Allison's Book Bag

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One-Two by Igor Eliseev is an atypical reading experience. Set in Russia in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the USSR has just ended and Russia is still in its infancy, One-Two takes you into the mind of conjoined twins Faith and Hope. The style is at first disconcerting, being told from an alternating first and second person, but in the end feels like the perfect choice. A psychological drama, the novel reflects on how difficult but also how important it is to remain human.

Faith and Hope do not have an easy life. Their own mother, aghast at the sight of them, signed their death certificate. The twins were handed over to one institute and then another as experimental subjects. When the scientists wearied of the twins, they were transferred to boarding school where they experienced some measure of happiness. The windows had no grids, the air smelled of moss and pine, and the twins felt like normal children for the first time. They even developed friendships. Unfortunately, due to a suicide by one of the boarders, their stay was short-lived. The next stop was an orphanage, where once again the twins were viewed as objects of curiosity and sunk into misery. Their one relief was a library and the news that successful operations were being performed to separate conjoined twins. But again, these comforts were short-lived. One-Two is a hard story at times to read, as there seems be no redemption in sight.

But I want redemption for Faith and Hope, who from start to finish I am rooting for. I like who the twins are. They value friendships from their peers, the knowledge to be found in libraries, and the kindness of strangers. They’re also self-aware and know when they are being cowardly or mean, but also how to be strong in the face of relentless suffering and pain. I empathize with the twins who wish for a different appearance, just as many of us are dissatisfied with our looks. Faith grows up knowing the story of the Ugly Duckling by heart, because she wants to undergo a similar transformation. She treasures artwork of a friend who depicts them as beautiful. Whether accurate or not, I find enlightening the insights into life as a conjoined twin. One teacher tells the class that anyone cheating will be seated at separate desks, and Faith laments how impossible that would be. Then there are the constant questions from bystanders of how the two function day-by-day with bodies that are conjoined. Perhaps the most bittersweet is how the twins at times encourage other and at other times wish desperately to be their own person. Finally, I feel abhorrence at their treatment. When the twins take a bus ride, passengers make comments such as they’ll never get used to them and they’ll one day turn into haggish toads. At the orphanage, when staff see them, the twins are told to cover themselves. And these are among the least cruel reactions.

The style is initially what I least cared for. The first person is used when Faith describes her traumatic childhood, and the second person is used when she talks to her conjoined twin. There are times when I wanted to simply stay inside Faith’s head and times when I wanted to know what her sister thought not what Faith said to or about her. At the same time, the technique serves to increase tension, and thereby creates a frightening foreboding. While narrating her story Faith occasionally presents philosophical truths that seemed too mature for her to know at the age being depicted. At the same time, her emotions swing from optimism to despair, and feel agonizingly real. By the novel’s end, I felt as if the author could not have chosen any other way to tell his story.

One-Two by Igor Eliseev is one of those books that need to be reread due to its complexity. The twins manage to struggle past thoughts of revenge, suicide, and other dark emotions to hold on to the belief that their life has been amazing and full of miracle, and therein they teach us how to be human. Upon the initial reading one will grasp the essentials of the plot and the characters, but an additional reading will be needed to fully comprehend all the truths being imparted.


Becoming an advocate for cats everywhere

In the two years that I’ve been involved with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, not only have I have been writing a few articles a week on a regular basis but my duties have increased. Switching jobs during that time made me realize that I can’t keep up that pace! This led to the decision to become more focused in my efforts. Namely, I decided to become an advocate for cats.

One way I do this is to mostly write about cats. I’ve tried to increase awareness of how amazing they are as pets, how we can enrich their lives, and how we can help homeless cats. Most weeks I feature a cat trio story at Allison’s Book Bag, and you can read my articles about enriching the lives of cats at An Enriched Cat is a Happy Cat and Can Cats Be Trained?

I’ve also tried to put into practice my own messages, by training my cats. Each of my cats being helped with their own specific needs: I’m teaching Cinder to become less guarded about food, Bootsie to be more accepting of crates and strollers, and Rainy to show more patience about most everything. I’m also introducing all three to fun activities such as agility and obedience. Rainy has been doing the agility for months now, and is ready to go public with her skills. That is, she will be once I help her get used to facing all kinds of new situations. I’ll write about our attempts in upcoming posts. In training my cats, I’ve also discovered that my bond with my own cats has been deepened.

Another way I’m trying to become an advocate is through building a network of cat contacts. I share posts from cat rescuers and tell their stories at Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. I’m starting to connect with local shelters to determine their needs and what support can be given them. And I’m helping part of a group that helps community cats to live better lives.

That’s what’s new with me! What about you?


Sickness, clogged drain–setbacks this week

On the heels of needing downtime, I ended up sick over Labor Day weekend. This resulted in my routine being lost, as well as my needing to sleep, sleep, sleep. The latter didn’t happen though, because I had too much schoolwork, household duties, and other commitments to do.

Just when I started to recover, our basement sink clogged and overflowed. Not only did this result in pools of water on the floor, but everything smelled like a sewer. My husband and I spent an evening wiping up the mess and feeling grossed out. The next day we called our landlord. Turns out a tree root in the alley had gotten into the pipes. With it removed, we cleaned up the water that had backed up during the night. We also threw away boxes and other non-essentials that the water had soaked.

So, I’m starting a new weekend by once again feeling a strong need to relax. I do have a few blogging commitments but, if I can get those handled quickly and efficiently, my husband and I will treat ourselves to a “weekend couple date”. Oh, and I’m sure somewhere over the next two days, football figures in his life and reading in mine. 🙂

What’s your week been like?

Wishlist Wednesday

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop from Pen to Paper that invites ones to post about one book per week that has been on their wishlist for some time, or just added, and that you can’t wait to get off the wishlist and onto your wonderful shelves. 

Back when I had more time to actively participate at Good Reads, I tried reading the most interesting books recommended by the groups to which I belonged. This is how I discovered Neal Shusterman and his young adult novel, Unwind.

Cover of "Unwind"

Cover of Unwind

Picture a futuristic world, where a war has occurred between the pro-life and pro-choice groups. In the end, neither group really won. The representatives merely reached a compromise that suited both sides. They allow parents to “unwind: their teenagers.

What does it mean exactly to “unwind”? Well, next time, you pass a group of adolescents, imagine how that girl’s blonde hair would beautify a homely neighbor, that athletic guy’s legs would speed up a couch potato, that girl’s math smarts would enhance the performance of an accountant, or that guy’s perfect eyes would eliminate your need for glasses.

In my review of Unwind, I wrote: “Plot, character, theme…. Shusterman has masterfully handled everything. Yes, even setting and style are perfect.” Obviously, I became a fan.

Now wait a minute! So far, all I’ve done is talk about a book I’ve already read. Isn’t Wishlist Wednesday supposed to be about those books I haven’t read?

On my wish list is UnWholly, the sequel to Unwind which was released this past summer. If I can cheat and add three more books, I’ve also been wanting to read Shusterman’s popular Everlost trilogy.

Thanks to our local Plum Creek Literary Festival, I even have a date set for when I’ll read (and review) these books.  You see, Neal Shusterman is coming to that event. Yes, I’ll get to meet Neal Shusterman, have him sign copies, and act like a giddy fan. Can’t wait for September!

What’s on your wish list?

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