Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of year again. Hard to believe I've been doing this  blog for over a year now. Last Thanksgiving, I was camped out at my parents' place, waiting for the sale to close on my house in Tucson. This year, the parents are at my house for turkey dinner!

For me, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Christmas shopping season, but I do not participate in Black Friday and I am definitely not a fan of stores open today that deprive workers of a holiday to satisfy America's ever-growing consumerism.

So I will be trying to buy American again this year. If you remember from last year, I found this to be a much bigger challenge than I expected. I still only do gifts for children (well, if the boyfriend is lucky, maybe I'll branch out.) And I expect to find myself back at, where you can buy handmade gifts from artists around the country.

I will share my finds and I'd love any suggestions you have.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: A Friend of the Family

As Lauren Grodstein's novel opens, the narrator is lost. Pete is living in the studio above his garage while his wife contemplates divorce and his estranged son appears to be finished with him. His medical practice has disowned him as a malpractice case looms. He's being harrassed by the family of a former patient and he's avoiding phone calls from his best friend.

It takes the majority of the book to get to the root of this mystery and the quantity of back story does seem tedious at times. But on the whole, the narrative is rich and complex and I was willing to lose myself in it. None of the characters is wholly likeable, especially the narrator who is controlling of his adult son Alec and admits that he'd rather have grandchildren than a happy child. The least likeable character is Laura, the troubled daughter of Pete's friend who woos Alec, to Pete's horror. Laura is an excellent villain and as flawed as Pete is, he's the only one who recognizes the real danger she poses.

A Friend of the Family is morally complicated. The simplicity of Pete's "right is right, wrong is wrong" mentality is challenged and it challenges the reader. The conclusion is not neat and happy- and it shouldn't be.