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MAY 2019 BOOK MARKS - Lee Woodruff
Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of summer, or as my mother used to say, “Now you can officially wear white.” And while fashion rules have changed, one thing hasn’t. This is a day to honor all those who have served their country since our nation was founded. While the focus of this holiday is largely on the fallen, I’d like to suggest that we take a moment in between the BBQs, the pool parties and the family gatherings to think about those who have served and returned, many of whom bear the visible and invisible wounds of war. My friend Maria Shriver asked if would contribute an essay about our veterans to her Sunday Paper and my first piece (view here) appeared yesterday. Be sure to subscribe to her weekly missives if you don’t already. Her words and wisdom are a great way to start the week. And finally— May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I applaud the fact that we live in a time when people can have healthy conversations about treating mental illness as a disease. I wrote about gratitude after my own struggles with “complicated grief” and “ambiguous loss” in the June issue of “O” magazine. (view here) Here’s to each of us struggling with life’s curve balls. You are not alone. Independent Bookstore Pick: May is also college graduation month. Cue the mortar boards tossed in the air! That’s why this month’s featured bookstore is the Colgate University Bookstore in downtown Hamilton, NY. My alma mater knows how to set up a cozy shop, with employee recommendations as well as featured books by graduates and professors. The next time you are swinging through Central New York State, add picturesque Hamilton to your list of stops and grab a good read and stroll the town. Historical Fiction: City of Flickering Light by Juliette Fay Since the 1920’s and the dawn of the fledgling movie industry, the Hollywood lights have lured hopeful starlets West. The first moving pictures were called “the flickers,” and they gave birth to the Hollywood star system. But like many big dreams, this nostalgia is an illusion. Desperate to escape life in a travelling burlesque show, Irene Van Beck jumps off a moving train with two friends, determined to make her way in the silent film industry. But success doesn’t come easily in Hollywood. Poverty, prejudice and heartbreak lurk behind every corner, but it’s the friendships that will sustain these characters as they search for love and fame through the male-dominated world that can make or break the dreamers. Non-Fiction Memoir: From Scratch by Tembi Locke Tembi, an art history major and aspiring actress, is on an Italian semester abroad when she meets Saro, a handsome olive-skinned chef. The spark ignites and the relationship gets serious, but Saro’s traditional Sicilian family disapproves of him marrying a black American woman. The couple rejects his parent’s decision and they build a life together in Los Angeles as Tembi’s acting career begins to take off in film and TV. Adopting a daughter, the couple settles in to a family life full of love, food and hearth. And then the unthinkable happens. What comes next, and how Tembi must navigate life as a widow, brings a surprising upside that reminds us we were built to survive even the greatest heartbreaks. Writing with a poignancy that aches with loss, each chapter is laced with recipes, ingredients and culinary adventure. When Tembi brings her husband’s ashes home, the smells, sights and textures of Sicily form the backbone of her resilience as she breaks bread at her mother in law’s table. This book is your daily reminder to cherish what you have… even on the so-so days. Non-Fiction Memoir: Life After Suicide, Finding Courage, Comfort & Community After Unthinkable Loss by Jennifer Ashton, M.D. I’ve long admired Dr. Ashton’s smart and informative medical segments on Good Morning America, but it was with shock and sorrow that I learned of the death of her husband by suicide. Her story, written as part memoir, part comforting self-help, is also a survival guide for anyone who has been affected by suicide and loss. Ashton illuminates the stories of others, writing with searing prose about the most painful thing she has ever experienced. She and her husband had amicably agreed to end their marriage and life seemed to be headed in the right direction. Their family was navigating the future and their two children seemed to be handling it well. But mental illness is not rational. Like so many who ask “why?” in the wake of suicide, Ashton tortured herself by constantly rewinding the film loop in her head. What could she have done differently? How had she not noticed? Mental illness is a disease, just like cancer or kidney disease and we must begin to remove the stigma, provide support, information and comfort to those attempting to make sense of this senseless loss. This book is a wonderful place to start. Fiction: The Orchid Sister by Anne D. LeClaire What happens when you take a creepy spa that has figured out how to reverse aging and combine it with a missing sister, a Mexican witch and a handsome pilot? The relationship between two sisters forms the backbone of this debut novel that weaves between character and place but never lets up on the pedal with its twists and turns. Escape into this fun fiction and enjoy suspense, romance, intrigue and a host of other surprises. Fiction: Not Bad People by Brandy Scott Set in an Australian suburb, three friends celebrate the new year by lighting sky lanterns with their resolutions and wishes. A few minutes later there is a small plane crash and two victims, one a small boy, are pulled from the wreckage. Is there a connection between the women and the crash? What secrets, guilt, buried resentments and moral consequences will result from the aftermath? None of them are bad people. But sometimes, desperate …