Adversity Books

Alas, not everything about childhood is sweetness and light.

In times like these, books about adversity, like these suggested on this blog post, may help.

I chose to review two of them, because they are closer to my experience.

The first is called “Her Mother’s Face” by Roddy Doyle. Ten-year-old Siobhan’s mother died when she was only three. She had no other family members except her father, who was always quiet and sad. She could not remember her mother’s face. She could remember her mother’s hands, voice, and singing, but not her face. And there were no pictures to be found.

One day in the park, a beautiful woman approached her. And somehow, when the woman noticed that she was sad, Siobhan found herself telling her everything, including that she could never see her mother’s face. The woman gave her some advice, telling her that she just needed to look in the mirror and then she would be able to see what her mother looked like at her age. This advice allowed Siobhan to be happy for the first time since her mother’s death, as she finally had a picture in her head of her mother.

This isn’t where the story ends, because we see her grow up with a little daughter of her own. And we also see what happens when Siobhan finally remembers to give her father a message that the beautiful woman had asked her to give him that day in the park.

I lost my mother when I was 18, and I can remember her face and also I have pictures of her. Still, I love the idea that I can still look in the mirror and imagine what my mother was like at my age, and I wonder if this would comfort others who have lost a mother.

The next book deals about having a mother with cancer. Picture day is always important to Marcus’ family. But when Marcus’ mama gets cancer, she also loses her hair, so doesn’t want to be in the pictures. So when picture day draws near, Marcus thinks he has the perfect solution: he will cut his own hair, so that she can use it instead. The solution doesn’t quite work out though.

My mother died of breast cancer, so I can relate to the main character in “Hair for Mama” by Kelly Tinkham. I remember when she lost her hair. However, I did not think of sacrificing my own hair for her, so I was touched at the solution presented here, based on the author’s own experience.

I admit, however, that I would have written the ending differently. The mother would have been so touched by her own child’s sacrifice, that I would have had her show her bald head in the pictures, to match her child’s baldness. Yet the story ending is still satisfying.

What about you? What books about cancer and loss or any adversity do you recommend?

Book review: “Follow Follow”

“Imagine
fairy tales
upended.

Upended
fairy tales?
Imagine!”

Marilyn Singer in “Follow Follow”

The book of reverso poems called “Follow Follow” by Marilyn Singer was recommended during my poetic techniques course.
The premise is that there are two sets of poems. Read the first one from top to bottom, and then read it from bottom to top. So, the second poem is the first one done backwards!
The fascinating thing about these poems is that they often take on a completely different meaning when they are read backwards.
My favourite example of this is called “The Little Mermaid’s Choice”. The first poem talks about the traditional way that the story is laid out. It starts out like this:

“For love,
give up your voice.
Don’t
think twice.”

When read reverso though, the difference is dramatic:

“Think twice!
Don’t
give up your voice
for love.”

Which version do you prefer?

The whole book theme is fairy tales. Choices include poems about “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Tortoise and the Hare”.

Here’s another example from “Silly Goose”.

“Laugh?
I was born to
be serious all the time.
Who can
find the world funny?
(I…)”

And reverso?

“I
find the world funny.
Who can
be serious all the time?
I was born to
laugh.”

What do you think?