Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review of Lessons From the Mountain by Mary McDonough

Lessons From The Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton
By Mary McDonough
Kensington Publishing Corp.
ISBN 978-0-7582-6366-7

The memoir begins with the voice of a woman of strength and wisdom and maintains that tone throughout. After she gives credit where credit is due (parents and siblings) the author flashes back and tracks forward to tell us about the long hard journey she took to ultimately acquire that strength and wisdom. Included among the positive influences that helped her get through the difficulties of being a child star were members of her television Walton family as well as her own real family.

For some reason during childhood she suffered from an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and any slight pounded her esteem  deeper into the ground. She recounts the story of an obsessive compulsive second grade teacher at her Catholic school and the reader has to wonder what such a person was doing teaching seven year old children. Later she refers back to some inappropriate sexual touching that she endured as a child from neighbors and was too afraid to speak up. Throughout her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood she was afraid to speak up whether the complaint was relatively trivial (sitting in a hot car in winter clothes to shoot a “winter” scene on a hot day) or serious (an actual assault on a movie set during her post Walton career). But, when she finally realized she had to speak up not only to protect herself from serious health risks  but to warn other women who might be persuaded to take serious health risks, she came out with the fierceness and determination that long repressed feelings can engender.

The book includes photos of this beautiful girl who grew into a beautiful woman and one photo in particular is both striking and heartrending: a photo of a lean, fit and lovely teen age girl on one page and on the facing page the drawing she made of herself at that time. She called the drawing “hog body” and apparently thought of her body in that derogatory way.  There had to be some sad and heavy psychology at work to make her think of herself that way when she viewed that lovely girl in the mirror. The fact that she later got silicone breast implants is therefore not surprising. After the implants, she developed Lupus and, against the advice of Doctors who should have known better, decided to have the implants removed thereby finding out that they had ruptured and sent silicone leaking into her body as well as the fetus she was carrying. When she later took on Dow Corning she was doing it for herself, her daughter and all the women who might make different decisions regarding breast implants given accurate information. The malleable, shy child actor has developed into a film director and producer herself as well as an activist and a teacher who gives workshops to help young women develop a positive self image. She makes it clear throughout the book that she was always grateful for what she was given (the good fortune of being chosen to be part of the Waltons family and develop lifelong friendships with many fine people) and that she felt a responsibility to give back. She has given back a great deal and this book is a gift to women everywhere in all walks of life and all ages. There are a myriad of wise life lessons in this book. I learned some important lessons reading it. Thankyou Mary McDonough!

Review of Ruth by Marlene S. Lewis (in the UK)

By Marlene S. Lewis
Troubador Publishing Ltd.
ISBN 978-1-84876-623-5

At 327 pages Ruth would be too long were it merely a love story with an interesting twist. However, this story of a young woman from her first sexual awakening to a new beginning in middle age is also the story of colonial racism in Australia in the fifties and the consequences of this racism that are passed on from one generation to the next. In addition to this major theme there are sub themes of classicism and sexism that come up in the stories of subsidiary characters Ruth encounters on her journey. 

I’ve been known to say that while non-fiction makes us aware of social problems, fiction has more power to make us care about social problems. I should amend that to say that it is the stories of individuals more than statistics that create empathy and a passion to change what is wrong in our societies. So whether a story is fictional or real is not the issue here but whether it is compelling enough to inspire readers to want to do something about the injustices of racism, classicism, sexism as we recognize them around us in addition to helping us recognize them in the first place.

In Ruth, Marlene S. Lewis tells a fictional story that feels absolutely real and as a reader I feel like I could hear the voices of Ruth, Lindsay, Tommy, Joyce, Aggie, Stephanie, Ali, Lachlan, Josh and others as if I’d known them. The author has mastered the craft of creating  characters with the particular idiosyncracies that make them believable individuals, each and every one. She makes us know them, care about them, hear and respond to what they have to say. There is the usual disclaimer at the beginning that the book is a work of fiction and any resemblance of the characters to real people is purely coincidental. I would add that such resemblance is due to the author’s gifts of observation and insight. The style is matter of fact. Because the facts themselves are dramatic the author has no need to overdramatize events, she simply tells them and we are moved, sometimes shocked, at the simple recitation of the realistically imagined facts.

Because the book depicts so many realistic instances of important universal social issues, Ruth is a book I highly recommend to bookclubs who are looking for spirited discussion of the social dynamics that affect us all, everywhere at some time and all the time somewhere.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hi Cara

If you love these beautful mtns check out this site:

Cara is another Colorado author I had the pleasure of meeting at the Aurora Public Library "Meet the Authors" event yesterday.  Oh that photo with the headstone: there are historic cemeteries above Central City that were absolutely glorious with fall colors and from there it is possible to 4 wheel all the way to James Peak. Interesting area up there. Enjoy this beautiful day!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Last Beautiful days of Autumn

We are actually expecting snow soon in the high country. Meantime, finished my fall foliage foto frenzy today in a cemetery (fitting).