Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Like many of you, I saw The Memory Keeper's Daughter on Lifetime back in April -- I knew the basic plotline that a doctor in the 1960s delivers his own twins and he sends one of them away because she has Down Syndrome. Well, the movie truly touched me and I was a heap of tears when my husband came home from work that night. I can still even remember the images of Norah burning the photos after David's death, Caroline fighting for Phoebe in the Board of Education hall and the final reunion. Usually books are better than the movie version, but not in this case. The book felt too heavy in some places and too light in others. Kim Edwards went overboard with describing sycamore trees and hands, but she didn't spend enough time with Paul after he learns he has a twin sister. Edwards places far too much emphasis on David's turning point (p.17) when he chooses to give Phoebe away ("The silence was so deep and encompassing that he felt himself floating to a new height, some point above this room and then beyond, where he was one with the snow and where this scene in the room was something unfolding in a different life"). Could a dead baby really cause this much guilt? Could Norah have lied to David about birth control and had another baby? Could Norah have dug up Phoebe's "grave" on Dr. Bentley's property. (by the way, did Dr. Bentley know the secret?)

As a first novel, The Memory Keeper is pretty good, but there were some plot holes. My book club and I were wondering why didn't David not tell Norah they had twins -- why say anything at all? She didn't know she was carrying twins and she didn't remember much of the birth. Also, I found it so false that Norah couldn't find Paul in Europe after David died -- come on, now! and Paul didn't seem as affected that he just lost his dad.

Edwards uses 3rd person point of view with 4 viewpoints: David, Norah, Caroline and Paul. David is by far the most complex and well-drawn. He does evolve as a character and realizes all of the wrong he did, when he thought he was doing right. Also, Edwards did a very nice job of characterizing Phoebe and not making her a stereotype, although she did say she was chubby quite a few times.

Many times the novel took turns that no one could predict and there were places where the characters could have committed suicide (Norah with the car exhaust, Paul with the train, David with the cliff), but nothing horrible happened. I also felt the plotline of Rosemary and Jack was superflous -- the movie cut them out entirely, as they did with Doro and Leo.

This is a memorable read and an excellent book club book when you discuss it with enthusiastic people! 3 out of 4 stars.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reading with the Kakalak Poets and Artists

Last Saturday, 10/18, I brought my family to the Kakalak Reading in Greensboro in the Barnes & Noble in the Friendly Shopping Center. Over 50 people showed up and it was great fun finally meeting Richard Allen Taylor, one of the co-editors who had told me earlier this year that my poem, "Domestic Duties" had been selected for the 2008 Anthology. Poets read their contribution in the book and artists presented their work.
My son, Daniel, (he's 6) took over 40 photographs of the event and here's a good one he took of me reading my poem.
Richard and his team have one last reading in Charleston, SC at the Blue Bicycle Book Shop on King Street on Nov. 1st -- wish I could go, but it's too far. I'll be in Charleston in January, though, researching a story I'm doing for Sandlapper magazine.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

West End Poets Weekend

Here I am performing my poetry last Saturday
(Oct. 11) at the West End Poets Weekend Festival in Carrboro, NC. I performed with Joanna Catherine Scott, Maureen Sherbondy and David Need. Thank you so much to Allie Hansen and Kim Andrews, from the Carrboro Rec and Parks Dept, who made the Festival happen. We performed at the DSI Theater in the Carr Mill Complex off of Weaver Street. It was the first time I had been there and it was a great space!

Hope to come back to the Festival next year!

Alice Workshops

Here I am giving a presentation on "How to Be a Perfect Workshop Leader (or perfect workshop participant) a few weeks ago at my Coffee & Contacts: Power Networking for Women group in N. Raleigh. We meet at the Stone Wolf Coffee Shop in the Health Trax Center off of Six Forks Rd.
I spoke on the planning, PR, registration, presentation and follow-up skills needed to conduct a perfect workshop, as well as how to make yourself an invaluable workshop participant. Number one thing? Get to the workshop on time!!

I'll do more of these workshops either in November or in the spring for different groups. Stay tuned!

The Shack Book Review

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
My favorite nun, Sister Mary Margaret Weber, recommended this book to me and then the very next day there was a story about William P. Young and his book in our paper, the News and Observer. Sister Mary Margaret and I work together on programs for her center: A Place for Women to Gather and on Monday she held a book discussion about The Shack. What I took away from this book was the idea of forgiveness. God tells Mac, the main character, that he needs to forgive his daughter's murderer, but not forget what he did. I liked this, since this concept still makes the wrongdoer accountable. Another idea that I gleaned from this book was the idea of relationship and the absence of hierarchy. God wants to have a relationship with us -- it's not one-sided. Lyn, one woman in the group said, "It's like chips and salsa in a Mexican restaurant: you don't ask for them, but they are always there. And when you eat them all, the server brings you more." This is a great analogy describing God's love and presence. Another idea that I will carry away is the notion of God's image. I guess I don't have an image of God. To me, he or she is like the Force in Star Wars -- a Spirit, always moving, kind, caring, forgiving, creative and with a strong sense of humor. But to others who have a strong sense of God's or Jesus's image, The Shack may shock you a little bit.

Young says some smart things in the book when he discusses the evil in the world and how it emerged from man's independence after the Garden of Eden. We also learn that evil, as well as good, is subjective.

I was curious about this book since it was first a self-published book and as an editor, I wanted to see if it was "ready for prime time." I'd say mostly. The middle part of the book could have bit cut down and the campsite scenes needed to be scenes so we were there in the moment. Instead, they were told in summaries.

Read this book to affirm your beliefs or to learn a different spiritual point of view -- you'll be glad you did.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Zero Degrees at First Light Review (Poetry Book)

Zero Degrees at First Light Zero Degrees at First Light by Christine, Potter

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Every poem in Christine Potter’s first book of poetry, Zero Degrees at First Light, contains some form of light or some object that is fused with light from the moon to windows to chandeliers. Her poems evoke nature, music, family, a 200-year old house and high school teaching. She also has a gift with sounds, especially ending vowels. All of her chosen poems evoke her world and we see the magic in each of the small moments she creates with craft and care. Her skills lie in her remarkable first lines, which then take her leading narrative into fresh paths and angles that the reader is not expecting. She strikes a mostly serious tone in her poems, but then flashes of her humor are evident her two sonnets, one about the closing of her favorite sushi restaurant: "On the Closing of Ichi-Riki, Nyack, NY (Where I Have Eaten for Twenty Years" and the other about teaching 9th graders: "On Teaching Romeo and Juliet for the Sixteenth & Final Time."

For instance, in the poem, “To My Husband, Who Dreamed of Tidal Waves as His Father Was Dying” starts off with

I think of your father born, instead,
in a hospital I have never visited: bright high windows,

Then the poem moves in another direction as old age is likened to a sunset, and not to waves and we discover, “Everything but light lies.”

The poem ends on the image of stars, “silent as new ice and perfect, perfect –”

She also believes in the circuitous nature of time and she interprets time effectively in her poem, "Developing Prints, Age 13"

when I'm twenty-two, I will meet you on a commuter train
and you will be married to a bullfigter and tell me
that giving birth feels like having your heart pulled out.

As a reader we're in the present and then we're whisked away to the future, so we possess a fuller picture of the speaker's emotional journey.

She also jumps around in the time in the poem, "Chintz Couch":

Years later, in antique stores, I will find couches
like the one we cast off, but they will be strangers
who whisper the ends of stories I can't imagine,
prayers with the wrong words, from strange religions.

Another example of her time folding is in "Sleeping in an Empty House"

We don't know yet the chimney leaks creosote behind the walls,
how the wiring, too, could lose us this place.
We haven't seen the single, perfect beam, half-covered with bark

I look forward to reading more of Christine Potter's poetry complete with her pitch perfect ear and boundless imagination.

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