Neshama’s Choices for June 13th

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Unlikely Animals

Emma’s dropped out of medical school, but her family doesn’t yet know it. As a kid she could heal with a touch, but that “charm” disappeared when she turned 15. She gets a summons to return to New England to help take care of her dying father. His condition causes hallucinations of said creatures. She also needs a job and ends up teaching at the local school. And she’s trying to track down an old friend who seems to have vanished. A nearby graveyard is a busy place: the dead gossip incessantly about town doings. One ghost actually keeps her dad company; he was a naturalist who kept a pet fox. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it’s also charming so I suspended disbelief and enjoyed the highly unlikely but well-fleshed out story.  


When a Unitarian Universalist church needs a new leader, the process gets squirrelly fast.  The committee’s too large and there are too many competing agendas. Dana, a committee member, documents this nimbly; she’s a successful food writer burnt out on her subject and sees material for a memoir in the making right in front of her nose. Through complex machinations, her last-choice candidate is picked but at least she’s a woman. Rich opportunities for satire, well implemented here, but it never gets mean. (My granddaughter worked at a UU church; I attended a few zoom services where she sang and can attest that Huneven captures the essence spot on.)  

The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick  

Subtitled: & Other Reflections of Art at the Frick. This is a surprising, astonishing book. The venerable museum in NYC is iconic and the essayists who write about their favorite paintings there all have a deep connection with the institution. What a varied cross section: artists (as you’d expect) but also dancers, musicians, and writers of all stripes. Some anatomize the pictures, others bring in personal history; it’s like seeing the paintings through their eyes—and souls. Especially interesting when a handful choose the same painting, which shows the nature of perception and interpretation. A treasure!  

How to Tell A Story

Subtitled the essential guide to memorable storytelling from The Moth. As a storyteller myself I’ve read many guides. I think this is the best so far.  (Disclaimer: I’ve performed at the Moth and even have two lines in the book—page 28.) Storytelling has many more applications than performance; if you’re asked to give a wedding toast, a eulogy, a work presentation, or just want to make a good impression on a first date, this book will give you pointers. Lots of examples which make for entertaining reading in themselves.  An amazing aspect: five writers (The Moth’s artistic directors) pulled this together. Now that’s collaborative magic!