Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review - Rescue by Anita Shreve

Rescue by Anita Shreve
published November, 2010
288 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

A rookie paramedic pulls a young woman alive from her totaled car, a first rescue that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma--streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes, fierce desires, and a never-look-back determination. Peter Webster, as straight an arrow as they come, falls for her instantly and entirely. Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair, married, and parents to a baby daughter. Like the crash that brought them together, it all happened so fast. Can you ever really save another person? Eighteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone. But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. His work shows him daily every danger the world contains, how wrong everything can go in a second. All the love a father can give a daughter is suddenly not enough. Sheila's sudden return may be a godsend--or it may be exactly the wrong moment for a lifetime of questions and anger and longing to surface anew. What tore a young family apart? Is there even worse damage ahead?

My thoughts:

Anita Shreve's novels are always a toss-up for me - sometimes they really grab me (Light on Snow), and sometimes I can barely make it through them (Sea Glass). She has become one of my "must read" authors, and even though I don't know if I will like it or hate it, I can't resist grabbing every book she writes.

Rescue was an engrossing if slightly predictable read. I don't think Shreve did anything terribly groundbreaking, either with her characters or plot, but what she does she does well, and I was drawn into the story from the beginning. Webster is appealing and earnest, and teenaged Rowan doesn't lose her sweetness even when she's being all teenager-y. I don't think anyone who reads widely will be surprised by most of the plot twists, but the familiarity felt comfortable to me, in the same way that watching Bo and Hope fight and then make up always feels a little bit like coming home.

Rescue is the kind of novel you read when you want to know exactly what you are getting into - and Shreve does it better than anyone. A little bit of humor, a little bit of angst, the occasional tug at your heartstrings - it's just a good story, and completely entertaining from beginning to end. It won't be the best book I read all year, but it was sure fun while it lasted.

Finished: 1/26/11
Source: public library
MPAA rating: PG-13 for scenes involving drinking and sexuality
My rating: 7/10

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review - Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Unbearable Lightness : A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
published 11/10
272 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work--first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn't enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

My thoughts:

Body image is an issue that just about every woman is conscious of. I'm not sure there is a woman alive who hasn't struggled, at one time or another, with feelings of dissatisfaction and insecurity about they way they look. Most of us, however, don't work in an industry where body image is, literally, everything.

This is the first time I've read a memoir that truly gets inside the thought process of a person struggling with an eating disorder. It was both fascinating and horrifying to read the justification and rationalization de Rossi went through as she ate less and less, and shrunk more and more. When, at 82 pounds, she says she can't be anorexic because she isn't skinny enough, it is nearly unbelievable - and yet, you know she believes every word.

de Rossi isn't a writer, she's an actress, and yet she wrote this memoir herself, baring her soul and her demons to the public for better or worse. I was completely engrossed from the first page. It may not be the most elegant writing, but it is true and strong, and the story is compelling.

This is a story about learning to find acceptance - to be strong enough to know that you are enough, just the way you are. I have a daughter now, who will someday need to learn these lessons on her own. I hope she will read this book, and maybe find herself just a little bit closer to accepting herself thanks to de Rossi's honesty and courage.

Finished: 1/6/11
Source: review copy from the publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 for discussions of body, self-abusive behavior, and sexuality
My rating: 8/10