This is What I Read Last Week

CelonaMarjorie Celona’s debut novel Y is a beautifully written story about love, loss and belonging. The tale opens in the early hours of the morning as a young woman abandons her newborn daughter on the steps of the Victoria YMCA.

The book is written in two narratives with Shannon, in alternating chapters, tracing her life from birth through her adolescence and sharing the story of her mother, Yula, beginning a few days before her daughters birth and the tragedy leading up to the scene at the YMCA, where she set down her baby, wrapped in an old, grey sweatshirt, and walks swiftly away without looking back.

Shannon’s story is a typical tale of a child thrust into the social services system, constantly moving from foster home to foster home all the while feeling lost, alone — a misfit everywhere she lands. Her wildly curly white-blond hair, her one blind eye and small stature only serve to emphasize her difference from those around her.

Eventually, Shannon is taken in by Miranda a single mother with a daughter, Lydia-Rose.  As Shannon strives to find a way to fit into this little family, she is hindered by an overwhelming desire to discover the answers to her many questions — “Where did I come from? Who are my parents and especially — Why did my mother abandon me? ”

Shannon’s longing to find her place in the world pushes her to embark upon a search for identity and belonging and along the way she finds that the answers to her big questions sometimes leads to surprising endings.

Ms. Celona’s writing creates a compelling, bittersweet picture of the age-old desire to be a part of something, to know where we come from and why life unfolds as it does. Her characters, in this novel, are very real and their emotions and actions feel familiar. The novel is eminently readable and while the story is very sad, there is a sense of hope that permeates throughout, notwithstanding the book’s darkest moments.


Darkness is Coming…

Last weekend, I went to see the new Star Trek movie: Into Darkness, with my daughter, Brynne. Now, I’m not a trekkie by any stretch of the imagination, but I like a good action adventure movie. Brynne  LOVES the Star Trek (original series) TV show and the two new movies in the franchise — she’s  seen Into Darkness three times (so far!!). She came by her obsession honestly, her dad is a long time fan (not a trekkie in the dress-up-in-your-favourite-character-to-attend-a-Star-Trek-convention kind of fan, but a huge fan, nevertheless,  ever since he saw his first episode when he was 9).

I enjoyed this movie a lot — it had everything I expected from a science fiction adventure movie — action, special effects, Spock and Kirk (younger and funnier) and a great bad guy (Khan, played by the wonderful, Benedict Cumberbatch).

The story was a typical Star Trek adventure — the Starship Enterprise boldly goes where no one has gone before —Starfleet encounters an enemy on its home turf and  Captain Kirk and his crew, of course, save the day. The movie was fast-paced and exciting with enough intense moments to keep my interest and plenty of humorous bits to add some levity without being campy.

The main characters are well cast. In fact, most of the main characters are readily recognized as younger versions of the original crew: Sulu, Scotty, McCoy and maybe even (when you squint a little and disregard his curly hair) Chekov. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect as young Kirk and Spock, (although, I found Pine’s Kirk to be a little more likeable than the original Kirk – sorry Mr. Shatner!). I loved Lieutenant Nyota Uhura’s character, played splendidly by Zoë Saldana in both of the new movies and especially in Into Darkness. Uhura is a strong, no-nonsense Starfleet officer, cool under pressure and a perfect match for Spock.

I know that some people had a difficult time reconciling a Caucasian actor as Khan (in the original series, Khan was of Indian descent), but I thought that Benedict Cumberbatch did impressive job of portraying the evil genius.

This film is visually impressive with thrilling action, and is incredibly entertaining for both trekkies and non-trekkies alike. One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was the relationships between the characters.  Kirk and Spock’s “bromance” was  further advanced, Spock’s relationship with Uhura deepened and we got to know the rest of the crew a lot more, through their heroic actions, their sense of solidarity and their witty retorts.

Watch a trailer here:

I definitely recommend this movie as a must-see.

I found this video on YouTube — if you are a fan of Monty Python and Star Trek, you will appreciate this clip: Star Trek Meets Monty Python. It’s hilarious!


Life Lessons on Transit

Daisies on white

I was heading home, feeling a little blue, when I realized that the bus hadn’t moved in what seemed like five minutes. I shook my head to dispel my reverie and looked up to see a woman standing just inside the door, leaning on a walker. She was a tiny creature, with short, dark hair, wearing a cute knit hat with kitty ears. She was of an indeterminate age, but I guessed she was between 65 and 70 years old — her beautiful face was worn — her skin looked smooth but old, and wise. She was gripping the handles of her walker as she stood, unsteadily, catching her breath. The bus driver greeted her with a friendly “Hello! How is your day going?” She smiled and her face lit up —”It’s a good day! A good day because, today, I am outside”, she exclaimed!

As the woman began to inch towards the front seats, it became obvious that she was in a great deal of pain. She ever so slowly slid her right foot forward, then stopped and moments passed before she was able to move her left foot to complete the step. A young mother jumped up from her nearby seat to help navigate the walker over the ridges on the bus floor. The driver cautioned, “Gently, gently…”  Little by little and oh, so carefully, the two women managed to manoeuver the walker to the handicap seating. Gingerly, the elder lady lowered herself onto the seat. Once she was settled, the driver proceeded down the road.

Two stops later, the driver opened the door and lowered the ramp. The woman gradually pushed herself up to a standing position. Her face contorted into a grimace of pain and she bent her arm behind her to massage the knots out of her back. She moved her arms like a ballet dancer, stretching and reaching — a languid arabesque. She faltered forward, then stopped and bent downwards, slow and with care — extended her legs, first one and then the other in an agonizing dance, trying to coax her limbs into motion.

After a few long minutes, the woman shuffled down the ramp and onto the street. On the sidewalk, she stopped to stretch and reach her arms and legs again, bending slowly and gracefully down and back up before she hobbled on her way.

As the bus rattled on its way, the driver spoke into his microphone. In a calm and reassuring tone, he explained that the woman was a frequent passenger who was fiercely determined to overcome her pain by living her life as normally as possible.

I was awed by that diminutive lady, her resolve to live her life in spite of debilitating pain put my woes into perspective and I was filled with admiration for the driver who showed such respect for a fellow human being. Life lessons on transit.