What I’m reading: a forgotten women brought to life, and a married couple facing life, death and life again

My birthday was last month and I got a pile of books as gifts:

emily and einstein, just kids, yesterday once more, born with teeth

Emily & Einstein

Thank you to my family for these wonderful books, I can hardly wait to start reading them. My sister sent me Emily & Einstein by Linda Frances Lee, a novel about a woman’s husband who dies and comes back as her dog as a second chance for a good life. As my sister put it, “You’ll never look at a dog the same way again!”  Sounds intriguing.

Patti Smith and Kate Mulgrew

My son gave me two books, both biographies, one by Patti Smith (Just Kids) and the other by Kate Mulgrew (Born with Teeth). Stephen has been talking about the Patti Smith book for years, citing it as his main influence in pursuing his music and I look forward to seeing how Smith inspired him.

I have loved Kate Mulgrew since she played Mary Ryan on “Ryan’s Hope,” a soap opera in the 1970s set in a pub owned by an Irish Catholic family. It was a first for a soap to have such an ethnic setting and Mulgrew crackled as Mary Ryan. She is also known for playing Columbo’s wife, for being the first female starship captain on Star Trek Voyager (Captain Kathryn Janeway) and currently, for playing Galina “Red” Reznikov on “Orange Is the New Black.” She also did a one-woman show playing Katherine Hepburn. Can’t wait to read this one!

The Carpenters

Last but not least, my husband Rich gave me Yesterday Once More, a series of essays on The Carpenters, written by Randy L. Schmidt who penned Little Girl Blue, a poignant biography of Karen Carpenter. As the years go by, appreciation for the music of The Carpenters grows. Karen Carpenter had a signature voice that conveyed deep emotion, all while sounding silky smooth. She is one of my favorite singers. This book at least, I can read a bit at at time.

But first, I have two other books to finish …

woolson strieber

Portrait of a Lady Novelist

I am already in the middle of reading a rivoting biography of Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist. A well-known and acclaimed author in her time (late nineteenth century), Woolson has been mostly forgotten except for her complex platonic relationship with Henry James. She died under mysterious circumstances, falling out of third floor window either accidentally or on purpose. It was assumed that she committed suicide over an unrequited love for James, an assumption which author Anne Boyd Rioux disputes.

Rioux shows that there is much more, introducing us to a highly intelligent, bold and accomplished writer in Woolson who broke new ground for women authors. I am only about halfway through and have already found much to relate to as a writer myself, including the periodic doubts that plague writers and the isolation that, while needed, can be very dangerous. Portrait of a Lady Novelist is giving me some much needed perspective.

I would recommend this book to any woman who is a writer. Boyd’s portrayal of Woolson makes her a much-valued companion for the journey.

Miraculous Journey

I promised Rich months ago that I would read Miraculous Journey, a memoir by Anne and Whitley Strieber and I have not been disappointed. The Striebers are best known for Whitley’s exploration into UFOs and alien abductions/visitations through ground-breaking books such as Communion, Majestic and The Grays. Rich is passionate about the subject of UFOs although he does not take the traditional approach of them being “little green men.” Strieber’s exploration of other ways of thinking and other dimensions appeals very much to Rich.

While I have never made up my mind about UFOs, I do very appreciate the thoughtfulness I see in Strieber’s writing. Miraculous Journey is a detailed memoir on his wife Anne’s brain bleed and subsequent recovery, only to discover a malignant brain tumor which eventually killed her last year. It’s a heavy read but an inspiring one, showing two people deeply committed to each other in married love through thick and thin. I like to tell Rich that I see our relationship in the Striebers.

It’s been a long time since I have read such a wide variety of books and it does the brain, the heart and the soul so much good. I feel like I am feasting on prime rib while at the same time, enjoying the sorting out that reading tends to do with my mind, helping me to focus and filling me with wonderful insight.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are you reading right now?

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em space

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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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