If I Am Missing or Dead

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A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation

by Janine Latus

This emotionally harrowing book tells the tragic tale of Amy and Janine Latus, two sisters that shared a childhood and adulthood surrounded by abusive men. Latus’s story begins with her early childhood, a grossly inappropriate father and her innocent introduction to games of the opposite sex. This naive beginning quickly spirals into something much darker and insidious and she spends the remainder of the book detailing her emotionally and physically abusive relationships, including her own marriage.

What Latus doesn’t realize during this time is her sister Amy is fighting her own battles in another state. Amy’s struggle will ultimately end with her death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. Latus strives for a deeper understanding, for both herself and her slain sister, of why they gravitate towards men who mean them harm.

Latus dictates this haunting tale with grace and courage. I cried for her loss, for her mother, and for all the women out there that continue to live in this type of situation. Large stack of books.

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September 14, 2007. biography, memoir. 1 comment.

The Mistress’s Daughter: A Memoir

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by A.M. Homes

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a voracious reader.  I especially enjoy an in-depth look into another person’s life, which is why I enjoy memoirs as well as a multitude of blogs.   I think writing a memoir would be a gigantic undertaking.  Where to begin?  What to tell?  What to leave out?  Here the novelist A.M. Homes recounts the story of meeting her birth parents 31 years after they gave her up for adoption and her quest to research both her adoptive and biological genealogy.

Homes’s birth mother, Ellen,  seems to suffer from some personal issues, telling her daughter, “You should adopt me and take good care of me.”  She stalks Homes, shows up at readings unannounced and becomes offended when Homes pulls away.  Her birth father isn’t much better, asking to meet her in hotels, asking her to submit to a DNA test, promising to introduce her to his family and then later refusing to speak with her.  Homes begins the long and arduous task of researching family lineage, learning she is eligible to join the DAR but then not being able to as her birth father will not provide the results of the paternity test to prove she is his child.

Mid-way through the book I felt it became a little muddled down by all of the historical names and events discovered during the genealogy dig.  Though fascinating, these veered from true heart of the story being told.  Homes wraps up the book with a chapter about her adoptive grandmother and her own journey to motherhood.

An interesting and touching read.  Medium stack of books.

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August 20, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.

White House Nannies

True Tales From the Other Department of Homeland Security

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by Barbara Kline

Do I read anything but memoirs anymore? Sheesh. Kline jumps around a lot and it took me awhile to make it to the end of this book. However, it was worth the time if you would like a bird’s eye view of how the wealthy and elite raise their children. I’m not very aware of the Washington scene, so I didn’t recognize a lot of the names dropped. The book provides not only a wee bit of gossip, but also plenty of insight into how parents view their nannies, their reluctance to pay fairly for the work, and the difficulty of juggling a career with children.

Read it if you have an obsession with how the other half lives. Medium stack of books.

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April 18, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.

I Feel Bad About My Neck

And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

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by Nora Ephron

I’m fairly certain this book is aimed at a slightly older demographic than myself, but I still felt compelled to read it and at only 137 pages, it didn’t take that long. In her dry, witty way Ms. Ephron shares with us her thoughts on getting older, personal maintenance, apartments and cookbooks. I loved the chapter titled “I Hate My Purse” about “the obligations of a demanding and difficult accessory.” The end of the book derails a bit with a chapter titled “What I Wish I’d Known”, a list of advice gleaned from her experiences. It ends with a final chapter on death and funerals, a melancholy tune.

It would make a nice gift for your mom. Medium stack of books.

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April 17, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.

Baby Love

Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence

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by Rebecca Walker

This book takes you on the pregnancy journey, with all of its ups and downs and in-betweens. Rebecca Walker is the daughter of Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and has grown up thinking of children as optional. The journal begins with a call from her doctor’s office informing her that she is pregnant and ends with the birth of her child. Her chronicle of worries, fears, guilt and medical questions brought back a lot of memories from my own pregnancy. Walker’s voice resonated deeply with me.
I didn’t agree with everything she had to say, but that just makes the story a little more interesting. “I’m still a whole human being with needs. I’m an equal partner in this baby equation.” Maybe you feel that way during pregnancy, but the mother is not an equal partner. The mother is the mother, the fighter, the protector, the provider. Maybe I’ve just forgotten what it felt like to not yet be responsible for another life. I think the changes that come with childbirth force your own wants and sometimes even needs to take a backseat for a bit. I do recall struggling mightily with the thought that I wasn’t the most important person in the world anymore. What about what I want? It doesn’t matter all that much when you have a screaming infant to take care of.

I can totally agree with this statement: “Which was that the myth of blissful motherhood was just that, a myth, and the reality was much more banal.” Everyday motherhood is much more about the crumbs, sippy cups, dirty clothes and dishes than it is about the transcendent epiphanies when we realize our true reason for being. We spend hours, days and months searching out the glorious moments to hold onto until the next one comes along.

A lot of the book focuses on Walker’s difficult relationship with and estrangement from her mother. I was shocked at her mother’s lack of empathy or caring for her only child. “She writes that she has been my mother for thirty years and is no longer interested in the job.” I cannot imagine ever saying those words to your child. But Rebecca does not let this obstacle stand in the way of her ten year dream of becoming a mother.

“I feel as if the self I knew is fading away, and I have no idea who is coming to take her place.” I still feel this way at times. It is as if going through the process of having a child breaks you down into your most basic parts and they have to be put back together again. You aren’t sure if they will be put back the same way and you’re not sure you want them to be.
“The fact is that when you almost die so that someone else can live, you become a much larger human being.” Very well written and thought provoking. Large stack of books.

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April 16, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.

Miss American Pie

A diary of love, secrets and growing up in the 1970’s

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by Margaret Sartor

An interesting and candid look back at the author’s upbringing in Montgomery, Louisiana from age twelve to eighteen. Gleaned from diaries, notebooks and letters, she covers a variety of topics that are all-important during those teenage years, including hairstyles, boys, faith, drugs, drinking, family relationships, cheerleader tryouts and sex. Throw in some evangelical Christianity, a gay best friend, desegregation and starting your period and it makes for one heck of an adolescence.

It made me recall a time in my own life when the worst thing you could think of to call somebody was a “pissbutt”. Seeing as how I spawned a girl child, it will serve me well to remember those sometimes ordinary (“It rained today.”) and also agonizing (It’s scary to face the fact that I’m changing and becoming a person that’s all my own.”) years.

I liked this book a lot, perhaps because as a youngster I, too rode horses, was a huge tomboy and one of my best friends was a boy. It was a quick read, telling just enough to interest you in what was going on, but not so much that you felt overwhelmed with mundane details. Large stack of books.

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April 15, 2007. memoir. Leave a comment.