Thursday, August 4, 2011
Book Review: Repairing Rainbows: A True Story of Family, Tragedy, and Choices, by Lynda Fishman
Repairing Rainbows: A True Story of Family, Tragedy, and Choices
by Lynda Fishman
Published by Lynda Weinberg Fishman
When you suffer a significant loss as a child - particularly the death of a parent or a sibling - that loss stays with you for your entire life. For people who haven't endured such tragedy, it's hard to explain why and how just thinking about those who are gone can still cause the surviving loved ones to still break down many years, and even decades, later.
Such is the story of Lynda Weinberg Fishman, whose mother and two sisters were killed on July 5, 1970 in an Air Canada plane crash. (The cause of the crash was determined to be pilot error.) Lynda was only 13. Up until that point, Lynda and her sisters Carla and Wendy had what is described in her memoir as a very happy, peaceful, almost idyllic childhood.
Repairing Rainbows is, by all accounts, a very heartbreaking and personal story. But it is also a story about hope and choices. After such a devastating loss, it would be easy to give up and not go on with one's life - and that's essentially what Lynda's father did. On the other hand, as difficult as it was, Lynda chose to live and move forward. That spirit moved her forward through her teenage years, through her father's breakdown and remarriage, and to her relationship with her husband Barry who was like a kindred spirit to Lynda, as he had suffered his own losses and family heartbreak. (He was orphaned at age 17 and left to care for a brother with special needs.)
I want to be very careful and clear here in separating Lynda's story and personal losses from the actual writing and construction of the memoir. In no way do I want my criticisms of the actual writing to be interpreted as a criticism on the actual story itself or to be conveyed as anything less than respectful of the tragedy that Lynda and her family have suffered. That being said, I had a little bit of a hard time with the writing because it struck me as very perfunctory. In many parts, it feels like a basic recitation of events (this happened, then this happened, and then this happened.)
There are also a lot of details provided. I mean ... a lot. There's more than one instance of repetition and some details are simply extraneous. The reader doesn't need to know, for example, the details of the fixtures in the office where Lynda's father worked alongside her uncle. ("They shared a metal pencil sharpener that was screwed onto the wall between their two desks. Black phones with extra-long, curly black cords were mounted throughout the store. The phones had dirt-stained buttons that lit up when someone was using one of the three phone lines." pg. 26). Such details are unnecessary to the reader (even though they may hold some part in one's memories) and could have benefited from another round of edits.
By the same token, there are endearing, poignant details about the family that make them so real to the reader. Ketchup was on the table for every meal, regardless of what was served, simply because they loved ketchup. Lynda's mother held to the belief that you never went to bed before cleaning the kitchen - and the image of Lynda scrubbing the kitchen in the days after her mother was killed in the plane crash is a heartbreaking one. Carla, one of Lynda's sisters, had a pet cat named Tiger and she left detailed instructions about caring for Tiger before they left on their ill-fated trip. And you can see a grieving Lynda hiding in the bathroom clutching Tiger and her heartbreak on having to give him away, under her stepmother's orders, is crushing.
I have much admiration for Lynda, for the courage and inner strength it must have taken to tell her story. As someone who also lost a parent as teenager, I could identify with so very much of what she shared in her memoir (everything from the inane comments that people made at the funeral, to the special meaning that extended family takes on when you lose a parent, to the signs that the spirit of our deceased loved ones are still with us.) She's an example of how to move on from what would seem to be an insurmountable tragedy and use one's life to give back to others in need.
FTC disclosure: I was provided a copy of Repairing Rainbows by Tribute Books for the purpose of reading it in exchange for my honest review and for participating in the Repairing Rainbows blog tour. (Links to the other participants - as well as their reviews - are here.) I was not compensated in any way besides a free book and my opinions and thoughts expressed here are solely my own.
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