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Author Archives:Liz Reed

Once-more-we-saw-stars-book-cover

Living Through the Unimaginable

Once-more-we-saw-stars-book-coverThis week on October 9, it is the thirty-eighth anniversary of my daughter’s death. I recognize that it can be an unsettling sentence to read. It is shocking for me to write, as well.

Coleen was my firstborn, a daughter born early due to a congenital heart condition that no one suspected until just weeks before her birth. At the time, my ex-husband and I lived outside San Francisco. Two days after New Year’s Day, I was rushed to the University of California-SF Medical Center to await an unknown future. It was new territory for all of us – her father, and I, and our baby. Coleen was born on January 21, 1980, five weeks earlier than her due date.

Her prognosis was never very good from that critical day, and even earlier, according to her new doctors, neonatal specialists and pediatric cardiologists. And yet, she came home to us after a few short months, fragile, yet thriving. On my 28th birthday, when she was four months, a petite and beautiful baby, we were advised that she would not survive infancy. Her terminal diagnosis was the outcome of cardiomyopathy caused by a destructive virus that had also caused illness or defects to other unborn babies in San Francisco. Her right ventricle was acutely compromised by the infection.

We leaned upon our youthful energy and our extended and compassionate family. Our innate optimism commanded us to give Coleen the best life possible for as much time that she with us – and we had with her.

When we lost her, inevitably, one early fall evening in 1981, our lives were rent. I’ve never used that word before, but it comes to me, 38 years later, as a perfect word to describe the brutality of grief that separated us from the before and the after. A storm rents a ship to pieces. A nation is rended by racial upheaval. Our lives were rent by our loss.

Yet, we had our faith, and a new child on the way. We sustained four months of empty arms until life blessed us once again with a second daughter, another beautiful baby girl, this time healthy, with a birthday just two years after our precious Coleen was born. Eighteen months later, another gorgeous daughter was born. Our aching arms and shattered hearts were bursting with that new life. Parents will tell you that practicality takes over after birth, and a quiet, but disordered, grief sneakily hides in the memories and in the shadows.

There is no word in the English language for parents who have suffered the loss of a child. The widow has lost a husband. The widower has lost a wife. The orphan has lost both of his/her parents.

Yet, there is a word for the loss of a child in Arabic (pronounced “thakla”), which translates to bereaved mother. In Sanskrit, there is a word “vilomar,” which means “against the natural order.”

I find this lack in the English language strikingly odd because, over and over, we read and hear that there is no grief like the loss of a child. Yet, we are wordless in our sadness.

Alexander and Eliza Hamilton grieved the loss of their nineteen-year-old son, Philip, when he was shot in a senseless duel in 1801. (Of course, his father sustained the same fate at the hands of Aaron Burr, only three years later.) In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s impressive musical, Hamilton, the song It’s Quiet Uptown holds an emotional grip over anyone who has lost a child. After Philip’s death, the Hamiltons moved from busy Wall Street in Lower Manhattan to a mansion they built in northern Manhattan. It’s Quiet Uptown, a hushed and aching song, describes the anguish of Hamilton and his wife as they walk quietly down the streets of uptown New York, wrought together by their breaking hearts. Passersby watched the newcomers in pity because they realized that the two are “going through the unimaginable.”

Those are the agonizing words. They are the devastatingly simple description. Going through the unimaginable describes the loss of a child.

When I read that Jayson Greene, father of two-year-old Greta Green, had written a book due out last January, I impatiently awaited it. He and his wife Stacy lost their firstborn and only child Greta when she was hit by a falling brick on May 17, 2015, in New York City. Greta was spending the day with her grandmother and sitting on a bench on the sidewalk beneath a high rise windowsill that gave way. It was a freak and impossible accident that immediately changed Jayson’s and Stacy’s lives.

When we lost Coleen in 1981, there were few books to read to help us through our early grief. My library’s shelves and bookstore shelves were bereft of books about surviving the loss of a child. C.S. Lewis wrote of his crushing loss of his wife in A Grief Observed in 1961. Robert Frost wrote of a wife’s devastating grief and a husband’s pragmatic composure after the death of their infant son in Home Burial, one of Frost’s longest and earliest poems. It and other full or partial excerpts were included in Mary Jane Moffat’s compilation of the poetry and literature of mourning. That book, In the Midst of Winter, was published in 1982, just after I was searching for solace in the written word.

Greene, author of Once More We Saw Stars (2019), writes of his struggle living through a similar time of desolation and despair after the loss of a child. Writing in his journal, Greene described his early grief this way: “I am ice skating along the surface of my shock.” Waking slowly to realization each day, he writes, “What is it? What is it that feels so awful?”

“I remember. I am in hell.”

Jayson and Stacy Greene suffered in the void between being a parent and remaining childless for longer than I did. I had an unoccupied nursery and empty arms for such a short time – only four months. And while theirs, and my life, became whole again, the unfathomable had happened and had changed us forever.

Greene published a New York Times Opinion piece 17 months later in October 2016 following the birth of their second child, a son. He wrote that “life remains precarious,” and he describes the feelings of his children’s precious and fragile lives in Children Don’t Always Live. The title of that piece is raw and jarring, but it defines reality for those who have lived the unimaginable – that of losing a child.

Greene titled his book Once More We Saw Stars as a reference to Dante’s Inferno – that dark time in the dark wood. Climbing out, Dante writes that “To get back up to the shining world from there … through a round aperture I saw appear some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears, where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.”

If you know a family who has lost a child, or you have suffered loss and are looking for words to describe the pain … and reading of faith and hope and survival, read Jayson Greene’s beautiful memoir of his family’s journey through grief. Surprisingly uplifting, Greene’s book writes about “the fragility of life” and the “unconquerable power of love” that will make anyone feel less alone. Perhaps it will be just the right book at just the right time.

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Look for her article in the October 10, 2019 issue if the Norwood Transcript.

Reader Reviews – Summer 2019

Submit a review here.

5-star Reviews

Fiction

The Tie that Binds by Kent Haruf
Fiction
“I have loved every book by Kent Haruf and this one did not disappoint! Easy read and hard to put down- great for summer.”

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson
Historical fiction
“I never knew about the “blue people” of Kentucky, very interesting and entertaining novel!”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction
“An outstanding book. The story will stay with you well after you’ve finished reading it.”

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Historical fiction
“This book was great. Definitely emotional throughout this read. Hated to see it end.”

Summer of 69 by Elin Hilderbrand
Fiction
“Great summer read for Boston readers and beyond! I love reading this author in the summer, as most of her books are easy reads and based on the local island of Nantucket. This book takes her usual frivolous ‘beach read’ style to a deeper level as she delves into historical fiction in a both relatable and complex fashion. Highly recommend.”

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Historical fiction
“I couldn’t put this book down”

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
Mystery
“For fans of this series it’s a smash hit like the three before this one. It’s also a clever mystery for someone who hasn’t read the other Veronica Speedwell mysteries. This series has me looking up all this author has to offer and I haven’t been disappointed yet!”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction
“I could not put this book down! It was a mystery, romance, coming of age and detective book all in one.”

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Historical fiction
“Makes you look at the American Revolution in a whole new light!”

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Historical fiction
“Covering the 1950s through the present, this is the story of two sisters and how the eras they live in affect their lives. Societal norms toward race and sexual identity are addressed through the lens of their experiences. You will root for both of them as they overcome adversity and help each other out.”

Circe by Madeline Miller
Historical Fiction
“This novel depicts the life of Circe, the witch from the odyssey. Excellent writing and a new perspective on a classic. Miller has done extensive research and while the novel is easy to read it still stays true to the greek mythology and details. I had trouble putting this one down!”

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Fiction
“Somewhat of a light read but still wonderful. The main character is a bookworm who works in a bookstore and lives for pub trivia, book clubs and reading. When she unexpectedly gains a whole slew of relatives and a love interest her anxiety gets the best of her and she must decide to stay alone in her shell or let these new people in even if it means adding some disorder and chaos to her life. This novel is also peppered with literary references and jokes that would make any bookworm happy!”

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fiction
“This book was about rock and roll in the seventies. It reminded me a lot about the movie Almost Famous. I had a hard time putting it down.”

Nonfiction

The Mincing Mockingjay Guide to Troubled Birds by Matt Adrian
Humor, Birds
“Hilarious! For those who love birds…and for those who do not.”

The Carrying by Ada Limón
Poetry
A really beautiful collection of free verse poetry!

The Latte Factor: Why you don’t need to be rich to live rich by David Bach
Personal finance
“Quick, easy & interesting guide to attaining financial stability.”

Everything’s Trash, But it’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson
Essays
“Audiobook version highly recommended! Phoebe is hilarious even when she’s covering important and tough subjects.”

Young Adult

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Romance, LGBT
“This is one of my top audiobooks of 2019. The performers of this had me laughing, shrieking, and purposefully taking the congested route so I could get stuck in traffic and spend more time with Arthur and Ben. The story is an adorable, summery romp based in New York City, and is such a love letter to the city, and especially to Broadway. Two boys meet in passing, and then conspire aganist the universe to find each other again. Is it flawless? Nope. But it was so damned funny and dorky, that I willingly overlook the flaws and the sometimes immaturity of the characters (they are high school kids…I can remember being that overly dramatic). If you enjoyed Simon vs. The Homospaiens Agenda, you will loooove this one. I am so sad it’s over.”

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Science fiction
“HOLY CRAP.

Someone give these two a standing ovation. This was an awesome read.”

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Fantasy
“A MAGICAL LIBRARY! MAGIC! ADVENTURE! FIGHTS! ROMANCE! WITTY REPERTOIRE! AND A BADASS HEROINE! YES– I AM WRITING THIS ALL IN CAPS, IT’S THAT GOOD.”

4-star Reviews

Fiction

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig
Historical fiction
“Great novel about 1800s Barbados and the sugar cane industry. Lauren Willig is one of my favorite historical mystery mixed with romance authors and this one does not disappoint. The book is well researched and I found myself learning a few things about the culture and strife of slaves on these cane plantations. I do knock this down to four stars because it does slow down a bit at some parts that seemed unnecessary. However by the end there were enough twists and turns that I couldn’t complain too much! If you’re a fan of Beatriz William’s or Karen White you will love this!”

Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Fiction
“This novel reminded me of Celeste Ng’s “Everything I never told you.” There’s a sister that seems perfect and goes missing when she visits her grandmother. The younger sister goes and searches for her only to find out some new things about her sister. It has family drama, a little mystery and well developed characters. It’s not a thriller necessarily but it does keep you in suspense.”

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fiction
“Written like a music documentary of a seventies rock band, including lyrics created by the characters. Like her previous novel she takes famous figures and melts them together to create a very believable and deep character. My one issue was the documentary style, you got snippets of the main story from various characters and ,while it still sucked me in, I feel like you lost a little of the flow in this style. This was a great beach/vacation read!”

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
Mystery, Comedy
“If you’re looking for a fun caper, this book does the trick. All of the characters – including Yancy, the protagonist – are flawed, but you’ll be cheering on Yancy as he tries to solve a murder mystery despite many setbacks. The Florida Keys also plays a role. So, get your beach chair ready and settle in to enjoy this fun summer read.”

A Gathering of Wolves by Michael Hammonds
Western
“Quick read. Western tropes abound but made fresh with Hammonds’ wily old timer and strong female protagonist partnership.”

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Science Fiction
“Sci-fi novella, a bit funny, human-robot hybrid seeks redemption for past crimes.”

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
Romance, Contemporary
“It was a deeper and more serious read than the traditional trashy romance. I liked it a lot and it really did address the flaws of the characters…Was it perfect? No, but it was a really good beach read.”

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Historical fiction
“This novel starts in 1940 with a young Vivian Morris as she sets out to New York City to live with her aunt. Her aunt owns the Lilly Playhouse and Vivian ends up enjoying a wild summer with all the various characters that inhabit the upper two floors of the theater. All this fun does not come without consequences and after a year of adventure she finds herself lost and with many burned bridges. As the book continues there’s growth and Vivian eventually finds her way. Overall I found there to be many unexpected twists and turns that made the story interesting. I went with four stars because I found that the novel slowed down toward the middle but I still needed to find out the ending so I guess it wasn’t too bad!

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
Fiction, Short Stories
“Cozy mystery-adjacent stories about an elderly lady who solves her problems via murder. ”

Nonfiction

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks
Parenting Memoir
“A great discussion starter for a Mom’s book group.”

Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis
Autobiography
“This autobiography by John Lewis, a major figure in the civil rights movement and current Atlanta congressman, provides a meticulously detailed and insightful look into the heart of the civil rights movement. Although painfully slow at times, the book does an incredible job of peopling the movement, makes a compelling case for the practice of nonviolence, and connects distressingly easily to several contemporary political and societal issues.”

Young Adult

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas
Fantasy
“Quick easy summer read if you are into Young Adult (like the Hunger Games or Twilight Series)”

3-star Reviews

Fiction

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Fantasty
“Fun fantasy fluff. Good for a beach read.”

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
Fiction
“Cute summer read about a single mom who gets a chance for some self care after her estranged husband comes back and takes the kids for a summer. A bit predictable and had me a bit annoyed at her sanctimonious monologues but it was a nice beach read. The main character and love interest are librarians and total book nerds so that added a star for me!”

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Classic, Fable
“I’m still confused on what I just read.”

Nonfiction

Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
Memoir, Food
“Light read, with minimal drama. But there is a lot of talk about how the author was always ‘one of the average Americans’ that never would have changed because of a high paying job…And then she got one of the most luxurious jobs in New York City and seemed to think that having her own private bathroom in her office, and being sent to exclusive hotels around Europe was normal. I took a lot of her writing with a grain of salt (food pun, get it?)”

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman
Essays, Families & relationships
“This book has some good lessons like how to survive IKEA and why Ron Weasley is a bad best friend, but it’s not really a must-read.”

Young Adult

Love a la Mode by Stephanie Strohm
Romance
“Very cute book to read on the beach. I was craving potatoes and itching to be in my kitchen the whole time. Extra star for the obvious passion for eating and good food.”

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Fantasy
“Fantasy set in a mythical Arabian setting. A girl must disguise herself as a boy to retrieve an artifact that could save her whole country…And of course, along the way she meets a dark and mysterious assassin who may or may not be everything he says he is…”

2-star Reviews

Fiction

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
Fiction
“Rambling and difficult to follow.”

Nonfiction

 

1-star Reviews

Fiction

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
New Adult, Fantasy, Horror
“The premise was great, but the execution made me want to gouge my eyes out. It literally got interesting the last 10 pages of the book.”

Nonfiction

 

Art-of-Happy-Moving-book-cover

Happy Moving Day!

Art-of-Happy-Moving-book-coverHave you ever had the experience of finding the exact right book at the exact wrong moment? And I don’t mean those times when you’re sure you put the book down somewhere where you knew you definitely wouldn’t forget it, and you know you’ll find it eventually but you’ve looked EVERYWHERE and have given it up for lost, so you finally pay the late fee at the library and get back in your car only to find it under the front seat.

Instead, I mean those occasions when you don’t even know you should be looking for a book and the universe intervenes to drop into your hands the book that perfectly fits your situation…only about two days after it would have been really useful.

Friends, I am living that moment as we speak. A few days ago I was standing at the New Nonfiction shelf on the library’s first floor (at the bottom of the staircase, before you walk into the Fiction section, if you’re interested), just minding my own business and turning a few books face-out to attract readers, when I found it. I found the book that, had I had it two months, two weeks, or even two days earlier, would have made my life much less stressful. Even if I didn’t have time to follow all the practical advice in the book, I would have at least had the mental comfort of the author’s light-hearted prose. But no. I found “The Art of Happy Moving: How to declutter, pack, and start over while maintaining your sanity and finding happiness,” by Ali Wenzke, literally the day after I moved.

Wenzke’s book isn’t an exact how-to book for my situation – she has a lot of experience with cross-country moves and I only moved locally within the Boston area, for instance – but she’s got a lot of good advice about how to prepare for the move, checklists for moving day itself, and even pro tips for how to settle into your new home and neighborhood. It’s also a quick read, I’m already halfway through and I’ve been busy unpacking.

More than anything, “The Art of Happy Moving” is a moral support kind of book. Other books and websites get more into the nitty-gritty of evaluating your finances before you buy a house, how to budget all the different costs of home ownership, etc, but the strength of Wenzke’s book is that it feels like having a conversation with a trusted friend who has absolutely been there before, and who knows how to get through a move not only unscathed, but also better off on the other side.

And the real showpiece of Wenzke’s book? “The Art of Happy Moving” is chock-full of great advice for how to do every step of the moving process – with children. From making regular (even non-moving-related) decluttering into a fun game, to discussing the move with kids, to helping them integrate into their new school, Wenzke gives real-world advice that is absolutely worth checking out.

So, how would my move have gone differently if my timing hadn’t been so ironic? Things probably would have shaken out differently in a number of ways. For instance, having an official timeline checklist would have been helpful. I also might have narrowed down my search to a shorter list of towns earlier in the process, saving myself time not looking at towns less likely to fit my lifestyle.

One of this book’s chapters is called “The secret to happy moving: get rid of everything you own,” and she’s not really kidding. I had actually started decluttering over the winter, getting rid of things that didn’t “spark joy,” a la Marie Kondo. I also started packing well in advance of my move, but by the time I got to moving day I wished I’d gotten rid of even more.

Luckily for me, Wenzke includes a number of chapters aimed at the post-move reader, so my timing might now be so unfortunate after all. Of particular interest are her chapters on arranging your new house to be a happy home with special places for your family and for entertaining, and on how to meet people and make friends in your new town.

Kitty and I are settling into our new place – and yes the book does have a chapter on moving with pets – and getting back to our routine after the controlled chaos of moving. Some boxes were packed so long ago that I’ve forgotten what’s in them, so unboxing feels a little like opening gifts. I’m glad to be moving on to the next step in the process, and even though moving is a necessary activity it’s not something I recommend if you can help it. However, if you’re contemplating or faced with a move, I do recommend picking up a copy of “The Art of Happy Moving.” The Norwood library owns the hard copy, plus both the ebook and e-Audiobook versions are available digitally through hoopla, which is accessible to all Norwood residents. Happy moving day!

Liz Reed is the Adult Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood MA. You can read her article in the Thursday July 11 edition of The Transcript Newspaper.

Summer Reading 2019 for Adults and Teens

photo-fo-books-and-beach-umbrellasHello, Norwood readers! Once again, we have two great options for adults and teens to take part in summer reading with the Morrill Memorial Library in 2019. Everyone high school-aged or older can take part, and don’t worry, audiobooks and graphic novels definitely count.

Weekly Prizes – July, August, and first week of September

Log all the books you read for a chance to win prizes! Every week in July and August we’ll be drawing for a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card from that week’s entries. To enter these weekly prize drawings, fill out and submit this form, OR fill out the paper version and return it to the submission box on the Circulation Desk. Paper forms can be found on the Circulation and Reference Desks. There will be a grand prize drawing on Friday September 6 from all these entries for a $35 Barnes & Noble gift card. If you write a book review on your form, we’ll post it (anonymously) on our website. This way, we can all share book recommendations!

Read reviews here!

Readers’ BINGO – all of June, July, August, and first week of September

Plus, you can take part in Summer Reading BINGO! Download BINGO sheets below, or pick them up in the library. BINGO sheets can be submitted to Nancy Ling in Outreach or to Liz Reed in Reference, in person or via email. Turn them in even if you’ve only completed one or two rows – you might win! You can double-dip with both the weekly prize entry and the BINGO sheet, but each title can only be counted once on the BINGO sheet itself. For every completed BINGO row, you get one entry in the drawing for gift cards provided by several generous local sponsors. For BINGO, feel free to count any books you read in June, July, August, and the first week of September. Sheets must be turned in by the end of the day on Friday September 6. Note, there are a number of squares this year that are activities rather than completed books, so take a close look!

Download BINGO sheets here!

Gift certificate prizes will be provided by these local sponsors:

Minas-cafe-steakhouseOne-bistro-logo  RelaxZen-logo

 

 

 

Questions? Please contact either Nancy Ling (nling@minlib.net, 781-769-0200 x228) or Liz Reed (lreed@minlib.net, 781-769-0200 x110). Have fun!

Viola Sastavickas Scholarship

The family of Viola Sastavickas made a donation to the Morrill Memorial Library in 2007 in order to create a permanent scholarship in the amount of $500. This scholarship was to be awarded annually to a current or former library employee or library volunteer for one of the following purposes: undergraduate or graduate school, a formal course of study, or an enrichment opportunity (continuing education).

This scholarship has been awarded ten times since 2007: (Elizabeth Porter, 2007; Lauren Bailey, 2008; Carolyn Bradley, 2009; Jillian Goss, 2010; Samantha Sherburne, 2011; Odhran O’Carroll, 2012; Laura Hogan, 2013; Hallie Miller, 2014; Maureen Riordan, 2015; Chloe Belanger, 2016; Jyotika Tandan, 2017; and Dina Delic, 2018.)  The scholarship will once again be awarded in 2019 thanks to the continued generosity of the Sastavickas family.

Viola Sastavickas was a life-long resident of Norwood and a frequent library user. According to her daughter Kathy, the scholarship is “a fitting tribute to our beautiful mother and to the library and staff who treated her with great respect and affection.”

A brief application form is available to pick up at the library as well as on the library’s website, norwoodlibrary.org. Please contact Charlotte Canelli at 781-769-0200, ext. 101. Applications are due by May 15, 2019 and must be submitted electronically to the director: ccanelli@minlib.net. The scholarship will be awarded by June 30, 2019.

Sastavickas Scholarship Application

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