by Sukey HowardJuly, 2009
Panning for gold
Lee Woodruff and her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, wrote In an Instant, their moving memoir of Bob’s near-fatal traumatic brain injury in Iraq and his and the family’s painful recovery, together. Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress, Lee’s debut as a solo author, is a sure winner and puts her in that hallowed hall of wise women who have taught us to rejoice in the small, everyday charms of marriage and family, to laugh when tears and gritted teeth might seem more in order, and to confront the truly dire with grace. She has the marvelous ability to move between humor and sorrow, joy and pathos—and does it with the open honesty you’d only expect from someone very near and dear. Lee’s warmth and compassion color the way she sees the world and her place in it as wife, mother of four children, sister, daughter and unstinting friend. In these essays, you’ll find that the chronicle of her busy, madly multitasking life is deftly laced with the lessons she’s learned about facing up to the bad things that happen, about rolling down the chutes and climbing up the ladders, about the healing power of female friendship and about our capacity to recover and regenerate. Lee reads, creating a mood of easy intimacy.
Myron does Paris
If a little summer escapism is on your agenda, Harlan Coben’s latest, Long Lost, performed with race-paced precision by Steven Weber, is your ticket. When a sleep-fogged Myron Bolitar reaches for his chirping cell phone at 5 a.m., he hears a voice he thought he’d never hear again—and, Coben lets us know up front, life for Myron is going to change big-time. Oh the phone, the beautiful, enigmatic Terese Collins, gone for almost a decade, purrs, “Come to Paris.” They’d met at a party and run off to a private Caribbean island, two lost, damaged souls seeking solace in sex, sand and sun. And then it was over; she vanished, not just from him, but also from her high-profile job as a CNN anchor. After hemming and hawing and insisting that he’s involved with someone, Myron boards the evening Air France flight to Paris and finds himself swept into a wild, topsy-turvy, nothing-is-as-it-seems world, with assassins and assailants galore, not to mention the unfriendly agents of Homeland Security, the Mossad and Interpol. It’s an epic thrill ride guaranteed to provide hours of entertaining, edge-of-your-seat distraction.
Ariana Franklin could be called the Patricia Cornwell of the medieval world, but she’s a cut or two above. Franklin’s fabulous blending of forensic thriller with historical novel is, so far, unique. Grave Goods, the third in her series starring Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a.k.a. Mistress of the Art of Death, a brilliant 12th-century woman doctor (shocking in those days) trained at the famed (and real) School of Medicine in Salerno. When bones that could be those of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are uncovered at the ancient Abbey of Glastonbury, King Henry II turns to Adelia, once again, to ask her to authenticate them, putting to rest the idea that the Once and Future King might return. But Glastonbury has become a very dangerous place, seething with secrets and bestial robbers. Adelia, her young daughter, the multitasking nanny Gyltha and Mansur, her white robed Arab aide, are in for far more than they bargained for. Fascinating subplots, wrapped in the fabric of medieval life and lore, place Adelia in situations she’d rather not be in, except, that is, the arms of her erstwhile lover, the Bishop of St. Albans. Marvelously read by Kate Reading, who also narrated Adelia’s previous two exploits.