Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End by Liz Levine (118)

This is a memoir-type of nonfiction book about death and suicide. It is a very differently structured book, but one that I read once and reread again.

In November, 2016, Liz Levine’s younger sister, Tamara, reached a breaking point after years of living with mental illness. In the dark hours before dawn, she sent a final message to her family and then killed herself.

In this book, Liz weaves the story of what happened to Tamara with another significant death–that of Liz’s childhood love, Judson, to cancer.

She writes about her relationship with Judson, Tamara’s struggles, the conflicts that arise in a family of challenging personalities, and how death casts a long shadow on those left behind.

This memorable account of life and loss is haunting yet filled with dark humour. Tamara emails her family when Trump is elected to check if she’s imagining things again. Liz discovers a banana has been indicted as a whistleblower in an alleged family conspiracy, and a little niece declares Tamara’s funeral the most fun ever!

In this memoir, Liz exposes the raw truths about grief and mourning that we often shy away from, and never share with others. And she reveals how, in the midst of death, life must also be celebrated.

I loved this book although I must admit it was hard to read in places. But I was very glad that I read it through.

 

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Lost Feast by Lenore Newman (117)

This is a book about culinary extinction and the future of food, one of the most fascinating topics to date.

When humans love foods, we love them a lot. So much so that we have often eaten them into extinction.

In this book, food expert Lenore Newman sets out to look at the history of the foods we have loved to death, from the megafauna of the Paleolithic world to the passenger pigeon of the last century, and what that means for the culinary paths we choose for the future.

In this book, Lenore brackets the chapters that examine the history of our relationship to certain foods. These chapters are very interesting indeed.

Lenore also puts on a series of extinction dinners designed to recreate meals of the past or illustrate how we might be eating in the future. It doesn’t sound very appealing to me. But I may not be around to taste that food.

Whether it’s chasing down the luscious butter of local Icelandic cattle, looking at the impacts of modern industrialized agriculture, or exploring the range of food varieties, we can put in our shopping carts, Newman’s bright, intelligent gaze finds insight and humor at every turn.

This book is part culinary romp, part environmental wake-up call. It makes a critical contribution to our understanding of food security today.

This is an important book for every Canadian who is young and who wonders what climate change will really do to our food supply. It looks like the changes will be huge to our food.

 

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Because of You by Terri-Lynn Penney (116)

This is a memoir of loss and longing. It is a memoir that is all too common sadly among mother and daughter relationships. It is one of the most complex dynamics in families.

The cover grabbed my attention right away. It is a photograph of a little girl standing along a highway with a sunrise or sunset in the background. It is breathtaking and it captures the themes of the memoir perfectly.

What little girl doesn’t want to be loved by her mother?!  Yet, this little girl was not loved or wanted by her mother. Her only confidant and person who really cared for her was her father, and he died in a tragic turn of events.

Tragedy does come to all of us in different ways and for some more than others. However, some tragedies are hard to bare and even comprehend. How can a mother not love her own daughter?  How can a mother not want to have anything to do with her own daughter?

It is only a mother who has a lot of deep and dark issues herself. It is a mother who probably never was cared for herself in her own childhood. But this doesn’t excuse what happened to Terri-Lynn.  It does explain it.

Terri-Lynn is from Newfoundland. Given all that she endured there during her childhood and early adulthood, she decided to leave Newfoundland and move west to Stratford. Her writing is transformative and I know it will move many readers to tears. It certainly did me.

It made me assess and reflect on my own relationship with my mother which was also less than ideal.  But it was nothing like Terri-Lynn’s.

Thank you for this honest and raw story of your life Terri-Lynn.  You are an amazing person!

 

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How to Die by Ray Robertson (115)

This is a book about death but also even more so about how to live life to the fullest. It is a must-read for all of us in this culture of quick and fast-paced. Many times, we are forced to run through our lives on automatic pilot. We don’t stop long enough to connect to ourselves and others. After you read this book, you will definitely live life much more to the fullest.

Most of us don’t want to think about death. Some of us may think we are immortal. However, as we see in the obituary section of our newspaper, people die. And many thousands of people do even in Canada alone every year. So, we aren’t exempt either.

This book discusses dying from a variety of philosophical perspectives. Since I too have a background in philosophy, I really enjoyed reading this book. It made me think and ponder the topic in a way that I haven’t before. I just love thought-provoking reads like this.

This is not merely a book about dying. It is also a life about living. In this process, we are invited by Robertson to cultivate a healthy and honest relationship with death in the belief that if we do, we’ll know more about what gives meaning to our lives.

Pondering death isn’t morbid or frivolous. Robertson argues that unless we ponder death, we won’t know what makes a meaningful life either.

I loved this book, and will be suggesting that my friends read it too so that we too can have a conversation about death.

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Tanna’s Owl by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (114)

This is a heartwarming story for kids based on Rachel Quitsalik-Tinsley’s own life experience. The book showcases the importance of hard work, helping and caring, even when what or who we are caring for doesn’t love us back.

When Tanna’s father brings hone an abandoned owl, she is eager to take care of the needy and ugly bird. However, to adequately take care of the young baby owl, Tanna has to wake up at 4 am. She has to catch food for the owl so that she can given it to the owl to eat.

Then she must feed it and clean p after it, all the while avoiding its sharp, chomping beak and big, stomping talons.

After weeks of following her father’s instructions on how to care for the owl, Tanna must leave home for school. Her owl has grown. It has lost its grey baby feathers and is beginning  to sprout a beautiful adult snowy owl coat. As she says goodbye to the owl, she is relieved not to have to care for it anymore, but also sad to let it go.

I love stories of love for abandoned animals. Even more so, I love when kids learn important lessons after reading the book. This book does all of this and more.

The illustrations are also adorable.

 

 

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Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andree Poulin (113)

This is a wonderful picture book for kids about friendship and how to get along with and accept people who are different from us.

Filippo can’t help that he’s pink. He’s a flamingo, after all. But Zac the zebra and Poncho the panda aren’t having it.

They only want to play with fellow black-and-white animals. Filippo is sure he’ll never be content without Zac and Poncho’s acceptance. But what would the world be without pink?

There would be no cherry blossoms, no sunsets, no strawberry ice cream. With a little love and encouragement along the way, Filippo sets out to find the value of pink and of himself.

This is a story about how to find the confidence to be yourself. The illustrations bring this message home in a wonderful, kid-friendly manner.

This book not only discusses self-confidence and how to develop it but it also encourages the reader to come along on the journey of self-acceptance!

What a great story with a wonderful theme for kids of all ages.

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Dance Me to the End by Alison Acheson (112)

At age 57, Marty was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Ten months and ten days later, Marty passed away.

From the first day of Marty’s diagnosis, Alison, Marty’s spouse of over twenty-five years, kept a journal of how she was coping with the overwhelming state of her mind and soul.

As her thoughts flowed from pen to page, her notes composed the story of Marty’s diagnosis, illness, and decline.

Soon her journal became a canticle of caregiving and the delicate dance between the intuitive and the pragmatic, the logical and illogical, and the all-consuming demands of being both spouse and nurse.

This book is an evocative memoir about the emotional impact of witnessing a loved one suffer from a neurological, degenerative, and terminal disease. It is profoundly intense and painfully private. Its like having a bottle of wine with Alison, through all the tears and sobs. It is truly unlike any memoir I ever read.

Alison shares her grief, shock, and pain alongside the levity, laughter, and love shared with her husband and sons in those final months of Marty’s life.

It is a beautiful book about the testament of love and how it is important for the person struggling with the illness and the caretaker to bring closure to what can be an impossible ordeal.

Thank you for such an honest and wonderful book Alison!

 

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