Tag Archives: Families

Qualification: A Graphic Memoir in Twelve Steps by David Heatley

Qualification - A Graphic Memoir in 12-Steps by David Heatley Title: Qualification: A Graphic Memoir in 12 Steps
Author: David Heatley
Publisher: Pantheon Books, Knopf
ISBN: 978-0375425400
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Whenever I read a graphic memoir, a thought comes to mind: Does the nature of the memoir in graphic form take something away from the experience of the author? Or does the reader feel more involved in the author’s life because the story is being told in pictures as well? Does it matter at all? Or do you feel like a voyeur stepping into someone else’s life (if only for a short while) and perhaps even judging them for their choices and how it all panned out for them?

Qualification: A Graphic Memoir in Twelve Steps is a memoir of addiction to 12-Step programs. I had never heard of something like this before, and this is what attracted me to this memoir. Heatley has issues and attends 12-Step programs for those. Till he also has some issues which he doesn’t and attends twelve-step programs for those too.

It all begins with his parents (as it always does?). Their troubled marriage, and seeking counseling, attending programs, and then some more. The book brims with black humour, at every stage, perhaps trying to reduce the impact of the not-so-pretty-picture painted by Heatley (which of course is nothing but the truth).

Qualification traces the journey of the author through the various programs – and I was surprised at how many were there in the US of A. I don’t know if we have so many in India, given how we only seem to know majorly about Alcoholic Anonymous and that’s that. We see Heatley’s life up close and personal and maybe that’s why it is also a little too much at times – from all the addiction to what went on in his head and his perception of others around him only gives rise to empathy, compassion, and love.

What comes out of this memoir is David’s relationships with the people around him and how they impact his relationship with addiction. Heatley tells it like it happened. The quirks, the eccentricities, the highs, and the lows as they took place, and where he is today as a person (well, some glimpse of it).

Qualification is a read that makes you look at your addictions that perhaps you haven’t faced or known of yet. It is a book that helped me for sure to understand my demons when it comes to book-hoarding, buying, and more. Now to only do something about it.

Having said all of this, Qualification is a memoir that stays and makes its presence felt in the most unassuming manner. I caught myself thinking about what happens to me when I am faced with the catalysts of my addictions and how I react thereof. Qualification will maybe also help you see yourself. Read it. It is completely worth it.

 

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Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

Number One Chinese Restaurant Title: Number One Chinese Restaurant
Author: Lillian Li
Publisher:Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 978-1250141293
Genre: Literary Fiction,
Pages:304
Source ​:Publisher
Rating:4 Stars

A dysfunctional family to the core and their story set against the backdrop of a Chinese restaurant, which of course belongs to them. Nothing in this genre could get better. I couldn’t wait to read this book and now I know why. It is the book that has the right amount of funny and tragedy with so much going on with various people. At times, it was difficult to keep track even, but once you get to know the characters (as it would happen in every book, except those written by Tolstoy), the reading becomes easier to tackle.

“Number One Chinese Restaurant” refers to The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland. The one place to go to for hunger pangs and celebrations of any kind. It is world in its own, surrounded by its own people with their problems – be it from waiters, to kitchen staff who love and hate in equal measure to the owner and his family (quite an extended one at that) – a world that has been stable for some time till disaster strikes and people’s lives go awry.

I have always been skeptical of multiple-narration in books. Different voices kind of throw me off the story but surprisingly this did not happen with this book. It felt easy to read it. The beauty of such books (at least to me) is that one can empathize with almost everyone. To me the angst and pain of Jimmy to Annie (Jimmy’s niece) who wants to go back to the past when her dad was around and a young love story that had me hooting and not at the same time.

“Number One Chinese Restaurant” is a heady read of parents and children, youth and aging and above all of what it means to be family and how far are we willing to go to give it all up.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard Title: The Deep End of the Ocean
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670865796
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 434
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I have always been a fan of the books Oprah has recommended on her book club. It all began in 2001 I think and since then I have read some of the old ones recommended by her and some of the old ones. So I have decided to read all the books chosen by her – one after the other. What better place to start than the very beginning, isn’t it?

The beginning came in the form of a dark, depressing and quite a hopeful book called, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When you read it, you cannot believe it is her debut. It is a story of a mother and her child and about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Beth Cappadora is at her school reunion, all ready to check-in to her room, only to turn around and realize that her 3-year old son is missing. Everything changes in a split second. Her relationship with her husband, her children, her relatives, all of it – it just goes to smoke as she perpetually is in a grieving mode.

I could not turn the pages enough of this one. It had me stuck from the word go. I would also suggest that you do not watch the movie of the same book as it just does not do justice to the book. While reading the book though, I felt myself grieving with Beth – almost scared to turn the page, to want good things to happen to her and her family. Mitchard’s writing is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching that if you are a parent you wouldn’t want to even imagine what would happen if this were to happen to you.

“The Deep end of the Ocean” does not disappoint one single bit. This was another book for which I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have read it sooner. However, better late than never I guess.

Before we visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

BeforeWeVisitTheGoddess FC Title: Before we Visit the Goddess
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1471146930
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I started reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books in about 2001. I clearly remember being fascinated then by the writing and surprisingly still am. Every time there is a book by her, I devour it. I am somehow taken in by the writing that is so lucid and the interpersonal relationships that stand out so strong in all her books. Whether she is speaking of Draupadi in “The Palace of Illusions” or trying to deal with cousins and their lives in “Sister of my Heart”, she sure knows her craft and is the top notch mistress of it.

“Before we visit the Goddess” is her latest book and to be honest, I think it is way better than the others (that’s saying something) and very taut in its writing. It is a story of three generations of mothers and daughters – spanning right from West Bengal and leading to Texas – a sort of back and forth – not only between terrains but also emotions and lifestyles.

The book is about a family that is torn apart by love, ambition, pride and the need to belong. It starts with Sabitri, daughter of a poor banker in rural Bengal and the decisions she makes that will rock not only her world but also those of her daughter Bela’s (even though she manages to escape to America, falsely thinking that the past is well behind her) and her granddaughter Tara’s who will learn and unlearn love the hard way.

I think more than anything else it is the uniqueness (or not for some) of the plot that had me going. The voices are strong, fearful, uncertain and only human at the end of it all – as the story progresses and reaches an end which is quite unpredictable.
The writing as usual is succinct and not too long. At no point did I feel that I did not know the characters or wanted the book to be longer. It is just right. The pace of the book is languid – the way it should be – the descriptions rich and in full detail, making you wait as a reader about what’s going to happen next.

“Before we visit the Goddess” is an honest book revealing the emotions, the decisions and lives across time and generations of women – each trying to find their own existence and home. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am sure so will you. A must read.

387 Short Stories: Day 14: Story 14: The Portrait of a Lady by Khushwant Singh

The Mark of Vishnu by Khushwant Singh

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Khushwant Singh
Taken from the Collection: The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories

“The Portrait of a Lady” by Khushwant Singh was my read for the day. Now I know what everyone thinks of Mr. Singh and his writing, however I would beg to differ. To a very large extent, he just says it how it is and several writers do that too. I also don’t think that there is an age to stop talking about sex. It is purely hypocritical of some people if they think this way and behave in another. Anyway, coming back to today’s story.

“The Portrait of a Lady” is a story of a grandmother – it is the portrait of a grandmother, and the relationship she shares with her grandson – from the time he is with her in the village to the time she is with him in the city and thereon. The story to a large extent also felt autobiographical and perhaps could be as well. I loved the story. The sentiment and the way Singh describes the bond in merely five pages, gave me more insight into his writing and how powerful it can be. A short story that will touch your heart.

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