Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — albeit lonely, misunderstood, and an alcoholic. But she finds herself pushed into what is for her an active social life when she rescues a man who fell in the street, and through his family and a delightful friendship with a coworker she renounces her crazy crush on a bad popular singer, renounces vodka, and deals with her nightmarish childhood.
The book reminded me of Convenience Store Woman, but set in England and with a more uplifting ending. It’s funny but also sweet.
A cheesy title does not mean a cheesy story, but in the case of Give Me Your Hand, it’s truth in advertising. Despite the enticing research lab setting, headed by a woman no less, and the always-welcome main character of a female psychopath, the very dark story of murders and coverups had too many bated-breath chapter endings, not to mention a wholly improbable succession of events. If you want to try reading it anyway, prepare to relish a wonderful secondary character: the mouse house caretaker, who reigns on his domain and judges everyone. He is the best part of this forgettable story.
With JELL-O Girls: A Family History, I was expecting a history of the brand and the book provides some glimpses of it, but it’s really an opportunity for the author to tell the sad story of her mother’s life, molded (pun intended) and limited by the expectations of the time much more than the family inheritance, and ended prematurely in a protracted, wretched bout with cancer. Basically we are reminded that money does not deliver happiness, especially when health is lacking.
The heroine of Trenton Makes murders her abusive husband and starts living as a man — an admittedly desirable choice in 1946. She finds a factory job and a common-law wife, but her double life will eventually unravel. An unusual premise an an intriguing start could not rescue the story for me, which quickly veered towards far-fetched situations and a long, boozy grind towards her eventual unmasking.
The author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts has a very, very sick mother — but most importantly she has decided to join the circus! After practicing fire eating, she signs up and discovers stupefyingly long hours, dangerous working conditions, certainly unpleasant ones, and an unforgettable cast of characters and situations.
This is the book for you if you’ve always wondered how to carry a snake on your shoulders, or light lightbulbs with your tongue. Also how a season with a carnival troupe can be exhilarating and perhaps life-changing.
In the well-worn format of contrasting personal experience with general research, Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain tells of the author’s years-long search for relief from endometriosis pain and the more general problem of women’s pain being dismissed as either exaggerated or all in their heads.
The author makes a great point that women’s pain is dismissed too easily, but the issue may be more complicated than that, namely that, once physicians have ruled out all the causes they can think about (or, more modestly, that they can test), they then declare that the issue is psychological. And there is not much of an incentive to keep searching for the root cause in a system that’s fee-based, and for a patient that is not insured to boot.
Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore simply shows 240 photos that show women at work, young and old, famous and (mostly) not, doing typically feminine work and aggressively atypical work, humble and extraordinary work, alone or together. There is remarkably little text and the result is brilliantly eloquent.