The Deal of a Lifetime is a new novella by Fredrik Backman. The unusual story requires a short amount of time to read, but took me a good while to contemplate.

Told in the first-person, a father with cancer meets a little girl in the hospital who is dying of cancer. This encounter leads him to reflect on his life as he contemplates making a deal with death.

The story made me sad. In some way it reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life. It also brought my thoughts back to a time almost twenty years ago when I did a serious life review of my own in a hospital bed prior to having major surgery.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a “holiday” story; it most certainly is not light reading. What it is however, is another interesting story from the mind of one of my favorite authors. Be prepared to be amazed.

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Till Death Do Us Part

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner is one of the Top 150 Novels of the 20th Century. It’s author based the fictional novel on actual letters written by a well-known artist and author named Mary Hallock Foote who lived in the late 1800’s. Stegner named his main character Susan and juxtaposed her life with that of her fictional grandson Lyman living in the middle of the 20th century.

Susan and her husband Oliver spend the majority of their marriage in sparsely inhabited areas of the western U.S. With poverty and solitude as constant companions, their relationship suffers greatly. In addition to a physical handicap, Lyman, the narrator, has his own marital difficulties. This colors his attitude towards his late grandmother.

There are many things I liked about this novel. Wegner’s depiction of the Old West and his characters are captivating. His writing style is impeccable. In fact, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for this novel. I was fascinated by the story’s main character Foote and hope to discover more about her life and work. The only criticism I have is that I found the character Lyman annoying, however, as the story unfolds, he has good reason to be. I wish his truth had been presented earlier in the novel. Other than that, I enjoyed this novel very much and recommend it highly.

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Walk in Beauty

Will’s Red Coat by Tom Ryan is a non-fiction book my mother recommended. Sharing our love of literature is wonderful and I am grateful for it.

As you can tell by the photo on the book’s cover, Will is a miniature schnauzer. I don’t often read books about animals so this book intrigued me. It turns out Will was a dog very near death who was rescued by the author who already owned another younger schnauzer. Almost blind and deaf, poor Will brought with him a myriad of problems to contend with. Ryan approaches the suffering animal with compassion and acceptance thereby making the end of Will’s life one of renewal and dignity.

This is a philosophically beautiful story about so much more than a dog during his final days. The author’s wisdom, compassion, and love of nature provide an enviable path for humans to follow.

I’m grateful my mother brought this book to my attention and come away from it with a sense of peace and tranquility. There’s much to learn here about life and the importance of treating all we encounter with dignity and respect.

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Humming a New Tune

Nocturnes: Five stories of music and nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro is a collection of music themed short stories. As a Ishiguro fan and music lover, this novel aroused my curiosity. I ended-up being surprised because it seemed so different from previous books of his I have read.

Each of the short stories have a musical element, however, not always the main theme. One story is about a former well-known vocalist encountered in Italy by a young guitar player whose mother owned bootlegged copies of his records. Another, centers on a single man visiting a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. There is a story about a struggling composer writing songs who meets and elderly couple who perform, a musician who has plastic surgery in effort to achieve success, and a cello player who encounters an elderly music mentor who cannot play a note.

Ishiguro has cleverly connected his short stories like notes on a musical staff. Each truth told here reflects his creative power to use an underlying theme to imagine many different scenarios. All of the tales are well-written and memorable. I read the book twice because my first reading didn’t fully absorb all that was here to learn. I liked it better the second time around, but I am not as keen on this novel as others I have read by Ishiguro.

As a musician myself, it brought back memories of times I spent writing, performing, and listening to music. For that I am grateful. I think most people would find something to relate to in these short stories. After all, isn’t music the universal language?

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For Pauline

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Bachman came into my hands with no previous knowledge of its subject matter and exactly one week after my best friend’s mother Pauline passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

This most touching novella describes a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s disease and conversations with his late wife, son, and grandson. In beautifully written prose, Backman imagines the thoughts of an Alzheimer’s patient who is aware of the progression of the disease and his fear of losing his most precious memories. His grandson Noah gladly and lovingly accepts the responsibility of remembering these things for his grandfather.

Unfortunately, so many people know someone whose life has been touched by Alzheimer’s. I am grateful this wonderful novella came to me just when I needed it and highly recommended it.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation:

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It’s In There

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra had been sitting on my bookcase for the longest time. Encountering it recently while sorting books prompted me to read it!

I’ve read similar stories based on hidden messages in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces and this one provided additional information I’d not yet read. It involves the Last Supper mural in Milan and the Pope’s secret inquisition into it while da Vinci is still working on it.

It is a fictional historical thriller similar to Dan Brown’s novels which I enjoyed.  Stories like these fascinate me. If you enjoy them also, I think you will like this. I will never look at the Last Supper painting in the same way again!

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Troubled Water

What is it All But Luminous: Notes from an underground man by Art Garfunkel is an autobiography I looked forward to with sincere interest. I am sorry to report how disappointed I was in it. Ever-changing fonts and layouts where torture for this guitar playing, music fan’s elderly eyes.

There were three things in this collection of random notes, poems and disconnected thoughts which caught my attention. Art’s photos, reading lists, and the songs on his iPod. Outside of those brief interludes, I wondered who thought this was a great idea?  When it comes to this biography, the one thing I am grateful for is that I didn’t purchase it. Talented musician? Yes, without a doubt. A writer? Stick to what you know Art.

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