Neshama’s Choices for May 2nd

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French Braid

I can always count on this writer for rich, solid stories and was so happy to gulp down her latest offering. A Baltimore family unravels in the late ‘50s and it takes more than 5 decades for reconnection and reconciliation. In part it’s a matter of temperament. Mercy, the reluctant matriarch, decides to devote herself to painting and her baffled husband can’t understand what seems like defection from domestic routines. Her daughters are very different from each other and their respective daughters seem to have sprung from the wrong mothers. Nothing like a crisis way down the line to reveal their bond. I was trying to analyze why I feel so comfortable with Tyler’s books and decided in part it’s her conversational writing style, like a “you know” just where we’d say it in real life. She weaves the strands like the title’s hairstyle to show us where connections lie amidst the follies and confusions of ordinary, ongoing life.  

Agatha of Little Neon  

Nuns aren’t exactly my thing, but I was charmed by the protagonist’s oddness and the set-up: a rehab halfway house where the diocese moves four remaining nuns when bankruptcy decommissions their headquarters. No more guidance from stern Sister Roberta, now retired, and they have to figure out how to deal with this handful of reluctant reprobates. It’s essentially frustrating, often heartbreaking toil and eventually Agatha reaches her own breaking point. Lots of humor—that’s the surprise—as the Sisters try all manner of projects and their hard-bitten, street-smart clients derail them.  

In Love

Subtitled A Memoir of Love and Loss.  Her husband Brian exhorted her to “please write about this.” So she does, with incredible candor.  When early Alzheimer’s struck, he was determined to go out on his own terms. That meant Dignitas in Switzerland where it’s legal, though tricky. They explored simpler, less pricey options but were thwarted at every turn. In short chapters we get to know her and Brian up close. His exit was peaceful as promised, but at considerable cost. Privileged, for sure, but money can’t protect you from emotional trauma and daily frustrations. I really thought by the time I got this old (I just turned 83) there would be something in place to allow such a choice, but despite legislation in some states, it’s an incredibly crazy-making process to get approval.  

My Policeman

In Brighton, England, young Marion falls for kind, handsome, unsophisticated Tom.  She has no idea that he and his cultured friend Patrick, a museum curator, are lovers.  Marion and Tom get married and she tries hard, but of course their relationship never ignites as expected. It’s the ‘50s. Tom has joined the force, and Marion serves as cover. Such a sad story with no villains except society but great hurt all around. Based on the true story of E.M Forster’s love affair. 

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