Category Archives: Marriage and family

Revisiting Jane Eyre

I first read Jane Eyre when I was 11, and I really liked it. Although, I never liked or forgave Edward Rochester for locking his first wife in the attic. I actually didn’t want Jane to marry him, but the author and her character didn’t see it that way.

I still have that 1940 copy of Jane Eyre. I  kept it because of the illustrations and that my neighbor gave it to me. .She had given us some books she didn’t want anymore, and it was in the bag. At the time, I didn’t know about Charlotte Brontë, her family, or where she came from. That would change a couple of years later, when I did a book report on the author. I was to encounter the novel several more times in high school, and by then I got bored. But I still love the story in all its forms over the years.

One of the latest, Reader, I Married Him, is a short story collection created and edited by historical novelist Tracy Chevalier. She contributes one story in the collection.  She was inspired to organize an anthology after visiting the Brontë family home and parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire.

Whether sticking closely to the novel or giving the story a modern and very contemporary viewpoint, each of these women–very well known international authors–gives a creative, diverse, and unique interpretation to Jane’s famous line: “Reader, I married him.”  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sympathize, be outraged. perhaps, or maybe curious about how life turns out for the characters. I couldn’t help but think of Shakespeare, too: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”




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Filed under Classics, Marriage and family, Short Stories, Women's Fiction

Comet’s Tale–What A Charmer!

Steven D. Wolf was visiting the farmhouse of a greyhound rescuer, intent on adopting one. After admiring a pack of them racing around the land,  he instantly chose a playful female. “Let’s see how she does inside,” said the handler. Wolf entered the living room and sat on the couch, struggling to get comfy. Once he was settled, he stowed his canes out of the way. He launched into his many questions about adoption–petting the dog.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a dog regarding him steadily from behind the wood-burning stove. Just about ready to sign the papers on the dotted line, he felt a sudden thump beside him. A brindled greyhound had hopped up next to him and put her head gently in his lap, and kept burrowing closer. Her fur was gray, but her stripes made her look a bit like a tiger.

“Who’s this?” he asked.

“We call her Comet,” the handler said, whispering. “She’s one of our rescues.” The handler explained how the dog  abandoned at the dog racetrack, seemed shy, depressed, and withdrawn, always staying apart from the others. She had never seen Comet do that before. As he petted Comet, he sensed her saying: Hello. I am Comet. I choose you.

Although I didn’t quote it directly, this is a summary of the Prologue from Comet’s Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life, written by Wolf and Lynette Padwa. Immediately drawn in, I kept going back to this very heartwarming section. I have always wanted to be chosen by a dog in just this way. Enjoy Comet’s Facebook page as well.

As a lifelong dog lover, dog owner wannabe, and someone who wants to work with a service dog, I have read a lot about service dogs and all things canine to prepare for my most-longed-for “someday.” This service dog story is unusual because Comet is a greyhound–a breed not known for this work. Fetching thing things is not the breed’s strong suit. The trainers he did contact thought it wasn’t possible, and laughed him off the phone.

Comet eventually won Service Dog of the Year. Undaunted by the initial negative reactions, Wolf trained her himself. He got her used to public places and lots of people. He needed her to fetch his cell phone, pull his wheelchair, open and close doors, and help him to brace when getting out of chairs, bed, etc.–and more. Sometimes these things happened with humorous results. Along the way, he discovered that Comet adored any man in a uniform, and that she liked to sneak an extra toy into the shopping cart before they reached the checkout–a habit Wolf was quick to stop. He also had to educate folks who object to service dogs.

This story is more than a man-and-dog bonding memoir. It’s about adjusting to and accepting disability–how it affects the man, his wife, their daughters–a blended family. They all faced challenges they didn’t expect. The situation was also hard on family friends and work colleagues.

In his teens, Wolf injured his back. He healed, he thought; however, over the years, the injury worsened as he continued to play sports, causing extreme pain and limited movement. A partner in a law firm, his worried colleagues urged him to quit. Finally, they let him go. His doctors strongly suggested moving to a warmer climate for the winter. Off he went to Arizona for most of the year, leaving his family behind.

Struggling with these significant changes, Wolf still wanted to do everything himself, even though everything was harder. Little by little, he accepted the assistance of others. By the time he found Comet and her Zen-like, quiet personality, he knew he needed to slow down. Even before Comet became a service dog, she stuck close to Wolf. When things were bad, he didn’t feel good, or hurt a lot, he could talk to her, pet her, and cry if he needed to. His family, and their other two dogs, loved her right away. Comet still draws legions of fans everywhere they go.

Adopters of greyhounds often find themselves ambassadors for the breed. So it continues to be with Wolf. The information he shares about greyhounds converted me. I vaguely knew about a local greyhound rescue group, but I never felt drawn to the breed until now. They seem like really great dogs.

Everyone will love this book!





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Filed under Animals, Disability, Dogs, Marriage and family, Nonfiction

Olive Kitteridge: The Novel/Short Story Collection that Always Inspires Mixed Feelings

I watched the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge last weekend on video. Or I did once I settled down and came back into the living room once the opening that showed Olive walking in the woods was over. Once I saw the gun, I fled. Other scenes later on were equally difficult.

As events in the story unfolded and resolved themselves, i was pleased that the producers stuck as closely as possible to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout–actually an interwoven, previously published short story collection about the people in a small town in Maine. Olive appears in each story, either as a critical character or a minor one. Strout’s roots are in Maine, and I believe that all her books are set there.

Frances McDormand was the perfect choice for the lead, and the rest of the cast was equally strong. I thought the landscape pretty. The overall mood, however, matches how I feel about the book–extremely somber and painful, with terrible struggles. That’s life, I know. Even though there was some light to balance the darkness, I didn’t feel there was enough. I have read the book twice, and I probably will not do so again. I read it once on my own after reading a newspaper review. The second time, I read it for book group.

Overall, I like Olive. For some strange reason, I liked that she was a math teacher. But she can be very prickly even as she is extremely caring. It’s easy to see that her life experiences made her the way she is. Some of her attitudes are generational. And family life can be very tough and messy. You don’t always know the right things to say and do.

My favorite story from both readings is “Incoming Tide,” because ultimately, the message there is hope. Here, as with the stories where she is caring for her husband Henry after his stroke also show the different facets of her personality.

Hopefully, each of us has an effect on the people around us, and in the wider world. Some of them are big; others, not so much. Maybe sometimes you don’t realize how you are memorable to others. Certainly Olive has no idea that she has inspired several students that she isn’t close to.

Before anyone reading this thinks Maine is depressing, here’s proof that it is not. I used to follow another writer’s blog. Olivia Tejeda spent childhood summers in Maine with her family. She wrote about it here. I kept this entry for a long time just because I love the pictures.

A friend of mine also enjoys Maine vacations, and has been back several times. She has graciously allowed me to share some pictures from a trip taken in the fall of 2010. Aren’t they gorgeous?



This one reminds me of a painting one of my former co-workers completed. It hung in his office for several years.





This picture was the local library, We both agreed that it would be a great place to work. I like the one of the boat, below:





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Filed under Fiction, Film, Hope, journeys, Libraries, Marriage and family, Short Stories

“Gone Girl” Is Outta Here! (Finally!)

I looked at the clock. I finished Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl at 2:36 a.m. today. After three intense days, 425 pages, and a hell of a roller coaster ride. Not to mention extremely tired eyes. That’s why this post is short. It’s a testament to Flynn’s skill as a writer that she made me keep reading. I may read one of her other titles far in the future.

I also had more practical reasons for getting to the end: I wanted to finish before it disappeared from my eReader. I knew that if I didn’t finish I would never go back to it. It’s a popular title, and I didn’t want to wait months a second time. I normally don’t read these types of books, but it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. I also didn’t like any of the characters. I guess you’re not supposed to. But if I can’t identify at all with the characters, it ruins my enjoyment of a novel.

But Gillian, what on earth were you thinking with that stupid ending? I feel so cheated! I went through all the ups and downs for this?   

I’m purposely not addressing much of the plot, just in case someone comes across this entry who hasn’t yet finished the book or seen the movie. In fact, the book comes with a reading group guide. Readers are strongly encouraged to finish the story before looking at the guide. Even so, I’m glad neither of my book groups chose it. I’m not sure how far we’d get with the discussion.

So, expect the unexpected with this one. Do NOT read ahead! But if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t plow through it. Now I can move on to other titles.

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Filed under Fiction, Marriage and family, Mystery, psychology, Thrillers

A Second Journey with Harold Fry

When I first heard about Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was curious about it and even checked it out. But I let it go because I thought it might be too sad.  With so many things to do, I let a few months pass. Something wouldn’t let me let go; I’m not sure what led me back to it.

So I tried again, downloading it to my NOOK. One evening, I decided to give it a try, and I couldn’t put it down! Even if I had something else going on that day, the first spare minute I had, I went back to the book until I finished.

The story begins simply enough. Kind and unassuming Harold Fry, 65, of Kingsbridge, England, has been retired from his brewery job for six months. Home life, with his wife Maureen, is very quiet. Too quiet.

One spring morning, Harold receives an unexpected letter from an old friend–his former co-worker,  Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t seen in more than twenty years. She has cancer, and is writing to  say good-bye.

This affects Harold very deeply, and he is moved to tears.. A long time ago,Queenie helped him out, and he never took the time to thank her. Never good with words, he writes a reply, putting his last name in parentheses just in case people have forgotten who he is. He goes for a walk to post the letter.  And keeps right on walking. “Queenie must live,” Harold says. “I won’t let her down.” Before he reaches a mailbox that is farther away, he opens the letter to add a postscript: “Please wait for me.”


In Harold’s case, he’s walking from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Queenie’s hospice is. A map is included in the front of the book. Basically, he is walking the entire length of England.

As the story opens, readers see that Harold and Maureen are estranged, and there is some rift between them and their son, David. As the story develops, traders discover more details.

As Harold embarks upon his totally spur-of-the-moment journey, he learns, observes, cheers for, and cares about the quirky people he meets along the way–who may or may not have the greatest of motives. He is looking for faith, hope, and forgiveness. Along the way, he realizes that other people carry unseen burdens too. He also learns that the greatest gift he can give to people is to listen. Ultimately, he sees that it’s better to join life than to shrink away from it. The road gives him a lot of time for reflection. The other characters–and readers–also cheer for him.

Walking, he sees so many things that he forgot about or missed entirely while in a car. I have found the same thing.

Soon I will read the prequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and Joyce’s additional novel, Perfect. Have a look at the U.S. and British versions of Rachel Joyce’s websites, and enjoy!


Happy man walking in countryside


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Filed under Fiction, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Marriage and family, Uncategorized

Gone to the Dogs

I recently finished reading Hounded, David Rosenfelt’s latest mystery with defense attorney Andy Carpenter and the gang he works with. My aunt also enjoyed it. I think she really liked the author’s deadpan humor. He also kept us guessing about how the story would turn out. As with most mysteries, the villain is not the person arrested for the crime. Friends in my book group would be proud. For once, I didn’t sneak a peek at the back of the book to see how everything would turn out.

This is not our first acquaintance with Rosenfelt’s work. We also loved Dogtripping, his hilarious and moving account of how he and his wife, with the help of a small army of friends, fans, and animal-loving total strangers, relocated the couple’s 27 rescue dogs from California to Maine. They called the caravan of vehicles “Woof-abago.” It’s definitely worth coming along for the ride.

Dedicated dog lovers and animal rescuers, the Rosenfelts set up the Tara Foundation, a nonprofit Golden Retriever rescue organization. They named it after their beloved Golden. While it’s no longer operational, the group and Tara live on in the mysteries. Although I haven’t gotten to it yet, I bet Unleashed is also fun.

For more information, visit Rosenfelt’s website.

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Filed under Animals, Fiction, Marriage and family, Mystery

You Should Have Known

Let’s face it–sometimes a book just doesn’t grab you–and you wonder what inspired you to read it in the first place. I’m glad I didn’t give up on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s psychological novel, You Should Have Known. But there were several times that I nearly did. It was something about the description that hooked me. I was under the impression that it is a thriller. It might, in a way, be a mystery, but ultimately, I classify it as a story about discovery–about oneself, the people around you, and the way you see the past, present, and future. When you know at least some of these things, how do you respond? Life isn’t always neat, tidy, and able to be wrapped up in box with a pretty bow.

As the story opens, marriage counselor Grace Reinhart Sachs has just written a self-help book called You Should Have Known, which a magazine writer is interviewing her about. At the same time, Grace is also preparing for a book tour and continuing to see clients. Her book’s thesis is that there is always a pivotal event in a relationship that warns a woman not to continue seeing someone, even though he might “look good on paper.” She asserts that there are always clues, and that women should follow their instincts before becoming serious about a man. Her book is a manifesto on how to make good choices in relationships. To her interviewers, readers, and sometimes her clients, her words come across as judgmental, cold, and blaming.

The novel itself is divided into three sections: Before, During, and After. The author gets into Grace’s head a lot, and there’s a lot of description surrounding the tony life she leads. Even though she is happily married to her husband Jonathan, a well-known pediatric cancer specialist, she doesn’t seem to like her superficial life, and may even be bored by it. But she does love Henry, 12, very much–her only child.

Honestly, the first section drags too much. But stick with it. The point of the story becomes much clearer when the mother of a fourth grader at Henry’s private school is found murdered. Jonathan Sachs is accused of the crime. Bewildered, Grace wonders what has happened to her husband and why she can’t find him, but can’t process the truth. Her world swiftly turns upside sown. Read on to see how everything turns out.

I like Korelitz’s writing style, and I definitely would read her work again. She is also the author of Admission, which was made into a movie starring Tina Fey. Turns out that it’s on my eReader, so I’ll be enjoying it soon.



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Filed under Fiction, Marriage and family, psychology