Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Middlesteins: Packs a Whallop

By Jami Attenberg

What is the Jewish obsession with food?  Ever since I can remember when I was growing up, we Jews use any excuse to eat. We associate celebration with food. We Jews always eating at every life cycle event, birth, Bar, or Bats Mitzvah, Wedding, finding any excuse to eat. 

Here is article that Jami Attenberg wrote in the Forward it ties into her novel, the Middlesteins.   It is a conversation with her, and her father, enjoy!!! Here is a awesome review by Christian Monitor.

 Middlestein's,  Richard and Edie, and their grown children, Robin, and Benny, and their twin grandchildren.

Robin is single, and a teacher with a boyfriend. She is angry about her mother's situation.  Benny, is the pot smoker.  He is married to Rachelle.  Rachelle is the daughter in law, that tries to fix her mother in law.

 Edie is a well educated woman, she graduated law school. At one time she worked as a partner in a large law firm.   She stopped working as her weight increased so much. She was afraid to go out of the house, why you ask? What is her  flaw, you ask?   Her weight, and her uncontrollable  eating habits, not just a little, but over and beyond,  As she grows older into middle age, her weight has risen to 350 lbs.

 With obesity and other health issues, on the eve of her surgery, her husband of over thirty years abandons her.  Her daughter, Robin is very angry at her father. Rachelle, tries to help her mother in law. She gives her advice that her mother in law doesn't want to follow, she  follows her mother in law, and practically stalks her.  Watching her every time she goes in her car, following her, watching what she eats, Chinese restaurants, McD's, and Burger King. Through it all,  Poor Benny, is loosing his hair.

 To add to the stress, Rachelle, and Benny are planning their twin children's over the top bar-mitzvah.

Book Review:
I enjoyed reading, Middlestein's.  It is a small book, with lots of punch and emotion.   There are parts that are comical, and quirky, and serious at the same time.  Each chapter,  Edie adds the pounds. each chapter shows her weight increasing as the years go by, and into her marriage, and her later years.

Is the family responsible for you, if you can't help yourself? Or are you ultimately the one who is responsible for yourself?  Yes, it eats you up seeing someone so compulsive. They can't help themselves. You see the person hurting them self and you can't do anything but stand at the side lines. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much you intervene, it the person, not you, the enabler. In so many situations, domestic violence, smoking, gambling, drugs, alcohol.

At times it was a fun read, but other hard to take, to watch. I can understand Richard's situation. He couldn't stand to see his wife do this to herself.  Enough is enough.

As a person having knowledge of what obesity can do to you, it is heartbreaking.  Some people just can't control themselves.  I think most American's can't identify to this as a illness.  But, it is.  Just like cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and gambling is a disease, so is obesity. Most people substitute eating for love when they are overweight.

It is even harder when you are watching a family member get heavier, and heavier.  Harder still when it is a person middle age, and they have health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease.

While reading there is a scene, she is about to have surgery the next day. She is contemplating eating, even though she realizes she is told nothing by mouth after 12 am. She thinks to herself what harm can that do?  That is so sad, that someone can contemplate eating, even when she will have surgery the next day.  This part was so heart wrenching and sad to me.  I am not going to tell you the rest, there is more to come to this story.

The point of the book, who is responsible for you? yourself? or your family?
The argument that I have. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much your family loves you. It is your responsibility. You can ask for help, and there is a point that the family can help, the rest is up to you. 

I don't mean to get on my soap box, I am sure Jami Attenberg didn't mean for this book to be a discussion about enabling,  and eating disorders. If you are in the health field, or psychology field, like my niece( works with eating disorders), I would suggest this book, for you, and your clients.

There is so much to talk about in book clubs.  Health issue, obesity, compulsions, enablers, etc. This would be a good book for book clubs, There is lots of emotion, in such a small book.

Thank you Evan from Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to review, and post my thoughts.  I enjoyed reading.



Friday, October 19, 2012

A Train in Winter: Book Review

A Train in Winter
By Caroline Moorehead

Very hard to read, because of the content. But, it is important part of history that should not be forgotten. The books that are written usually has the Jewish perspective. This time it from a objective point, from a journalist. It is a important part of history, about the French Resistant that no one knows much about. It takes place during after and the war. Most of the Resistant fighters, were women, yes you heard right women.

I was happy to read this, because as a Jew, I thought no one was helping us. But, in reality there were people that were helping to end the war and the atrocities of Hitler. We just did not know many of them. I am not talking about a few, but thousands all over Europe in particular France.

These people were ordinary people, doctors, writers, singers, dental surgeon, teachers, students, mothers, grandmothers, parents, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The French did not like what was happening in Spain, or Italy.

They wanted to spread the seed of communism. They wanted to see change in the political arena in Europe. The French wanted to see communism in their country because of what was happening of the effects of Spain, with the likes of Franco, and in Italy what was happening with Mussolini in their country.

The Gestopo, was watching one man, head of the French Resistance, he was a teacher. By the name of Andre' Pican. He was the head of the Front National of the Resistance in the Seine-Inf'erieure. He was thought to lead them to other Resistance Fighter.

March 1941, there was a round up, by the French Police. 113 people, were detained, 35 of them women, the youngest a 16 year old, and the oldest a 44 year old farmer's wife. What the French police confiscated were notebooks, addresses, false ID's, explosives, revolvers, tracts expertly forged ration books, and birth certificates, typewriters, and much, much more.

By 1943, they were taken with the rest of the French Resistance of a total of 230. as political prisoners to Aushwitz, and some of them sent to Birkenau~ the death camps. There were only 49 left of the French Resistance after the war and able to return to France.

The story was about the resilience of these women, their friendship, looking after each other, and share the mutual danger they were able to fight to stay alive. Some of them claim it was just luck that saved them.

In Vichy, and Paris, France, and all over France. Communism was spreading all over Europe, this helped spread the French Resistance It also was happening all over Europe(in Italy, and Poland, etc). The women were more involved then the men. The men were off in the war, and the women left to their own devises at the home front.

Women had safe houses to protect Jews, they spread flyers all over France, wrote propaganda to spread the cause, let other countries know what was happening, attacked trains, etc.

The women, were lonely, and had to hide from their families, to protect them. Do you think you would have done this? I don't know what I would have done. They believed in the cause. To save their country. But, what about your children? They felt they were saving their children. But, they sacrificed themselves for the cause.

Why, how, and where and what happened to them, is the first part. This part of the book is about how each of them got into the resistance. Who they were. How the French were treated after the German's invaded France. How these normal people got involved, and why. What happened to them, while they were in the underground, how it affected them, and their families, and children, and loved ones, and the eventual round up.

Part 2, of A Train in Winter takes place on, January 24, 1943. They rounded up the rest of the French Resistance and sent them to Aushwitz. The decision to work, Aushwitz, or death~ Birkenau. 230 Women were taken to the station.

The second part of the book was very tough to read. The conditions of how they found themselves. They had no idea where they were going. They, as you know were treated horribly. What made this book more awful, than others. This is a journalistic record, not one or a few persons experiences, but that of the whole. Which made this more heart wrenching, and horrible.

The clothes, the food, and staying with thousands of concentration camp prisoners were held out side for roll call in the dark of night, how many do you think were out there in the death of winter? 4,000 possibly in roll call. How long do you think it took to call everyone? a hour, try the next morning. Then the medical experiments, that were done to women. What they did to babies, and children, the survival, and not survival of the women, and prisoners of the concentration camps. I am not going to go into the conditions because like myself, I thought I heard it all. But, I hadn't, but I don't want to keep writing about it to sound redundant, and too awful to repeat.

But one thing that kept a few of these women alive was the comradery, friendship, the shared fear, love of their families, France. " Despite their differences of age, background, education, and wealth, were friends. They spent months together in Romainville very close together and it was a train full of friends, who knew each other's strengths and frailties', who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown".

My critique of the book, this for sure did not read like a grip me read. There is intrigue, and conspiracy, it does remind me of spy novels, from WW2.

My biggest gripe was trying to keep the names and places straight. I did have a notebook by my side. But after a while it was too difficult and I gave up. The book is such a broad topic, and not just a few experiences, that is why so many people, places.

I found it interesting for the first time, that a non-Jew wrote this book. Most Jewish historians think they own this time period. I am happy to read from a non-Jews perspective. I did not realize the French Resistance, or the Resistance in general was so vast.

If you are looking to read this in a day or two, I would not pick this up. This is a tough book to read, but important.  I usually don't read books about the holocaust anymore, since I read many of them when I was younger. I thought I knew everything.  I found part two of Train In Winter, much more engrossing, and engaging then part 1. Not sure why.

This is different, it gives you a wider, and broader topic. I recommend it to anyone that wants to know about the history of WW2, and the time period. To understand what happened in the home front to ordinary citizens, especially women helping the war effort. There were women that wanted, and tried to make a difference, unfortunately most of them did not survive, and they sacrificed their lives.

I was given a copy by TLC Book Tour, and I would like to thank you. I have been wanting to read this since it was first published.         

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time Keeper: Book Review- Mitch Albom

Time Keeper
By Mitch Albom

 This is the story of three main characters. Dor, Sara, and Victor.  Dor wants to have more time with his wife Alli, who is gravely ill, and on her death bed. He then gets to heaven and longer than he wishes.

 Because of this he is stuck  for a long while in heaven. He goes up to the heavens and is stuck there for 6,000 years.  He is sent to earth to save Victor and Sara.

He is told to find two people. One person that is asking for a short time to live. The other wants to live much longer.

Victor, rich, and 14th wealthiest person in the world. He is dying of cancer. He wants to be put to sleep in a cryolab, until they find a way to cure cancer. Once they find the cure, he will be awakened.   He doesn't consult his wife. Instead he is just driven to the lab. Without any concern about his family.

Sara, a teenage girl, book worm, quiet, awkward socially, and smart, she doesn't have any friends, and lonely. She has a crush on Ethan.  This is her first love. She has no experience with guys. She meets him in a homeless shelter.

He tries to get her drunk and have sex. Luckily Sara, knows the difference from right and wrong.
But she moons over him, and gets so absorbed with him. She lets everything fall to the wayside.  She buys him a expensive watch, which he brushes off, and tells her forget it.  She decides she is going to try another tactic, instead, she will send a private message on facebook. She goes on facebook, and she is humiliated. She wants to commit suicide.

By the end of the story, like all of Mitch Albom's books it is a happy ever after. Father time is able to get back to his wife. But, how? You end up asking questions about your life, and time.  Is there a happy ever after? For Father Time? You will have to read Time Keeper to find out.

Reading the story, reminded me of Christmas Carol. Because when father time is helping them realize what they are doing. He is discussing the future, and present and past. Look what you are doing to your mother, or your wife. Do you realize the consequences of what could happen.  It makes you think of your own life. When things get bad, there is always hope that things can get better. You keep on trucking. There are the bad days and good days, each one of us have.
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