This book starts with a simple bad luck story - in a very class-conscious country a "lower class" woman loses her menial restaurant job, which has helped support her family, and takes on a position as an "emotional" caregiver for a quadriplegic. His family has substantial economic resources and spares nothing in providing care for their impaired son; the protagonist, Louisa, is hired on, not as a medical care provider, but as a sort of lifestyle assistant, to improve the man's quality of life. This works until she learns that she is to be his babysitter to stop his suicide attempts - of which there has been at least one. She dislikes this premise when she learns of it but continues on to fulfill her contract, and Will's mood, appearance, and enjoyment of life gradually improve. She takes him on outings, to concerts, buys voice recognition software for his computer so that he can be part of the disabled community and form friendships, thus expanding the scope of his life.
At first I thought this would be predictably about how the able-bodied/impaired learn to relate, like each other and then fall in love. In this story, they do form a bond, of sorts, eventually, but it's not enough for Will to want to continue his life.
The story then moves on to considerations of assisted suicide, and asks the tough questions about quality of life and what level of quality is worth preserving. I won't spoil but the resolution of the story is handled with dignity and grace. Along the way, added to the mix are the emotional forces of those around Louisa and Will who have their own opinions and agendas.
Though well-written and full of laugh-out-loud moments, the book is not a front-runner on the audible home page, and I just happened to find it while browsing the "back room". The book truly deserves the 5 stars I've given it.
I would recommend a different title and cover design - both mislead the audible shopper towards the romantic and chick-fic genre and the story is so much more nuanced and complex. (Note: I am not disparaging chick-fic, and think it's a valid genre for entertainment purposes. But there are so many other reasons to read - learning how others live and handle life's challenges, appreciation of beautiful writing, virtual tourism and escape to other environments, handling conflict resolution, the list can go on.)
This is a terrific read, unconventional and unpredictable, and illustrative of larger questions than life in the present moment.
A totally grinworthy read. Moliere (sorry no accent grave on this keyboard) meets Facebook, a comedy of manners for 2012. Mixed in with all the endlessly repeating email addies, tweets and status reports, and tucked away inside a boatload of trendy buzz words and brand names ("bento boxes"? Really?) and oh-so-precious food chit chat is a good story with some serious pondering of a few realistic "issues". Just what this reader needed.
Cassandra Campbell did a masterful job of narrating this performance - but I can't help wondering how the read would sound if rendered in a more ironic narrative style. Just an idle speculation.
Whatever, 5 stars!
Okay so I'm a little biased. Grew up in Baltimore, got married in Baltimore, had an amateur marriage exactly like the one in the book but geez this woman gets it right every time. Once again she leaves me with the feeling that no family is perfect, that everything is okay, it always was and always will be. Just not in the way I might think.
This book deserves to be reviewed by someone who has one tenth of the writing talent of Janet Maslin but that's not me. I am in a much lower percentile. So please stick with me while I try to describe how this wonderful novel became my favorite of the summer.
The plot moves along so fast with so many twists I listened in one sitting always anticipating what would come next. All the characters are human, not caricatures, and the hilarity comes from their interactions and obsessions.
I live in the desert and after months of triple digit temperatures I become as agoraphobic as Bernadette. I love the cooling memory of Seattle's rain, but Bernadette hates the city's weather and its culture, stays inside at her computer and maintains her closest friendship with her "virtual assistant" in India.
Her husband Elgin is a star at Microsoft, has given the fourth most watched lecture at TED where Al Gore and David Pogue were in attendance. There's a liberal sprinkling of techie ikons through the narrative to enjoy if you read tech columns and wish you could understand Wired Magazine articles.
Their daughter Bee, 14, graduating with straight S 's (S = Surpasses Excellence) from Galer Street school is rewarded with a family trip to Antarctica. Bee's character is like fresh air out of the Northwest. She has no affectations, no cell phone addiction and listens to MP3's on her Zune. She "gets" both parents.
Bernadette's antipathy toward the school's parent association and her fear of the Antarctica trip are the initial psychological motivations. The flash point is her neighbor Audrey's demand to have her yard cleared of blackberry bushes. Audrey is part of the Galer street parent group and receives the brunt of Bernadette's spite but gives back as good as she gets. The fighting provides lots of the laughs.
Even the minor characters are beautifully drawn and full of surprises. From the "blackberry abatement specialist" who doesn't want Audrey's chard to her delinquent son, all are unique and clearly rendered.
What caused Bernadette's initial escape from LA to Seattle? Where did she disappear to this time? It's great fun to get to the answers.