A Retired Professor

Before We Were Yours

Two weeks of physical therapy and more to come.  The doctor gave me a shot in my knee yesterday and said it would hurt “a bit”!  Yes it did but it got worse as the day wore on so I propped my leg up on the couch, poured a glass of wine for medicinal purposes and finished this wonderful, moving, sad at times book, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.

It’s hard to believe that children could be taken from unsuspecting parents and the parents were told the children would be safe until the parents could get on their feet financially.  However, the children lived in The Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society under deplorable conditions.  Their names were changed so parents couldn’t track them down and they were adopted out for large sums of money.  All of this really happened from the 1920’s through 1950.  It’s a powerful story about family and the ties that bind them.  As the character May says, “A woman’s past need not predict her future.  She can dance to new music if she chooses.  Her own music.”  The sisters in this story did just that.  Their tale is one that will stay with me for a long time.

The Story of Arthur Truluv

Sunday afternoon.  Things are warming up in SW Florida!  68 degrees inside and out with the sun shining.  Still feels cold to us Floridians.  Perfect time to finish a book with a nice glass of Chardonnay.  Chicken simmering in a pot for chicken and dumplings later today.  If that recipe turns out good I will post tomorrow.  This may be the last day for cold weather comfort food!  Yeah.

I just finished The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.  It’s a quick read and in some ways a slow start but so worth the read!  Arthur has been visiting his wife’s grave at lunch time daily and happened to see a young girl, Maddy, in the cemetery.  Maddy is a senior in high school and has had a difficult relationship with her father since her mother died when she was a baby.  She never seemed to fit in. The story of Maddy includes isolation and bullying in high school but she befriends Arthur.  Arthur shares cookies, made by his neighbor, Lucille, with Maddy and that brings Lucille into the story.  All three characters have pasts that seem to pull them together.  Eventually the three characters form a “family” and the past and present of their lives intertwine.  At one point Arthur tells Maddy, “But the longer I live, the more I come to see that love is not so easy for everyone.  It can get awfully complicated.  It can make us do good things but it can also make us do bad things.”   Later in the novel, Maddy writes, “…real families come from choices we make about who we want to be bound to, and the ties to such families live in our hearts.”

Loved this book.  So bittersweet.  Worth a read.

New Reads in 2017

I belong to two different book clubs and this New Year my reading has been limited to the books chosen by those two groups.

The first book I read was The Nix by Nathan Hill.  This seems to be a book you either love or hate.  I have spoken to no one who is in the middle.  I took it on my Caribbean cruise and several passengers asked me what I thought of it.  Well, I’m in the group who would probably not read it again and really had to plow through it!  I found it hard to relate to the gaming sections of the book but that would appeal to a younger reader.  I found all of the information about the 1968 riots in Chicago upsetting and I had very little memory of them because I was busy finishing college and attended a very conservative campus!  With that said, the author is a master of mixing current day events and those of years ago to tell the story of Samuel and his mother and the events that shaped them.  The line that sticks with me is “That which you love the most will hurt you the most” or something like that.  The author does bring the events to conclusion and in a most interesting way but I do think he could have done it in fewer pages.

I recently finished The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce.  Queenie is living in a hospice facility run by nuns.  Her neighbors in the facility are a bunch of interesting characters and they are all waiting for Queenie’s friend from her youth to walk across England to visit her.  The expectation of that visit keeps Queenie alive as she waits for his arrival and causes her to reflect on her life.  I must admit I really didn’t understand the letter writing thread in the book until the end!  Honestly, it was so obvious and the author had sprinkled the story with so many hints but I missed it.  Actually I’m glad I did because that added to the wonderful realization at the end of the book.  Nice light reading.  Touching story.  Loved this book.

Have you read either one?  Curious to know what you thought about The Nix.  Include a comment below.

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Behind on my book list!

Hello, friends.  I am way behind on my book list posts.  Here are some books I have read since my last post.  I liked them all!  If you are from Pennsylvania, you might enjoy The Woman in the Photo, since the setting is the Johnstown flood.

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Summer Reads

After YouAfter You by JoJo Moyes is the sequel to Me Before You and follows the characters from Me Before You. After Will’s passing, Louisa Clark struggles to find a purpose and path in life. She returns home after a freak accident and feels like she’s right back where she was before she met Will. She joins a “Moving On” group once her body heals and finds a place of friendship where survivors share their journeys. While in this group Lou meets Sam Fielding but before their relationship blooms, people from her past and part of Will’s life throw her curve balls that may take her down a different path. I will say that Lou does figure out how to move on and being the romantic I am, I was happy for her. If you liked Me Before You, you will enjoy reading about where the characters are following Will’s death.

Broken WheelThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. Sara is a young woman from Sweden who really has no life beyond her books and job in a bookstore. For about a year she has been corresponding with Amy, an elderly woman from Broken Wheel, Iowa who also loves books. Amy invites Sara to come visit and Sara does just that only to find out Amy has passed away before she arrives. Sara befriends several young people in town and opens a book store with Amy’s collection of books. Most people thought the book store would never survive given the town’s down trodden existence but the book store brought the town back to life. The story includes bits of the letters between Amy and Sara that fill in the background information about the events. There’s lots of talk about books and authors, some humor thrown in and a little romance!

AliceWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is a gem! Moriarty never disappoints with a bit of Australian color and twists. Alice takes a fall during a spinning class and wakes up forgetting the last 10 years of her life! During that time she became driven, over-extended, the mother of three children and in the midst of a divorce. She struggles to make sense of the new Alice while behaving like she did 10 years earlier confusing her children, almost ex-husband, family and current boyfriend. As the story of her current life starts to mix with her old self, relationships change and she finds balance and ultimately happiness. Loved this book!

Me Before You

after youThe reviewers were so right, this is definitely a chick book!  You will definitely get involved with the characters and will truly hope things turn out differently but they don’t!  Will Traynor is the alpha male, very successful, athletic, wealthy, handsome, beautiful girlfriend.  That is his lifestyle until one day he is in a terrible accident and is confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.  He becomes depressed, grumpy and downright nasty chasing off caretakers right and left.  Louisa Clark is unemployed and drifting emotionally and financially, still living with her wacky family.  She has no goals but needs a job.  Lou is hired by Will’s family to be his companion.  The story unfolds as Will softens a bit and helps Lou to see possibilities in her future.  However, there is one huge dilemma underscoring their relationship and probably many relationships.  What do you sacrifice to make the person you love happy?  As the author says, “What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?”  Read this book before the movie is released this summer!

What did you think about the book?  How would you answer the author’s question?  Leave a comment.

Big Little Lies

This is one book that’s hard to put down! Three mothers of kindergarten children are the key players. On orientation day for their kindergarten children, the three women meet and become close friends even though their friendship seems to be unlikely. Madeline is dealing with an ex-husband who was never involved with their daughter and now the daughter, Abigail, chooses to live with him and his new wife, Bonnie. Celeste is the beautiful mother of twin boys who is hiding secrets of abuse in her home. Jane is a very young single mother who conceived her son during a one-night-stand with a man who had violent tendencies. In the end, all three women are linked within “big little lies”.

The author uses foreshadowing to bring the reader along hinting at something happening during a school fundraiser. The author moves from one character to another, always linking their stories on some level. The story has a touch of mystery and humor as the adults negotiate the games parents can play in the social world of the kindergarten classroom. Aside from the adult issues, there are problems in the kinder class revolving around bullying in the classroom. Several social issues are explored within the narrative and the author demonstrates how they can play out in real life situations. Things are never what they appear to be on the surface at every turn. I chuckled, was annoyed, felt shocked and surprised. It was a great read!

Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Leave a comment.

Current Reads

I have read three books so far in 2016 and enjoyed all of them.  As I think about them, they each had a strong female character and were historical fiction from different centuries.  I never started out looking for that genre but I suppose I am drawn to that kind of book.  I like reading about life in other centuries and these three books explore the life of women during different time periods.

Pope Joan

Pope Joan was a fascinating read about a young woman who lived in the 9th. century when women were denied the opportunity to learn.  She was very bright and a quick learner so she disguised herself as a man and became a monk and scholar known as John Angelicus.  She supposedly serve as Pope for two years under this disguise.  A friend told me she found the book hard to finish because she was so outraged at the treatment of women portrayed in the book.  I personally found it fascinating even though it is thought to be a myth.  However, the chair described at the end of the book that future pontiffs must sit upon to be sure they have the correct anatomical parts causes one to pause and wonder about our lady Joan.


Lucy Barton This book is a glimpse into the life of Lucy Barton who grew up in a very poor and dysfunctional family.  While in the hospital in the 1980’s recovering from an illness, Lucy’s mother comes to visit for five days, stays in the hospital with her and the two of them engage in a conversation about memories of years long ago.  Lucy continues to reach out to her mother for reassurance that she is loved by her mother during that hospital stay; however, Mom is never able to say the words. I had the feeling that the bond between mother and daughter existed without the verbal expression but the mother could not get past family issues.  Even though Lucy believes her life in New York as a writer, wife and mother has insulated her from painful memories, they all seem to surface in this book. The author weaves in stories about Lucy’s life since she left home into the conversations with her mother and Lucy learns that even her New York life is not insulated from life changes. I see Lucy as a strong character who finds herself amidst the memories, sadness and fear she has experienced.


An Unseemly Wife


I loved this book!  A young Amish family set out in their Conestoga wagon from Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s looking for land and a new life against the wishes of the wife, Ruth.  She worries that they will not be able to live apart from the “English” and that her “littles” will be influenced by them.  She undergoes childbirth, harsh travel, the death of her three sons and husband to find the inner strength to go on.  She never makes it to Idaho but finds a life on the trail with her young daughter and is able to live peacefully with the English and embrace their ways.  This lady had grit and strength and found her way in the world.  I couldn’t put this novel down!

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