the fall of lisa bellow a must read

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must-Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

“Sometimes in the morning, while she waited for her brother to get out of the bathroom, Meredith Oliver would stand in front of her bureau mirror, lock eyes with her reflection, and say, “This is me. This is really me. Right now. This is me. This is my real life. This is me.”~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

When I read the first page of The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo, I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. Not only am I extremely picky about the novels I spend time with (have you seen my Instagram shelfie shots? It’s obnoxious how long my ‘to-be-read’ list is), but also I spend every work day surrounded by girls like the main character of the novel, Meredith Oliver. Meredith is a typically self-conscious eighth-grade girl. Now I love my job teaching 8th grade, but sometimes at the end of the day, I just want to escape into a  novel nowhere near my real life.

I’m sure glad I didn’t give up on this one. The Fall of Lisa Bellow got under my skin – in a good way. That’s why I’m calling this one a ‘must read’ about mothers, daughters, trauma, and loss.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read

What it’s about:

Meredith Oliver is the youngest in her family; her parents, are both dentists and her brother Evan, is a high school junior. The novel starts off describing her typical teenage angst as she goes about her day, feeling overshadowed by her brother who has experienced life-changing trauma. The plot takes an uptick when on an ordinary day, in broad daylight, Meredith finds herself in the middle of a sandwich shop robbery, quivering in fear on the dirty floor next to the most popular girl in her eighth-grade class, Lisa Bellow. When the gunman chooses Lisa as his hostage, leaving Meredith behind, the plot expands to pull in their families, Meredith’s emotional struggle with being the survivor, and the ripple effects of trauma on the mothers of both girls.

Meredith’s mom, Claire, is uncomfortably pulled into the grief Lisa’s mom is experiencing, which forces Claire to desperately try to cling to her own daughter, the survivor. Claire’s character development weaves threads of maternal guilt, the anxiety of knowing if she’s doing the ‘right thing’, and the universal struggle between parent and child during adolescence. Evan, Meredith’s brother, appears first as a victim of his own traumatic accident and develops as an example of how one can rise and triumph. Mrs. Bellow, Lisa’s mom, portrays the gut-shattering grief experienced by parents experiencing the loss of their child, and the conflict of trying to live without her.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read quote

Why I liked it:

Aside from the fact that I am fascinated by the teenage mind and how humans seem to navigate into and out of its murkiness, I think what I connected with most in this novel was the battle experienced by Claire as she grappled with her maternal instincts versus the reality of her life as a mother, wife, and woman. I know firsthand, like so many mothers, what happens when our children are hurt, either mentally or physically. When my son experienced his ski racing injury and had to rehabilitate and adjust the trajectory of his life experience, I felt the anxiety of second guessing the enormity of his experience and wanting to trust my belief that ‘all will be well’. You can read my reflection on that experience here. Motherhood is no simple task, and add in marriage and career and mid-life disquietude I certainly connected with Susan Perabo’s character.

One of my favorite scenes came about half way through the novel. Claire, in desperate attempt to connect to her daughter’s experience, is consulting Meredith’s therapist. Frustrated at her inability to control the situation, Claire asks,

“How will I know when she’s ready?”

“You’ve been protecting her your whole life,” he said. “You’ll know.”

But he was wrong. Protecting her? …She could not protect her daughter. She could not protect her from the stomach flu. She could not protect her from cancer or AIDS or the common cold. She could not protect her from the mean girls. She could not protect her from her friends. She could not protect her from her own thoughts…She could vaccinate them and make them wear seatbelts and batting helmets. She could give them cell phones with emergency numbers on speed dial. She could give them straight-talk books and scared straight DVDs and a solid, honest, pitch-perfect piece of advice every single morning on their way out the door. But in the end, there was no intervention.

There was only awareness”

~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow, page 165

How many parents have felt this urge to protect, to intervene, to try to anticipate every hurt and shield our children from the pain of real life? This novel reminded me so much of the book If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie with a somewhat reverse plot line. I wrote a post inspired by If I Fall, If I Die called “Please Don’t Go Outside” in which I explored the paradox of wanting your children to grow and love and become their own person and the fear of letting them go where you can’t see. You can read it here.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure of the story; told in alternating points of view, the novel bubbled with tension and kept me connecting with both Meredith and Claire as the plot unfolded. Additionally, there were points in the storytelling where I found myself pausing and thinking about why the writer chose a sort of ‘flashback’ technique that made me wonder if I was really understanding the point of view at all. This beautiful writing, combined with authentic characters and suspenseful plot lines, kept me pushing to finish my end of the year grading so I could reward myself with just a few more chapters of this lovely book.

Who should read it?

As I paged through the story, I questioned if this was a young-adult novel or simply a story for parents struggling with watching their children grow. At the end, I decided it was both. I’m going to share this book in my 8th-grade classroom, and watch who gravitates towards it. I think teens will certainly connect with Meredith’s character and conflict, and I know moms and parents will align with Claire and Mrs. Bellow’s challenges.

Overall, I think The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a must read, and I sure hope you’ll come back here and let me know what your thoughts are.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is published by Simon & Schuster, who provided me with a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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girls night out

It’s Time For A Girls Night Out

We made it through September – it’s time for a girls night out. Seriously.

I cannot even remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater. I want to say it’s when my husband and I saw the first “Lord of the Rings” film – and it ended badly when he realized, after 2.5 hours in the theater, that it was the first in a series. He was not happy with a cliffhanger ending.

It always seemed such a hassle to get to the theater, to do dinner and pay a sitter and honestly, it was just easier to watch something on the DVR in our jammies while the kids played in their room or in the best case scenario, were tucked into bed themselves.

And then they became teens, and the thought of going out and drinking and whooping it up just didn’t seem like the right role modeling, if you know what I mean. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been too tired from teaching and mothering and writing and running a house to even consider a girls night out.

My 17-year-old son has been trying to ‘prepare’ me for his impending departure for college in TWO years. He reminds me constantly that I need to get used to the idea of ‘doing stuff with my friends’ instead of worrying about him, because when he’s gone, it’ll just be me and his dad and his dog and if I don’t start easing myself into it, I’ll have a rough time.

I suspect he’s got ulterior motives, but he’s got a point…

So, girls night out it was.

girls night out

What better way to hang with the girls than to celebrate Bridget Jones’s Baby?! Don’t worry…you’re not expected to bring a gift. But there will be booze! Have you ever heard of Studio Movie Grill? Do they have one in your neighborhood? Check – and if you can find it, grab a girlfriend and RUN there for a girls night out to see Bridget Jones’s Baby. It’s the coolest concept – you buy your movie ticket, sit in the comfiest of movie theater chairs, and just push a button and a waiter delivers drinks, snacks, dinner…as many times as you want!

Problems solved! It’s a one-stop-shop for a girls night out – or even a date night, or a bring-your-kids-and-blankies-and-have-a cocktail-while-they-eat-chicken-tenders kind of night!

At Studio Movie Grill you can sit back, sip on handcrafted drinks and laugh hysterically at all that is the incomparable Bridget Jones. Remember her from 2001? Before you got caught up in all-that-is-motherhood?

To celebrate the movie that everyone is expecting to be a sure-fire hit comedy Bridget Jones’s Baby, starring Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey, SMG invites you to indulge in a night of fun with the Bridget Jones’s Baby Package. This $27 package includes:

•     Admission to Bridget Jones’s Baby

•     One box of popcorn

•     Your choice of entrée from our 2 for $25 menu, and

•     A Not Your Father’s Root Beer Adult Float or a special Non-Alcoholic Baby on Board Float

Mark vs. Jack…who’s it going to be?! Find out with your closest friends.

I absolutely loved the movie; it far exceeded my expectations, I must say. I loved the first two in 2001 and 2004, but I was worried that after 12 years the magic would be gone. I’m happy to say, I was wrong. Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth were as charming as ever, and my girlfriends and I found ourselves laughing the entire way through! In true Bridget form, she finds herself pregnant at 43 and unsure of the father’s identity – which hilariously propels the movie forward, leaving us smiling and tearing up at the end.

If you’re needing a girls night out, please head for the Studio Movie Grill to check out Bridget Jones’s Baby – you deserve a night of food, drinks and laughs served right to your table!

Disclosure: I received free movie passes in exchange for reminding you that you need a girls night out!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Double Delight of Beauty and Friendship

Double Delight beauty
Double Delight beauty

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing:

that is enough for one man’s life.”

— T.S. Eliot (The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism)

This double delight was right outside my door today,

bursting forth with vanilla scented deliciousness,

 flowers tipped in fiery pink.

When she blooms,

sometimes I walk right by

not noticing

or taking the time to stop.

But this day,

in this moment,

I paused,

and thought about this rose

given to me by a dear friend many years ago.

I remembered our tears when she left

and our smiles when we catch a glimpse of each other

every few years.

The double delight

of beauty and friendship.

Beauty is all around us. All we need to do is pause, look, and she is there.

Tell me, where did you find beauty today?

 

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Right Women, Right Place, Right Time

Whoever is present are the right people. Whenever it begins is the right time. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. And when it’s over, it’s over.

~ Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott
‘ Anne Lamott (Photo credit: On Being)

Anne Lamott- one of my favorites. I’m a picky reader, and it’s rare for me to find someone who can keep my interest through every publication while simultaneously helping me realize things I never knew about myself, my children, or life in general. Anne Lamott is right up there with Toni Morrison and  Maya Angelou in her ability to rock my world.

And while I can’t call Anne, Toni or Maya on the phone when I need advice or want to hang out, I’m lucky to have equally powerful women within reach in my life. The power of women to comfort, challenge, and change my world – I’m picky for a reason. Thank you, all, – you know who you are.

Who are the women you look up to? When they write, call or challenge you, do you listen?

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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On Blogging, Friendships, and Seizing the Opportunity

Indonesia essential oils
Essential oil altar in Tangerang, Indonesia

Last July I wrote a post about turning your dreams into realities.  That was right before I set off on my trip to Indonesia, which brought some of my dreams about world travel to life.

Traveling to Indonesia per se wasn’t one of my dreams; rather, it was the embodiment of pushing myself forward into the universe and seizing opportunities that presented themselves to me.  When I applied for and received the US Dept. of Education grant to study global education, teaching in a Muslim country was not on my radar.  But as the chance to travel to a country I’ve never visited, and likely wouldn’t have chosen on my own, presented itself, I jumped in. I didn’t look for excuses not to, or reasons why I couldn’t go. I just did it.

Indonesia market
Inside an Indonesian market

I started my blog in much the same way.  Just decided to do it and began sharing my stories, thoughts, and life lessons through my words.  I never thought much about blogging before that, but when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.

I got hooked. Life hasn’t been the same since.

Blogging turned into a creative outlet, a launching pad for my dreams, and a platform to meet people all over the world.  For an introvert like me, blogging created relationships with women I now can call friends.

Two of those women, Val and Kathy created a website, Bonbon Break, designed to provide a space to share their thoughts, wisdom, humor and ideas with like-minded women.  When Kathy contacted me to be one of the first featured writers, I was thrilled to accept.  Since then, we’ve grown our friendships and our websites and pushed ourselves forward.

bonbonbreaklogo200

This week I’ve written an original piece for BonBon Break, “Writing Well and the Readers Will Follow“. I hope you’ll jump over and take a look.

You never know what might be waiting there for you that you never imagined!

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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