Category Archives: Books

Book Buzz: Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

How much do I love the feeling of turning the last page of a book and sitting for a moment, a lump in my throat, unwilling to break the spell the story has cast on me?

I love it so much and I wish it happened all the time. But we readers know that this visceral response is special, often unexpected, and something to cherish.

Mothering Sunday had this effect on me.

Mothering SundayMothering Sunday is written by Graham Swift, winner of the Booker Prize for Last Orders and author of many other novels. Unfolding as languidly as honey dripping off a teaspoon, it is a mesmerizing  tale of an illicit romance from the point of view of the mistress.

It is 1924, in rural Berkshire, England, after the war has ravaged the lives of families both rich and poor.  The wealthy Nivens family of Beechwood lost both sons in the war and reduced its household staff to just two. Jane is the servant girl and Milly is the cook.

The story opens on an unusually warm day in March — Mothering Sunday, it happens to be, a day the wealthy allow their servants a half day off to visit their mothers. Delighting in the gift of a sunny day, the Nivens family departs for lunch with their friends, the Sheringhams. Milly leaves to visit her mother, and Jane, an orphan and therefore having no mother to visit, bicycles over to the Sheringham estate, Upleigh, to meet Paul Sheringham, with whom she has been having a clandestine affair for six years.

Paul is the heir to the estate since he is the only son left in his family. His two brothers were also killed in the war.

And this is how the novel begins, with just-after rapturous sex on a lazy and languorous day, in a still house, with beams of sunlight streaming in the open window dancing on the naked bodies in bed.  Neither one of them wants to move, but Paul eventually gets up to dress. He is running late to meet his fiancee for lunch. As he heads out, he tells Jane to lock the door behind her when she is ready to go. She hears his sports car motor off down the road, scattering stones in its wake. Before she gets dressed, she pads around the house, still naked, observing each room, especially the library.

The pleasant reverie we readers have been lulled into is suddenly punctuated by a sentence that made me gasp. Something awful happens, a tragedy, that has far reaching repercussions for everyone and changes the trajectory of Jane’s life.

Recounted from Jane’s perspective as an old woman, we see how fate and resilience altered the life of a woman and freed her from the servant destiny she would have expected. In spite of deprivation and loss, a woman’s spirit prevails and leads to profound self-discovery.

Throughout this slim novel, under 200 pages, the tapestry of language is woven so exquisitely that nearly every sentence is a wonder into itself. Every detail has its place and special meaning, whether it is the race horse owned by the Sheringhams or the works of Joseph Conrad discovered by Jane.

Mothering Sunday is spare but intensely emotional, a work of perfection and bliss.


I am delighted to give one of my readers a copy of Mothering Sunday. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected.


I received a copy of Mothering Sunday from Knopf for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Written on My Heart

Written on My Heart

Those of us who enjoy reminiscing about “the good old days” will find them in the new novel by Morgan Callan Rogers, Written on My Heart. Set in a tiny fishing village in the early 1970s, it hearkens back to a time when things were so much simpler. At least in retrospect it seems that way.

Written on My Heart

Florine and Bud, the young married couple and protagonists, live in a small community called The Point on the coast of Maine. This is a place where everyone knows everyone (and their business). People keep their doors unlocked and visitors show up unannounced. It is precisely the kind of village referred to in “it takes a village to raise a child,” because the residents all love children and look out for them. Friends and family are ready and willing to help at any time, whether it’s babysitting, car repairs or a comforting shoulder to lean on.

It seems almost idyllic. Communication happens face-to-face. Small town pleasures like picnics, birthday parties and backyard weddings provide the entertainment. The village seems untouched by events taking place in the rest of the world, and except for one character who serves time in Viet Nam, The Point seems untouched by the political and social upheaval of those times.

Which is just the way they liked it.

Lest you think this is a remake of The Waltons, let me assure you it is not. There is sinful behavior (by Walton standards, anyway). There is cussing and drinking and wrongdoing. More significantly, there is the underlying tension of Florine’s missing mother, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved, as well as friction with a wealthy family that lives on “the better side” of town.

I found myself caught up in the story. The characters are so well drawn that you connect with them instantly, and wonder about them when you’ve finished the book. Florine is scrappy and blunt and can drop the f-bomb with the best of them. But she is a tender mother and has so much love in her heart for her family, her friends and her little corner of the world. She and Bud are so likeable that I found myself cheering them on.

Written on My Heart is a sequel to Rogers’ first book, Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, which I have not read but will put it on my TBR list now. Fortunately, you don’t need to read the books consecutively to understand what is going on.

I hope there will be a sequel, because I really want to see what happens with Florine and Bud next.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Written on My Heart. Please leave a message below and a winner will be randomly selected.

I received a copy of Written on My Heart from Plume for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Start at the Beginning

Although my child bearing days are long over, I remember my pregnancies as being a time of intense happiness and dizzying anticipation.

I was lucky, very lucky.  I had an easy time of it, from the very beginning to the end.

I still count my blessings, because for many women, it’s not easy at all.

In my 20s and 30s, when my friends and I were starting our families, there was plenty of joy to go around. With each announcement of the good news, we would squeal with delight for the new mama-to-be. Our conversations were all about pregnancy, obstetricians, baby names and where to find Mommy and Me classes.

But there were a few friends who were dealing with infertility issues, and our hearts broke for them. Out of respect, we kept our baby talk to a minimum when they were around. We cheered them on through fertility treatments and shared their anguish when the treatments failed.

Infertility was a strain on their relationships with their husbands, family and friends, including those of us either pregnant or already mothers. Some chose to be open about it; others preferred not to. Either way, their preferences had to be respected. As close as we were, I’m sure we didn’t understand the extent of the sadness they were going through.

I thought of this while reading Judy Mollen Walters’ absorbing new novel, Start at the Beginning, the story of how infertility can affect a friendship and continue to reverberate for years after.

Start at the Beginning

Robin is struggling with infertility when she meets Sarah, a young mother who just moved to the neighborhood with her husband and baby daughter. Robin and Sarah become good friends, in spite of the fact that Robin is unwillingly childless. Each time Robin gets pregnant, Sarah is sure everything will finally turn out well for her friend.

However, heartbreak strikes again and again, as Robin goes through several miscarriages. How does this affect her friendship with Sarah? Sarah, wanting to support her friend, is hurt when Robin pulls away. But she understands that Robin needs her space, and eventually they will resume their friendship. At the same time, she is overburdened with her daughter’s special needs and her husband’s business travels that keep him away most of the week.

Having exhausted all their options, Robin and her husband have almost given up. Then one day a solution appears, which seems to provide the happy ending both Robin and Sarah desire. Unbeknownst to them, this solution, couched in layers of secrecy, will have a ripple effect on their families and themselves for many years to come, changing lives beyond their comprehension.

Walters deftly describes the close but precarious friendship between these women as they both deal with wanting what they can’t have. Start From the Beginning is an honest, heartrending look into a couple’s quest to become parents and an aftermath they never could have imagined.


Walters will be speaking this Saturday, March 19, at the New Jersey ASJA in Cranford, New Jersey. For details and information about future events, plus her other novels, check out her website.

I received a copy of Start at the Beginning for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

I grew up in a weight-obsessed culture. So did you.

Things have not changed since I was a girl on a grapefruit diet. If anything, they’re worse.

Haven’t we all complained about being fat?

Most of us women have bought into that obsession at one time or another: the way you glance in the mirror and then quickly away in disgust … diet by consuming a ridiculously low number of calories a day and/or work out at the gym for hours … salivate over cooking shows and dessert recipes while denying  yourself everything … and most importantly, think that becoming thin will solve all your problems. If so,  you will sigh with recognition at Lizzie, the protagonist in 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

This searing debut novel by Mona Awad is a series of vignettes about a girl coming of age. It takes a poke at our judgmental culture and the quest for perfection, but it is also about the struggle for self-acceptance and the role our friends and family play in that process.

Lizzie is an overweight, awkward teenager, full of self-loathing. She yearns to have a boyfriend and seeks out the wrong men, men who just use her, so she tries online chat rooms where her body can be obscured.  One of the men she meets online invites her for a visit, and it goes well. They enjoy a love of music and feel comfortable with each other. After several visits, they decide to get married.

But marriage isn’t enough to satisfy her. Hungry for the validation that eludes her as a fat person, she embarks on a killer diet and exercise regime and transforms her body. How does that affect her husband, who fell in love with her when she was fat? And does the outcome really make her happy?

Awad’s descriptions are razor sharp. I think most of us can relate to the agony of trying on an ill-fitting dress in a store dressing room. I loved this scene between Lizzie, coveting a Diane von Furstenberg dress, and the imperious saleswoman.

“How are we doing in here?”

We. She means me and the von Furstenberg. the von Furstenberg and I. She saw me out of the corner of her exquisitely lined eye going to the back of the store to retrieve it between the frigid Eileen Fishers and the smug Max Azrias and she disapproves. She knows the von Furstenerg is a separate entity, that it and I will never be one.

I’m just thinking how I’ll wear it out of the store. Picturing how I’ll pull back the curtain in the von Furstenberg, turn my zippered, von Furstenberged back to her and say, all casual, over my shoulder, Cut the tag, please?

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a novel of dark humor and heart tugging pathos, a stunning portrait of the diet driven, image conscience culture we can’t seem to change. I adore this book and am thrilled to find this fresh and exciting new author.

No surprise, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl was named in February’s Top Ten Library Reads Pick, Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of 2016, and ELLE’s Novels by Women Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2016.

My crazy days of cabbage soup diets and grapefruit diets and so many others are long over, but it all came back to me reading this book.  I started dieting in high school and have yo-yo’ed through life ever since.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl from Penguin for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Stranger in My Recliner

Husband: (opening front door and calling out) “Honey, we’re home.”

Wife: (coming down the steps) “Hi … but who is we?”

Husband: “I brought someone home tonight. Hope you don’t mind. An elderly, mentally challenged homeless person. It’s OK if she stays with us, right?”

The Stranger in My Recliner

This is not a joke. Nor is it fiction. This is a paraphrased semblance of what really happened to author Doreen McGettigan, as she reveals in her new memoir, The Stranger in My Recliner.

Doreen’s husband John found Sophie, the homeless woman, huddled outside a McDonald’s one cold night, clutching a couple of shopping bags. After a moment he recognized her. She used to attend the same AA meetings he had twenty years earlier. He was shocked to see how she had deteriorated. Remembering her kindnesses to him, he wanted to repay that kindness now.

Doreen was pretty shocked to be presented with this stranger but agreed to take her in, figuring they would locate Sophie’s family members or, worst case scenario, find her another place to stay.

Sophie once had a family, but she lost contact with every member, and none of them came forward to rescue her. Doreen and John tried unsuccessfully to find someone. Just as her family failed her, so did government assistance. Doreen and John soon found out what a nightmare the mental health system was: the red tape, the unanswered phone calls, the dead ends.

There was nowhere for Sophie to go. The McGettigans would not let her go back to the streets. She ended up living with them for over two years.

A Stranger in My Recliner

Think about it. This was a stranger. A stranger who had mental health issues, who was unable to do anything for herself. She was often incontinent had terrible hygiene. She could throw tantrums like a child. She spent all her waking hours in the blue recliner in the living room, watching soap operas. She could be demanding and mean-spirited.

And yet the McGettigans were there for her. The impact on their marriage, their children and grandchildren, their lifestyle was huge. They sacrificed so much to help Sophie.

Would you have done that for a stranger?

I have to be honest. I don’t think I would have.

The kindness and compassion they showed to Sophie is nothing less than extraordinary. And despite the difficulties of caring for her, they both came to love her.

As she did in her previous book, Bristol Boyz Stomp, a story about the random road rage that claimed her brother’s life, Doreen McGettigan pulls no punches. She is unsparing in her frustrations of caring for Sophie and about the plight of homeless people in general. Her research into the mental health care system reveals a history of abuse and neglect, let alone mismanagement. Our system routinely lets homeless people fall through the cracks, and it’s shameful.

Homelessness continues to be a major issue in our country, with an estimated homeless population of between 2.5 million and 3.5 million. Approximately 26% of homeless people have a severe mental illness, and approximately 34% are chronic substance abuse users.

Reading The Stranger in My Recliner was an eye opener for me. First of all, it is gratifying to know that there are really, really good people in this crazy world of ours. Secondly, the facts about our mental health system are shocking. There are millions of other Sophies on the streets who have no family, no advocates, nowhere to go.

The Stranger in My Recliner is gritty and real. Sophie’s story is one I won’t soon forget.


I received a copy of The Stranger in My Recliner for an honest review,
which is the only type of review i write.

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Book Buzz: Perfect Days

If you have nerves of steel and a stomach to match, you might be able to handle reading Perfect Days, the chilling crime novel from Brazilian wunderkind Raphael Montes that has its English language debut today.

Perfect Days

But if sexual perversion, bondage, kidnapping, maiming and killing are just too much, think twice.

Perfect Days is the story of Teo, a medical student, and Clarice, the woman he obsesses over, and their disturbing jaunt through the highways and byways of Brazil.


On the creep-o-meter, I would rank Perfect Days, well, let’s put it this way. The needle has zoomed so far to the right that it has broken the scale.

This is not the kind of book I normally read, but I was intrigued by the buzz. Scott Turow blurbed on the cover, “Raphael Montes is one of the most brilliant young novelists I’ve encountered. He is certain to redefine Brazilian crime fiction and to emerge as a figure on the world literary scene.”

So I thought I would give it a shot. The beginning paragraphs were strong and I was hooked right away.  After a few pages when things started to, well, deteriorate, I debated whether I should continue.

And then I saw that Perfect Days was named an Amazon Best Book of February 2016, and I decided to stay with it til the bitter end. As twisted and macabre as it was, I couldn’t put it down.

Turow is right. Montes is a terrific writer.

Perfect Days

Teo lives with his wheelchair-bound mother in an apartment in Rio de Janeiro. His best friend is a cadaver (mmm hmm). He meets Clarice, a pretty, vivacious art history student who aspires to be a screenwriter, at a party his mother forces him to attend. Teo falls for Clarice and imagines a life with her. She has no interest in him, but he is undeterred.

Without the social skills to pursue her like a normal person, he kidnaps her, thinking that forced togetherness will open her eyes to his charms and she will fall in love and they will live happily ever after.

There are unexpected twists and turns as the characters shift roles and make their way to the beautiful and remote island of Ilha Grande (which I have been to. It was where my son and his Brazilian fiancee got married). We learn more about their personalities and motivations as the story unfolds. Is Clarice’s detest for Teo dissolving or is this a strategy to escape? When will Teo get caught? The ending totally caught me by surprise.

To get you in the mood, here is book trailer featuring the author.

And here is one with readers’ reactions … priceless.

Take the creepiness of Gone Girl and multiply it by 100. That comes close to the gestalt of Perfect Days.


One of my readers will receive a copy of Perfect Days (if you are brave enough to try it!). Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen randomly. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Perfect Days from Penguin for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Expatriates

Sometimes the setting in a novel is so rich, so descriptive and so key to the story that it actually becomes one of the characters.

Such is the case with the dazzling city of Hong Kong, the setting for The Expatriates, the story of three women living in a small expat community and how their lives intersect.

The Expatriates

I have never been to Hong Kong although it is certainly on my travel bucket list. But based on how others have described it to me, including my daughter who visited several years ago, author Janice Y.K. Lee perfectly captures the mystique, the glamour and the class system: the privileged and the deprived.

With Lee’s keen sense of nuance,  plus her intimate knowledge of the city (she was born there), the bustling metropolis that serves as a temporary home for expatriates Mercy, Margaret and Hilary comes alive as their stories are told.

There is pathos in their lives. Mercy is the 20-something Korean American from Queens, NY who graduated from Columbia but did not find the automatic path to success she had expected with an Ivy League diploma. Unlike many of her classmates who have moved on to relationships and careers, she is stagnating in a pool of bad luck and poor choices.

Margaret is a happily married mother of three, living the good life with luncheons, spa treatments and parties occupying her days. Until tragedy strikes and she is forced to deal with a devastating loss, that is. She goes through the motions of life while her heart is breaking,  putting on a good act of being the happy wife and devoted mother but overwhelmed with sadness.

Coming from a wealthy family, Hilary lives in luxury with her husband and is waited on by servants. But money can’t resolve her fertility issues, and she is consumed by her inability to get pregnant. As she and her husband deliberate over adopting a young boy they have come to know, her life shifts abruptly and she is forced to deal with loss.

And loss really is the catalyst that will propel them move forward, as each comes to accept what is and recalibrate. In the surprising but plausible moment when their lives converge, they find common ground — and are able to help each other in ways that would have been thought unimaginable.

“Hong Kong is so small” is an oft repeated phrase by the characters in this book. The expatriates tend to live in the same areas, shop at the same stores, attend the same parties. This microcosm of Hong Kong society is fascinating to observe, almost like an anthropological study, and Lee does it magnificently.


One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Expatriates. Please leave a comment and a winner will be selected randomly.


I received a complimentary copy of The Expatriates from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Along the Infinite Sea

The plot of Along the Infinite Sea is based on an item that appeared in a Connecticut newspaper several years ago. This is the gist of it:

A vintage 1936 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster is recently discovered in a shed in Greenwich, Connecticut, untouched for decades. Said to have been owned by a German baroness and driven around Europe in the years before World War II, the car had been brought with her to America when she fled Europe.

Complete with a lipstick-smeared cigarette butt in the ashtray and a single leather glove in the glove compartment, this rare sports car is completely refurbished and sells for $12 million.

Along the Infinite Sea

With that intriguing tidbit as a springboard, author Beatriz Williams spins a tale of romance, adventure and desperate escapes in Along the Infinite Sea, the story of two strong women whose lives are separated by decades and distance.

Along the Infinite Sea

Annabelle is a young girl coming of age in 1930s Europe, and Pepper, a single pregnant woman living in Florida in the 1960s. As fate would have it, one day their paths coincide.

Thanks to that Mercedes Benz.

Being a fan of historical fiction, I was completely absorbed by the plot line in Europe. It was the early 1930s, an era of decadence and debauchery, of parties at seaside villas and expensive Parisian hotels. Annabelle meets and falls in love with a German Jew on the Côte d’Azur. They pledge their commitment to each other and make plans for the future.

But their romance is aborted as the Nazi regime comes into power. Annabelle’s lover is arrested and sent away, although she doesn’t realize that. She thinks he has left her.

Desperate to find a husband, she is wooed by a Nazi military commander and consents to marry him. She finds out much later that it was her husband who gave the orders to deport her lover.

In another era and another place, 1960s American south, Pepper finds herself in dire straits. She is pregnant and alone. The father of her unborn baby is her boss, a married senator. She is not close with her family and she has no place to go. She is frightened when confronted by goons, hired by the senator to intimidate her. She needs a friend badly.

Annabelle and Pepper meet over the sale of the Mercedes Benz and find out they have more in common than the car. They both know the agony of being pregnant, unwed, and alone. With their newfound bond they each come to grips with the ghosts in their past and make choices about the future.

This was a fun book to read and the plot twists kept me guessing until the very end. Williams captures both eras — prewar Europe and 1960s USA — in a convincing and evocative way.

So I did a little digging and I found a photo of the Mercedes Benz. Here it is.

Along the Infinite Sea

Some car, huh?

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Along the Infinite Sea. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen randomly. USA addresses only, please

I received a copy of Along the Infinite Sea from G.P. Putnam’s Sons for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: I Never Signed Up for This

Happy New Year!

All over the Internet I see people claiming their word for the year, a word that may guide or inspire them, or a word that defines them. Have you chosen yours for 2016?

If I were to choose a word for Darryle Pollack, author of  “I Never Signed Up for This: Finding Power in Life’s Broken Pieces,” it might be Strength. Passion. Determination. Humor.

They all define this remarkable woman.

Book Buzz: I Never Signed Up for This

I Never Signed Up for This

… is something you might say too if you are 18 years old and your beautiful 41 year-old mother succumbs to cancer.

The loss of her mother was devastating and mysterious. No one talked about cancer back then. It was almost as if vocalizing the word might spread the disease. Pollack’s mother was in the hospital for weeks with what was described to her children as “back issues.” Pollack didn’t know until later that it had been cancer.

This brought back memories to me, also of the hush-hush surrounding cancer. I remember attending a cousin’s bar mitzvah when I was, oh, maybe ten or so. At the reception, the mother sat in a chair looking tired, her face puffy. I asked why she looked that way, but no one would talk about it.

Losing a mother at any age is traumatic, but for Pollack, a college freshman, the loss was unbearably painful. With two younger siblings, she felt that she had to be a surrogate mother to them while still needing mothering herself.  The dread of getting cancer was ever present, intensifying when she became a mother herself, imagining her children left motherless as she had been. When she turned 41 – the age her mother had been when she died — and was healthy, she felt a sense of relief. She thought she had dodged that bullet.

Until she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer at the age of 44.

I Never Signed Up for This

… is the story of learning that life is not fair. Cancer strikes indiscriminately, whether you’ve been a good person, eaten your vegetables, maintained a healthy lifestyle … or not. If you are dealt the cancer card, your life is changed. You stumble about in an alternate universe that Pollack calls Cancer World.

You don’t always know what you’re made of until you’re faced with a crisis. Like your own mortality. How can you take the broken pieces of your life and put them back together? Pollack gripped cancer with both fists and shook it.

She takes us on her journey, the exhausting, frustrating, anxiety-ridden mess of it. With determination she explored a variety of treatments. Met with a multitude of health professionals. Decided in the end to do what felt right in her gut. It turned out to be the right decision, because here she is, twenty years later, healthy, vibrant, telling her story.

In the process of dealing with everything you deal with in Cancer World, she found comfort in working with pottery and mosaics, unleashing a talent she never knew she had. How gorgeous are these?

Pollack found mosaics to be a metaphor for life.  She gathered up the shards and created something new and beautiful.

I Never Signed Up for This

She writes,

Life can damage or break what is most beautiful and precious to us, as cancer had blown apart my world. Little by little, I realized I was picking up pieces of broken tile exactly as I was picking up the broken pieces of my life. I learned to see the beauty in the imperfections, as I created mosaic designs out of shattered fragments in all shapes and sizes. Rearranging broken pieces to make something unique, something different, something beautiful in a new way — my art process epitomized the process of resilience.

She found the humorous side of cancer, believe it or not. She was able to speak to large gatherings and make people laugh. She did a TEDx talk, also entitled I Never Signed Up for This.

After a childhood growing up on Miami Beach, graduation from Yale in the first class that included women, and a career as a TV newscaster and writer, Pollack found herself in midlife to be a spokesperson and activist for a cause she never would have chosen.

I Never Signed Up for This

I Never Signed Up for This was a page turner for me. Part memoir, part self-help, funny and engaging, it inspired me to see the glass as half full.

To look for the rainbow.

To live each day with gratitude.

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Book Buzz: Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable

As 2015 draws to a close, I am gratified to end it with a book that has warmed my heart and nourished my soul.

Liane Kupferberg Carter’s tender and poignant memoir, Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable: A Family Grows Up With Autism, is the story of her son Mickey’s autism, but the theme of parenting children with challenges is universal.

Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable: A Family Grows Up With Autism

Like any parent whose child does not seem to be progressing “normally,” Carter and her husband Marc have doubts when Mickey isn’t talking or walking like others his age. Their pediatrician assures them that Mickey is “hitting milestones on the late end of normal” and shouldn’t be compared to their older son, Jonathan.

However, at eighteen months when Mickey is obviously delayed, testing is recommended.

Mickey is diagnosed with autism at just under two years old.

It is a bitter pill to swallow when parents get that diagnosis. It is even more devastating when they are not given a road map for navigating the bumpy road ahead.

In Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable, Carter takes us along for that ride.

The Carters are determined to find the best treatment for their son no matter what it takes. They have consultations with many specialists, who advise a dizzying array of tests and procedures for Mickey. They deal with therapists and aides of varying competence. They seek out other parents of children on the spectrum for their advice. With so many opinions, who can know what the right course of action is?

The search is exhausting but the Carters doggedly pursue answers. It is a roller coaster ride. There are flashes of hope followed by crushing defeat, over and over again. They are dealt another blow when Mickey is diagnosed with epilepsy, a not uncommon condition in autistic children.

Throughout Mickey’s years in school, the Carters receive daily emails from his teachers. Some days are good, some bad. The Carters choose to focus on Mickey’s abilities while being realistic about his challenges, and expect his educators to do the same.

Mickey does well in the special ed program at school until he reaches ninth grade. In the Carters’ community, as in most communities these days, the emphasis is on students who are college bound. The services available for children with special needs are often nonexistent, or mediocre at best.

The Carters are persistent with the district, asking for accommodations that Mickey is entitled to. It is a long and frustrating ordeal, but eventually they are granted their requests. Children like Mickey thrive in an environment in which life skills, not daunting academics, are taught.

Carter is unsparingly honest about the reality of living with a child on the spectrum.  The anxiety and sadness, the frustration, and yes, times of anger when Mickey is treated badly by his peers or unknowing, unthinking strangers. The sting of thoughtless remarks or ignorant stares never loses its sharpness.

But Carter does not allow Mickey to be defined by his disability. He is a fun loving, intelligent, compassionate child, friendly and kind to all. He has a wicked sense of humor. He loves his cats and worships his big brother. He is beloved by his family and friends.

Carter, a marvelous writer, details both the struggles and joys of parenting with pathos and humor. Her engaging style makes this book a page turner, and I hope there will be a sequel someday.

Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable: A Family Grows Up with Autism

Liane and Mickey Carter

Ketchup is My Favorite Vegetable is a validation of the phrase, “love conquers all. ” And I think I’m in love with the Carters.

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