BOOK REVIEW: Tara Road

Tara Road
by Maeve Binchy

Ria and Danny Lynch live the good life on Tara Road in Dublin, Ireland. They live in a large house on an upscale street. They have two children. All’s right with the world – until wonderful Danny wants a divorce.

Marilyn Vine lives across the pond. She, too, enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, a large home with swimming pool, loving family, and success, until her son is killed in a tragic accident.

The two women, strangers at first, agree to swap houses for a summer, the swap creating a kind of renewal for each. As it turns out, the two women not only swap houses, but they swap lives, as well. Each settles in with the other’s friends. Ultimately Ria and Marilyn become best friends forever.

Over 650 pages, the story unfolds in real time; I grew old right alongside them. It went on and on. There was nothing truly remarkable about any of the characters (save Jack Ryan). They lead ordinary lives in ordinary times. The book reads like it wants to be a soap opera, but it falls short.

Dialogue is simple. Vocabulary is even simpler. The author, with all her words, fails to create mood and atmosphere and so instead must tell the reader when someone is happy, sad, excited, worried, and so on.

The characters are well developed though, all except Jack Ryan. He is a drunkard and a wife abuser. There might be the story. However, his role remains in the background and although we are told that much, we do not feel his pain (or hers). When he dies in a car accident, we do not feel sad, or glad, or anything.

Easy reading. No thinking required.

January 1953

Meet the Great Grandparents, Great Aunts, Great Uncles – January 1953.

Big and Bigger

Littermates. Brothers. Bert and Ernie are 8 years old.

Here they are spread out comfortably on our queen size bed. Bert is on the left. He weighs about 15 pounds. Ernie, on his back and totally relaxed, weighs a bit more. (The average male house cat weights 8-10 pounds.) 

The Life of Trees

We were off to the library just a few blocks away, the wind was strong with mighty gusts. As we battled the wind while walking along the Park Blocks, we were aware of so many tree branches and limbs already down and it was cause for concern. Most of the trees in the Park Blocks are 150 years old – near the end of their natural life. We decided to abandon our afternoon plans and return home.

Within minutes of returning home, we were startled by a loud roar that accompanied the shaking of our building. Almost immediately fire engine sirens began blaring, multiple fire engines. We  saw one fire truck going the wrong way down the one-way street just outside our windows. The fire engines collected just at our corner.

We ran downstairs and out the building to see this:

Corner of Market Street and SW Park Avenue

Close up. Beneath he debris, the top of the red car is sheared off.

1984

A few frames grabbed from old home movies.

My little ones, ages 3 and 5

Collecting pine cones. Mom paid $1 per bag for the cleanup. Those same pine cones sell for $1 each and more now. If I knew then…

Super Girl

Ring Around the Rosey – one(?) fall down.

BOOK REVIEW: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

Another Holocaust book? I really was not in the mood. I have read so many, so many good ones, but they are so intense, too intense. I cannot read them late at night or I suffer nightmares. So I put off reading this book. And then I read it, and I was hooked from the very beginning.

Marie Laure is a 14-year-old French girl, blind since age 6. She lives with her father Daniel LeBlanc, a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, a master woodworker in his spare time. He builds a detailed miniature replica of their neighborhood so that Marie Laure can memorize every building, every street, every storm drain and so learn to get around. When the time comes that they must evacuate due to the German occupation, they make their way to the home of Marie Laure’s great uncle, the journey treacherous, onerous, weary. Once there, she must learn anew the details of her environment. Her great uncle, Etienne, is a veteran of WWI. He suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia. His passion is radio broadcasting and from his home he produces a science program. Brilliant and kind but emotionally crippled, he opens his home to Marie Laure and her father.

Wener is a small-for-his age 16-year-old blond, blue-eyed German orphan. He teaches himself about the workings of a radio and his skills are noticed. Though small and of unknown lineage, he is recruited by Hitler’s Youth.

It is a radio, and specifically that science broadcast, that connects Werner, the avid listener, and Marie Laure, the great niece of the broadcaster. Their lives will cross paths.

Chapters are short and alternate between the two main characters. The hell of war lashes out and the reader’s senses are made raw. Neither the protagonists nor the reader can escape the brutalities, the anguish, the fear. Yet there is tenderness, there is compassion, there is love, there is hope.

This is an amazing book – well written, captivating, and touching in so many ways. There are layers and subplots, all intricately interwoven. All the Light We Cannot See is sure to stand out as the best book of the year.

I am Converting

We have possession of a small collection of unlabeled old family movie films, contents unknown. There are 2 reels that probably date back to the 1950s (or so) and five reels that likely date back to the 1980s. There is also one cartridge yet to be determined. It is my goal to find some gems.

I bought a gizmo that converts old film to JPGs. It is very simple to use but, tedious to go through frame by frame, and time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is a project that excites me.

I have looked through one reel, selected at random, so far. It turned out to be 1983, Jacksonville, Florida, soon after we moved into our house there. The photographer (Grandpa Sid) focused on the grandkids, of course, and there were essentially only 3 different scenes recorded, now recaptured and preserved in a few stills that summarize the contents well while resurrecting wonderful memories.

Reel #2:  Also selected at random, reel #2 is one event from start to finish. Apparently Grandpa got the kids to wash his car while he relaxed with video camera in hand. Proof positive that converting this footage to a few simple JPGs is all the memory assist we need.