Life in isolation and pain

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman; 2012; $16.00; 343 pages; Scribner, New York, NY; 978-1-4516-8175-8; purchased from; 12/20/15-1/2/16

Tom Sherbourne is a World War I veteran and lighthouse keeper where two oceans come together off the coast of Australia.  On one of his visits ashore he meets and falls in love with Isabel.  She moves to the lighthouse with him and they have an idyllic life, spending time alone together.  Isabel has three difficult pregnancies and miscarries each time.  One day a boat washes ashore with a mans body and a small baby aboard.  Isabel talks Tom into keeping the baby against his better judgment for a little while.  Isabel grows close with the baby and enlists Tom in her deception that the baby is theirs.   As the baby grows Isabel grows more and more desperate to keep her, even when they find out that she may be the child of another woman from Isabel’s hometown.  Tom is conflicted and attempts to let the mother know that her child is alive anonymously.  Things go from bad to worse and one time when they are ashore Tom and Isabel are confronted by the consequences of their actions.

Grade C

Did I like it?  I was struck by the insensitivity of the Isabel and her selfishness and her inability to see anyone else’s perspective.  I liked some of the authors depiction of the setting but could not get past Isabel’s personality.

What is with the title of the review? Isolated on a rock with just one other person for many years and suffering through the pain of three miscarriages gives Isabel a skewed perspective on life.


They are still carrying things

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien; 1990; $13.95; 246 pages; broadway books, New York, NY; 0-7679-0289-0; purchased from; 5/3/15-5/5/15

Why did I pick this up?  We are reading this for our May meeting of the Corner Reading Society.  We are reading this in place of another book that there was some controversy about the veracity of the stories.

What is the story?  In a series of short stories Tim O’Brien uncovers the truth of the Vietnam experience through his eyes and those of those he served with.  He tells stories of some experiences in country and in the aftermath of the war.  The stories mingle humor, violence, friendship, faith and incompetence just like life.

Grade A

Did I enjoy it?  Yes, many of the stories reminded me of the camaraderie that I experienced while I was in the Navy.  He conveys a depth of love for his compatriots that only those who have served together can know.

What is with the title of the review?  All of these guys are still carrying things around with them, in their heads and and souls.

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck; 1932; $9.95; 207 pages; Penguin Books, New York, NY; 0-14-018748-0; purchased from; 1/27/15-1/29/15

The Munroe family is continually trying to help the other families in their community of Pastures of Heaven, however it usually doesn’t end well.  Steinbeck has situated a valley called the Pastures of Heaven near Carmel Valley, California and tells the stories of those who have settled there.  They are a diverse bunch of people who all have different reasons for settling there, temperaments that range from angelic to devilish.  It is an interesting collection of 12 stories of the people of the valley.


Did I enjoy it?  Yes I am glad any time that I can read John Steinbeck.  Thanks, Larry for nominating this for the Corner Reading Society.

What is up with the title of the review?  There is a family in the Pastures of Heaven that often times think they are helping when they are actually making things worse.

Not unlike the Emperors New Clothes

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson; 2012; $26.00; 443 pages; Ra ndom House, New York, NY; 978-0-8129-9279-3; Fiction; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 12/4/14-12/9/14

Jun Pak Do is the son of a man who runs an orphanage in North Korea, his name as well as Dithe orphans are taken from the stories of North Korean martyrs.  He works in a unit that works on tunnels that run under the DMZ and head towards South Korea.  Then he gives involved in some illegal activity and sent to a prison camp and disappears as Jun Pak Do.  He resurfaces as another person and even though he looks nothing like that person they all accept him because the Great Leader as said that is who he is.  He and his wife grow close together, he once again runs afoul of the Great Leader and that changes his life once again.


Did I enjoy it?  Once I was able to place myself in a life that seems completely implausible to me I was able to get into the story.  Like Stephen King has said sometimes you have to suspend disbelief to get into a story.

What is with the title of the story?  In Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale where only the wise can see the Emperor’s clothes, everyone accepts the new person because they don’t want to run afoul of the Benevolent Leader.



Why we do the things we do

Predictably Irrational, The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely; 2008; $25.95; 280 pages; Harpers, New York, NY; 978-0-06-135323-9; 153.83 A698p; Checked out from Multnomah County Library, Midland; 9/23/14-9/26/14

Back in the day, there was a movie coming out titled “Spirit”  that the boys and I wanted to see, being the movie loving family that we are.  We were in Fred Meyers and there was a poster that promised FREE tickets to see Spirit with the purchase of $150 worth of groceries.  This is the first time that I remember explaining to the boys that sometimes when it said free, it wasn’t really.  Those tickets each cost $150.  I use this principle at work at a lot, when we have a Buy One, Get One Free sale, really you just paid 1/2 price for each of them.

These are the types of things that Dan Ariely takes on in Predictably Irrational, he shows how as much we would like to think that we are rational beings that there are times we are predictably irrational and how marketers and others use this fact to sale us things, he even shows how some medical procedures rely on the placebo effect.  I will either try and be the first to order or decide what to order before the server comes back.  There are many experiments that Dr. Ariely and his colleagues conducted that prove how predicably irrational we can be.


Did I enjoy it? I am always thankful that we have a wide variety of people in the Corner Reading Society, so that we read a wide variety of material.  I usually enjoy the books that I think I won’t like, like this one.  It is well written and reaffirmed much that I learned in Business School.

What is with the title of the review?  Dr. Ariely and his colleagues show the reasons we do some of the things that we often wonder about, why do we prefer Free over 1¢, when we will we cheat and steal and how we rationalize it.