This is my first read of 2017, and it’s a re-read of a favorite. I also re-read all the reviews before writing this. Some of the criticisms are fair. The ending is abrupt (no spoiler), Alicia isn’t the most likeable parent on the planet, and there are stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities rampant in the narrative.
However, life doesn’t always give closure when life happens. I guess that’s why an abrupt ending feels okay here. I know that many readers don’t like it when the climax comes so close to the end of the book, and you don’t even have time to catch your breath. But I do. It feels realistic when that happens.
Again, Alicia (Ally) wasn’t the most likeable or the most politically correct parent on the planet. Her counterpart, Thomas’s mother Margaret, was much more likeable. She was pleasant and cheerful and fully supportive of his inclusion in certain activities. But when it came to the relationship between Chloe and Thomas, Alicia was the more realistic parent about the limitations of these two individuals. Not all mentally challenged people are incapable of romantic relationships, but this isn’t a story about people in general. This is a story about Chloe and Thomas. It may not have been politically correct to resist their marriage, but Alicia knew her daughter. She knew what she could handle and what she couldn’t. I don’t think that Margaret realized the impact that this relationship could have on everyone.
At the end, who was affected the most by what happened? Not Margaret and her husband. Chloe and Thomas lived with Alicia during their marriage. Yes, there were things I’m surprised that Alicia didn’t handle differently (birth control being one of them). That came from her denial of the possibility of sexuality for someone with an intellectual disability. By the time she realized her mistake, she couldn’t take some of the actions she might have if she had dealt with it when Chloe was younger. (I’m not saying that those actions would have been the right thing to do, but they would have been alternatives that many parents might have considered.)
I’m not sure what I would have done in her shoes. All I know is that everything I know and believe about intimacy for people with disabilities was turned upside down for re-examination. I don’t know if it will ever look quite the same.
Now that’s a novel.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. They always seemed to be an exercise in failure. I pick one word to guide my decisions in the coming year and to see how that word shows up in my life.
I had a therapy session this week where the discussion revolved around being authentic and vulnerable in my relationships with others. When I got home that day, I found a new blog post by Heather Plett that was the catalyst for my choice of my word for 2017. I chose intimacy.
I’ve forgotten how to let myself be vulnerable too, so I’ll be digging into Brene Brown and other bloggers who are already masters at vulnerability. They must be masters at creating intimacy too. How do they do it? It really beats me. But I’m determined to build intimacy somewhere in my life. We aren’t created to be alone.
Do you have a word for the year? I’d love it if you would share with me. Happy New Year!
I discovered this book accidentally by a referral through a book group I generally don’t pay enough attention to. I won’t be making that mistake again.
Confucius Says is a heartbreaker of a novel. Some people reacted to the choice of the picture on the cover. I thought is that what he really looked like? It sort of resembled a Chinese rapper.
I generally don’t read books because of their covers. I read them for the stories between the covers. There was a culture clash between Eastern and Western beliefs about how to care for their aging parents. It looked like there was no way that both sides could come to an understanding of how best to do that. When Cary realized that her parents needed more care than she could provide and her husband issued an ultimatum, I wasn’t sure what would happen next. She had already been doing it for seven years, and I wasn’t sure whether there was a compromise that would work for Cary and Steve that her parents would agree to.
A pivotal point was definitely when the parents moved into the assisted living, and Cary realized how many people it actually took to help her provide support and care for her parents. I knew then that she had found that place she needed to get to so that she could supervise the care instead of trying to provide it all by herself.
There were some storytelling devices that worked really well for me. When the dog Laozi spoke his perspective on the changes each family member had gone through over the seven years, that part of the story was made more clear because it was someone speaking from the “outside” of the human family unit. Ming-Jen and Tak’s final scenes were lyrical and hopeful, rather than being a downer.
I learned about another culture by reading this book, and I learned how to see the world through others’ eyes. This book is a winner!
This is why I haven’t written for a few days. I was so floored by the loss of these two artists that I didn’t know how to respond. I wasn’t a true fan of Carrie Fisher, but even I know she’s an icon. The more I’ve learned about her, the more I’m coming to respect her as a person, not just an icon. She has actively worked to lessen the stigma of mental illness, especially bipolar disorder.
Now George Michael was a different story. I loved him as part of Wham! and on his own. My mom used to comment on how white and straight his teeth were. Now I hear music he wrote that’s new to me. I see the magnitude of the gift he shared with the world. I’m hearing about his philanthropy too. This makes me happy, after his struggles.
So much of my younger years is passing away fast. It makes me think of my own mortality too. George was only 53, while I turn 50 in May. Carrie was 60, and I’ll be there in nothing flat. I can’t even make sense of that part of it yet.
The world won’t be the same without these two.
I was searching for one of those amazing book Christmas trees that was all lit up when I stumbled on this. I instantly fell in love. Making this kind of tree would be so much fun! If only I had seen it earlier this year…we didn’t put an actual Christmas tree up this holiday season. I missed the lights, but we did go out and look at Christmas lights after it got dark. So I got a bit of a fix.
The tree above looks like one you could create out of objects and mementos that would bring back welcome feelings and memories. It’s creative, and infusing more creativity in the holidays would definitely be a very good thing.
If you want to see the rest of the trees in the article I found, here is the link.
I have no words because I’ve been comparing myself to others again. I’ve been following new disabled writers who write with fire and passion to advocate for themselves and others. I’ve been reading new novelists whose words flow together as if they are a melody carried on the wind.
No matter how riled up I get, I can’t write with the kind of fire and passion the advocates can. I have plenty of it inside, but it doesn’t come through my words. I don’t write prose that sounds musical either. I try not to compare myself with others very often, because I know many quietly brilliant writers. Their words shine as if they are newly polished. Some other people aren’t quiet about their brilliance–they don’t rub it in your face, but they sure make themselves a hard act to follow.
I want to be counted as one of the writers with disabilities who matter, who set the bar for vulnerability and passion and words that might just outlive me. If only someone would help me figure out how to step up and let myself shine….
I generally avoid all the Christmas movies at this time of year. Occasionally one catches my attention, though, and reminds me of what Christmas is supposed to be.
I watched the movie Paper Angels a few days ago and caught it again today. I had bought the book a few years ago on Kindle and never actually read it, so after watching the movie, decided to bring it up and read it. (Oddly enough, I bought it three years ago today.) It’s a story that sounds like it should be hokey and full of over-the-top melodrama, but surprisingly it’s fairly understated and doesn’t end in the usual happily-ever-after. (Holiday movies don’t feel complete without that, do they?)
I’ll copy and paste the synopsis from Amazon:
Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm now suffering in the current economy. Attempting to navigate the hectic Christmas mall traffic, Kevin stumbles across the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.
The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a struggling single mother who now finds herself and her children penniless. The only thing that has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them.
Do you ever feel as if you’ve been abandoned? Do you ever feel like you have nothing to offer anyone else? Give yourself to someone else. Since we’re creators, let’s give our creations–our words, our writing, our art–to someone else this year for Christmas. Then let’s give them back to ourselves. Giving is the best gift there is.
I don’t have much to offer this year, but I can give you my words. I can give you encouragement to keep going with whatever you’re creating. I can give you hope for a better tomorrow.