Life thru the haze of cat hair.

1/24/2013

From Goodreads:

Emily and Einstein

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·   rating details  ·  1,700 ratings  ·  503 reviews
He was a man who didn’t deserve a second chance. But he needed one…Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building.  But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident.  The funeral isn’t even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment.  But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies.

Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn’t really gone.  Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein.  But is Einstein’s seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past?  Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man?

*****

I don’t know how I feel about this book, even after completing it.

It’s a typical story – the rich,  beautiful man meets the beautiful woman, they instantly fall in love and live in the perfect apartment/house/location, then tragedy strikes and the inevitable triumph against adversity struggle ensues.

Sandy sees Emily in a business meeting and immediately knows he must have her. She, of course, feels the same way. They get married and have a seemingly perfect life. They live in a brownstone in upper Manhattan. Then, (and this isn’t a spoiler), Sandy dies in an accident and comes “back to life”, sort of, as Einstein, the dog. As Emily deals with her husband’s death, and his extremely unlikable mother-in-law, she starts learning things about Sandy that shifts her perspective about their life. She immerses herself in work as a book editor. All along, Sandy, in the form of Einstein, is tasked with helping Emily to move on. He also has to learn the reasons why he was given a second chance, but in the form of a dog.

The story moves quickly. It is an easy read. Along the way, we learn more about Emily, her family, her upbringing. There are clichéd examples of her struggles at work against a rival, and more about Emily’s seeming perfection from the perspective of her less perfect sister, Jordan. There were a few likable characters, and an equal number of unlikable ones.

I spent a good amount of time vacillating between thinking this was a clever twist on a typical chick-lit novel and thinking it was one of the most inane premises I’ve come across. Even as I finished the story, where all threads were tied up neatly, I still don’t know which opinion is more valid.

I disagree with the 3.70 star rating that is currently on Goodreads. It was a nice story, but forgettable.

 

 

1/17/2013

From Goodreads:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·   rating details  ·  10,156 ratings  ·  2,563 reviews
Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.(less)

*****
I just finished listening to the audio version of this book. It was narrated by Jim Broadbent. I am so glad that I listened to it, although I believe that reading it would have been just as lovely. Mr. Broadbent did a marvelous job and hearing the words in the proper British accent was perfect.
I think this book will go in the “I read that book every year” pile. It is a quiet book, one that moves along at a steady pace. There are no huge, dramatic scenes, and yet the story grasps the reader tightly by the hand and leads you through.
In turn, we learn about both Harold’s and Maureen’s recollections of their marriage – how they met, what they did right, what mistakes they made. It is simultaneously enlightening and heartbreaking. Bringing the surface those thoughts and memories that are long-buried and hard to face, Harold’s walk and Maureen’s solitude cause each of them to examine difficult truths. Part of this story makes me want to embark on my own pilgrimage of sorts.
Along the way, Harold encounters several characters that help him along his path. It is heartwarming to read about the kindness of strangers. I’d like to think there are really people in the world who would go out of their way for strangers.
This is a lovely book. One that is calm, happy, sad, shocking, and satisfying all at the same time. I highly recommend this one.
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