Some Books & A Play

Books I’ve read recently:

In Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life, magazine journalist Slava Gelman interviews old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, NY, and files Holocaust restitution claims on their behalf, massaging the facts a bit here and there to fortify the applications. What’s truth? Is he justified in stretching it?

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clarke will make your food shopping trips take even longer. Chemist David Leveraux works as a flavorist-in-training, testing a new artificial sweetener, “Sweetness #9.” He notices unusual side effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys, and years later, his wife becomes obese, his daughter unresponsive, and his son speaks without verbs. Is the sweetener to blame?

Barbara Kingsolver novels are usually provocative and Flight Behavior is no exception. Climate change in the form of a strange monarch butterfly migration in rural Tennessee provides the background for Dellarobia Turnbow’s transformation. Full of characters—local townsfolk, scientists, and media caricatures. Funny yet serious.

Unlike Edan Lepucki’s California. This apocalyptic story, an  end of the United States as we know it, due to extreme weather—hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms—offers little hope and a huge dose of cynicism, yet I still felt compelled to finish it, eager to know how and if the protagonists survive.

Ash Thompson is a soldier for the Union in the Civil W and a woman in disguise. She left her husband to tend the farm so she could do her part. Laird Hunt’s Neverhome portrays the horrors of war through Ash’s eyes and voice.

And finally, a play. William Luce’s 1976 Tony Award winning  “The Belle of Amherst” brings us inside Emily Dickinson’s 1883 home. A one -character play, this revival stars Joely Richardson. Told through letters and poems, we hear the despair the writer felt upon her constant rejection of her poems from the Atlantic Monthly. She describes her life, dispelling her image as being shy, offering bits of childhood memories and her black cake recipe. This quote stuck with me: “Hold your parents tenderly; the world will seem a strange and lonely place when they are gone.”




About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
This entry was posted in Books, commentary, New York City, Reading, reviews, Theater, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Some Books & A Play

  1. jfrances40 says:

    Love your reviews! Thanks so much. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors and the book sits on my desk…….


  2. Thanks– curious to know what you think. Chris Rosen recommended it. My sister hated it.. so who knows? I loved it.


  3. I’ve loved every book of Barbara Kingsolver’s I’ve ever read. As for “Sweetness #9” it’s not my favorite.


  4. Love Barbara Kingsolver too! And had a similar feeling about “California” though that school without technology sounds good!


  5. Well you’ve wetted my appetite, bu doubt if I’d like ” Sweetness #9″. never know it could be provocative aswell as satirical.


  6. Hi Lisa,
    I’ve read Flight Behavior, and enjoyed it. I think I would also like to read Neverhome and see “The Belle of Amherst.” Thank you for pointing me toward them!


  7. susanissima says:

    Thanks for the possibilities, Lisa. Currently reading everything I can get my eyes on by Anthony Doerr. Have you read him?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s