Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Reviews: Wild, God's Hotel, and Major Pettigrew

God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet

Laguna Honda is truly its own place, where a chicken walks through the AIDS ward, patients fall in love and get married in the chapel and some patients eventually die. In this book, Dr. Sweet writes about her time working at Laguna Honda Hospital, one of the last almshouses in the country. She practiced medicine there for decades and saw the hospital transform as she began to learn about slow medicine and it's healing powers. She tells powerful tales of simply observing her patients and allowing healing to happen simply with small changes in their environment and time. Sweet also tells about getting her PhD studying medieval medicine and how that changed her practice. As one who spends my working days in the hospital I appreciated the stories she told and some of the principals she uses; observation rather than chart reading, interpreting her own x-rays, listening to the nurses. I think the writing could have been a little more compelling but the things she is able to communicate are really important and the story of Laguna Honda is an important one.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is a beautifully written memoir about a young woman hiking the pacific crest trail with no prior backpacking experience in the midst of personal turmoil. After her mother dies quickly of lung cancer, she gets divorced from her college sweetheart and ends up working a variety of jobs while moving about the country, Cheryl Strayed decided to branch out of regular life and spend 3 months hiking through the wilderness of the west coast. She tells about the people she meets along the trail, the horrific blisters earns, the monster of a backpack she hikes with and the life lesson she learns. Honestly, I pre-judged this book. I went into it thinking it would be a silly story about a girl who made stupid decisions and "finds herself" in the forest. I was only partially wrong. Strayed did make some dumb decisions leading up to this but the story was so much more than I had expected. Her writing is compelling, laugh-out-loud funny, self-deprecating but not apologetic. She is brutally honest about herself and the things she went through and I loved it. I definitely recommend this book. 4/5 stars *disclaimer there are some inappropriate scenes so don't judge me
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

I picked this up in a free library in someone's front  yard with no expectations and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Simonson tells the story of Major Pettigrew, a retired army major living in a small town in England. He lives a ordered life as a widower and ends up befriending Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani shop owner. They deal with her family values, his adult son's drama, and the town's judgement. It's a rather simple story about the life of people in this town and their traditional British values. You really end up rooting for Major Pettigrew to step out of his comfort zone and for everything to work out. It's lovely. 3.5/5 stars

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