Sunday, June 15, 2014

Literary Tourism - Massachusetts and California

Today, I'm finishing off books set in states I have lived in.  I've already covered Maine and Utah; now I'm revisiting California and Massachusetts.  The books are also connected because they create a great sense of place for me.  Using the names of specific streets and parts of the city, the authors really bring me back to the places I have been.  It's been awhile since I've read either of these books, but they have stayed with me in a profound way.


Still Alice by Lisa Genova - Alice is a Harvard professor who is at the top of the research in her field when she begins noticing that she can't remember things the way she used to.  One day she is going for a run down the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts and she can't remember where she is.  Her family is devasted to learn that Alice has early onset Alzheimer's disease and the experimental treatments she undergoes fail to slow the progression of the debilitating disease.  This book tells the story of Alice and her family as they learn to endure and adjust to a woman who is completely changed. 

Setting this book at Harvard and in one of the most intellectually elite parts of the country was no accident.  It makes the changes in Alice's brain seem even more dramatic.  I enjoyed visualizing her runs, visits to the coffee shops, and Harvard Yard. 

This book opened my eyes to challenges and diseases I barely understand and I liked it for that reason.  But it is profoundly depressing and it took me days to recover from it. I would recommend it highly, but you have to be ready for it.


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender  - When Rose is nine she discovers she has a gift when she tastes her mother's lemon cakeShe can feel her mother's sadness.  Upon closer inspection she discovers that she can even taste where a processed meal has been produced.  This tells the story of how Rose learns to live with this curse.

This story takes place in Los Angeles and Bender is very detailed in her descriptions of street names and locations.  The story probably could have taken place anywhere, but I read it while living in Los Angeles which made it more memorable.

This book was weird, but I like weird.  It was a little depressing, but not like Still Alice.
"I'm not depressing; I'm cute"

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