Secret Daughter – A Book Club Pick

Gowda’s description of Somer’s Indian mother-in-law and Kavita’s life in India offer glimpses into another world in Secret Daughter.  Somer is an American pediatrician married to an Indian neurosurgeon who adopt Kavita’s baby from an Indian orphanage. Eventually, the daughter seeks her heritage and birth parents.

The facilitator of the book discussion wisely invited a woman who had grown up in India, giving the participants the opportunity to question how much of Gowda’s references to the culture are fiction.

A quick read – could be a Hallmark Channel movie – be sure to have your tissues handy for the heart wrenching ending.

The Heights

A Hallmark Channel scenario with the fairy tale setting in Brooklyn Heights, a sweet conflict between man and woman – Peter Hedges’ The Heights starts with the promise of comfort and predictability.  Of course, more lurks beneath the surface.

Hedges alternates his chapters between the points of view of the two main characters, with some editorializing from an infatuated student. The perfect young couple consist of: Tim, a history teacher on sabbatical from a private academy, working on his dissertation and playing stay-at-home dad to two preschool boys – and Kate, the stereotypical beautiful young mother who can do it all – fry the bacon in the pan and make it too in a six figure dream job where she gives away money for needy causes.  Enter the mysterious and wealthy stranger – Anne Brody.

Hedges rescues the story from being a trite accounting of  a young couple with the usual family challenges and temptations by inserting wry humor and attention to the familiar trivial daily annoyances that can lead to crisis.  Even if you haven’t experienced the juggling of your sanity and identity while parenting – you will laugh at Hedges’s descriptions of play dates, and sigh at Kate’s guilt when her son asks for Daddy. When Tim’s father, a basketball coach, is forced into early retirement because of a sex scandal, the Paterno Penn State debacle was in the news,  and I was hit with the eerie specter of art imitating life.

“On your best day, you think you’re irreplaceable.  You think no one can do what you do better than you…But then one day you realize you were wrong.”

Hedges nudges popular culture with the plot twist that involves an “indecent proposal.” In this case, Woody Harrelson would be spending a wild night – “a unique once in a lifetime opportunity,” while Demi Moore is in Disney World with the kids.  Hedges maintains the suspense – will he accept Anne Brody’s proposition with the Pretty Woman twist to do everything except kiss?

The last chapters are at once hilarious and miserable – Kate at Disney World, overwhelmed by the attentions of her former lover (an actor determined to steal her from her husband), desperately looking for something real in the perfect world of costumed characters and building facades – even a little trash on the ground would help.  And Tim in an upscale boutique hideaway, playing with the light panel and testing the hotel room amenities, while waiting for his assignation with Amanda to start.

This book was the pick for one of my book clubs, or I would not have found it.  An easy read – the story is poignant and funny – with some moments of clarity, and ends on a realistic yet hopeful note.

Countdown to Christmas Already?

Saw three versions of Scrooge on the Hallmark Channel and now thinking there must be something I should be doing – for mankind?

A wise elf told me to go shopping – help the economy.   To get in the mood, I’ve been reading Kinsella’s Mini Shopaholic – fluffy, sweet, and fun – good countdown to the holidays.

What if all you need is a little comfort food?

I remember shocking someone (who thought she knew me), when I muttered that I had watched Tommy Lee Jones on the soap opera, One Life to Live – before he became a superstar (Lonesome Dove, Men in Black, The Fugitive).

Did she think  I only watched PBS or BBC broadcasts of the classics – a common misconception of English profs?  It’s been awhile since I watched a soap, but the Hallmark Channel is still in my mix.

So – time for the comfort of  a sweet and light fluff that follows a successful formula, with all turning out for the best in the end.  This one is called The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch and could be a contender for the Hallmark Channel – or maybe Lifetime or Oxygen…

Hometown cheerleader gives up her dreams to be a photographer, and settles into a predictable life –  marrying her high school sweetheart/jock, and  becoming the high school guidance counselor.  Her unhappy husband has a thirty-something crisis and leaves, with the excuse of finding himself.  The plot twists when a visit to a gifted palm reader gives our heroine the unexpected ability to see into the future – not change it, just know what will happen – when she looks at photographs she has taken in the past.

She finds out more than she wanted to know, and copes.  Better yet, she finds her true self and goes off into a rosy sunset.  As quick and satisfying as eating your favorite comfort food – maybe mac and cheese, followed by a bag of Hershey kisses?