Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly

I resisted reading this book because concentration camp sagas are sad and depressing; the inhumanity hard to digest. But the author quickly drew me into the story about three women from different countries whose paths eventually intersect. Caroline Ferriday, a liaison to the French consulate, is safe in America, but WWII becomes personal when her lover is trapped overseas. Her character is based on the true story of a New York socialite who championed a group of concentration camp survivors after the war known as the Rabbits. In Poland, Kasia Kuzmerick is drawn into the underground resistance; a decision which lands Kasia, her mother and her sister in Ravensbruck, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. The terrible conditions provide for difficult yet compelling reading. Unable to find work, young German doctor Herta Oberheuser answers an ad for a medical job only to find herself at Ravensbruck caring for prisoners. Through Herta, we see how her Nazi upbringing allows her to lose sight of humanity as she oversees heinous medical experiments. Although the subject is gruesome, the book provides at least some small voice for the horrors one group of Polish women endured at the hands of the Nazis.

 

 

Born Standing Up – Steve Martin

I still remember the first time I saw Steve Martin perform. He made me laugh so hard and left such an indelible impression I can only compare it to the moment I saw Michael Jackson moonwalk on TV. Martin’s material was fresh; a real departure from traditional stand up comedy. His autobiography isn’t new and I’m not sure what made me grab it but I’m very glad I did. Martin is a terrific writer which is probably the backbone of his success as a comedian. I’ve read many rags to riches stories over the years, but none manage to convey as well the Herculean effort it takes to make it in the entertainment field. Martin spent years on the road, learning his craft and honing his act. He provides in this book a visceral sense of just how awful it can be to tour, a lonely hardscrabble lifestyle which I could never endure. He also paints a very vivid picture of what it’s like to go from obscurity to “instant” stardom, and why, at the height of his stand up success, he chose to walk away. As a child, Martin had a very contentious relationship with his father. Their reconnection at the end of the book made me cry. 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-book-coverFour girls, best friends, are about to spend their first summer apart in this charming Young Adult novel. Just before they separate, they find a magical pair of jeans which unbelievably fits each of them perfectly. The jeans are passed back and forth all summer as the girls deal with their issues. Shy, beautiful Lena travels to Greece to visit her grandparents and learns to assert herself when she falls in love with a boy despite a family feud. Bridget, the athlete, goes to soccer camp where she pursues one of her coaches romantically, trying to find love in the wake of her mother’s death. Cynical Tibby, left at home, develops an unlikely friendship with a younger girl with leukemia who teaches her life might not be so bad. Carmen visits her father only to discover he is about to remarry a women with two teenagers very different from her and her Puerto Rican mom. Carmen’s journey is about self-acceptance. This heart-warming tale was made into a movie, launching careers for all the actresses.

Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber

sybilThis is a non-fiction book about the treatment of a woman for multiple personality disorder. “Sybil” suffers extreme childhood abuse which causes her to separate into sixteen different “alters.” She has huge memory gaps given the differing personalities in charge. With help from her psychiatrist, these selves gradually become co-conscious, ending with Sybil’s integration as a whole person with full knowledge of past and present. The book was wildly successful when published, spawning two movies, and an upsurge in cases of reported dissociative identity disorder. However, it remains highly controversial as critics suggest Sybil was a simple hysteric, manipulated for profit by her psychiatrist. They cite tapes in which the psychiatrist is heard describing to Sybil her personalities. They also suggest the fabrication of material to protect her identity does not constitute a proper case history as would appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Supporters claim critics left out important facts, distorted evidence and didn’t reveal certain information until all the principles were dead. Whatever your opinion, the book remains a truly fascinating read!