Category Archives: Reviewed by JoAnn

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.