Tag Archives: health issues

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland; read in July, 2010.  Copy provided through Netgalley by Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt.

Louisa Cosgrove is an independent-minded young woman living in Victorian-era England in Jane Eagland‘s Wildthorn.  The novel opens on Louisa traveling in a carriage towards what she believes will be a sort-of job.  When she arrives, she realizes that she has been delivered to an insane asylum!  The staff insist on calling her by another name and point out the identity confusion as proof that she is in the right place.  Why is Louisa here?  Is she really who she says she is?  Can she rely on any family members to help her, or is she stuck inside this oppressive place?

I shudder to think of the number of women who must have suffered similar fates; locked away because they did not have the desire to follow society’s rules at the time, punished for being smart and wanting to read.  (I would not have survived!)  I’ve always had a mild fascination with old insane asylums and sanitariums/sanatoriums, the reasons people entered the facilities, and how they were treated.  Ms. Eagland allows the reader to get a realistic glimpse into these details, especially as Louisa moves throughout the asylum and sees different levels of care.

The book kept me on my toes, trying to figure out how exactly Louisa ended up in the asylum.  I liked Louisa a lot, and found her believable and sympathetic.  Her family, on the other hand, all had their faults, and I felt sorry for her being stuck with them.  None of them are likable.  One female relative (I’ll avoid saying who because it could slightly spoil the plot twists) could be an exception, but in the end of the book, I disagreed with the choices she made.  I do think said choices are what women in that time period would have done, so I think it’s just something I need to accept in my head.  I liked Eliza and could appreciate her character development.  She reminded me of Martha in The Secret Garden, which is a comparison I have since seen mentioned elsewhere.

I will definitely be adding this to my high school library once it is released.  The cover is very eye-catching and will sell itself to a number of readers.  I look forward to reading her other book, Whisper My Name.

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On a side note, this is the first full book I have read on a Kindle.  I don’t think I read it any slower or faster than a paper book, but I have to admit that at times, I was distracted.  The “page size” is too small.  The text size is fine, but I want the screen to be bigger, to fit more text on it.  I also took a while to get used to the button set-up.  I wanted the “next page” button to the left of the screen to be a “previous page” and I kept hitting that to go back.  It’s an older release, so it appears the buttons have changed.

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Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

handle-with-care

From Goodreads:

Things break all the time.
Day breaks, waves break, voices break.
Promises break.
Hearts break.

Every expectant parent will tell you that they don’t want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they’d been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of “luckier” parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it’s all worth it because Willow is, well, funny as it seems, perfect. She’s smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.

Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte should have known earlier of Willow’s illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?
Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, Handle with Care brings us into the heart of a family bound by an incredible burden, a desperate will to keep their ties from breaking, and, ultimately, a powerful capacity for love. Written with the grace and wisdom she’s become famous for, beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult offers us an unforgettable novel about the fragility of life and the lengths we will go to protect it.

I used to be a huge Picoult fan. The Pact was the first book I read, and I loved it, and it, Mercy, Keeping Faith, Plain Truth, and Salem Falls are my favorites by Ms. Picoult. The last book I truly enjoyed was My Sister’s Keeper. Since then, I’ve felt she’s grown too formulaic. The central female character seems to always be the same person, with just the other characters and plot being what changes from book to book. There is always that end twist, and it has become terribly predictable.*

Handle With Care was another disappointment to me. It is similar to My Sister’s Keeper – family has a normal child but also has a daughter with a health issue. This time it is osteogenesis imperfecta – brittle bones. Her bones break with very little effort. The lawsuit comes about when Charlotte, the mother, decides to sue her doctor for wrongful birth, claiming she should have caught the disease earlier in utero and recommended abortion. It is not so much that Charlotte truly believes she would have aborted her baby, but she could use the money she would receive towards her daughter’s medical expenses. What makes the situation complicated is that her doctor is also her best friend. You can probably imagine how well this situation works out for all involved. Charlotte is the same main female character from every other book. The marriage is the same. If you are familiar with her other works, you can probably guess some of the main plot points without reading it.

If you truly are a Picoult fan, I’d say read this. If not, skip it. She has other books that are better.

2 and 1/2 stars

*SPOILER ALERT: While I blame the publisher for this, the cover gives away the “big twist,” and any doubt you might have is erased by Ms. Picoult’s writing fairly early in the book. As the old saying goes, you don’t bring out a gun in act one without having it go off by act three. I think the lake can easily be compared to the gun in the saying.

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Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin

foreverchanges

Description from Good Reads:

5:30 a.m., Brianna Pelletier gets ready for her daily pounding. As she lies on the couch, her dad beats her chest, then her back, coaxing the mucus out of her lungs. The pounding doesn’t take care of everything. Brianna’s held out for a long time, but a body with cystic fibrosis doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t matter that Brianna has a brilliant mathematical mind or that she’s a shoo-in for MIT. Or even that her two best friends are beautiful, popular, and loyal. In the grand scheme of things, none of that stuff matters at all. The standard life, lasting maybe seventy-five years, is no more than a speck in the sum total of the universe. At eighteen, and doubting she’ll make nineteen, Brianna is practically a nonentity. Of course she’s done the math. But in her senior year of high school, Brianna learns of another kind of math, in which an infinitely small, near-zero quantity can have profound effects on an entire system. If these tiny quantities didn’t exist, things wouldn’t make the same sense.

Funny, tear-jerking, and memorable, the author’s second novel for teens introduces readers to an extraordinary girl who learns that the meaning of forever can change, and that life – and death – is filled with infinite possibilities.

I have never know anyone with cystic fibrosis, but I remember being deeply affected by Frank Deford’s Alex: The Life of a Child when I read it as a child. (Excellent book which is still in print if you want a real tear jerker.) Because of the advancements since 1980, the life that the main character leads in Forever Changes is different than the life of Alex, but only to a certain extent. Despite the past 25+ years, there is still no cure for CF, and the chances of someone with CF living a long life are very small.

Brianna is very aware that her time in this world is quickly running out, especially after watching her friend, Molly, die from CF. As everyone around her can focus on nothing but getting in to college, she can’t help but wonder if it is worth her effort to apply if she might not be alive in a year. I liked the character of Brianna. I liked that she could allow herself to enjoy being a teenager, but was never shallow and silly about her time in this life and was realistic about her illness. I really appreciated that she did not cling to the stereotypical teen dreams of attending prom or dating the perfect guy. Not every teenager has those types of goals and I love seeing one of those represented at such a serious point in life.

Brianna is aware of the social hierarchy in high school and the importance of appearances, but that does not stop her from embracing her love of math. At times, math is actually what can help her cope; figuring out equations in her head centers her. She develops a friendship with her math teacher, Mr. Eccles, who helps her begin to understand the importance of every number/being, no matter how small, or short their life might be. I really liked the way Halpin ties life and math together in this novel. I was never a math whiz, and I wish I had a teacher like Mr. Eccles who might have given me a different approach to math in my head. Mr. Eccles is also who helps Brianna see a reason to hope to go to college.

The other characters in the novel are less developed, but this was not much of an issue to me as they exist to support Brianna, not provide side stories or anything. I did enjoy the plot of the book, the way Brianna juggles a wide variety of issues – break-ups, divorce, college applications, while facing the knowledge that her body can only take so much. I especially appreciated the fact that I did not know where the book would end. There were several potential ending I felt were being set up by Halpin, and I always enjoy it more when I cannot exactly predict how a book will conclude. That being said, I never found myself completely absorbed into the novel. But this did not stop my enjoyment of it and the character of Brianna, and it will not prevent me from recommending it to my students who enjoy realistic novels.

3 stars

This book was published last fall, so it should be available in stores and libraries. I haven’t purchased it yet for my school library but will.

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