The Universe vs. Alex Woods by Gavin Extence (June 2013)

alex woodsFabulous book.  And it surprised me.  It’s not about what I thought it was going to be about.  And I don’t want to ruin it here by telling you.  I’ll just say it deals with a somewhat controversial subject, and humanizes it in a wonderful way.  This is a coming-of-age story of a 17-year-old boy in England.  Like any other young person who doesn’t fit the standard mold — Alex has epilepsy brought on by being hit by a meteor — he gets bullied.  This might make you think it’s a YA book.  It could be.  But some of the allusions are ones that YA’s may not get, so I’d put this in more of the adult reading category.  This is a funny book.  Such a light sense of humor (in that lovely British way), especially given what ends up being weighty subject matter.  I had no problem, as a middle aged woman, relating to the story.  Maybe in part because one of the characters is a quirky (slightly crazy?) mother, and if I’m honest, I probably fit into that broad (not specific: I do NOT hold seances or collect all things witchy) category.  You’ll close this book feeling pretty certain that your own uniqueness is quite all right.  And you’ll likely have a refreshed perspective on what makes life worth living.


Comet’s Tale by Steven D. Wolf (Oct 2012)

This memoir is above all about living with a sudden and unexpected disability and chronic pain.  It is almost as fully an account of how much a dog can ease pain and disability, both psychically and practically.  And it is also an illustration of how tragically a change in physical wellness can nearly rip to shreds the health of family relationships.  In the end, “Wolf” and his dog save each other and their family.  I kept thinking throughout the book how easily I or someone I love could get disabled.  “Wolf” was a triathalon athlete at 42 when his condition reared it’s ugly head.  I understand a little better now what being cut down in your prime can mean.  I’ll be looking into long-term disability insurance.  I’m also now in love with greyhounds.  My husband isn’t yet sympathetic, but I think, like “Wolf”, he just needs to meet one, to look into her doe eyes and see the quiet, calm intelligence.  They’re incredible dogs.  At least Comet certainly was.  There were about 40 pages in the middle of the book that I thought could have been more heavily edited.  But the overall read was worth it.  Galley provided by Algonquin Books on

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