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December 16, 2011

Amy Ephron’s intimate view of a life well lived

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/amy_ephrons_intimate_view_of_a_life_well_lived_20111213

Amy Ephron’s captivating new book, “Loose Diamonds … and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way” (William Morrow, $19.99), is a deliciously honest account of Ephron’s life experiences, wonderful vignettes that, to borrow her own words, are akin to “sparkling stones that I imagine come wrapped in a velvet cloth.” Each chapter is an unexpected gift, a glimpse into the life of a beloved author.  We are enchanted by the Birdman, an exotic character with a magical aviary, who seems to have stepped out of a Harry Potter novel.  His parrots “communicated in a language of their own.” And who knew that Ephron is a recovering psychic?  The revelation is relayed with light-hearted humor, yet the reality of her psychic experiences is undeniable.  She predicts “a burglary, an earthquake, and somehow psychically known that my old boyfriend’s father had passed away the day before….”  Her stare has the power to make a key fly “straight up into the air out of the lock….”

Did Ephron really pay a visit to Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, “one of Charlie Mason’s followers,” at the Spahn Ranch “where the residual members of ‘The Family’ still lived”?  She certainly did.  If a chill doesn’t scurry up, or down, your spine at the recalled images of a naïve 19-year-old Ephron out in the middle of the hot, sand-blown desert in that spooky skeleton of a ranch in 1971 to cover Manson’s “circus-like trial,” then something is wrong with you!

Ephron is a master at evoking a strong sense of time and place.  During the ’70s and ’80s “The climate was too loose, too experimental, too trusting … people were bringing strangers home off the streets….” 

How times have changed!

Our own personal experiences resound in every familial event, rendered with disarming intimacy.  There’s a second marriage to Alan, an attorney, with children of his own.  Few among us “post-modern” families have not had to deal with messy divorces, a bitter ex-wife or ex-husband, the intricate politics of second marriages with two sets of children.  And few of us have not been disillusioned by the shattering of our initial optimism to make everything work, hoping everything would turn out just fine if we invite “everyone to Thanksgiving dinner.”  But, Ephron reminds us in one of her many wise asides, if you harbor a dream of turning such a family “into one happy, albeit dysfunctional family, you’re probably kidding yourself.” 

There’s the mystery of Ephron’s house that seems to be struck every other December by disaster.  Yes, it’s true.  A tractor miraculously misses the house, an electrical fire is snuffed out in time, and “There’d been an epidemic of burglaries in LA.” Ephron’s jewelry is gone, which is bad enough until you learn that her computer is gone too!  The attempt to find the thief, the robbed jewelry, and especially the invaluable computer, is worthy of a dramatic movie.  And there’s the Middle Eastern passenger who states that the plane she is about to embark on will explode, and the matter of her indispensable Filofax, and her boy friend in San Francisco, and her love affair with Saks Fifth Avenue, and the problem of the “other writer” who threatens to …. well, you will find out!

Ah!  How we love to be allowed a peep into the intimate life of a brilliant author, to become unabashed voyeurs.  And Ephron, well aware of this inherent human need, accommodates with deep wisdom, marvelously sharp prose and her own beguiling brand of humor.

Dora Levy Mossanen, author of the historical novels “Harem” and “Courtesan,” is a frequent contributor of book reviews to The Jewish Journal.

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