Now that we’re into the dog days of summer, I’ve been taking full advantage of my backyard gazebo to put my feet up and tuck into one good book after another. I’ve just finished three books that I think are worth sharing in case you’re looking for titles.
When I started reading best-selling author Lisa Taddeo’s latest novel Animal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In fact, there were times I was tempted to put the book down but her excellent writing kept me engaged and intrigued and before I knew it, I’d finished it.
It’s the story of Joan, a woman in her late thirties who is psychologically damaged as the result of childhood trauma. It’s a bit of a psychological thriller. As a young woman, she copes with her dark past by sabotaging any chance she might have at love. She has troubled affairs with unavailable married men and uses her sexuality to further her career and personal standard of living.
Joan’s destructive behaviour results in a tragic incident early in the story that causes her to leave her life in New York City and head to Los Angeles in search of a mysterious woman called Alice. From an earlier life of expensive restaurant meals and gifts from her married lovers, she is reduced to living in a dilapidated cottage in the desert surrounded by equally damaged neighbours and troublesome coyotes. Her story makes for uncomfortable reading but it is undeniably a page-turner and it all makes sense at the end. But, do not skip to the end. Enjoy the journey.
For those not familiar with Eddie Izzard, he’s a British actor, comedian, and political activist who identifies as transvestite, or by the more current descriptive—trans-gender. Izzard was born in 1962. His father was an accountant with BP Oil. At the age of six, Eddie and his eight-year-old brother Mark were left motherless when their mother died of cancer. This was the most devastating and character-defining moment in his life. His father coped by packing the two boys off to a boarding school so at that young age they were deprived of both a mother and a father.
I was not all that familiar with Izzard so his book Believe Me, a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens was quite a revelation. He’s been a street performer, Shakespearean actor, comedian, and surprisingly, a marathon runner. He ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa to raise awareness for the causes of Nelson Mandella. He became a pilot to overcome his fear of flying. I wish there had been more about his political views but he does plan to run for a seat in the British parliament. If he wins, that would be a fascinating career to follow. I’m so glad I read this book. He’s a fascinating guy, or I guess I should say, person.
Over the winter I watched an interesting movie on television called And The Birds Rained Down. Based on a book by Quebec-based Canadian author Jocelyne Saucier, it was a touching story of three elderly men living in remote cabins in northern Ontario, enjoying their final years in the peace and quiet of northern forests, their lake, and nature. The movie was so sensitive to the issue of dying that I sought out any other books by Jocelyne Saucier and that’s how I found And Miles To Go Before I Sleep. Saucier seems to have a propensity and a gift for writing about death and preparing for the end of life.
This novel is the story of life in remote railroad communities in Northern Ontario, particularly the area around the unfortunately named town of Swastika, which still exists. When elderly Gladys disappears one day from the home she shares in Swastika with her troubled daughter, the community assumes she has gone to visit a friend or relative. As time passes, her disappearance sparks a search that results in the telling of her life story in the context of northern railroad communities. When Gladys was a child, her father taught school in a dedicated train car that travelled between remote communities on a rotating schedule. It would spend a couple of weeks in one community before moving on to the next and Gladys’s entire family moved in the train with their father according to his teaching schedule.
During her entire life, the trains have been the backbone of Gladys’s existence and as she nears the end of her life, she boards the train for what she anticipates will be her final journey. She is pursued on this journey by a succession of well-meaning people who unwittingly become her guides. And Miles To Go Before I Sleep is not only a fascinating end-of-life story but it’s an education in the importance of the railway in Northern Ontario in decades past. I enjoyed it very much and I think you will too.
If these books are not available in your local bookstore or library,
click on the links above or on the picture of the book to order from Amazon.
(Disclosure: I may receive a teeny, tiny commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks.
And, don’t forget to order my latest book on Amazon,
WE’RE NOT DEAD YET! by Lynda Davis