Tag Archives: Touchstone Publishing

Confusion Has Its Cost

The History of Us: A Novel by Leah Stewart (Touchstone, $24.99, 384 pages)

Sometimes home is the hardest place to go.

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In 1993 Eloise Hempel, a newly-minted Harvard professor, gets the shock of a lifetime when her niece, Theo (short for Theodora), calls with news of a helicopter crash. The crash has killed Eloise’s sister Rachel and her husband who were on vacation. Left behind are three young children, Theo, Josh and Claire, who at the time were staying at their grandmother Francine’s house.

The house that forms the nucleus of the story is located in Cincinnati, Ohio on Clifton Avenue where it has sat since 1890. Actually, it’s really a mansion, a money pit of sorts. Francine inherited it and has lived there for some time; however, as with most responsibilities, she chooses to run from it after Rachel’s death and leaves Eloise to raise the three orphans. They are merely residents although the house has strong ties for them.

Eloise left behind her coveted professorship at Harvard and in its place she found a teaching position at a local college in Cincinnati. Her years have been taken up with raising the children and she has very little in the way of a life of her own. Time passes as Eloise’s two nieces and nephews grow to adulthood. Upon the 120th anniversary of the house, in 2010, Eloise hosts a celebration.

She needed distractions, and she also felt guilty because she’d been the one insisting on the party which no one else wanted to have, and like anyone used to being thought of as the good one, the capable one, the responsible one, she preferred feeling over-whelmed and overworked to feeling guilty.

The party sets the stage for what becomes the revelation of the doubts, compensation for loss and confusion that Eloise and her charges have come to know as they occupy the house. Francine, who refused to be called grandma, fled to Florida right after the helicopter crash and in 2010 is very reluctant to give ownership of the house to Eloise. Each of the characters is trapped in a situation of their own devise.

Theo feels entitled, Claire is a self-absorbed ballerina, Josh is a frustrated musician and Eloise is really confused about what she wants from life. This book is more than a coming of age tale; it provides the reader with an expanded understanding of what makes a family and how relationships change.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Be True to Your School

Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You by Gina Amaro Rudan (Touchstone, $24.99, 203 pages)

Ready, set, GO!   Professional development and training coach Gina Rudan can be a bit overwhelming as she enthusiastically offers up her philosophy for success.   Summed up it is – Be the best you by mining deeply held inner goals while simultaneously exploiting people who may be able to assist your climb upward.   Oh, and always maintain personal integrity by selflessly promoting the ones your are using.

That’s quite a challenge; however, Ms. Rudan offers herself as the poster child for this method.   She jumped ship from the Fortune 500 employers of her past to begin a second career as a consultant.   Clearly, the field of personal development is a crowded one that spans several decades.   M. Scott Peck, Jack Canfield and David Shenk immediately come to mind.   Dr. Shenk is listed because he too has written a book specifically focused on the topic of genius, The Genius in All of Us.   His view of genius and ways to achieve it are expressed in a calm, well-considered approach.   (A review of the book will be posted next on this site.)

Ms. Rudan’s target audience appears to be the 35-40 year old female who is at a point where she is stuck in her professional life.   The spin for Rudan’s method is a bit titillating with “the Other G spot” and dating rules for those who can assist with a climb into practical genius status.   She stresses the need for personal congruity – a balance of hard and soft assets.   It is at the intersection of one’s marketable skills (hard assets) and personal passions, creativity and values (soft assets) where the Other G spot exists.   Finding that spot and making it yours is the point of the book.

Each element of the process is thoroughly developed; however, this reviewer found the bouncy enthusiasm and perspective shifts in the early chapters a bit unsettling.   Moreover, the rambling in some sentences makes the case for keeping it simple:

Expressing your practical genius is not about expressing the limitedness of our personalities or egos but more about expressing wonder of the depths of the oceans of who we are as complex multi-dimensional creatures.

The later chapters get down to business with boxed hints for the reader and lengthy descriptions or definitions of what Ms. Rudan thinks is the ideal mix of characters that will become the players in the reader’s life changing drama.

Given today’s legions of unemployed and underemployed persons, this book may have an audience in persons seeking more than just putting food on the table and a roof over one’s head.   Then again, maybe it does not.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You by Gina Amaro Rudan.

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