gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: death

Late Air by Jaclyn Gilbert

 

Jaclyn Gilbert’s piercing and lyrically compelling debut novel boutmarriage, loss, and finding the path home again.

Murray has always known how to suppress his pain.

In the shadows of a predawn run, a man tries to escape what he can’t control: His failed marriage. Grief. Even his own weakness. Murray is a college running coach insistent on his relentless training regimen and obsessed with his star athlete—until he finds her crumpled and unresponsive during a routine practice one morning.

Unable to avoid or outrun reality, Murray is forced to face the consequences of a terrible accident from the past…and his own increasingly tenuous grip on life.

In her debut novel, author Jaclyn Gilbert weaves together the strands of two lives that form a union as finely nuanced and delicate as a spider’s web―and just as vulnerable. Following the relationship of Murray and his ex-wife, Nancy, in alternating narratives, we experience their early moments of hope and desire as well as their fears and failings. With poignancy and grace, Late Air traces the collapse of a marriage, exhausted by time and trauma, and one couple’s journey to regain their footing.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

LATE AIR is at once a book about obsession, grief, and lack of communication. Collegiate running coach Murray is struggling with multiple issues, while his ex-wife Nancy has her own demons. The story is told from multiple points of view, slowly describing the events that caused the marriage to fail and the residual damage they sustained.

As Murray is trying to cope mentally with the severe injury of his star runner, Nancy is trying to banish her own thoughts of the marriage, the tragedies within, and the lack of communication between her and Murray.

I will say that to me, Murray was a very sympathetic character and Nancy was not. She seemed dramatic and overly needy. Yes, Murray was an obsessive and at times obtuse – but I feel if Nancy had tried to talk more openly with Murray instead of wishing he would do this or say that, things would have had a fighting chance. The issues within their marriage were complicated by an event that irreversibly changed them both – and certainly many marriages have failed for the same exact reason – but what complicates matters is the utter lack of communication between Murray and Nancy. It seems that they were on their best behavior when they got married but slowly settled into the patterns of who they really were. Murray was always obsessed with lists, running,  and time, while Nancy was seeking outward affection from a man who seemed unable to give it. She is so in need of feeling wanted and loved that she ends up worse off after her divorce. Her relationship with an utterly shallow man illustrates just how far a woman can fall when she is ruled by her emotions.

The main reason I wanted to read the book was the running and coaching storyline. The author does an excellent job of tying in his coaching duties spiraling into decompensation and showing us how he becomes detached from his team even as he prepares the girls for important races. The training parts of LATE AIR were true to life and much more interesting than some other parts of the book.

I will say that the book is well written, despite my lukewarm reaction to the storyline. Gilbert is adept at diving down into the deepest recesses of pain, bringing the hurt up to the surface again and again. Her ability to focus and illuminate emotions is intense, yet beautiful. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next work.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Walrath

 

Glimmerglass Girl is a collection of poetry and images about womanhood and femininity. This debut collection from author Holly Lyn Walrath explores life, love, marriage, abuse, self-harm, the body, death, and alcoholism through the lens of a woman’s heart. It takes readers through a speculative and fantastical world of fairy tales and unicorns where femininity is as powerful and delicate as a glass-winged butterfly.

 

 

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This thin chapbook of poems seems at once light and dark, brilliant yet incomprehensible. I read through each offering twice and came away no wiser, despite preparing myself to find meaning in the words. A poem that begins “I am night and a thousand stars hurtle through/my skin, punching through the ether” sets the reader up for a powerful experience. It’s over a few short paragraphs later, a story not tied up neatly, only words and a mental picture that creates an unsatisfactory feeling. Not unsatisfactory in a bad way – just a longing for something more to grasp, a clearer picture of sorts.

The author does have a way with words, stringing them together like a delicate necklace that has its own beauty, yet doesn’t match with anything in the closet. That is not to say it is a wasted purchase -understand that these poems may not meet with your expectations. They are an acquired taste, revealing more each time they are read. Two particular poems became my favorites: I Swallowed the Moon and Blue Cadillac. I feel that Cadillac is the most mainstream work, easily understood, with fondness for the title character (?) shining through easily. I too, remember the classic cars with wistful nostalgia, as the poem notes:

And somehow in this memory of you/your massive lines like some primordial behemoth/long since dead and buried/in ice, the very blueness of you, I may have/remembered myself, another classic beauty.

It was so easy to conjure up big fins in the Texas heat as I absorbed this poem. Images formed freely in my head, unlike some of the author’s other writings in this book. Sometimes the final lines give off a hint of sarcasm, of impropriety or dismissal; other times the end is so far away from the beginning you don’t know what to think. There is a strong undercurrent of feminism and heartbreak in the words, and at times I wondered what experiences the author had, to describe in such a way.

All and all, not the worst way to spend time reading. Poetry is more resonant with people; either you love it or hate it. This little book was pleasant to read, despite the fact that I came away from most of it confused. Read it and let me know what you think.

You can get your own copy here.

THE EDUCATION OF A CORONER by John Bateson

In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.
Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Fans of true crime will love this book. Coroner Ken Holmes’ cases are described in great, gory detail, along with his thought process for cause of death. Some go unsolved, but all of them are a part of him.

Holmes is a self-deprecating man, which helped him move up the ladder within his department. As each case unfolds, the author portrays him with the right amount of confidence and respect. Some cases are more convoluted than others, so I am not sure who is at fault when the particulars get confusing. There were times where I had to read over the cast of characters a few times in order to determine who killed who, who had the motive, and other items of note. That is really the only caveat I have about this book – otherwise it’s an enjoyable, if dark, read. There are plenty of cases to appeal to everyone’s interest, whether it be prurient or otherwise. Holmes has an outstanding memory and usually has a philosophical turn when sharing his stories.

I got the impression that he is proud of his work, pays great attention to detail, and truly cares about those affected by the victim’s death. He emphasizes personal contact and shows empathy to those left behind.

Any book that teaches me something is a gem. In reading THE EDUCATION OF A CORONER I learned about rigor mortis (starts at the jaw, which is the strongest muscle in the body), suicide (apparently the Golden Gate Bridge was a mecca for those seeking to shuffle off this mortal coil) and government (how to work your way up through the ranks).

This was an excellent departure for the norm for me, and a thoroughly wonderful experience. If you have an interest in true crime or want to know what really happens during an investigation, pick this up. You won’t be sorry.

You can grab your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1501168223″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

radium

The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…

As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this advanced reading copy!

From the moment I started reading THE RADIUM GIRLS I was enthralled. The author’s goal for the reader to learn about each individual girl is thoughtful and ambitious. This is truly a book where the characters are at the forefront of the story. We see how each one, eager to earn a living, found Radium Dial and sealed their fate. The author handles the tragedy with diplomacy and underscored, yet effective use of detail, both medical and non (such as when one of the ill-fated girls catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and sees her bones glowing through her skin. She realizes she has radiation poisoning and promptly faints.).

As I read, I became infuriated and frustrated with the way that the girls were lied to and manipulated by the company. Banking upon their innocence, the “doctors” that examined them kept the true results hidden, while telling them that they were the picture of health. Over and over, they would experience a toothache or jaw pain; the harbinger of things to come. Insidiously things progressed to such a degree that walking or eating without pain was impossible.  Thankfully, finally, the stars aligned and  the case was brought to court. I am still amazed that there wasn’t more public outcry at their plight; this would never happen today. (Or would it? See the author’s epilogue.)

The author’s style is clean and easy to read; letting the story shine through without calling attention to how it’s being said. Once the “how” overshadows the “what”, I lose patience with a book. The writing flowed naturally here, letting emotions build and always keeping the girls front and center.

Each life is carefully, lovingly recreated – all the hopes, dreams and horror each Radium Girl experienced. By making each “girl” have a background, this brings them to life and makes this tragedy more real. There are so many moments in this book that made me stop to think about these poor victims – if they were men, would things have progressed as far as they did? These lives were truly taken for granted to further Radium Dial’s needs. I’m not sure which is more terrifying; the fact that radium has a half life of 1600 years (meaning their bodies are still emitting radiation from the grave) or that no one thought to care more about these women who were clearly suffering. Even the dimunitive “girls” is simultaneously endearing and dismissive, if you think about it.

THE RADIUM GIRLS was one of the best books I’ve read in a while, partly because the subject is fascinating, and because it allowed me to feel a gamut of emotions; to have me truly invested in the story and its outcome. The strength these women possessed is evident on every page, keeping the tension high and making them heroines regardless of how they were treated.

Kudos to the author for illuminating their lives as she did! She took these “statistics” and made them human…forcing us all to think about how the girls were treated as disposable. The description of the court battles is very detailed, further underscoring the evil corporation’s plans to try to drag out the proceedings, hoping the women would die before they would have to appear in court.

I have nothing bad to say about this book; there is history, pathos, hope, and humanity on every page. This should be required reading in high school, both to keep these girl’s memories alive, and to prevent suffering like this from ever happening again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B01N7KMS7X” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”yes” align=”left” asin=”0393240231″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”yes” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uF4K9CRmL.jpg” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”331″]

Many thanks to the author, Caitlin Doughty, for gifting me this book in exchange for this honest review.

When I first learned this was published I knew I had to read it. As an almost-mortician (I was accepted into American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service many years ago but never went) I really wanted to hear what Ms Doughty was going to say. Her writing is wry and emotional, and it’s easy for the reader to understand her quest to find out why death means so much to her.

The story starts out as she finds a job at a crematorium, then goes off to mortuary school in hopes of learning all she can about the funeral industry. Her motives are such that she wants to oppose the general business/embalming aspect of funerals and death; she believes in a “green” disposal, which may mean anything from cremation to being buried in the earth in a biodegradable container. Doughty feels that our attitude towards death is that of an ostrich in the sand; we prefer not to acknowledge it or prepare for it.  This, she feels, is wrong. If you are able to come to terms with your eventual passing you will not have any fear, and it’s a healthier way of living.

The author illustrates this way of thinking in each of her anecdotes. Beware–this book is not for the faint of heart, as there is a good deal of description of dead bodies, what happens when you get cremated, and some near death experiences of Doughty’s. However, that does not overshadow the main thrust of the story; we can feel Doughty’s mistrust and discomfort at the funeral industry, and are able to learn why she thinks that way.

An incident that happened at a shopping mall when the author was younger sets the background for so much discussion of mortality: she watched and heard a young girl fall to her death from the second floor of a mall, and that stayed with her for many years. She developed tics and habits, to “ward off” death coming for her, and then realized that she could come to terms with it, as we all should. She feels that Americans especially are in denial about death, whereas in other parts of the world people are more comfortable;  she illustrates this by including snippets of information on death and funerary customs around the globe, which I found interesting and enlightening.

Thinking about the end of your own life may seem depressing to you, but it is important that you get your affairs in order and not be afraid. It’s a lot easier said than done, but Doughty pleads her case well. She exudes a feeling of caring and encouragement, and hammers the point home that this is the one thing that brings us all together, no matter what race, color. creed or species you are.

I enjoyed the mix of humor and pathos in her writing, and would love to see something else in this vein. Doughty can be found at the Order of the Good Death online, and also has her own YouTube channel, known as “Ask A Mortician”. She is exactly what the funeral industry needs: an honest voice that demonstrates caring and empathy. I’d be honored to let Ms. Doughty handle my end of life care–would you? Read this book and let me know what you think. You can pick up your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”0393240231″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here.[/easyazon_link]

 

Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”030727537X” cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41cGXo4ZFOL.jpg” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”324″]

 

Final Exam was a book I picked up myself from the library. It was on my own personal reading list, which I haven’t been really able to get to these days. This is not a new book; it was published in 2007, but the ideas that Dr Chen speaks of should be relevant and in use today.

The mission of all doctors is to maintain life–by performing surgery, by prescribing medication, by encouraging life changes such as dieting or quitting smoking. But–everyone eventually dies, no matter how brilliant the surgeon was, or how much weight a patient lost. Many doctors gloss over this fact and prefer to focus on living and making a better quality of life.

Who will champion a better quality of death? No, Dr Chen is not  going to talk about euthanasia, or discuss funeral services. She is going to bring to the forefront a subject that has been assiduously avoided in human medicine for a long time: death is very much a part of life, and it should not be spoken of in hushed tones or pushed to the back of one’s mind. To truly care for your patients, you must realize that death is truly part of life.

No one wants to consider their own mortality, especially someone who is going to the hospital for an operation.  Dr Chen postulates that all doctors can give better care by embracing their own personal feelings and fears about death, and listening to what their patients are telling them, either with words or what their body is saying.

There is a great deal of explicit description in Final Exam:  of medical procedures and people struggling to die, those with sickness or those who have developed complications after surgery. Dr Chen starts out with her own personal experience with a cadaver in medical school and brings us all the way to her visceral reaction when a good friend of hers dies.

This book’s message is a powerful one, and not for the faint of heart. I thoroughly applaud Dr Chen for suggesting that doctors make themselves more emotionally available and vulnerable. Too often a patient’s death is couched in a sense of failure, of medicine gone wrong. A delicate balance needs to be attained, and I hope Dr Chen has started a dialogue by writing this book.

I loved this. You can pick up your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”030727537X” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link]!

Also, if you haven’t already, download the Kindle reading app here.

© 2019 gimmethatbook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑