Audiobook Review – Maid by Stephanie Land

Maid
by
Stephanie Land

Rating:

This is going to be one of those reviews that goes against a popular and well-received book. But it also raises an important question that readers should consider when they’re reading a memoir.

First, though, a quick summary of Maid by Stephanie Land. It’s Land’s story of how, as a single mother, she found herself homeless and had to turn to public assistance in the form of grants, food stamps and similar programs to help her find a place to live and provide daycare while she worked. In an eye-opening explanation, she lists the programs and specific requirements she needed to meet in order to qualify. As a former coffee shop worker and part-time landscaper, she had only a high school degree and struggled to find regular work. She took on jobs cleaning houses, working for herself and also through a maid service. But for a long time, there were never enough hours for her to earn a proper living

It’s also her success story of how she was able to pick herself up and get a college degree in creative writing and eventually write this book.

I’m all for this kind of success story and that’s why I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the author.

The problem I have with the story is that the author is whiny, chippy and judgmental about the people she interacts with, including her family, who do not support her. I’m not going to get into the details about these relationships, her actions and the decisions she makes, except highlight a couple that really bugged me.

I thought her attitude towards the people in the homes she cleaned was hypercritical and downright shocking. Looking at receipts, going through papers, trying on clothes, snooping through their prescriptions, and the worst, opening up the urns of one family’s ashes and imagining how they died – that stuff is appalling. So much complaining about their bathrooms and the dirt in their homes. It was tiresome.

My other chief problem comes from a highway car accident in which the author left her daughter alone in their pulled-over car to a retrieve a toy that had gone out the window. There were many more things that rubbed me the wrong way, including major facts that were left out, that seemed to spin her story the way she wanted it.

But I want to raise a question about how readers are supposed to react to another person’s actions, when they’re put out there in a memoir, particularly the overcoming adversity type. As I said before, I like inspirational and uplifting stories and I don’t begrudge anyone’s success and happiness. As many other reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads have noted, I’m glad she dug herself out and found success. And if the book gives others in her situation the hope to do that, I’m for that.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoyed reading or listening to Maid. As I said above, I’m glad she found happiness. But if readers feel something else, along with that message, something that doesn’t ring right, can’t we say so? What do you think?

To be fair, I’m sharing some positive and a couple skeptical WordPress reviews of Maid. And you can also click on these Amazon and Goodreads links for a full selection. It’s clearly the reader’s right to like the book, even though it wasn’t for me. Even Barack Obama liked the book, so what do I know?

Visit these blogs for a variety of reviews:

Becky’s Books
Hit or Miss Books
Ink Drinker Society
Arguably Alexis
The suspense is killin’ me—

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea
by
Ernest Hemingway

Rating:

Warning – some spoilers below:

I’ve been on a Hemingway kick lately and The Old Man and the Sea is another great way to experience a writing style that is deceivingly simple but has deeply thoughtful and powerful themes.  I have always enjoyed books that feature man versus nature.  It is one of the primary themes in this classic, studied each year by a new crop of both students and leisure readers.  And because I love stories about hope and overcoming adversity, another important idea in the book, this one is on the top of my list.

The Old Man and the Sea is the story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eighty-four days.  Every day, he goes out to sea in his fishing skiff, and returns empty-handed.  His companion, a boy, no longer fishes with him, sent by the boy’s parents to a more successful fishing boat.  From the beginning, despite this bad luck streak, there is something enduring in Santiago’s being.  In the first pages, Hemingway writes, “Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”

When Santiago hooks a giant marlin, he knows he has a big challenge ahead.  Strength, patience and resolve sustain him as the fish pulls him far out into the ocean.  For two days, the fish pulls the fisherman before finally slowing.  But much will test Santiago’s resolve in a series of triumphs and losses.  In the end, the old man remains undefeated in spirit, despite returning with a much lighter haul.  Instead, Santiago simply notes how well the boat sails now that it is lighter.

Old man and the sea pic
Hemingway’s story has inspired a lot of art work. I like this picture by Carey Chen from fineartamerica.com

Santiago’s respect for nature and the power of his opponent make him much more than a fisherman.  He is part of a bigger scheme and he knows his place.  He feels deeply for the fish, the birds and the life around him.  Santiago’s connection to nature is most evident when he finally faces the marlin.  “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother,” he says.

And when he finally returns to his village, Santiago may discover how much he is revered by the other villagers and most of all, by his fishing companion, the boy who so tenderly cares for him.

The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952 and was a huge success.  Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.  Check it out and see what I mean!

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An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

 

An Invisible Thread.png

An Invisible Thread
by
Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

Rating:

In 1986, Laura Schroff walked right by Maurice Mazyck, a young boy panhandling on the corner of New York’s 56th Street and Broadway. He’d asked her for money, but she was busy.

“I ignored him, very simply because he wasn’t in my schedule,” she admits. But something made her turn back and offer to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. That was the beginning of their thirty-year friendship and a time in which Maurice grew up and out of a dangerous and unstable world of poverty, neglect, abuse, and drugs, into a successful and happy life.

An Invisible Thread is the story of this remarkable friendship – how it began and how it grew. It explains an unlikely connection which Laura calls destiny. She compares their meeting to the ancient Chinese proverb that says, “An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.”

Laura was a busy ad executive, living in New York when she met Maurice. Maurice lived in a welfare hotel on West 54th and Broadway, two short blocks from Laura’s luxury apartment. He’d been panhandling for a couple years by then.  “Maurice came and went as he pleased; no one ever asked him where he’d been or where he was going, no matter the time of day or night. He answered to no one, and, in turn, no one really looked out for him.”

Every Monday for four years, Laura and Maurice met and she taught him the rituals of a stable family life. She took him out to eat, to the park or to a baseball game. He visited her in her apartment where they cooked dinner and baked cookies together. He did his homework at her kitchen. She bought him clothes and helped him with laundry. Laura brought him with her on holidays, showing him the joy of sharing special times with her siblings.

Maurice came from a family plagued by drug abuse. His father was a violent gang member, an alcoholic, and a heavy drug user who abandoned the family when Maurice was five. His mother was addicted to heroin and crack cocaine, and was in and out of jail during most of Maurice’s childhood. They shared a one-room apartment with his grandmother, his two sisters, and an ever-changing number of uncles who used the place to buy, sell, and use drugs.

Laura’s friendship with Maurice drew skepticism and concern from her friends and co-workers, but Laura shared his feeling of insecurity as a child and wanted to give him a place where he felt safe and loved.

Although she grew up in a solid middle-class town, there was trouble beneath the surface. As one of five children, she had a strong bond with her sisters and brothers. But Laura’s father was an alcoholic and was an abusive and disruptive force in their family. Laura and her siblings tried their hardest to protect their mother and their brother who were their father’s frequent targets.

As time passed,  Laura and Maurice continued to meet until Maurice turned nineteen, but for two unsettling years, each would face unique challenges that threatened their connection. Fatherhood and its responsibilities reminded Maurice that he needed to break out of his dangerous world, but he struggled with his choices. For Laura, a marriage she thought would mean family and acceptance changed the ease and flow of her friendship with Maurice. But when Maurice stopped calling, she stood by.  “The thread may stretch or tangle,” the proverb explains, “but it will never break.” When Maurice’s mother died, he understood who his real mother had been. He picked up the phone and now, after thirty years, Laura and Maurice know they are family.

I enjoyed reading An Invisible Thread and recommend this memoir to readers who enjoy stories about friendship and overcoming adversity.

For more information about Laura Schroff’s story and her initiatives to help others, visit her website at aninvisiblethread.com.

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