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Well, somehow the ability to manage calendars and Covid-19 distancing eluded us. We now find ourselves too late for timely Mother's Day gift ideas. That said, perhaps some mothers out there didn't get a good book yesterday and would like one now. So for all the mothers, and for anyone else looking for a good read, we have two ideas. And, because it is never too late to say thank you to anyone - HAPPY BELATED MOTHER'S DAY. We thank you all.
Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves by Frans de Waal (2019) - Lord knows, emotions - even very heightened emotions - are one of the many challenges that mothers deal with on a daily basis. That makes this particular title perfect for any mother. Reading it provides a window of understanding into not only their origins but also into their importance for an organism’s survival. One of the most moving parts of this affecting book comes towards its end. Whether I perceived it differently given the radical disruption and social isolation we have experienced this past spring as a result of the corona virus, it is nonetheless a meaningful illustration of emotions surfacing in other species. In the final pages of Mama’s Last Hug, author de Waals tells the story of the creation of a new outdoor climbing structure for the chimpanzees living at the Yerkes primate sanctuary in Georgia. The human caretakers there had been busy building it for weeks, which meant that during that time the entire colony had needed to stay inside and be separated from one other. When it was finally ready, the humans released the chimps out of doors so that they could see their exciting new apparatus - one full of ropes and nests and and spaces to play high above the ground. They expected that in their excitement the chimps would immediately run up to the structure to explore it. But they didn’t. Instead, the first thing they did was to hug each other. They engaged in a full-fledged emotional reunion that involved long embraces, kissing, and the touching of their long-lost friends. This story from the Yerkes sanctuary shows how connected primates are to each other (and also makes me wonder how humans will react when our long quarantine is over). This book is full of many rich illustrations such as this one. For professor and researcher de Waal’s, “the question has never been whether animals have emotions, but how science could have overlooked them for so long.” He explores the essential role that emotions play in informing the behavior of living organisms from primates to fish and even crustaceans. Reading it will leave humans with new insights into the living creatures with whom we share the planet as well as respect for the nimbleness and adaptivity of our own emotional guidance systems. ~Lisa Cadow
For those interested to see the encounter that gave this book its title, visit - https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/10/24/559837354/watch-the-moment-a-dying-chimpanzee-recognizes-an-old-friend
Writers & Lovers by Lily King (2020) - Because the beginning of Covid distancing meant my inability to concentrate dominated my life, not because of the novel itself, Writers & Lovers provided a slow start for me. So if it does for you as well, please know that I am so glad I kept reading. Once I was hooked, I ended up reading it in one three or four hour swoop during a night of insomnia (also probably Covid distancing related). The novel revolves around Casey, a woman in her late 20s, struggling to complete her first novel while waiting tables at a prestigious Cambridge, Massachusetts restaurant and juggling a complicated personal life. (I would guess the character is somewhat based upon Ms. King, but I have no way of knowing.) I enjoyed time spent in Cambridge as well as flashing back to life in 1997. In particular, the description of her dank lodging arrangement brought back memories of many of my early apartments. I found this to be a lovely reminder of life as a young person, not a bad reminder for any Mother or anyone. As IndieNext wrote in their review - "I don’t think there’s a single unnecessary word in the whole thing. Writers & Lovers is a joy to read, a gift from a writer at the top of her game.” I completely agree. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie
So belatedly ----