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Reviews Written by
Bruce J. Wasser RSS Feed (Lake Bluff, IL)
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Carry the One: A Novel
Carry the One: A Novel
by Carol Anshaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.09
309 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars we all carry "the one" whose shadow intrudes on our field of moral vision, July 24, 2013
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This review is from: Carry the One: A Novel (Paperback)
Although there is much to admire in this novel that explores the consequences of a fatal car accident on three family members and several other characters -- the plot, that spans more than a generation, moves with clarity and the sense of place, either rural or urban, is realistic -- several of the key characters border on caricature. The drug-addicted but brilliant astronomer, the oh-so-powerfully lesbian artist, and the beleaguered idealistic sister who settles for a safe but uninspiring husband vie with their own inner demons and external conflicts to find some sense of peace. Anshaw is perceptive in her demonstration that an outrageous act of violence never stops influencing those who perpetrated and/or witnessed it. We all "carry the one" whose shadow never ceases to evade our field of moral vision.


Fellow Mortals: A Novel
Fellow Mortals: A Novel
by Dennis Mahoney
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.01
131 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an accident scars a community and reveals much about our character, July 24, 2013
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This compelling and utterly believable debut novel traces the consequences of a simple, single mistake, a discarded match that ignites a neighborhood conflagration resulting in the death of a young woman, the destruction of several homes, and the resulting desecration of the human personality unforeseen loss engenders. As well, the author gives deserved attention to the bravery and compassion of those whose magnanimity and poise permit them to transcend the loss of property and life, who struggle to provide meaning to their lives, scorched and permanently disfigured by the fire. Mahoney has much to teach us about the value of life and the importance of accepting limitations, especially those unfairly wrought in our lives.


Open Heart
Open Heart
by Elie Wiesel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.65
103 used & new from $0.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Even after open-heart surgery, Wiesel offers solace and inspiration, April 14, 2013
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This review is from: Open Heart (Hardcover)
Occasioned by unexpected open-hear surgery, this short meditation on life, family, language, and existential purpose summarizes the significant ethical and philosophical contributions this treasured Nobel Peace Prize laureate has presented readers for decades. The style is conversational and quite personal; the questions Mr. Wiesel poses and the answers he offers ring with sensitivity, compassion, and commitment.


Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game
Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game
by Dan Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.42
90 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A game without end provides endless insights into our character, April 13, 2013
This remarkable book chronicles much more than baseball's longest game, an eight-hour, 33-inning contest, played in the bitter cold of Easter morning in a decaying stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, between the hometown Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings. It is a cherished examination of one game, and a marvelous reflection as to how that game represents a variety American characters and the essence of our national character. The author meticulously (and with considerable compassion and humor) permits us to come to know all who participated as players, managers, administrators, and fans in the contest. Of the players, the most memorable, and the one man whose post-baseball life represents the idea of redemption, is not Cal Ripken, Jr. or Wade Boggs (both of whom are enshrined in the Hall of Fame), but Dave Koza, a Triple A player who never quite had the stuff to play in the majors and whose temporary fame as the man who drove in the winning run is eclipsed by a much more significant and life-altering triumph.


The Good House: A Novel
The Good House: A Novel
by Ann Leary
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.15
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's buyer beware in this predictable novel about a renegade alcoholic, April 8, 2013
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Awash in this soapy melodrama is a sixty-something alcoholic real-estate agent whose settled life in a historic Boston north shore community comes off the track as a result of predictable conflicts and stock characters who do little else but advance the creaky plot and flaunt their eccentricities like a proud but unstable peacock. Leary attempts satire through Hiddy Good's off-again and on-again attempts at sobriety. Good, a distant relative of a witch hung at Salem, is at once a likeable and a detestable character; she elicits sympathy when she possesses enough courage to see herself as a drunk, but she undermines our capacity to care with her non-stop lying and endless self-absorption. This novel never gains traction, unsure as to whether it is social commentary (it is not) or a wry look at the hidden lives of a New England seaport (its supporting characters for too stereotyped for subtlety).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2013 2:31 PM PDT


We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter
We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter
by Rachael Hanel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.14
53 used & new from $7.62

5.0 out of 5 stars elegant, understated contemplation of loss, grief, and renewal, April 2, 2013
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Growing up the daughter of a rural gravedigger, Rachel Hager Hanel spent much of her childhood in cemeteries. There she gained an intimate knowledge of death, and of its relationship to living. The dead, through their graves and tombstones, had stories for the living. She learned that the dead speak, in their own way, to the living, just as the living commune with the dead. This understated and elegant memoir is an extraordinary examination of grief and what impact the loss of loved ones has on the living. Throughout this anecdotally-rich memoir, the author explores the notion that nothing but "whisper-thin gossamer strings" attach us to our world, strings that can snap unexpectedly through illness, violence, or chance. I would not be at all surprised if this volume were to appear on the shelves of many therapists; to read it is to gain solace for those who we have lost and renewed love for those who remain.


Bitter in the Mouth: A Novel
Bitter in the Mouth: A Novel
by Monique Truong
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.49
75 used & new from $3.37

4.0 out of 5 stars understated and convincing coming-of-age novel undermined by irksome style, March 30, 2013
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There is much to admire in this tender and understated teenage and young adult coming-of-age novel. The protagonist is a Vietnamese child, adopted into an emotionally remote family in a quintessentially conservative North Carolina community. Truong requires the central character to face numerous challenges: experiencing synesthesia (a singularly distinctive speech condition in which Linda actually tastes the words she speaks and hears), growing up without a sense of ethnic identity, and wrestling with serious difficulties inherent in adoption, including attachment issues. The author is at her best in characterization, especially Linda's gay great-uncle "Baby Harper" But the novel suffers from the author's irksome insistence on force-feeding us synesthetic sentences like, "He's such a beautifulcherrycoughsyrup boy, Kellycannedpeaches," as well as her penchant for including esoteric historical references that have only elliptical reference to the protagonist at the beginning of each chapter.


The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks
The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks
by Robin Romm
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.58
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars uneven writing mars unalloyed grief, March 24, 2010
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At best uneven, this magazine-length essay converted into a memoir shines when the author explores her unalloyed anger and despair attendant to her mother's last three weeks of life after having battled cancer for nine years; however, Romm's excessive descriptions of her pets' multiplicity of neurotic behaviors caused me to question how such talent could be wasted on so many trivial, banal irrelevancies. (Who cares how often and where her animals decide to defecate and/or urinate?)


Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport
Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport
by Jack Perconte
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.46
43 used & new from $8.32

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, wise and persuasive instructions on how to best nurture a child's love of sports, September 11, 2009
My beloved late father was the best coach I ever had. Through baseball, he taught me the sacred aspects of sport: the worth of individual effort, respect for one's opponent, the supreme importance of the team, the value of understanding history, and the sheer celebration of play. He would have loved Jack Perconte's "Raising an Athlete," a book that every parent and coach should read, re-read and read again. Suffused with a love of athletics and a respect for the importance of the lessons to be gained from involvement in sports, Perconte's writing gently, wisely and persuasively presents a framework though which adults can maximize their child's growth -- as an athlete and as a person -- through athletics.

The subtitle speaks directly as to what Perconte believes is essential for parents and coaches. "How to instill confidence, build skills and inspire a love of sport" is no easy task; these abilities do not come automatically to parents and coaches. Rather, out of a misguided passion for sports, many coaches and parents act counterproductively, overemphasizing individual accomplishment, expressing anger at failure, and rushing children developmentally -- often with terrible consequences. "Raising an Athlete" provides adults the knowledge and confidence necessary for genuine success, achievement that transcends wins and losses.

The stakes have never been higher. With media embellishment and adoration of star athletes, sports often beguile youngsters into a false sense of possibility and a skewed perception of the place of competitive athletics. Throughout Perconte's compassionate arguments runs a quiet restraint. With anecdotes and commentary, the author urges coaches and parents to perceive the world of sport through the eyes, mind and body of their children. He emphasizes the difficulty of prowess and constantly returns to the idea that playing a sport should, above all, be fun. If the involvement brings sadness, frustration and disengagement, something is terribly wrong.

An extensive table of contents permits readers to select sections that most answer their own set of questions. Perconte often organizes his arguments with bullets, and his writing always is direct and inviting. Avoiding the pitfalls of preaching or appearing pedantic, he tends to use believable examples as a means to explaining a larger idea. Jack Perconte may have stopped being a major league ballplayer a number of years ago, but he has emerged as a big-league writer with "Raising an Athlete."


Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories
Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories
by Rebecca Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.39
168 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a compassionate view of down-and-out barflies, January 29, 2009
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According to one of its denizens, Lucy's Bar is "like a perfect family, always there if you need it, but if you need to leave it for a while and get away, you can." At first glance, the barflies who frequent Lucy's appear to be nondescript social flotsam, lonely losers who drink to numb or obliterate their disappointment and pain. However, Rebecca Barry's compassionate portraits of these alienated, frustrated and bewildered men and women make their dilemmas real and their anguish universal. "Later, at the Bar," her novel-in-stories, rings with truth.

It is a fine line that Barry walks. It would be all to easy for her to make her characters stock lovable drunks, stumbling over each other in a predictable and harmlessly affectionate manner. It would be equally easy for Barry to indict this group of small-town New York citizens for their lack of will and motivation to escape often self-inflicted difficulties. Instead, the author ropes us into the world of men like Harlan, who fails at everything he attempts but somehow gains access to others' hearts. Barry makes us feel attached to women like Grace, whose virtue has been compromised beyond count yet still retains a steely integrity. Even syndicated advice columnist Linda Hartley, whose personal life utterly contradicts the responsible counsel she dispenses in national magazines, appears not so much as a rank hypocrite but as a terribly lonely, frightened middle-aged woman who fears that life has passed her by.

Infidelity, recklessness and utter stupidity vie for attention in the lives of the patrons of Lucy's Bar. The miracle of Rebecca Barry's creative voice and detailed descriptions is that against our own will, we come to identify with the very characters we in no way aspire to become.


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