Me Before You: My Review Plus Answers to Book Club Discussion Questions

Me Before YouRating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3
Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

Me Before You = 3.5

Penguin Book Discussion Questions:

1. If you were Louisa, would you have quit working for the Traynors? If yes, at what point?

Yes, if I were Lou I would have quit working for the Traynors. It is not up to Lou to convince Will to continue living. I would also state that I was hired under false pretenses and call them out on that. 

If it were me, I’d tell Will what his mother had done. I wouldn’t want him to be deceived further. I would stay on if he asked me to after that.

2. Were you able to relate to the way Will felt after his accident? What about his outlook on life did you find most difficult to understand or accept?

Yes, I was able to relate. The only hard part to accept was how much love Will had. People around him truly loved him, truly wanted the best for him, truly wanted to be around him. The people who wanted him to live, outside of his sister, truly wanted to make his life as happy as they could. That was hard for me to overlook despite his physical situation. However, that does not negate the immense and perpetual emotional, spiritual, and physical loss for Will. All those people still get to live in their bodies pain free – Will does not. It goes toward the title, he is putting Me Before You, and rightfully so. 

3. Discuss the meaning of the novel’s title. To whom do the “me” and “you” refer?

“Me” refers to everyone putting their needs before Will’s needs. What will Will’s death do to me? What will happen to me if the law comes into play? Everyone is so concerned about how the loss of Will will effect them and not truly taking into consideration what it means to live in Will’s body day in and day out. Will is going to finally put “me” before “you”.

4. Louisa often finds Mrs. Traynor cold and judgmental. Is there an appropriate way to behave in Mrs. Traynor’s situation?

No, there is no appropriate way. How would you feel if your child was in that situation? How would you feel if you had to rely on a complete stranger to try and turnaround your son’s desire to kill himself? She feels like a failure and she is barely holding on. I think what we can learn from her character is empathy and forgiveness. Let’s cut Mrs. Traynor some slack. However, she does truly fail in making her son feel like a child. He is still a grown man, her fussing is too much.

5. What is your opinion of Mr. Traynor? Did it change after you read his side of the story?

I think his character highlighted what would happen to a lot of people in trying times. They don’t want to be with their spouse, but then something happens. The spouse gets sick, a child gets sick, the economy tanks. I think he fairly represents what happens in a lot of families. He also seemed to represent more level-headed thinking.

6. Why is Louisa able to reach Will when so many others could not?

Once she starts treating him like a regular person they connect. Of course. This is how most people want to be treated. Not like just a number, just a woman, or just a quadriplegic. Plus, sometimes I think when people find themselves in the situation that Will does, it’s easier to work/get along with someone who didn’t know you before. There are no expectations, no reminders of who you used to be. 

7. Were you as surprised as Lou to learn of Will’s plans?

No.

8. Compare Louisa’s relationship with Treena to Will’s relationship with Georgina. Do siblings know one another any better simply because they are related?

Not necessarily. I think this question oversimplifies sibling relationships. I think some families can be exceptionally close, others, no. Georgina is selfish and doesn’t feel she owes her brother anything just because he is her brother. There is no familial bond. No friendship bond. It’s unfortunate, but this is pretty pervasive. 

9. Would Patrick have asked Louisa to move in with him if he hadn’t felt threatened by Will? If Louisa had never accepted her job with the Traynors, where would her relationship with Patrick have gone?

No, Patrick would not have asked Lou to move in with him. Their relationship was long since over, but no one made any moves to end it. It was comfortable. It was part of Lou’s small world she had created for herself. Did they love each other, of course. Were they in love? No. 

10. Discuss Louisa’s own secret ties to the castle. Would most girls in her situation have blamed themselves? Should Treena have behaved differently in the aftermath?

Yes, I think most girls would blame themselves, just as society does. I think men need to start taking responsibility for their actions. No man HAS to rape a woman, it’s not like he can’t control himself. Just don’t rape, it’s so simple. How society somehow, ever, thought there were extenuating circumstances is beyond me. 

As for Treena, I don’t know. The book didn’t go into what happened after the gang rape. In fact, for such a big plot point, the book barely goes into it. Maybe the book should look into how it views rape. Were they trying to skirt the issue to sell more books? Not be so graphic? 

For all we know, maybe Treena tried to talk to Lou. We just don’t know. The whole thing was breezed over. 

11. What did you make of the way Lou’s mother, Josie, judges Lou’s decisions regarding Will. Is Josie’s reaction fair?

I think she doesn’t judge her daughter, that’s quite a leap. I think she is trying to protect her daughter from hurt and prosecution. She’s a mom, she is trying to protect her child. It’s more than “fair”.

Is it moral? Is it good for Will? No, it’s not. It’s best for Will if his friend is there to see him through the hardest decision he has ever had to make. Absolutely it is best for Will, but Josie is looking at what the ramifications will be for her daughter. Anyone would fight tooth and nail to keep their daughter safe. It’s understandable.

12. Before his accident, Will was a philanderer and a corporate raider who would probably never have given Louisa a second look. Why is it that people are so often unable to see what’s truly important until they’ve experienced loss?

We value the wrong things in society. We always think that there is more time. The fact of the matter is, Louisa would not have wanted Will. She would not have wanted a shallow person. Well, perhaps one can’t say that because Patrick became fairly shallow at the end. However, she liked him less and less the more shallow he became. She mostly remained with Patrick because of safety reasons. 

13. What did you think of Lou’s plan to change Will’s mind? Did you think she would be successful?

I thought it was terrible, selfish, and egocentric. No one has to live in that body but Will. Will is the only one who can change his mind. While I do think it was worthwhile to try and improve the quality of Will’s life, it was the lack of honesty that really got me. Everyone trying to handle Will as if he could be tricked, or molded. As if Will hadn’t really thought it through. In some ways, the way Lou treats Will is no better than Will’s mother – like a child. I was not on board with the plan. They all seem to not really, truly pay attention to Will’s true suffering. The one and only person in the book who truly understands Will is his nurse.

So there are my answers to the book discussion questions. Overall, I thought the writing in this book was hit and miss. While the overall story and concepts of the book were good, I never really felt any of the characters were really flushed out. We never really knew how Will felt. We never knew how hard it must be for Mrs. Traynor to see her son like that. For all the emphasis on the gang rape of Lou, it’s breezed over as much as Treena does. Even Lou’s character jumps from at one moment going to let Will die on his own, to just all of the sudden conveniently changing her mind with one phone call and jumping on a plane. So much for conviction. There was no heart felt change of mind on Lou’s part. She was sad he was going to die and dreaded the news, but never was it really brought to light that she felt like she made the wrong decision, thus making her second chance that much more meaningful.

I will say this, if he had chosen to live at the end I would have been super pissed, like throw my iPhone against the wall pissed (I listen on Audible). So, at least this book has that going for it.

I will end the discussion with this. One can never, ever know what it feels like to live in another person’s body. One can never know what it is like to be in pain, suffering, and alone for as long as Will was. People might think they know, but they don’t. Day after day, after month, after year … there is a whole other hell involved with that kind of time. It is an exhausting life. To constantly, everyday, have to pick yourself up and move forward. To give yourself a pep talk to make it through the day, everyday. There is nothing like it.

Until next time.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

The Remains of the Day: My Review and Answers To Book Club Discussion Questions

The Remains of the Day“I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself – what dignity is there in that?” – Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day.

First and foremost, I would like to say that I did not enjoy this book. It was even painful to have to fill out the discussion questions because there is nothing to say.I ended up watching the movie after the fact just to see if maybe the movie was better than the book. I know, rare, but it can happen.The movie was terrible too.I was hoping for more glances, more shared experiences. Nope. It almost solidifies my belief that this was a bandwagon book. Suddenly, everyone liked it, and therefore so did most readers out there — that if you didn’t like it, maybe you didn’t get the “genius” of it.

Well, many years later, I’m not so directly influenced by the times.

Not a good book.

It was tedious. The tediousness didn’t serve the book either. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, which I adore, had an element of tediousness in it. It drove the book. It helped the reader understand the world in which the characters lived in. That is simply not the case in this book. It does not translate.

I would not recommend this book … to anyone.

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3
Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

The Remains of the Day = 0.5

This is my review and thoughts on The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
1. What is important about the title?It is referencing not only the end of the day, but the end of a life. What does the end of the day signify? It signifies coming home to loved ones – coming home to the reasons for your work. At the end of the day, Mr. Stevens has no one to go home to. For all of his dignity, loyalty, and service, he does not service himself. He does not have that in his life. At the end of his life, as he reflects, he realizes that he has a great deal missing – namely, someone to love. To make matters worse, he had someone he loved. Someone who knew him, for all of his faults, and still loved him –appreciated him. Someone who wanted him and gave him every opportunity to reciprocate that love.He did not appreciate it, nor did he value it.

He does not have someone to come home to at the end of the day, nor at the end of his life.

2. What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot and characters?

How much do you owe to other people?  This is represented in the hierarchy of the Lord versus servant relationship and the personal relationship between Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens. It is highlighted by both their initial disdain for other servants who run off and get married. Only late does Miss Kenton change her mind about how much she owes Mr. Stevens.

Who deserves loyalty?

Who deserves sacrifice? Is it ever worth it to give yourself wholly and completely to someone? This can be represented through Miss Kenton. Does Mr. Stevens deserve Miss Kenton? Miss Kenton is willing to forgo much in life for Mr. Stevens. He does not value her.

Lord Darlington certainly was not without serious fault. Loyalty to him was severely questionable.

Does being rich mean you are more deserving of admiration and loyalty? Does being rich and well to do mean you have more insight or forethought? Lord Darlington’s absolute missteps with the oncoming war and his reprehensible decisions regarding Jewish people point to the theme.

3. How does Kazuo Ishiguro reveal character in The Remains of the Day?

Through their interactions with other characters – like most novels.

4. Do you find the characters likable? Are the characters persons you would want to meet?

All of them were extremely unlikeable. Mr. Stevens was pompous. He was oblivious. He was a coward. Miss Kenton was afraid, weak, childish, and unmotivated. Lord Darlington was entitled and that gave way to stupidity and daftness.

5. Why is the novel usually considered a post-war novel?

It highlights the changing of the times in Britain. When Lords and the monarchy had more power. When the people were differing to the richest as being the wisest. After the war, the constructs of society changed. The large houses were broken up and the true politician came into power. It should be noted that when Ribbentrop visited England, he mistakenly put more weight into the King than into the Prime Minister. Not even Ribbentrop himself fully understanding the change in English society.

A main theme of the book is Mr. Stevens misplaced and unquestioning loyalty to Lord Darlington. Just because he was a Lord, he seemed to Mr. Stevens as beyond reproach. However, that was far, far from the case.

6. What is the central/primary purpose of the story?

There are a few main concepts to the book:

Who deserves our loyalty? – Certainly, Lord Darlington did not deserve Mr. Stevens unshakable loyalty. He was anti-semitic, uncaring, and entitled. He shows this time and time again. The main examples of this is Lord Darlington’s dismissal of the Jewish girls, the way Lord Darlington treated Mr. Steven’s Sr., and the unseemly behavior of Lord Darlington to Mr. Stevens in the library.

How much do we owe to those around us? – Miss Kenton in particular has this debate with herself. She looks at the younger women in the household and expects them to give more than they do to their work – stating they could have promising careers if not for marrying so young. However, she reevaluates this as she gets older, realizing she doesn’t want to give everything to an employer who does not appreciate her. She is also conflicted about how much of herself she can give Mr. Stevens — she loves him, but she ultimate decides she needs more. Whether or not she gets it is irrelevant to this point.

How much do we give of ourselves to our employers? – Lord Darlington did not reciprocate the level of loyalty of his employees. This is still the case today. Employers take full advantage of the loyalty given to them by employees. More often than not, employers leave their employees high and dry. We see this when employees get hurt at work, usually due to unfair work conditions imposed by the employer. Walmart is another example.

Are relationships truly reciprocated? – Miss Kenton loved Mr. Stevens, but it was never reciprocated. The question is, did she make the right choice? Probably. Mr. Stevens could never fully commit to her.

What will we regret later on in life? – This is pretty universal. So many people focus on their jobs and miss out on the good stuff in life. Things like kids, family, marriage and travel. It’s only at the end of life, when looking back, do people realize what’s really important – who really matters.

7. Talk about is the social hierarchy to which Stevens is completely loyal—yet which exploits him thoroughly.

This has been touched upon by other questions. The top of the tier takes advantage of those under them without regard to the years or level of service. In some regards, Mr. Stevens feels if he does an exceptional job it will be noted and rewarded with the same loyalty. It is not. I also feel that Mr. Stevens feels that doing any job can have its merits. I believe this, too. I have worked in the operating room. There are housekeepers there just as there are in the novel. There is certainly something to be said about the housekeepers who work in the operating room. They could work anywhere, yet they choose to apply their skills and hard work for the ultimate goal of helping out a patient. That is admirable. It is also completely crucial to the functioning of a well-run operating room. Housekeepers deserve everyone’s respect – including the surgeons. However, it does not, if ever, go that way. Those at the top, as in the book, do not respect those below them, even though they should. That should change in society. It is only right.  

8. What does Stevens care most deeply about? Can you articulate a world view for him?

He believes in service done with dignity. Dignity for him incorporates loyalty. It is dignified to stay loyal. 

9. Would Ms. Kenton ever have been happy with Stevens?

No. I do believe she romanticized their relationship. To me, she read way more into the relationship than was actually there. While she admired him, that does not translate into a relationship. Mr. Stevens was not able to change. To me, this is proven by the end of the story when he seems to be more concerned with his bantering, than Miss. Kenton, or how to fix his life moving forward. That’s why he chooses to obsess over, not his missed chance, but the bantering. 

10. Ms. Kenton never left when she was forced to dismiss the two Jewish maids — is she as culpable as Stevens in this matter?

Yes, absolutely. There have been many discussions about this in regards to WWII. If more people stood up and made a stink about what was going on around them, things might have been different, especially early on. 

11. This novel is famous for its “unreliable narrator,” meaning that Stevens who tells the story colors a great deal in his telling. He seems blind to much that goes on around him, events that we, the readers, see and judge differently than Stevens seems to. Give some examples of Steves’s inability to see things as readers see them. What blinds Steven, or gets in his way of understanding, especially when it comes to Lord Darlington.

He doesn’t see that Miss Kenton has great admiration for him. He doesn’t see the necessity of tending to his father. He doesn’t see the necessity of responding to his father when he compliments him. He doesn’t see the fault with not sticking up for the Jewish maids. He only views things first through the lens of his employer and very little through any lens after that.

12. What happens to Stevens after he leaves Miss Kenton? What does he come to understand, what insights has he gained? Will he change—indeed, is he capable of change?

I don’t think anything has really changed. I still don’t believe he could have given Miss Kenton what she needed, a true companion, lover, and partner. I don’t think he really learned anything. He becomes consumed at the end of the book with his bantering. His first thought is, how do I improve my relationship with my employer, not how do I improve my romantic and interpersonal relationships. 

As for the quote, I think that sums up the book rather well. He holds dignity so very high in his esteem, yet, he doesn’t realize that it’s pretty undignified, almost cowardly and fruitless to live your entire life for an employer.​I’m glad this book is done.

Thank you to Litlovers.com and classiclit.about.com for the use of their study questions. 

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

 

The Girl on the Train: My Review and Answers to Book Club Discussion Questions

the girl on the train book coverThis is my review and thoughts of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

First and foremost, I would like to say that I enjoyed this book. It was an easy listen, had fantastic narration, the story moved along well, and was a fun listen.

This book balances itself between largely being entertaining coupled with a slight concept to ponder. Mainly, it is a who-done-it with a flirtation about perspectives & assumptions.

For what it is, it was good.

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3
Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

The Girl on the Train 3.5

1. We all do it — actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosey, all-too-human impulse?

We absolutely all do this, it’s called Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We all want a peek into how other people live their lives. It can be for a myriad of reasons. For some, it is to compare … are we better than them? Are we keeping up with the status quo? When we put ourselves out there to be viewed it is due to our sense of ego. 

The difference is, for Rachel, she is so lonely, so hateful of herself, that she crosses the line from being a voyeur, to making up stories, to inserting herself in the lives of others. Rachel romanticizes Megan and Scott’s relationship, much like she romanticizes her own relationship with Tom. On Facebook, we put our best face forward, but that is not necessarily what goes on behind closed doors. Tom, in every way, brutally represents this. He puts his best face forward, when on the inside, and behind closed doors, he is the ugliest of them all. 

2. The novel delivers a stark portrayal of someone suffering from a drink problem – Rachel’s battle is present throughout the novel. How does it affect all the people around her?

Rachel’s alcoholism is a main symbol of assumptions. Every character in the book has assumptions made about them that are not necessarily true. Rachel is untrustworthy because of her alcoholism. However, in her case, she proves to be untrustworthy most of the time, so it’s hard to believe her. Yet, in the final instance of this book, she is correct. Tom uses her alcoholism to his advantage and cruel delight by toying with her memory and self-respect. She assumes the worst of herself as well. Anna is assumed to be a wonderful person because she is a mother and loves her child, but that does not make her a saint on all accounts. She comes exceedingly close to letting Tom kill Rachel at the end as to not destroy her idealized life. Anna, more so than anything, does not was her image ruined by Rachel’s discovery. Also, Rachel considers herself bad because she can not have children. Anna is good because she can. Megan is bad because her child died. Megan is not bad because of this, it was a tragic, tragic mistake. Megan punishes herself eternally because of it. 

3. In both Rachel Watson’s and Megan Hipwell’s marriages, deep secrets are kept from the husbands. Are these marriages unusual or even extreme in this way? Consider how many relationships rely on half-truths? Is it ever necessary or justifiable to lie to someone you love?

I’m not sure how Rachael kept secrets from Tom. Megan kept secrets because she loved Scott and did not want him to know what kind of person she was, or thought she was. I think the real shame with Megan was that the lie did not so much ruin her marriage, but her self-inflicted punishment did. 

4. What about the lies the characters tell to themselves? In what ways is Rachel lying to herself?

Rachael lies to herself that sorry is enough. She lies to herself that it is okay, the things that she does. She thinks going to the psychiatrist is okay, inserting herself into Scott’s life is okay, lying to the police is okay. None of it is okay. Regardless of people not trusting her, the way she goes about finding the truth is abhorrent. 

Anna lies to herself that she is enough to keep Tom happy. 

Megan lies to herself that she can keep her secret and that it won’t truly effect those around her. She thinks if she cheats to fill the hole in her heart that it will be enough. 

Scott thinks he alone can be enough to save Megan. 

Tom is just a liar. He lies to himself that killing Megan was the only natural outcome. 

5. A crucial question in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is how much Rachel Watson can trust her own memory. How reliable are her observations? Yet since the relationship between truth and memory is often a slippery one, how objective or “true” can a memory, by definition, really be? Can memory lie?

I’ll answer this question a bit differently. I think all of our memories are skewed. We all see things through our own lenses, our own experiences. One person’s take on a situation can be completely different than another.

This often happens in marriages. A husband remembers sex once a month, a wife more than that. What is the truth? A wife thinks she comes home from work loving and excited to see her husband. The husband remembers the wife coming home and complaining.

Why one person at work can remember a situation completely different than a coworker. One coworker remembers the boss being warranted for yelling at someone for being late, another remembers it as the boss coming down hard on them for being young. 

Rachel is impacted by this normal tendency of human nature, but hers is much, much worse due to the alcoholism. She also suffers from an unhealthy perspective. These two things combined, her perspective and blackout memory, create a lot of the turmoil. 

6. One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story? What do you think Paula Hawkins was trying to say about the ways motherhood can define women’s lives or what we expect from women’s domestic lives, whether as wives, mothers, or unmarried women in general?

It is clear in the book that the lack of a child drives Rachel’s demise into alcoholism. Of course, we learn later, it was egged on by Tom – a cruel amusement by him. Anna, on the other hand, feels motherhood somehow absolves her of wrongdoing. She is a mother, so naturally, she is above others. She is divine. She is saintly. Whatever must be done to protect her family is acceptable … except, it isn’t. It doesn’t give her the right to entertain that if Rachel dies, regardless of Tom being a monster and Rachel exposing him, Anna’s “perfect” family will remain intact – intentionally ignoring that Tom is a monster.

As for Megan, her story is tragic. She was young and feel asleep. It was most definitely not intentional, she inadvertently caused the death of her child. She feels no one would be able to forgive her and she can’t forgive herself. Society makes her feel that if she loved her child, she would not have let that happen. However, that’s clearly not true. 

It is interesting that Paula Hawkins describes the women’s goodness and honesty in direct relation to motherhood. Rachel is a failure. Megan is cruel and uncaring. Anna is protective. 

7. Think about trust in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Who trusts whom? Who is deserving of trust? Is Rachel Watson a very trustworthy person? Why or why not? Who appears trustworthy and is actually not? What are the skills we use to make the decision about whether to trust someone we don’t know well?

We all make assumptions about people. It’s part of our evolution. Paula Hawkins even comments on it in the book. Ted Bundy was a handsome man – no way he could be a killer, but he was. Rachel assumes Megan and Scott are happy because they are beautiful and during brief glances from the train they are. However, no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. Everyone assumes Scott killed Megan because he is the husband. Everyone assumes Rachael is lying this time because she is a drunk and does lie a lot. 

8. Megan’s disappearance is a mystery for most of the novel. As the book progresses how do your thoughts change on the reason or person behind Megan going missing? How did you feel when you found out the truth?

I felt bad for Megan. So many bad choices and so much self-punishment. 

9. Megan has a lot of secrets in her past, which have continued to haunt her. How do you think her past has affected her? What do you think about the way she has dealt with it?

Her past absolutely affected her future. She could not forgive herself. She could not move on. She wasn’t happy and she didn’t believe she should allow herself to be happy. Megan tries to fill the void with the men that she has affairs with. With each one, she always at some point wants to run away with them. What she really wants to run away from is herself.

10. Who is the worst out of Rachel, Anna, and Megan?

To me, Anna is the worst female character. She believes she is above it all because she is a mother. Anna thinks she is better than other women because she was able to steal someone’s husband. She is very nearly able to let Rachel die by Tom to retain her “perfect” family. Anna seriously contemplates this because she doesn’t want the perception of her to change. She actually thinks at one point that she can’t imagine people comparing her to Rachel, to be in the same category of Rachel. Anna is self-centered, egotistical, and a horrible person. 

Overall, I would recommend this book. Let me know what you think!

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

Chronic Pain And The Inconvenience of Living In An Apartment

I have lived in apartments most of my life. I have never had more problems than in the apartment I currently live in.

These problems are amplified by my chronic pain — as all things are.

If you recall, my upstairs neighbor flooded my ceiling when I first moved in so much so that management had to tear out my ceiling and build a new one. She had absent-mindedly left her faucet running, then fell asleep. Water poured through my ceiling.

Then, on another occasion, I came into my family room to find 2 inches of water in the kitchen and the entryway. Apparently, she had been sticking non-disposable food items in her sink. All these food items caused the plumbing to back up to, guess where, my apartment. My sink was pouring gross, old food items all out into my apartment because when everyone above me ran their sinks or dishwashers, it all went into my apartment. Fabulous.

Well, now she did it again. She apparently, was oblivious to her dishwasher leaking water onto her floor. Over the last few months, water has been collecting in the space between her floor and my ceiling. It finally eroded the layers so badly, that yup! You guessed it, it came through the ceiling.

I hate her.

Awesomely, my 3 month pill box was right where brown, smelly water poured through the ceiling.

Of course it did.

So, on Friday, that meant I got to deal immediately with the water problem and maintenance. Plus, I spent hours on the phone with ExpressScripts trying to replace my medications. I’m extremely unhappy with them. I could not convince them that it was a replacement order, not a refill. They weren’t having it. My Calcitriol had a refill available, but my Synthroid did not. I finally convinced the supervisor to at least overnight my Calcitriol. An aside, it is now Thursday, and it still is not here. This speaks volumes to the serious downfall to mail-order prescriptions.

The Synthroid, however, needed a new prescription — that means contacting my shitty doctor. Needless to say, ExpressScripts stated that they sent a fax request for a new prescription to my doctor, that, naturally, he has yet to return. I contacted my doctor today, and they hadn’t even heard of this matter (they are the worst). Equally impressive, my doctor is not even in today, so I have to wait until tomorrow for him to tell the office staff it is okay for them to approve my f’ing prescription.

It was never, ever this hard with my previous insurance, nor my other doctor. This is a full-time job trying to get this approved and, in general, stay vigilant in regards to my doctor, insurance, and pharmacy carrier. My medications have been destroyed since Friday. It is now 6 days without my medication. Luckily, I have a mis-order of Levothyroxine on hand to take. If I did not, I would be hypothyroid by now. All because my pharmacy will not do an emergency replacement of a medication that is not even a narcotic. My doctor’s office is literally threatening my life by being too incompetent to send a fax back in to my pharmacy.

I mean, let’s be clear. I do not have a thyroid. If I do not take my medication I go hypothyroid. I will be incomprehensibly lethargic. That along with the Calcitriol to help me absorb my calcium, I could have a seizure or a heart-attack. I would have to go to the ER to get an I.V. infusion of calcium. Really? Because these two entities can’t get their act together? Unbelievable.

But, I digress. The real issue here is how difficult living in an apartment complex. So, I was told on Friday that a portion of my ceiling would have to be removed. They came on Monday to do it, and, of course, were a few hours behind. Therefore, due to me needing to manage the situation, it screwed up my lay/stand cycle immensely.

I didn’t think I had done anything drastically wrong, until as the night progressed, my pain increased exponentially. It is now Thursday, and I’m still trying to recover. The first few days were the worst. I couldn’t sleep, my back felt so tight it was like a rubber band was pulled tight from my middle back to my sacrum. I was in so much pain, that when I was in bed, my back was stiff as a board — my whole body really. I was so tense and struggled just not to cry. It was horrible. I sometimes forget just how bad it can get.

It’s a bit better today, but still not to where it was in the beginning of the week.

It’s also insanely frustrating. I’m so limited, that something as little as standing for 30minutes to an hour more can throw my whole body into a tizzy. I just don’t understand why my back won’t just relax, let go! It’s not helping anything here!

I want to be mad at the person upstairs, and let’s be honest, I am, but mostly I’m just mad that something so small would cause so much pain.

I’m not in control of my environment here, which is a horrible feeling. I’m completely effected by my neighbors and the property management people. Yes, on the surface, it seems like living in an apartment would be great — other people have to fix stuff, and maintain items, but in reality, since I have moved here, it has been a bit more work than it has helped.

Let’s see how this all goes.

Update:

The people who are to fix my ceiling called with a five minute notice. This was after 3 days of hounding the office of when they were coming so something just like this wouldn’t happen. I told them no, they could not fix my ceiling that day. They asked about whether or not they could come the next day and what time. I said sure, around 1:00. They said they would come between 12:00 and 1:00. Guess what? That never happened. At 1:30 I called them to find out where they were. Not coming.

Update to the update: It is now Tuesday and they are finally here. 3 hours to put ceiling in for a foot by foot square. Unreal. Oh, well. Time to practice those breathing exercises and to do a much better job of my stand lay cycle today.

Chronic Pain Feelings

Do not mock pain

 

I found this image on the Chronic Pain Support group website. I found it very helpful to verbalize what I’m sometimes thinking when people are shitty to me.

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

My Review of All The Light We Cannot See Part 2

all the light we cannot seeHere is part 2 to my review

This is from the publisher:

1. The book opens with two epigraphs. How do these quotes set the scene for the rest of the book? Discuss how the radio plays a major part in the story and the time period. How do you think the impact of the radio back then compares with the impact of the Internet on today’s society?

I touched upon this in part 1, but the radio represents how far we “think” we’ve come, but that humans can’t even comprehend how all things in the universe works. We make judgement calls, thinking we are right, and we don’t have all of the information. Who would have thought we could have gone to the moon? Who would have conceived that antibiotics would change the course of human life expectancy? There are things that we cannot see right now, science, spiritually, and socially. If you had asked someone in the 1770’s if we would have had a black president, it would have been scoffed at. There is so much we have yet to see.

2. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (pages 48–49), and Werner recalls these words throughout the book (pages 86, 264, and 409). How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story? How does it relate to Madame Manec’s question: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (page 270)?

I think it is the cliche that life is short, don’t waste time with things that don’t matter — lead a good life. This coincides with Naziism. Open your eyes, don’t let hatreds destroy you and so many other lives.

3. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This…is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

I think it oversimplifies things. Take example death, everyone fears death. Death is powerless to stop, it comes for us all. Is the ultimate fear that death will shine it’s light on you and mark you? Sure. I don’t discount that. This statement is just overly simplistic. Fear can be a many thing. There are worse things than death. Fear of death just might be the strongest until something very, very bad happens to you.

4. Reread Madame Manec’s boiling frog analogy on page 284. Etienne later asks Marie-Laure, “Who was supposed to be the frog? Her? Or the Germans?” (page 328) Who did you think Madame Manec meant? Could it have been someone other than herself or the Germans? What does it say about Etienne that he doesn’t consider himself to be the frog?

I think the frogs in the situation can be the Germans or the French. Either way you look at it. The French could sit there and not resist, and they will slowly die. It can also mean that the Germans can slowly pick away and the Jews, Poland, and anyone else … before anyone realizes that the holocaust has happened.

5. On page 368, Werner thinks, “That is how things are…with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they’re told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not.” But in fact many of the characters show great courage and selflessness throughout the story in some way, big or small. Talk about the different ways they put themselves at risk in order to do what they think is right. What do you think were some shining moments? Who did you admire most?

The person I admired most was Marie-Laure’s father. He always did the right thing no matter what it was. He put his daughter first. He put the museum first. He lived and died a noble, honest, wonderful human being.

6. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

Blindness here could also mean against the German machine. There are many forms of blindness, not just physical. So many Germans and people around the world closed their eyes to what was going on. No one could have guessed the amount of people who turned a blind eye.

7. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

I think another way to simplify this is to state when did a character not have an angle? Werner’s was indeed Rumple. Before that, when he doesn’t turn in Marie-Laure is that he personally had an angle. He wanted to know of the people in the house. Rumple was true sacrifice and doing something solely for another.

Fredde was clearly when he poured out the water. He had taken stuff his whole life, because he felt like his life wasn’t his. He went to the school for his mother and father, he sucked it up when the teacher beat him. The water was his stand.

Etienne’s moment was leaving the house to find Marie-Laure. He loved his brother, but fear kept him inside the house. Etienne left for Marie-Laure.

8. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

It was the house and the inhabitants that were priceless, not the diamond.

9. The 1970s image of Jutta is one of a woman deeply guilt-ridden and self-conscious about her identity as a German. Why do you think she feels so much guilt over the crimes of others?

The crimes were horrific and countless. To use the theme of light and sight, some of the crimes were not as easily seen. It goes beyond the gas chambers, the soldiers dying, and civilian deaths. The crime of all those lives around the world that would never get lived to their fullest.  Jutta’s life was not the same because of the war, and not just due to the rape. She lost her brother, her sense of self, and her security. She lost her identity. She lost the relationship with her brother. It’s apparent in Volkheimer. He didn’t die, but in a way, he did. He leads a bland and purposefully empty life because of his unconscionable actions. He realizes now, too late, what a horrible person he was. Is there redemption? Maybe. But a lot of the characters, and a lot of the people who are still alive in this world, may not, or should not (depending on how you feel) achieve.

 

Do you think she should feel any shame about her identity?

Jutta? I don’t know what she did. What she represents? Yes. It takes a village, as they say. A better example if Fredde’s mom. Did she outright kill anyone? No. Did she let the German machine work for her? Encourage it? Send her son to be a part of it? Yes.

10. What do you think of the author’s decision to flash forward at the end of the book? Did you like getting a peek into the future of some of these characters? Did anything surprise you?

I think it added to the story. Much like Age of Innocence, you must follow the characters from beginning to end to really get a sense of their lives, of what living in that time period meant. To simply talk about how connections between people come about, doesn’t make much sense unless you see the progression. To live life through Marie-Laure and Werner is to understand their place in time, their struggles, their desires, the impact of the world around them. That’s how we understand the impact of the events that occurred in their lives. It aids our understanding that there are things we cannot see — like how different the world would be in 2015 as compared to 1945. To fully understand that as Marie-Laure sits on the park bench, the world around her no longer comprehends the time she grew up in. Kids these days do not understand the world of Marie-Laure – the choices, the false assumptions, the reasons for the violence. This occurs time and time again. Vietnam, race relations, and currently gay rights. It’s a theme that is current in our world – the statement is usually noted as wanting to be on the right side of history.

The story is more impactful, the theme is more impactful, when you see it applied from start to finish.

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

My Review of All The Light We Cannot See part 1

all the light we cannot seeI just finished All The Light We Cannot See.

I give it 5/5 stars. It is the best book I have read in a really, really long time.

Not only was it a great story, but it really makes you think.

These are my thoughts on the book. If you have not read the book, do not read.

I’m going to answer some book questions that have been posted on the internet. Here goes.

(This is part 1. It ended up being longer than I thought, so next week I will post part 2.)

1. First of all, did you like the book overall? Why or why not? Along with that, did you like Doerr’s style of writing?

I loved this book. It has to be one of the best books that I have read in a long, long time. Not only was the story great, but the writing was elegant, intricate, and splendid. The story made me think. It made me want to simultaneously hurry through it to find out what was going to happen, but also to linger on the beauty of each sentence. Some times superfluous writing can be superbly annoying. That was not the case here. 

2. Along with style, how did you feel about the time going back and forth between future and present?

I often find it irritating, here, I found it really moved the story along and gave the reader a chance to absorb everything that was going on, especially in the grander scheme of things. 

3. Favorite character?

That’s a tough call. I’m sure this is cheating … I start to say both Werner and Marie-Laure, but truly, Marie-Laure drives the story. It’s Werner that is most complicated and through so many different characters do we get to observe and relish through his eyes. Werner is my favorite. He is all the light that will never be, the light that could have been, the light that had such a chance to make an impact in the world — extinguished too soon. 

4. What do you think? Do you agree with Madame? Is doing nothing a kind of troublemaking…as good as collaborating?

This has long been debated about WWII. Were those who stood by, and let Naziism take over, were they just as bad? Were they culpable? There are, of course, varying degrees, but yes, almost as bad. I do believe it snowballed to the point in Germany where it was next to impossible to speak out. Those who did were murdered. Yet, in the beginning, oh how things could have been different. 

5. What did you think of the main character being blind? How did this change the story for you?

It makes the reader immediately feel for her. Her light, was of the physical nature. She literally could not see. It’s an important theme of the book. 

6. Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in curses and things of that nature? The supernatural, if you will? More specifically, did you believe that if Werner had had the stone at the end, he might’ve been saved?

I did not believe he would be saved. To me, the diamond represented the theme of things we can not see. We don’t know how or why things are connected. We then try to explain things — through myth. 

7. Was anyone else annoyed by the conversations that happened at the end of the story???

Yes, I wanted more. With all of the extensive writing and prolonged storytelling, it was unsatisfying to not hear the characters explain more. However, I think, perhaps, it was just a writing technique — to make the reader feel unsatisfied like all the lives were in WWII. 

8. What did the title mean to you?

What the title means to me, is everything. 

First, it eludes to the fact that there are so many things out there that we cannot see. The story focuses on the radio. We cannot see radiowaves, we cannot see microwaves. There are whole spectrums of light that we cannot see. We can’t see the internet. In some ways, it is magical (like the diamond). 

So, yes, at the end of the story, when the author states that perhaps, there are souls moving through the world, can we really say for sure that souls are not? In 1945, could one really imagine the internet? Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

There are so many things we do not know — so many ways the world is connected …

 … like our characters. The world is connected in ways that we cannot understand. Things happen, time moves forward, one thing effects another — we might not be able to see the reason, if there is any, but yet it occurs, regardless of our understanding of it. 

So why not a God? Why not our loved ones with us, always? 

Maurie-Laure is another example of all the things we cannot see. It’s a theme, like the radiowaves. She is blind — she can’t see anything. The author even states that closing your eyes is still not the same thing as being blind — there is still light to be seen. Werner sees some stuff, in regards to how life is lived, but it is Jutta, and Fredde that really see the way the world works. If there were more of them, people who really saw … perhaps WWII never would have happened. 

How we think that we HAVE to do something. We erroneously see/believe that it is necessary. Like WWII. Germany felt they had to do all of those heinous things. They didn’t. Now, hindsight shows just how blindingly wrong they were.

The book is riddled with examples of doing the wrong thing not seeing that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

Werner throughout his schooling alongside Fredde, is an example of this. 

I also loved the correlation with the physical nature of the concept. Society thought that we could “see” so much with the radio, but there was so much more we could see. First television, then the internet. So much more than just a radio. 

Which coincides with how things become obsolete — like the radio. 

The radio was everything in WWII. FDR fireside chats next to the radio, information being dispersed by people like real-life Etienne’s. People on the front lines communicating via radio positions, asking for ground support … now? Obsolete. 

All that fighting over WWII, for what? Germany is not supreme ruler of the world. However, now it has taken a place next to the US, England, France, and China. All those lives lost. All of it obsolete, unnecessary, and a waste. 

Another theme is the metaphysical nature of all the light we cannot see. Light is a flame. To put the flame out is to extinguish it. To make dark. A life is like light, and so many lives were extinguished. The line in regards to Werner … what he could have been. All that light, all those lives, that we will never see. We will never see the light they could have shined on other humans beings through their love, their kindness, their connections. All the light those individuals could have shined on science, on technology, on literature. All gone. All extinguished because a failed society didn’t see what they were doing was wrong.

Until next week! I’ll be back for part 2!

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

 

Good graphic that explains our chronic pain feelings

Chronic Pain feelings

 

 

Thanks again to Chronic Pain Support group for posting this.

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

Invisible Illness

 

 

chronic pain

 

Thanks to Chronic Pain Support group for this. I’m in too much pain today to post one for myself. Thanks for getting my back with this image that understands me and for letting me keep my commitment to posting something each week. I’m actually crying as I write this.

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

Still not recovered from PT

field of poppiesIt’s been two and a half weeks since my last PT visit and I’m finally able to sleep through the night without being woken up from the pain. I am able now, for a few days to remain in bed when I wake up and not be in pain. That’s really, really nice.

However, my walking has remained severely limited. I’m about 2000 steps below what I normally do. For all those people out there who are worried about their weight, let me just say this. I’ve gained 3 pounds in the last 2.5 weeks. So, at this point, that’s perhaps what this 2000 steps equates to.

Besides the increased pain and the lack of concentration because of it, I’m bummed because what the loss in steps means. I was working so hard to be able to venture outside of my apartment to go do stuff. I was hoping to be able to walk to the bars come football season to at least be able to watch a quarter there. It would do me tremendous mental good to be able to be around people again. I’m so isolated and so lonely, I was so looking forward to it.

I’d rather be able to do that they have a modicum of increased range of motion.

I go again tomorrow and I am quite frightened.

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This blog is made possible thanks to this GoDaddy coupon CJSIGLERC. If you want to blog yourself, I highly recommend it, check it out.

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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com