Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Medieval Temperance Brennan or Kay Scarpetta

It is late in the 12th century--1170, to be precise. Tensions between the Church and England’s King Henry II are running high, following on the heels of the recent assassination--committed by a group of Henry’s followers--of the (former) Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket, in a dispute over the rights of the Church.
In the midst of this religious turmoil, Henry is also growing exceedingly concerned with an issue which has plagued rulers throughout the ages--that of money, how to collect enough income to effectively continue governing his lands (and the people living therein). For Henry, an important part of that equation centers around a group of people scorned and distrusted by the majority of his subjects--the Jewish population, whose menfolk have proven to have an aptitude for money-lending, and thus, have become quite valuable to the king in terms of producing revenue. The latest snag for Henry is that the Church, already furious with him, has just petitioned the Pope for the removal of all Jews from the realm. The putative reason behind the Church’s request involves a group of children, one of whom was murdered and three others who’ve gone missing from what is now known as Cambridge, whose death/absences have been--rather conveniently--blamed on the Jews. Henry, acting on the advice of a trusted advisor, arranges to have an expert--a so-called “master of the art of death”--go to Cambridge to ferret out the truth--and hopefully, to vindicate his Jewish subjects in the process. 
After consulting with his cousin, the King of Sicily, it is arranged that a Jewish advisor, Simon of Naples, will head to Salerno to seek out an appropriate medical expert. Salerno is home to a renowned school of medicine, the University of Salerno, and is known because of it as “the world’s doctor.” If a specialist in the medical aspects of death is required, he will be found in Salerno. 
Simon meets with one of the most-respected teachers and works out an agreement to borrow the teacher’s best pupil for his special mission. If only things were as simple as they appear on paper, though... Simon’s first surprise occurs when he meets his newly-formed crew at the boat shortly before departing for England, and finds that it consists of a huge Saracen man and two women. The second surprise--shock, really--comes when Simon learns it is not the Saracen man who is his new expert in matters of death, but the younger of the two women, Adelia Aguilar, who happens to be the esteemed professor’s own daughter. Such is the setting for Ariana Franklin’s fascinating historical mystery, Mistress of the Art of Death.
It matters not that today we think nothing at all of women entering into virtually any and every profession; in the 12th century, women most definitely did NOT go into the study of medicine. (Actually, women didn’t formally go into any study, unless it was conducted in a convent, and even that was not commonplace.) Only in progressive Salerno was it the accepted practice for both men and women to seek knowledge of the workings of the human body; elsewhere, women who endeavored to heal were branded as witches (and subsequently punished or killed). Because of these prevailing attitudes in the rest of the world, Adelia and her comrades are compelled to perform a little charade--the Saracen (who is actually her family’s servant, the eunuch Mansur) acts as the doctor, with Adelia posing as his translator and aid.
Upon landing in England, it is in these roles that the little band joins a group of Cambridgeshirians, returning from Canterbury--and also when Adelia and Mansur encounter their first (and unexpected) practical test. 
Prior Geoffrey, one of the many returning from the trek to Canterbury, is in absolute agony, and everyone around him is helpless. (He has even gone so far as to hold and pray over the finger bone of the dead boy--the skeleton of which the nuns at the nearby Abbey are holding in an effort to have him declared a saint. Needless to say, touching the finger bone has done nothing to ease the prior’s pain.)  Adelia, though still a student--and one who studies the dead rather than the living, at that--nonetheless feels the call of her profession to aid a hurting fellow human, and arranges for the ailing prior to be carted to a secluded area atop a high hill, whereupon “Dr. Mansur” can examine him privately. Although Adelia’s own studies have only dealt with death, she’s heard stories of the symptoms she now observes... and proceeds, in a rather unorthodox--not to mention uncomfortable--manner, to rid the prior of his problem (an inability to relieve his bladder). Prior Geoffrey’s relief is so great that he vows not only to keep the identities of the investigators secret, but to aid them in any way he can.
Upon reaching town, Geoffrey arranges lodging for the trio--Simon, Mansur, and Adelia (for Adelia’s elderly maidservant had died en route to England, reducing their party to only three)--with an old friend of his, a hardened, no-nonsense eel-seller named Gyltha, and her young grandson, Ulf, who soon become privy to the doctor/assistant charade, as well. Though coarse and gruff, Gyltha and Ulf are “good people”, and have ample reason to want to help: the missing children are all locals, and friends of little Ulf. Or, they were his friends; the very next day the three children’s bodies are all found nearby, laid out almost ceremonially. Adelia now has something to examine.
Although not allowed to do formal autopsies--the public outcry which would ensue if the mostly-uneducated, highly-superstitious townsfolk heard that “Dr. Mansur” had cut open their children’s bodies, would be deafening--Prior Geoffrey arranges for Adelia to view the bodies in secret. What she finds is curious. In different stages of decomposition, the bodies all bear traces of a similar substance. All have been tortured and brutalized in similar ways, too. Adelia is sick at heart after looking at the abused bodies, but understands more than ever the importance of the task before them; their investigation revolves not only around finding the killer, but also preventing the loss of any additional innocent lives.
And so, the curious trio works nearly round the clock. They interview anyone who might have seen the children just prior to their disappearances. They comb the surrounding area, searching for traces. They try to place what they observe and learn into context. For instance, Adelia finds a strange sticky item in one of the children’s hair. Eventually determining that it is a type of candy, from the Middle East, they conclude that the killer must have been on the last Crusade, the only way he’d likely have come into contact with the foreign sweet and learned how to make it. (Of course, such a deduction proves only to be of limited use, since it appears that a goodly portion of Cambridge’s adult male population--from wealthy men to laborers to paupers to those in the Church--had all taken part in the 2nd Crusade.)
As the investigation continues, and the team tries to narrow down the pool of suspects, Adelia makes friends by way of her medical knowledge. Acting as “Dr. Mansur’s” assistant, she treats the nuns at the local convent when an epidemic of cholera fells them. She sees many of the local townspeople, who flock to see Mansur with their various ailments. She visits the embattled Jews, who have been kept cloistered for their own protection in an empty castle (and who haven’t a doctor among them). She even falls into an uneasy friendship with the local tax collector, to her great surprise.
Tensions continue to rise, and the team starts to make some progress--when a shocking turn of events changes everything, and the hunt for the truth couldn’t be more personal to Adelia. One of her new friends is found dead in what appears to be accidental circumstances... but which Adelia is positive is actually murder.
By the time the little team solves the “case”, the reader has been treated to a tale by turns fascinating and thrilling--and always absorbing, one which offers a look into an era we do not all that often encounter in fiction. Chronicles of historic events meld seamlessly with the fictional narrative, giving us a view into a world replete with sights (rugged natural beauties corrupted by the filth of hygienic practices of the era), sounds (those of animals, and the myriad noisy things people did every day), and scents (tempting ones--of cooking food and wildflowers, as well as smells most foul--living in close quarters with animals, the odors of disease, and the lack of sanitation). We see a world in some ways harsher than our own, yet one in which people still ate and laughed, sang and danced, and went about their daily business. The characterizations are equally rich, neither cheapened via stereotypical portrayals, nor overly-modernized (or over-glamorized) to compensate for our sensibilities (which might be offended when faced with a fairly accurate portrayal of the attitudes and practices of yesteryear). Instead, the story has the more grounded feel of reality, of something that could have actually happened, given the right set of circumstances. There is also considerable depth of character, as we get to know not only the main players, but many of the secondary ones, as well. Adelia is particularly compelling, of course, for her intelligence, open-mindedness, and dedication, as well as for her stubbornness and insecurities. 
In Mistress of the Art of Death, Ms. Franklin offers a wealth of delights as if laying out a sumptuous feast for her readers. And, as the first book in a series about Adelia Aguilar,  it’s wonderful to know that, just as at the banquet in this story, there are still many fine courses yet to enjoy.
GlamKitty rating: 4.75 catnip mice (out of 5 possible)

Shades of Nosferatu and the Independent Woman

Can lightning strike--the same place, or the same person--more than once? Statistically, yes, although a high concentration of electrical wires and/or electronic equipment seems to play a major role in determining the likelihood of such an occurrence. Under most conditions, though, it’s pretty unlikely.
But what if we’re talking about authors? (Metaphorically-speaking, of course; I’d really hate to see Zeus flinging lightning bolts at my favorite authors, all of a sudden...) What are the odds that an author with a very successful book or series already under her/his belt can create similar results, a second time? 
With that question in mind, I had high hopes going into Deanna Raybourn’s latest book, The Dead Travel Fast. As the first standalone from her delightful Lady Julia Grey series, this new book would have a very pretty pair of slippers to fill. Still, the idea of a supernatural mystery set in the 19th-century was utterly compelling, especially coming from the mind of such a talented author.
The Dead Travel Fast starts off promisingly enough; Theodora LeStrange, a Scottish woman in her mid-to-latter 20s, has just lost her source of income following the death of her only living male relative. Her sole option, it appears, is to move in with her sister’s family--her sister, the husband (a parson), and four (soon-to-be-five!) small children--in their already-cramped home. The problems with that plan are abundant; Theodora and her sister have little in common, the husband is a busybody who insists he knows what is best for Theodora (regardless of how little he actually has a handle on any such thing), and the children are all small, noisy, and constantly underfoot. In addition to these frustrations, such conditions would also seriously hamper Theodora in pursuit of her dream--that of becoming a published author capable of sustaining herself. 
It is, therefore, with a great deal of joy that she receives a most-fortuitous missive from an old boarding school chum, Cosmina Dragulescu. Cosmina, it seems, is soon to be wed, and would like nothing better than to have her dearest friend by her side for the upcoming nuptials a few months hence. Such a wonderful opportunity this presents for our fledgling writer, as Cosmina’s family lives far, far from Scotland... in the Carpathians, in the heart of mysterious Transylvania! Theodora accepts the invitation with alacrity, as it solves both her immediate problem of a place to live as well as offering her the chance to travel and have a great adventure. (Note: Theodora, although perhaps not fully-realized, is another admirable Raybourn heroine--progressive in her thinking and independent by nature--and it is interesting to see just how she goes about achieving her dream.)
Eventually Theodora arrives in Transylvania, only to encounter her first hints of the strange foreignness she will soon find. The tiny village she has been dropped off at isn’t her final destination; she discovers that she still needs to traverse the steep and rugged mountain nearby in order to reach the Dragulescu castle at the very top. Carriage travel isn’t possible up the shear precipice, though, and so she must be carted up--in what proves to be a most unsettling ride--in a sedan chair, on the backs of two strong men.
Once deposited safely--albeit a bit jostled--at the castle, she is nervous and excited, for the edifice awaiting her is straight out of a fairy tale--all dark and menacing and exotic--and the inhabitants of such further contribute to her overall sense of anxiety. Her old friend Cosmina is quite altered in appearance, not the plump, rosy-cheeked girl she’d known, but one grown thin and wan. The other castle-dwellers are even more distressing: the Countess, an older woman obviously suffering from some illness which has left her in a weakened state; the Countess’ companion, a stiff, severe Austrian woman who serves as her nurse/attendant; the nurse’s son, a taciturn young man who functions as the steward; the requisite cook and a couple of servants; and finally, the Countess’ son Andrei, now the current Count following his father’s recent passing.
Theodora doesn’t quite know what to make of her fellow residents. Even Cosmina is not as she’d expected, for she is suffering from some malaise (which Theodora soon learns is disappointment over her broken engagement). The Countess is polite but haughty, causing Theodora to be uncomfortable and wary in her presence. Frau Amsel, the companion, takes an instant dislike and is most unpleasant toward her. Florian Amsel is quiet, dour, and odd. And the Count? He is quite the enigma--an urbane, handsome man who has spent much time in Paris, he clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of them, and yet there he is, forced to take over the running of the castle as well as the welfare of the villagers (who have a feudalistic relationship with the Dragulescu family), by dint of his father’s death. Of course, such interesting companions also have the potential to provide much fodder for a budding writer, so Theodora is determined to make the best of her time among them.
As her days are spent primarily in the library, writing, and her nights, with the family, it only gradually becomes clear there is much evil which lies beneath the surface of life at Castle Dragulescu. Rumors of supernatural things abound, and it isn’t just the uneducated peasants down in the village who believe in such legends. The family doctor tells Theodora tales of local werewolves, and the castle servants are sure the dead count has become a strigoi mort (a vampire who returns by night to suck the blood from those still living in his lands). From her room in the tower, Theodora experiences firsthand strange happenings; the dog wakes her up--then disappears, as if by magic--in the middle of the night, from within her locked room. She sees what appears to be a winged creature (a vampire bat?) from her window. She hears the eerie howling of wolves (werewolves?), at all hours of the day and night. Things come to a head when the castle is awakened one night by horrific screams, to find that a maid has been murdered, and there are two puncture wounds--still bleeding--visible on her exposed breast. It is clear that something must be done; everyone is surely at risk from whomever, or whatever, has committed this atrocity.
Theodora, meanwhile, has struck up a relationship of sorts with the Count. Their attraction doesn't come as a surprise, since both are unattached, intelligent adults, but the fact that they meet in secret, late at night, is most shocking. It is through this unorthodox friendship of theirs that Theodora persuades the Count to set aside his playboy ways and take responsibility for setting things to right within his demesne--including the murder and the subsequent fears which everyone now labors under--no matter what the cost. His subsequent actions put in motion a sequence of events which lead to the eventual, inevitable, revelation of “who/what/why/how-dunit”.
The revelation is rewarding, paying homage to all the classic Gothic horror tales from which Raybourn obviously takes her inspiration. I also appreciate that she continues the story a bit past the denouement, because it gives her the opportunity to tie up those little loose ends (which authors so often neglect to do)--the what happened to whom, afterward, sort of questions. 
There are a few little quibbles, though. The middle of the story is a bit repetitive, with Theodora thinking the same thoughts again and again. Also, it would have been nice if the legends she introduced had been explored more fully; we only come face-to-face with a few of the possible horrors mentioned--even though the groundwork was laid for there to have been so much more. (Perhaps Raybourn is saving some ideas for future books?) Finally, one can’t help but make comparisons between this book and the Lady Julia series--and Lady J comes out the clear victor. That series is superior both in degree of complexity (so many more details and such a richly-layered world), and in the nature of the conversations between the characters (witty banter and genuine feeling in the Lady Julia books, versus a somewhat flatter, thinner dialogue here).  
The Dead Travel Fast is an enjoyable book, but it isn’t an outstanding one--especially not from Ms. Raybourn. It’s definitely worth a read for all her fans, though, as well as for anyone with a hankering for an old-fashioned, classic tale of Gothic horror.
GlamKitty rating: 3.75 catnip mice (out of 5 possible)

High-Tech Magical Hijinks

If Seanan McGuire’s first October Daye novel (Rosemary and Rue) was her spin on a moody, atmospheric, noir-style mystery (set in an uber-cool world populated by the Fae, Changelings, and regular humans), then her follow-up novel, A Local Habitation, goes the modern, high-tech crime thriller route (albeit with the same Fae and human mishmash of characters). And once again, she’s managed to create something quite magical.
The differences between the two stories--and the two approaches--are striking. It fell to R&R, the first of the series, to set up the whole world--introducing us to the characters, their environment, some background, and all the lore. We first glimpsed lands of unimaginable beauty and thrilling magic, as we viewed various kingdoms and duchies of the Summerlands through Toby’s eyes. We learned how the Fae interact not only with each other, but also with the Changelings (whom they see as sort of second-class citizens) and the humans (whom they suffer as well as fear). It was a fascinating introduction. 
Most importantly, though, we got to know Toby. We saw the overall contentment early on in the story--her having a (mostly) happy family and a (mostly) satisfying job, being a (mostly) well-adjusted adult woman, who had (mostly) worked out her place in the world (or worlds, as she actually inhabits two separate ones). But then, we saw it all come crashing down around her. In the blink of an eye--which proceeded to last more than fourteen years--her world slipped away, a piece at a time. Everything she’d once held dear was gone by the time she finally returned from captivity; she was back, but there was nothing left to come back to. And so, it fell to her to try to piece the scraps back together as she found them. Gradually, she came to terms with her Fae friends again, and resumed her old job. Her human family never did return to her, however, preferring to distance themselves from the woman who had seemingly left them high-and-dry so long ago. Toby was a changed woman. Her gaiety and zest for life were gone; she was bitter, sad, and hurting. (Some people have criticized this depiction of Toby’s grief as too “down”; for me, her depression seemed just right. She should find it hard, and painful, to get past such a horrific event and the aftermath which followed. Downplaying her emotions would have negated much of the impact, and I’m glad McGuire didn’t go for the “softened” approach here; a more visceral approach to emotional anguish is far easier to understand.) Of course, by the end of R&R, we got a sense that there was light at the end of Toby’s tunnel; she’d had to rely on her friends (and even some enemies) to help her make it through, and they hadn’t let her down.
So, ALH has a very different feel from the first book, picking up about six months after the events of R&R. Toby’s family still doesn’t want anything to do with her, but she has renewed all her old friendships, which continue to flourish. She’s even made some new (and, let’s just say, surprising) friends in the interim, providing her with unexpected (but much-appreciated) pleasures. She has her old P.I. job back (and it’s going strong), and her relationship with her liege (Duke Torquill) is healthy, as well. Overall, she’s in a much happier place, now--and we believe it, after having seen her go through all the events of the first book. (Toby is a woman on a journey. Now, admittedly, the same may be said of the heroines of a lot of other UF books, too. This is one time, though, that I totally buy into it; I believe Toby’s story and her reactions to all the turmoil she’s gone through, and the changes which have been wrought just feel right--not forced for effect, but right.)
Of course, Toby’s life doesn’t exactly revolve around her mental and emotional status; her job typically supersedes everything else (just like in real life), and in ALH she finds herself being sent on a personal mission by Sylvester Torquill: to find his missing niece, who lives in a nearby territory (the independent County of Tamed Lightning, aka Fremont, California). Not expecting it to be a particularly-dangerous assignment, he sends only his teenaged page to assist Toby. Sure, there are some minor political “issues” with the next kingdom over (which would dearly love to get its hands back on Tamed Lightning), but the AWOL-niece, Countess January O’Leary, owns a software gaming company; how hard can it be??
Well, things can be pretty darn complicated, actually. Once Toby and Quentin-the-page finally find the company (note: never have a Fae give directions to the human world--just don’t), they don’t know what to think. The company, housed in a couple of huge warehouses, seems to be nearly deserted... but the few remaining employees are all Fae, and none of them will give Toby and Quentin any straight answers. After several hours of not getting anywhere--and getting lost, in the building which is actually a knowe, or entrance, into the Summerlands--Toby is fed up and determined to force some information out of someone. 
She soon discovers, however, that the employees have a very good reason for all the secrecy and game-playing; a couple of them have recently been murdered on premises, and no one has a clue as to the who, what, or why of it (understandably leaving the remaining staff scared senseless). January, who has been ensconced at company HQ all along, is likewise baffled by Toby’s insistence that Sylvester has been worried sick about her; she tells Toby that she has been calling him the same as always... but that no one from the Duke’s land has returned any of her messages. 
Further complications arise. The political issues may be dicier than originally thought. The company, which makes some very high-tech items specifically for Fae usage, is having difficulty ironing out a few problems. Internally, there is a certain degree of rivalry and possibly, distrust. And worst of all, the death toll continues to rise as more people are attacked and left for dead. 
With some help from her friends--Connor, Sylvester’s son-in-law (and foolishly, Toby’s would-be lover), and Tybalt, the King of Cats (and constant thorn--or maybe, claw?--in Toby’s side)--Toby is, eventually, able to unwind the complicated tangle of clues. It comes at a price, though--more loss, sadness, and considerable physical danger to everyone involved. Once again, I didn’t quite see the big reveal coming; even after I’d figured out who must be behind everything, I didn’t cotton onto the why of it. 

McGuire has succeeded in fashioning yet another brilliantly-inventive, twisty tale. She’s given me characters I genuinely care about and a world I’m fascinated with; I can hardly wait to see how those characters and that world interact and change and grow as time passes. Far from being a stagnant place which lives only on the printed page, McGuire’s creation now runs freely through my imagination... and I’m more than happy to let it do so, for as long as she writes such compelling and beautiful stories.
GlamKitty rating: 4.5 catnip mice (out of 5 possible)

Adoption: Happiness & Heartbreak

It starts off innocuously enough, as things so often do. A random bit of junk mail--one of those postcards advertising window replacement, or margarita night at the local Tex-Mex joint, or maybe a donation request from the Salvation Army--escapes from an unruly stack of mail and floats free of the rest to land face-up on a little 3-inch by 5-inch section of floor. Most people would just pick up the offending scrap, a little annoyed at having to do so, only to toss it into the recycling bin without further thought. Maybe, if the ad offered a free something-or-other, they’d tack it up on the refrigerator under a magnet shaped like a piece of fruit, where it would remain until the next housecleaning frenzy caused them to gather up all those expired coupons and forgotten shopping lists from the fridge door for disposal. That’s really about the best that most junk-mail senders can hope for: that their unwanted piece of advertising doesn’t immediately go into the trash, but lingers long enough for the recipients to glance at it once or twice in passing.  
But this time... well, this time the situation has a different ending. Single mother Eileen Gleeson, juggling her bag, keys, Chinese takeout, and mail, drops a loose postcard sent out by one of those groups that works to find missing people. Reaching down to snag the wayward “Have you seen me?” ad, she happens to glance at the picture--casually,  out of idle curiosity. (No one really expects to recognize the faces in those ads, do they?) 
Except that this time, in the space of that brief scan, Eileen thinks to herself that she does recognize the face. Her heart stops beating for a few seconds; she wonders if someone could be playing a cruel trick on her. What her eyes convince her brain she has just seen cannot be true. She forces herself to look at the picture again... and determines that yes, the child on the card--a little boy, gone missing from Florida--is the spitting image of her own child. Her adopted little boy, Will, who lives with her in Pennsylvania.
So begins legal-thriller author Lisa Scottoline’s Look Again, a fascinating and compelling look at adoption, the nature of family, and the power of a mother’s love.
Most people would simply put down what they’d seen to coincidence (everyone has a doppelgänger, right?), while a few would be so bothered by the idea that they’d choose to bury any memory of what they’d just seen, somewhere off in the far recesses of their minds, forevermore. Eileen is no different; she argues with herself that it can’t possibly be her child on the card (he lives here, with me! I’ve had him since he was just over a year old!), and that it would be far better to forget ever having seen it, just tossing it in with the rest of the recyclables as she always does. 
But Eileen can’t do that. She’s a reporter, and she specializes in human interest features in the newspaper--often, ones that deal with children. Two years ago she documented, in a popular series in the paper, her own experiences finding and adopting Will, from the first moment she laid eyes on the sick little baby in the hospital (whom she didn’t even know she wanted until she saw him one day, all alone), through all the paperwork and legal stuff, until finally concluding with the happy ending of his recovery. She’s written ongoing articles about missing children--abductees and runaways--in the Philadelphia area. Most recently, she’s been working on a heartbreaking story about a grade-school boy who died of gunshot wounds, another victim of collateral damage in local gang wars. She can’t just ignore the resemblance she noticed; she understands what loss and worry are like for parents, and knows that she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t look into this.
That way lies madness, though. Eileen becomes obsessed with learning more about the boy on the flyer... at the very worst possible time for her, professionally. Well aware that shunning her duties, disobeying her editor, and missing deadlines--in the middle of cutbacks at the newspaper--could be career suicide, she can’t help herself. Uncovering the truth--is there some relationship between the missing boy and her own son?--becomes the most important thing in her life.
And so she follows the trail, as her obsession merges with desperation. Internet searches, phone calls, personal visits to anyone who might know something--even a fact-finding trip down to Miami to investigate the missing child’s family (a wealthy, handsome couple whose entire neighborhood is full of yellow ribbons, broadcasting the collective hope for the missing Timothy’s eventual return)--all of it leads inexorably to a gut-wrenching decision, a terrifying showdown, and painful truths which must be faced... although, perhaps not quite in the ways we might expect. 
Look Again is a stand-alone book which takes a very different tack than most of Scottoline’s previous novels (the majority of which have revolved around a feisty group of female Philadelphia lawyers). To be honest, I was a little nervous after reading the synopsis; it seemed like such a departure from her regular style (which I’ve always enjoyed), that I wasn’t sure this would click with me. (And, to be even more honest, I’m not usually a big fan of stories involving little kids, which generally take the “sappiness meter” up to eleven on a scale of one to ten, as far as I’m concerned.) I shouldn’t have worried. Although this is definitely a different sort of story for the talented Ms. Scottoline, it proved to be as thoroughly entertaining as the rest of her works. 
Look Again is more than just a gripping thriller, however. The insight it gives into the process of adoption--and the feelings and emotions of the parents involved, both biological and adoptive--is fascinating. At the end of the day (and the end of the book), it is also a poignant story about the nature of love--of parents for children, children for parents, and for the friends in our lives--reassuring us that it’s always the love that really matters.
GlamKitty rating: 4.5 catnip mice (out of 5 possible)