Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds Packed with local data and insights, this memoir pulls no punches

Hi all:

I bring you one of the books from Rosie’s Book Review Team list, a non-fiction one this time, and it is a police memoir with a difference.

Black, White and Gray All Over by Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds 

From shootouts and robberies to riding in cars with pimps and prostitutes, Frederick Reynolds’ early manhood experiences in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s foretold a future on the wrong side of the prison bars. Frederick grew up a creative and sensitive child but found himself lured down the same path as many Black youth in that era. No one would have guessed he would have a future as a cop in one of the most dangerous cities in America in the 1980s—Compton, California. From recruit to detective, Frederick experienced a successful career marked by commendations and awards. The traumatic and highly demanding nature of the work, however, took its toll on both his family and personal life—something Frederick was able to conquer but only after years of distress and regret.

“Black, White & Gray All Over not only recounts the stories of Frederick’s life and career but also the stories of his fellow officers. An honest, no-holds-barred history of the city of Compton’s gang violence, crack epidemic, and legacy of government corruption leaves readers of all backgrounds with a better understanding of race relations as well as the gray areas of policework in one of America’s most brutal cities.” -Zora Knauf

“If Fred Reynolds’s memoir Black, White and Gray All Over was just about being a cop in Compton, California, dealing with gangs, murders, officers killed in the line of duty, and the politics that drives it all, it would be worth the read. This book goes deeper, into what it means to be a man, more particularly a Black man, and to overcome every obstacle along the way to redemption. Don’t miss this one!” -#1 Bestselling Author J.J. Hebert

 https://www.amazon.com/Black-White-Gray-All-Over-ebook/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-White-Gray-All-Over/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09JF9VB4Z/

Author Frederick Douglass Reynolds

About the author:

Frederick Douglass Reynolds is a former Compton police officer and a retired LA County Sheriff’s Homicide Sergeant with a combined 32 years of experience working some of the worst areas of Los Angeles County. He retired in 2017 with over seventy-five commendations including a Chief’s Citation, five Chief’s commendations, one Exemplary Service Award, two Distinguished Service Awards, two Distinguished Service Medals, one city of Carson Certificate of Commendation, three City of Compton Certificate of Recognition, one city of Compton Public Service Hero award, one California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition, two State Senate Certificates of Recognition, a County of Los Angeles Certificate of Commendation, one Meritorious Service Award, two City of Compton Employee of the Year Awards, and two California Officer of the Year awards. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Carolyn, and their daughter Lauren and their young son, Desmond. They have six other adult children and nine grandchildren.

https://authorfrederickreynolds.com/about-frederick-douglass-reynolds/

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is a memoir, and as far from fiction as one could imagine. In fact, it is so full of facts and data that it can become overwhelming at times. The sheer number of events, of characters (well, not really characters, but real people: relatives, friends, neighbours, infantrymen, police officers, detectives, criminals, victims, local authorities, politicians…), of dates, of cases… make the book overflow with stories: sometimes those the author, Frederick Douglass Reynolds, participated directly in; others, stories providing background information to the situation or events being discussed or introducing some of the main players at the time of the action. I think anybody trying to recount even a small amount of what happens in the book would have a hard time of it, but anybody interested in the recent history of Compton law enforcement and local politics will find this book invaluable.

The author goes beyond the standard memoir, and although his life is the guiding thread of the book, he does not limit himself to talking in the first-person about his difficult childhood, his traumatic past, his petty criminal activities as a gang member in his youth, his time as a Marine Corps Infantryman, his less than stellar experience with personal relationships (until later in life), his allergy to compromise for many years (to the point of even refusing to get involved in the life of one of his children)… This well-read and self-taught man also offers readers the socio-historical-political context of the events, talking about the gangs, the rise of crack cocaine, the powerful figures moving the threads and holding authority (sometimes openly, and sometimes not so much), and he openly discusses the many cases of corruption, at all levels.

There is so much of everything in this book that I kept thinking this single book could become several books, either centring each one of them on a particular event, case, or investigation and its aftermath (for example. although Rodney King’s death didn’t take place in Compton, the description of how the riots affected the district makes readers realise that history keeps repeating itself unless something is done), or perhaps on a specific theme (as there is much about gangs, racism, corruption, the evolution of police roles and policing methods, violence in the streets, LA social changes and local politics, drugs…). Another option would be to focus on the author’s life and experiences growing up, on his personal life (his difficulties with relationships and alcohol, his PTSD…), and later his career, but perhaps mentioning only some of the highlights or some specific episodes, and with less background information about the place and its history (although some brief information could be added as an appendix or in an author’s note for those interested in knowing more).

This is a long book, dense and packed with a wealth of data that might go beyond the scope of most casual readers, but there are also scary moments (forget about TV police series. This is the real deal), heart-wrenching events (the deaths of locals, peers, colleagues, personal tragedies…), touching confessions (like the difficulties in his relationship with his son, becoming grandad to a boy with autism and what that has taught him), shared insights that most will find inspiring, and also some lighter and funny touches that make the human side of the book shine. Although Reynolds openly discusses his doubts, and never claims to be spotless, more upstanding, or better than anybody else, his determination to get recognition for his peers fallen in action, and his homage to those he worked with and who kept up the good fight clearly illustrate that his heart (and morals) are in the right place.

Most people thinking of reading this type of memoir are likely to know what to expect, but just in case there are any doubts, be warned that there is plenty of violence (sometimes extreme and explicit), use of alcohol, drugs, and pretty colourful language.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the history of policing in LA (particularly in Compton) from the 1980s, gangs in the area, local politics, corruption, and any major criminal investigations in the area (deaths of rappers included). It is also a book for those looking for an inspiring story of self-improvement, of managing to escape the wrong path, and helping others do the same, and it is a book full of insights, inspiration, and hope.

I wonder if the author is planning to carry on writing, but it is clear that he has many stories to tell yet and I hope he does.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, to keep safe, and to share, like, comment if you wish. Big hugs!

Most of you probably know that I haven’t been promoting my books very much, but my friend, very talented blogger, fabulous writer, and wonderful artist, Teagan Geneviene (if you are not following her blog, here, what are you waiting for?) has created this wonderful image for my YA series Angelic Business, and I had to share it with you. If you are curious, you can always check the page I dedicate to My books (here), oh, and the first book in the series is free in most places. Just saying…

Thanks, Teagan!
Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookblog POINTE PATROL: HOW NINE PEOPLE (AND DOG) SAVED THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD FROM THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN CALIFORNIA’S HISTORY by Earik Beann (Earik Beann) #RBRT An inspiring true story

Hi all:

Today I bring you another non-fiction book, although totally different to yesterday’s (well, there are trees as well but…)

Pointe Patrol by Earik Beann
Pointe Patrol by Earik Beann

Pointe Patrol: How nine people (and a dog) saved their neighborhood from the most destructive fire in California’s history by Earik Beann. An inspiring real story about the power of true community spirit.

On October 9, 2017, California suffered one of the most destructive fires in its history. The Tubbs Fire burned 5,643 structures and killed twenty-two people in Sonoma County. The fire department was completely overwhelmed and was so busy trying to save lives that they had to let many houses burn rather than waste resources in trying to protect them. During this chaos, nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the mandatory evacuation zone and formed a vigilante fire force. We called ourselves the Pointe Patrol, and saved our neighborhood, as well as an apartment complex across the street from certain destruction. As if the fires weren’t enough, we found ourselves in the midst of anarchy, with looters running unchecked through the streets. We chased them out of houses with shovels, confronted them when they showed up in disguise, and patrolled the area with a completely over-the-top Doberman. The other neighbors who had evacuated organized themselves into our support network and supplied us with food and equipment, which they passed through to us across the police lines. My wife and I were part of that nine-person team and experienced all of this firsthand. This is the story of what happened at Viewpointe Circle during those two weeks in October.

*** 100% of profits from the sale of this book go to support fire victims and families of fallen first responders ***

What Amazon readers are saying…

★★★★★ “I can tell you his description of everything is so vivid I felt like I was there again reliving that night of terror.” ★★★★★ “An amazing true story that everyone should read!” ★★★★★ “I found myself in tears a few times while reading from the sheer excitement of their accomplishments, and grief from the fire’s fury.” ★★★★★ “A great story of how a neighborhood becomes just that, a true neighborhood, looking out for each other and working to keep it strong and safe.” ★★★★★ “This is a nail-biting account of everyday heroes coming together in an impossible situation, to try and save their community.” ★★★★★ “I read it in a day.” ★★★★★ “Earik’s book was great, very inspiring. I live in Penngrove and the fire was a half mile from our house, I cannot fathom what his neighborhood went through.”

https://www.amazon.com/Pointe-Patrol-neighborhood-destructive-Californias-ebook/dp/B07K6X3JFQ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pointe-Patrol-neighborhood-destructive-Californias-ebook/dp/B07K6X3JFQ/

Editorial Reviews

“While working to gain perimeter control, I found the neighbors who had formed Pointe Patrol right in the middle of unprecedented destruction, protecting homes. The combination of hurricane force winds and tinderbox-dry conditions created a perfect storm for the fire that they battled against.”

– Battalion Chief Jason Jenkins, SRFD

From the Author

NOVEMBER 8, 2018: The sky is hazy today, and there is a heavy smell of smoke that is getting worse by the hour. As I stepped outside, I was greeted by that all-too-familiar smell, and was met with swirling pieces of white ash. There’s a fire in Butte County, and the smoke has been pushed down into Sonoma by the wind. As I took a moment to stand alone in the street before getting into my car, I had a flashback to what happened exactly 13 months ago, when the Tubbs Fire came barreling into Santa Rosa and destroyed 5% of the housing stock overnight. During that chaos, nine of us stayed in our neighborhood and formed a vigilante fire force. We spent the next two weeks putting out fires, chasing off looters, and bonding in a way that doesn’t happen in regular times. The other neighbors called us the Pointe Patrol, coining the term from Viewpointe Circle, our street name.

To this day, I am frequently reminded of that time thirteen months ago. It happens not only when I wave to the neighbors, but also every time I drive home. The neighborhood to the west is gone, the neighborhood to the north is gone, and the neighborhood to the south is gone. All burned to the ground. A house here or there has been rebuilt, swarmed over by the countless construction companies that have moved into the area. Most are still just empty lots, the silent witnesses to what happened here in 2017. But our neighborhood stands, because Pointe Patrol saved it. And the apartment complex to the east also stands. Pointe Patrol saved that too.

After going through something like that, people decompress in a lot of ways. For me, I started writing. I started with the night when I woke up to my neighbor banging on my door in the wee hours of the morning, and I kept going until the evacuation was finally lifted and our neighbors were allowed to come back. I wrote about putting the fire in my backyard out with the garden hose, and about the hours we spent putting out smoldering mulch at the apartment complex, and about all the looters that tried to sneak into our neighborhood, sometimes in masks, and more often with elaborate disguises. I wrote about Oscar, my Doberman, who became the guard dog for an entire street. I wrote about exhausted firemen, passed out on our lawns that first night, and the amazing heart of Sonoma County, where gas stations lowered prices rather than raised them. I wrote about everything. And it became a book.

Today, exactly thirteen months after the event, that book finally got registered on Amazon. It goes live on Monday. I don’t know what will happen with it now that I’ve put it out in the world. I only know that what happened in those two weeks changed my life. Stories like that shouldn’t be forgotten. Stories like that need to be told. And so, in this case, I’m going to do my best to tell it. This is dedicated to you, Pointe Patrol. You know who you are.

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Over the years I’ve been involved in many small businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. You could say I’ve got a bad case of serial entrepreneurism. But above and beyond all that, my original love has always been writing and telling stories.

As a teenager, I wrote two fantasy novels during summer break. Neither were published–which is probably for the best!–but I loved working on those books, and learned a lot by writing them. Later, I authored six technical books on very esoteric subjects related to financial markets. Those were meant for an extremely niche audience, and would be insanely boring to anyone outside that specific group of people.

In October 2017, I found myself at ground zero in the middle of the Tubbs Fire. A group of nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone, formed a vigilante fire fighting force, and saved our block (and an apartment complex!) from certain destruction. Working on my memoir of those experiences brought me back to those summers as a teenager spent working on my fantasy novels, and rekindled a deep love for writing that I had somehow forgotten about. Now it’s all I really want to do anymore.

I live in California with my wife, Laura, and our Doberman and two Tennessee barn cats. When not thinking of stories, I enjoy practicing yoga, riding my bike, and playing the Didgeridoo.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Earlier this year I read and reviewed a novel by Earik Beann (you can check my review of Killing Adam here), the author of this book, and I noticed he had published a non-fictional account of something he had experienced first-hand, the 2017 Tubbs Fire in California. I kept thinking about that in light of more recent fires, and having enjoyed his other book, I decided to read this one. It is definitely different, but then, non-fictional writing and especially memoirs, always are. I don’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, that I did, but it was a different experience. So, for those who don’t enjoy science-fiction but were curious about the author’s work, well, this is a great option.

This is an inspiring book and a fascinating account of what happened to a group of people who were fortunate enough (with a fair amount of human help as well) to have their houses survive a terrible fire that killed forty-four people, burned over 245000 acres and cost at least $9.5 billion in insured damages (and around $85 billion to the US economy). As the author notes, these group of people were not all house owners (he and his wife, Laura, were renting, and so were a number of the people who formed the #Pointe Patrol), but they somehow took it upon themselves to keep the neighbourhood safe.

The story reads like one of those fiction books (or movies) where a bunch of people —who have little in common and are pretty normal— discover their inner heroes and come together achieving great things. Only, this is not a fictional account. Yes, these are pretty normal people, and although some knew each other from before, the author makes the point more than once that due to his job, mostly online, he did not have much contact with the neighbours, and it is his wife who comes up with the idea of creating a chat group for the neighbours that they use to keep everybody informed of what is happening, both the people who have managed to return to the evacuated area, like they have, and also those who are outside and whose houses are still standing. As we read, we learn information about the neighbours, although not necessarily in a lot of detail (some are stubborn, some are control freaks, other have an interesting sense of humour, they are not always truthful…), and we also hear some of their opinions and prejudices (yes, we might not always agree with their politics, with their ideas on certain subjects) and, thankfully, they are not perfect. Earik and his wife are ‘the yoga people’, and other than some regular get-togethers, many of them knew each other only superficially, if at all. There is also a couple who remain in the area and never participate in any of the general efforts, and they sound quite disagreeable. So this is not an idealised version of reality, although it is an inspiring story that illustrates that people can get on when they have a sense of purpose and a mission higher than themselves, and they all work together towards a goal.

Saying that, it is difficult to read the book and not think that it would make a good TV movie. You have the retired fire-fighter, stubborn and determined, who ends up being known as Chief, you have another neighbour who works in the SQUAT team, Wayne, Eddie, who turns his garage into the neighbourhood coffee-shop and bar, two Mikes, the police and the national guard, Oscar —Earik’s Doberman, who loves his new role as proper guard dog—, their two cats, and also the people outside who keep in touch via text and provide as much support as they can with food supplies, medications, and also updates on news and life in general.

I was surprised at times at how vivid a picture the book portrays of the situation, and how, despite the fact that they are pretty much isolated and become, as the author describes it more than once, ‘a tribe’, the bigger society and its trappings interferes every so often, giving everybody reason to pause. There are the looters, always trying to get in and rob whatever they can, there are times when the reactions of the police to different individuals vary a lot depending on who they are (yes, race do matters, even in emergency situations, it seems), and although in this case the emergency seems to get the best out of this group of people, that is not the case with everybody involved.

Is there anything I didn’t enjoy? Well, the story is told from the author’s perspective, and as can happen with memoirs, it is not written as a thriller where action is everything and no extraneous information is offered. The author sometimes goes off on tangents, including information about his and his wife’s personal circumstances (they had moved very often up to that point), stories about their cats and dogs, also about how to handle a big dog, his point of view on firearms (not one I share, and the arguments he uses to try to convince his wife would definitely not convince me), a long dissertation on a particular local beer and its merits, and some pretty personal things, and although I mostly enjoyed those and they made it come more alive for me, I suspect they might be frustrating for some people, and I’ve read some reviews that mention those.

My other worry was the fact that, no matter how well they did and the amazing thing they achieved, their circumstances were very special, and it is not something that everybody should consider if faced with a similar situation. They had a retired fireman living in the neighbourhood, and they were lucky enough to have a sufficient number of neighbours taking part, with necessary materials, water, and enough outside support to manage to pull it off. (I could not help but wonder what would have happened if that was not the case and how different the results might have been in a neighbourhood without resources, financial and otherwise). Basically, keep safe and follow advice. Readers might take issue with other things: there is no gender equality at work here (Laura is the only woman there, she leaves at some point, and the rest of the women are supporting from outside, although there are policewomen and a woman member of the National Guard as well, but not members of the group), and, as I mentioned, some of the personal attitudes and comments might not be to everybody’s taste, but that is understandable when we are reading a true account, rather than a fictional one.

I enjoyed the narration, and felt as if I had shared in some of the sense of community and joint purpose of the group. I also enjoyed the off-track comments (some), learning more about how the emergency services work and are organised, and I loved Oscar and the cats as well. The fact that the profits for the sale of the book will go to support fire victims and to the families of fallen first-responders is another good reason to recommend the book. If you’re looking for an inspiring true-account of people dealing with an emergency situation, and you are fascinated by community spirit, I definitely recommend this.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie and her team, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling! And of course, thanks to the emergency teams all the world over.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. A singular and professional look at death

Hi all:

This is another one of the reviews I posted in Lit World Interviews that I never shared here. This book has become pretty well-known but I thought it deserved to feature here in case you hadn’t heard of it.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

REVIEWS FOR LITERARY WORLD REVIEWS

Title:   When Breath Becomes Air
Author:   Paul Kalanithi
ISBN13:  978-0812988406
ASIN:  B0165X8WN2
Published:  Vintage Digital
Pages:  258
Genre:  Non-fiction, Medical Books: neurosurgery, Ailments and diseases: cancer

Description:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Praise for When Breath Becomes Air

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: ‘It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.’ And just important enough to be unmissable.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“An emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.”The Washington Post

“Possesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy . . . [Kalanithi] delivers his chronicle in austere, beautiful prose. The book brims with insightful reflections on mortality that are especially poignant coming from a trained physician familiar with what lies ahead.”The Boston Globe

“Devastating and spectacular . . . [Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it’s all heading.”USA Today

“It’s [Kalanithi’s] unsentimental approach that makes When Breath Becomes Air so original—and so devastating. . . . Its only fault is that the book, like his life, ends much too early.”Entertainment Weekly

“[When Breath Becomes Air] split my head open with its beauty.”—Cheryl Strayed

Body of review: As this is a non-fiction book the usual format does not work well but I thought it was well-worth sharing.

Here it is:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi A singular and professional look at death

Thanks to Net Galley and to Vintage Digital for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I read this book with conflicting emotions. When it came to my attention and saw some of the comments I wondered if I was ready to read it. (My father died 14 months ago of cancer, in his case prostate, with bone metastases, stage IV at the time of diagnosis, after a year of fighting the illness.) In some ways I guess I was challenging myself to see if I’d manage and perhaps hoping that it would give me some answers, although I’m not sure what to. I will try to make this review as objective as possible, but by the nature of the book and its subject this is more difficult than usual (no two people read the same book and that’s the beauty of it, of course).

In my effort to try and make my mind up as to what to say I’ve read a few of the reviews. Some of the negative ones state that the book is little more than a couple of essays, a foreword and an epilogue. That’s a fair comment. We know that Paul Kalanithi died before he finished the book, and we don’t know how much editing went into it, or what else he might have written if his life hadn’t been cut short. The foreword works as an introduction of the book and a sum up of the author’s career and perhaps helps tie up the unfinished nature of it. It is nicely written, although the fact that Abraham Verghese had only met the writer once hints at how professionally packaged the book is. Yes, this is not just another account by a totally anonymous individual fighting cancer.

Other reviewers note that Kalanithi’s circumstances are so unique (well-educated, professional family, bright and driven, studying at the best universities, training in neurosurgery at one of the best hospitals, and also treated in one of the best units with access to all the treatments, surrounded and supported by his family) that perhaps his reflections and his experiences are not applicable to most of the population. I can’t argue with that. I’m not sure we can claim to a universality of experience and say that death or impending death affects everybody the same. There’s no doubt that the end result is the same but the process and the way it is felt is quite different.  All lives start and end the same but that does not mean they are the same.

Some reviewers take issue with the decisions the author and his family made, for instance his insistence on going back to work as a neurosurgeon after the diagnosis and whilst he was being treated, wondering how safe that was, and accusing him of selfishness. Sometimes in harrowing circumstances we do what we have to do to keep going and to see another day, although that is no justification to put others at risk. In his case it is clear from the write up that there was a strong plan in place to ensure safety and that he was no operating by himself (we’re talking about neurosurgery, a highly complex field and a team endeavour). Perhaps the way the author focuses on his own efforts and how he managed to overcome the symptoms of the illness to keep working leaves too much of what was going on around him in the shadows, but then, he was writing about his experience and how he saw it at the time. Other readers appear upset at the family’s decision to have a child knowing he wouldn’t be alive to see her grow. That’s a matter of personal opinion and I can’t see how that has any bearing on our thoughts about the quality of the book.

After this long preamble (my review is becoming an essay in its own right), what did I think? I am a doctor (a psychiatrist, and although I remember with fondness my placement in general surgery and I attended in some operations for other specialties, like paediatrics, breast or chest, I can’t claim to any hands-on experience in neuro-surgery) and I identified with early parts of the book when Kalanithi describes medical school, and also his love of literature. I haven’t worked in the US although I’ve read (and we’ve all watched movies and TV series) about the gruelling schedules and training process medical students and trainees face there. There is a great deal of emphasis on his career and not much on his other experiences. Although there are more details about his relationship with his wife later on, we don’t know much about how they met or what they shared, other than their interest in Medicine and plans for their professional future. Some reviewers noted that we don’t get to know the man. I can imagine that to get to the professional peak he had achieved one needs to be focused on one’s career to the detriment of other things, and there are some reflections about that in the book: about delayed gratification, about working hard and putting other parts of our life on hold, for whenever we’ve reached that next goal, that next step. Often that moment never arrives, because we find other goals or other objectives. Living the now and for it is a lesson that not many people learn. I also felt I did not get to know Kalanithi well. He writes compellingly about his work, his efforts to find meaning and to offer meaning to others through his vocation, he mentions religion and how he turned to literature too to try and understand death. There are glimpses of him, mostly towards the end of the book, and truly heart-wrenching moments, like the birth of his daughter. I agree with everybody that his wife’s epilogue is more touching and heart-felt, less analytical and rationalised than the parts he wrote and I felt more connection to her than to her husband. I wish her and her daughter well and I have the feeling she is more than equal to the task of bringing up her girl and carrying on with her career.

This is an interesting book, a book that will make the reader think about his or her own mortality, and it will touch many. It does have a fair amount of medical terminology (I’m a doctor so it’s not easy for me to judge how complex it might be for somebody with no medical knowledge, although I saw some comments about it) and it’s not a touchy-feely open-my-heart type of confession about the final days of somebody. It’s a fairly intellectualised look at matters of life and death, but it ultimately provides no answers. Why that should be a surprise to anybody, I’m not sure. It is not a book on spirituality (although there are some reflections about it) or a moral guide to live your death. If bearing all that in mind you’re still interested, I found it well-worth a read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Hardcover:  $14.88 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Paul-Kalanithi/dp/081298840X/)
Kindle: $14.14 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Paul-Kalanithi-ebook/dp/B0165X8WN2/)

Audiobook: $23.88 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Air/dp/B01CQ0CFQS/)

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

 

Categories
Guest author post

#NewBook P.S. I Forgive You by D.G. Kaye (@pokercubster) Memoirs can teach us so much!

Hi all:

Yes, I know I said I would be sharing old posts because I’m trying to carve some time for the things I should be doing… (the other things I should be doing) but I’ve wanted to share D. G. Kaye‘s new book for a while and kept thinking that perhaps I’d do it when I read and reviewed one of her books. Realistically I know it will take me some time to get there (my reading list has become all jumbled up, so anything might happen), and I don’t want to deprive  the readers who follow my blog from getting started  and exploring her books (even if it takes me, personally, a while to get there). D. G. (Debby for her friends and followers) writes non-fiction, some about her travels, menopause, but some that are even more personal, about her relationship with her mother, and this one is very personal indeed.

So here it is.

P. S. I Forgive You by D.G. Kaye
P. S. I Forgive You by D.G. Kaye

 

P.S. I Forgive You by D.G. Kaye

“I hurt for her. She wasn’t much of a mother, but she was still my mother.”

Confronted with resurfacing feelings of guilt, D.G. Kaye is tormented by her decision to remain estranged from her dying emotionally abusive mother after resolving to banish her years ago, an event she has shared in her book Conflicted Hearts. In P.S. I Forgive You, Kaye takes us on a compelling heartfelt journey as she seeks to understand the roots of her mother’s narcissism, let go of past hurts, and find forgiveness for both her mother and herself.

After struggling for decades to break free, Kaye has severed the unhealthy ties that bound her to her dominating mother—but now Kaye battles new confliction, as the guilt she harbors over her decision only increases as the end of her mother’s life draws near. Kaye once again struggles with her conscience and her feelings of being obligated to return to a painful past she thought she left behind.

blog-new-book-ps-print-cover

Excerpt

The End Is Near

My mother had been dying for years, and through those years she refused to surrender her bitterness and remained in denial of her flaws. The many times I heard she was dying reminded me of the boy who cried wolf. I almost believed she was invincible, and even though I never wanted her to suffer, she did.

I thought it was just a horrible and sad way to die—holding hatred for those she had chased out of her life, living in bitter seclusion, knowing her days were numbered. Her once vibrant life had diminished into a mere existence of watching TV and complaining. She’d also given all her caregivers a difficult time, bitching at them all and letting them know how useless they were to her because of what her life had become. Nobody was exempt.

I asked my brother Robby why God didn’t just take her out of her misery and pain during one of the many times she was on the brink of death. Why would he not spare her from suffering? He replied, “God has his own plans.” I couldn’t help but wonder if he was letting her suffer because she had hurt so many people in her lifetime, but in my next thought I couldn’t believe God would play those cruel games, tit for tat.

I wondered what thoughts had to have been going through my mother’s head. How awful it must have been to know her time left on earth was limited. I thought about how frightened she must have felt in her lonely world, although she’d never admit it. I was sad for her, knowing that the anger and bitterness she displayed was a front for the depressed state of her pathetic life. I couldn’t fathom why she remained so obstinate in her resolve to spend what little time she had left wallowing in misery instead of embracing the end and making amends with her children. I wanted to fix her, but I didn’t know how.

Get Your Copy Here!  Available on Amazon!

On the occasion of her new book, D. G. Kaye has given a number of interviews that I thought you’d enjoy too. Here I leave you links to them and that way you can go and explore her blog too.

Author D.G. Kaye
Author D.G. Kaye

Interviews:

http://dgkayewriter.com/mind-pen-spirit-interview-d-g-kaye/

http://dgkayewriter.com/write-memoir-savvy-book-writers/

Thanks to Debby for her books, thanks to all of you for reading and if you’ve enjoyed it, you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security