Book – About Joy Bergman: “Oh, they broke the mold when they made that one. People who loved her said it, people who did not love her said it, too, for the same reason.” I fall into the former category. Joy is in her eighties and caring for her beloved husband Aaron, who has dementia along with other serious health issues. They are New Yorkers and Joy misses their daughter, Molly, who is living in California with her wife. Their son, Daniel, still lives close by, with his wife and their two young daughters. This story is about family and the ties that bind us during good times and bad. It highlights the issues we are forced to confront as we age, both from the perspective of the parents and their children. Schine, who also wrote The Three Weissmanns of Westport, explores these themes as she relates and finds humor in the most ordinary conundrums and routines. Joy laments about her physical deterioration, defends her take-out order meals and is determined to remain independent and upbeat. Molly feels guilty about living far away and she and Daniel search for ways (with sometimes hilarious results) to reassure Joy about her importance in their lives. Joy enjoys a special bond with her grandchildren and acknowledges that although she loves being in the midst of her family, she also finds them exhausting. This book reminded me that despite the differences in our individual circumstances, there is a shared commonality in our experiences as we face life’s transitions.
Book – Britt-Marie is in her 60’s, socially awkward and incapable of tolerating a mess. She has just left her husband, Kent, and is looking for a job. After haranguing the young unemployment officer, she lands a temporary position in the tiny, down-on-its-luck town of Borg as a caretaker of the recreation center. As she arrives into town, she is surprised to discover that the residents, particularly the children, are fixated on soccer. The children practice without a coach and proper playing field. Britt-Marie compulsively cleans their uniforms, as well as the recreation center and adjoining shop. Despite her very definite views on proper conduct (and correcting everyone’s lack of it), Britt-Marie finds that she is accepted and understood for the first time in her life. The story unfolds with hilarious antics and heart-rending moments. I loved these characters and their town. As stated in the book, “At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?” Britt-Marie is finally able to figure out the answer for herself, as she learns to live life on her own terms.
Book – Arthur lost his wife, Miriam, a year ago and copes with his grief by clinging to his old routines. He takes tea at the same time every day, wears the same stiff collared shirts and uncomfortable pants and waters his fern, Frederica. He hides from the food-laden visits of his neighbor, Bernadette, and has infrequent contact with his two adult children, Lucy and Dan. But, when Arthur decides to clean out Miriam’s closet, he finds a charm bracelet that he’s never seen before. As he examines it, he impulsively dials a phone number engraved on one of the charms and is launched on a journey to learn the truth about his wife. Along the way, he learns truths about himself and his relationships. He discovers new friends and learns about their hardships and joys. This book is a cozy tale about life’s surprising twists and savoring what is in the present.
Movies – I enjoy a good film about cooking, food adventures, and or anything that features cooking. Food and movies go hand in hand. Here are couple of films without fail always make me hungry.
The first one always makes me crave brie with pears, and fried egg sandwiches with a good beer. Spanglish, star Adam Sandler as a chef of a small restaurant. The movie is about boundaries and relationships, where they should start and end. Cultural and family dynamic differences are the major cause of drama in the movie. But it’s his fried egg sandwich that gets me every time.
Next on the list is Chef. It stars Jon Favreau as a chef who loses it after a bad review and his rant goes viral causing him to rethink his career and family responsibilities. This sends him from LA to Miami with his ex-wife and son, and into a new venture, the food truck business. While driving the truck back to LA, various stops are made and include beignets from New Orleans and brisket from Austin. Brisket looks amazing and this film makes me want tostones (pressed fried plantains with garlic sauce) and yuca with garlic and vinegar! Mmm!!!
Tortilla Soup stars Hector Elizondo as a chef and father of three women. Hector has lost his taste and needs others to taste the food as he preps. The food shots of the films are gorgeous and tempting. His red snapper and nopales (cactus) make me crave breakfast by the ocean in Puerto Vallarta, MX. It also reminds me of my aunt in Mexico making fresh flour tortillas and huevos con chorizo (eggs and sausage). It always takes me back to when I was a kid!
For dessert I give you Chocolat starring Juliette Binoche. A movie about a wandering women and her young daughter who come to a small French village to open up a chocolate shop on the eve of lent. Her hot chocolate drink is rich and thick the way it is traditional made in Spain. She uses her chocolate to change the lives of the citizens of this small village. It is only right for them to change hers as well. She also makes a chocolate with a kick from chili peppers. It’s a good thing I know a place that sells chocolate jalapeno ice cream. Hope I didn’t make you too hungry.
What Maisie Knew is the heartbreaking story of a young girl subject to the wrath of her parents’ divorce. Hungry with greed, Maisie’s parents (played by Julianne Moore & Steve Coogan) force their daughter into the midst of a heated custody battle. Thrown from house to house, parent to parent, Maisie is repeatedly neglected and forgotten, with no sense of stability in her life.
Her mother, a hot-headed rockstar and her father, a distant art dealer, are too wrapped up in their own little worlds to provide a supportable life for their young daughter. Living in environments subject to drug addiction and neglect, Maisie is often left in the care of her longtime nanny, and the mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård).
I didn’t expect to get so emotionally wrapped up in the sorrowful and whirlwind life of Maisie. The acting was spot on in this film–I adore Julianne Moore, and obviously Alexander Skarsgård. Maisie is played by newcomer Onata Aprile, who I thought did a fantastic job capturing the complexity of the character. All I wanted was for someone to give her the love and care she deserved. Heartbreakingly mesmerizing, grab some tissues, just in case.
Parenthood is like Modern Family, in that both shows have a strong focus on family dynamics and relationships. Parenthood, however, concentrates on more serious content, things that test the bonds that hold a family together. The show follows the day to day trials and tribulations of the Braverman family. Zeek and Camille have raised four children, who are now grown with their own families. Crosby is a carefree guy who lives on a houseboat, enjoying his limitless freedom. Julia is partner at a prestigious law firm, trying to juggle work while raising a young daughter with her husband. Sarah wants to make a fresh start, taking her teenage kids and moving back into her childhood home with her parents. And finally, Adam, the eldest of the Braverman children, and caretaker to everyone, including his wife and two children.
What makes this series special are the intense bonds shared by the members of the Braverman clan. Together, this family endures everything that life throws their way. I would strongly recommend Parenthood to anyone who loves realistic family dramas. I was completely invested in each of the main characters, and though fictional, their stories often left me tearful.
10/10 would recommend to friend.
Book – I’ve been reading a lot of Sophie Kinsella recently. The Summer season always puts me in the mood for lighthearted comedies, and Kinsella’s books really hit the spot.
Remember Me? (not to be confused with the emotionally moving film featuring Robert Pattinson, although also worth a gander), by Sophie Kinsella , is a great choice for anyone who loves a good mystery with their comedy. The novel follows Lexi sMART, a spunky young woman nicknamed “Snaggletooth,” who’s having a pretty crappy time in life. It’s 2004, and her boyfriend, Loser Dave, is always a no show, she was the only one who didn’t get a bonus at work, and then she’s in an accident to top it off.
When Lexi wakes up from her accident, she can’t remember anything. It’s suddenly 2007, and she has no memory of the past three years. She can’t recognize the tan, slim, flawless woman in the mirror. Life seems perfect: she’s married to a drop-dead gorgeous man, lives in a million dollar penthouse and is head of the company! Things couldn’t be better, or so it would appear. But things start to fall through when Lexi learns what kind of person she’s become, and just how imperfect her life really is. Is it too late to rewind and change those last three years? Is the past really lost for good? Dive in to find out what happens!
With a quirky cast, drama, and secrets, Remember Me? makes a splash as a beachside read! If you fancy some more Kinsella books, I highly recommend checking out Can You Keep a Secret? and The Undomestic Goddess.
Book – Bridget used to work as a lawyer; now she stays at home with baby Julia while her computer-programmer husband Mark supports their little family. Bridget and Julia aren’t alone in the house while he’s gone, though. There’s a shadowy figure, a ghost that creeps through the rooms. Mark can’t see the ghost, but Bridget is all too sure it’s real.
A hundred years ago, Rebecca is the daughter of a doctor, and although she’s unsure she chooses to marry a farmer, an old friend, and become a farm wife. She struggles with her new life and fights with her husband almost constantly. Their life together may be interesting, but it’s anything but happy.
While alternating between the stories of Bridget and Rebecca gives some hints about the nature of the ghost that haunts Bridget, it remains a little unclear just what the connection between the two women really is. I found I enjoyed that; I like a little mystery with my scariness. I also liked that neither of the two main characters were really, well, nice. Rebecca is profoundly selfish, while Bridget can’t stop herself from looking down on her friends. That doesn’t mean they aren’t likeable, though – Bridget’s devotion to her daughter is extremely moving, and Rebecca is caught in an impossible situation that’s hard not to empathize with. I was enthralled by both of their stories, and I only wish I could have learned a little bit more about them.
Book – Douglas Petersen, a scientist, is trying to cope with his wife Connie’s announcement that she thinks she wants to leave him. Also, his relationship with his recalcitrant seventeen-year-old son, Albie, has always been rocky. Douglas hopes that their family’s planned “Grand Tour” of Europe will somehow help them resolve their issues. He sets some personal goals for their inter-rail trip, including “It is not necessary to be seen to be right about everything, even when that is the case.” As they embark on the trip from their home in suburban London, Douglas narrates their experiences, and shares the story of his marriage to Connie and struggles as a father to relate to his son. Told in short chapters, and alternating from past to present, Douglas kept me entertained with his dry humor, insights and predicaments as he tries to approach his life in a new way.
Book – David Finch has been married to Kristen for 5 years and their marriage is in crisis. They have two young children, own a home in the northern suburbs of Chicago and work full-time. But they no longer communicate with each other and miss the fun they had together before they were married. The catalyst for a change in their relationship comes in the form of an online survey testing for Asperger Syndrome. David scores 155 out of a possible 200. Kristen scores an 8. (David’s diagnosis is later confirmed by a medical professional.) David is stunned, but realizes that they now have answers for some of the behaviors that are causing issues in his life. He sets on a quest to improve those behaviors and his communication skills. He records his lessons and results in a Journal of Best Practices. David discusses the progress of his journey in a straight-forward and often humorous manner. I was impressed by the amount of effort it took him to learn, understand and maintain socially acceptable norms. Both David and Kristin were committed to the process, and Kristen’s patience in accepting and guiding David was also awe-inspiring. While this is a non-fiction account, if you are interested in further exploring personal accounts of living with Asperger Syndrome, try the novels The Rosie Project or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.