There’s nothing nicer than two people who make a bond that lasts “till death do them part.” A loving friendship shared by two women for their dogs and each other is the subject of Let’s Take the Long Way Home, by Gail Caldwell (Random House 2011). This Pulitzer Prize-winning author wrote this memoir about her own private life, including her drinking, her love for her dog, and her friend Caroline. The author shows us that love comes in many forms, not just between a man and woman. Both Gail and Caroline are strong, independent women sharing life with good friends. It’s lovely to read about. And when Gail writes about how her friendship helped her have a new beginning with her best friend and their dogs, you really feel as though anything is possible. But the book isn’t all sweetness and happiness. Caroline is stricken by lung cancer, and as she suffers and passes, the reader shares that journey as well. The aftermath of the author’s very real grief, is also included. It takes real courage to write a real about yourself, and your personal life, warts and all. For that, I give Caldwell very high marks. That being said, it was a challenge to get through the book and at times, it dragged in places. I felt the entire book was too intense. The author just seemed to try too hard to get her points across when the stories, photos and recollections did most of the work, for her. But those who have ever had a best friend who has passed away, those who love dogs, those battling personal demons, and anyone wondering how to make another turn of the page in life, will particularly appreciate what Caldwell has to say.
Another book about enduring love is We Were An Island, The Maine Live of Art & Nan Kellam by Peter P. Blanchard III and Photographer David Graham. This true life story about two unconventional people is also a genuine love story. Nan and Art Kellam didn’t want anyone but each other, and in 1948 they moved to a deserted island off the northeast coast of Maine called Placentia. There wasn’t any electricity, indoor plumbing, or easy access to anything, just a dinghy to get across to the mainland. This lifestyle may sound romantic to many, but few could actually survive it. In photos and incorporating personal information, the book details how this unusual couple not just survived, but thrived with nothing to power them but each other’s company. The author incorporates pieces of Nan’s journals, the manuscript of the unfinished book she and Art were writing about their adventure, and their letters and family photos. The result is a book that is the stuff of dreams. For many, an existence like that of Nan and Arts would be hellish, but as this book points out, for two people who need only each other’s love and company, it was paradise. There is obviously a lesson for all of us in this. The book is a fascinating look at not just an unusual couple’s lifestyle, but now the wildly improbable can become reality.
Big Big Love, Revised: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them) by Hanne Blank Celestial Arts; Revised edition (September 20, 2011) is a hot-off-the-press, hot hot book, and well placed to take advantage of the interests in the new television Big Sexy on TLC, featuring a group of young (and looking for love), plus-sized women. But the book isn’t a novel, it is a true “how-to” with technical and practical information about how to have sex with a “fat person” (their description, not mine). It covers everything from fashion to fetishes and is matter of fact and seemingly honest. But one of the issues I have with this book is that I’m not sure what qualifies as “fat.” My guess, based on the tips and techniques in the book, is that the authors are referencing men and women with 100+ pounds on their frames, not the merely overweight at 50 pounds or under. If I was a very huge person in size, I’m not sure how much I’d like being referred to as merely “fat.” That objection aside, what the book made clear is that people of all sizes want and deserve, a healthy sexual experience, and that people who are very large, just need to make some adjustments to enjoy all that life has to offer. Furthermore, the tone of the book is positive and respectful. There are thin people who love large people, and large people who love large people, and vice versa. Not everyone is open minded. In the past, this subject may have been taboo, and for some, very fat people having sex is, to some, is squirm-worthy to read. It wasn’t written for these people. It might just be the thing a very obsese person (and the man or woman that loves them), a must-have to make life a healthy sex life easier and a lot more fun.
These days, young women slavishly following the advice of famous books (and women) from previous decades, seems to be the key to getting a best seller, and maybe even a movie deal. Falling For Me for Me: How I Hung Curtains, Learned to Cook, Traveled to Seville, and Fell in Love, by Anna David (Harper Paperbacks, October 11, 2011) is the latest from Anna David, a bona-fide writer whose life, and especially her love life, has fallen flat. So she decides that she will follow the wisdom dished in Sex & the Single Girl. This book, by Helen Gurley Brown, revolutionized women’s views of singlehood back in the 1960’s. S&TSG became the single woman’s new-style playbook showing girls how to have it all, while they were still single. It offered detailed tips and motivation to young women that gave them the freedom to enjoy all the fruits of being in the workplace, as well as in the bedroom. That book was ground-breaking and very exciting for it’s time, and apparently, a lot of her advice is still perfectly relevant for today’s single woman. But in the book, Falling for Me, the author apparently can’t figure out what she is single and mooning over a married man. To me as a relationship expert, David’s problems stem less from a life unfulfilled, than her continual choice of inappropriate men, a challenging childhood with a complex father/daughter relationship, and her issues with alcoholism. That might not make her all that enticing to men. Regardless, the author decides to take a year, and live up to the tenets of Sex and the Single Girl. The idea is to make her own, singlehood sensational. So she fixes up her apartment, buys new clothes, takes risks, and dates in various ways that probably would have made her gag and balk, prior to reading Gurley Brown’s book. She finds, not surprisingly that her life becomes richer and more fun. And, her journey is amusingly written. It kept my attention to the very last page. The author is relate-able. In the end, she’s conquered a lot of her fears, and made her daily life easier and more satisfying. The point of the book (and the one that single women particularly, will love) is that being single and satisfied with your life as it is, is far better than being with a man who isnt’ right for you. The book is very personal and I love that. However, it’s also very self absorbed. The author may or may not find love, eventually. However, she shows that every woman, single or not, deserves a good life, just as Helen Gurley Brown outlined for her readers, so many years ago. It makes me want to read Sex and the Single Girl again, even though I’m not single!
Beautifully illustrated, home decorating books are always fun to peruse, especially if you are bored of your decor and looking for inspiration. If you get a few tips that you can really use out of one of these DIY decorating books, so much the better. Southern Living Style: Easy Updates, Room-by-Room Guide, Inspired Design Ideas, by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine (Oxmoor House 2011) is one of those coffee table type DIY home decorating books that might not appeal to everyone’s sense of style, but will give you food for the soul, and for thought.The book has lots of photos and tips to update or re-do just about any room in your home. Most of the projects are of the do it yourself variety, with enough information to perform the tasks. You will find more than just ways to make a home look better, including explanations of why a design element works, or doesn’t work. Everything is easy to understand and will make you eager to refurb or totally re-do those rooms that are not making you feel happy, at home. My only issue with the book is the same one that I have with all of the popular, home decorating shows. Everything, from adding new drawer pulls, to stenciling a wall, to totally refinishing a cabinet, looks like it’s super-easy and can be done in a day. But that’s not really the case. Many of the projects and decorating suggestions in this book look lovely, especially the furniture re-dos. but they would take a lot of time, expertise (and in some cases), more than one set of hands to do the job right. The editors of Southern Living magazine have made the magazine a resource for 16 million readers monthly who want to live a “Southern” lifestyle. I am still not sure what that is, because it doesn’t seem to be an easily definable loo. More likely, it’s about hospitality and classic, user-friendly rooms. For anyone who loves decorating, or just looking at decorating books, this would make a lovely gift.
With a title like Goddess of Vengance (St. Martin’s Press, September 13, 2011) you can almost intuit that the book is a Jackie Collins novel. This book which launched during Fashion Week (alas, I was at the tents and couldn’t get to the launch party), revolves around the type of characters Ms. Collins knows best: the rich and famous. Readers get a glimpse of a lifestyle that really exists, and not just in fiction. There’s the main character, a glamorous, powerful, successful woman (not surprisingly name LUCKY) who owns a hot hotel (the Keys) in Vegas. There’s the conflicted, hotshot kids, and a scheming competitor, billionaire businessman Armand Jordan who has been raised a Prince, and takes what he wants at any price. This is all wrapped up in a glittering plot with fast-paced dialogue that’s a signature of a Jackie Collins book. This author hasn’t crafted another War & Peace, but in her genre, she’s unmatched. The hefty novel is heavy to carry in hard cover, but while I didn’t find anything terribly riveting about the plot, it’s still a skillfully crafted page-turner, perfect for long airplane trips. You know you want it!!!