Monthly Archives: September 2007

Eat Pray Love (One Woman’s Search for Everything) by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

0143038419.jpg Bloomsbury Publishing. 348 pages.

**The photo cover of the book above is a Penguin books copy, but the book I have is published in Australia–though it looks exactly the same.**

Have you read a book that has taken you places? This surely is a useless question. But really, have you ever read a book, that has really REALLY taken you to all places–geographical, emotional, and spititual?

This, by the way, is a non-fictional memoir of the author on her year-long journey to find herself. “Finding oneself” is a phrase often overused yet not fully understood. She’s just come out from a stressful divorce and affair–vulnerable, scathed and drained. So she decides to take a year off and get away from it all. She divides her year in 3 countries, 4months in each:

EAT- she has always wanted to learn Italian, so she heads of to Rome. This first part of her journey is about all pleasures of life–most of all gustatory. She travels Italy in search for the perfect pizza. After four months, she gains not only pounds and calories but friends, language, and insight as well.

PRAY-from Italy she sets off to India and enrolls herself in her Guru’s Ashram. This is the spiritual part of her journey. Learning to be at peace with herself through meditation and chanting. And though she gets to know more people yet again in this leg of her travel, the character she got to know more in-depth was herself.

LOVE-she heads to Bali, Indonesia to try to search for balance between her pleasure/hedonistical and spiritual finds. Spending most of her days with 2 spiritual healers, this last leg is mostly about giving back and helping others. Most of all, it’s here where she finds love again.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the “Italy” and “Indonesia” part more than “India”. But countries and cities aside, I really enjoyed reading this book–Elizabeth Gilbert writes honestly, (though sometimes her raw emotions are getting to be repetitive in the beginning and middle part of the book), wittily, and is charmingly (but not overly) insecure throughout that you just can’t help but feel like wanting to be her BFF.

Whether you are single, married or divorced–looking or not looking for love (or have found it)–there are many many insights to learn from this book. I won’t mention all but chief among them is loving and knowing one’s self. For you to truly love another, or even just help another human being–you have to know and find peace within yourself. You have to be okay with the company of just yourself. **I’m proud to say that though there are a lot of other people that are dear to me and I love deeply, I am okay with the company I keep. I have ‘befriended’ myself long ago and thus have learnt to enjoy being on my own when needed**

In a wrong point of view, it may sound narcissistic but learning how to care, love and enjoy oneself is the greatest strength we all have–we just have to find it.

I’m just loving, loving loving this book. Read it. It will change the way you eat, pray and love.

***The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, will have a special interview with Oprah on October 5, 2007***

Marley and Me by John Grogan

marley_and_me.jpgHachette Australia.291 pages.

Ok so i’ve been reading a lot of frontline books lately. frontline meaning those ‘top 100′ books that are always at the front shelves of bookshops. so i’m sure everyone has seen this book in the last few months.

When my very own Marley, Tofu John, passed away early May of this year, this book also made it to the bookshops’ Top 100 list around that time. So I didn’t even want to pick it up, or browse through it. bitter bitter bitter.

But as months passed, I just couldn’t help it. I knew i was going to be in for a 200 plus page chicken soup for the dog lover’s soul read–but i’m a masochist that way.

So John Grogan chronicles his married and family life with Marley, their hard to control Labradror–who has such a destructive behavior. Later on, he self-diagnoses Marley as a dog with mental problems.

Unlike most chicken soup stories though, this dog does not really save a life, a country, or something really heroic like rescuing his master from a crashing and burning building.

It’s just the real honest to goodness experience of high-cost care for Marley.

No surprise, I ended up crying towards finishing the book (when Marley reaches old age). ALL DOG STORIES DO THAT.

And of course, if you have a dog, or owned a dog, or just love dogs–this book is grand.

As a newspaper columnist, the author sure knows how to market his dog’s story. There are many many editions of Marley’s story now–a hardcover with photos, a picture book, and a children’s book. And of course, the official site of Marley and Me.

In the UK, bus stops even have this:

4-sheet-marleyme-774066.jpg

it reads, “Every home should have one.”

 

My favorite part of the book: (and a rather cliche one at that, but hey. I’m a meltie ok??)

 

“A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see.”

 

My own Tofu, apart from being a mixed mongrel, was nowhere near like Marley. Sure, he was destructive when he was a puppy, but when he reached maturity (2 years +)

he was the epitome of a civilized dawg. He was a very proper one, with pride and manners–but all that went down the drain with just a whiff of chicken.

 

Sigh. I miss him so much.

 

the author. with a new dog, i guess.

 

Tofu John. My very own better than Marley.

 

 

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

9780099481249.jpgVintage (Random House). 245 pages.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because Ian McEwan is an author of such powerful reputation that I was expecting more from Enduring Love. Again, I don’t know. It could be that the whole book was shadowed by melancholic words, tone and rhythm. It’s filled with scientific and literary tidbits. But it’s honestly overall too gray for me. Too English perhaps? The book’s main strength is its unusual plot. But really, at the risk of me being repetitive, I will say it again. Plot is nothing when the storytelling (for me anyway) is too steady (and that is a mild word chosen).

Joe Rose and his fiance Clarissa are enjoying a picnic one fine day. They suddenly witness a ballooning accident and Joe runs to help. In the process of the tragedy, a man accidentally dies and Joe’s life is forever changed. He is convinced that Jed Parry, one of the accident’s witnesses, has fallen in love with him. After that fateful day, he is so sure that Parry is following him everywhere, sending him love letters, and leaving disturbing messages on his phone.

Joe Rose being a scientific writer, he believes Parry suffers from de Clerambault’s syndrome, a disorder which makes the sufferer believe that another person (Joe) is in love with them.

But the story progresses in a way that makes the reader think: Is Joe really being stalked by this strange man, or is Parry just a fragment of his imagination?  With every succeeding narration, one is apt to think that Joe Rose has gone out of his mind, and may, in fact, be the man suffering from de Clerambault’s syndrome.

After reading the book, I thought that the whole story could have done better with a more ‘nail-biting, edge of your seat’ story telling. But it must precisely be this quiet and poetic narration that did it for those who loved the book.

I have yet to read the (again) much loved Atonement, also by Ian McEwan. They say that it’s his masterpiece. But after reading Enduring Love, I’m in no hurry.

mcewan_2.jpg

Ian McEwan

 

daniel_craig1.jpg

in a 2004 film adaptation of the book, Daniel Craig plays Joe Rose. Samantha Morton, Clarissa.

 enduring_love_xl_01-film-b.jpg

and Rhys Ifans as the gay Christian freak.

 

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

9780099499398.jpgVintage (Random House). 330 pages.

I’d never been so happy to be so wrong about a book.

Title, check.

Front cover, check.

Back cover synopsis:

“Friday August 15th, 1997. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to two very different Baltimore families. Every year, on the anniversary of the ‘Arrival Day’, the two families celebrate together, with more and more elaborately competitive parties, as little Susan and Jin-ho take roots and become American.”

a BIG CHECK.

CHECK for ‘yet another asian-american identity crisis drama ala Amy Tan’.

And for those reasons alone, I never bothered getting this book. Just another cliche, is what I thought about it.

When I saw it on sale at an about to close book shop, I got it. Still, it took me more than a month to pick it up. And grudgingly at that.

AND I.

LOVED.

IT.

SO.

MUCH.

I’m already 1/4 on my next book but my mind is still with the Donaldsons and the Yazdans..the two very different American families who adopted the Korean babies. One is a bluer than true blue American family, the other a second-generation Iranian-American family.

It is NOT about the Korean babies. Nor is it about their identity crisis or agony to fit in.

It’s about the families that revolve around them, and the touching and ridiculous ways they go about the adoption and dealing with each other.

It is about young and old love. And finding it in the least expected ways. Yet it is not mushy or irritating.

It’s about death. sickness. adoption. Yet it is not one bit melancholy.

It’s about fitting in an adopted country. Yet it is never dramatic.

It is over-all FUNNY, light and will leave you with a warm tingly feeling. Those tingly gooey feelings that stir up inside me whenever I watch “As Good as it Gets”–they are encapsulated in text form through this book.

READ IT. I’d never been so wrong about making a judgement on a book. And I’d never been so happy reading it.

I am now following the author, Anne Tyler. To my delight, she has been around for some time now. I got one of her earlier works, “The Accidental Tourist”, (which was made into a motion picture circa late 1990’s).

the author, with a smile as disarming as her words.

Unmasked: The Gonzales Family Killer by Kara Lawrence

2006-11-03t20_12_00-08_00.jpgHarper Collins Publishers. 390 pages.

I still remember when my family and I read the papers (back in Manila) about this massacre. I remember my father, staring at Sef Gonzales’ photograph, said, “I have a feeling he killed his family.” As with all murder cases, the surviving family (or closest family/relation) is the immediate suspect.

True enough, three years after the murder, Sef Gonzales was found guilty of killing his father, (Teddy Gonzales), mother (Loiva Gonzales) and (only) sister (Clodine Gonzales). He was sentenced to serve three terms of life imprisonment. (But just a few days ago, I read on the news he was allowed a case appeal.)

It was truly hard to put down this chilling book. When I first saw it in the bookshop, I stood for hours reading the book. I ended up not getting it because i still had a long list of TBRB (to be read books). My husband got me a copy as a gift for our 1st anniversary of getting civily registered. (how romantic)

Anyhow, I took this book with me for an out of town wedding weekend trip, and even then, I was still glued to the book. And it scared me so much that every small Asian guy I see reminded me of Sef–the killer!

Overall, it’s an extremely well researched book. The author has gone on several trips to the Philippines, particulary in Baguio, where the Gonzales family are from–in an attempt to interview the relatives and to try to figure out the kind of family the Gonzaleses are. Very objective, without the unnecessary drama and build up that most ‘true to life case’ books are full of.

The author has followed this case closely that the book contains actual courtroom dialogues (condensed) and police interviews.

Footnotes were entirely excluded but the author explained that she did this for purpose of uninterrupted reading. And I appreciate the consideration because this is truly an engaging read and the last thing you need are little interruptions.

It’s still very chilling to imagine how a son and brother could do such a calculated murder of his family. And the facade he shows. He still holds his claim that he is not guilty of the murders (though ALL physical evidences lead to him and him alone).

A description of how Sef acted on the funeral of his family:

“This was the same young man who was able to stand in front of the coffins of his family, deliver a eulogy for his father and sing, eyes closed, with no accompaniment, the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men duet One Sweet Day.

Sorry I never told you/All I wanted to say
Now it’s too late to hold you/’cause you’ve flown away, so far away
Never had I imagined living without your smile …
And I know you’re shining down on me from Heaven/like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together/One Sweet Day.

A feeling of intense strangeness rippled through the church that day; it seemed to confirm what police knew. It jarred in the minds of friends. “He seemed sad, but so calm at the funeral,” said one. “There were the three caskets in front of him holding the mutilated bodies of his family and he started to sing . . . it was really strange.”

ONCE [his parents] were dead, Sef became sole beneficiary of the will and was able to live the life he wanted, free from their control. Within 72 hours of his parents’ murders, Sef met his father’s accountant to find out how much money they had and whether anyone else had tried to get it. He embarked on a long legal battle to use his parents’ $1.5 million estate to fund his legal defence, but was unsuccessful.
In the ensuing months he put deposits on a Porsche and Lexus SC430, quelling the disquiet of the car dealers’ concerns about such a young man asking to test drive their best cars by saying he was expecting an inheritance from overseas. He also tried to pawn his mother’s jewellery; he did sell her watch. And he moved into an 11th-floor apartment in Chatswood, furnishing it with the yellow lounge from his parents’ house while he advertised their cars, selling them without his grandmother’s permission.

In the 11 months between the killings and charges being laid, he was out clubbing. His main concerns were thoughts of an impending singing career, having been a singer in an a cappella band (Definite Vibez), and was free to indulge his vanity, collecting more than 15 bottles of aftershave.”

—-

It’s so scary to imagine how ordinary and normal he seemed. If my father was still alive, I would definitely give this book to him.

I certainly hope this guy’s appeal won’t be granted. Now that I’m in the same country as he is.

Shites, I should stop reading these kinds of books. But I can’t help it. It’s not even fiction indulgence. Nor is it tabloid.

 

 

 

 

Sef Gonzales, the murderer. *shudder, shudder*

 

 

 

 

the Gonzales victims Loiva, Clodine and Teddy