An Ideal Family For a Week, Slogging Back To Life and a Few Book Reviews

We got back from the most perfect vacation EVER a couple of weeks ago. For a week, I felt like we were a television perfect family, with the funny dad, the grounded mom, the sometimes sullen pre-teen and the cute younger child–with a bonus tv perfect, she has a visible developmental delay (Katy has Down syndrome). We smiled, laughed, walked, rode, and bonded. We had a few grumpy moments (mostly when we waited too long to eat), but all and all we had THE BEST TIME!!!

Yes, we went to Disney World.

I swear the happy smile didn’t leave my face for a week. I told my husband to forget the Caribbean, let’s go to Disney for EVERY vacation. Everyone there works so hard to make your vacation wondrous and unforgettable. I love Aruba, have had a spectacular time in many places, but Disney takes their job seriously. Yes, everyone there has had their fill of the Disney koolaid, but if that’s what it takes to make family memories, then I’ll take it! 
And the back to real life . . . .
Back to school, where older daughter’s grades slipped a bit because of vacation. That’s okay, she went from all A’s to a couple of B+s. Back to swimming, and to REALLY COLD Ohio. Back to play practices and dance. Back to work and cleaning (I loved that they came and cleaned our cabin every day–and did our dishes. The Cabins at Fort Wilderness rock!) and laundry. Back to the real world. UGH. 
So, I will cherish our memories of the perfect vacation and of being the ideal family. I know it is just one week of glossy, unrealistic expectations–but it was a week that was real. And it was sublime. 

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“I’ve always known that there’s more going on inside me than finds its way into the world, but this is probably true of everyone. Who doesn’t regret that he isn’t more fully understood?” Bridge of Sighs

I haven’t been very good at doing my reviews: February was crazy busy. But I have been reading, so there are reviews to be done. I’m going to cover the three books I read as part of my Reading Across America–Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.


For Rhode Island I traveled back to the mid-eighties and read a book about witches in the early seventies. Yes, I read The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. It was well written, the characters were vivid and real, the town was described perfectly. BUT I didn’t love it. It was okay, but it wasn’t great.

The story is of three divorced women living in Eastwick. Before they meet the elusive Darryl Van Horne the three of them get together and ‘magic.’ They seduce married men and dabble in artistic endeavours and generally scare most of the small town of Eastwick. None of them are good mothers, but somehow their kids are fine.

Along comes Darryl Van Horne, causing their artistic talents to explode and their sexual adventures to expand. And life gets much darker, and that’s when I really stopped liking the women. The middle of the book muddles, and it then it ends.

There are some beautifully written moments, my favorite being Jane’s Cello Scene. These well written expositories made the book worthwhile. But, after all is read and done, I can find better books.

My Connecticut read was A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne. This one I loved. Written in 1993, it is a fictionalized story mirroring the Martha Moxley murder and The Kennedy involvement.

The story is told by Harrison Burns, a school friend of the young, charismatic Constant Bradley. Harrison becomes a reluctant after-the-fact accomplice of the murder of Winifred Utley by Constant, who enlists Harrison to help him move the body. Constant’s larger than life Irish father and his older brothers help cover up the murder, and Harrison’s college is covered as payment for his keeping his mouth shut. Years later, he is drawn back into their world, and the guilt gets to be too much. Harrison does and turns in Constant, which leads to a trial and more Bradley stories.

Dunne does a wonderful job of making the reader feel like Dunne knows the truth, that he is Harrison Burns and this is what really happened. Of course, the Moxley murder was not a Kennedy but a cousin, Michael Skakel, who was later convicted of killing Martha Moxley. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s not high literature, but Dunne does a good job.

And finally, for New York I went back to Richard Russo. After loving Empire Falls so much in Maine, and knowing that Russo grew up in upstate New York, I went back to him and read Bridge of Sighs, and it was the worth the trip back. This book was wonderful, nostalgic and poignant, and contains surprises in the most unexpected moments.

Lou ‘Lucy’ Lynch remembers his life in small Thomaston, New York with his normal, glass-half full kind of way. His small world revolves around his family’s corner store, which becomes successful despite itself. In this world there is first Lou and his parents, and Lou’s friend Bobby. Later, a big space is filled by Lou’s girlfriend and later wife, Sarah Berg. As we start to realize that Lou may not be remembering everything quite right (leaning toward the good and ignoring some of the dark), in step Bobby and Sarah as narrators, the forces that keep the story honest.

Lou’s memories, and Thomaston in general, are filled with wonderful characters that Russo does a great job of introducing and fleshing out. I can picture Thomaston and the people in it, imagining the streets and houses, the river and the tannery. Russo leaves the reader with some questions, which will haunt me forever. Questions like:

What really happened to Lou in the truck? What are his spells? Was it his mother and uncle he saw while in the trunk? Did Nan leave Thomaston pregnant? What happened to Bobby’s mom, brothers, dad? Were they his brothers or half brothers? Did he die at Penn Station or was he at dinner? What happened to Sarah’s dad?

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