The True Adventures of Gidon Lev by Julie Gray

May 14th, 2022 — 12:16pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, B - Biography

The True Adventures of Gidon Lev by Julie Gray

Gidon Lev is one of a small number of children who survived the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt. He went on to travel through Europe and then spent time in Canada and the United States before settling on a kibbutz in Israel. He has led a full fascinating and complicated life including two marriages and several children. Gidon met Ms. Gray who is 30 years his junior and is an experienced and accomplished memoir writer. They collaborated for what must have been several years traveling together throughout the world tracing Gidon Lev’s fascinating life, which included many tragedies, complications, and great joys. She put together a memoir that is written by her but interspersed and weaved together with Gidon’s first person account.

It happens that I read this book while the world was witnessing the tragic war in Ukraine. The television news is filled with videos and stories of the killing of innocent civilians and refugees including children who witnessed these tragic killings, now traveling to new countries. I could not help to conflate these tragic accounts with Gidon’s description of his own refugee days with these present experiences.

There was one time period in the 1960s when Gidon lived outside of Jerusalem and described in detail the growth of the young Jewish state and the atmosphere that he experienced. It just so happened that my wife and I as students spent the summer in that time period, working at Hadassah Hospital and then we were a given a fascinating tour throughout Israel. This experience made Gidon’s description of the spirit of the people of Israel something that we could relate to and had some firsthand understanding about.

Then of course, when Gidon wrote about his experience during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and Israel being attacked by hostile Arab countries, once again our daily TV stories of the Russian invasion of Ukraine made a realistic visual impact for the words I was reading in Gidon’s description.

This book is not just a firsthand historical journey, it is also a very personal story of Gidon’s life including his reconnection with his children after his first wife unexpectedly took them to the United States with little clue to Gidon where they might be living.This is an unusual collaboration between an accomplished memoir writer and the subject who spent significant time together retracing and reexamining Gidon’s life. The book is a worthwhile experience and an insight into history as well as the study of the character of a remarkable man.

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Where I Was From by Joan Didion

March 16th, 2022 — 10:26pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, HI - History

Where I Was From by Joan Didion

This a very pleasant personal memoir of both the talented author and also a memoir of State of California through the eyes of Ms. Didion. She pulls no punches as she described the unethical behavior of large agricultural companies, the defense contractors, the land speculators, the prison builders, many others who exploited the land and the riches of the Golden State. She also provides an insight into the soul of the people of California particularly when she talks about her own family over many generations. I am sure her writing will live on for future generations and can be a humanizing adjunct to the life and times about which she has written.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

March 4th, 2022 — 6:25pm

Category: O - Other - Specify

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
By Joan Didion

Ms. Didion has a style and skill to bring out the essence and feelings of various characters as they deal with the major events of a lifetime. The book consists of 20 essays and is apparently her first non-fiction book. It mostly addresses personalities and events of the 1960s on the West Coast in California where she grew up. She did delve into the life of John Wayne, Joan Baez and Howard Hughes and touches upon what it was to live in Haight-Ashbury during the 1960s. Ms. Didion takes the reader into a deep dive into various characters as well as a particular time period. I did get the feeling that she truly captured each person and their life setting. As I read each essay, it seemed quite real and genuine. She provides a brief visit with an interesting person. However, as honest and is true as the encounter may be, the essay was not particularly memorable. I did not find myself engrossed in each essay nor reminiscing over the literary experience. No doubt she is a great photographer with her words. I had the thought that I would treasure one of her essays, if she were writing about a time and place of people with whom I had interacted and lived. For example, I would really enjoy reading her insight into Brooklyn during the years that I lived there in my youth. Also, I should add that I have not the slightest idea what the title has to do with the contents of her book.

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While Justice Sleeps by Stacy Abrams

October 9th, 2021 — 10:51pm

Category: FL - Fiction Legal, FM - Fiction Mystery, Uncategorized

While Justice Sleeps by Stacy Abrams

I did not realize that Stacy Abrams, well known former Georgia State Representative who unsuccessfully ran for Governor and has been active nationally in voter rights, is also an accomplished fiction writer. In this novel she immediately drops us into an exciting mystery as we meet Avery Keene. The character’s name itself reminds me of “Mr. Keene- “Tracer of Lost Persons”, one of radio’s longest mystery radio programs. Ms. Keene, in the novel, is a law clerk for a prominent Supreme Court judge who has fallen into a coma and previously unbeknownst to Ms. Keen gave her complete power of attorney for him. There is a murder of the nurse caring for the judge and there are legal questions about a conspiracy that had been brewing at the highest levels of government related to a pending merger of a biotech firm and an Indian Genetics Company. The author obviously has a very keen legal mind and understands the nuances of the legal system, especially the Supreme Court. Therefore, I was not surprised to find out that she is a graduate of Yale Law School. Although the storyline immediately grabbed my attention, at times I found it convoluted and I would not give it the highest recommendation

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SHRINKTALK- New Book by Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

September 11th, 2021 — 5:13pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, MHP - Mental Health/Psychiatry

I am very pleased to tell you about the publication of a new book that I have written titled SHRINKTALK. It is based on my experience over many years in the field of psychiatry. It covers a wide variety of subjects such as ethical dilemmas that psychiatrists can face, dealing with anxiety, panic, depression, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, autism, post traumatic stress, psychological issues in regard to the Cornavirus epidemic as well as various medical conditions, my interactions with two U.S. Presidents and many other subjects. Also included in the book are answers to questions that I have provided for a popular website.

You can order the book in printed or Kindle version on Amazon. ( Click here )

I hope you will consider getting the book and if you like it, help me spread the word to your friends and colleagues and also consider writing a positive review on Amazon and elsewhere

Sincerely

Michael Blumenfield, M.D.

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

August 27th, 2021 — 10:56pm

Category: Uncategorized

HAMNET by Maggie O’Farrell

As we live in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, this novel by Maggie O’Farrell takes us back more than 500 years to England at the time of the Bubonic Plague. No vaccinations here, yet the local town people watch their neighbors and friends come down with the deadly disease. The story hones in on one family with three children, an older sister and two young twins, a boy and a girl. At first, it seemed as if the twin girl had been struck down with the plague, but she is to survive and much to the devastation of his parents, it is the boy who succumbs to the deadly disease. What follows is one of the most powerful descriptions of the grieving process that I have ever read in the many novels which I have come across which deal with death and dying.

Most probably if you were drawn to reading this book, you probably know that Hamnet is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this story, Hamnet’s father is a playwright who spends most of his time in London writing and producing plays. The father is devastated as is the mother by the death of their son. This leads to the writing and the production of the immortal story of Hamlet. While the storyline is original and quite captivating, it is the skill and beautiful writing of Maggie O’Farrell, which, although slow at times, mostly holds our attention and makes this a worthwhile literary experience.

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Red Island House by Andrea Lee

July 11th, 2021 — 6:10pm

Category: FG - Fiction General

Red Island House by Andrea Lee

A black American woman professor marries an Italian business man and they build a vacation hotel on an island off the coast of Madagascar Africa. They spend part of the year at this house where they entertain guests, vacationers, as well as family members. They develop a relationship with the staff of the Red Island House. The reader becomes acquainted with many of these people including the various activities that go on not only at the hotel but on the island. This includes prostitution of young girls with older men and a very busy night club scene.

Before I go further, I must admit that had I not been reading this book for a book club, I would have backed out and probably would not have finished the book. Not only did I find much of the plot not interesting and repetitive but I found the vocabulary annoying in that I did not know the meaning of various words and I had to tap my Kindle to bring up the meaning, although I might have guessed them by the context (I will give examples later on).

Basically, the book follows the two main protagonists husband Senna and wife Shay (for some reason I thought their names should have been switched) throughout their life time and while I might not identify with their life experience, I did appreciate how the aging process was depicted. In my opinion. Th e most emotionally moving part of the book was where Bertine, one of the senior staff who has known the owners for many years passes away. The impact on Shay and her reminisces was very well done .

I thought any reader of this review might find it interesting to see a sampling of the words I had to look up and how I probably could guess the meaning of some of them from the context:

Maputo- unbelievable Maputo moves
manioc – manioc patches
tsingy grin – tsingy grin at the sky
pinon-watching snow melt on a pinon
memsahib- how a proper memsahib does things
palimpsest- palimpsest of tribal conflicts
crepuscular- directed towards a crepuscular lost dimension of history
bourn – a bourn has been crossed
moraingy- prostitutes moraingy boxers
louche- from the louche life which he was torn
schusses – schusses of the truck
congeries – congeries of discolored huts
lapidary – lapidary prose style
gibe- a word used as a gibe
salegy – a popular salegy trio
vazaha – a vazaha can’t understand
lambas – a woman’s lambas like flag

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo and Ishiguro

May 17th, 2021 — 8:55pm

Category: FC - Fiction Comedy, T - Recommended for Teenagers

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

This story takes place sometime in the future when science has progressed to the point where “Artificial Friends (AF)” are available. These are manmade products that look exactly like a human being and have the ability to think and act as an actual person although they are nonhuman. This story is told by Klara, an AF who is bought by a family to be companion to Josie, a young woman who is in her late teens and has some kind of an illness that might seriously shorten her life. The storyline attempts to examine the relationship between Josie and a young man, which seems somewhat unusual or atypical. Klara is also very attuned to the power of the sun, which seems to suggest an analogy to God with unlimited powers of life and death. There was also a theme, that is never fully developed, whether an AF can possibly get to know a person so well that she could take over relationships with other people should that person die. The storyline is quite unique and raises some interesting questions, but never really delivers. In my opinion, it is difficult to relate to the characters, and in the end, there was very little to take away, nor in this writer’s judgment was it worth the ride. This is particularly disappointing since this is the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the noble prize in literature.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

April 22nd, 2021 — 1:27am

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir, P - Political

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I remembered very clearly when my wife and I first encountered Barack Obama when he gave the Democratic keynote address in 2004. I recall my wife saying that she is “ready to follow this man” and then watch him eventually become president. This book gives the reader a firsthand account of this amazing journey as well as a good feel of some of his preceding years. It comes across as a very honest inside look at not only Obama’s political rise to the presidency, but some of his preliminary years growing up and coming of age politically in Chicago. The president is very generous in giving credit to his mentors, advisors, speech writers, and of course to Michelle and his children. The book would be worthwhile by itself if it were just for his firsthand account of what led up to the secret mission to find and ultimately kill Osama bin Laden and this amazing operation. At the conclusion of the book, there were some wonderful photographs, which unfortunately were difficult to enlarge in our i-pad version, that complemented the book in a very worthwhile manner.

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

March 15th, 2021 — 6:18pm

Category: AM - Autobiography or Memoir

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

This book is written by a successful middle-aged author who has published several books both fiction and non-fiction books. This one is about a very personal experience, which occurred to her after she took a popular DNA ancestry test. She received results, which indicated that the man (now deceased, as was her mother) who she always felt was her father was actually not her biological father. She shares with the reader a very personal and emotional journey where she tracks down and meets her biological father who turns out to have been a medical student who donated sperm to some pioneering and perhaps questionable in vitro fertilization program, which led to her parents being able to have their own child.

There are so many fascinating aspects to this very personal, persistent journey where the author eventually meets her biological father, now a retired physician and some of his family. She shares her childhood memories of how at times she was told by people despite being an Orthodox Jew, that she did not look Jewish. She embarked upon an obsessive adventure to try to understand if her parents actually knew that she was conceived with donor sperm.

Not only is the author a talented writer, but she was able to explore many leads and spoke to many people as she reconstructed her story. This included rabbis who knew her father and various people who knew about the pioneering, if not questionable, program where her parents sought out a solution to their infertility. In fact, one big question that the author pondered was whether or not her parents actually knew that she was conceived by a donor, or did they believe that the in vitro fertilization was actually just increasing the chance of a successful pregnancy or did they know that there was mixing of sperm with her father and the donor. There were these and many other questions related to the search for a self identify.

This obviously is fascinating story, which I have encountered in similar forms over the years. There are also some very interesting movies, which have addressed various aspects of this issue. Examples of some of the films that have addressed these issues are People Like Us, Stories We Tell, Mother And Child, Admission, The Kids Are All Right.

I have also written about this subject in some detail in my soon to be published book ShrinkTalk. When discussing this subject, I often challenge myself and my conversation partners with the following question, “What would you do and how would you feel if you received a letter from the hospital where you were born, which stated that they were computerizing their hospital records and they determined that you were accidentally switched at birth?” An alternative question would be “that your child was accidentally switched at birth with another child.” Would you want to meet your actual biological parents? (or would you want to meet your biological now grown child if it were your child that was switched?) and how would you feel if it were your child that was switched at birth and that grown child now was very anxious to meet with his or her biological parent? My friends to whom I have posed this theoretical question have had very strong reactions to it. I also find that many people have some true variations to this story that they know that have actually occurred in real life.

All this makes this book a well-written, thought provoking book by a very talented writer who shares a very personal and provocative tale.

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