This was a great reading week for me; the lousy weather we had for a few days helped me stay in and read more I finished (3) books - mini reviews below. I also got to yoga 3x again this week, met my son for lunch, (stayed away from my daughter and her flu-infected family) and attended my monthly book group meeting. I'm also planning a Vermont getaway -- always a fun place to travel to (no snowstorms please).
Here are the books I read:
Hospital Hill; Katherine Anderson
Hospital Hill appealed to me because although it's a work of fiction (mystery), the setting is real. Northampton (Lunatic) State Hospital was opened in 1858, as the third hospital in Massachusetts for the insane. It was located about 20 miles from the town where I grew up. Deinstitutionalization began in 1978, a slow process, but, the hospital finally closed for good in 1993. All of the buildings were leveled in 2007-2008 and the site is now called, The Villages at Hospital Hill, a very cool residential community, walkable to Smith College.
In this mystery Valerie Martin is a state hospital employee who once worked at Northampton Hospital but, transferred to another state facility a number of years earlier. Now, nearing retirement, she is encouraged to come back to Northampton by her former boss to work on a cataloging records project involving former patients who were at the hospital while Valerie had worked there. As she begins the project she notices an odd pattern of reported suicides of young female patients, her mind reflects back and she begins to sense that something sinister may have behind the deaths of these individuals.
This was a pretty simplistic mystery and a very quick read but, the real enjoyment was in the atmospheric feel of this old asylum traveling the halls and isolated rooms as I read. It was great fun to have referenced many of the places, restaurants and places that I know well. This was a fun, non-stop, 3-hour read. I enjoyed the book but the lack proofreading and the many typos spoiled it a bit. (3.5/5 stars)
Second Hand; Michael Zadoorian
Dell - 2000
Richard Satoria is the 30-something proprietor of Satoria Junk outside of Detroit, Michigan. Although Richard knows the difference between "junk" and "coveted finds", he's not so experienced when it comes to the opposite sex. He meets Theresa, who comes to his store and soon the two soon begin a relationship -- each have plenty of baggage they are dealing with. Richard's mother has just died and he and his sister are cleaning out the family home which leads to new revelations about their parents. Theresa is haunted by the memories of all of the animals she has had to euthanize at her job at the animal shelter.
This book is well written, I enjoyed the interesting finds he scoffs up in his travels and the memories that are triggered as he begins the clean-out process of his parent's home. Teresa was a bit of a mess and I didn't appreciate all the sad details that will upset animal lovers as I read this book. One in particular made me almost close the book for good.
BEWARE ----One scene a woman brings her 5 - year old white cat to the shelter because he keeps getting fur on her sofa -- Can you imagine this?? This excerpt - brought me to tears -- I know it's fiction but still.
"I do it practically every day. Why is this one any different? I don't know. It's just that some of them affect you more than others. Like people.......The only time he really calmed down was right before. I held him for a while. He was such a sweetheart. I gave him some hotdog and he was purring. He seemed happy to be held............He knew. Right before I gave him the shot he turned and looked at me. I thought, He knows I'm going to kill him. Then he touched my hand with his paw. It was like he forgave me. He was purring when I killed him."
(3.5/5 stars) - I would have rated this much higher were it not for the animal shelter passages.
The Marriage of Opposites; Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster - 2015
This story is bused on the true story of Rachel Pomie Petit Pissarro and set on the island of St. Thomas in the 19th century. Rachel Pomie is a young Jewish girl with big dreams who hopes to move to Paris someday. Instead those plans are dashed when she instead finds herself in an arranged marriage with a man 30 years older than her. Issac Petit is a widower with (3) children, but, Rachel dutifully fulfills her role as wife number 2 and together they have 3 more children -- and then he dies, leaving her with his business, which she knows nothing about, and 6 children.
When Issac's young nephew arrives from Paris to help Rachel sort out the business left by her husband, there is an immediate attraction, union and more children, including one who becomes the famous Impressionist, Camille Pissarro.
Beautiful descriptive writing, you could practically smell the flora and ocean breezes. With themes of love, friendship, religious intolerance and racism, there was plenty to discuss at my book group meeting this week. Rachel was a strong woman, finely drawn character. Like most every Hoffman novel there is some magical realism. This one has the ghost of Issac's first wife, a turtle-girl and talking parrots but, it worked well. There are a number of inter-related characters in this novel and I almost didn't finish this one but, I'm glad I did. Everyone in my book group enjoyed this one (very unusual). (4/5 stars)
We saw Bridge of Spies (2015) on Showtime this week but, had originally seen it on the big screen when first released. As good the second time around, who doesn't love a movie starring Tom Hanks? A true-life espionage which takes place during the Cold War.
Have a Great Weekend All