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Two kids, a dog and a pup....

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Housseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Housseini

Bloomsbury 2007

Synopisis (taken from back of book):  “A Thousand Splendid Suns is an unforgettable portrait of a wounded country and a deeply moving story of family friendship. It is a beautiful, heart wrenching story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely bond and an indestructable love.”

Review: This is a fantastic, heartbreaking, moving and informative story of life in Afghanistan from the mid 1900s up to the present and includes the effects of the Taliban rule, epsecially on the streets of Kabul.

I fear my review will not do this book the justice it deserves. The story centres on a young girl called Mariam who starts life in rural Afghanistan living with her mother, who was one of her father’s ‘accidental conquests’ and consequently rejected from his family. As a teenager, Mariam’s desire to get to know her father triggers tragedy and before she knows it she is being sent to the city of Kabul and forced into an arranged marriage with a man thirty years her senior. She is young, naive and vulnerable and we learn about the strict regimes of the Islamic religion along with the build up to the Taliban rule.

Two decades later Mariam and her husband take in fifteen year old Laila, no stranger to tragedy herself, homeless, orphaned and heartbroken. Laila and Mariam have a shaky start to thier relationship but over time become as close as mother and daughter. They are living through wartime in Kabul, in a tiny poky house as wives of an old man they both grow to despise for differing reasons. “Life is a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear,” but thier strength of bond enables them to triumph over this. It does however involve sacrifices and danger.

This book taught me a lot about ‘the other side’ of the war in Afghanistan, how it is for the residents of Kabul. I also learned about the Islamic religion and thier beliefs and realised just how naive I myself am about other cultures. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complicated read – being eight months pregnant and with a toddler I am am hardly fit for heavy going reads at the moment (!). Housseini writes clearly enough to make his work not complicated.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is hard to put down and not easily forgotten. I cannot emphasise enough how well written it is and how much I would recommend it.

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While My Sister Sleeps – Barbara Delinsky

While My Sister Sleeps

 Barbara Delinsky

Harper Collins 2009

Synopsis:

When a woman in her early thirties, oldest of three siblings and a famous successful runner, has a heart attack that leaves her brain-dead and on life support, her family has to make the painful decision of when to pull the plug. Her mother Kathryn is devastated. She cannot accept the truth of Robin’s condition. Molly, Robin’s little sister has grown up in her shadow. But as the family starts to disintegrate she has to become Robin’s voice and in doing so finds her own. Robin’s father lives for his family, and defers to them rather than voicing his own opinion. The book focuses on the definition of ‘brain-dead’ and the religious and moral issues of the right to life.

 Review:

Robin Snow is an Olympic hopeful and potential – she is in the prime of her life, running marathons and races, fully fighting fit when she is suddenly struck down by a heart attack, declared brain dead and on life support.

Her family are understandably devastated – even her younger sister Molly who had growing resentments to being Robin’s training assistant. Her mother Kathryn is losing her firstborn child and cannot bring herself to let her go. Her father is in shock and leaves the decision making to his wife. Her brother Chris has marriage problems and a young daughter, and now has to come to terms with this. On top of all that there is the family run business to keep going, Molly’s threatening eviction, an obsessed journalist ex boyfriend of Robin’s to contend with, Kathryn’s mother’s Alzhiemers disease and a few family secrets that soon come to light.

Although the plot of this book has an inevitable outcome, Delinsky introduces new ‘by-lines’ to make the story more interesting and intriguing – Robin’s true feelings about her mother, her sister and her career discovered through her journals, Molly’s relationship with the man who found Robin collapsed, Chris’ marriage problems and lack of confidence, Kathryn and her husband’s painful family secret, Molly’s relationship with her ailing grandmother, Kathryn’s acceptance of her daughter’s death and subsequent wishes. These keep the storyline going along and make the reader want to continue.

Molly is the main focus of the book, how she lived in the shadow of her famous sister, how she quietly excels at her job, how different she is to her sister and how she competes for her mother’s attention knowing she is not the favourite daughter. Through this family crisis Molly finds her voice, finds out just how much her family do love her, particularly her sister, and learns a lot about herself. She becomes Robins ‘voice’ and helps steer her mother to making the right decisions.

The ending felt quick, a bit left up in the air but maybe that shows how involved I got with the family and the story – a compliment to the writing.

While My Sister Sleeps is an emotional book in which the characters learn more about themselves and their own family – constantly asking who am I, what do I really think…..? It is a story about a family coming to terms with one of the worst things that could ever happen to them and again makes the reader ask their own moral questions about life.

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Tell Me Where It Hurts – Healing and Hope In My Life as a Vet.

Tell Me Where It Hurts – Healing and Hope In My Life as a Vet.

Author: Dr Nick Trout

Publisher: Sphere, April 2009

Synopsis (taken from amazon.co.uk)

‘It’s 2:47am when Dr Nick Trout, a British vet working in Boston, USA, is abruptly woken and called in to the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital to see if he can save the life of Sage, a ten year-old German Shepherd with a critical stomach condition. The case is severe, the outlook bleak, and Dr Trout is her only chance. So begins an intimate and exhilarating journey into a typical day in a far from typical job. TELL ME WHERE IT HURTS takes the reader to the heart of the trials and tribulations of life as a veterinary surgeon, a life filled with heartbreak, triumph, anxiety, and of course, cuddly pets and their variously crazy, desperate, and demanding owners.’

 

Review

This book demonstrates 24 hours in the life of veterinary specialist Dr Nick Trout. He specialises in companion animals, in particular dogs. It is an emotional rollercoaster of the highs and lows, the pressures and anxieties of a busy day in the surgery’s ER department.

Dr Trout’s day starts just before 3am when he is called into emergency surgery by one of his residents who needs his expertise to try and save a German Shepherd called Sage. The book then follows his day’s appointments and operations. He talks of the pets, the ailments, the procedures and the owners. Dr Trout has to deal with poorly pets, anxious and over protective owners (or ‘parents’ as he calls them), the touchy subject of vets bills and all the while support new residents and fight his own exhaustion.

As a current ‘parent’ of a particularly unlucky and poorly pooch, this book appealed to me and gave me a good insight into the work of the specialist vets we have met and paid out to over the past two years.

Dr Trout trained in Britain but works in the US and he gives interesting comparisons to veterinary work and costs between the two countries. Sometimes the writing can be ‘technical’ but he usually goes on to explain it in layman’s terms. He also talks of his work with much smaller and much larger animals.

I would recommend this book to any dog or cat owner, or anyone who has ever visited a vet! It is a true story, factual, emotional and one of those books you find yourself thinking about when you are not reading it.

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