Sunday, December 27, 2015

'Did You Ever Have a Family'

Stories about death are the last things most people think I need to read.  A year to recover from my daughter's death isn't enough time; there will never be enough time.  But sometimes, a story comes along that not only lifts me, but makes me feel as if someone has read my soul. 

And it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I survived, although it took me a while to really get into it.  But I finished it.  I loved it.

It's my choice for 'Book of the Year'. Thanks, Bill Clegg, for 'Did You Ever Have a Family'.

On the eve of her daughter's wedding, June Reid's life is upended when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, future son-in-law, June's ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke.  Her entire family is gone in an instant, with June being the only survivor.

Alone and not knowing what to do, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town.  In her wake, the community emerges into something viable and worthy of sympathy.  Luke's mother, Lydia, the town outcast; the couple running a motel on the Pacific coast, where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life; the wedding caterer, whose bill has been forgotten; the boy who brings us to a tragic discovery.

Although most people I know thought that I would never be able to finish this book, I think I surprised them all.  It is so tragic, yet so uplifting.  It echoed my own feelings about sudden death.  And like June, I just wanted to run away. Forgetting my bills, forgetting my friends and family.  Forgetting every disappointment.  Insulating myself from the people who most wanted to help me overcome the tragedy.

Author Bill Clegg
But, unlike June, I stuck around.  I didn't run away.  I settled my daughter's estate.  I got through her memorial service.  I managed to stay afloat during the first birthday/Christmas/Thanksgiving without her.

This story is full of forgiveness and hope, love and sadness. The characters are ones I wanted to embrace, and I think I did.

Because I know them.  I know them well.

'Did You Ever Have a Family', the remarkable novel from Bill Clegg, and published by Scout Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), is available from your local library or favorite bookstore.  
ISBN 978-1-4767-9817-2

Thursday, December 3, 2015

'The Bazaar of Bad Dreams'

The weather's pretty crazy in my part of the country.

It's not even Winter yet, and it's cold enough to _________.  I'll let you fill in the blank.

I haven't been running through books as I usually do at this time of year; that's what illness will do to you.  But the books I do manage to finish are quite interesting.  Especially this one. 'The Bazaar of Bad Dreams', by Stephen King, is a collection of twenty short stories. There are a few that I really wish had been longer, but I feel lucky that I had a chance to even read them.  Some are bazaar (see what I did there?  Did ya?), some are straight fiction 
(and very dazzling, if I might add).  And some of them make you think.

Some of these stories have never been published, and some of which Stephen has revised. He introduces each one with the story of it's origin, or the reason he wrote it. Very enlightening info from a man who doesn't shy away from sharing.

King's 20 short stories have connections: Themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past.

'Afterlife' is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers--the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in 'Obits', or the old judge who, as a boy, canoes to a small island and sees names written in the sand, the names of people who then die in freak accidents.  

Some of the stories are scary in another way:  They tell of real life and the real horror hidden within the nicest person.
Author 'Little Stevie' King

The story that really stayed with me was 'Ur', and when you read it, you'll know why.  

King's stories tend to become instant classics the minute the ink hits the paper.  He's done a great job with this new collection.  The stories have kept me up all night, and it wasn't because I was scared.

It's the writing.  The writing pulls me in and doesn't let me go.

When it starts pulling me under the bed, I'll send for help.

'The Bazaar of Bad Dreams', published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is available at your local library and favorite bookstore.  ISBN 9781501111679