Caroline Leavitt: Girls in Trouble

December 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Fiction

girlsintroubleweb978-0312339739 – paperback – St. Martin’s Griffin – $14.95

Sometimes you get lucky.  There are books you find by accident, maybe you choose them just to browse, not meaning to become engaged, they’re discoveries, books you would not “normally” have picked up to read, they surprise you, you’re hooked, and then you can’t stop reading.  For me, reading Caroline Leavitt’s Girls in Trouble was just that sort of a book.  In this case I read it because she wrote me an email and asked if she could send me a copy of the book, which was easy enough for me to agree to.  When it came, I picked it up, the story line described on the cover has some personal resonance, so I took a chance and started reading.  And then found I could not put it down.  Reading Girls in Trouble was a constant surprise and revelation.  It took me places I did not expect to go, it gave me characters I wanted to know and know better, and I believed in their experiences.  And it’s a big plus that Caroline can really write.

I don’t want to give any of the story away, but suffice to say, what happens to the people in this book is not what you expect, and reading it will help you understand something important about families, relationships, and parenting.  Not the easy, feel-good poster stuff from the movies either.  I recommend this book to almost any kind of reader, male or female, old or young, literature readers and even those who just like to be entertained.  It’s that good.

Given how much I liked this book, interviewing Caroline Leavitt was quite a pleasure.  She has a lot to say about writing, and the way she interacts and lives with her characters, and how this and her other books came into being.  Girls in Trouble is a rich vein to mine for an interview too, as it works on so many different levels and across so many lives and years, and of course because it is centered around an open adoption gone terribly wrong, it generates a certain amount of controversy and that gives the author another great subject to talk about.  I am very much looking forward to reading her next novel, Pictures of You (which we also talked about in this interview).

Alice Eve Cohen – What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir

August 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction

51t2hdnv1kl_sl500_aa240_978-0670020959 – Hardcover

Viking – $24.95

Alice Eve Cohen’s memoir tells an incredible story – a writer and playwright, she was diagnosed as infertile in her thirties, she adopted a daughter with her then-husband (whom she later divorced).  At 44 she began to experience strange physical symptoms – after six months of suffering she was finally recognized as being pregnant.  In many ways that was only the beginning of her story – which is an incredible, honest, sometimes funny but as often a painful journey of discovery.

I generally am not that interested in the modern memoir – most people’s stories are just not that interesting.  But I was attracted to Alice’s story right away, partly because of my own experience with DES and its damages to the children whose mothers took that fertility drug.  Alice’s persona shines through her story.  She is vivid and clear about everything that happened to her and how she felt at the time, and later, and she pulls no punches, including her own foibles, fears, and weaknesses throughout.

Overall What I Thought I Knew is a wonderful book that holds our attention throughout.  It’s transformative for the author and for the reader.  In my interview with Alice Eve Cohen, we talked in detail about the book and her experiences then and now (the events took place several years ago).  She’s not only a wonderful writer but a great interview subject as well.