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Andrea Cumbo has commented on (26) products.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Andrea Cumbo, January 1, 2011

Impeccably researched and beautifully written.
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The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
The Tapestry of Love

Andrea Cumbo, December 17, 2010

Sometimes books arrive at just the right moments. Usually I think these books are heady, intellectual numbers that set my thinking straight or give me clarity on the path of life. But in this case, Rosy Thornton’s The Tapestry of Love was neither heady or terribly clarifying; instead, it was simply comforting in the way good fiction can be.

The story is about Catherine, a woman in her 40s who sells her house in England and moves to a rural farmhouse in the mountains of France. She leaves behind her children, her sister, her ex-husband, and begins a tapestry and upholstery business for the locals of the area. In the process of being there, she discovers a great deal about living in that place – including how to make honey and navigate the curvy, curvy roads – about her neighbors, and mostly about herself.

In the process of the book, Catherine addresses her feelings about romance, her feelings toward her sister, and her feelings about her mother’s death. (See “You Poor Little Thing” for my thoughts on the character’s response to her mom’s passing.) All of these inward journeys – as well as Catherine’s retreat to the country – resonate so strongly with me that each day I looked forward to getting into bed where I could read my way back into Les Fenils, Catherine’s house. Thornton’s writing about a woman’s time on her own reminded me a great deal of the way I felt when I read Alice Koller’s Unknown Woman, where another woman takes the time to step into a life that she has created, and the passages about an adult, single woman dealing with her Mom’s death brought my breath up short in their accuracy.

So if you’re in the mood to be touched by the power of solitude, peek a little at some romance, and just enjoy a lovely story, do pick up a copy of Thornton’s newest novel. And if you can, I recommend you read it at your own little place of retreat.
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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood

Andrea Cumbo, October 21, 2010

It’s another post-apocalyptic novel (not sure if there are more book with this setting or if I’m just subconsciously drawn to them for some reason) set in a time when most of the humans have been killed by a plague of some sort. The story centers around a group of people called “The Gardeners,” who want to return earth to its natural state before we started using up our resources and genetically modifying everything (including animals who we genetically mate to create creatures like the “Liobam,” half lion, half lamb – it was an attempt to bring about the Biblical promise of the lion laying down with the lamb). As in most of these novels, the outlook is grim, but hope resides in a few survivors who persevere and begin to find hope in their own abilities and in each other. I really enjoyed it and recommend it fully, although it is long and might be a little tedious on the page.
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The Poe Shadow: A Novel by Matthew Pearl
The Poe Shadow: A Novel

Andrea Cumbo, October 21, 2010

At present, I’m listening to Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow and finding it quite intriguing, if subtle. The basic premise is that Quentin Clark, a lawyer from Baltimore, is trying to solve the mystery of Edgar A. Poe’s (he refuses to use the name Allan because Poe’s father “Mr. Allan” disowned him when Poe got into debt) death at a pub in Baltimore City. To do so, he seeks out the infamous C. Auguste Dupin, the Holmes-inspiring detective from several of Poe’s stories, who he believes to be based on a real person. The novel is a mix of mystery and quasi-historical fiction where Pearl’s massive research skills really come to life. Plus, since I still (for the next 8 days) live in Baltimore, I love hearing street names that I recognize.
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Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

Andrea Cumbo, October 21, 2010

Roth’s fundamental idea is that women overeat or constantly diet because we believe that somehow our ability to control our weight will give us control over our lives. This idea is one I can wholly agree with. I know that when my stress level goes up I will eat most things in site, especially if I don’t have time each day to wind down and think through my feelings. Perhaps the strongest thing I’ve taken from the book is that I need to face what I feel and not run away from it with food, TV, alcohol, or whatever other escape I want. I need to stare it in the face and move through the feeling instead of avoiding it. The book itself gets a little repetitive towards the end, but overall, I really appreciated what it taught me.
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