Call the Midwife makes me feel grateful

call_the_midwifeI’ve been watching a BBC show called Call the Midwife which is supposedly all the rage over in the UK and I can definitely see why. It’s about a midwife named Jenny Lee who arrives in a poor East London town in the 1950′s. She lives at Nonnatus House which doubles as midwife HQ and convent. You don’t know much about Jenny’s past but you find out pretty quickly that the grimy streets of poverty-stricken London is not her scene — at least not at first. Together, the nurses and nun-nurses deliver baby after baby after baby in people’s homes.

Watching Call the Midwife has made me very grateful for things we mostly take for granted, namely cellphones, housing regulations and birth control. But not everything is so different. For one, nurses still provide care in people’s home today. I work in the marketing department of an organization that specializes in community nursing — which, these days, is more likely to be about caring for seniors rather than delivering babies.

Medical practices have changed but the basic principles are very much the same. It’s still about nurses visiting homes as strangers and leaving as friends. Nurses that know that most healing takes place outside of a hospital. It’s not all happy endings on Call the Midwife but I’ve seen with my own eyes that community nurses (and personal support workers) still do great work.

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Interview with Rita Leganski, author of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

bonaventure_rita_leganskiA while back, I reviewed The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow and told you that I loved it so much, I almost didn’t want to tell you about it. That would be silly of course, because great books need to shared.

So you can imagine how excited I was when Rita Leganski agreed to an interview for Broken Penguins! Here’s what Rita had to say about her first novel and on her next project:

BONAVENTUREDescribe the Silence of Bonaventure Arrow in 140 words:

Two months before Bonaventure Arrow is born, his father is murdered by a character known as the Wanderer. When that happens, sorrow takes away unborn Bonaventure’s voice and replaces it with magical hearing. What follows is a tale of heartbreak, guilt, and atonement gone wrong. But then there is healing, brought about by this silent and gifted little boy who shares his name with a mystic-turned-saint.

The story is an exploration of human nature—its guilt, its envy, and its willingness to judge. But it tells as well of our better attributes—compassion, forgiveness, and a willingness to let go. There are a number of universal truths woven into THE SILENCE OF BONAVENTURE ARROW. Some have to do with the darker side of the human experience, while others speak of the very best in humanity; namely, our capacity to love.

Bonaventure takes place in a fictional Louisiana town called Bayou Cymbaline. I’ve noticed that you’re a big Southern lit fan even though you’re from Wisconsin. I’m a big Southern fiction fan too and I’m from Toronto! What attracts you and other “literary snowbirds” to this genre?

While I was growing up in northern Wisconsin, I thought of the South as an enchanted place and of New Orleans as the very embodiment of magic. I suppose it was the thought of all that lushness contrasted with the long northern winters with their vast expanses of snow. Southern literature also tends to revolve around really quirky characters. We literary snowbirds must harbor a liking for peculiarity.

Bonaventure has two very religious grandmothers! Do you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person? How did this influence the novel?

Yes, I would describe myself as religious (I’m a practicing Catholic). Through various characters, I tried to show not only how religion SHOULD influence us, but also how it SHOULD NOT. I integrated Catholicism and hoodoo spirituality in the character of Trinidad Prefontaine in order to reveal that goodness is not confined to one set of beliefs.

Do you believe in magic?

It’s a favorite writing tool of mine, but I don’t really believe in magic. I do, however, believe in divine intervention.

You mentioned on Twitter that it was -50 degrees where you were during the recent cold snap! What did you do during this time? What would Bonaventure and Dancy do?

I spent those frigid days working on the next novel. I drank hot tea and stayed toasty warm in my sweaters and jeans and thick socks and puffy slippers. Bonaventure and Dancy would make the spiciest gumbo they could possibly come up with in an effort to get warm from the inside out.

What’s next for Rita Leganski? Can we look forward to another novel? Please say yes!

I’m working very hard on another novel. Although it’s not a sequel to Bonaventure Arrow, it’s magical realism again but this time a love story. It takes place from 1916 – 1946.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us Rita! I look forward to reading your next novel and hopefully, the many more to follow. 

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More reasons to love Tina Fey

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler rocked the Golden Globes this year. I mean, they just nailed the opening:

I love Tina Fey so much, I listened to her memoir “Bossypants” in audiobook and couldn’t stop laughing. Out loud. On public transit. Is there some way I could get Tina Fey jokes on an endless looping audio track?

OMG, where did my year go?!

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Happy New Years everyone! Can you believe it’s been a whole year already? Why, it feels like just yesterday that I was leaving for Asia and promising to blog the whole time (it didn’t work out). Admittedly, I fell off the blogging train this year — then I got back on the train, then I fell back off and got back on again.

Blah, blah, blah I’ll try harder next year blah, blah, blah. I fact is, I blog for fun just like how I read for fun. And sometimes, taking breaks can be lots of fun too. So thank you for putting up with me and have a fantastic 2014.

Here are some of my favourite reviews from this year (don’t click on the cover images below, WordPress won’t let me link them to posts!):

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures ~ Vincent Lam
Chanel Bonfire ~ Wendy Lawless
Speechless ~ Hannah Harrington
White Teeth ~ Zadie Smith
World War Z ~ Max Brooks

For a complete list of reviews this year, see the Book Review Index.