Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

 


  Have you ever considered what you would prefer your loved ones to do if you were hooked to a ventilator, in a vegetative state, with less than one percent chance to recover your consciousness and get back to your normal life? Would you prefer to stay hooked to the machines, unconscious, letting your loved ones hope that one day you would wake up? Or would you prefer your loved ones to make the decision to disconnect everything and let you die?

   Luke Warren took many risks living in the wild with the wolves, and he thought about the possibility of ending up in such a dire situation. Ironically, the wolves had nothing to do with his outcome. It was a car accident what caused a severe traumatic brain injury from which he would never recover.

    Luke Warren’s family was stuck with a difficult decision: to disconnect the life support system and allow him to die or to let him hooked to that system indefinitely. Luke had expressed his desire to donate his organs; he did not like the idea of lying unconscious in a hospital bed. That was not the kind of life he would accept, but the decision to interrupt his life support was not an easy one to make.

  Luke’s daughter, Cara, knew how much her father valued life. She had witnessed how his dad had gone out of his way to save the life of a wolf puppy. She had seen how he had managed to save the lives of wolves in the most unexpected and hopeless situations, so how could she do that to her own father?  On the other hand, Edward, Luke’s only son, was ready to honor his father’s wishes… but was that his true motivation? Edward had left America to live in Thailand for six years after a serious argument he’d had with his father. The shocking secret of their conflict is revealed close to the end of the novel.

   The first chapter of the novel caught my attention in a way that felt magical and incredible. A guy released the animals of a circus… I knew I had to get to know that guy. The book was irresistible from the beginning. The suspense of the story never dwindles, and I appreciate the reading journey to get to know each character’s thoughts and actions.  Picoult crafts a gripping story with unexpected twists and turns.

    Luke Warren loved his family but the wolves pulled him in a direction that eventually led to the demise of his marriage. The relationship between Luke Warren and the wolves is based on the experiences of Shaun Ellis, author of The Man who lives with Wolves, a book that I am adding to my reading list.

   Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult contains the points of view of all the characters involved. The chapters are “written” by the characters of the novel. This clever technique exposes the perspectives and perceptions of the same situations by the different characters, facilitating a deeper understanding of their emotions, behaviors and attitudes.

    Picoult's literary strategy helps to illuminate the complexity of the family relationships and the unique circumstances that shaped those relationships and behaviors. The interactions between the siblings--Cara and Edward-- is an example of this, and it gave me a lot to think about.

 I have mixed feelings toward this novel…

 One of the strengths of Lone Wolf is that it offers the readers a window into a situation that nobody wants to imagine, and, for this reason, it can spark conversations about what to do when the options to stay alive are limited to being in a vegetative state. I know there are different perspectives and views on the matter. It is necessary to acknowledge that the views and decisions taken will be influenced by culture and the details and knowledge about each individual case. This story can help to have serious conversations about difficult topics. (I can tell you I had some honest conversations with my own family after reading Picoult’s book). However, there are also several features about the novel that disappointed me deeply.

 Lone Wolf could have been a unique opportunity to foster a sense of empathy for wildlife, to offer a path of new perceptions and understandings in this field, but it did just the opposite in some ways. When I completed half of the book I was ready to award the book five stars, but as I continued reading I changed my mind. I will avoid spoilers here, but I will be clear about the flaws and caveats of this novel.


  

 The chapters that are written by Luke Warren are mostly about wolves. We don’t learn much about his personal life. Sometimes he provides snippets of incorrect information. For example, he states that wolves don’t grieve. Wolves do grieve, just like other non-human animals. Wolves are not the exception. I wrote about wolves before here, and I have read enough books about animals to know that non-human animals do grieve. If you don’t believe me, you can read the works of ethologists like Marc Bekoff, Jane Goodall and scientists who dedicate their lives to study animal behavior.

     There is a chapter in which Luke Warren shares the experience of being saved by a wolf. Luke could have been killed by a lion mountain, but the wolf did something that prevented Luke from being caught. Yet Luke’s clumsy conclusion about the experience was that the only reason the wolf had protected him from the predator was that the wolf considered Luke a “useful” member of the pack. According to Luke’s warped view, the wolf’s action was not about love or empathy. It was only a matter of convenience.



 Again, I have read enough books about non-human animals to know that empathy and consideration for others is not something that only belongs to human beings. Through the words of this so-called "expert" who might have been projecting his own character traits on the situation, Jodi Picoult perpetuates biases against non-human animals, and I found it frustrating.

  Last but not least, I was disappointed to learn the dark secrets about Luke Warren’s past. If Jodi Picoult wanted to taint the character's reputation by shocking the reader, she accomplished that. I surmise this is done in an attempt to sell more books, but those unexpected revelations did not feel credible. I expected an enlightening read—not a shallow “American Beauty movie”. I sensed those dreadful secrets were there to upset and shock the readers—not to help to understand Luke Warren. Luke warren genuinely cared about the wolves, and while it is true that he somehow neglected his duties toward his family at some point, this could have been fleshed out to understand his actions from his own perspective.  At least she could have given Luke a voice that would have revealed more about this dark facet of his life to make his flaws more credible. Considering this aspect of the novel, I feel cheated.

  Picoult seems to imply that Luke Warren cared too much about wolves and not enough about human life, a contradiction that can be used by skeptics to ignore the consequences of human actions on the planet and the burden that we create for other living beings. All living beings are interconnected and everything plays a role in the web of life to which we all belong. Yet Picoult appears to create a sort of delusional false dichotomy in the minds of the readers. It is misleading and disturbing. I also got tired of people blaming wolves for Luke Warren’s messy personal life. Enough!

 The novel is riveting, but it contains biases and misconceptions, so keep an open mind and be prepared to challenge those mixed messages.

 Another outdated snippet of information is given by the neurosurgeon who said that nerve cells cannot regenerate. This has been debunked by science. I am not trying to say that this information has anything to do with the outcome of Luke Warren's situation, but it is still important to make it clear.

  Lone Wolf gave me a lot to think about. It led to meaningful discussions with my family, and I am happy I had the chance to read it. It highlights how wolves care deeply about their pack. An interesting quality that humans can learn from wolves is how they value the wisdom that may come with years of life experience. On the other hand, we human beings should examine and eradicate the ageist stereotypes and attitudes that contaminate our modern societies. Ageism has become an issue that needs to be addressed. It is horrifying to witness it these days. I can hardly believe the lack of respect and consideration for the treasure that experience and knowledge can afford.  

 A pack of wolves has the wisdom to value the experience of those who are older. How about that? And they do whatever it takes to protect all the members of their pack.

 Lone Wolf is also a reminder to live the present to its fullest potential because we don’t know what the future has in store for us. We only have the present.

 Carpe diem!

 

Supplementary reading material:

 

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/03/cover-new-concept-of-aging


The Wisdom of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Women Heroes of World War II by Kathryn J. Atwood

 


 It is a pleasure to read how these brave, intelligent women fought and fooled the Nazis. Their endeavors were not easy. Some of them perished in the process, but many of them survived and shared their stories, setting alight a wellspring for inspiration and education for those who dare to learn the facts of history.  



   The experiences of these women are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit amid harrowing circumstances. Their guile and courage saved many lives. 

This edifying read also delves into the root causes of World War II. The introduction offers an insightful and thorough analysis of the ways Adolf Hitler became popular.



    Kathryn Atwood’s book is a unique read because the meticulous research on the experiences of these remarkable women follows an in-depth explanation of the political and social context of their countries of origin during World War II. Women Heroes of World War II is a valuable resource for schools and universities. It is also a reminder that countries that treat women as second-class citizens are in reality afraid of their power and intelligence. (Cowardice has many faces and treating women like property is one of those faces).

 The forces that empowered a dictator like Hitler should not be ignored. The economic constraints of the 1930s are often cited to explain the origin of the horrifying Nazi regime, but there are social issues that are conveniently overlooked. Atwood’s book integrates every aspect of this period with sensibility and knowledge.

 Hatred was the engine that drove the irrational behaviors of this regime.

 Schools became places of indoctrination, where history classes taught that Hitler was descended from great German heroes, math classes discussed how much money the state lost while supporting mentally challenged individuals, and biology classes taught the superiority of the Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jewish race.”

 Many people were blinded to the cruelty of the Nazis. Certain countries chose to ignore it, claiming that their own interests had to take precedence over the abuses of the Nazi regime. Hitler established a system that incited hatred and violence toward those who were different.

 He instituted the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), a state- run program for all children ages 10-18. The Hitler Youth program was geared to make Germany’s children proud, military Nazis. They engaged in warlike games, killed small animals (to become insensitive to suffering and death), sang songs about German streets running with Jewish blood, and were encouraged toward fanatical, personal devotion to Hitler, a devotion that was to take precedence over their relationships with their parents. (Children were encouraged to turn in their own parents to the Gestapo if they heard them say anything against the Fuhrer).”

 I am rereading some of the parts that explore the situation of various countries during World War II: Germany, Poland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and the United States of America.

 The invasion of Poland was of special interest to me.

World War II officially began on September 1, 1939, when German tanks and planes stormed into Poland with a new type of warfare called blitzkrieg, or ‘lightning war,’ in which an enemy was quickly overwhelmed by the simultaneous use of aircraft, tanks, and armed soldiers.”

  Poland military leaders were not prepared because their allies—France and Great Britain—had urged them to refrain from preparing for a defensive war to avoid aggravating Germany. The allies promised they would help them if German forces invaded them, but they did not keep their promise. Poland waited in vain for assistance. Poland eventually had to surrender to the German forces. To make matters worse, the eastern side of Poland was also invaded by the Soviet Union under Stalin’s power, so Poland ended up being divided by Germany and the Soviet Union. Millions of Poles were slaughtered or deported by the German Nazis. Thousands were also killed by Stalin’s soldiers.

 The Nazis separated Polish children from their families by force and ran tests on them to evaluate how Aryan they were. Based on their conclusions, they decided what to do with them.

  “As badly as these non-Jewish Poles were treated, Poland’s Jews were treated even worse. They were squeezed into tiny ghettos where living conditions were horrible and where many died quickly from disease, exposure, and starvation. But the worst was yet to come. Toward the end of 1941, the Nazi occupiers began to build camps that could kill large numbers of Jews very quickly. Jews from Poland, and, later, Jews from all over occupied Europe, were shoved onto cattle cars destined for these camps, where they were starved and worked to death, or immediately killed.”

 

 Who were the people who went against this extermination and helped to save lives during World War II? Atwood’s book highlights the stories of women who had the courage to defy the Nazis by fooling them and going against their “norms”. These women saved many lives amid the chaos. How did they do it? Kathryn Atwood explores their experiences and shares astounding details. I hope their names and stories will not be forgotten. I hope they will offer a beacon of hope wherever there is despair. May their strength persist in the desire of those who have the confidence to stand up against the oppression of fascist dictators, theocracies and other totalitarian regimes that force-feed their citizens with  factoids in order to destroy the essence of democracies across the world.

  May we all stand up for democracy with the voice of truth, and may the inspiration of these women live on in our aspirations and goals.

 Names of all the women included in the book: Sophie Scholl; Irene Gut; Irena Sendler, Stefania Podgorska; Marie-Madeleine Fourcade; Andree Virot; Josephine Baker; Magda Trocme; Diet Eman; Hannie Schaft; Johtje Vos; Corrie ten Boom; Andree de Jongh; Hortense Daman; Fernande Keufgens; Monica Wichfeld; Ebba Lund; Noor Inayat Khan; Nancy Wake; Pearl Witherington; Virginia Hall; Muriel Phillips; Marlene Dietrich; Maria Gulovich; Martha Gellhorn.

 


 


Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

 


 

This is the true story of a teenager who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. Dita Adler—Dita Kraus in real life—was only fourteen years old when she became the secret librarian of a clandestine library in Auschwitz.

 The library consisted of only eight books that she had to hide consistently. The discovery of those books by the Nazis could have led to her execution. Amid the dire living circumstances, the set of books offered the unique opportunity to nourish the imagination, spark hope and learn something about life. Sometimes reading one of those books meant hiding herself beside a latrine. Dita guarded them carefully. It was an act of freedom.

  Reading a book was dangerous. Iturbe explains this clearly in a few words:

“Throughout history, all dictators, tyrants and oppressors, whatever their ideology—whether Aryan, African, Asian, Arab, Slav or any other racial background; whether defenders of popular revolutions, or the privilege of the upper classes, or God’s mandate, or martial law—have had one thing in common: the vicious persecution of the written word. Books are extremely dangerous; they make people think.”

 The Librarian of Auschwitz is a riveting read. It gets more engaging with each page. 



 Dita and her parents lived in Prague, where her father worked as a lawyer. Under  Hitler’s command, Germany annexed the Czech lands. In 1943 Dita and her parents became prisoners in Auschwitz. Their only crime was to be Jewish; the Nazis had stripped them of everything: their possessions, home, jobs and safety. At first, they were forced to move to a Terezin ghetto, where they lived in crowded conditions and worked hard without compensation.

 Jews lived under the constant threat of hate crimes. They were harassed for no reason, slandered and scapegoated. Hitler’s hatred for the Jews translated into several laws. Jewish children, for example, were no longer allowed to attend schools. In 1943 Dita and her parents were shipped to concentration camps. In Terezin, Dita had met Fredy Hirsch, a man who had a passion for education. He created a clandestine school and the secret library in Auschwitz.

 Hitler established a totalitarian regime and invaded various countries in Europe. In 1939, German troops invaded Poland. In 1940 they expanded to Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and then France. Norway and Denmark were conquered that same year.

 Hitler took control of all the newspapers in all the occupied countries and published propaganda to uphold his regime. He confiscated radios. Those who resisted his irrational regime belonged to the so-called Resistance. Members of the Resistance were sent to concentration camps or executed after being interrogated.

Millions of Jews died in gas chambers. Others died of starvation, diseases or were shot to death.

  How did Dita manage to survive the ominous conditions of the concentration camp in Auschwitz? How did she manage that secret library for a while? How did she endure  starvation, lice, diseases and other harsh conditions? Iturbe's book will help you to understand how she survived. Many Jews were forced to labor in factories without enough food. The atrocities Dita had to witness make me look at her in awe today: the humiliations, brutality and barbaric actions she suffered in the hands of the Nazis did not crush her spirit. 

 The Librarian of Auschwitz has been an intense, emotional read that shook my heart and inspired me to read more books about the Holocaust.

 When I write about cultivating inner peace I think of Dita Kraus. Despite the trauma of her teenage years, she never stopped fighting for her dignity. She became an English teacher and promoted a love for books. She is now ninety-four years old. You can listen to this recent interview here:

  I strongly encourage people to read The Librarian of Auschwitz. It is a very well-researched novel based on real facts and people. When Antonio Iturbe learned about the minuscule library in Auschwitz from the book The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel, he dived into the research that led him to write this book. 

 His interviews with Dita Kraus played an important role in the craft of the novel.

 On October 7, the barbaric acts of Hamas in Israel reminded me of the sadism, brutality and cruelty of the Nazis. The enemy today is called Hamas. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and exterminate Jews. To understand this terrorist organization, which has ruled Gaza like a cult since 2006, you can listen to somebody who escaped the regime in Gaza: his name is Moseb Hassan Yousef. He is the son of one of the founders of this organization. Poorly informed people call Hamas a group of “resistance” or “liberation”. This is not correct and we should explain it. How is Israel supposed to stay safe while Hamas continues to have the intention to repeat the attack it perpetrated on October 7?

   Whenever I ask this question, I get no response. 

 My Writing Life blog promotes the freedom to read books, supports democratic principles everywhere and stands up against any kind of hate.

 This book blog is taking a break until February 2024.

Thank you for visiting My Writing Life blog: Awareness, Reflection, Inspiration.


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to read my writing on the following book:

 Life Went on Anyway by Olev Sentsov

Here's a well-researched article about the evidence on links between Hamas and Vladimir Putin:

https://www.mei.edu/publications/essential-questions-about-russia-hamas-link-evidence-and-its-implications




Thursday, December 21, 2023

ManuScrita: Poems on Life, Love and the Nature of Reality by Michael Teichberg

 


“It’s always something to know you’ve done the most you could. But don’t leave off hoping, or it’s of no use doing anything. Hope, hope to the last!”

Charles Dickens

 This time of the year is a period of reflection for some of us. Witnessing so much violence, hate and extremism across the world, the mind seeks the light afforded by wisdom and hope. Today’s poetry collection responds to this need. It is a favorite of mine because it offers a sanctuary of wisdom, a universe of aspirations, and an introspective journey in which the spiritual-self reunites with the bonds that are meaningful to us, the connections that leave an indelible memento in the heart…

 Confusion and helplessness are part of grief, so it is a relief to settle on this poetical land of fortitude to embrace who we are amid the chaos, to acknowledge that life matters, even when others try to convince us that this is not the case. 

 Peace without safety may remain elusive. Yet inner peace is still something one can cultivate amid dire circumstances as a fuel that sustains one’s inner strength and resilience.

 Michael Teichberg’s poetry is unique, but it contains the wisdom and simplicity of Kahlil Gibran’s poetical style. Teichberg’s writing is direct and sincere. I am sharing a fragment of his poem “Anger Management”:

“Always strive for a life of peace.

For the heart easily sways to a negative place.

Let not the things that trouble us, trouble us.

The mind is fortified by the peace we choose and trust.

Existence is simplicity and in simplicity

We find great capacity

To embrace the positivity and beauty of the world.

 

We are quick to react to evil,

Letting brute instinct unfurl.

But self-discipline and reason can reign supreme

To overcome the chaos of our reactive extremes.

Those on the path to Enlightenment

Must embrace the oneness of all, without resentment.

In moments of conflict, patience is key,

For rash actions only serve to multiply the debris”.

 

 


  There is something addictive about Teichberg’s poetry. I feel compelled to understand how his consciousness swims through the mystery and confusion of life’s uncertainty. With many of his poems, I fall into a trance of emotions or thoughts and ideas that transport me…

 His poems are endowed with percipience and a sense of hope, but some of them simply feel magical in the way they help us to connect with our own roots. For example, the first poem, “My Light”, is about his grandmother:

“New loves and friendships may arise,

But none can compare to the familial love

From my first moments to her final ones.

Her laughter, my favorite song.”

When he describes his grandmother, I think of my own grandmother:

“Her warm disposition, a hug with each gaze,

Her selflessness, a rare and precious gem.”              

The metaphor of their bond is accurate and heartening. I feel the same way about my own grandmothers:

“A bond built on laughter, safety and comfort.

Our own temple, a retreat from the world,

Where we talked about everything.”

 This is a poetry collection “to be transported, challenged and moved” while “celebrating life, love and the nature of reality through a mystic’s lens.”

  The land of his poetry is a place where the reader can take a break and reflect upon the complexity of the self, the freedom of being detached from the prisons of stereotypes and labels, without being confined to the tyranny of prejudices.

  I appreciate how Michael Teichberg’s poetical world awakens the reader to see something beyond the expected conventions of reality, reminding us that the mystic’s lens nurtures the mind in a way that may leave the soul in a place that is unfamiliar to others. (The author of this blog post creates that lens from the clay of experiences, discipline and steady intentions).

  Do I agree with every message? Not necessarily. I don’t embrace the animalistic concept he shares in a couple of his poems because this concept can be used as a weapon to place humanity on a pedestal. The author of this post does not believe that humanity has earned such a position. (As I mentioned in another post, I don’t need to agree with everything a writer says to love a book). I also disagree with the drastic distinction made between East and West in his poem “The Divide”. I don't see "the east as being obsessed with the self as part of everyone and everything else." 

    Teichberg’s insightful poetry collection includes prose poetry and photo poetry as well…

 “Being driven to live life from within creates a greater mind that when hatched can achieve anything. A life lived solely externally is one run by shallow desires and limiting moralities.”

 Poetry speaks for itself, so my words here are somewhat redundant. I will close the post on MichaelTeichberg’s ManuScrita with a fragment from his poem “Babbling Bliss”:

 “In the shadowy corners, where ideas take root,

Like mushrooms sprouting amidst the darkness,

Even as authoritarian forces seek to tear them apart,

Silky threads of freedom persist.

 

The heart, propelled by revolutionary fervor,

Is catapulted into bleeding passion for change.

Words possess the power to transform,

Turning brothels into sanctuaries of worship,

Where sin and vulgarity can dissolve the veils of myth.”

 


 Photo by Benjamin Lizardo. Source: Unsplash.com 

 Everyday I think of the hostages abducted by Hamas, and I hope that peaceful negotiations will be reached to set them free as soon as possible. My heart is with them and with their families. Let's not forget them. Let's speak up for their release.

 

 

 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Remember This Day by Linda Drattell

 


 

  Linda Drattell’s latest poetry collection is a reflection born out of resilience. Wisdom emanates from life experience when one chooses a path of humility and growth. Her poems are about tenacity, healing, dealing with unexpected trials and contemplating the wonder of everyday life. It may be a subtle invitation to accept challenges with authenticity, patience, perseverance: the gifts that the wisdom of experience can provide when we open up to them…

   My favorite poem from Remember This day is the one she dedicates to her special friend: an ageing horse whose tenderness and gentle attitude captivated my heart. Every time I read this poem to somebody tears flood my eyes.

   I appreciate that there is no preaching in her poetry. Her poems honor the precious bonds with loved ones and contemplate the transformation that results from resilience. There is a paradox between the fragility of life and the strength that evolves from life struggles.

   I like to revisit her words, to savor them in silence or share them… Linda is a poet, author and advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing in California.

  Linda Drattell is also the survivor of a terrorist attack by a radical Islamist on Bastille Day in Paris in 2016.

  One of her poems narrates her terrifying experience and reveals the inner emotional landscape of being the survivor of a terrorist attack, but I will only share a brief fragment of her poem:

 “Trauma creates a gravel road in our brains.

Thinking too much about what happened

widens that gravel road…

I avoid crowds these days.

Always keep my phone charged.

Every so often, my husband and I cry.

July 14, 2016.

I am slowly forgetting the date.

Then a similar attack occurs another date,

elsewhere.

How do we know when we are healed—"

 

  Let’s not forget

 I received a copy of Linda Drattell’s Remember this Day in exchange for an honest review.

 You can learn more about the author’s literary works by checking her website.

 


Photo by Pieter Van Noorden. Source: Unsplash.com

Friday, December 1, 2023

The Darkness Manifesto: on Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms that Sustain Life by Johan Eklof

 


 Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of a starry sky? The quiet light of stars and planets and the serenity of the moonlight evoke a sense of mystery and wonder.  For many living beings, however, the light from the stars and the moon is a guide and a resource required for survival.  On the other hand, the artificial lights that humans infuse into the night erase the delicate nature of the night sky.

 The abusive use of garish human lights confuses insects, birds and various living beings who depend on the moon and the stars to get food, mate and thrive.

  Life is regulated by rhythms. Both day and night form the natural rhythm of the world, and respecting this balance supports human health. I appreciate how Johan Eklof details the effects of darkness on the way the human body functions. The hormone fluctuations that result from respecting the natural cycles of light and darkness support the quality of sleep, restoring and bolstering health and stamina.

 Half of all insects are nocturnal. They need several hours of continuous darkness to obtain food and find a mate. Eklof explains it clearly, “The night’s limited light protects these insects, and the pale glow from stars and the moon is central for their navigation and hormonal systems. Disturbances in the natural oscillation between light and dark is therefore a threat to the night insects’ very existence.” The lighting in cities disrupts the health of thousands of living beings in various ways; Eklof’s book helps readers understand this phenomenon on multiple levels. In the state of Florida, for example, research showed how the lighting in cities inhibited the birds’ immune system and the impact of this situation on human beings: “Sparrows with West Nile fever were infected an average of two days longer if they were exposed to artificial light during that time. This increased the risk that the virus would spread to human beings.”

 A single bat can eat 3000 insects in one night. For this reason, they are very good at controlling the population of mosquitoes. Bats can make a big difference in the comfort felt on a terrace on quiet summer evenings. In Asia rice is the most important food for billions of people. One hundred million tons of rice are destroyed every year, but bats help to reduce the loss of rice by feeding on the insects that destroy those crops. Pesticides are not as effective as bats. Besides, pesticides have an impact on human health and the environment. Bats contribute one million dollars a year to Thailand's economy. In North America bats save three billion dollars every year by protecting corn and cotton crops. Bats are also pollinators, just like hummingbirds, bees, bumblebees, and moths. Furthermore, their droppings are effective fertilizers. In order to survivebats need the darkness of the night.

After a powerful earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994, a power outage hit the city. As a result, the Milky Way, which had not been seen for decades, became visible. The emergency services were flooded with calls about the strange light phenomenon. The power outage allowed people to see something that light pollution had kept hidden...

 Human beings insist on negating the need for darkness by inundating the night with unnecessary lights. Light pollution is often ignored. Yet it contributes to the extinction of several species, disrupting entire ecosystems and wreaking havoc on human health. Eklof’s book educates readers to understand the need for a paradigm shift in the attitude toward the darkness of the night. It inspires us to cherish it and to recognize the essential role it plays in our lives.

  France is ahead in the field of addressing light pollution, but it is not the only country that began to tackle the issue. “France passed legislation in 2019 over how much light can be emitted into the atmosphere. In 2021 the law was fully implemented and regulates everything from brightness and color temperature to time of day and the coverings of street lighting. It remains to be seen how this will be implemented in practice and what the effects will be. But more and more countries are undertaking similar initiatives. In the Austrian capital of Vienna, they’ve started turning out the lights at 11:00 p.m., and in Groningen in the Netherlands industry and agriculture lights are regulated by law. Western Europe seems to have woken up in this regard, while the rest of the world is still at the starting block about the threat of light pollutants.” There are promising examples in other places. For example, the city of Flagstaff in Arizona received a special recognition: the Dark Sky City status as a pioneer in introducing lighting regulations to enhance the night sky. Their ambition was to be able to see the preserved night sky in an urban environment; astronomers were the driving force of the regulations.

 In the meantime, it is not difficult to turn off the lights when we don’t use them. It is even easier to avoid wasting money on lights that invade the precious darkness of the night. We may be rewarded with the image of a peaceful sky illuminated by the glow of the moon and the stars. It is empowering to know that we can save lives through simple actions. 


Photo by Neida Zarate. Source: Unsplash. 

Here's an article with more information and ideas on how to address light pollution:


Light pollution threatens coastal marine ecosystems. Here's an article on this:

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

 


   A fragile friendship bloomed between Sage Singer and Joseph Weber in New Hampshire in the year 2013. After losing her mother in a car accident that she survived, Sage, a twenty-five- year-old lonely baker, joined a grief support group where she met Joseph, a ninety-five-year-old man who had lost his wife. Their intimacy eventually led Joseph to reveal something dark about his past: he had been an Auschwitz guard for the Nazi regime. Sage, on the other hand, was the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. Joseph had a special, desperate request for Sage.  It was an unethical kind of request, and, by the end of the novel, Sage found herself in a snare.

 The revelation about Joseph’s past prompted Sage to learn about her grandmother’s life story, one that Minka had kept hidden from her.

  Minka, her Jewish grandmother, had dreamed of being a writer, and during the time she was in a concentration camp her talent for storytelling saved her life. The way this happened is carefully revealed throughout the novel, so I will not disclose more information about this aspect of the story.

 The atrocities and horrifying situations Minka witnessed and experienced become vivid in the narrative she shares with all sorts of details. (I would not be able to watch a movie of this book because it would be traumatizing).

 The different chapters are written from the point of view of the main characters: Sage, Minka, Joseph and Leo. This feature of the novel helps to gain a deeper understanding of the plot and characters.

 There is suspense, romance, humor and various turns and surprises that enhance the reader’s interest. Philosophical reflections and ethical issues shake the reader to the core. It is not easy to put this novel down. Jodi Picoult is a remarkable storyteller. I appreciate the way she develops her characters and how their relationships unfold. She knows how to evoke the undertones and challenges of those relationships with graceful artistry and precision.  This novel was an emotional rollercoaster and it made me think about issues I had never paused to consider.

 In the early 1940s Minka’s father had been a baker who had the habit of making a special roll for her. The core of the delicious roll contained chocolate and cinnamon, but the main ingredient he used was love. The art of baking is interwoven into the story in a way that delights the senses and boosts the reader’s interest. 

 Sage had a true vocation for baking; her great-grandfather’s abilities and passion for this art resuscitate in Sage Singer’s talent and work.

 I highly recommend The Storyteller. It is the perfect book for a book club because it offers various topics for discussion.  The worst and the best of humanity are in full display in this shocking novel. The love for family and the sacrifices attached to it are only some of the themes that run through the story; there are many more. I would like to write about this novel for hours, but this is not possible because I must avoid spoilers here.

  I also think it is important to learn about the Holocaust. After reading The Storyteller I realize that there is so much about the Holocaust that I did not know… Even though this is a fictional story, the experience of witnessing hate crimes, being forced to live in a ghetto and living in  concentration camps was real to millions of Jews. Starvation, executions, torture and the separation of families were real. Antisemitism was the excuse underpinning these crimes against humanity, but Jewish people were not the only ones persecuted. Gypsies, dissidents, homosexuals and people with disabilities were also executed. 

 The context of the novel is very well-researched. I appreciate the work Jodi Picoult did to elaborate this riveting story.  She provides the references she used to craft The Storyteller. Jodi Picoult's book has educational value. 

 I like to compare this novel with a yarn ball made of several pieces of yarn tied together to complete the ball.

At the end of the novel all the parts come together like the pieces of a puzzle. The final chapter, however, has two shocking surprises. I had to read it a few times to convince myself of the outcome...

 All in all, this is a novel that will leave you with questions and reflections. It has the potential to kindle insightful discussions and conversations, and the characters are memorable. I look forward to reading more books by Jodi Picoult.

 Here's an interview with Jodi Picoult in which she shares her experience interviewing Holocaust survivors for her book:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMD5pLTjKHk