This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

That’s actually not entirely true–while I do have many books on my TBR pile, I also have a lot of time now that I’m retired! But instead of reading and blogging in an orderly manner–posts planned and scheduled as good bloggers are wont to do–I launched myself into a frenzy of reading on June first. It must be the giddy freedom I feel staying up until (*gasp*) midnight with a book in hand. Or sitting on the deck with a cold drink in the middle of the afternoon, for goodness sake. To play a little catch up, this post is a two-fer.

The Figgs
Ali Bryan
Freehand Books

the figgsThis is a family who put the fun in dysfunctional. (And they’re Canadian! I thought those Canadians had their shi stuff together compared to Americans, that they operated on a higher plane–but apparently not.) June and Randy Figg live with their three twenty-something children under one roof. Tom, Derek, and Vanessa have finished at university. Or not. They are employed. Or not. And their parents are out of their minds with frustration. Or not. Because if any parents are just asking to have their adult children boomerang, it’s the Figgs. They cook the “kids” breakfast, lunch, and dinner on demand. Do their laundry. Pick up after them. And drive them to and from their (mostly) part time jobs. All the while complaining and lecturing the “kids”. (Can you say ‘enablers’?!)

And then the poop really hits the fan. Derek finds out a young woman he hooked up with is in labor. With his baby. It’s fair to say that chaos ensues and the Figg’s lives are turned inside out when the baby’s mother decides that she doesn’t want to raise baby Jaxx and Derek brings the newborn home. To mom and dad’s, that is.

Author Ali Bryan is a master at capturing the put-upon whining of millennials and their martyr parents and I found myself hooting out loud at times at the banter. But underneath the humor, Bryan asks us to think about the life-changing ramifications of adoption. Not too far into the novel, the reader discovers that June was adopted as a child. A little farther in, we learn that Randy has been keeping a painful secret–nearly thirty years ago, his high school girlfriend had given his baby up for adoption. Randy is determined to find his son, but June never had any interest in looking for her parents.

Until the arrival of little Jaxx.

It’s fresh. It’s funny. It’s a peek into a dysfunctional family who somehow make it work. Read The Figgs this summer.

Remind Me Again What Happened
Joanna Luloff
Algonquin Books

Claire wakes up in the hospital and she has no idea why she is there. She can remember very little of the fever that caused the seizures from remind me again what happenedwhich she still suffers and her husband Charlie is a stranger. She can’t even remember their first kiss. Frightened and very sick, Claire asks Charlie to call Rachel, her best friend–their best friend, really–because she senses she “needs an ally”. Charlie seems always angry with her. He is at once controlling and distant.

But like many who suffer brain trauma, Claire’s distant memory is fairly intact. She can describe the bedspread in her room when she was eight. She remembers the snack her mother made her each afternoon. And she can tell the story of her grandparents courtship when she searches through a box of old photos. The gaps in Claire’s memory frustrate them all.

We learn early on that Claire and Charlie had lived apart for a few years before her illness. And while Claire doesn’t remember any of this, she does have flashes of memory: Michael; Pondicherry, India; Turkey. What do those fragmented memories mean, if anything? Her apartment in New York was packed up and boxes are waiting for her to sort through: Work. Grad school. Childhood. Boxes that might answer Claire’s questions.

And although the story of Claire’s memory loss does capture the reader, it is the questions author Joanna Luloff asks about memory that are most compelling. The story is told alternating narrators, so we hear the same story told by three different people. Except the stories aren’t the same at all–so what is reality? How can we determine if what we remember is accurate or not? How can three people remember the same incident so very differently?

If like your novels tied up with a neat bow at the end, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you want to ponder some Deep Thoughts and wonder if you really remember what caused the end of a love affair or the loss of a dear friend, I’d give it a go.

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