Tag Archives: book review

The Point of It All, A NEW BOOK by Dr. Krauthammer

I admired and followed Dr. Charles Krauthammer’s writing and was sad when he passed away this year.

So I was pleased to learn that he has published a new book, The Point of It All. He started the book prior to his illness and finished it with the help of his son Daniel, who wrote the introduction and edited it. 

This post contains affiliate links, which by paying a commission if used for a purchase, helps fund this blog. 


Spanning the personal, political and philosophical — including never-before-published speeches and a major new essay about the effect of today’s populist movements on the future of global democracy — this is the most profound book yet by the legendary writer and thinker.

My review of his memoir THINGS THAT MATTER has been one of my most viewed posts. If you haven’t read it I recommend it as well as his newest and unfortunately his last work. I know it’s on my list to read in 2019. 

Matt Winesett offers this review of the new book

Charles Krauthammer’s Uncommon Greatness

In memory of Charles Krauthammer, M.D. 

I don’t remember the first time I read an article by Charles Krauthammer but once I did, I never missed a chance to read more. Dr. Krauthammer recently passed away from cancer and I among many mourn his passing.

His Washington Post syndicated column appeared in my local newspaper on Saturdays;  I would read it aloud at breakfast so my husband and I could discuss it.

DR. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER-IN MEMORIAM-WWW.WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Invariably, there would be one or two words or phrases we didn’t understand so I would look up the definition- this despite  both of us having graduate degrees.  We were alternately entertained, enlightened, and enthralled by his way with words.

As a physician, I am intrigued and inspired knowing  Dr. Krauthammer completed medical school and residency after and despite sustaining a spinal cord injury which caused quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down, preventing use of his arms and legs).   (This no doubt made his treatment and recovery from cancer surgery all the more difficult.) 

In his memoir, he explained how a caring professor did whatever it took to help him get through medical school after his injury, including lectures at his bedside while he was still hospitalized.

He did not use “M.D.” or the title “Dr.” after he changed his career from psychiatry to journalism, but I think he should have, he earned it.  He mostly wrote about politics and social issues but occasionally would address medical issues. (These and others in this post are affiliate links to Dr. Krauthammer’s books. )

Here are excerpts from a sampling of his Washington Post columns that discuss medical issues. 

After watching videos in which  The price of fetal parts was discussed over lunch, Dr. Krauthammer wrote

“Abortion critics have long warned that the problem is not only the obvious — what abortion does to the fetus — but also what it does to us. It’s the same kind of desensitization that has occurred in the Netherlands with another mass exercise in life termination: assisted suicide. It began as a way to prevent the suffering of the terminally ill. It has now become so widespread and wanton that one-fifth of all Dutch assisted-suicide patients are euthanized without their explicit consent.

ultrasound image of a 4 month old fetus
a prenatal ultrasonographic image of fetus at the four-month point in its gestation; public domain image used courtesy of the CDC/ Jim Gathany

There is more division about the first trimester because one’s views of the early embryo are largely a matter of belief, often religious belief. One’s view of the later-term fetus, however, is more a matter of what might be called sympathetic identification — seeing the image of a recognizable human infant and, now, hearing from the experts exactly what it takes to “terminate” its existence.

The role of democratic politics is to turn such moral sensibilities into law. This is a moment to press relentlessly for a national ban on late-term abortions.”

After Another massacre, another charade  he said this about guns and laws about them.

gun metal barrel
Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

“So with the Roseburg massacre in Oregon. Within hours, President Obama takes to the microphones to furiously denounce the National Rifle Association and its ilk for resisting “common-sense gun-safety laws.” His harangue is totally sincere, totally knee-jerk and totally pointless. At the time he delivers it, he — and we — know practically nothing about the shooter, nothing about the weapons, nothing about how they were obtained.

In the final quarter of his presidency, Obama can very well say what he wants. If he believes in Australian-style confiscation — i.e., abolishing the Second Amendment — why not spell it out? Until he does, he should stop demonizing people for not doing what he won’t even propose.”

In this tongue-in-cheek (pardon the pun)  post Food fads: Make mine gluten-full

 he “preaches skepticism” about most current dietary advice.

various types of bread
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Exhibit A for medical skepticism, however, remains vitamin C. When Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate in chemistry (not nutrition), began the vitamin-C megadose fad to fend off all manner of disease, the whole thing struck me as bizarre. Yes, you need some C to prevent scurvy if you’re seven months at sea with Capt. Cook and citrus is nowhere to be found. Otherwise, the megadose is a crock. Evolution is pretty clever. For 2 million years it made sure Homo erectus, neanderthalensis, sapiens, what have you, got his daily dose without having to visit a GNC store.

Sure enough, that fashion came and went. But there are always new windmills to be tilted at. The latest is gluten.

Now, if you suffer from celiac disease, you need a gluten-free diet. How many of us is that? Less than 1 percent. And yet supermarket shelves are groaning with products proclaiming their gluten-freedom. Sales are going through the roof.”

Charles Krauthammer-THINGS THAT MATTER
available as an audiobook from the iTunes Store

I enjoyed listening to  Dr. Krauthammer’s memoir THINGS THAT MATTER: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics  

His book is a collection of  his more memorable opinion pieces as well as a memoir of his life, including medical school, his life-changing injury, psychiatric medical practice, his  journalism career, hobbies (chess and baseball) and life with his family.

According to Amazon-

Now, finally, the best of Krauthammer’s intelligence, erudition and wit are collected in one volume.”

In his last piece for The Washington Post, barely two weeks before his death, Dr. Krauthammer wrote,

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

I am sad he left, but grateful that he shared his “intelligence, erudition, and wit” with the world.  May we all find the loves and endeavors that make life worth living and live intentional lives as well as he did.

Tributes to Dr. Krauthammer, a few of many

from the NATIONAL REVIEWCharles Krauthammer, R.I.P.

from THE NEW YORK TIMES – The Example of Charles Krauthammer

from the WEEKLY STANDARDThe Quick Wit of Charles Krauthammer

Please share this post and share about your recollections of  Dr. Krauthammer’s work.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me. Dr. Aletha

stethoscope with a heart
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Labor Day, a book more interesting than the holiday

 

Labor Day

A novel by Joyce Maynard

Most of us don’t expect labor Day weekend to change our lives. As a holiday it doesn’t seem to have a purpose; it doesn’t celebrate or commemorate anything other than the end of summer. We use it as an excuse to take another day off from work and school.

When I saw and purchased the book in Barnes and Noble book store I didn’t recognize it as the book from which the movie Labor Day was made. I’m glad, because I probably would not have bought it.

I find that reading books after the movie or vice versa is seldom satisfying. Often characters and settings are changed so the storyline is confusing. And invariably the movie version leaves out much of the character development that a writer can express with words. I didn’t feel that way here.  But more about that later.

(There are multiple affiliate links in this post; their use supports this blog.)

Labor Day-  the characters -a woman, a man, a boy

Henry, who narrates the story, lives with his divorced mom in a small town. At 13, Henry seems more mature than he should need to be, while his mother Adele seems childish and naive for a grown woman. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder  if Adele’s eccentric behavior is due to something more than immaturity.

Adele and Henry are in their small town store buying clothes for school when a man they don’t know approaches them asking for help. Frank seems nice enough and asking for help might not be a problem except for the fact that is is bleeding, and evasive about why.

He asks Adele to take him to her house and either due to fear or poor judgement, she says yes. Both she and Henry seem to realize that something dramatic is about to change in their lives, but what it is, they can only guess at this point.

LABOR DAY- a book review

Labor Day– the story

As the novel progresses, we learn several story lines.

The main story line, narrated by young Henry, tells what transpires between the three of them over this Labor Day weekend. Weaving throughout are the back stories of what brought them all to this point.

Henry has reached manhood by the end of the book, at which time we learn what happened to these characters years after this memorable Labor Day weekend.

If you want to believe, or already know, that the worst of situations can have a happy ending, the final chapter will please but not surprise you.

Joyce Maynard writes in closing remarks at the end of the book,

“Maybe it’s an impossibly romantic and idealistic story. No doubt ….it would be a very poor idea for a woman to bring home a strange man, as Adele does that Thursday before Labor Day. Perhaps this book should carry a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.”

Medical themes addressed in Labor Day are heavily weighted around sexuality so if you are uncomfortable with those this book/movie may not appeal to you.

These topics include

  • Puberty and Adolescent sexuality
  • Adult sexuality, both in and outside of marriage

Other health issues explored in the story include

  • Pregnancy and pregnancy loss
  • Emotional/mental dysfunction
  • Marital dysfunction and divorce
  • Childhood disability
  • Trauma and death

 

Following their encounter with Frank in the store, young Henry talks about his feelings as Adele drove them home-

“In the seat next to her, I studied my mother’s face, to see if her expression changed, when Frank said these things. I could feel my heart beating, and a tightness in my chest-not fear exactly, but something close, though oddly pleasurable. I had it when my father took Richard and the baby and me, and Marjorie, to Disney World, and we got into our seats on the Space Mountain ride.

Today is my lucky day, Frank said. Yours too, maybe.

I knew right then, things were about to change. We were headed into Space Mountain now, into a dark place where the ground might give way, , and you wouldn’t even be able to tell anymore where this car was taking you.

If this had occurred to my mother, she didn’t let on. She just held the wheel and stared straight ahead same as before, all the way home.”

 

Ms. Maynard explains that as fiction this novel’s unfolding was

“a rare occasion, where a writer imagines a world in which goodness and honorable behavior might be rewarded and love might carry the day.”

Labor Day , the movie adaptation by Jason Reitman

Labor Day as a movie starred Kate Winslet as Adele and Josh Brolin as Frank.

Once I started reading the book, I remembered the movie, and cannot imagine any other actress portraying Adele; Ms. Winslet  aptly illustrated Adele’s quiet strength as well as her fragility . Young Henry is solidly played by Gattlin Griffith while Tobey Maguire as the adult Henry narrates the story and then appears in the movie’s final scenes.

As I mentioned above, the movie sticks faithfully to the novel. The backstories are not developed as much as in the book which is typical with the time limitation of a movie adaptation.

See below for a spoiler alert if you’ve already read/seen the book/movie, or don’t care about learning the ending too soon.

 

 

Another unlikely romance

Labor Day  reminded me of another book I read and reviewed, about the relationship between a woman, a man, and a boy. I wish it had a movie version ; another book by the same author does, Pay It Forward. Here is my review of

Say Goodbye for Now. 

Thanks for joining me to “celebrate” Labor Day and consider an unconventional  look at life and love in Joyce Maynard’s novel and movie, Labor Day.

You may enjoy some of my other book reviews, find links here.

 

Dr. Aletha, exploring the HEART of books

an open book with pages folded to make a heart
photo from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A true life romance also from Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard wrote a memoir, THE BEST OF US, about her true life romance which didn’t end as happily as her fictional one did, but did change her life forever. Here is a brief review.

 

Ms. Maynard’s story initially sounded like a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers, followed by a complicated adoption attempt.

Finally we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we as the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As the author admits,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed.

You can read the prologue of THE BEST OF US .

Spoiler alert: the following section reveals a major plot of Labor Day

At the book’s end,  Joyce Maynard wrote a final piece, “Don’t Try This at Home-How I Came to Write This Novel”, in which she explains why she chose to make an escaped convicted murderer (Frank) a main character in her novel-

Because she herself once struck up a long distance friendship with a man in prison .

She admits,

“I resemble that impossibly romantic woman who drove a man home with her, feeling no fear for herself or her son-though the man had blood dripping down his leg-because she saw in him something of her own wounded self.”

Her convict story does “not have a happy ending” she says,

“it taught me…to trust less and steer clear of the kind of man whose wounds on the outside may be fewer than those within.”

Here’s her story about that encounter

YOUR FRIEND, ALWAYS