillon covers the highs, the lows, and the surprising incidents, viewpoints, and relationships that John never discussed publicly, revealing the full story behind JFK Jr.’s complicated and rich life. In the end, Gillon proves that John’s life was far more than another tragedy—rather, it’s the true key to understanding both the Kennedy legacy and how America’s first family continues to shape the world we live in today.

 

When I think of the Kennedys, I am caught up in the myth of Camelot, but also struck by the numerous tragedies of their lives.

John, Jr., was a bright legacy of that family, but after his father’s assassination, followed by his uncle Robert’s murder, he had a stronger desire to find his own place in the world: his privacy, and his chance to carve out a different future than the political one. His magazine George did veer in the direction of politics, but with a difference. The fact that the magazine eventually closed down after his death did not change the fact that he was daring to be unique in his goals.

Sadly, a life cut short is always a tragedy, but with John’s death, the rest of us also feel the loss of a dream and a mythological legacy that was due us. The author does list the various accomplishments John had brought to the world, allowing a sense of some completion.

A book that offered up many details of a life and a legacy, America’s Reluctant Prince kept me engaged throughout. There was a lot of detail that bogged me down at times, but the book earned 4.5 stars.#2020ReadNonFic

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INTERIOR THOUGHTS: REMEMBERING NORA….

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I am a big fan of Nora Ephron.  Her writing, her movies, and her style.  Last night, as I watched the documentary Everything is Copy, I teared up, overcome by sadness, but then I smiled, and even laughed, as the story brought us moments of her life…memorable ones.

When the screen flashed with images and thoughts on her best-selling novel Heartburn (and the subsequent movie, which I also loved), I remembered that I had a hardcover copy of the book…but then I panicked.  Had it gone out with the donations bins?  Oh, no!

I found it…Yay!  And my book is in pristine condition…who knew?

 

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The novel, of course, is a fictionalized version of her second marriage to Carl Bernstein, of the famous Woodward & Bernstein journalistic team from the Washington Post, who exposed the Watergate fiasco, etc.

 

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What I loved most, in addition to the memories of her books and her movies, was how the story showed us, finally, a really happy marriage to her third husband, Nick Pileggi.  Some believed that the husband of Julia Childs portrayed in the film, Julie & Julia, was inspired by Nora’s husband Nick.

 

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I loved watching the documentary, and my final thoughts:  who can take up the mantle she left behind?  Who can women find to inspire them like Nora did?

Just the fact that I’m using her first name here is a reminder to me of how much her books, movies, and essays have infiltrated our minds and hearts.  Especially those of us who came up during the 70s, 80s, and beyond.  Those who sought role models in the world of books and movies.

What do you think?  Did she inspire you? 

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FROM THE INTERIOR: INTROS/TEASERS – “GOLDBERG VARIATIONS”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book has been on my TBR stacks for just a short time, which is an encouraging sign, right?  A sign that the stacks are gradually dwindling.

Goldberg Variations, by Susan Isaacs, is one I’m looking forward to, as I have been a fan of this author for many years, and the author of the thriller Shining Through.

 

 

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Intro:  (Gloria)

I am not one of those tedious people who feel compelled to speak in smiley faces.  Like:  Whenever a door closes, a window opens.   Of course they can never leave it at a lone, bubbly sentence.  No, gush must follow:  Gloria, truthfully, deep down, aren’t you thrilled it turned out this way?  You know, it’s always darkest before dawn.  But this…Oh, God, this is your moment!  You get to choose which of these three darling young people is worthiest to inherit your kingdom!  Isn’t it like some fairy tale come to life?

Don’t ask.

Okay, ask.  Here I am, pacing from room to room to room—and I am a woman of many rooms—trying to prepare myself for the onslaught.  A limo will be here any minute bringing three virtual strangers to invade my house.  All right, they are my grandchildren, but I barely know them.  Goldberg, Goldberg, and Goldberg.  Sounds like some shtick in a Marx Brothers movie.

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Teaser:  So you don’t have to waste time reading between the lines, let me be up front about what my Tragic Flaw is.  It is losing control and saying what I truly think.  And the worst part of it is, I know how dangerous and potentially destructive honesty can be for me.  (p. 10).

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Blurb:  At seventy-nine, Gloria Garrison must plan for the future of Glory, Inc., the beauty-makeover business that she has grown from zilch into an eleven-million-dollar-per-year bonanza. Gloria’s never been big on family, but she’s forced to contemplate her three grandkids as objects of her largesse.

There’s Daisy, a story editor for a movie studio; her brother, Matt, who does PR for a New York baseball team; and cousin Raquel, laboring away as a Legal Aid lawyer.

When Gloria sends plane tickets and a weekend invitation to Santa Fe, the cousins couldn’t be more surprised. But the visit holds an unexpected twist for Gloria, too. Always sassy, smart, and wickedly witty, Susan Isaacs is at her formidable best in a novel that is both hilariously funny and a deeply moving tale of family, faith, and discovery.

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What do you think?  Does it pique your interest?  Make you want to read more?

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