Ever since I bought my house and my commute become a minimum thirty minute trip I have found all kinds of ways to make the time fly. In the morning I often switch between listening to the local NPR station and the Top 40 “Morning Zoo”. It depends on my mood and the attention that the road may require whether I listen to the radio or select an audio book. I also tend to go in spurts of listening to ten books and then for a month listening to the radio. I like having this time before I get to work to get my brain juices going and on the way home I find it relaxing to have some downtime prior to getting home and jumping into the routine of dealing with my dogs and catching up on my sweety’s day. All the same I have started to realize that now my audiobook selections are starting to mirror my genealogical pursuits. Lately I have been listening to several autobiographies and books written about particular times in history.
Last week I listened to three books that touched me in different ways. The first book I had gotten from the library was “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” by Jaycee Dugard. I had remembered the news story when Jaycee had been “found” after eighteen years of captivity and wondered what she had been through. She read this book herself and I was shocked to hear about her giving birth to her two daughters with just the couple there to assist. How frightening for such a young girl! While telling the story Jaycee’s childlike voice makes you realize just how young and naive she was at that time. Occasionally she repeats herself and at times her honesty is off-putting. Sharing such a personal story must have been difficult and I commend her for being brave enough to face it. I can only imagine what it is like for her to be out in the real world now. It’s probably pretty scary for her. It was obvious that she suffered from Stockholm Syndrome and if it hadn’t been for the fear of losing her children she probably would never have revealed her true identity. I just hope that her children are able to have the life that Jaycee was denied.
Next I read the book, “Day After Night: A Novel” by Anita Diamant which is a tale of four women who are Holocaust survivors that travel to Israel as part of the Zionist movement post World War II. This book is based upon the true story of the Atlit interment camp and the prisoners’ escape. The author captures well the very different experiences of the Jews during the Holocaust and how they survived. I had not thought a lot to the aftermath of what survivors did upon the end of World War II, but I will certainly consider it now. In this story the people are brought to the interment camp which is surrounded by barbed wire and includes a building where delousing and showering was forced upon the detainees upon arrival. What a frightening experience that would be for anyone who had made it through and was supposed to be free now. The stories within the book are touching and take you through all the emotions of these people. I was very moved and found the book to be one that I would highly recommend to anyone. Though I am Jewish I learned a great deal about the migration into Israel and the aftermath of the war by reading this book.
The last book I listened to was written and read by actress Diane Keaton and it made me realize how very little I knew about her many roles in movies, but also about her personally. Granted, she’s a movie star and I would hope that my knowledge of her would be what she chooses to share, but that isn’t always the case as we all know. Nowadays with all the social media, tabloids, reality shows, and so forth it’s easy to think you “know” celebrities. Diane Keaton’s book, “Then Again” explores not only her own history, but also her mother’s story. When she initially stumbled upon one of her mother’s journals she found that it was too personal and she wasn’t ready to digest it. After her mother’s eventual death after dealing with Alzheimer’s, Diane came to realize that it was a great opportunity to understand her childhood and her own mother better. Throughout the book it weaves their two stories together in a way that is compelling and heartbreaking at times.
Diane shares her struggles to find a place in the highly competitive movie world while dating Woody Allen, Al Pacino, and Warren Beatty. I had known about Woody Allen, but had no clue about the other two. I always enjoyed her style and humor in films like “Baby Boom”, “The First Wives Club”, “Something’s Gotta Give”, “Father of the Bride”, and “Annie Hall”. Though I’m not a big “Godfather” fan it was interesting to hear her thoughts on being involved in this famous trilogy of movies. She shares some personal issues she struggled with for those beginning years as an actress and I am glad that she was able to overcome her battle with bulimia. Now she is raising two adopted children and has built her own family with many close friends to support her. Though I can’t imagine adopting at the age of fifty, I admire her for taking on the challenge as an older mom. As her own mother’s memory and health started to fail Diane embarked on a new part of her life by building her family. The many journals of her mother obviously made her realize that she needs to share the important things with those she loves. She mentions writing letters to her children in the hopes that they will understand why she started her family so late in life.
I found this inspiring because my mom and I have talked about working on a book which tells not only our story as mother and daughter, but also that of my grandmother. We have a rather long biography that grandma wrote that has been a great resource for me in my family research, but is also a compelling story about overcoming a tremendous amount of personal loss in her life. I think it is something that many people can relate to and perhaps learn from. Needless to say, Diane Keaton’s book served as a reminder that life is short and mom and I need to get started on our own writing.
All of these books were quite different, but I found details in each that I connected with and feel that I gained some insight into the human spirit. There are many times when I get down on myself for not being where I thought I would be at this point in my life. These books served as valuable reminders that my life is pretty wonderful and that though I have had some rather trying times in the past, I continue to be an optimist and keep my hopes for a fulfilling life and future.