Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: “Rabbits for Food” by Binnie Kirshenbaum


Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

If you liked “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews, “Rabbits for Food” might also be for you. While not as sweet or tender as “All My Puny Sorrows”, Kirsenbaum’s book, which like Toews’s tackles mental illness, is funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Bunny, once a novelist, now a woman on the verge of a breakdown, and later a woman institutionalized for that breakdown, is pointed, sardonic, and heartbroken.

Even though she hasn’t washed, dressed, or moved from the couch in weeks, Bunny insists on attending a New Year’s Eve party with her dedicated, sweet, and imperfect husband, Albie. The party is pretentious and obnoxious, and Bunny tries to keep it together but fails. She has a breakdown.

She’s institutionalized. Through her, we meet the other patients (the addicted nurse, the anorexic who starts pulling out her hair, the man who wears his underwear on the outside), the rules (what is allowed and not allowed), the group activities, the awful food. In the absence of the therapy dog, Bunny participates in creative writing and through her loosely interpreted “assignments” we learn about what brought her to this sad place in her life.

This book shifts in time and perspective which is, I think, intentionally disorienting. The feel of the book mimics the strange disassociation that can often mark a depressive episode. This is an emotionally powerful book—I laughed, I cried. I felt truly heartbroken for each of the characters and I rooted for Bunny to be okay. Which (spoiler alert), she kind of is.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Movie Review: “The Laundromat”


By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Based on the book, ‘Secrecy World’ by Jake Bernstein, ‘The Laundromat’ is the story of Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) and her husband, Joe (James Cromwell), who are involved in a tour boat sinking, and Joe dies. Martin realizes the insurance company is taking advantage of her and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

At the movie’s start, a man is describing how his life changed overnight for him and his associate. He feels only one side of the story was told. Now it is his turn to tell his side. We later learn this is Jurgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and his associate is Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas); the movie circles around the dealings of these two. Mossack describes the origins of money and how it has evolved.

We then meet Ellen Martin after her husband has died. The captain (Robert Patrick) is being told that the insurance company won’t pay and/or doesn’t exist. Once Martin finds out she is being taken advantage of she goes on a tour to try and track down the individuals responsible for this fraud. What follows are accounts of all the shady companies and individuals associated with Mossack and Fonseca as they try to explain away why that what they’ve been doing is okay.

This is a biographical movie that was based on a book about the Panama Papers about the leaked financial documents regarding thousands of offshore entities. First, the stuff I liked about the movie: It is mildly funny in spots and has several cameos from some very funny people, and a well-known actor from a popular 1990s sitcom. There is a moment or two that caught me off guard and the end was a surprise, although I had trouble putting it all together in my head.

Now the stuff that confused me or I didn’t like: when I watched the trailer, I thought this was going to be a bit of a revenge story. It is – kind of, however is badly laid out and slow in several areas. I was under the impression this movie centered around Ellen Martin, but it is all over the place for large chunks, characters come and go and come and go and it wasn’t made clear (or maybe it was and I missed it) how they were involved.

The movie does make an important point at the end, but it takes a very long time to get there and there is a lot of confusion in between the problem that is pointed out in the beginning and the final solution at the end. Though it has a decent cast, I cannot say I would recommend this movie. I give it two puzzled face emojis.