What Lands In My Lap + Book Review

Includes Book Review:  Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg

May 1, 2020:  The past six weeks have been a continuing transformation of “normal”.  Settling into new stay-home isolation, two challenges arrived simultaneously: a beautiful but ultra-difficult 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and a book-review request. The jigsaw image is by Sara Steele, one of my favorite modern painters, and ultimately worth the agony that prompted visions of a mini bonfire, puzzle pieces aflame.  The book, by Anna Penenberg, chronicles a single mother’s heartaches and strengths as she and her daughter (stricken with a debilitating illness later diagnosed as Lyme Disease) are propelled  through one medical intervention after another, hopes rising and falling. I welcomed this book to better understand Lyme Disease.

Certainly I had ample time to work this puzzle and review this book. They made interesting “lap” companions! The puzzle flowers took me virtually out-of-house, and the book took me out-of-now back to years as a single mother. The timing of reading this book is notable.  A book about rising to meet uncertainties, about survival through adapting – along with a world-wide call to face uncertainty, to adapt.

I’ve collaged together the imagery, as these two have become interwoven symbols of my pandemic stay-at-home experience.   I’m breaking usual form with this post to include the book review, below.  You can pre-order now on Amazon; availability is July 2020.

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Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg (She Writes Press, July 2020)

This is a true tale of resilience facing uncertainty.  Lyme disease is the villain.  Mother Anna Penenberg and daughter Dana are each victims, though only the daughter harbors Lyme. Both are also heroines.  Though many Lyme specifics are covered, read this book for its model of perseverance against odds, against unknowns.  The book is hard to put down.  And when the last page turns, you will see your own challenges through a clearer lens.

~~~Woven into the struggles are spiritual connections to nature, labyrinths, and dance.  Author Anna Penenberg studied dance in college to become a therapist using bodily motion to heal. Exploring treatments takes mother and daughter on several road trips, each a mix of serious business with natural and spiritual encounters.  Like the sunset viewing of the Grand Canyon while pelted by hail, doubling over in laughter, needed relief.  “Everything bothered Dana.  When pain overwhelmed her ability to be civil, we drove in silence.”

~~~The Narrows, a slot canyon in Zion National Park, is a 16-mile stretch of the Virgin River where tall canyon walls come closer and closer together. On a rare week away from Dana, Anna returns to this place during a rainy season, and hikers must stop short of her desired point.  She is allowed 10 minutes on her own, a little beyond the group.  She splashes along a sandbar, hugging the cliff, finding herself “not broken.” The book is named for this pivot point.

~~~The phrase “She will turn a corner” captures the essence of years of searching for answers, “as if we were driving in a neighborhood where, if we made the right turn, we would meet the cure for Lyme disease.”

~~~As Dana begins to improve (in 2012), Anna celebrates turning sixty with a circle of women, reflecting: “I’d had the heroic job of standing by my ailing daughter day and night for years. It wasn’t a job that could be hired out. It wasn’t a job I chose. It wasn’t a job with tenure, benefits, retirement, or prestige, but it transformed me.”  The illness began in 2007. In 2013 Dana could finally live on her own.  “I took off the cloak of survival and stepped naked into my life.”

~~~Each chapter opens with a poignant quote.  One, from Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” This book has much to offer anyone (male or female) facing a challenge that defies resolution — hence, all of us facing the 2020 pandemic. This odyssey encourages survival through persistent pursuit. Protocols embraced by daughter Dana make 2020 rigorous hand-washing seem trivial.

Book Review posted on GoodReads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3309921796?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

 

13 thoughts on “What Lands In My Lap + Book Review

  1. I love this glimpse into your revised (and inspiring) orientation toward occupation in this necessary time of isolation. I’ve finally recovered from my bout with covid-19, but the challenges (opportunities!) it poses for us to re-envision our values, industries, and purpose as human beings remain to be embraced.

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    1. Stephanie, thank you. So good to read “recovered” in your response! Much remains to be accepted (I guess political posturing is an inevitable bit of the process) – and as we begin to embrace, circumstances will continue evolving, continue challenging with new opportunities to practice adapting. I cannot escape an empathetic grieving for all who experience personal loss of loved ones. Life lately is far from boring!

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  2. I’ve been to Zion, for our honeymoon! Didn’t do that hike though. Here’s to 1K piece puzzles. My wife Dawn has been down that hole for weeks now. Better habit than mine, probing other escapist holes, so to speak.

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    1. To each our own escapes! (I love jigsawing … but even with half the pieces, that Sara Steele image would’ve been difficult with its very subtle, very numerous shades of red blending w/o distinct lines to go by. My eyes rebelled! I now know what to look out for when puzzle shopping!) Glad to mail said puzzle to anyone who’d like to “indulge” … just send address …

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    1. Betty, thank you. Puzzle and book made interesting companions, more in common than I first thought. The book has a good many “keeper” quotes – I am fond of Alan Watts and his quote felt relevant – to my struggles with the puzzle and to our collective struggles to adapt to safer lifestyles.

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  3. Jazz-Thanks so much for reviewing Anna’s memoir. The topic of Anna’s book seems to sync well with what we’re all experiencing right now – a silent threat that will be here for quite a while.

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    1. Yes, I kept sensing parallels between Anna & Dana trials and current dilemmas … largely coping with unknown forces wreaking havoc. All those docs with their conflicting theories … all our politicians with their conflicting priorities! That said, this would be a good read under any circumstances.

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    1. Tom, thank you for the feedback. I’ve known 2 people who have been struck. I knew it was a complicated disease and wanted to better understand the multiple manifestations. This book was an eye opener with all the details about symptoms and attempts to alleviate them / cure the disease.

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  4. First, that puzzle image is incredible! The book sounds like one I could resonate with – from the quotations you use, it sounds as if the writer is quite poetic too.

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    1. Would you like to have the puzzle? I cannot bring myself to trash it, but I will NEVER do that one again. It truly is challenging, but in the end every one of the missing pieces showed up. Funny how that happens! I’d be happy to put it in the mail … just send address via email.
      Re Dancing In The Narrows – I thought about you while reading it. And yes, the author writes beautifully. I underlined all sorts of passages just for the writing. Some of her flashbacks are particularly appealing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Jazz! Lyme disease showed up in testing for me at one point. They don’t do much about it here in Canada, but I did get help through alternative medicine. I’m making note of this book.

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