Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a new book by a favorite author from back in the day:  Swan Song: An Odyssey, by Lisa Alther.


Book Beginning:  (The Death Magnet)

It was snowing the afternoon Jessie recycled her sex toys.  A sharp wind from Canada was whipping sheets of white across the parking lot at the household waste dump in Burlington.  It was like being smacked in the face by a line of wet laundry.  Most Vermonters had the good sense to stay home during a blizzard.


Friday 56:  Jessie was mystified.  What in the world did Alexandria, Egypt, have to do with Kat Justice from Mink Ridge, North Carolina?  It was unnerving to realize that, although she had caressed every square inch of Kat’s body many hundreds of times, there were evidently levels on which Kat had been a stranger to her. (56%).


Synopsis:  Dr. Jessie Drake, in her mid-sixties, following the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her partner of twenty years, has fled the Vermont life she has known for decades.

In an effort to escape the oppressive constancy of grief, she accepts a job from an old flame from her residency in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, and agrees to assist Ben as the ship’s doctor on a British liner. Jessie boards in Hong Kong, and, as the Amphitrite sails throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, cruise ship antics ensue. Jessie is lulled back into a long-ago romance with the ship’s co-doctor, and both she and her new/old beau become enmeshed with the ship’s lead (female) singer/entertainer. Among the passengers who fling socialized behavior aside on the high seas: a former Florida beauty queen (Miss Florida Power and Light) on a second honeymoon with her husband, as she causes high-velocity scandal, while juggling onboard affairs with a suicidal golf pro, and a defrocked priest hired as one of the liner’s gentleman hosts, until she vanishes–poof!–from the ship off the coast of Portugal . . . As the ship sails through the Gulf of Aden and into a possible hijacking by Somali pirates, Jessie retreats into her lover’s journals, written during her final months, journals filled with sketches of potential characters, observations on life and love–as well as drafts of a long new poem in progress, “Swan Song,” that seems to be about being in love with someone else, someone new. As Jessie’s grief turns to suspicion about the woman she thought she knew so well, her illumination of the poem’s meaning begins to lift the constraints of the past and make clear the way toward the future.


I first read books by Lisa Alther in the 1980s, and still have one of her books on my shelves:  Other Women.

When I discovered this new book on Kindle, I knew I had to give it a whirl.  What do you think?



  1. Hi Lorraine,

    I have a hunch that this is definitely going to be an ‘different and interesting’ read for you!

    I’m not too sure that it’s one for me, however I did find your shared extracts intriguing – especially as your opening lines discuss the disposal of sex toys and the opening lines of my own book focus on a prostitute and the ‘mark’ she has taken back to her apartment – what a coincidence?!

    There have been some very mixed reviews about the book, so I hope that you enjoy it. I try not to be too influenced by other reviews, as reading a book is a journey which everyone will experience in their own way 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

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