Friday, Nov 19, 2010
Carole Barrowman is a professor, author and book reviewer. She reads a lot. This month she is recommending books you can settle down for the day with or perhaps give as gifts.
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
This gripping memoir by the “Ally McBeal” and “Arrested Development” star (she’s also married to Ellen Degeneres) is brutally honest and incredibly compelling. De Rossi writes that “I didn’t decide to become anorexic, It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude…’ At one point she weighed 82 pounds. She was dying. This isn’t a typical memoir book about the glamour of Hollywood and it’s also not a self-help book either. The book focuses on de Rossi’s journey; there’s no recovery tips other than her message to be balanced, healthy and honest in your life choices. What it is about is, though, is de Rossi’s desire to be a star and how she was shaped by a destructive “Hollywood thin” ideal, by staying in the closet as a lesbian, and how she her used her weight and her body image as the only things she could control. At one point, she describes exercising in high heels to get a more strenuous work out, and at her anorexia’s most extreme she kept her calorie intake to 300 a day. If you are in a mother/daughter book club, I’d highly recommend this riveting book.
Laws of Attraction by Allison Leotta (this is one of my picks this month in my mystery column that’ll be in this Sunday’s Journal Sentinel).
The sad statistic that “over 80% of victims of domestic violence” stay with their partners shapes this thriller’s plot, which explores the complicated nature of domestic abuse and the too often fatal consequences. The author is an attorney with the US Attorney’s domestic violence office so this book is really authentic in its tone and legal details. Like the author, the main character, Anna Curtis, prosecutes domestic abuse for the US Attorney’s office in Washington DC. She’s smart and sexy, but not very savvy and a little naive. When Curtis’ first case goes tragically wrong, she has to face her own violent past–the choices she made then and how they’re influencing the ones she’s making now.
The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
This darkly detailed historical novel will transport you back to colonial America in the late 1670s where you’ll get thoroughly lost in Martha’s life, a servant on her cousin’s Massachusetts’ farm. The novel’s a bit raw in the details of every day farm life during this period (slaughtering of animals, the scourge of disease etc.). Martha’s twenty and already considered a “spinster’ in the farming community. Early in the book, she’s rescued from an attack of wolves by the handsome farm hand (who, natch, has a mysterious past which makes up for a major part of the sub-plot). They fall in love, but discover that there are other wolves lurking in the surrounding countryside.
The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy
This book is also a historical novel with a strong, honest (not sentimental) love story. It’s set primarily in New York after WWII. The main character, Sara, who over the course of the book rises from being a beginning copy-writer at LIFE magazine to becoming one of the magazine’s most famous contributors is a really likeable heroine. Sara’s life and loves are the focus of the plot, but it encompasses all the major historical events of the period, including McCarthyism and the cold war. I discovered this book at the airport in London this summer and was so glad I was on an international flight. I skipped the movie and kept reading.