Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Buy the paperback

Souls Raised From the Dead
by Doris Betts

To: ALL Date: 07/06 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:55 PM SOULS RAISED FROM THE DEAD by Doris Betts By popular demand, I'll start this thread, although I have not finished the book. Perhaps because of all the posts saying it was a sad book, I have had a hard time becoming emotionally connected to the characters. I have kept myself aloof. This could be me or could be the something about the writing or the characterizations. One thing I am enjoying, though, is that it is set in North Carolina, and there are many colloquialisms that ring true. One is calling the town of Washington, Little Washington, to distinguish it from Washington, D.C. That was a part of the language of my childhood. Washington was a town right around the corner, where much shopping and doctor-going was done by my aunts and cousins and grand-relatives. I also know intimately the look of the old homeplace. The barns that are falling-down, the houses with vines overpowering them. It seems that houses don't get torn down in my neck of the woods, but are allowed to fall back into the earth and be reclaimed like so many dead tree limbs. Whenever I visit my grandmother, this phenomenon strikes me anew. But when you live there, the old places just become part of the scenery. So, discuss away, everyone. As soon as I catch up with you, I'll put my two cents in. Sherry back from the north woods and reconnected to the world. It's no fun being in cyberlimbo. =============== Reply 1 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/06 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:37 PM Sherry, I think that one of the reasons that this is such a sad book is that Mary Grace is the most sympathetic character in the book. We know what is going to happen to her, so that makes her illness even more difficult to follow. I thought that the characters were all well defined. We suffer along with her father and grandparents and even her mother. I think that we have all known people like MG's mother. She runs from anything painful and then is knocked off her feet by the consequences of her actions. What does everyone think of the romance between the father and the riding instructor? Could it have worked if MG hadn't gotten sick? One scene that I really liked was the family reunion. It reminded me of some of the reunions I have gone to in Indiana. Country people are the same anywhere, I think. Jane who will bring the book to the computer for the discussion tomorrow. =============== Reply 2 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/07 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:59 AM I flew through this book in a week-end and somehow forgot that the blurb on the back referred to Mary Grace's death. For about 2/3 of the book, I kept thinking that she might survive...until it got too obvious. Some of this read like a really good story from REDBOOK which used to have some decent short stories when I read it in my 20's (or was I just vastly uncritical?). But, some of it was very, very good. The best parts, I thought, were Mary Grace's reactions to her mother's leaving, particularly the sort of magical thinking stuff... maybe she had fallen asleep and when she woke up, Christine would have become the perfect mother. I also thought her panicked ruminations about mental illness, wondering how and when it happened and if she had slid into it without knowing it happened, were drawn with artistry. I have vivid memories of feelings like that as a child and the point that they still scare me sometimes if I think about some of what I felt. And, my own mother's death when I was 11 brought a lot of that magical thinking stuff that Betts describes. In fact, I think that the development of Mary Grace is probably Betts' masterful touch in this book. Also, like Jane, I loved the reunion. Betts is also very good at putting you in a geographical place with all the perfect little touches that make you see it. I'm not sure what I think about the adult characters. Tacey was pretty good. However, the others seemed a bit one-dimensional to me, almost like caricatures. Christine was almost too villanous and I never did believe Jill as a person. I have to say that I enjoyed reading this though. The pages flew and I smiled a lot...interesting given the serious subject matter. Barb =============== Reply 3 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/07 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 2:57 PM greetings to all who have read this novel...SOULS RAISED FROM THE DEAD..doris betts.. this book has been on my list for ages..and when i heard you all were going to read it..i thought i'd dive right in... i read about 100 pages and gave up...nothing earthshattering in the literary sense to me..i found BLUE CALHOUN by reynolds price ..a much better writer.. my problem is ..after reading FUGITIVE PIECES...READING IN THE DARK...BLUE CALHOUn.. and i pick up a book such as does nothing for me... onward and upward..gail.. a passionate reader who is immersed in an old novel that i am enjoying tremendously... =============== Reply 4 of Note 18 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 07/07 From: KXBZ24A ANNE WILFONG Time: 10:40 PM I finished the book only because of the pending discussion. I felt this story's been told many other times, in other, better, ways (but I can't name one just now.) I got so impatient with the characters--esp Frank & Christine. I acctually thought Tacey was your typical strong soul found in every family...seems ditzy day-to-day, but the strongest one in a crisis. Jill seemed too vague. Cindy, while a strong, kind person, was underutilized, to me. Mary Grace was the star, and her dealings with a terminal illness were on target, in my professional experience. Perhaps Betts' best moments were in the final chapters, as everything tied together. I did love the setting, having gone to school in Chapel Hill & lived in apartment in Carrboro! Anne, who said "Not anothere Horse Whisperer!" in the scene where Mary Grace fell off the horse =============== Reply 5 of Note 18 =================  
To: KXBZ24A ANNE WILFONG Date: 07/07 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 10:55 PM I wasn't too taken with this book. Too much head-hopping, flipping about among different points of view, always prevents me from the kind of identification with a character that makes me care what happens. Too much telling us how a character felt instead of showing. I had a hard time believing in quite a few of the characters. Jill, what was she? Tacey? A stereotype. Mary Grace was a tough little cookie, and I liked her, but I didn't get a sense of how she felt about all of this. I, too, didn't notice from the blurb that she was going to die, so I finished the book, pulling for her. It was a sad book, but it didn't move me,for all the reasons listed above. Ruth =============== Reply 6 of Note 18 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/08 From: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Time: 10:18 AM Hi, all. I was really looking forward to reading this book because I do like Doris Betts's story "The Ugliest Pilgrim" and other things of hers that I've read. With SRFTD, though, I never got completely pulled in. Perhaps I've gotten used to first-person narrators who grab me my the collar and scream, "I've got something to say." The multiple points of view, or "head hopping," as Ruth said, became distracting to me. I ended up skipping over chunks of the book. Maybe I'm having reader's block; I recently read Anne LaMott's new book, CROOKED LITTLE HEARTS, and felt pretty much the same way:aloof from the narrative, for some reason. I did like both grandmothers and Mary Grace herself. The mother seemed almost like a cariacature, which was not in keeping with the rest of the novel, although I did get tickled over her selling cosmetics at the family reunion. Susan in CT =============== Reply 7 of Note 18 =================  
To: DNBR75A S THOMSEN Date: 07/08 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:18 PM Susan and all, I liked Christine because she seemed very fragile to me - not in touch with reality until it is too late. I know people like her. She follows the Scarlett O'Hara philosophy of thinking about "it" tomorrow. I also had great sympathy with Frank because the day-to-day dealing with MG's illness was nauseating to him. I thought that this was very realistic. Jane who Laura Howard (whoever she is) for nominating this book. =============== Reply 8 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 4:07 PM I'm posting part of this New York Times Book Review. I thought it might be interesting for you all the see that we've been much tougher critics of this book than the pros: The wrenching "Souls Raised From the Dead" is Doris Betts's first novel in 13 years. There's no sense pretending not to notice what the jacket flap discloses: that Mary Grace Thompson, the almost-13-year-old daughter of a North Carolina state trooper, lover of horses, irreverent and un-self-pitying, a lovely redheaded child, is going to die by the end. Usually, it seems unfair to give away an outcome like that. But in this case, a good bit of the terrible force of the novel lies in this most lifelike paradox: that just like the characters on the page, and in spite of the advantage of foreknowledge, I could not believe it even while it was happening before my eyes. I said to myself, "I know the author's got 300 more pages to work it out, but I can't believe this illness could ever become so complicated it could kill such a child." So much for everyday, nonliterary denial. And so much for the skillful engagement of the workings of good fiction. Though the idea of building a novel around a dying young girl sounds too much like "Little Nell Lives (Only to Die Again),"Ms. Betts has made her version out of gritty and durable stuff, and filled it with people whose vividness is nine-tenths unabashed country candor and one-tenth uptown reticence. Mary's father, Frank, is a decent man, frequently bewildered by the women who surround him. ("The life of women seemed to him too intense, too tiring, always at flood.") Neither lout nor supersensitive New Age hero, he is a kinder man than many, whose love for his daughter has only increased in the years since his wife, Christine, left him and abandoned her child with callous casualness. In a fit of marital disillusionment that has by now spread like a stain to include all men, Christine has gone home to her eccentric mother, Georgia Broome (who tells fortunes, doctoring them as she goes, for mercy's sake), and to her feckless and mildly abusive stepfather, Virgil. However drab his wife may have found him, Frank Thompson is a model of paternal steadiness. His own mother, Tacey Thompson, is the kind of strong, openhearted, deeply compassionate woman any child would want for a grandmother, though it little avails when Mary begins her downhill spiral. Like so many of the characters in Ms. Betts's other work (five novels, including "Heading West" and "Tall Houses in Winter," and the wonderful stories in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Christine's parents, and Tacey and her irascible husband, Dandy (who, like a balky horse, takes quite a bit of leading), bring the pungency of Southern religion and small-town habit to these pages on their very skin. This is a rich and sometimes eccentric chorus to listen to while the heartbreaking melody of Mary's destruction plays on. There is also some sharp commentary on the fine shadings of class in the communities around Durham and Chapel Hill, N. C., where Ms. Betts lives. Folks like these come bearing the clear marks of their rural beginnings, only slightly modified by ambition and recently acquired addresses in town. As in Alice Munro's fiction, this is the best kind of organic sociology, the kind the characters intuit, sometimes with a cruel determinism. Mary Thompson is on that tender cusp between girlhood and her life as a woman when, by coincidence, she is discovered to have a rapidly advancing kidney disease, =============== Reply 9 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 4:16 PM NYTimes Review (cont.) whose devastation Ms. Betts makes vivid and painfully real. Mary's father is helped through the crisis by two women -- each in her own way tough, hurt and vulnerable. Everyone in the book, we are meant to see, comes to each new crisis qualified to cope, and every one of them is destined to despair by a history of pain. One of the women has given up a baby for adoption and given up its father as well; the other has suffered a difficult childhood alongside a handicapped brother and knows she is now the convenient, useful girlfriend Frank doesn't seem inclined to commit himself to. Like their lover, whose wife has humiliated him, each woman has been both hardened and softened by experience. Her mother, Christine, has introduced Mary to grief early by abdicating motherhood for a tacky career as a professional beauty. Earnest self-promotion is Christine's obsession; she gives beauty hints on her radio show, "Tina's Arena," and brings a line of cosmetics to hawk at the family reunion. Too absorbed in her own narcissism to notice, she is the only one who continues, conveniently, to misread the seriousness of her child's condition. Eudora Welty gave us Christine's sister-under-the-pampered-skin in Fay, the antagonist of "The Optimist's Daughter"; they even seem to share the same no-account family, whose tastelessness has ripened through generations of semiliteracy, bad debts and beached cars on the front lawn. Christine, who ends a good many of her assertions with a defensive, sympathy-curdling "O.K.?," dismally fails her daughter at a crucial time. But though she is selfish she is also pathetic -- a frightened, ill-instructed, unhappy woman caught playing out the foolish illusions she thinks necessary to feminine success. Still, because she persists in acting the classic "bad mother" at just the moment when she might make amends for her earlier derelictions, Christine gets only grudging sympathy from the fellow sufferers in "Souls Raised From the Dead." But what wonderful insights grace this book, and how deeply Doris Betts understands Frank and his companions in grief. While everything is still uneventful, he has a premonition about his daughter, thinking, "This kind of love -- it was all hazard." And so it is, right up to the very last pages. Though at work as a trooper he routinely pulls dying people out of car wrecks, when a crash kills a mother and mutilates her daughter, he is again confronted with his alternating helplessness and capacity to lend aid and comfort. Watching him swallowing back his own shared sorrow, we realize we have seen a man forced to grow and deepen even as his life collapses. The book doesn't end with Mary's death, because it concerns far more; nor will her loss drag these people away from their dogged devotion to a life spent in community, together. AS for Mary (whose verbal sophistication at times makes her seem a bit older than she's said to be), she dwindles from ordinary adolescent, all gripe and good cheer, to brave but alarmed patient, to victim beyond saving. Finally, she disappears, delirious, into her own merciful fantasy that she's going to join a dead neighbor in some form of heaven. Mary's life and death are superbly and unsentimentally accomplished. By the time her grandmother Tacey sees her die, observing that she "had all at once evaporated from that body, gone out as small as one breath," I was as pained by the cruelty of Mary's undoing as I would have been by a real death. Yet none of this should sound grim, only =============== Reply 10 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 4:17 PM NYTimes Book Review (cont.) appropriately sad, because Ms. Betts seems to be possessed of high spirits and a generous wisdom. And that is what buoys up her characters and makes a lot of the proceedings very funny even as her people struggle with their anger and bewilderment. "The Ugliest Pilgrim" -- perhaps her most famous story and certainly the most widely anthologized -- long ago showed us Ms. Betts's gift for turning unappealing fact into something more yielding and inviting. All that lusty wanting, that earnest, unsecret desire, keeps her characters animated even in the most unpromising circumstances. There isn't much to smile at in this story of ambush by the fates, as "Souls Raised From the Dead" is aided and abetted by human bit players. But if you like poignancy laced with pungency, social comment and the reassurance that sorrow does not finally sever the connection between survivors, this moving novel will make you happy, as all artful writing does, no matter how grim the tale it tells. When it came time for Doris Betts to kill off the 12-year-old heroine of her new novel, "Souls Raised From the Dead," she found she just couldn't do it. "I thought maybe I could find a miraculous cure or something," Ms. Betts recalled in a recent telephone interview from her office at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she has taught creative writing for 28 years. "By then I was very fond of her. What happens is, you write a lot of dreadful descriptions of sky, you change the subject, you bring minor characters into the foreground. Finally I thought, 'This is ludicrous,' and it didn't take two pages to write the scene. After that, the book went very smoothly." Ms. Betts, who is 62 and lives with her husband, Lowry, a district judge, on an 80-acre horse farm about 20 miles from the university, knew from the outset that young Mary Grace Thompson had to die. How Mary's father coped was the main point of the book. "It seems that the discovery that the young will die before you is the suffering that shakes your faith in life," she said. "I suppose I've reached the age where I think that's the test for people: can they see the very worst and keep on?" =============== Reply 11 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: QFKA95A HELEN FINNIGAN Time: 6:38 PM Sherry, Do you know who wrote that review? I was moved by the interplay between the ghost of the neighbor and Mary. Shortly before my father died, he told me that he had been speaking more and more often with my mother (who died 7 years before) and that, at times, she seemed to be with him. So, the increasing presence of the neighbor was touching to me and led me to think, perhaps, that my father was not alone in his departure from this world. =============== Reply 12 of Note 18 =================  
To: QFKA95A HELEN FINNIGAN Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 6:56 PM Dear Helen, I meant to add that. I'll look it up and get back to you. Sherry =============== Reply 13 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:41 PM Sherry, Thank you so much for posting that review. It is the kind that I prefer to read after I have read a book, because the reviewer gives away too much of the plot, I think. The review was a good way to "review" the characters and the story. Duh! Maybe that is why it is called a review. Helen, I liked the way the spirit of the neighbor helped Mary Grace as well. It was very touching. Jane in balmy Colorado. =============== Reply 14 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:07 PM Helen, the reviewer was Rosellen Brown. =============== Reply 15 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/09 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 10:12 PM Dear Jane and Helen, I also thought that having the neighbor as a friendly guide was a way that made Mary's death a bit easier for the reader to take. I became much more emotionally attached to the characters as the book progressed. Maybe because I was able to read for longer stretches. There were some things I didn't like about her writing. One was her strange use of question marks. I'm from NC and I know a lot of phrasing ends with that upward lilt. But sometimes her use of "?" at the end of an obviously declarative sentence made me go "huh?" She sometimes used it even when she wasn't quoting a character. Just a little nit I'm picking. Sherry =============== Reply 16 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/09 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:27 PM Sherry, thanks for posting that review. Interesting that almost everyone here has many more reservations about this book. I, for one, felt that the reviewer was writing about the book that *might* have been, rather than the book as it was actually written. There was great material here, but I don't think Betts got it much above the soap opera level. I kept mentally rewriting as I read. Ruth =============== Reply 17 of Note 18 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/10 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 8:03 AM Interesting that Rosellen Brown wrote that review. I loved her book BEFORE AND AFTER, but it had a similar theme in that it was a disaster that the characters had to work themselves around. Also, I have a feeling that Betts is very well liked in the world of authors. I read the interviews of her in PARTING THE CURTAINS and liked her very much...which made me want to like the book. Perhaps, Brown has the same instincts. In any case, the interview brings new perspective, Sherry. Thanks for posting it. I don't feel as negative about the book as others here. However, I was distracted by the parts that I thought were weak which really interferes with my total absorption in a story. Barb =============== Reply 18 of Note 18 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 07/11 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:36 PM Barb and all, As usual we are lacking commentary from the men of CR. I know that Felix was reading the book. I think that he mentioned it on CHAT last month. Please post! Jane =============== Reply 19 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/12 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:24 AM I hear you, Jane, and will obey. I have been thinking about this book for the two weeks since I finished it. Books serve as a way to tackle in our imaginations things we have to encounter in life. A really good book can give perspective on subjects that are terribly emotional when we are actually experiencing them. Death certainly is the toughest life experience and fictional subject for anybody. I thought Doris Betts did a fine job of taking the reader through the experience of one family facing an especially poignant death. This is the story of a whole extended family, not just of Mary Grace and Frank, although they naturally are the focal points. Every character in the book is changed and forced to think and feel in new ways by Mary's dying. Ruth criticized the "head-hopping" in this book, but this multiplicity of viewpoints was necessary to Betts' design. I was reminded of a talk by a counsellor at a family week I went to years ago. He used a little mobile made of small bottles (this week was part of an alcohol-dependency treatment for a family member of mine.) He removed one bottle and placed on another arm of the mobile. The whole design of the mobile was skewed by this change to one element. The counsellor compared this to what happens to a family when one member is an alcoholic. The analogy applies as well to any major change for one family member, I think. Each character in SOULS RAISED FROM THE DEAD becomes part of the death experience with Mary Grace, and their internal reactions, musings, thoughts and emotions are important parts of the book. Frank, of course, is most fundamentally and profoundly changed. We first see Mary Grace through Frank's eyes, when he comes into the apartment after a long day, and feels a brief moment of panic before he hears her footsteps and she calls to him. He loves her so much, that like many parents, he suffers anxious intimations of death and injury for her. The long departure of Mary Grace from him and from life takes Frank into the heart of that parental nightmare. Mary Grace makes an emotional and spiritual journey of her own paralleling her physical departure. I became very attached to this girl, with her spirit, humor, love and intelligence. I can understand how Doris Betts must have agonized over actually writing the death scene for Mary Grace. I see that I am using both of Mary Grace's names when referring to her. Partly that is the Southerner in me, being so used to double-barrelled names. Mainly, though, I was struck with Tacey's private reason for choosing "Grace" as Mary's second name. The public reason was an imaginary relative, but the true origin of the name was in Tacey's favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace." So for me, Mary Grace cannot be divided from her grandmother's gift name. I was struck also by how rounded the characters were in this book. Each character had strengths and flaws, which influenced how they responded to the stages of Mary Grace's illness and death. Even Christine has elements of good, however offset they are by her consuming egotism. The most wrenching moment in the book for me was Christine's reaction to Mary Grace's death. Screaming for the doctors to prep her for the operation she had avoided, desperately trying to call back the days and hours when she might have helped her daughter. Christine's screams will reverberate in my mind for a long time. So, Jane, and all, for what it is worth, that is the view from the mountain this morning. Regards, Felix Miller P.S. Would you care to explicate on your comment,"As usual, we are lacking commentary from the men of CR."? =============== Reply 20 of Note 18 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 07/12 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 3:46 PM Felix, At the risk of sounding sexist again, I *am* wondering how accurately you thought Betts portrayed Frank's masculine point of view. There has been a lot of discussion here in the past about authors writing in the voice of the opposite sex with Josephine Humphries getting kudos for THE FIREMAN'S FAIR. Since Frank expresses a lot of what he thinks are uniquely masculine feelings, I wondered how accurate males might think they are. And, as usual, your comments contribute significantly to the discussion. I'm starting to think that you should get a side-job as a book reviewer...ever thought of that? I especially like your observations on a traumatic event affecting all members of the family constellation. We're having much the same experience here with the death of my father-in-law and the resulting affect on my mother-in-law. It's like a pebble dropped in a pond with the concentric circles continuing outward. Barb =============== Reply 21 of Note 18 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 07/12 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:59 PM Felix, Your post just blew me away. Barb is right that you should do book reviews as a job. My comment about the men of CR not joining in is a trend that I have noticed recently. It seems to me that the men of CR have been absent from our discussions of the books from the book list. Usually Dale, Steve, Richard, and Marty are here to kick some ideas around. Dale is back, and the other three appear now and then. Joe B. also appears occasionally. If you check the first 18 replies, the writers are all women. Let me know if you disagree. Jane who likes to see all of her friends on the board =============== Reply 22 of Note 18 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 07/13 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:57 AM Barbara, I am always interested in authors who write in another sex's point of view. (notice that I don't limit it to ONE other sex. I am a 90's guy all the way ). I agree that Josephine Humphries was right on target in FIREMAN'S FAIR. Some friends sent me that book because the main character reminded them of me, so Humphries must have got it right. I also think that Ann Patchett did a great job with John Nickel in TAFT. I found Frank quite believable in this book, identifying with many of his feelings and fears. Some time back, I posted about THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, expressing my violent feelings about the gratuituous death and injury of children in the scene where Garp runs into the parked car where his wife and her lover are doing their thing. Several replies to my note commented that I was expessing the typical male feelings about not controlling events. The replies (all from females) compared this attitude unfavorably with female endurance in the face of tragedy. I felt at the time that this was a misreading of my note. I don't think that I, as a male, can or should expect to avoid prevent pain and suffering for my loved ones. I am all too conscious of the fraility of all life; I am not a control freak. I interpreted the comments on that occasion as representing a sterotypical view of what it is to be male. I do not find this stereotyping in Betts' treatment of Frank. He is abundantly aware of the limits of his ability to protect Mary Grace. There are male control freaks, as there are female versions of the same. Men and women are more alike than they are different, in the Miller view of life. I think that Betts presented that view well in SRFTD. I am, of course, conscious of all the differences between the sexes, many of which I celebrate and am mighty grateful for. Betts has my vote as an author who can step into another sex's point of view. Regards from the mountain, Felix Miller =============== Reply 23 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/13 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:57 AM Jane, You of course are right about the proportion of posters in this thread, and others. I was really asking if you had any take on why this is so. It does seem to be the case with many threads here. Then there are others which bring those of us who are male out of the woodwork. In my case, my scarcity of posts is mainly sloth. Putting thoughts into words is hard work, whether spoken words or written. I know that there are differences between the ways men and women approach different subjects, especially in how they comment on them. I am always interested in exploring these differences. I may be a wee bit hypersensitive to the attribution of value judgements to these differences. As I said in another reply, men and women, in the important issues common to both, are more alike than different. Thanks for your comments on my two cents' worth. Regards from the mountain, Felix Miller =============== Reply 24 of Note 18 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 07/13 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 10:55 AM This is a book that I intended to read, but just got too busy to do so. However, I wanted to let you all know how much I have enjoyed reading your posts--especially Felix's comments about how interconnected families are and how one members problems affect all the others. So very true. Ann =============== Reply 25 of Note 18 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 07/13 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 8:48 PM Felix, I can understand why it is time-consuming (you said sloth, but I don't buy that) for you to post. You take your time and think things out. I, on the other hand, sit down at the keyboard and type the first thing that comes into my head. When I first started on CR, I would take notes on books and take the time to write my posts off-line. You have reminded me that I need to do that again. I started being so rushed during the school year but now I have no excuse. I will try to do better on our next book. It seems to me that the men of CR appear in droves when we are discussing anything by Cormac McCarthy. I was a little annoyed when someone made the generalization that only men liked his works, but I like them as well. I AM NOT A MAN. (G) Anyway, keep up the good work. Jane who is on a Michael Connelly kick =============== Reply 26 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/14 From: ACCR69A JOSEPH BARREIRO Time: 8:59 AM Jane and all - I only got about 80 pages in before I gave it up. I kept seeing a little Lifetime cable network logo in my mind's eye and couldn't get past it. I found no fault with Betts' writing, and the character of Mary Grace almost kept my interest, but I didn't feel any connection at all with any of the other characters - I simply wasn't in the right frame of mind to pursue this novel. Joe B =============== Reply 27 of Note 18 =================  
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 07/14 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:18 AM Thanks, Felix, enlightening answer. As you know, I agree emphatically with your viewpoint. Women in the 90's have started to make generalizations about men when they would not like to hear equivalent generalizations about themselves. Huge mistake, in my opinion. I fall into it too sometimes, but try to remember how limiting it is. One of my excuses is that certain males have tried to convince me of some of these stereotypes. However, that's not a very good excuse. One of the interesting things to me about Frank was that he seemed to believe in some of these stereotypes, that women could care for Mary Grace in her illness more effectively than men, that women developed friendships more quickly than men, etc. However, his experience proved at least the first one of these generalizations to be faulty. Did you notice this? Barb =============== Reply 28 of Note 18 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 07/15 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:08 PM Barbara, Yes, Frank did buy into all the sterotypes, even when he was disproving them. He remained limited in his capacity to bear the physical elements of Mary Grace's illness, but he worked to overcome this revulsion-and recognized that his attitude was a failure that hurt Mary Grace. Most generalizations have a germ of truth in them, and the old one about women being the caretakers and nurses is one of them. Tacey feels some abivalence and difficulty in facing Mary Grace's illness, but she overcomes it with less difficulty than Frank. This is probably mostly conditioning. If you are told from an early age that caring for people in illness or bereavement is the job you were born to do, you believe it. Frank, in his time and social background, had never been told this. Only his love for Mary Grace allows him to bridge this cultural gap, however imperfectly. Regards from the mountain, Felix Miller =============== Reply 29 of Note 18 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/15 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 9:26 PM Jane, Thanks for your comments on my post. I deplore all generalizations smacking of "guy books" and "chick books." There are only good books and other books. And yes, I would never argue with you that you are a woman, and are not thereby disabled from appreciating Cormac McCarthy. Let he who disputes this beware. I am old and fat and tired, but will nonetheless dispute any contention to the contrary. Regards from the mountain, Felix Miller =============== Reply 36 of Note 18 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 07/18 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:20 PM Sherry and all, This book did not seem to catch on with CR's. Some books we read have replies being generated so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with them. We have lost interest and moved on to discussing air conditioning (and I believe I started it). What does this say for the book? Jane wondering what the magic ingredient is =============== Reply 37 of Note 18 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/22 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:32 AM greetings dddRUTH.. that's it..SOAP OPERA LEVEL...i can't read a book like TREE OF HEAVENand then pop over to SOULS RAISED BY THE DEAD... i find it too amatuerish... gail..hp..a p r home from the wars in eastern europe or should i say the floods!


I was moved by the interplay between the ghost of the neighbor and Mary. Shortly before my father died, he told me that he had been speaking more and more often with my mother (who died 7 years before) and that, at times, she seemed to be with him. So, the increasing presence of the neighbor was touching to me and led me to think, perhaps, that my father was not alone in his departure from this world.
Books serve as a way to tackle in our imaginations things we have to encounter in life. A really good book can give perspective on subjects that are terribly emotional when we are actually experiencing them. Death certainly is the toughest life experience and fictional subject for anybody. I thought Doris Betts did a fine job of taking the reader through the experience of one family facing an especially poignant death. This is the story of a whole extended family, not just of Mary Grace and Frank, although they naturally are the focal points. Felix



In Association with