12 Books—Month 7

Yes, I’m playing catch up. Since we’re actually in the 10th month of the year, I’m reviewing 2 books by Twitter friends in one month, but this one was an easy pick. Why? Because it’s The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ramzipoor in person when she visited my lovely little library just a few weeks ago for an incredible presentation as part of Literatour Berks. (<— That’s an amazing program, by the way, and I’m honored to have been a part of the committee that’s helped pull it together.)

The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists isn’t the kind of novel I would have picked up on my own. While the cover is gorgeous (It is, isn’t it?), I have a difficult time with historical fiction. It’s not that I’m uninterested, but I get bogged down in the details. But this…this I couldn’t resist.

Inspired by true events, the novel follows a ragtag gang of journalists and resistance fighters in 1943 Belgium who risk their lives for an elaborate scheme to undermine the Reich in the practical joke of the century. When we think of World War II stories, we tend to think of the war stories told time and again—the soldiers’ tales, the bombings, the rescues, the planes and the ships, the big picture heroes. Often overlooked is the story of the everyday resistance fighter, and that’s what Ramzipoor brings to light in The Ventriloquists.

The Ventriloquists features a large cast that can be overwhelming in the beginning (not going to lie), but is well-worth the time spent getting to know them. Beloved characters with charm and wit, LGBT representation that’s more often than not erased from history in most works, and a precocious child (our narrator) at the center of it all.

In all, 60,000 copies of a fake newspaper (Le Soir) were distributed at the Nazis’ expense on November 9th, 1943. The newspaper was real enough, you see, but it wasn’t the paper that should have been distributed that day. Instead, it was a spoof paper written to poke fun at the Nazis, at the Reich, and at Hilter himself. It was a prank of epic proportions and a story I can’t believe hasn’t been told before.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up The Ventriloquists, read, and enjoy history coming to life before your very eyes. Ramzipoor has crafted a winner in this incredible debut.

Falling Down

It’s Saturday. More specifically, it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’m supposed to be happy. We are full-fledged into the Christmas season. I should be baking Christmas cookies (and eating half of them) while my husband strings the lights outside and I watch from the warmth of our living room. The kids should be bouncing off the walls and playing Christmas music. Instead, we’re doing nothing we should be doing and it hardly feels like Christmas at all.

In fact, Thanksgiving, with the exception that we got to spend it with my family and my mom made another fabulous meal for the books, pretty much sucked. Older child had the stomach virus two weeks ago and now quite suddenly has severe panic attacks (most likely due to her father’s prolonged physical illness whether she recognizes it or not). She couldn’t enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t even manage a bite of dessert. Younger child had lice three weeks ago (that was fun) and we’re still vigilant with our checks to make sure we’ve taken care of the issue. And husband now seems to have a stomach virus on top of all else. It’s 11 a.m. and he’s still sleeping. My guess is that he was up all night. I couldn’t tell you for sure because older daughter has taken his place in our bed the last three nights so that I could make sure she got real sleep.

I have so much to be thankful for, but it’s really difficult to remember when everything around you seems to be falling apart, falling down.

Falling Down. I might be showing my age here, but remember that Michael Douglas movie from the early 1990’s? The main character essentially has a nervous breakdown and starts randomly killing people before ultimately taking his own life. I was 15 or 16 when I watched it with my brother on t.v. one night and I remember being utterly disenchanted. I had just wasted two hours of my life to watch a guy go crazy and shoot people up before killing himself? What was this crap? What was the point?

falling-down

Let me just say: I get it.

I get it. I get it. I get it. (No, no need to call anyone to have me psychiatrically examined. I won’t take that route.)

Watching the outside world tank over the last couple of years has been depressing enough and being part of the #resistance movement has been taxing (especially as a major introvert who just wants a blanket and a good book, dammit!), but when you’ve got life also screwing you over on a personal level at the same time, it’s almost too much to take.

Remember when I thought seven weeks with a drain tube was a long time? Well, my husband has had one in for 19 now. His next appointment is December 7th, so that will bring our total to at least 21 weeks. Short-term disability runs out on December 2nd. He’s trying to figure out if he is able to go back to work, even with his drain in, and I’m not sure he’s at that point yet. His sleep is miserable (as a result, cognitive function isn’t always top-notch), he’s frequently in pain, and he’s irritable (which might not be the best state for the customer-service aspects of his job). We were supposed to talk it over last night, but talking it over wasn’t a possibility when he ended up battling a stomach virus all night, because a tube in his abdomen apparently wasn’t enough misery. Because he needed another hurdle.

Because apparently the universe isn’t done throwing shit at us yet. I keep wondering how much more it could possibly have in store, but I’ve learned it’s not good to ask the question aloud.

Despite it all, I am still thankful. I am. I am thankful for medicine, for incredible doctors who have brought us through the most difficult times and quite literally saved his life. I’m thankful that, by some miracle, we managed to discover the cancer early. I’m thankful for others’ stories who help us get through. I’m thankful for friends, old and new, who continue to offer support of every kind. I’m thankful that he didn’t need to follow his surgery with radiation or chemotherapy. I’m thankful that a miserable drain tube can prevent the need for another surgery.

I am thankful. And nothing the universe throws at me will ever change that.

pancreatic symposium
He’s in the third row, second one in from the left. Two thumbs up because even with a drain still in, he attended the 12th Annual Pancreatic Symposium at Thomas Jefferson.