Monday, May 25, 2015

The Forgetting Place

The Forgetting Place
John Burley
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-222740-9
Trade Paperback
$ 14.99
344 pages

Practicing psychiatry in a place like this is like standing on a glacier and trying to influence the direction it will travel. “

In many mental health facilities, patients are there for the long haul. When people are admitted, few leave except when they die. Simply put, they are not going anywhere.

For most mental health care givers, they have to believe that they can make a small difference in the lives of these frequently hopeless individuals. It might take time, perhaps ten or twenty years, but something has to help these people.

For young doctors to choose to work in a facility like this, besides the hope, the reputation of the hospital is important. If someone chose to work in a place with no hope for their entire career, they would need to be assessed as to their mental stability.

Many young doctors begin in these places. Most move on whenever the opportunity arises.

Five years ago, Dr. Lise Shields began her work at Menaker, a correctional psychiatric facility in Maryland. When she started her work there as a psychiatrist, she was optimistic and hopeful that she would have some influence. The work here though is daily challenging with the realism that no one here is ever cured. No one leaves, ever, to return their life in the outside world.

Lise has a new patient, Jason Edwards. What is strange about this patient who is her new assignment is that she is given no paperwork or background information on him. How can she treat someone without a past? Why all the secrecy? What do her superiors know that they will not share with her?

As she searches for answers, she begins to feel paranoid. Are people purposefully conspiring against the health of her new patient? Is she being followed or is it just an overactive imagination?

The Forgetting Place is a psychological thriller that holds your attention to the last sentence. With the theme of immense loneliness to those in the mental health world, the story is told through Lise's eyes. You see, hear and feel with her every page.

The realism is phenomenal with factual information about mental health even explaining the blind spots. This is when a patient's medicine is working well and the individual feels normal. During this time, the mental illness causes the person to be blind to what actually happens when they do not have their medicine.

Author John Burley utilizes his life experiences of a paramedic, firefighter and an emergency medicine physician. His first novel, The Absence of Mercy received the National Black Ribbon Award.

For a psychological page-turner, read The Forgetting Place.

From the Eye of the Moose: The Boob Girls VI

The Boob Girls VI: From the Eye of the Moose
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
ISBN: 1-56123-247-5
$ 14.95
192 pages

"Four burned out old broads" is the term used to describe four vibrant women with a great sense of humor. These women grew by sharing a dinner table which resulted in their sharing friendships through many adventures and becoming one of the BOOB girls.

The current BOOB girls are Mary Rose McGill, Marge Aaron, Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield and Dr. Robinson Leary.

Dr. Robinson Leary is a retired from being a university professor. Her husband suffered from multiple sclerosis. After caring for him until his death, she came to the home. Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield also came to the home when widowed, but her husband who had affairs left her wealthy. For Mary Rose McGill, her daughters placed her in the home when her husband died. Marge Aaron is the newest member of the group. She spent much of her career as a police detective and is also a widow. Besides being widows and living at the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community, their friendships began when they were assigned a table in the dining room, Table 12.

Dr. Leary, known as Robbie received a letter from a lawyer stating that she was the sole inheritor her great aunt's business, Turnbirdie Trumbell's Bed and Breakfast in Salem's Crossing, Nebraska. Since all four women enjoy and sharing their lives, they naturally decide on all departing for the small town to assist Robbie in deciding if this inheritance is a blessing, curse, or just a fun adventure.

The small mid-Nebraska town of Salem's Crossing proves to be more unusual than the women planned. A town that is deserted, lawyers who are never available or possibly non-existent, spontaneous storms and a possible haunted house with a permanent tenant, cause the four women to have many more questions than answers.

The author, Joy Johnson bases these books about the problems of getting older. With her husband, she is a co-founder of North America's largest bereavement resource center located in Omaha, Nebraska and also a center for grieving children. She is a nationally known speaker and and writer for children about grief.

All the books in this series by Joy Johnson are written for older women who grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries. The story is a bit contrived but meant to be entertaining and light-hearted. It is just a fun book to read. Also this book is based on the region around Omaha, Nebraska with many of the local establishments being mentioned and/or renamed to protect their identities.

If you have not read the previous five books, I recommend to at least read the first book before reading this newest installment.

Of all six books in the series, this particular one is a little different with the Nancy Drew flavor. The strengths of these books are the characters showing how retired women can still active and live a full and rewarding life with new friendships and adventures.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Secret Garden

A girl loses her parents and her uncle has lost his wife ten years ago. This common feeling of loss only separates the two more. Everyone deals with grief differently. So how can a piece of earth help both to overcome their pasts and give them hope?

In 1906 many British soldiers and their families are residing in India. However, there were numerous challenges in this English colony and besides uprisings, disease was a common problem resulting frequently in death.

For Mary Lennox the death of her parents due to cholera has left her in a foreign country without anyone caring for her. Her only surviving relative is in England and is still grieving from the loss of his wife many years ago.

Her uncle's housekeeper travels to India to escort Mary back to her new home in England. Although a new residence can be exciting, her grief and anger blind her.

Both are holding onto the past, finding no easy path into the world of the living.

"They are only a ghost if someone alive is holding onto them."

For Mary and her uncle, Archibald, clinging to these ghosts is their life.

This is The Secret Garden based on the book of the same title by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story is a classic with a story with a rich tradition and a tapestry intertwining the language. Adding a beautiful musical backdrop to a well-written story makes this a phenomenal production.

The music is rich and lush with melodic lines blending into this harmonious story revealing much of the story through song.

The chorus in this particular production is one of the best anywhere. Every voice is very capable to solo in any lead role. With these well-trained ensemble singers, their music is as intricate and important as the lead roles. My only problem was not really being able to identify who actually sings each beautiful solo.

In the lead role of Mary Lennox, Emma Johnson is the perfectly spoiled and resentful British child of privilege. She even maintains a proper posh English accent throughout the entire production. She sings well as a girl, not a woman's voice while commanding a presence of her character while on the stage.

The other child role of Colin Craven is portrayed by Danny Denenberg who is definitely a young actor with a very promising future. This boy has a beautiful voice and possesses a tremendous talent for acting.

As Colin's dead mother, Ariel Ibsen beautifully became Lily. Her acting demonstrated her love for both her husband and her child. Unfortunately, some of the songs seemed to stretch her singing range. Fortunately many of the chorus members were able to reach these notes.

In the roles of the hunchback Archibald Craven, Chris Ebke is wonderful. He excels as the grief-ridden widower consumed with memories of this wife. As his brother, Dr. Neville Craven, Jesse Black was perfect as expressing his frustration in love and jealousy with his singing.

Numerous other roles are outstanding such as Sarah Query as Martha the maid, Mark Haufle as the gardener Ben Weatherstaff, Travis Walker as Captain Albert Lennox and Hannah Hyer as Rose Lennox. I would have enjoyed hearing more from all of these talented individuals.

Not mentioned in the program is the band under the musical director, Jerry Brabec. This group is masterful with the constant musical demands of fifteen songs sung by the cast in the first act and twelve in the second. The band includes Larry Frederickson on bass, Darci Gamerl playing the oboe and English horn, Jennifer Novak Haar and Joseph Lorenzen playing keyboard, Ken Janek on the clarinet and bass clarinet, and Christine Price playing the flute, piccolo, recorder, and penny whistle. The capabilities of these talented musicians greatly enhanced the show.

Along with this once-in-a-lifetime cast, the costumes, make-up, wigs, scenery, sets, props, choreography, music, light, sound, management, production, and direction were all evidence of one of the best productions in this area rivaling any Broadway production.

The Secret Garden is a massively wonderful musical and is a phenomenal finale for this season at the Chanticleer Theater. This show is for older children, ones capable of reading the book and being seated for two and a half hours. With death, grieving, and ghosts being themes, this show is for mature children and adults. That said, there are other themes throughout such as hope, life and an appreciation of wonderful music.

The show lasts nearly two and a half hours with a fifteen-minute intermission.

The Secret Garden continues through this weekend at the Chanticleer Community Theater located at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased through the box office by calling (712) 323-9955 costing $20 for adults, $ 16 for students, and $10 for students.

What a wonderful way of concluding this year's Chanticleer season with this phenomenal finale featuring the many talented performers of our community.