Saturday, June 29, 2013

W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog's Purpose, A Dog's Journey...and Emory's Gift

Today's featured author is W. Bruce Cameron: A Dog's Purpose, A Dog's Journey, and Emory's Gift. When I find an author whose writing particularly resonates with me, I adore reading all his/her books that I believe will truly interest me. (Reading time is limited after all!) This is why I have now read all three of these books. In addition, Mr. Cameron is a wonderful human being, willing to take time to speak with a small book club in the midwestern U.S. about what I would consider his most daring publication to date, Emory's Gift.

I don't believe there is a substitute for the enlivening and endearing experience of speaking directly with an author regarding their work, period! It's such a thrill and can be so enlightening! Plus, as a bonus, for me at least, it makes any future reading of that person's work an even more personal experience; there seems to be a stronger connection between the two of us. I consider this similar to the experience of visiting a historical site; every time I encounter a reference to it in the future, I feel a real-life personal connection to what I'm reading, seeing, or hearing. Ah, but I digress...

Of the four book club members who read this book: now her absolute favorite book of all time for one, and one of her favorite books ever for the other three. Rarely does a book rate so highly for all of us! This book can easily be read by those of varying age levels, but I think it might be particularly well liked by an adolescent male, since it is a "coming-of-age" story. That said, it obviously works for older folks as well (30's, 50's, 60's, and 70's), as demonstrated by our "Borders" Book Club!

I don't believe there is any one "right" interpretation of this story, and that is what makes great literature, in my opinion. The reader's own unique perspective determines the specific meaning of the story. I can't imagine a reader unable to relate to Charlie's challenges, especially his interpersonal and familial relationships: with his father, the object of his first "crush"/love, his first "girlfriend," his "friends," neighbors, community members... These characters are so vivid, I felt they were in the room with me as I kidding! Reading this book was an unexpectedly deep experience for me. I highly recommend it! I was reminded of Jean Craighead George's book Charlie's Raven, not just because of the same name for the protagonist, either! :)
This is Smokie...

And this is John...
A bit of prelude to the other two reviews... Until I underwent NAET treatments ( I was unable to have a fur-bearing animal in my house due to allergies/sensitivies. However, several years before my discovery of this therapy, I did find ONE (yes, ONE!) kitten to which I did not react at all, and that is my Smokie. She was 6 weeks old and could literally stand in my hand when a friend brought her to me that afternoon in May 14+ years ago. I can "read" her body language and facial expressions and have often she perhaps my grandmother come back to me, to still serve as my source of comfort in life? Or could this be my father whom I never met and learned just last year died over 15 years ago? I don't know...but I can tell you that my life sans Smokie could never be as fulfilled and rewarding as it is now and has been for those 14+ years. Between her and my kind, caring, loving, and respectful husband, I am grateful to be so fortunate every single day. (Labeled pics included so you don't confuse the two! lol)

And now to the first of the two series books: A Dog's Purpose. This was first recommended to me as an absolute must-read by one of my coworkers at Borders (worked there for 4 "dream" job...<sigh>). Admittedly, it was another few years before I made it, but so glad I did take the time to read this! I refuse to post a "summary" of the can get that from many different sources, so I offer my own reactions and feelings to my readings. Although this book moved me to tears several times, that was not the main purpose, and it was not my overriding reaction. It is poignant, heartwarming, at times suspenseful, and offers some laugh-out-loud moments! Personally, I believe in reincarnation, so this book reinforced my belief that each lifetime provides learning experiences that benefit us in the development of our soul. I think I felt Cameron must share in these beliefs, but surprisingly for me, that is not the case! I read that this idea just came to him as a "What if..." I believe you will benefit greatly from reading of this one dog's adventures to discover his purpose in life and the fact that he is able to so aptly help his humans to discover their own purpose(s)! (My goodreads review:

All of the above paragraph would apply to A Dog's Journey as well. I admit to being a bit hesitant that this book might well seem like a "repeat" of A Dog's Purpose, but I was very pleasantly surprised and rewarded with a new story with different twists and turns. That same virtue of loyalty abounds in this book as it did in the first, and this time, "Buddy" (Each lifetime/reincarnation elicits yet a different name...but it's the same soul!) is companion to Clarity, who encounters many life challenges. I specifically connected to this story through Clarity's mother, Gloria, who in many ways resembled my own mother...what a challenge to endure and survive, then try to thrive throughout a lifetime of such narcissism and negativity! I was reminded of one of the themes from Jacqueline Sheehan's Lost and Found, another author and book I really love! Ah, the healing power of furry four-footed companions! Trust me, these two books are great reads, especially if you love, have loved, or think you might ever invite a dog (or cat or ??) into your life! (My goodreads review:

In summary, if you're at all interested in any or all of these books, my recommendation is begin reading one. I seriously doubt you'll be in the least disappointed! 
I certainly was not, and am anxious for some more!
Have you read any of these three? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Book 2 of the Literary Wives Series

The pace of this book definitely picked up for me after the first 125 pages or so. Hadley was not a very exciting person on her own, in fact, that was her main attraction to Ernest--his excitement and exciting behaviors! I particularly appreciated the details McLain included about some of the authors of that time period in Paris. For example, I had no idea Ezra Pound had actually taught (and been dismissed from) a small private college in Indiana, my home state! That prompted some research on my part! 

I was so much reminded of James Redfield's theory of "marriage"; that such relationships are truly "spiritual" and should continue only so long as each person is receiving the spiritual nourishment and foundation they need from the relationship. Once that is gone, this "spiritual relationship" should be dissolved. I thought perhaps this was how Ernest felt; although he needed the "grounding" Hadley provided, he was now "moving on and up" and felt he needed someone who could better provide a more "social" partnership among the "partying' couples with whom he now associated. Though once I learned Pauline planned to move him to Piggot, Arkansas, that illusion was banished! I seriously doubt the same type of social scene was available anywhere in Arkansas as in Paris! I kept wondering what spiritual gain Hadley ever received; it appeared to me little to none, overall. 

Then we get to the real shocker for me--polygamy! Yes, Ernest heartily believed his life would be complete if all of them lived together, and although Hadley allowed this for a short time, she finally made the decision to divorce herself from Ernest's life. I sometimes wonder if males are just hard-wired differently from females. I cannot imagine being one of multiple females in a relationship with one male; polygamy just isn't a valid workable concept for me, and rather implies that none of the females/"wives" could possibly be fulfilled by such an arrangement, rather only sublimated to minor roles in making certain the male is fulfilled. Personally, just one relationship at a time for me! I personally believe multiple partners in my life would make me feel duplicitous and dishonest. Although Hadley had played that type of role from the beginning with Ernest, she was unwilling to share her man, child, and daily life with another woman. Finally something made her realize just how insignificant she really was to Ernest, and that she deserved better! Although Ernest did give her some financial security by assigning royalties from  The Sun Also Rises to her. I can only hope her second marriage proved to be much happier. It was not lost on me, however, that Pauline was more than capable financially, and with her money, Ernest wouldn’t have to work to meet living expenses (as he had with Hadley), but could devote himself totally to writing.

I felt Ernest exemplified what I consider to be a truly "creative" personality: a roamer, always traveling, moving around, exploring, etc. It seems many artistic people find it difficult to "put down roots," as they say... Perhaps that is how they maintain a high level of creativity, by never feeling stuck... Although if it hadn’t been for Hadley’s inheritance, Ernest might never have made it to Paris in the first place!

I am glad I read this book and I appreciated the insights I gained about Hemingway and his first/"Paris" wife. I am anxious to learn more by reading Therese Anne Fowler's Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. I have been reading Fitzgerald’s novels and short stories and now will begin to read Hemingway's works also.

There are 4 books chosen: (1) May: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, (2) June: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, (3) July: A Reliable Wife by Richard Goolrick, (4) August: The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. Everyone who wishes to read these books and join the discussion is invited to do so. 

The questions to consider:
Question 1: What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Question 2: In what way does this woman define "wife" -- or in what way is she defined by "wife"?

I definitely felt Hadley believed her role as wife was to be supportive and provide care and unconditional love to her husband. There was no real belief that she should develop her own talent(s) beyond caring for Ernest, and then Bumby once he was born. At one point Ernest explains that in order to write he must be alone, but then that he must "...leave that place and come back here and talk to you. That makes it all stick." Hadley responds that she "thinks" she "gets it," but Ernest responds, "Maybe no one can know how it is for anyone else." I would agree that no one person can ever know exactly how another person feels/thinks all the time, let alone understand. Though I don't believe it was ever possible for Ernest to feel truly understood; most likely an outgrowth of his family's lack of acknowledgement and/or understanding; I doubt any one person truly satisfied him for long. However, he does note in his last letter to Hadley, “You’ve changed me more than you know, and will always be a part of everything I am. That’s one thing I’ve learned from this. No one you love is ever truly lost.” So again, as with Alice in American Wife I felt Hadley completely buried herself and her needs in submitting to Ernest, whatever he wanted, needed, etc. He definitely called the shots. Though Hadley did at least continue playing the piano, so she got some fulfillment, unlike Alice.

Hadley had never been in a serious relationship before Ernest and I truly felt many times that given their age difference (8 years, as I recall), she rather felt that nurturing was the role of a wife, especially with Ernest. There were times I almost believed she was "mothering" him and that he would definitely resent Hadley ever diverting some of her attention from him to raise a child. As Ezra Pound warned her, "I think it would be a terrible mistake if you tried to utterly domesticate him," believing the baby would change everything, her expectations, etc. She admits that "about this one thing he had been dead right." While Hadley felt she could be both a mother and Ernest's wife, I believe that Ernest felt undivided attention to him was necessary, though only when he desired it, heedless of the many hours of “alone time” Hadley had to fill.Overall, I had more respect for Hadley than I had for Alice.