SPINNING NEW CONNECTIONS — A REVIEW

When your life is spinning out of control, you might have to take a leap of faith to put a new spin on things.

Or so Katie Sanford thinks, when pushed up against the wall. It all started when she appears for her dream job interview still drunk from the night before. The night when she was just going to have one drink, and that one led to so many that she blacked out.

She is surprised to get that call a few weeks later from someone at the magazine where she interviewed. But the proposition before her is so astounding she isn’t sure she can do it. Go into rehab on the company’s “dime,” and get the scoop on a celebrity who has just entered that very center.

But she goes for it, feeling as if she can pull off the big act. But what surprises Katie the most is that the stories she hears in group and the insights she develops in individual sessions tell the truth about who she is and what her life has become. More drunken nights than she cares to count and more lies than she can recall.

During the thirty days of rehab and the first few days afterwards, Katie struggles with what she has learned about herself, and about her budding connection to the target of her story. Yes, she and celebrity target Amber have become friends.

What will happen when Katie has to turn in her story? What would happen if she doesn’t? And how will Henry, a man she is beginning to care about, feel when he learns of her betrayal?

Finding out what happens after, and what Katie’s decisions will do to her life kept me turning pages. I have a bit of an understanding of the rehab process from the work I did for many years, so the lingo, the process, and what it feels like to be confined were all authentically captured by the author. Kudos to McKenzie…and I loved every minute of the descriptions of New York life from the scene setting, the characters, and the repartee between the characters. I felt almost like I was right there with them. Five stars for Spin.


A QUEST FOR OLD CONNECTIONS — A REVIEW

In this sequel to Life After Forty, Christine is approaching her forty-fourth birthday. Her career is going well: she works for a publishing company and has several regular columns for magazines. She enjoys her life in Hamburg, with amiable friendships.

But in a conversation with one of these friends, Dorothea, she seems a bit jaded about friendships lasting.

From this discussion, Dorothea has an idea and enlists the help of Christine’s sister and a few other friends to put together a surprise birthday party for Christine that will include friendships of Christine’s from the distant past.

The quest is lengthy and described in detail; there are questionnaires to include with letters to the individuals.

From this point on, we are shown glimpses of some of the friends in their current lives, with occasional peeks into Christine’s life, and her tedious relationship with Richard.

I liked the premise of the story, but as it continued, I thought it soon lost its luster. Or maybe something was lost in translation. At any rate, the story plodded along and I no longer connected with any of the characters. In fact, sometimes I got confused, as many of them had similar names. I felt like a passenger adrift in the sea, and just wanted to get to shore. The most I can give Inseparable is three stars.


EMPATHY: A STEPPING STONE TO CONNECTING — A REVIEW

Three female members of a family at different stages of their lives are trying to coexist.

Sandwiched between her seventy-six-year-old mother, Ivy, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Caroline, Joanie Pilcher (approaching fifty) feels overwhelmed at times, emotionally bankrupt, and definitely misunderstood. She is so “done” with men that she has vowed never to have sex again. Caroline is at a point of fearing that she will never find anyone to love her, much less to have sex with her. And Ivy is flailing about, trying to discover who she is in this new life in which she has no real place of her own, and in her attempt to define who she is, she makes some risky choices.

In the voices of each female, we come to understand their dilemmas as we peek inside each one in turn; and then we have the opportunity to root for each of them as this story unfolds to yield a very satisfying meeting of the minds.

Along the way, we meet the women in Joanie’s support group; Caroline’s only friend Sondra; and observe Ivy’s somewhat unusual friendship with a waitress named Lupe.

We also see glimpses of the young woman B. J., whom Joanie’s ex-husband is now planning to marry. She is at an entirely different place in her life, but each character has a chance to see her at a time of crisis, and in this moment, Ivy and Caroline each see a side of Joanie they had never acknowledged.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is a story that can resonate with any woman who has ever been a mother, a daughter, or a displaced elderly person, and reminds us that empathy is the stepping stone to connecting with those we love.

Five stars.

A BIT OF ME (ME) — CHANGES — MARCH 5

Welcome to A Bit of Me (Me), hosted by There’s A Book, our place in the blogosphere in which we reveal bits and pieces of our “real” lives.

This Weeks Question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Anything.

The year was 1970. Many recent events had stirred me, from the protests of the sixties over Vietnam; women’s issues; my own search for who I was; and as a graduate student, I was reexamining everything that I had thought I had known and believed.
I had been in a marriage for seven years, and like many people have experienced, we were not a “marriage of true minds.”  But I had two kids.
It seemed to unfold in a crazy way, at least that’s how it seemed to onlookers. Family, etc.  One day, while my husband was on a business trip, I rented an apartment, hired a moving van, and left.  With my two kids.  Just like that.
Over the weeks and months ahead, I would face all the scrutiny and censure of those who had thought they knew me. Only my closest friends in my new life really understood.  They supported me.  But as everything around me changed, and as I became a truly different person, I would realize, too, that even though I didn’t regret what I’d done, the consequences would follow me…always.
Nearly a decade later, I had become a much happier person, even though I had left one life for another. By then, I had two more children.  I had found my niche in a career and loved making contributions to the world around me (as a social worker).  I had visions of someday writing about my experiences.
I have done that.

My Creations: Click the picture for more info

So what’s your story?  Share the “crazy” parts, if you will.  And don’t be surprised if everyone else has something equally “crazy” to tell.

ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY TOWARD EPIPHANY — A REVIEW

In this funny, hilarious, but sometimes poignant exploration of life “just over the other side of young,” Stephanie Dolgoff begins her tale by identifying some of the characteristics of that phenomenon—like salespeople in trendy boutiques that no longer “swirl around me like bees over a puddle of orange soda…” In fact, these people no longer could be bothered. Another sign: being asked a question by a “hot” guy on the train, which normally might be a precursor to being “hit on,” but that turns out just to be a question.

Then there are the pores. Enlarged suddenly and sometimes with a hair or two growing out of them. Or experiencing certain unpleasant body changes that are followed by the realization that clothes that used to “work” no longer seem appropriate…Somewhere between “hot” and “old,” there must be appropriate “tween” garments that work, but finding them is a whole other level of tediousness.

As a working woman and mother to young twins, the author also describes the difficulties of arranging social activities amongst friends who are also parents and career people. And how other friends—those single friends not tied down by spouses or children—are no longer even part of one’s life.

Probably the part to which I could most relate was the chapter in which she describes TBMFU: “the big metabolic f…k you.” When suddenly (or so it seems) the food and activities that never added pounds before…now do. She goes on to say that she is fortunate that TBMFU is her biggest health issue, and complaining about it seems “just a wee bit Tori Spelling (who was `only’ left $800K in her rich daddy’s will)”….But, she points out, it seems grossly unfair to have to work even harder to “remain in the exact same place.”

I laughed hardest during the parts when she describes technological advances that leave her feeling less than relevant.

Just when this litany was beginning to seem just a tad bit “whiney,” since she’s “only” forty-something, she begins to describe some of the advances that come with age, like in one’s attitude, expectations, and how, for example, being a “Formally usually means that your life experience has disabused you of any romantic fantasies of being whisked away from the icky parts of life, least of all by another person, let alone on a white steed.”

Nearing the end of My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young, Dolgoff describes an encounter with a twenty-something in which the young person makes a rude comment when she doesn’t stop to sign a petition, and how she totally expressed her mind to this person. And how she felt afterwards. That “what has made me happiest and most unhappy in my life, no matter how old I am, is the degree to which I feel free to express what I think, without fear of other people’s reactions or their withdrawing their love.” Getting older, even a little bit, begins that “freeing process.”

This tale is a quick and thoughtful journey through one woman’s realizations about the transitory nature of life and “hotness,” but how freedom lives just on the other side. Because there were parts that seemed (to me) tediously superficial, although I’m sure they were supposed to be ironic, I am awarding this one four stars. Not recommended for someone a great deal older who might want to say: “just count your blessings.” Which, of course, the author ends up doing.