Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

I am a person who needs a book handy at all times. Hence, you will find one not just next to my bed, but also in the bathroom, in the side pocket of my car, and on the kitchen counter.

Audible has enabled this quirk of mine by offering hundreds of audiobook titles that I can listen to anywhere. This is especially nice when I’m in the car or out for a daily walk. I can get so wrapped up in a good tale that those 10,000 steps seem much less arduous.

The buzz over author Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, It Ends With Us, had intrigued me, so I eagerly downloaded it from Audible.

Romance, yes, But so much more. A complex story that takes on a harrowing subject with frankness and emotional depth, It Ends With Us is a novel that left me breathless even before getting winded by step #5849.

Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

Listening to It Ends With Us on Audible, I found my emotions running the gamut, and because I was moved from highs to lows over and over again, I may have unleashed a few expletives on my neighborhood jaunts. Hopefully I was out of earshot of the neighbors.

The narration bounces from 15 year-old Lily reading entries from her diary to the present day Lily. The younger Lily writes mostly about her relationship with Atlas, a boy from her school, and the older Lily brings us up to date 10 years later.

It Ends With Us

Adult Lily meets hunky Ryle in the most romantic of ways: on the roof deck of a Boston apartment building late one night, each one seeking an escape, with the stars and lights of the city twinkling above.

Lily, distraught after failing to deliver an appropriate eulogy at her father’s funeral that day, needs a refuge where she can be alone with her thoughts. Ryle, a brash neurosurgeon, has come up for air as well. At first she is annoyed that her space has been invaded, but as they strike up a conversation she starts to feel a spark. It lasts just a moment, and they go their separate ways.

My reaction: Meh. He sounded dreamy at first, but way too aggressive for my taste. If a man was that coarse with me I would be outta there. You’re well rid of him, Lily.

Some time later they run into each other and although Ryle has steadfastly opposed getting into a romantic relationship, he falls in love with Lily. Initially wary herself, Lily is deliriously happy.

My reaction: Dismay. Lily, this guy may be cute, but his quirks make me shudder. Like taking your pulse during sex to see how high your heartbeat will get? Gross.

Without giving the plot away, let’s just say that eventually Lily finds out in the most shocking of ways that there is another side to Ryle that rocks her physically and emotionally.

My reaction: Horror. Lily, girl, get away from that creep!

Out to dinner one night, Lily and Ryle run into Atlas, Lily’s boyfriend from long ago. Although she is in love with Ryle, Lily realizes that she still cares for Atlas as someone who once was so important to he.

Atlas can read Ryle like a book, and out of concern for Lily he wants to intercede, wants to tell her how this guy is wrong for her, but holds back.

Thus begins Lily’s personal struggle to justify being with a man whose behavior is reminiscent of her own father, the father whom she was unable to properly eulogize at his funeral. Her own experiences have taught her one thing, but now in the moment herself, she is vacillating between her love for Ryle and her own self-respect and survival.

This is a portrait of what happens in too many homes behind closed doors. The shame of the victim often shields the perpetrator from scrutiny until it is too late. As observers, we can be judgmental or sanctimonious, but we can’t truly understand the anguish of this situation unless we walk in the victim’s shoes.

Reading It Ends With Us will put you there. After the final sentence, which gave me goosebumps the author revealed what prompted her to write this story.

My reaction: Wow. Read this book!

Have you tried Audible? Go to Audible’s free trial site and you will have a month to listen to as many titles as you like.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Book Buzz: Siracusa

Book Buzz: Siracusa

 

Book Buzz: Siracusa When People Magazine, Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly all named Delia Ephron’s Siracusa one of their top books of the year, that was enough to intrigue me about this novel, although I didn’t really need prompting to read the latest from an author whose work I always enjoy.

Two years ago I recommended Ephron’s Sister Mother Husband Dog . This time, Ephron switches gears and takes us to the town of Siracusa, located on the sun-drenched coast of Sicily. Vacationing together there are two married couples whose complicated relationships are as twisted and treacherous as the rocky paths on the island.

Siracusa

Meet New Yorkers Michael, a well-known writer, and his wife Lizzie, a freelance journalist. Lizzie had a long-ago affair with Finn, a restauranteur, whose control freak wife Taylor and strange 10 year-old daughter Snow (suffering from “extreme shyness syndrome”) accompany him. Although Finn and his family live in Portland, Maine, he and Lizzie have kept in touch platonically over the years. Why not travel to Siracusa, Lizzie suggests, as an homage to her deceased father who had spoken glowingly of the crumbling charm of the ancient town.

Note: vacationing with an ex-lover and your current spouse is probably never a good idea.

At the beginning, all seems benign enough. Four sophisticated, cultured Americans and one child are on vacation together. The plot is as languid as the Ionian Sea on a quiet morning. Everyone is guardedly happy to be on vacation together. The first stop is Rome for a few days. Tempers are under control until they arrive at Siracusa and Taylor is appalled at the primitive accommodations. That seems to be the point at which dark clouds begin to amass. Seemingly innocent flirtations become something more sinister … jealousy and betrayal lead to emotional warfare … infatuations and danger take the plot in a different direction.

Told in retrospect in alternating voices of the four adults, the narrations reveal earlier missteps of each character, and their desire to make sense out of lives that haven’t gone quite the way they expected. Lizzie, Michael, Taylor and Finn reveal hidden secrets and resentments by recounting the same incidents but with completely different interpretations. Gradually, we come to learn that things are not as they seem. Their secrets and lies bubble to the surface and position them for emotional upheaval.

Aha, you will think as the clues start to accumulate and the plot thickens. Maybe you will figure out the delicously macabre ending, but I was certainly surprised.

Ephron is a master storyteller. Her skewering take on marriage and mores, with a healthy dose of black humor thrown in to sweeten the pot, makes Siracusa a book you will not be able to put down. Now out in paperback, Siracusa is just the right blend of psychological thriller and expose of human nature that makes it a hugely satisfying read. No wonder it has found its way onto so many Top Book of the Year sites.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Siracusa. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Siracusa from Blue Rider Press for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

Always in search of a great read, I love getting recommendations from other bookaholics.

“You must read The Light We Lost,” insisted several of my bookie friends. “You won’t be able to put it down.”

They were right. I was swept up in the romance and emotion of Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost from the get go, and if you love page turners, this is certainly one.

Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

The Light We Lost might inspire you to ponder your own life decisions. Were they made based on love, on instinct, or on practicality?

The Light We Lost

The novel, set in New York City, begins with the tragedy of 9/11. Columbia University students Lucy and Gabe are in their Shakespeare class when the word comes in about the twin towers attack. Although they are virtually strangers, they find comfort in an embrace. For just a few moments they cling to each other, gathering strength while reflecting on the fragility of life.  They are surprised by the electricity in that embrace, but separate and move on with their lives.

They don’t realize it yet, but they have found their soul mates that day. They also will someday learn that the darkness of that tragic event was a harbinger of the pain and regret to come in their own lives.

A year after graduation Lucy and Gabe run into each other in a bar and that spark is still there, and this time the stars are aligned for them. They fall deeply in love, passionate about each other, and certain that their destiny is to be together. But they are also passionate about their careers. Gabe aspires to be a photojournalist in dangerous areas of the world, to capture the political turmoil and struggles of war-torn countries.   Lucy is equally driven in her position as a television producer and won’t give it up. These circumstances force them to make an anguished decision to part ways.

And then, life goes on. The next 13 years bring marriage and children for Lucy, and worldwide professional recognition for Gabe. Lucy loves her husband, Darren, but jealousy, heartbreak, and unfulfilled dreams consume her each time she thinks about Gabe. As for Gabe, he also struggles with the despair of giving up the woman he truly loved. Ultimately, Gabe and Lucy are forced to confront their true feelings for each other.

This is a dramatic story of love found and lost and found again, and I can attest to tearing up at the end. I will say that the three characters sometimes acted in ways that were self-centered, and that was a bit of a distraction for me. However, I still recommend the book, and fans of JoJo Moyes in particular will enjoy it.

Narrated in the second person (Lucy addresses Gabe throughout), The Light We Lost will remind you of the powerful and lasting effects of first love.

 

I am partnering with Putnam to give away a copy of The Light We Lost. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

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Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

Before the current political upheaval in our country, the phrase “she persisted” might not have carried much weight. But now it has taken on an iconic meaning, representing the uphill battle women face when advocating for their right to be heard.

Book Buzz: Lilli de Jong

This struggle persists, as does our rebellion.

Lilli de Jong

As I read Janet Benton’s absorbing new novel, Lilli de Jong, I kept thinking that the eponymous Lilli, thrust into a fight for her survival, might have demurred at the idea of being a persister, but indeed her struggles in an unyielding world required every ounce of persistence one could muster.

At a time when having a child out of wedlock branded the mother — and the child — in the most cruel and unforgiving way, Lilli discovers she is pregnant and has nowhere to turn. The father of the child was unaware of the pregnancy before he moved across the state for a better job opportunity. Lilli lost her beloved mother due to an accident, and her father brought shame to the family by taking up with a first cousin afterwards. Because of that, Lilli has lost her job as a teacher. She is frighteningly alone.

Raised in the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers, Lilli is an educated, purposeful young woman, and now is banished from the order.

Unwed pregnant women in those days had few options. Back alley abortions often resulted in the mother’s death. Keeping the baby meant a lifetime of shame for both mother and child. Giving a child up for adoption could be too heart wrenching to consider. Fathers shirked their responsibilities without fear of retribution.

Lilli decides to leave home to have her baby at an institution for unwed mothers and plans to give the baby up. But then, she just can’t.

Set in 1800s Philadelphia, the story is both harrowing and uplifting, because it is about a mother’s unrelenting fight for her child. The fierce bond between mothers and babies, and in particular the mutual nourishment of mothers and their nursing babies, propels the story line.  Lilli’s dogged determination is fueled by the unconditional love and trust of her baby.

I loved the historical background of this story. Having always lived in the Philadelphia region, I enjoyed learning more about this era and recognizing the local landmarks. Though this is a novel, this feels very authentic. In Lilli’s diary form, it reads like a memoir.

Benton has a lovely, engaging writing style and the plot had some unexpected turns. She has given us a glimpse into the past that continues to resonate in the present day. Lilli de Jong is a virtual maternal hug of a novel, that acknowledges the persistence of mothers everywhere.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Lilli de Jong. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Lilli de Jong from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

 

 

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Summer and Springsteen

Summer and Springsteen

Like cotton candy and sticky fingers, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and warm nights in the yard catching fireflies, the music of Bruce Springsteen means summer to me.

Summer and Springsteen

Springsteen, just a regular Jersey boy.

When I was in college I had a summer job at the Jersey shore – a rite of passage for many of us who live in the northeast. Shucking clams by day and partying by night, surviving both romantic flings and crushing heartbreaks, I had the time of my life.

I worked in a beach community on a small barrier island a far cry from the glitz of Atlantic City, without a boardwalk or large concert halls. There were few venues for musical entertainment other than smoky motel bars or dilapidated watering holes like The Acme and The Rip Tide that we college kids flocked to night after night. If you wanted to hear live music, you might catch a local act. Or you might get lucky and witness a performance that in time would become legendary.

This is what happened to us.

Bruce Who?

We heard one day that there would be a performer at the improbably named Le Garage, a small warehouse that was usually a venue for teen dances. Some guy named Bruce Springsteen was performing. No one had ever heard of him, but we had nothing else to do that night, so why not.

Summer and Springsteen

From the book “All Things LBI” (Down the Shore Publishing)

At 10:30 that night the place was full. How many it held, I don’t remember, but probably not more than a couple hundred stood perspiring in the heat. The lights were dimmed as we waited for the show to begin. Bruce Springsteen, in all his grungy, unknown glory, his guitar slung across his hips, ambled out on center stage blanketed in a spotlight. He opened with the song was 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). That voice, as gritty as the sand between the rocks in Barnegat Light, that song, so Jersey shore soulful, that moment, that would become a memory to cherish. The crowd was spellbound and the ovation that followed was thunderous.

That man would become The Boss.

As of that night I was a fan forevermore, and this song would always evoke a pang about that moment, the salt air, my sunburned shoulders and peasant blouse I wore, how our ears rang as we walked out into the night air talking about the music.

Over the years my devotion to Bruce has never wavered and to my delight, the Boss published his autobiography, Born to Run, which fans and critics alike have enthusiastically endorsed. When a fellow Bruce fan and friend of mine raved about the audiobook version, I made it my next Audible selection.

So here is the thing about autobiographies on audiobooks narrated by their authors: you feel like you are having a private conversation with this person. I loved hearing Springsteen talk about his early years in Freehold, his introduction to the music world, and everything that came after. I loved hearing him talk about meeting Stevie Van Zandt, another Jersey musician trying to make it in a competitive business.

No surprise, Springsteen is a gifted writer, and I was as blown away by his book as I was by seeing him live at that little club so many years ago.

Here is Springsteen just a few years after I first saw him, performing 4th of July, Asbury Park, (Sandy) live. I would see him in concert again and again, but that first time was the best by far.

Enjoy.

And Happy Summer.

Do you use Audible? You can try it out for a month by going to Audible’s free trial site and have access to hundreds of titles.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Book Buzz: Enchanted Islands

The flora and fauna of the island of Galapágos provide the piquant backdrop for Enchanted Islands, a novel that reads so much like a memoir I was sure it had to be true.

Book Buzz: Enchanted Islands

Much to my satisfaction, I found out at the end (spoiler alert) that it was based on a true story of a gutsy woman who led quite a remarkable life.

Enchanted Islands

Women born a century ago were largely expected to live a pre-scripted life: marry, become a homemaker, have children. Frances Frankowksi, born in the late 1880s to Polish Jewish immigrants who settled in Minnesota, forged a different path that would be considered daring even in modern times, let alone the early 1900s.

Frances spent her childhood sharing a small apartment with her parents and siblings. She envied her best friend Rosalie, who seemed to have it all: beauty, an effervescent personality, a richer lifestyle, and parents who approved of education. Frances’ parents insisted she quit school to help pay the family’s expenses.

One day, Frances was shocked to learn about a dark secret in Rosalie’s family, the family she had thought was so perfect. With Rosalie wanting to escape, and Frances willing to accompany her, the two girls decided to run away to the big city of Chicago.

They found jobs to sustain a meager lifestyle. Rid of the strictures that had bound them, they enjoyed the independence and city life, until the time that Frances was shocked to find that Rosalie committed an unforgivable betrayal. Frances fled Chicago, and the girls lost touch for many years.

Rosalie’s life ultimately took an expected turn: she became a housewife and mother. Frances got a job working as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence that she kept for many years. As the country was on the brink of World War II, she was offered an unusual top secret assignment: marry American undercover agent Ainslie Conway and move to the Galapagos Islands to investigate the Germans living there.

Frances, unattached and childless, and bored with the humdrum life she had been living, accepted the assignment. She would marry a man she didn’t know and move with him to the remote Galapágos Islands. She had no idea how unconventional this marriage would turn out to be.

Talk about roughing it! The island was undeveloped and barely habitable. In preparation for living in those conditions, Frances and Ainslie had been trained how to hunt, grow their own vegetables, construct a house, and rely on their wits to overcome enormous challenges. Alone except for several other island residents, life was a very solitary existence. They stayed on the island two years. This is when Frances began writing her memoir, which now I can’t wait to read.

Enchanted Island has several themes: the vagaries of friendship, wartime adventure, marital secrets. Author Allison Amend describes the conditions on the island so vividly you feel like you are there, and I’m not sure how anyone could have toughed it out as they did.

For me, there is always an extra dose of satisfaction when I am reading a novel based on fact. What an interesting story this turned out to be — not at all what I expected.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Enchanted Islands. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Enchanted Islands from Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House, for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Handmaid’s Tale

Book Buzz: the Handmaid's Tale

If you’re like me, you have an ever-expanding list of books TBR (to be read). I do read a lot, but there are many classics heretofore unread, and Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, was one I regrettably had not gotten to.

Book Buzz: the Handmaid's Tale

The buzz is already out about the Hulu version coming out next week, starring Elisabeth Moss in the leading role. The reviews are glowing. Critics are wowed by the script, the performances and the stunning visual effects. I can’t wait to watch, but I really wanted to read the book first.

Only one problem. I’ve got at least half a dozen review books in my queue. Also, it’s a busy time right now, with holidays and birthdays and family obligations. My reading time is limited.

But thanks to Audible, and these lovely April days, my problem was solved. I’ve listened to the audiobook version during my daily walks and I’m all caught up. Narrated by Claire Danes, it is a riveting novel, especially relevant now.

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?

It is quite a stunning piece of work, as most readers of Margaret Atwood’s feminist novel will agree.

It is the year 2195. The Handmaid’s Tale recounts “the new normal” in the Republic of Gilead, the totalitarian state that exists in what was formerly the USA. A fundamentalist Christian faction has assumed power and stripped women of their rights. In response to a precipitous drop in birth rates, the new government imprisons women who are determined to still be fertile and forces them to work as handmaids, AKA breeding surrogates. Their freedom and their access to the outside is taken away. Their names are changed; their identities are erased.

Offred, the protagonist, once had a husband, a child, and a normal life. When the drumbeats got louder, she and her family tried to cross the border into safety, but she was captured. She clings to hope that she will be reunited with them someday, but her memories of life “before” are slipping away.

With themes of gender oppression, authoritarian leadership and religious politics, some might draw parallels to our current political reality. Read this excerpt and tell me it isn’t chilling:

“I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen,” Offred said. “When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either. They said it would be temporary. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

Will these themes hit too close for comfort? For me, yes. Part of the shock is learning about Offred’s life before the regime came into power. It was so normal, so mundane, just like our lives. And then it’s not. That’s all I will say about that.

Audible always delivers, and as an added benefit, there are extra goodies in this recording. I enjoyed hearing the exclusive content written by Margaret Atwood at the end because it deepened my understanding of the book. The novel extends beyond the original final line, “Are there any questions?,” by adding the questions and answers that the people at that Symposium, occurring in 2195, might ask.

Do you use Audible? You can try it out for a month by going to Audible’s free trial site and have access to hundreds of titles.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Book Buzz: The New Old Me

A woman of a certain age myself, I have often wondered, is it possible to start over at a point when you’re looking at the prime of your life through the rearview mirror? As the subtitle of Meredith Maran’s kick-ass and winsome new memoir, The New Old Me, indicates, yes you can.

Book Buzz: The New Old Me

Let’s hear it for feisty 60-somethings who pivot out of their comfort zone and find out there can be sweetness from the lemons life has thrown at you. You’ll pardon the cliches.

The New Old Me

Maran’s life had already gone through several iterations before she hit a road block that seemed insurmountable. Her loving marriage splintered and fell apart.  Her best friend died. And on a practical level, what would be her means of support now that her freelance writing gigs had shriveled into nothing?

Quite a heavy load for anyone, let alone a 60 year-old. But this 60 year-old was a life force to be reckoned with.

She applied for a regular day job as a copywriter in Los Angeles and got it, meaning a move from her memory-filled Oakland home, where she had raised two sons and lived with her now-estranged wife. Now, her roots were being uprooted. She would leave all the familiar behind.

You can imagine the culture shock in La La Land. In her new start-up, a clothing company staffed by stylish and whip-thin 20 and 30 year-olds, she felt like a dinosaur. I am the age of these women’s grandmothers, she observed. One of the shocks was the company’s Workout Wednesdays, the one day of the week when everyone came to work in their Lululemon outfits and had their fat measured in front of their colleagues. For a woman who as a home-based freelancer hadn’t worn a bra or pants without an elastic waistband in forever, this was an adjustment.

Maran is a woman who craves friendship and adventure.  She made connections through networking with acquaintances and began to build back her rolodex of friends who were up for a cup of coffee or a hike in the mountains. Bit by bit, she made a new and wonderful life.

I love this woman. She is lusty, funny, and gutsy. She redefines what it means to be an older woman whose expectations for love, friendship and meaning are not diminished by setbacks. How do we live fully, live deeply, when the ballgame of our life is in the eighth inning? That’s what you will learn from The New Old Me, a home run of a memoir.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The New Old Me. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of The New Old Me from Penguin Random House for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: A Million Ordinary Days

Book Buzz: A Million Ordinary Days

On the very first page of A Million Ordinary Days, Judy Mollen Walters’ latest novel, I realized that the protagonist, Allison Wheeler, has a physical disability.

Here is the sentence:

Allison Wheeler felt the buzz in her foot the moment before her alarm sounded, waking her out of her best dreams ever.

 

Book Buzz: A Million Ordinary Days

A Million Ordinary Days

This is how I knew Allison had Multiple Sclerosis.

I have become acquainted with MS, not because I have it, but because one of my very dearest friends does. My friend Cathy was diagnosed with 30 years ago after an experience with numbness in her foot. She was walking on the sidewalk of New York City and actually stepped out of her shoe without being aware of it.

Allison has the same issue with her foot, along with other symptoms that are on the spectrum of MS. Like Cathy, some days Allison feels ok, and others, it is hard to get out of bed. Some days she feels like her body is betraying her and is frustrated over her inability to control it.

But also like Cathy, Allison is fiercely independent and refuses to let a disability disable her. She has a job she loves, two daughters she cares for, and an unwillingness to surrender to this disease that threatens to take away her quality of life.

In Allison’s familial orbit, there is her ex-husband, who is still involved and supportive, a teenage daughter applying to college, and an older daughter living many miles away. Each family member is concerned about Allison but at the same time wrapped up in his or her own life.

At work, Allison is a passionate social worker helping unwed pregnant teens. She is devoted to her clients, perhaps even more attentive to them than to her own daughters.  As her condition worsens, she struggles to cope with the limitations that are impacting her performance on the job. At first, she is in denial, refusing to acknowledge the progression of her disease. But the setbacks that used to resolve quickly are now lingering, forcing her to deal with her prognosis.

Walters paints a realistic portrait of the impact of having a chronic illness, and the ripples it causes within a family. Her characters are believable, people you swear you have met in real life.

I enjoyed reading A Million Ordinary Days. I liked seeing the evolution of each character and their relationship to one another. I also like the cover image which conveys a subtle melancholy about the content. But this is not a depressing book at all. Rather, it is a story of perseverance and hope.

For anyone with MS or any disability, it will resonate strongly.

 

I received a copy of A Million Ordinary Days for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write. 

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Women’s History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

Women’s History Month is resonating strongly with me this year. Not since the 60s have women’s collective voices been so clear and purposeful, as evidenced by the Women’s March and beyond. The political climate seems to have opened a channel, empowering women to candidly share their deepest emotions, their challenges, their fears.

Listening to Ariel Levy’s actual voice narrating her new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, I felt that this was one of those times when the audiobook surpassed the written version of a woman’s poignant, wrenching story.

Women's History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

The Rules Do Not Apply

In her brave but vulnerable whiskey-husky voice, Levy opens with this:

“In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life.”

Suffused with shock and grief, she obsessed over the choices she had made over the course of her life. Before the tragedy, she had always laughed in the face of convention, finding her own interpretations of sexuality, work, love, marriage. Loss had never figured into her life plan. But then, does it ever?

Levy began her career doing scut work at New York Magazine and landed the plum job of staff writer at The New Yorker in 2008. Her beat was often the offbeat: traveling to rural South Africa to track down Caster Semenya, a female Olympic runner whose gender had been under pubic scrutiny; reporting on a gang of lesbian separatists named Lamar Van Dyke. As she wrote in “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” the New Yorker essay for which she received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism,

I’ve spent the past twenty years putting myself in foreign surroundings as frequently as possible. There is nothing I love more than traveling to a place where I know nobody, and where everything will be a surprise, and then writing about it. The first time I went to Africa for a story, I was so excited that I barely slept during the entire two-week trip. Everything was new: the taste of springbok meat, the pink haze over Cape Town, the noise and chaos of the corrugated-tin alleyways in Khayelitsha township. I could still feel spikes of adrenaline when I was back at my desk in New York, typing, while my spouse cooked a chicken in the kitchen.

In fact, it was in Mongolia, on a reporting assignment (and the topic of this essay) that Levy lost her baby. A nagging pain in her abdomen became stronger, and then excruciating. Her baby was born in the bathroom of her hotel room and died minutes later.

Later, her doctor told her the miscarriage had been caused by placental abruption, a rare problem that usually arises from high blood pressure or heavy cocaine use. Or because of the pregnant mother’s advanced age. Levy was 38. It could have happened anywhere, her doctor assured her. Traveling was not the factor. Nonetheless, Levy was wracked with guilt.

Her mother came to stay with her for a while. When Levy asked her, what will become of me, her mother answered, you will be fine. Other times she said, you are not alone. During Women’s History Month let us celebrate the voices of women who can share the universal emotions of grief and loss and survival that let others know that we are not alone.

The Rules Do Not Apply is painful, honest, revealing, and intimate. Levy is unforgiving of herself, but you will want to hug the person behind the voice.

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