Tag Archives: Target Bookmarked

Imagine: A Review of The Dream

There seem to be two types of memoirs.   In the first, the writer tells us things about his and his parent’s lives, about his children and his pets, about his view of the world, and so on and so on.   These stories can be so overblown that we’re reluctantly dragged along, winding up being the worse for wear when we reach the end.

Then, there are memoirs like The Dream by nonagenarian Harry Bernstein.   While this is the story of his life and his family, it feels more like listening to someone from our own family.   His relatives’ stories all seem so true and so familiar that no time at all goes by before we’re at page 279.

Bernstein’s tale is that of a young Jewish male whose family leaves England via steamer from Liverpool in 1922, bound for America – a journey that was the dream of Bernstein’s mother.   The virtually penniless family received the tickets for their trip from an unknown benefactor and arrived in Quebec before making their way by train to Chicago, which was then a growing, dirty, busy city where the smell of the well-known stockyards was constant – not quite the heaven on earth that Ma Bernstein expected to find.

No, the past was not perfect, but the Bernstein family is beginning to acquire some money when the Great Depression hits in 1929.   Harry searches for a job for a year before finding one as a “clerk” for a company engaging in dubious activities.

The young Bernstein thinks he wants to be an architect, but after multiple years of study, he finds he has no skills.   He also fails at jobs he really doesn’t want – one of the many experiences common to the young.   Eventually, he moves to New York City where he meets the love of his life, Ruby, to whom he is married for sixty-seven years.   There, he falls into the career of a fledgling writer. 

What happens to his beloved mother, his father, his paternal grandparents, and his siblings is what the remainder of this book is about.   It never fails to keep the reader’s interest.   The world lost an architect but found an extremely talented writer in Mr. Bernstein.   His newly released memoir, The Golden Willow, is all about his life with Ruby Bernstein, and I can hardly wait to read it.  

(Note:  The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein was a Target Bookmarked Club Summer ’08 Pick.)

Ballantine Books, $14.00, 279 pages

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.The Dream

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Animal Crackers in My Soup: Tell Me Where It Hurts

The complete title of this book is Tell Me Where It Hurts:  A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon.   This is about as long as the book itself, which is an easy and fast read.   Such is the good news.   The bad news is that, well, there’s not a lot here…

This is supposed to be a chronicle of a single day in a large animal hospital, but that’s just the pretense.   It’s immediately clear that the book is filled with the stories of animal and panicked owner interactions that occurred months and years earlier.   So why pretend that it’s about “24 hours in a pet hospital”?

The stories are more anecdotes than detailed stories, and often relate to how Dr. Trout assisted some poor young (in experience if not actual years) and confused resident.   There’s not enough detail to create real tension, which makes the reader wonder why this book has been sold as an animal-world version of the television show House?   Perhaps it is because Dr.  Trout appears to be a man of ego.

Another concern is that although it is a Target Bookmarked Breakout selection, there is more than a bit of sexism in how the good Dr. relates to women.   Was this supposed to be humorous or sarcastic or something else?

Instead of spending $14.00 or so for this collection of quick hit-and-miss tales, I’d advise animal lovers to instead consider ordering a classic that was written by a veterinarian back in 1980.   That book is All My Patients Are Under the Bed by the late Dr. Louis J. Camuti, which is full of charming tales and in which the doctor’s love for his feline patients was absolutely and completely transparent.   As a sign of the relevance of All My Patients… it is currently available as a trade paperback (Fireside, $14.00) that can be ordered via Amazon or your independent book seller.

As to Tell Me Where It Hurts, I found it to be not serious enough to be memorable and not humorous enough to be truly enjoyable.   Frankly, it was more than a mystery to me.   I’m still confused…   If I were asked to describe it in 10 words or less, I’d say “Cute, but not cute enough.”

Joseph Arellano

Note:   This book was purchased by the reviewer.

it hurts

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Coming Up Next…

it hurts (sm.)A review of Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr. Nick Trout.

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