Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been some time since I've been so deeply and profoundly moved by a novel, indeed moved to a shattered state and uncontrolled weeping. The Five People You Meet in Heaven is not only a subtle, deftly crafted novel that deals with the ambiguities and silent secrets ordinary people carry with them, like burdens or crutches, but a clear insight into motivation, cause and effect.

The story follows a relatively simple narrative, employing a relatively simple style. No flash and dazzle here. But it is in the deception of simplicity that Mitch Albom creates the complexities in which humans chain themselves.

We follow the life of Eddie, an aged maintenance man at an amusement park, who believes himself trapped by his wartime disabilities, and by his inability to confront his father. The story begins, as Albom puts it, at the end, in this case the end of Eddie's life.

What unfolds is a story of redemption and discovery, and in the end of reconciliation and peace. It is a very human story. Any lover, any friend, any child and any parent will find common cause in this story, will nod, will identify.

The passage, perhaps, I found the most moving was this:
All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.

I believe The Five People You Meet in Heaven will remain on the shelves of classic literature for generations to come.

Highly recommended.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories

Good Calories, Bad Calories
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading this minutely researched, well-presented scientific look at the entire debate regarding calories, health and obesity, I found myself consistently angered by a medical establishment interested more in accolades and advancement of careers than in solid research and the health of people.

If Taubes' research is accurate, and it certainly seems well-documented, there are hundreds of thousands of people struggling with weight, dropping considerable cash on questionable treatments, diet plans and exercise regimens that have no scientific basis whatsoever to either improve health, or relieve people of poundage on a permanent basis.

I'd recommend every family physician (particularly mine, Dr. Phillip James), dietician, bariatric surgeon, psychologist -- in short anyone involved in health care -- to read this book. While it won't answer your questions (in fact I have more questions now than when I started), it will stimulate you to investigate further and perhaps find some truth behind the myths of obesity.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Remembrance

ashokan farewell (civil)

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For relatives in the Stephens family:

For Duncan Albert Long, June 24, 1915 - March 24, 1944. Served in WWII. RAF pilot shot down over Germany, recipient of Distinguished Flying Medal.

Distinguished Flying Medal
For Duncan's brothers, John and Jim who served in the British army and navy during WWII.

For Thomas Cecil Phillips, August 14, 1922 - December, 2008. Served in WWII. Served with the Gloucester Regiment, British Army WWII, Burma, March 1944, and returned for demobilization in Nov 1997 and discharged.
King's Badge for Loyal Service

For Walter John Phelps, February 25, 1914 - January 26, 1996. Served in WWII. Enlisted in East Yorkshire Regiment. POW at Stalag Luft VII-A 2-3 years. Served with Desert Rats in Tobruk.
Stalag Luft VII entrance

For George Joseph Stephens, March 12, 1924 - February 21, 1978. Served in WWII. 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, private, #22203420, tank driver. Regiment part of the British 1st Armoured Division in WWII in the Middle East, and was part of Montgomery's battle against Rommell. Later served in Malaya.
George Stephens in Malaya

For George's brothers, Terrance, Jack, Michael, Ernest and Donald who served in British army and navy during WWII.

For Harry Page, who served in the Canadian Navy during WWII.

For Duncan Albert Long, August 12, 1890 - 1965. Served in the British army WWI, 9th Gloucester Regiment. Recipient of the Victory and Star Medals.
Star Medal
Victory Medal

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: And the Birds Rained Down

And the Birds Rained Down
And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And the Birds Rained Down is a delicate, introspective fiction of a photographer's journey to chronicle the great bush-fires that consumed so much of Ontario's north during the early part of the 20th century. In doing so, she (the photographer) uncovers the story of a boy who walked through six days of inferno to find the twin girls he loved.

The simplicity of the story, however, is belied by the complexity of the lives of the people who had been involved, now either dead or advanced in age, some of whom have retreated from society and live in isolation around a lake, each with a pact with death, to control their destiny with dignity and independence.

It is also a story of love found in the last act, of love never found, of love acted out through creative expression that ends up a legacy.

Beautifully and skilfully written, the story evokes emotion with a subtle hand. Highly recommended.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory, June 6, 1944

Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory, June 6, 1944
Juno Beach: Canada's D-Day Victory, June 6, 1944 by Mark Zuehlke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

NB: I read the eBook version, which may be different from the hardcover.

A quick, informative, journalistic view of Canada's involvement in the D-Day operation, Juno Beach. Zuehlke's style makes for a well-documented overview of this complex operation, and would do well as a text for schools.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Ortona Street Fight

Ortona Street Fight
Ortona Street Fight by Mark Zuehlke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Zuehlke, with his clipped, factual, journalistic style presents the facts of one of Canada's little known, bloody struggles and triumphs of WWII, the Italian campaign.

Without fanfare or blatant patriotism, he illustrates the tenacity, one might even say insanity, of Canadian troops who, once again, seized and held a strategic objective.

If I were teaching WWII history in Canada, this is certainly a book I would incorporate into the curriculum. Well researched, well written, well done.

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