Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter’s novel, Annabel, explores the physical, emotional, and social ramifications of what is a rare and seldom-discussed circumstance.  Set in a rural, rustic outpost of Canada’s Labrador province, the novel opens in 1968 with the birth of Treadway’s and Jacinta’s first child.  Attended by a midwife and two close friends, the delivery is a smooth one, but upon laying the infant upon its mother’s breast, midwife Thomasina notices something peculiar. Beneath the child’s small penis and single testicle lies a vaginal opening.  Far from sensationalizing the intersexed phenomena, Winter’s tale draws the reader more towards empathy than fascination or shock.  When Jacinta is torn between establishing normalcy for her infant via a surgery to correct ambiguous genitalia (all factual and standardized in real-life cases of intersex births), and the desire to let her child, both son and daughter, develop unmarred, the reader is compelled to imagine what his or her own decision would be.  The story progresses beautifully as Wayne (so named after the “corrective” intervention) grows and struggles with a duality he doesn’t understand. Fearing societal reaction Treadway and Jacinta never reveal the true nature of their child to anyone, not even Wayne himself.  Perhaps they would have continued to remain silent, but at age 14 Wayne develops strange symptoms and requires medical intervention.  Thomasina, returned after having spent several years abroad, then reveals to Wayne the reason for the pains in his abdomen, his “unnatural” budding breasts, and the daily medication (explained to Wayne as necessary for treating a blood disorder) he has taken since he was an infant. Readers have no choice but to sympathize with Wayne and struggle to wrap their minds around what would be a baffling and life-changing revelation (Wayne’s medical intervention at 14 revealed yet another stunning secret).  If I read another novel only half as well-written as Annabel this month, I will consider myself very fortunate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Authority is the second in the Southern Reach series by Jeff VanderMeerIn the first book, Annihilation, four women with various specialties were sent on an expedition into Area X, and only the biologist survived.  Now she has returned to a compound overseen by a government agency dealing with Area X.  The new director, John Rodriques, known as "Control,"  has a reputation for getting to the truth wherever he is sent.  What he finds are locked drawers, blocked closets, and seemingly useless and possibly harmful experimentsSome staff are hostile, and others appear to be hiding information.  Office politics or the effect of Area X? When questioned, the biologist (who says she is NOT the biologist) responds to most  questions with " I don't remember."  What happened to the director before Rodriques?  If the biologist was the only survivor of the last expedition, why are the surveyor and the anthropologist found living in their homes?  Some questions from Annihilation are answered, others are raised. This is a totally different book than Annihilation, which was intriguing,mysterious and filled with foreboding.  This is filled more with frustration because of the staff nonacceptance of Control and the inability of the biologist to give them any answers.  Are they both being manipulated by Area X?  There is a great twist at the end but it leaves us with a sense of impending doom.  Hopefully the third book Acceptance will begin where this ended, and answer some of our questions.  Somehow though I doubt it!

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

This young adult novel is centered around sixteen year-old Emery Jackson who is the fat, black sheep of her semi-famous and privileged family. Emery has a strong personality and gives this story humor and heart. Her model mother and workout obsessed father encourage her to sign up for a reality show based on Emery losing fifty pounds in fifty days, titled Fifty Pounds to Freedom.

After reluctantly agreeing to film the show and shed the weight, she discovers how messed up her family truly is and how self-centered her mother and sister could be. Her boyfriend, Ben, has always been supportive of her and is the only source of self-confidence in her life. The creators of the show work hard to make sure that Emery loses the weight but also cause drama in her life with her family and her boyfriend. After realizing the horrible truths of the show and her family, Emery makes a decision that is completely unexpected.

This book was a quick and entertaining read. Emery is a character that many people can relate to with her search for confidence and her journey to becoming empowered. The ending caught me completely off-guard and it was disappointing and left too many questions for me to feel satisfied. Overall, this is a fun read, especially for sassy, young women looking for a feel-good story.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Falling to Earth

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood is the 2014 Carroll County on the Same Page selection. Set in 1925 in the small fictional town of Marah, Illinois, the novel focuses on the Graves family. Amid the destruction and devastation piled on the town by the "Tri-State Tornado of 1925," the Graves family survives unscathed. The Graves house wasn't touched while neighbors saw theirs blown to ruins. The Graves children were home sick from school so were not there when the school building crumpled on top of many youngsters. The family loyalty, revenge, and jealousy, and deftly leads readers on a path through the tornado's aftermath. Multiple copies of Falling to Earth are available at all three county libraries (Delphi, Flora, and Camden). You're cordially invited to come to a book discussion to share your thoughts. These will be held July 16 at 10:30 am at the Flora Monroe-Twp Public Library, July 25 at 9 am at the Delphi Public Library, and July 30 at 7 pm at the Camden Jackson-Twp Public Library.
business, Graves Lumber, was unscathed by the storm and in fact will profit largely from all the rebuilding that must occur afterward. What does this mean? It means that the Graves family become the targets of everyone's anger, resentment, and sorrow over their own personal losses. Southwood's beautifully written narrative explores the universal emotions of guilt, compassion,

Friday, June 27, 2014

What Makes Olga Run?

 By Bruce Grierson

Olga Kotelko is a 91 year old masters track champion.  In most events she participates in, Olga must either compete with men of her age or in younger age divisions because there aren't always competing females in her category.
In this nonfiction book the author interviews and follows Olga to determine how she has managed to continue competing and winning in the track and field events.  Mr. Grierson becomes friends with Olga and is inspired by her drive and dedication.
Olga started running and track events at the age of 77, but as a 90 year old she drew the attention of the media.  The author became interested in discovering Olga's secret to her uncommon physical abilities at an age when many much younger have given up most physical challenges. Olga submitted to various physical tests such as an MRI, a muscle biopsy, and blood tests all in an attempt to pinpoint why Olga seems to age differently than an "average" person.  Is she physically superior or does her attitude play a part in her abilities?
As "Boomers" age, many look for ways to maintain their health, functionality, and independence.  Reading about Olga's amazing physical achievements as a 90 year old and beyond makes one believe that we may be able to defy conventional aging limitations.