Sunday Book Review – Upon Departure – Prose and #Poetry by John Roedel

I was introduced to the poetry of John Roedel by my lovely friend, Jane Sturgeon. Roedel writes heartfelt poetry from his soul. As a writer myself who writes raw from my soul, and as a griever, John’s poetry hits the mark with everything he writes. Upon Departure is his newest release I was eagerly awaiting to read. Roedel’s storytelling through prose and poetry is sure to touch anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Blurb:

From bestselling poet, storyteller and speaker John Roedel, comes a collection of poetry that explores the concept that our grief as a natural wonder that terraforms the landscape of our world in increments. It can take a lifetime to find peace when our loved one becomes an empty chair at our kitchen table.

let’s lace our hands
as if eternity is opening
up the veil into the great
mystery right in front of us

let’s feel our fingers against
each other as if this is the
last time we will touch before
we become celestial kites

let’s part our lips and say
what we should have said
to each other years ago:

“I love you.
I love you so.
I forgive you.

I’m sorry.
I’m blessed to know you.
I’m so grateful to you.”

My 5 Star Review:

Upon Departure is one of the best books I’ve read on heartfelt poetry, and on loving, life, and losing. After reading, Untied – the poetry of how knots become strings, also by Roedel, and as a writer myself, and one who is also living through grief, I will say that Roedel’s poetry speaks to me louder than some of the other many books I’ve read on grief. And this is simply because the rawness and realness of his pain jumps off the pages, especially to those of us who have also walked the walk – and are still walking through the haze of grief.

In this new release of prose and poetry, the book begins with a short introduction to Roedel’s journey of losing his father, the whirlwind of emotions, the unacceptance and disbelief, till the final acceptance, the ‘what ifs’ of doing things differently he experienced, and how the lingering effects continue through his own journey through life. In this beautiful book, you won’t find a table of contents, nor will you find titles of each poem, rather a story in prose spoken through poetry of words that paint pictures of loss, loving, hope, and eternal love, in metaphors. For anyone who loves emotional poetry, looking for comfort in poetry, or seeks a path in understanding grief, this is a book for you.

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poem #1 begins:

“I don’t care what form

you return to me

I just want you back”

The poem continues on with stanzas about how Roedel doesn’t care in which form ‘you’ appear to me in various appearances:

“If you come back to me

as our favorite song on the radio

I’ll pull the car over immediately

and let the music retell our love story

on 80s power ballad at a time…”

“If you come back to me

as a row of goosebumps on my bare arm

I will trace my fingers across my skin

Carefully so I can read the love letter

you wrote to me in spirit braille…”

“If you come back to me

As a passage in a book

I will grab the fattest eraser I can find

And get rid of all the periods so you

Can become a run-on sentence…”

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One of my favorites, Poem #10, grief summed up in a post card:

“Your grief is the purest love letter that you can ever send to the one you have lost to death…every tear that rolls down the grooves on your face is the most tender postcard you will ever write…”

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Poem #12

“…everybody that you have lost along the way

returns to you on your last day

-it turns out that

love is a boomerang.”

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Roedel has another wonderful book titled, Hey God, and wrote another excerpt for this book:

#13 – Me: Hey God…

“Grief keeps sneaking up on me.

God: To grieve means that you have loved. Grieving is one of the truest human experiences that you will ever participate in. It often arrives without warning – like a late-day summer storm – obscuring the sun and drenching you in downpour. It’s a gift, isn’t it?”

“…Bereavement is the debt you must pay for having loved. There is no getting over the loss of a beloved who is now resting in the arms of endless love. Grief has no expiration date. Despite the pass of time, the phantom pain of mourning is always one memory away from returning.”

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From poem #15

“Every tear of

Loss that we shed

Carries with it

The DNA-of the relationship

Of the love

Of the story

That two people

Once shared…”

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Poem #16 might be my favorite:

Tells about the writer stating he’s just a tourist in the world, and writes of all earthly experiences and possessions he’ll leave behind:

“…except for my

thoughts of you

-they are coming with me…”

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Poem #22 – Where the author uses metaphors likening grief to a field of “rosebushes and bees”

“…Grief is a stretching field full

of thick beautiful rose bushes

and bees that you must travel

through to get to the other side…”

“…On the other side of the field of

grief is another – even bigger field

of grief that has even more beautiful

rose bushes and even angrier bees

and even more pointy thorns that you

must get through…”

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Poignant moments:

“Being mortal means that we are all caught in a loop of meeting each other at Baggage Claim…”

Roedel goes on to say “To grieve the death of a beloved isn’t something that we check off in a box. Once we experience grief it changes us forever. Grief transforms us. Grief doesn’t just stay for a weekend, Grief moves into the loft of our hearts…”

“Grief isn’t an obstacle we overcome – it’s a masterclass in what it means to be human.”

“It can take a lifetime to find peace when our loved one becomes an empty chair at our kitchen table.”

“Life is life

there can be no after

for something that never ends…”

“…because love is the act of holding hands with

another person and counting to infinity by twos…”

“There is this unspoken call for us to have our wounds become scars long before they are ready to.”

“To grieve means that we have taken the risk to love without fear.”

“These tears are proof.

Of what?

That I loved.”

“It’s okay, my love. Eternity is holding me. Death isn’t an end. Death is a threshold. I’m still here. I never left. Love doesn’t die. I remain. There is no afterlife. There is only life. I’m here wih you. Love doesn’t die.”

“…After somebody that you love dies, it feels as if you have lost a limb. Even years later there can be phantom pains that can send you to your knees…”

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – They Call Me Mom by Pete Springer

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. I was delighted to finally get to reading Pete Springer’s wonderful book on his memoirs of how he finally became a teacher, and his sharing about how he became a successful and nurturing teacher, offering a wealth of worthy advice that any teacher should be reading to help them strive to excellence.

Blurb:

Who Will You Inspire Today? Teachers face this challenge and responsibility each day, but in the process, the author discovers that his students can also have a profound influence on him. Pete Springer takes you on his memorable thirty-one-year journey in education as an elementary school teacher and offers the many valuable life and teaching lessons he learned along the way. Get ready to laugh out loud at some of the humorous and memorable experiences that all teachers face, feel inspired by the inherent goodness of children, and appreciate the importance of developing a sense of teamwork among the staff. Learn valuable tips for working with children, parents, fellow staff members, and administrators. This book is ideal for young teachers, but also a reminder to all educators of the importance and responsibility of being a role model. This book is a must-read for all new teachers and those teachers that need a reminder they are human!

Mr. Springer educates others in his easy-to-read, story-like, first-hand manuscript. You will laugh, cry, and get motivated to be the best educator you can. After reading this, I have a better outlook on relationships with my colleagues and am reminded to savor every moment. -Tami Beall (Principal, Pine Hill School)

My 5 Star Review:

I am going to start this review by saying that every teacher should read this book! The author begins this book by sharing his journey of becoming a teacher. That wasn’t his original plan as he tried to figure out through various other jobs, what he wanted to do in life. The universe certainly led him to the right place. This book reads like a memoir, and it surely is a recounting of Springer’s teaching, but also offers a wealth of lessons for educators and parents.

The author shares information about how to be a great teacher, with more than just knowing the curriculum. He describes the various things he did in his teaching years to not only educate his students, but to teach them about compassion for others, sharing, kindness, inclusiveness, as he goes the extra mile to grow their self-esteems, helping them to become worthy of themselves. As the author says himself, he played many more roles than just a teacher.

Springer gives praise when it is deserved to validate his student’s accomplishments and discipline when warranted in a fashion that didn’t criticize, nor embarrass a child, but with speaking gently so the child could learn the errors of their ways. He shared some of his own hurdles, pitfalls and accomplishments to give insight to his students so they could find a common ground and understand that even the teacher made mistakes. He found best methods of organization in classrooms after assessing his kids and grouping them where he deemed they’d fare best, and disciplined justifiably with understanding for the students, rewarding them for great accomplishments. Show and Tell in class was used for a student to demonstrate an accomplishment, while teaching others in the class something useful. These are the positives an adult can instill in a child to grow their pride moving forward in life. This teacher even spent special one-on-one time outside of a school project to form bonds.

Springer then goes into his interactions with parents because of the importance of them appreciating what they need to know about their child, including some of the more challenging discussions teachers may encounter with parents and how to handle those situations. Similarly, he shares the importance of interacting with both colleagues and the boss (the principal). He discusses good working relationships, sharing different teaching techniques, getting along, the importance of not gossiping, and sharing info without crossing privacy boundaries. He talks about discipline, how to discipline so the child learns their mistakes in a positive light. As he explains, if you only berate a child, all they would take from that is retreat, hurt, and wouldn’t learn to grow from their mistakes.

Springer offers excellent insights for all teachers to understand there is so much more to being a teacher than just teaching curriculum. He shares his own insights as to why he used certain methods and why they were effective.

Springer shares some personal stories of memorable moments, and students, how he rectified certain situations that every teacher will encounter, and his passion for teaching and its rewards. He covers a lot of ground, from the importance of laughter – embarrassing moments teaching health class, field trip shenanigans, even the sad topic of preparing with drills for lockdowns. He even covers the state of affairs currently with teacher shortages, supply room shortages, and how he went the extra mile bringing things in to give his students a great and enjoyable education.

Springer was so much more than just a teacher to his students. And it’s no surprise why some of them would call him ‘Mom’ by mistake, as they felt that comfortable with this remarkable teacher.

This book is not just for teachers. I think it’s an excellent understanding for every parent who have children in the school system. Often parents don’t know all of what goes on with their child in school. But teacher Pete had an excellent execution of keeping parents informed and engaging with them.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – #Shameless #Promotion – New Reviews for D.G. Kaye Books

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. As many of you know, I share a book I’ve read here weekly with my review. I always like to share a good book, paying it forward, and give the author some recognition. For this week’s review, I’m going to take the liberty to share some new-ish reviews I’ve been meaning to share, for my own books. As we all know, reviews are both golden currency for an author, plus, sharing them is a shoutout thank- you to the readers who take the time out to review our books.

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I found this lovely review at Mark Bierman’s blog below.

Source: Review of A Conflicted Heart: A Daughter’s Quest For Solace From Emotional Guilt, by D.G. Kaye – Mark Bierman

If there was ever a story that gives a perfect example of peeling away the protective layers in which many of us enshroud ourselves, you’ve just found it.

D.G. courageously shares her story of being raised by an emotionally, and often physically, distant mother and the damaging consequences. I think most of us read stories to connect with the characters, and I found myself highly engaged with the younger D.G., as she tries to navigate through the emotional turmoil of her mother’s rejection; no child should ever have to go through that.    

In spite of her mother’s alienation, D.G. does find strong supporters, within her family and in romantic partners. The reader cannot help but feel relief and joy every time these people turn up in her life.

I grew to admire D.G.’s resilience, kind heart, and appreciated her brutal honesty. The pages are choc full of valuable life lessons.

Life is rarely fair, but there are bright spots that we can soak up, and D.G. is certainly one who has learned to do just that. No one is spared from disappointment and varying degrees of trauma. We all need to find our ‘people’ who will support us.

I recommend this book to anyone with a pulse.  

I’m giving this book, FOUR STARS!  

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Martha Perez, thank you for sharing your reviews on your many social platforms. This one is on Goodreads.

Review of Twenty Years from Martha Perez

Martha Perez 5.0 out of 5 stars HEARTFELT MEMOIR  Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2022

Twenty years started with a promise. D.G. Kaye had no limits for the love of her life.
A heartfelt personal memoir is written beautifully by the author D.G. Kaye. This story is my favorite book by far this year. She shares taking the plunge and commenting on the love of her life, and truth be told, we never could predict the future. Gorden is a lot older than D.G. Kaye. I could feel her worrisome mind. She did take the chance.

The way she talked about her husband and the unconditional love between them is beautiful, even though a marriage is a lot of work. Each chapter of her words was the good, the bad, and the ugly, but her life with Gorden was a lovely daily sprinkle of glitter with love, laughter, stability, health-giving and age differences, respect, and lots of honey past, today, and future.

The author talks about the strength of the struggles they both endured, yet they embrace handling life together with love, kindness, and creative planning.

Kaye is Awe-inspiring with her sincere overpowering words that touch my heart and soul. Life is not perfect; by reading her love story, I could honestly say she came close to the happiness that people wait for a lifetime with faithfulness, honoring their vows to smile and laugh at the end of the day.

The simple things in life are watching the sunset, having morning coffee together, hugs, and making love are a lot more than the little things in a couple’s life. I truly loved reading this book. I learned from others and my own mistakes. The author’s story is a touching and beautiful tribute to her marriage.

Keeping a marriage together and having compassion in everyday life is an emotional task; they choose to handle their day-to-day lives gracefully and in harmony. I highly recommend the extraordinary book. 

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Martha Perez posted on Goodreads.

Martha Perez’s Review

Jul 15, 2022

D.G. Kaye is back, and as she reflects on some of her more memorable vacations and travel snags, she finds herself constantly struggling to keep one step ahead of the ever-changing guidelines of the airlines—with her overweight luggage in tow.

I have to say I enjoyed reading this book. When I traveled had the same dilemma overweight luggage baggage charges have become an excess headache. I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one going through this madness.

And when travelers are compulsive shoppers, when nothing fits in our suitcases, that could become a problem. Read and learn. The author gives you an insight into her own experience and shares with us the stratagem of how to fit everything in a suitcase and much more; those tips will be with me for the next vacation.

Each word is beautifully written for awareness and to educate the people who travel and make it as easy as possible. I appreciate the knowledge that will help me shortly. I highly recommend this fantastic book to mostly those who love to travel.

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Toni Pike recently shared a new review on her blog for Have Bags Will Travel. This was a lovely post Toni put up at her blog to share my book. I hope you’ll pop over there. Her review is below.

5 stars – a delightfully nostalgic travel memoir

D.G. Kaye’s delightful travel memoir is an enjoyable page-turner, and essential reading for anyone wanting to travel overseas. It would be a perfect beach read, or a great book to take with you on vacation – something, perhaps, to keep you entertained while lining up at airports.

The author confesses to being a shopaholic who always travels with too much luggage – a problem shared by so many other travellers, including myself. She had me in stitches with her stories of trying to comply with the ever-varying luggage limits, and her constant struggles to deal with Canadian customs authorities on her trips home.  

Kaye has many useful tips and tricks for the unsuspecting traveller. I couldn’t stop laughing at her description of how to maintain perfect sterilisation and not touch anything inside those tiny airplane toilets.

She has fond memories to share about trips to places like London, Paris and Las Vegas – and some fun times in Venezuela. I could relate to how much she loved Las Vegas in the past, when there were less crowds, much higher dress standards, and the restaurants and hotels offered much better service and value.

A few months in Greece in her youth became a constant struggle with too much luggage and then an accident. At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, she managed to get from one terminal to another in record time with her elderly father in tow.

The author manages to include all sorts of luggage disasters – a topic very relevant at the moment. Shoes also play a big part, but you’ll have to read for yourself to find out more.

The book is written in an easy-to-read style and it moves quickly, so I kept eagerly turning the pages and was very sorry to reach the end. I hope the author writes another travel book one day – and I give this a very well-deserved 5 stars.

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Martha posted on Goodreads blog.

Reviewed on Goodreads by Martha Perez

P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy

Martha Perez‘s review

Jun 26, 2017 and May 2022

it was amazing

Read 2 times

When I started to read this astonishing true story, I have to say I was very proud of D.G. Kaye; this is a heart-wrenching story with so many emotions about a mother and daughter relationship having a narcissistic mother and being so selfish and damaging her child.

A mother is supposed to love and treasure the gift God gave her; instead, she gave her pain and sorrow. I honestly relate to this story. D. G. Kaye is a fantastic woman. It is vital to tell such a heartrending and emotional story; she has so much courage to heal herself and others.

You live with this all your life wondering why? What did I do wrong? You start to question and blame yourself. It’s living with a dysfunctional family; it’s never your fault; it’s all we know until you’re an adult that you realize how messy life is. She has to decide to forgive her mother. I think it’s up to the person that was hurt to make such a tough choice—a page-turner.

Many of us came from a flawed family. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our parents, and when a child is abused, they will carry the pain throughout their lives. It’s an emotional roller coaster; the author speaks from her heart and soul. You will have tears flow down your cheeks. It’s not easy to forgive, but I am glad she has written this book.

A mother’s love should be unconditional, but when they have gambling and other problems, they exercise control over their children by being selfish and not loving. It’s a recipe for disaster. Why her mother wasn’t happy reflects on her daughter’s hurt she carries throughout her life and the neglect and abuse of the family.

I understand why writing her journey was so important. It’s like letting go of a butterfly jarred to be free to fly away from the Suffocation from her past.

I don’t think we can ever understand why some parents do what they do. We must heal from the bad and be grateful for the good. I could relate with D.G. Kaye. My parents were alcoholics and gave us away. It’s important to forgive, but you never forget. I highly recommend this fantastic book.

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I found this beautiful review from Harmony’s posting on Goodreads.

Harmony Kent

5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Everyone Should ReadReviewed in the United States on April 28, 2021

As soon as I saw what this book was about, I had to read it, and I am so pleased I did.

Because of the difficult subject matter, and my own history, I had to take a deep breath before I plunged in. Not only has this writer’s honesty and bravery helped me to understand my parents a little better, it has also shown me precisely what my sister has become. I’d missed that, and this explains so very much.

It is a sad fact of life that, all too often, the victim becomes the perpertrator, unless we have the insight and strength to do something about it. I have long joked that I’m the reverse ‘black sheep’ of my family, and it seems to me that Debby is too. For all our successes, and the miracle of growing into well-adjusted adults in spite of it all, we will never be accepted by a parent who demands that we live their lies, manipulations, and abuses. The same with any sibling who demands the same.

Some lines that resonated with me in particular:

‘A narcissistic mother doesn’t have to be in one’s presence. She can still demand and demean no matter how far away.’

and

‘It is my decision to banish my mother from my life and a resolution to find peace within myself with my decision.’

and

‘[…] if we’re lucky enough to realize the bad, we have the opportunity to steer ourselves in a better direction.’

For a while now, I have struggled to think of what I will do when one or the other of my parents dies. I’m not even sure they would let me know, at this stage. And reading this honest and brave account from D G Kaye has helped me immensely. It has also helped to explain the till-now inexplicable behaviour of my twin sister. She has grown up with emotional neglect, as did I, and has now become a narcissist. This book has helped me to identify why she lives and behaves the way she does.

From my own life, I know how hard it is to go against the grain to become your own person despite your upbringing. It takes work, day by day, to resist some of those unhealthy habits instilled in us as children and to trust our judgements and motives. It takes courage to not give in to the insidious lack of self-esteem with which such adults are often left. The author has overcome much, and I admire her deeply both for her acheivements and for putting her journey into words so that others of us can also be helped.

PS I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy gets a solid and resounding 5 stars from me. A difficult read, but a book everybody should read.

I want to thank Mark, Toni, Harmony, for taking the time and interest to read my books and review. I’d also like to thank Martha Perez for her interest and time for reading three of my books. I am elated that all of you took so much from my words. Author’s gold. 💜💚🧡

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Queen of Paris #historicalfiction – Coco Chanel

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a book by Pamela Binnings Ewen – Queen of Paris. This is a historical fiction story about the life of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, from her poor childhood and dropped off as a young girl, at a nun’s convent by her father, after her mother’s death, through her tumultuous years as a mistress, to her break through idea creating a hat, to her ruthless survival, hanging out with high ranking German officers during WWII, to her eventual fleeing of Paris once France was freed of Germans. As a lover of biographies and my curiosities for how people became famous, I found this a riveting read.

Blurb:

Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is revered for her sophisticated style—the iconic little black dress—and famed for her intoxicating perfume Chanel No. 5. Yet behind the public persona is a complicated woman of intrigue, shadowed by mysterious rumors. The Queen of Paris, the new novel from award-winning author Pamela Binnings Ewen, vividly imagines the hidden life of Chanel during the four years of Nazi occupation in Paris in the midst of WWII—as discovered in recently unearthed wartime files.

Coco Chanel could be cheerful, lighthearted, and generous; she also could be ruthless, manipulative, even cruel. Against the winds of war, with the Wehrmacht marching down the Champs-Élysées, Chanel finds herself residing alongside the Reich’s High Command in the Hotel Ritz. Surrounded by the enemy, Chanel wages a private war of her own to wrestle full control of her perfume company from the hands of her Jewish business partner, Pierre Wertheimer. With anti-Semitism on the rise, he has escaped to the United States with the confidential formula for Chanel No. 5. Distrustful of his intentions to set up production on the outskirts of New York City, Chanel fights to seize ownership. The House of Chanel shall not fall.

While Chanel struggles to keep her livelihood intact, Paris sinks under the iron fist of German rule. Chanel—a woman made of sparkling granite—will do anything to survive. She will even agree to collaborate with the Nazis in order to protect her darkest secrets. When she is covertly recruited by Germany to spy for the Reich, she becomes Agent F-7124, code name: Westminster. But why? And to what lengths will she go to keep her stormy past from haunting her future?

My 5 Star Review:

As a lover of historical fiction – and my fascination with Coco Chanel, I found this story riveting. If you Google up Coco Chanel and her ‘colorful’ past, you will find all the elements this author covered in the book that seem accurate as much as we can learn about this mysterious woman and her shenanigans. The said facts are woven into this telling about this intriguing woman, her tragic beginnings and love life, and the evolution of her couture and infamous fragrance, Chanel #5, and how far she’d go to protect it.

Gabrielle Chanel came from a poor family and when her mother died Gabrielle was twelve years old, and was sent to live in a nun’s convent/orphanage where she had to work and scrub the abbey floors because she was poor. Once freed, she started singing in cabaret halls and rubbed shoulders with some elite along her path, and ultimately, became part of an elite group of mistresses where she made some colorful liasons. It was a song she sang at the cabarets that inspired her new name – Coco. Chanel’s shmoozing with the elite as a mistress, had her falling in love with Boy Capel, who would turn out to be the one and only love of her life, which was really a tragic love story on so many levels.

She was a clever woman who made her mark when she made up a hat she wore around her elite friends in the early 1900s, and the hat was the beginning of her millinery career, created because of her determination to make her own money to stop being beholden to rich men. It was her lover, Boy Capel who helped her eventually set up shop for her couture business that followed her millinery beginnings.

A few years later, Coco met up with a perfumer, she commissioned him to come up with a scent to match her designs, and after assessing five certain scents, she fell in love with the fifth one and five, being her favorite number for various reasons, became her signature scent. To move this product along, Chanel had already met some people in high society and they hooked her up making a deal with Jewish marketing brothers, Pierre and Paul Wertheimer to run the company of Chanel perfumes. Chanel was given only a 10% cut of her own product, but with no money of her own, this venture helped begin her empire.

The history of the making of this perfume is interesting enough, but with all the hob-nobbing Chanel was involved with, this book takes us into her world once WWII was approaching and her Jewish partners who had fled France to the United States just before the war began spreading into France. They fled with the ‘secret recipe’ and locked down all the Jasmine fields in and around Grasse, Provence with buying off perfumers to make sure the product wouldn’t be altered by inferior or synthetic ingredients, and Chanel couldn’t get to them first.

Chanel did everything she could to get her rights back, but everything she tried, it seemed, her partners were always one step ahead of her. And then the war came to Paris. Chanel fled to the south of France, made some new connections with the elite, and after a few months, returned to Paris, to her beloved Ritz Hotel where the German hierarchy had taken over, but ‘the elite’ Parisians were still permitted to stay. It was during this time she made friends with some of Germany’s most ruthless SS leaders – a dangerous game.

This story also depicts how ruthless and vengeful Chanel was as she tried to declare her product as Aryan, stopping at nothing to get back her perfume rights, while trying to convince some very high gestapo to help her get her company back away from Jews. She is also forced to beg a favor of them for a very personal nature, and as we all know, once you are indebted to the gestapo, you are trapped. Chanel had a big choice to make – betray her country by becoming a spy and aligning with the Germans, or give up on trying to reclaim her company – and something else she loved even more dearly.

The author engages us in great story lines here, spanning between two different decades the early 1900s to 1919 and 1940 as WWII approaches, to the end of the war.

This book takes a deep look at the choices Chanel made in her life, her mission to survive and everything she would do to try and get back her rights. She was a clever woman who made her mark with an unusual hat, growing it into a huge empire. After WWI, when she could finally obtain materials, she began her fashion career. But she paid many steep prices along her way to fame, and this book highlights a lot of her heartache, and ruthlessness, depicting just how far she would go to obtain what she wanted.

Everyone thinks, ooh Chanel, but after reading this book, it left me feeling that Coco was both, a woman who would sellout anyone for personal gain and was sometimes lacking in human empathy in the name of keeping grandiose standing in high society. She was a woman who was very damaged and broken in many ways. I couldn’t feel sympathy for her, as I hold no value for those who value money more than human life. And as it turns out, after the war, many Parisians felt the same way. It wasn’t until ten years after the war she reclaimed her fame in America as Americans knew nothing about her secret life and liasons with the Third Reich.

A truly engaging read!

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Bearing the Unbearable by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a poignant book, written from her own experience with grief and loss, as well as shared interviews with some of her bereavement clients, by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore.

As many of you know, I’ve read a number of books on grief – from the clinical to the afterlife, and one thing I can say about this book is that it stands out from others because it talks about all aspects and changes of life we go through when grief strikes – not just the expected things. Dr. Cacciatore has ‘worn the shoes’. One other thing I’d like to note about this book is that I would highly recommend everyone to read this book. Why? Because everyone in the world will have to experience it in their lifetimes, and for those who haven’t yet, this book gives amazing insights. It’s also a good book for those who know or love a griever and don’t know how to act around them or what to say. It distinctly states what us grievers need in our new life path from those in our lives.

Blurb:

If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human. 

Dr. Cacciatore is featured in the 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See, from Oprah, Prince Harry, and Apple TV.

Bearing the Unbearable is a Foreword INDIES Award-Winner — Gold Medal for Self-Help.
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When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.

Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.

Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups.

My 5 Star Review:

Before I go into my review of this book, I will simply state, as a griever myself, that this book is one of the best books I’ve read on grief because it isn’t a clinical diagnosis book, it isn’t a guide on how to get through grief, but a tender telling of all the emotions a griever will experience throughout the rest of their lives, the triggers, and most of all, also beneficial to anyone who has ever known a griever and is lost for words or knowing how to act around someone who is grieving.

The book begins with a prologue of the author giving us a snapshot of her own grief story. She shares some of the questions all grievers ask and wonders how the world can continue on when her world was left empty – a common thread between all grievers. The author tells us she hopes for other grievers to feel they are in a safe place for us to be with our broken hearts. She warns that this book isn’t instruction on how to get over grief, but how to learn to live with the undeniable ebbs and flows and triggers of grief that will remain a part of our lives, for the rest of our lives. She talks about grievers needing others to reach out to us, and just how to do it by telling of her own experiences, and that of others she has consoled.

Dr. Cacciatore speaks of how death will affect every single person one day in their own individual way. The more we love, the more we will grieve. She also delves into how grief is manifested and what the shock of a traumatic death can leave on us – sometimes and often, leading to depression and/or PTSD, the repercussions of the shocking experience of losing a loved one, and how that often leads to running to substances to numb our pain. The good doctor touches on all the various types of trauma and grief from losing a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse, etc., covering the gamut of what each of these relationships lost leave the living loved one to endure and the various habits and personality characteristics that are altered in the wake of, including the physical ailments many of us experience in light of grief, of which, many can become life threatening – especially when self-care desire disappears.

Most importantly to me, the author speaks of those in our circles who tend to abandon us in our hours of need because they don’t know what we need, and fears of talking about our lost loved ones causing more pain, explaining quite the opposite, how us grievers aren’t looking for solutions, only an ear to hear us speak of our great loss with a compassionate heart. “…But please just sit beside me. Say nothing. Do not offer a cure, or a pill, or a word, or a potion. Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me. Please be gentle with me. Please self, be gentle with me too. I will not ever ‘get over it’ so please don’t urge me down that path.”

“Traumatic death provokes traumatic grief.” Truest words. The author gets into the body’s reactions to grief, comparing a diagnosis or a death edict having that ‘fight or flight’ feeling within us setting off in perceived physchological threat within. Only, the fight or flight feeling never really leaves. She goes into the despair the griever learns to live within. “This is grief’s most piercing message: there is no way around-the only way is through”. As she states, those who don’t deal with their grief and won’t allow themselves to feel, are only suppressing their grief, tells us it will eventually manifest in unexpected ways. The doctor warns that suppressing grief is responsible for so many addictions, abuse and social disconnection.

We learn about how some people’s cry for help – or, the lack of those cries, can often lead to that griever taking their own life. She warns that grief always has a place at the table. Talking about grief is necessary and should never be stifled. The distractions we use for ourselves as grievers is also discussed as our everlasting unquenchable yearning for our lost loved ones never goes away.

Another poignant discussion in this book delves into the loss of a child and how that sometimes leads parents to unintentionally neglect their living children while focusing on the loss of another. We also learn how crying is a natural valve to relieve stress and explains the biochemical essense of grief tears and their differentiation to other tears.

In this book there is a dedicated chapter to grievers on how to tell our friends and family what we need from them in our hours of grief. Letting them know our triggers, asking for our acceptance when we aren’t up to a family gathering, a cry for help, and more. She offers up solutions like, writing a note to family letting them know our needs and reassuring them to not hold back conversations of our lost loved one because that is one of the most needed conversation many grievers crave, is talking about our lost loved one.

Time is linear with grief, sometimes minutes feel like years, years feel like minutes. The author tells us how easily a grief moment will steal our breath. “It is both feared enemy and beloved companion who never leaves.” Reminding, we won’t stop grieving until we stop loving. “Those we love deeply who have died are part of our identity; they are a part of our biography. We feel that love in the marrow of our bones.”

The author offers writing to a lost loved one as a great therapy. Read it and weep as she explains these tears of release are good for the soul. She also talks about making a memory box we can revisit to soothe our souls in memory.

All different types of grief are covered in this book, from the ones we carry for our lost one to the kind where we blame ourselves for. You will find stories here that demonstrate things that can happen for those who withhold their grief.

I loved her analogy of grief ‘ it’s a big bowl of grief broth’, describing how just one more ingredient can overpower us with overwhelming grief.

Poignant Quotes:

“No intervention and no interventionist can ‘cure’ our grief. And we are not broken-we are brokenhearted.”

“Grief is not a medical disorder to be cured.

Grief is not spiritual crisis to be resolved.

Grief is not a social woe to be addressed.

Grief is, simply, a matter of the heart-to be felt.”

“When we cannot hold in our arms our loved ones who’ve died, we hold them in our hearts. This is being with grief.”

“When you’re feeling tired of our sadness, just remember that we are supremely more tired of their dead-ness.”

“Losing our beloved brings a pain unlike any other-and this pain is- legitimately ours. Being with grief is terrifyingly painful, yet when we live our grief honestly, it has the mysterious power to deepen the meaning of our lives. This is the gift-curse of grief.”

Whoever survives the test must tell his story. ~ Elie Wiesel

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Why Didn’t They Leave by Eva Hnizdo – WWII #FamilySaga

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Eva Hnizdo’s historical fiction book, taken from memoir – Why Didn’t They Leave? . This book was right up my reading alley. The book begins in the late 1930s Czechoslovakia just as WWII is heating up. A family saga that takes us into the life of three generations of women – Franzi, her daughter Magda, and spans through the decades of change into the early 2000’s as told by Magda’s daughter, Zuzana. This is a story of life-altering change, fear, humanity, and how each generation of women coped with war and its devastating effects on body, mind, and spirit, and an understanding for Zuzana born of another generation, struggling to learn why her relationship was strained with her mother from resentments to a final understanding.

Blurb:

You can’t ask for asylum in another country just because your mother drives you nuts, so when 19-year-old Zuzana flees from communist Czechoslovakia to England in 1972, she says she just wants freedom. Her relationship with her mother, Magda – a Holocaust survivor who lost most of her family in the concentration camps – is toxic and Zuzana finds happiness in London with a loving husband and beautiful son.

But when her mother dies, Zuzana is crushed by guilt and feels an overwhelming urge to discover more about her family’s tragic history. So, she embarks on a life-changing journey, discovers some incredible stories and tries to answer the question which haunts her: Why didn’t they leave?

“Eva Hnizdo’s Why Didn’t They Leave illuminates the lives of one extended family from the beginning of Naziism. With meticulous detail and heart-wrenching scenes Hnizdo offers answers through her characters’ actions as to why some chose to remain in their homeland and others fled. A story filled with history and heartache… survival and hope.” – Julie Maloney, author and founder/director of Women Reading Aloud

“Eva Hnizdo has turned her own story into a gripping work of fiction that follows a secular Czech Jewish family’s fortunes during World War Two through communism to a multi-cultural life in Britain. Her book says much about prejudice and tolerance, survivors’ guilt and the emotional challenges of motherhood, all through the voice of her extrovert and sexy heroine.” – Brigid Grauman, journalist and author of Uncle Otto’s Puppet Theatre

Zuzana is haunted by the choices that her family made during the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and later during the Communist regime. Her discoveries make for a compelling story of loyalty, love, and courage.” – Jacqueline Sheehan, author

Eva Hnizdo is a Jewish Czech, born in Prague in 1953. She is the granddaughter of a man who lost his life by deciding not to emigrate in 1938, and a daughter of parents who, after surviving the Holocaust, spent most of their adult lives under an oppressive communist regime. Eva studied medicine at Charles University in Prague and became a doctor. She escaped to the West in 1986 and obtained political asylum in the UK in 1987 with her husband and two sons. She worked as a full-time GP partner at the same surgery in Watford for twenty-three years. Now retired, she spends her time writing.

My 5 Star Review:

Magda is 13, it’s 1940 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Germans are taking over the country and Magda and her brother Oskar have already been booted from school, while their mother is sewing yellow Stars of David on their clothing. At first Magda thinks the stars look cool, then quickly realizes after getting pushed and shoved on the street, the star is a calling card for attention. Magda’s family was privileged and Magda’s mother Franzi and her husband Bruno did well with buying off SS agents by giving them many family possessions to avoid deportation to Theresienstadt, but by 1942 her family was finally deported. Some survived, some didn’t. When liberation finally came, Magda and her mother lived through the brutal and lean times and were lucky to be given back their home in Czechoslavakia.

Magda at 18 reinserts herself back into the school system and studies hard to graduate high school after missing four years of school and succeeds. She marries Mirek after she graduates and they live with her mother Franzi. Franzi mourns the loss of her husband, her son and all others while Magda wants to go on, avoiding the memories and deaths. By 1948 communism was taking over the Czech oslovakia and government was taking over private businesses, those who didn’t comply were sent to jails. It was like war was back but within their own country. Magda and Mirek were urged to leave in the late 40s, but Magda didn’t want to leave her mother. By 1952 they were stuck there. Anyone caught trying to leave the country was jailed.

In 1953 Magda gave birth to daughter Zuzana and was happy to let her mother Franzi do everything and look after her daughter while she kept occupied, entrenched in her job. By this time Mirek was already cheating on moody Magda. Magda decided she didn’t want her daughter to be Jewish so she convinced her unwilling husband to have Zuzana baptized to protect her from being a persecuted Jew, as anti-semitism was running rampant even after the war, especially while Czechoslovakia was under communism. When Zuzana was age 9, Mirek left Magda. He was tired of her whining and lack of interest in cultural things he liked to do. And he wasn’t happy about not giving their daughter a religion to practice, as Magda only wanted the baptism to protect her child from future incidence of anti-semitism, without teaching her about any religion.

In the mid 60s, Magda went to visit Bavaria. She was stunned at all the beautiful goods for sale in stores – something they didn’t have in the Czechoslovakia. Her pent up anger at Germans had her stealing from stores because she felt entitled after the Germans seemed to have stolen much more from her. Her passive- aggressive anger lingered.

By 1964, Zuzana was a young teenager who protested all her mother’s good intentions for her. Magda tries to send Zuzana for dance lessons but Zuzana doesn’t like it, doesn’t like girlie things or dresses. Magda wants to give her daughter everything she didn’t have, but Zuzana is rebellious. Zuzana prefers wearing pants and reading books to dresses and parties. Magda is often bitter at her daughter’s reactions to all her plans for her, as though Magda wanted to live what she missed out on vicariously through her daughter. Magda often mumbles to herself that her daughter doesn’t know how lucky she is to have access to clothes, classes and adventures as Magda internally remembers her time imprisoned during the Holocaust. But Magda stays firm in her decision not to tell Zuzana about her imprisonment or how so many family members actually died in the Holocaust. She never even told Zuzana they were really Jewish.

Part two of the book is Zuzana’s story in the year beginning back at 1966, til the early 2000s. Now married Zuzana with a 13 year old son, Adam, tells her husband Harry that she changed schools when she was a teenager where she could learn more languages, adding that her mother got her in through black market connections, which she reiterates was really such a thing.

In 1967 Zuzana’s Uncle Otto and his wife came back to Czechoslovakia to visit his remaining family and he went to the synagogue with Zuzana, her mother and grandmother Olga. This was the first time Zuzana realized that it was not only the communist anti-fascists who were killed in the war, but innocent people, including her own family. Until then, Zuzana had been sheltered from knowing about war and the fact that she was an actual Jew. As an avid book reader, Zuzana began to read ‘different’ books that were starting to appear on the shelves – stories about the Holocaust.

As a late teen, Zuzana left the country, organized by her rich Uncle Otto and moved to England where she went to university and lived out her dreams of freedom, education, meeting people from different races and falling in love with her to be black husband Harry who became a pharmacist.

Zuzana felt she didn’t love her mother because Magda nagged her all the time and never gave her daughter a compliment, almost trying so hard to force her daughter to do the things Magda never had the chance to do. The tension remained between mother and daughter throughout the story until Magda’s ultimate death, when Zuzana learned from Uncle Otto what really happened to their family during the war, and this opened up a world of curiosity for Zuzana about her real heritage inspiring her desire to travel to America to meet the sparse family who survived the war and ultimately, moved to America. Then Zuzana gets the rude awakening about how her mother survived and the PTSD effect it left on Magda that made her become the way she was. She meets up with aunts, uncles and cousins who were survivors and descendants of survivors, and her new discoveries give her a new sense of why her mother acted the way she did, discovering her mum not wanting to talk of what she lived was a shield for herself and the PTSD she suffered through the rest of her life from what she lived through. Zuz learns that she shouldn’t have judged her mother and once Magda dies, Zuz’s grief becomes overwhelming. As Zuzana begins to have regrets in this new appreciation for her mother, we begin to learn the true effects the war had on this one family.

This is a story about a family caught up in the brink of war, during the war, and their lives in the aftermath. It deals with racism, anti-semitism, communism, humanitarianism and inhumanity. Fascinating on many levels with the intricately woven characters and going deep learning how and why these people were shaped. Yes it takes place during the Holocaust, but it’s about people’s individual lives, living through hell, and how they become after. This is the story of one once large family torn by war, how they survived, why some left in time, and why some chose to stay behind.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review, The Calm and the Storm by Martha Perez

My Sunday Book Review today is for Martha Perez’s short, inspirational prose from the soul, one who has been ‘there’ with some of life’s soul wounding moments.. And in this short but inspiring book, the author offers words of comfort.

Blurb:

The Calm And The Storm: Inspiration that will keep you strong enough to keep going!

When you look at the reflection of the moon as the waves ease toward the sand, I am the calm. The wind blows, and the air is cool. When the waves are crashing on a dark stormy night, and the bat’s shadows reflect the glow of the full moon, I am the Storm.

“The Calm and The Storm” are 12 short quality chapters that will acknowledge what you go through in life. Not just what you go through now, but what you’ve been through before. We are all strong and powerful people trying to make the best out of life. If you want to be inspired, I wrote this with love. Even though I write dark stories, this book is made to get you through the dark days and appreciate the other days as well.

My 5 Star Review:

Martha Perez is soul inspiring. I have a few of her books awaiting to be read but I chose to read this short inspirational book one day when my soul needed soothing.

This book a collection of short chapters of words to inspire. It’s not about crying over wrongs and hurt, but finding the reasons to make it to the next day.

“When you feel your life is filled with darkness it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay. But then find that reason to continue.” ~Martha Perez

“When life breaks you, let it shape you. Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the fight.” ~Martha Perez

“I fight with my pen. I fight when I type. My ink bleeds pain mixed with empty tears.” ~Martha Perez

Perez offers avenues of hope by referencing her own over-comings in life in small detail, helping to point others in a more positive direction despite obstacles. She speaks as though talking specifically to us, the reader. A good book to pick up again and again when your self needs a little lift.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review Plus – Bonus Documentary Recap on Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review with an added bonus. Today I’m going to review Joan Didion’s book – The Year of Magical Thinking. But before I share my book review, I’m going to share an overview of the 2017 Documentary currently on Netflix – Joan Didion – The Center Will Not Hold, where 86 year old, literary icon, Joan, reflects on her intimate stories from her writing career and struggles, and her forty year marriage to author John Gregory Dunne, brother to author Dominick Dunne. The documentary was directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

 

My 5 Star Review Documentary Review:

 

Joan Didion was born December 5, 1934 in Sacremento, California. She’s an American novelist and essayist and screenwriter. Joan is known for her incisive depictions of social unrest. Joan says she began writing at the age of five and was a shy ‘bookish’ girl. She never considered herself a real writer until her first published book. Joan struggled with social anxiety and took up acting and public speaking to help ease her anxieties. As a young teen, she spent much of her time typing out books by Ernest Hemingway so she could learn how sentence structure worked. Joan had a sordid childhood as her dad was in the army during WWII, with moving a lot she didn’t attend school regularly until returning back to Sacremento in 1944.

 

After watching the documentary and learning about the demises of both her husband and her daughter Quintana, my heart went out to Joan and I was compelled to read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, because she wrote it after John’s death. It was first published in 2005. In the documentary, Joan’s publicist talks about how he urged Joan to write her novel published in 2012 – Blue Nights, for both, John and Quintana.

 

John and Joan met in New York City when Joan won a poetry contest at her senior year in Berkeley for her essay, Prix de Paris, and the prize landed her a job as research assistant at Vogue. John wrote for Time Magazine at the time.

 

They bounced ideas off one another, each wrote their own books and essays, but they collaborated on screenplays together – Needle Park (1971 with Al Pacino) and A Star is Born (1976 Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Joan’s logline for Needle Park – “Romeo and Juliette as junkies.

 

In this documentary, we get a deep inside look at this author from her beginnings as a journalist writing hard stories, Joan would say that she writes about disorder because she’d then find the situation”less scary”. She wasn’t happy with the way some of her books were portrayed for movies, such as, Book of Common Prayer, complaining her characters were totally different than what she’d written.

 

Joan admits that much of what she writes contained pieces of her. Her interests in writing were mostly about stories of humanity and the bad things going on in the world. Her visit to El Salvador prompted her to write political stories and essays, and an eventual book called El Salvador. She talks about the lie of the Central Park 7 – propaganda spurred falsely in the accusation of the rape of a jogger in Central Park, N.Y. and on VP Dick Cheney, “Bully of the Bush war,” “He took the lemons, made lemonade, spilled, and made someone else cleanup.”

 

John and Joan kept a low profile in the celeb world. They adopted their daughter Quintana at birth. When Quintana was asked what kind of mom Joan was, she replied, “Okay, mostly remote.” Joan began questioning how parents are sometimes on auto-pilot and don’t realize child neglect.

 

In 2003, Quintana took ill and was rushed to hospital when she went into septic shock resulting from pneumonia, which turned worse and ultimately left her in a coma at the time of John’s death. John and Joan had just come home from visiting Quintana in hospital on December 30, 2003, and they were sick with worry about their daughter. Joan made dinner, the two sat down to eat when John had a massive, fatal heart attack. Later, looking in her husband’s closet with a friend to pack up his clothes, Joan said, “What if he comes back?” That was clearly a grief statement because I could so identify with not wanting to let go. After she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan said it was the hardest book to write, but had to write it to get through. I totally get that. She told herself that after writing the book she would learn to let go. This woman lost the love of her life while their daughter lay in a coma.

 

Months after Quintana’s recovery, she fell and hit her head, suffering a massive hematoma and resulting in six hours of brain surgery. As Quintana was recovering her major illnesses in 2004, she came down with Pancreatitis in 2005, and ultimately died from it in August 2005 at age 39. Didion wrote Blue Nights in 2011 for Quintana. That woman was broken.

 

Joan was/is a tiny woman, and after losing her family, her wonderful friends stepped up to take care of her and made sure she ate at her already weight of 75 pounds. Joan then wrote the play for the book The Year of Magical Thinking, which starred Vanessa Redgrave, in the nonfictional soliloquy.

 

Joan wrote Blue Nights after the play, about Quintana – a book she said she didn’t want to write. On her life when asked if she had regrets about things, she said, “The failure to plan for misfortune,” her guilt of failing as a mother.

 

In 2005 Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and became a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Magical Year of Thinking. In 2015, President Obama awarded Joan with the Mastery of Style in Writing Award for exploring the culture around us and exposing the depths of sorrow and for her ‘startling honesty’.

 

 

Poignant Quotes:

 

“Everyone has moved on except the one left grieving.”

 

“See enough and write it down.”

 

“A journal – a forgotten account paid with interest.”

 

“Remember what it is to be me, that’s always the point.”

 

 

 

 

I recently finished reading Joan’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking. After seeing the documentary and having only read one other of Joan’s books, I felt compelled to read.

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

 

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

 

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve—the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

 

This powerful book is Didion’ s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

 

 

My 5 Star Review:

 

An accounting of love and loss. In this often, heartwrenching book, Joan Didion champions her once simple writing life alone, without her husband, best friend and consultant on all her writing. Joan reminisces on her life and writing with her husband John, always with her – writing, walking, traveling, filming – they did everything together, despite them both being individual writers, with the exception of a few collaborations.

 

Joan takes us through her life in vignettes as she shares memories of incidence on vacations the family took together, the circles of people they traveled with, their routines, when they adopted Quintana, motherhood, and mistakes. But most poignantly, Joan focuses on the time of John’s death, the surreal moments, the most insignificant things becoming big things, the most minutest details overlooked while she was living numb are being realized in this story. She begins her story with the the eve her and John went to visit Quintana in hospital, while she was in an induced coma. They were both worried sick about their daughter. Joan makes dinner, they sit down to eat and John has a fatal heart attack right in front of her on December 30, 2003. Her details are precise. She talks about her different kinds of grief, comparing the variation in grief between losing her parents, to how different her grief felt when John died. Joan shares what it was like waking up the next morning alone. She’ll take you right into her realizations. So identifiable for anyone who has ever deeply loved and lost. I know much of what Joan speaks, like not even remembering if we ate or not, mostly not. It’s a numbness that takes over to break the impact of the shock.

 

Joan bares herself with raw honesty on what grief leaves on someone, the stages of steps involved until reaching acceptance, but I wonder how many ever get there. Joan shares how she came to decisions about giving her loved one’s clothes away, as Joan in her denial stage held hope he may come back. Joan discusses her concern of having to break the news to Quintana about her father’s death, after she awakes from a long coma. Joan shares her fears about her daughter getting sick again overshadowing her grief – “Until now, I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened, Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.”

 

Imagine trying to stay sane!

 

Joan Didion is an iconic writer. As a journalist, she followed stories of humanity, out in the field. She said it was easier to deal with war if she could see it. She’s a tiny frail woman who can barely move her hands now at age 86, but that doesn’t stop her from still using them to articulate what she speaks. She’s lived through hell and back TWICE, first losing the love of her life, then her daughter. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write about such pain. It’s not surprising this Warrior Woman has won so many awards. I was drawn to this book after watching a documentary about her, The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix after my own husband’s passing, and I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have loved and lost.

 

 

Poignant Quotes that resonate:

 

“Life changes fast.

 

Life changes in the instant.

 

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

 

The question of self-pity.”

 

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

 

“I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death.”

 

“Marriage is memory, marriage is time.”

 

“For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others.”

 

“I have trouble thinking of myself as a widow. I remember hesitating the first time I had to check that box on the ‘marital status’ part of a form.”

 

“I realized that for the time being I could not trust myself to present a coherent face to the world.”

 

“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.”

 

“I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.”

 

 

©DGKaye2021