Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal M.D. - I may have possibly been in the wrong when I accepted this one for review. I had heard good things somewhere, and the e-mail asking me to review it showed up at just the right time when a friend from work was about to lose her father to cancer, and I figured, hey, reading this might be very timely. In a way it was, but at the end of the day it's still a memoir that became one with a self-help book, and I, from an early age probably as a result of my mother's dependence on them, have loathed self-help books. I really appreciated the memoir aspect of this book where Lipsenthal shares his story of being diagnosed with esophageal cancer, how he and his family had to use the skills he had taught plenty of sick people to learn to live in the moment and accept death as just another link in the chain of things that happen in your life, and how Lipsenthal really seemed to practice what he preached in terms of living in the now even as he faced his imminent passing. On the other hand, I (the self help book loather) was nonplussed by the parts where he turned his attention to preaching at the reader rather than teaching by showing. I found his delvings into the more metaphysical interesting but hard to swallow, and by the end I was rubbed the wrong way by his constant name-dropping which read like a who's who of alternative medicine/self-healing. There is much to like about this book, and it certainly has some valuable lessons to teach which are made more valuable coming from someone who has used them while navigating the end of his own life. As for me, I guess I liked the book enough, but my inner self-help book cynic kept from from truly embracing it. (Thanks to Big Honcho Media for providing me with a copy for review.)
The Legacy by Katherine Webb - I remember talking a bit about The Legacy away back when I was reading it. It's the story of two sisters, Erica and Beth, who are making a return to their grandmother's English manor house which is haunted by childhood memories of the disappearance of their (bratty) cousin, Henry. Storton Manor is filled with the ghosts of their childhood memories both good and bad which the sisters must face as they make the difficult decision about whether they will stay and live in the sprawling mansion or sell. During the time they spend there, an old friend shows up, and events long past are revisited with suprising outcomes. Interwoven with Erica and Beth's story is the story of their great-grandmother, Caroline, a child of privilege living in New York City who marries for love and moves to Oklahoma Territory in 1902 to be with her husband on his ranch. Times are hard on the Oklahoma frontier, and Caroline soon begins to wonder if love is enough to sustain her.
Webb laces the two very different stories together so skillfully that they seem to truly belong together, and though it's not a fast-moving book by any means, it's filled with the suspense of wondering how the two stories must intersect. Honestly, I feel like a dirtbag for not getting around to reviewing this until now because it's really a fantastic book. The characters are very well fleshed out so that even when they do loathsome things, you can understand why. A part of me wanted to loathe Caroline, she's not a particularly lovable character, but Webb draws out her isolation and her struggles against it so well that you can nearly understand when the suffering she perceives drives her to do unforgivable things and how her legacy impacts her family down through several generations. The book was a slow read for me but was made the better for it because it's so richly atmospheric that you want to spend more time in the dusty halls of Storton Manor and Caroline and Corin's Oklahoma ranch. Webb's dual storyline makes for an addictive and satisfying read that I heartily recommend. I'm looking forward to Webb's next which just hit shelves - The Unseen. (Thanks to Harper Paperbacks for providing me a copy for review.)