Book Review: Lara Santoro’s “The Boy”

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Anna is a divorced mother of an 8-year-old girl who had fled her ex-husband for the desert of New Mexico. She doesn’t seem to work, really, although at one time, her narrative hints, she was an international journalist. Something happened between her and the ex that looms overhead, dark and threatening to rain.

Meanwhile, she parents, with the help of Esperanza, the housekeeper/compulsive gambler. She broods and mopes around her town, until one night she sees her neighbor’s son in a whole new light.

What follows is Anna’s steep descent into obsession – a sexual affair with a young man 20 years her junior, and an account of her appreciation for his youth, his beauty, and his creamy skin. As a novel, it’s compelling. I’m a woman. I get it. I enjoyed living vicariously through this imaginary mother, her indulgence, her petulant rationalization in her mind, to her daughter: “I’ve given you everything.”

But what the story doesn’t let the reader in on soon enough, in my opinion, is Anna’s alcoholism. Sure, she’s a drinker. Sure, she self medicates. But when the chips are down, Anna’s inability to cope ultimately causes a major disaster. And then the book is over.

I found myself wanting more. More love affair – the boy is interesting at first and you can see why Anna is drawn to him. But he ceases to be interesting after a short while. He becomes just another deadbeat kid with no direction and no kitchen skills. Why Anna continues to want him is a mystery.

I wanted more of Anna’s self-destruction, too. The story is well told, the writing is lyrical and compelling. It shows how even the most loving mother can be so distracted by lust that only the worst possible scenario can shake her out of it. But “The Boy” is too much like life – people making bad decisions, events not making sense. I read novels to escape life, and this one was just as frustrating as the real thing.

The Boy, by Lara Santoro. Little, Brown and Company

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Wordless Wednesday: Pink

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Weaning

This is one mommy blog post that’s not about breast milk.

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For the last few weeks I’ve been having a weird symptom when I get really tired or have a beer or two. My eyeballs make a disconcerting nano-shift to the left…and that’s it. It’s simple, small, and passes quickly, and it happens when I am waking up in the morning and goes away after I’ve had my coffee. But then it started happening at night if I’ve stayed up late enough that I feel really tired. And then over the weekend it happened mid-day, and then I just felt slight dizzy. And then it happened after I drank a beer. (Because I thought that would help?)

I spent the day going to doctors who scanned my eyeballs and ruled out things like pituitary gland tumor and meningitis. Awesome, right? Next up, a neurologist. I’m grateful that they didn’t automatically recommend a psychiatrist and twirl their index fingers in a circle next to their ears.

Meanwhile, my research on the internet suggests that perhaps I may be drinking too much of things like, say, caffeine and alcohol. While excision of a tumor seems way easier than cutting out coffee and wine, I am going to try the latter because it’s much cheaper and I won’t need additional childcare.

So. Today is Day 1 of the Great Caffeine Reduction of 2013. Normally we make a pot of 10 cups of coffee every day: 10 cups of water to 5 scoops of coffee. This morning I substituted 1 scoop of (I hate to even type this) decaf for one of the scoops. We’ll do this every day for a week, then increase the caffeinated/decaf ratio to 3:2, and so on until it’s all decaf.

It’s hard to imagine, really. I’m not sure I can do it. I suppose if my eyeballs depend on it, I will.

I’m going to similarly not drink alcoholic beverages for a while. Not in a ratio shifting way, I’m just going to drink water instead of a glass of wine with dinner. Etc.

Sigh. There are few things that give me such pleasure in life. Stay tuned to see how this goes, and how many people unfriend me because I turn into a raging, chemical-free bitch. And please, for the love of all things warm and good, give me your recommendations for great-tasting decaf coffee in the comments.

It’s Her Turn To Talk Me Down Off the Ledge

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Bridge To Nowhere (photo by Nobody Hikes in LA)

Yesterday a young woman lost her footing on the Eaton Canyon Trail here in the LA area and plummeted 200 feet to her death. This story reminded me of a treacherous hike I did with Lisa, so of course I had to write about it. But my right arm has been hurting so I composed most of this post using voice recognition on my iPhone. I decided not to edit it.

Later I went into the hard copy archives and found the photos and entries in my hiking journal which tells me why I was reminded so vividly by the recent news story.  In April ’96 I hiked to the Bridge to Nowhere with Lisa. The next month I recorded a hike in Eaton Canyon that I did by myself.

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In 1996 Lisa and I went on a foolish hike

We wanted to hike to the bridge to nowhere

The night before we had gone out drinking and woke up hung over

Still we were determined we drank our coffee one of us made pancakes

We made too many pancakes
So we put the extra pancakes in a Ziploc bag put them in our packs and
took them with us

Because we were hung over we left late in the morning

We were sort of experienced hikers but we weren’t really thinking

People were returning from the bridge to nowhere as we started on the trail

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It didn’t matter to us we just kept going

At one point the trail crossed through a river a raging river

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And then it snaked up the side of a mountain

The trail was very narrow and climbed very high

Lisa was afraid of heights

I am afraid of heights now but I wasn’t then

I looked behind me and I saw her stuck on the side of the trail

She was frozen halfway along a section of the trail that clung to the
side of a cliff

She was too afraid to keep going forward and too afraid to go back

She called to me “send a helicopter”

I remember the terror on her face

I went back to get her

I guided her down the narrow path to relative safety

We made it to the bridge to nowhere and ate our pancakes

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On our way back to the car the sun was setting and it was getting dark
and we didn’t have flashlights

That was pretty dumb

But who cared

We were 25 years old we were invincible

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