Tag Archives: Gallery Books
One from the Hart: A Memoir by Stefanie Powers (Gallery; $26.00; 272 pages)
Spunky, vivacious and charming are words that easily describe Stephanie Powers, the actress best known for her role in the television series Hart to Hart. Yes, her character on the series also matches up with these adjectives. Don’t be fooled by appearances or roles, for when it comes to intellect and curiosity, Ms. Powers leads the Hollywood pack. Her memoir, One from the Hart, is filled with fully developed recollections of a life lived all over the globe.
Although Powers’ formal education concluded with her graduation from Hollywood High School, readers will be treated to the best in grammar and word selection. Powers set out to make up for a lack of college education by committing to reading through the literature list for students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). With that goal accomplished, she has maintained a lifelong course in learning. Her curiosity and willingness to expand as a person has resulted in a remarkable memoir that is well-developed and engagingly narrated. This reviewer felt as though she had been included in the circle of friends that Powers has grown over the last several decades.
Yes, Powers is talented musically and as an actress. Yes, she is remarkably beautiful. Underneath this Hollywood veneer beats a heart that truly loves people and animals. Her actions speak for themselves for she is the driving force behind the William Holden Wildlife Foundation in Kenya. Given her enthusiasm for education, it is no surprise that Powers founded the organization to honor the efforts of her long-time love William Holden.
This engaging book includes photographs from Powers’ private collection that serve to document the remarkable events in her life.
A review copy was received from the publisher. Note: Hollywood High School, the home of The Pharaohs, also produced two notable actors who would come to be known to the world as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
“Life goes on? I don’t know the answer to this question. I don’t know if there’s room in this world. Because all other times each life feels unwieldy to me, all-powerful, all-consuming, just knowing how much the choices made by one person can affect others’ lives. In this respect, each of our lives seems huge…”
Christina Meldrum shares a mesmerizing story of love, faith, family and betrayal in her new novel, Amaryllis in Blueberry. Her story takes us through the calm, serene nature of the family’s Michigan cabin to the beauty and desolateness of their African mission.
Seena and her husband Dick Slepy have four beautiful but drastically different daughters, each of whom is in the midst of her own journey. Mary Grace, struggling with the impact of her own physical beauty; Mary Catherine, sacrificing everything to prove her faith; Mary Tessa, a precocious young girl trying to figure out her own place in the world; and Amaryllis, the daughter who has unexplainable gifts of sensing the truth, but does not seem to belong.
Following an encounter with his daughter Amaryllis who is the dark-haired, dark-skinned daughter amongst blond, fair-skinned girls and who believes she is not his biological daughter, Dick insists that the family move from their home in Michigan to do missionary work in Africa. Dick’s attempts to reestablish his own worth and run away from his aching, although unproven fear, that Amaryllis may be right, unravels a string of events that affects each of his children and ultimately his lovely but distant wife Seena.
Seena, a book-loving storyteller, reluctantly agrees to support the journey to Africa but is unable to let go of the memory of a former lover. This obsession takes on a life of its own. The characters in the story become real as they struggle with both the cultural shift of their move to Africa and the realities of their own personal downfalls and fears.
Meldrum unleashes a series of unpredictable events that will leave you wondering… how well can you truly know someone and how great is the impact of your own choices on the lives of those around you?
This review was written by Kelly Monson. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Brooklyn Story: A Novel by Suzanne Corso (Gallery Books; $23.99; 336 pages)
Suzanne Corso’s Brooklyn Story is described on the back cover as being a true-to-life novel, which is something of an understatement, considering the acknowledgements open by stating, “The one thing that I know is that I am a survivor and was extremely determined to have my story told.”
This admission is good because without it, some of the storytelling would be confusing. The story is told in a very even and objective manner, but in the first person. The reader is inclined to believe this to be a personal tale. But when the detached narrative continues, it becomes difficult to understand how the main character, Samantha Bonti, can continue to be so naive as to follow along with her mobster boyfriend, Tony Kroon, seemingly oblivious to the obvious. The admission that the story is largely, if not entirely autobiographical, makes it easier to accept the human frailty associated with this young girl’s mistakes.
In the book Bonti grows up in Brooklyn and dreams of being a writer and crossing the Red Sea, or, in this case, the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and an alternate lifestyle – one free of the curse of abusive males, crime and cyclical poverty. The life she dreams of differs radically from that of her mother, who, though pregnant young, poor, and addle-minded from years of drug and alcohol abuse, deeply wishes for her daughter to avoid these traps, despite her inability to adequately communicate that to her.
When Bonti falls under Kroon’s spell, thanks to her best friend Janice’s efforts to connect the two, Bonti’s life begins to unravel. Miraculoulsy, she narrowly escapes her mother’s fate.
Bonti’s grandmother is a kind soul who takes up residence with the two, both to take care of her daughter and, at the same time, shield her grandmother from her.
There are two redeeming male characters in the book, Samantha’s teacher, Mr. Wainright, who encourages Samantha in her writing endeavors, and Father Rinaldi. Both see the good in Samantha and encourage her to pursue a more enlightened path. Without either, she may have not made it beyond her circumstances. If she frustrated them as much as she frustrates the reader with her behavior. then they perhaps both should be up for sainthood, because Samantha’s escape is a near miracle. How desperate must one be to ask a priest for money for an abortion?
At least one passage serves more to provoke the reader or appeal to a certain readership than to actually advance the core themes of the story, but these are things that one must accept when digesting a story that is, for the most part enjoyable, though it did not elicit in this reviewer the emotional reaction that the author was likely shooting for.
“In the center of the cement floor sits a four-foot high pyramid of mildewy sweaters, looking like a bonfire ready to be lit, and that’s exactly what I’d like to do, because life would be so much easier if I could just burn this whole house down.”
There is a big difference between watching an hour-long TV show about compulsive hoarding and living with a close relative whose behavior has literally squeezed you out. Author Jessie Sholl is an essayist who has written a touching and engaging memoir about her relationship with her mother, a compulsive hoarder. Her childhood memories and playground embarrassments are all too real and pitiful. No, this is not a sob story or a revenge piece. It is Sholl’s declaration of acceptance of reality and acknowledgment of a fact that she has been stuffing away into dark places in her soul for way too long.
Sholl’s tale is calmly set forth in a measured voice. There are no wild moments of over-the-top drama as are shown on A&E’s Hoarders show or The Style Network’s Clean House. Nor is there a miracle cure after the trash haulers roll away from the house. Rather, the ongoing, really relentless nature of her mother’s disease forms the backdrop for the disintegration of a family.
This reviewer thinks kudos are due to Sholl for her willingness to travel from New York to Minneapolis at a time when her mom is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is daunting enough without the prospect of caring for someone in a house overrun with hoarded stuff. Between the long-term hoarding and the newly diagnosed cancer, there are more than enough challenges to be dealt with in a relatively short stay. Sholl seems to be a very gracious person. Her father and stepmother are portrayed as the saving grace in this scenario.
The background material, bibliography and discussion points round out an excellent presentation of hoarding. If someone in your life has this condition, Dirty Secret is a highly recommended read. It is a balanced blend of reality and compassion.
This review was written by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was received from the publisher.