Over Thanksgiving break, my 10-year-old daughter had foot surgery. She has a condition called Accessory Navicular Syndrome, which basically means she has an extra bone in each foot. We always knew she was special! The condition itself isn’t super rare, but the size of her extra bones are unusually large. After the surgery, the doctor told us it was probably the biggest accessory bone he’s ever seen, including all of his adult patients. The condition results in the tendon being connected in the wrong place, which has caused her a fair amount of pain and repeated injuries. She had to quit gymnastics, but it’s not in her nature to curb her naturally athletic tendencies. She decided to opt for the surgery to get it taken care of, so that she’ll be able to play sports in junior high next year.
In this spirit of Thanksgiving, my seven-year-old daughter was given an assignment by her second grade teacher. Each student gave a presentation in front of the class, describing three things for which they are thankful. My daughter chose three topics close to her heart:
- “I am thankful for art because we would not have that much color without it.”
- “I am thankful for school because without it, we wouldn’t learn much.”
- “I am thankful for my pets because my cat, Willow, snuggles and is very patient. I am thankful for my dog, Paris, because when I am sitting down and stop petting her, she lays her head in my lap. I am thankful for my fishes, snails, and seahorses because they are interesting to watch. I am thankful for my sister’s snake because it’s interesting, and it’s very colorful.”
Last weekend, we had some pretty wicked weather here in Illinois. Playing outside was not an option, so my two daughters stayed in the house and built a fort out of a large box, blankets, and pillows. My ten-year-old daughter spent half the day in her fort, reading the sixth Harry Potter book with the aid of a flashlight. It was a fairly peaceful day, despite the weather, until at one point, my daughter broke the silence by popping out of her fort and shrieking in outrage, “Dumbledore dies?!?”
At the beginning of the summer, I made a poster “checklist” of fun family activities. My two daughters had a blast checking items off the list after they did each activity. I’m not creative or crafty by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like a good checklist. I especially liked being able to revisit the poster at the end of the summer, when the girls complained that the summer was over and they “hardly got to do anything fun.” I showed them the poster, and they admitted, “Oh, yeah.”
I noticed the only two items on the poster that didn’t get checked off were the trip to a water park that my 10-year-old daughter added herself (which we had no intention of doing) and parents’ night out.
Dara Horn’s latest novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, intertwines the stories of several different characters, spanning multiple countries and timelines. While some characters’ lives take on a more suspenseful tension, others highlight the daily and often rocky evolution of family relationships, philosophy, and the importance of memories, both real and altered.
As the title suggests, A Guide for the Perplexed, delves significantly into Jewish history and philosophy. Dara Horn not only writes about topics in which she is well versed, but she further researches each topic to authenticate her subject, even in a fictional interpretation. This is both a pro and a con to her story-telling style. At times, it allows for important light to be shed on the multiple layers of the story and ties everything back to a central theme. At other times, however, it feels a bit like an academic lecture.
I most enjoyed the story-line of sisters Josie and Judith, namely because of the action, mystery, intrigue, betrayal, and danger involved. Some other characters were a bit dry, but Josie and Judith were anything but ordinary. As their lives take an extraordinary turn for the worse, their relationship as sisters is tested to the ultimate limit.
For a long moment, oxygen fled her brain, returning in a dizzying rush that flung her to the ground. She lay on her back looking up at the sky, feeling the frantic rise and fall of her chest as breath returned, but unable to fight the sudden fatigue that made the sky fade above her. As she drifted into dream, she saw something extraordinary: instead of dirt, there appeared, on the tall round walls of the pit, hundreds and hundreds of little doors.
I enjoyed the concept and description of the Genizah technology invented by Josie, a method which records every detail about a person’s life. With our constantly evolving world of technology, the implications of this type of tool is very relevant today. Horn did a fantastic job unveiling the constraints of memory, regardless of how realistic they may seem. The concept of purposefully altering memory to create an improved history was intriguing and Horn wrote about it in a fashion that was both realistic and artistic.