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Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend.  So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!

Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy.  The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.

girlwhostoppedswimmingThe Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia.  Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman.  While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.

The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool.  After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself.  An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
  • Author: Joshilyn Jackson
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

mercyofthinairHard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel.  Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality.  Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.

Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her  tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind.  Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.

Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men.  I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see.  The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
  • Author: Ronlyn Domingue
  • Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart.  I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!

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One of the joys of not being employed full-time is the freedom I have with my days… Sunday, Monday, Thursday – they tend to be more open for me (of course I have my” blogations”, the news, keeping up on the latest trends, yoga…), and this freedom is really convenient in the event of a monumental event, like the birth of my new baby nephew, Alton Isaac! So, blessed that I am, I was able to travel a couple states away to meet the little critter yesterday.

That little set up is just to give you some perspective on my emotional state when I read the book I’m about to review (not just for you all to congratulate me on being an AUNT!), but I think I was feeling a little less stoic than usual.

Since Randy Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture” presentation on September

The Pausch family

The Pausch family

18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon, his advice and adages have swept the media, leading to a best-selling book.  Presented after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, his focus is on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

First off, I am very impressed that he really did achieve his childhood dreams – from the Nasa-esque “zero gravity” to working for Disney.  It’s hard for me to even remember what I used to “dream”, other than living in a big city so I guess at least I accomplished something (along with the other 9.5MM people so I guess I’m not all that special).  Regardless, in this book of advice on how to lead my life, the things that hit home with me were the more family-oriented musings, from winning the “parent lottery” (I completely relate to this one, as Pausch says, “I already had this incredible leg up in life because I had a mother and father who got so many things right.”) to his worry of how to convey his love to his young children after his death.

I found this book interesting, but wasn’t nearly as enamored with the message as I had planned to be.  I harbor no doubts that Randy Pausch was a good man and a beloved husband and father (and teared up many times, but please refer back to paragraph 1 on my emotional state!), but I don’t think his advice was ground-breaking and doubt the impact would have been nearly the same had he not been terminally ill.  He seemed a little full of himself (to be fair, he does acknowledge he tends to be a know-it-all), and mentions his salary more than I thought was appropriate, but he also seemed like an optimistic, friendly guy who was making the most of an awful death sentence.

Read this if: You’re in the “family” sort of mood, and are looking for a reminder to appreciate the people who love you and you love in return, and the time you have together.

Avoid this if: You have no interest in yet another “life lesson” book.  In my opinion, “The Little Prince” is much more valuable.the-last-lecture2

  • Title: The Last Lecture
  • Author: Randy Pausch
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B-

RIP Randy Pausch, July 25, 2008

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