Immediately preceding Chapter 16, we have been following the story of Isabelle Rossignol, a 19-year-old French woman who is passing messages for the French resistance in German occupied Northern France during WWII. She has suffered many hardships during her life -- an alienated father who was psychologically scarred by traumatic experiences in the WWI trenches, the death of her mother early in Isabelle's childhood, a temperament unsuited to convent schools that repeatedly expel her and, now, thieving soldiers, hunger, fear, humiliation and constant threat of bodily harm from the occupying German military.
Jump to 1995. On the Oregon coast, a successful surgeon is moving his mother into a retirement community. The woman may or may not be Isabelle Rossignol, but like Isabelle, she risked her life during WWII. She worked as a passeur for the French resistance. Her protective son knows nothing about her history with the resistance.
I am trussed up like a chicken for roasting. I know these modern seat belts are a good thing, but they make me feel claustrophobic. I belong to a generation that didn’t expect to be protected from every danger. I remember what it used to be like, back in the days when one was required to make smart choices. We knew the risks and took them anyway. I remember driving too fast in my old Chevrolet, my foot pressed hard on the gas, smoking a cigarette and listening to Price sing “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” through small black speakers while children rolled around in the backseat like bowling pins. My son is afraid that I will make a break for it, I suppose, and it is a reasonable fear. In the past month, my entire life has been turned upside down. There is a SOLD sign in my front yard and I am leaving home. “It’s a pretty driveway, don’t you think?” my son says. It’s what he does; he fills space with words, and
Hannah, Kristin (2015-02-03). The Nightingale (p. 143). St. Martin's Press. Kindle Edition.
Against the grain of popular opinion, I can't recommend The Nightingale. It seemed promising in the early pages, but the further I got into it, the more it read like a formulaic romance novel.
As I mentioned recently, Franzen's Purtiy was on my next-to-read list. Finished that. 4/5 stars. Brilliant, but felt uneven. Of special interest to me, Franzen has an impressive grasp of object relations and is at his best in his detailed portrayal of the borderline personality organization.
After that, I read Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, a novel that richly deserved its 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. 5/5 stars.
At the moment, I'm 50 pages into Kristin Hannah's Nightingale, and liking it. The first paragraphs:
If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. Today’s young people want to know everything about everyone. They think talking about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.
Lately, though, I find myself thinking about the war and my past, about the people I lost.
It makes it sound as if I misplaced my loved ones; perhaps I left them where they don’t belong and then turned away, too confused to retrace my steps.
They are not lost. Nor are they in a better place. They are gone. As I approach the end of my years, I know that grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever a part of us.
I'm recommending Twinsters (limited theater release, available on Netflix). This documentary was made by a young American woman, born in Korea and adopted as an infant. I am not giving away too much in revealing that the internet led the filmmaker, Samantha Futerman, to the discovery of a hitherto unknown identical twin sister raised in France, and now living in London. Creatively told as events unfolded, what could have been a trite and overly sentimental film turns out to be unexpectedly thoughtful, genuine and moving.
Over the weekend, we saw Spotlight, a film about The Boston Globe investigation of the Catholic clergy and religious sex abuse scandal. As I've mentioned here a number of times, I was involved professionally in the scandals, working with perpetrators, victims and providing consultation. Spotlight rang very true for me. In only a couple moments that I can't even recall now, did I feel that the film got some very minor element wrong. Most of it was right to a chilling extent that would be readily recognizable by anyone who was close to the situation. If you see this film, notice the brief portrayal of Fr. Ronald Paquin, an admitted repeat abuser of children. Richard O'Rourke eerily captured the presentation of a pedophile type I've encountered many times. I wonder if he met with abusers in preparation for his role.
I've been listening to the scanner online for about an hour. Incredibly tense conversation between police working their way through the PP building. The suspect just surrendered. Transport is waiting for him outside Chase Bank. Police ordered "no airing of personal information" though a name was said earlier. Snipers were positioned to take him out if any IED was spotted on him, but he was not carrying explosive when he surrendered.
Suspect said he is alone and police are clearing the building. One person down in main lobby. They're still clearing remaining areas of the building. Concerned about explosives or any other person involved. They're talking to people locked in a room and they're about to get them out.
Something just happened. Loud noise and everything went silent. Hope it's just a technical glitch.
Back on air. They're looking for a bullhorn now. They want to talk to anyone who might still be in building.
I'm off today, but I'm not really off. I'm so backed up on reports that I must spend much of the day writing. At the moment, I'm on a procrastination break at a Starbucks a few doors away from the auto-service shop that is diagnosing the Service Engine dashboard light that lit up yesterday. And I'm tired. Last night we made some devastating chocolate chip cookies as part of our contribution to a Thanksgiving feast. I ate three of them and got wired like a Christmas tree, resulting in a terrible night's sleep. Should have seen that coming.
The recipe was developed a long time ago with my grad school girlfriend. We were always coming up with new procrastination techniques, like the time we stripped all the wallpaper in our shitty apartment while studying non-stop for comps over a two-month stretch. It began as a bit of obsessive-compulsive picking and tearing on her part, and things escalated from there. Then we had to clean the walls with a special goo-wash-away solution, then prime and repaint. We both passed and the apartment looked better.
Anyway, the cookie project extended over a couple of years as we experimented with various recipes, tinkering endlessly to achieve the perfectly-textured, chewy, salty-sweet, powdered-oatmeal-peanut-bit, chocolate-chip & chunk cookie. Most people absolutely love them. They're even more amazing then Donald Trump's cookies (I know! Hard to believe!), but they're a bear to make, and eating more than two is biohazardous.
Watching the mayor and police chief at a special press conference. I hope this doesn't turn into a very ugly holiday weekend in Chicago.
Video downloadable for one hour at https://video11242015.azurewebsites.net
But the link is not working. Probably overloaded.
Update: If you wish to see the shooting and judge for yourself, here's the video. Police had claimed McDonald lunged at Officer Van Dyke. It appeared to me that McDonald was moving away from the officers. Keep in mind the autopsy reveals he was hit with 16 bullets. He goes down at 5:32-5:35. I could see a small puff of smoke from a shot at 5:47 while he was helpless on the ground.