Tag Archives: Illness

Book Review: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

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Rating: A-/ I can’t remember the last time I felt this emotionally drained after reading a book. It’s a tricky business to write a novel in an intentionally childish and grammatically incorrect style so as to capitalize on the narrator’s illiteracy, but I think this book pulled that off wonderfully.  Although that sounds like it would be difficult to read, I found myself getting pulled into the pragmatic and plain-spoken heroine, Mary’s world without too much confusion. Moreover, I fell in love with Mary’s voice and, withholding spoilers, it broke my heart that things didn’t work out better for her than they did. Continue reading Book Review: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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Garth Stein’s gently unique bestseller is a tearjerker featuring the most unlikely of protagonists- Enzo, a mongrel of uncertain lineage with a keen and brilliant mind that yearns to escape its canine body. Enzo’s owner, Denny Swift, is a race car driver who excels on the track but has pretty shitty luck in general. Enzo is devoted to Denny and his wife Eve’s little daughter, Zoe. So when Zoe’s happiness is put at stake by Eve’s slow death by cancer and a ensuing court battle brought on by Eve’s meddling parents, Enzo must do all in his limited power to mend Zoe and her father’s lives.

Enzo may be an unreliable narrator at times (consider his limited experience with people outside his family’s immediate circle,) but he’s twice as smart and observant as your average protagonist and he knows plenty about the follies and frailties that inhabit the human soul. In fact, Enzo is so fascinated by the inner workings of mankind that he hopes to reincarnated as a man. But before his increasingly imminent demise comes around, Enzo is determined to protect those he loves- especially when Denny is falsely accused of abusing a minor, which is used in the courtroom to keep him from his beloved daughter.

I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at this book. Sick, injured, and dead doggies hit a nerve for me, so watching Enzo deteriorate physically was a rough journey for me. Readers cautious about reading the book should know that the end result is bittersweet and ultimately uplifting rather than nihilistic and relentlessly gloomy. I don’t always agree with Enzo on his musings (such as his hope to become human, people aren’t such hot shit) but it is hard not to care for him when you consider his devotion to his family and his unique viewpoint.

The secondary characters aren’t developed nearly to the point of the canine protagonist, and some of the aspects seem a little childish or even ring false, but other whimsical components (such as the metaphor of the zebra) work more efficiently than they probably should. Things seemed to move a little fast (Eve was there and gone so fast I didn’t have time to blink) but the plot-lines worked reasonably well and summed up to a nice, quick read.

I am not at all a fan of NASCAR or automobile racing in general, but I didn’t find the prose concerning racing overbearing, and even, through Enzo’s eager eyes, could theorize a little on why people liked it The Art of Racing in the Rain
is a solid book which is a must-read for dog lovers and avid fiction readers alike.

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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey, who seems to being turning up a number of good movies and performances lately) is a hard-living, white-trash, uber-masculine cowboy type- who has just been told he suffers from AIDS and has only a short time to live. Ron is initially indignant and waist-deep in denial- the year is 1985 and AIDS is still widely considered a primarily ‘gay’ disease. Woodroof is not gay, He is, however promiscuous and an intravenous drug user, and his hard partying proves to be fateful and eventually, deadly.

Okay, so Ron Woodroof dies. But this isn’t the story of his death. It is about his remaining time, and how he spends it. The only drug the FDA permits for treating AIDS, AZT, is pure poison to whoever consumes it. So Ron starts trafficking non-approved drugs to treat AIDS patients. He is aided by HIV-positive Trans woman Rayon (Jared Leto,) which he is initially not pleased at all about.

Meanwhile, Ron romances doctor Eve (Jennifer Garner) (though nothing can happen because of his disease) and predictably begins to grow as a human being. Eve questions her boss Doctor Sevard’s decision to approve AZT, which leads to her getting fired from her job. Rayon continues to abuse drugs and alcohol even though she’s sick, and soon falls apart.

I understand that the real Ron Woodroof was bi and not even close to the mean sonofabitch he was portrayed as in the movie. The director obviously wanted to push the ‘homophobic-cowboy-finds-his humanity’ redemption story. And it IS a good film. A little obvious in that Hollywood way, but it works, led by two great performances by Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (I found Garner and Eve a little dry, though.)

Both lost a ton of weight and were clearly committed to their roles. “Dallas Buyers Club” keeps it real and never tries too hard to make either lead a tragic figure, and only hints once at Ron’s less-than-ideal childhood (a lesser movie would be all over that.) “Dallas Buyers Club” finds inspiration in subjects that initially seem only dark and dismal, and comes out a winner with the help of its actors.

Dallas Buyers Club