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Posts tagged 'Memoirs'

Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World by Susan Silverman

SilvermanI first heard of this book when listening to Terry Gross interview its author, Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman.

The writer was only two years old when her infant brother, Jeffrey, died in a crib accident while her parents were away on vacation. Their marriage was never the same after that, marred by constant arguments and eventual divorce. Growing up, Susan suffered from such horrible separation that even going to school was pure agony. She still imagines the worst disasters when family members are delayed and fail to call. “Therapy and Zoloft have helped her life immensely,” she wryly comments in one of her many interviews.

In college, at Boston University, she met Yosef Abramowitz at an anti-Apartheid rally. He was a devout Jew and fervent activist for social justice. Susan was instantly smitten. The book is a moving depiction of Susan’s journey from anxiety-ridden child of liberal, atheist parents through her decision to go to seminary in Israel to be near her beloved and to learn about Judaism. Finally, it is the story of their marriage, the birth of their children, and Susan’s life-long yearning to adopt children from abroad.

Casting Lots is remarkable in terms of its heartfelt prose, its humor, and its realistic portrayal of marriage and family. The spirituality and love she shares with her husband allow them to lead a life filled with loving-kindness. “We are all broken,” she writes. But if we are a little lucky, and very willing to learn how, our shards and pieces can form mosaics of love and relationship—unwieldy, vibrant, and cracked as they must be” (Casting Lots, p. 97). Indeed, both she and Yosef quietly fulfill the Talmudic edict, “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.”

Sara's Picks  Religion  Memoirs  Jewish Literature  Family Drama  Biographies  Adoption

07/29/16
 

What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas

Even before I opened the book, I was intrigued by its title: What Comes Next and How to Like It, as well as the author photo. Thomas, a beautiful woman "of a certain age" is seated in an idyllic wooded landscape and surrounded by four dogs.

From the first page, I was captivated by her writing. The book is arranged in chronological vignettes that comprise the thoughts of and the key events in the author's life. Her comments range from the most mundane (a broken dishwasher) to the most sacrosanct (the bond between a mother and her daughter; the love for a best friend). Interspersed among these reflections are hilarious observations, such as when she reflects on her youthful sexual exploits when seeing a new gynecologist.

"Have you had more than one sexual partner?" the doctor asked.
"Yes," I said. Land sakes, yes.
"More than five?"
"Quite a few more," I said, as modestly as I could. I didn't want to appear to be bragging, so I added, by way of explanation, "It was the sixties."
It turned out that Medicare will pay for certain yearly exams if you have had more than five sexual partners. Who knew?" 

Wry observations about aging abound in this wonderful book. I laughed aloud at many passages while others brought me to tears. Thomas details her deep friendship with a literary agent, Chuck Verrel. Their friendship spans 35 years and includes a sexual betrayal that a lesser person may not have forgiven.

Because this is written in first person narration, the reader follows her as death flirts with those Ms. Thomas holds most dear. Depression and alcoholism trail closely behind.

Ultimately, What Comes Next and How to Like It is an inspirational book portraying an all-too-human narrator as she copes with the travails that are part of living. Above all, it details friendship and familial love that triumphs over devastating obstacles--and does so with humor and grace. In the author's words:

"Love can accommodate all sorts of misshapen objects: a door held open for a city dog who runs into the woods; fences down; some role you didn't ask for, didn't want. Love allows for betrayal and loss and dread. Love is roomy. Love can change its shape, be known by different names. Love is elastic.

And the dog comes back."


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Sara Picks  Memoirs

06/26/15