Archive for August, 2008

Identical Strangers by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Reviewed by Ann 

     At one time or another, most of us wonder whether we are adopted children, but in Identical Strangers, the two authors have known all their lives that they were adopted.  What they never could have imagined is that they are equal halves of a pair of identical twins who were separated shortly after birth and used as an experiment to study firsthand the old question of nature vs nurture.  It is nearly unheard of to separate twins for individual adoptions and surely unethical to allow couples to adopt the children without being informed of the circumstances of their birth or of the study. 
    Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein have been raised by loving parents, Paula first in Brooklyn and later in affluent Westchester County, NY.  She has returned to Park Slope, Brooklyn, where she is contentedly living with her husband and their baby girl.  Her world changes forever when she receives a phone call from an adoption informing her that her twin sister is looking for her.  She has had no particular interest in searching for her birth mother because her life has been complete. 
    Elyse Schein, a restless writer and filmmaker, has been living in Paris and has also known that she was adpopted.  Her adopted mother, her “real” mother as far as she is concerned, died, when she was six, and in her thirties she has decided to seek information about her birth mother.  The information is difficult to track down, and will not be fullly revealed, but what she learns is a shocking revelation:  she has a twin sister.  It is Elyse who takes the first tenuous steps to find this stranger and become her sister. 
    The book, written in alternating voices as the two authors describe their journey toward each other and later toward locating the family they share, is a fascinating account of the obstacles and small victories they encounter along the way.  In remarkably candid passages, the two women reveal their innermost thoughts as they forge a bond and share a mission to uncover the truth of why the young mother who gave them birth was willing to give them up.
    I found myself so engrossed in the story that I read it in a day with just brief breaks for doing what had to be done.   I recommend the book and will suggest that the members of my discussion groups consider reading it.  It is time well spent. 

The Pornography of Power by Robert Scheer

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

This book should be mandatory reading for every adult in America. We owe it to our children and grandchildren who, for years to come, will be paying the trillions of dollars we owe other countries (mostly China). Mr. Scheer suggested that our goverment does not know the difference between millions and trillions of dollars and spent the latter building planes to fight enemies that have no armies. To this disturbing fact he adds “ takes an America family a year to generate $6,000 dollars in taxes, this amount and more is spent every hour by duplication and inattention.”
Of the federal budget, six of every ten dollars goes into financing unnecessary planes and submarines.

Very little is left for education, health care, the environment and Social Security among other programs that make America great.

The greed and lack of vision of corporate America are absurd, and the connection between corporation and Congress scary. This is not a partisan problem. both parties seem to be blind at the consequences of this unparalled expeding. Mr. Scheer`s writing is clear and well documented. This book is a gem.

The Looming Tower: The Road to 9/11.Lawrence Wright

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

This is an amazing if disheartening book. It could read as a novel, the characters are complex, the names unusual, the plot terrifying, it is engaging and easy to follow. It does not demonize Islam. It shows main stream Islam struggling against extremists.
Lawrence Wright clearly explain the root of Islamic Fundamentalism. The book starts with Daniel Coleman, a FBI agent researching a “Saudi Prince” (Obama bin Laden) who seems to support a plan to blow up New York landmarks. The search for bin Laden was made more difficult by the distrust and lack of cooperation between the CIA, FBI and NSA. In the meantime our enemies whose view of the world is simplistic and delusional were ready to kill and die in the process. The road to 9/11 introduces a word inhabited by sociopaths and fanatics who perform atrocities in the name of God and are united by resentment and hate. The common goal is the destruction of America. The main inspiration for the Islamics extremists come from a frail middle age man, who enjoyed classical music, Hollywood movies and read Byron and Shelley among others. He felt betrayed by the help the USA has given to the Zionist`s cause after the war and embarrassed by the incompetence of the arabic armies. He was Sayyad Qutb, an Egyptian writer, whose social commentaries provoke the fury of King Farouk. To save his life he immigrated to America. The year was 1948. In America he was appalled by the secularism, freedom and sexuality exhibited by the inhabitants. Sexuality threatened him, he saw it as the main enemy of spiritual salvation. Also, he was convinced that modern values were the enemy of Islam. He returned to Egypt in 1950. In his writings he proclaimed that the white race was a menace to the Arabic world. To Qutb, only Islam could create a just and Godly society. He became an activist conspired against his government was captured, tortured and finally executed in 1966. He became a martyr.

He was the hero of:

Ayman Al-Zawarihi: A brilliant man who is a pediatrician and a surgeon. Involved in politics since his teenager years he was imprisoned and tortured. Ambitious and ruthless he interpreted the Quran to justify the killings of women, children and muslims, all prohibited by his religion. He had grand ideas and many followers. He was ineffectual in his efforts to cause chaos until he joined Osama bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden: At the university Osama was involved in religious affairs, admired Syyad Qutb and attended the lectures of Qutb’s younger brother. His hate for America was fueled by the presence of USA troops in Saudi. Charismatic and rich, bin Laden attracted mercenaries and privileged young men for his army. He was able to consolidate the competitive Islamic faction under the Al-Queda banner. He repudiates all that America represents but, his children play nintendo and his wives use cosmetic and lingerie made in the USA.

Prince Turki: The younger son of King Fasai of Saudi Arabia was educated in the USA, Bill Clinton was a classmate. Turki was ambassador to the USA and in charge of killing Osama bin Laden.

A well deserve Pulitzer Prize was awarded to this book, unfortunately is not a novel.

Sisters by Danielle Steel

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

SISTERS by Danielle Steel is a superb novel spinning the stories of four sisters. Descriptive passages of each girl makes you feel as if you’ve known the women for ages. The author does not miss a beat or any opportunity to tell the story in warm, spell-binding passages that have you reading until past midnight.

The climax of an accident rendering the star of the story, blind, angry and helpless is very well done. The angst experienced by each sister is unique and strikes a note of empathy with the reader. Best of all, each sister winds up with a happy ending. The only loose end is the remarriage of their father and new baby sister on the way. Even that tends to give the reader a sense of continuation and completeness.

By Joan Badie