Neshama’s Choices for December 12th

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Elsewhere

In this beautiful, isolated village there’s a very peculiar affliction. Mothers simply disappear—it’s a given. Vera, born there, feels like an outsider but ends up marrying Peter, the local dentist, and giving birth to Iris. She loves them both but she’s always testing the town’s “reality” by climbing the hills where she gets a taste of the affliction—a dissolving of self, bit by bit. She decides to leave before this happens, and then must navigate the messy, hostile world that has been waiting out there. Decades later she makes her way back, but no one recognizes her. Fascinating twists and turns and an exploration of the true meaning of home.  

Foreverland

Subtitled On the Divine Tedium of Marriage. The institution under a microscope, as it were. Heather married Bill.  He was a divorced, handsome, funny professor. The calamities that ensued, mostly small, make for lots of humor which anyone in a relationship will recognize, because we are all far from perfect and up close, everyone experiences frustrations, disappointments, and endless annoyances. Like all Bill’s throat clearings and deafening sneezes. (He’s a phlegmy guy.) Two children later, a misbegotten move to  the suburbs, and finally quarantined with COVID-19, which  brings  it all home.  Clear-eyed reflections in the fun-house mirror of life. A treat!  

Family of Origin

On Leap’s Island in the Gulf Coast, an odd community of scientists study the Undowney Bufflehead. These ducks have lost their waterproofing.  Could this be a throwback to support the Revivalists’ theory that reverse evolution is returning species to simpler times? One denizen, Ian, has drowned and his grown children travel to the island to collect his stuff and find out what might have happened. The offspring have been at odds for years; a secret haunts both. As they visit each eccentric scientist, they learn more about their dad and themselves. The process is very stressful but necessary. Yes, Earth is a mess. Could these discoveries point to hope?  Pretty unlikely (or so I think) but very entertaining.

The Fortnight in September

The Stevens family lives for their annual vacation in Bognor Regis on the English coast. That’s where the couple honeymooned.  Now with three children, two almost grown, it feels bittersweet—might it be the last? They have the preparations and rituals down but there’s always anxiety.  Especially for the missus who’s fearful in general and is frightened of the sea. We experience their quirks and joys, especially as they shed the tight collars and tight constrictions of everyday life. They get in touch with their bodies. A particular new triumph: a larger bathing hut with a balcony. I was very touched by these folks and surprised to discover the book was published in 1931. 

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