Clock Dance #Thursday Book Feature

Clock DanceImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

by Ann Tyler

Copyright 2018

 

Willa has as normal a childhood as can be expected, growing up in Pennsylvania with a theatrical mother and  mild-mannered father. She graduates from high school, goes to college, and marries a boy she meets there. They move to California, where they have two sons. During the boys’ teen years, Willa’s husband is killed in a car accident. That’s the first part of this book.

The second part opens years later. The boys are grown and leading separate lives. Willa has married another man and moved to Arizona. After receiving a phone call from a stranger, for no fathomable reason, she finds herself flying across the country to Baltimore, Maryland, to care for a mother and child she doesn’t know. There, she enters a new world and is content for the first time in years.

I’ve enjoyed many of Ann Tyler’s books because of their mix of straight-laced and unpredictable characters and the humorous situations in which they find themselves. This book didn’t disappoint me. I liked the ending.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Thursday Book Feature: Our Souls At Night

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Our Souls At Night

by Kent Haruf

Copyright 2015.

 

In Kent Haruf’s last novel, published posthumously, Addie, a widow, is lonely after the death of her husband. In desperation, she asks her long-time neighbor, Louis, a widower, to spend nights in her bed, keeping her company. Their relationship blossoms from friendship to romance amid gossip from people in the small town where they live and despite their families’ objections.

From the beginning, this author takes us directly into the story with little description of the setting. As the story progresses, we learn about our main characters’ lives through dialog instead of paragraphs of narrative back story. All this make Our Souls at Night a sweet story about two people finding happiness in their older years. The ending, though, leaves a lot to be desired.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Thursday Book Feature: The Cold Dish

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Novel

By Craig Johnson

Copyright 2005

 

In Absaroka County, Wyoming, four teen-aged boys gang-rape a Cheyenne girl who is developmentally disabled as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome. They are convicted but only given suspended prison sentences. Two years later, one of the boys is found dead, and Sheriff Walter Longmire must investigate. As developments arise, and a second of the four boys is found murdered, Walt wonders if he should suspect his friend Henry Standing Bear, who is related to the rape victim. The murderer turns out to be a most unlikely suspect.

I normally don’t read this type of book, but Craig Johnson was a surprise guest at a recent writing group meeting. He lives in Ucross, about twenty miles east of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I live. Absaroka County is actually Johnson County, about 30 miles south of here. Intrigued by his discussion of the setting and characters, I decided to try The Cold Dish.

This book is not your run-of-the-mill mystery. It offers humorous glimpses of small-town life, friendship, and Native American history and folklore. Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, working together, reminded me, somewhat, of The Lone Ranger and Tanto, whose adventures I enjoyed following on the radio as a teen-ager.

I found the setting a bit disorienting. In the book, the Cheyenne reservation is in Absaroka County. In reality, the nearest Indian reservation is about thirty miles in the opposite direction from Sheridan. This probably wouldn’t bother anyone not living in the area, but I think it might have made more sense to set the story in Montana near Crow Agency or perhaps at the other end of Wyoming, close to the Wind River Reservation.

Also, I found the end shocking and depressing. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t that. What’s so upsetting is the stark reality of sexual predators getting off scot free, especially if they’re white and their victims are not. On the other hand, the book offers an underlying message. Revenge is a dish best served cold but better never served at all.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Thursday Book Feature: An Irish Country Cottage

An Irish Country Cottage

By Patrick Taylor

Copyright 2018.

 

This story takes place during the late 1960’s and is about three doctors. Although it’s part of a series, it can stand alone. In the Irish community of Ballybucklebo, Dr. O’Riley organizes a relief effort to help a family who lost everything in a fire. Dr. Laverty and his wife are trying to conceive a child, and Dr. McCarthy, a trainee, suffers from a lack of self-confidence. The Protestant-Catholic conflict provides an ominous backdrop to this portrayal of idyllic small-town life.

This book reminds me, in a way, of the James Harriott stories except that the patients are people, not animals. Funny things happen that will make you laugh, and there are serious moments that may move you to tears. I like the way the author interjects Irish culture into this story. He tells us that in Ballybucklebo, everyone gets along, whereas in the rest of Ireland, people are duking it out over religion and politics.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues that aren’t resolved in the end. Not wanting to give you any spoilers, I won’t tell you what they are, but I’m sure you’ll find them when you get to the end of the book. I hope a sequel is forthcoming. Meanwhile, I suggest you let this book take you back to the good old days when doctors made house calls. Don’t you wish those days still exist?

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Thursday Book Feature: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By Betty Smith

Copyright 1946

 

This is a biographical novel about a girl, Francie Nolan, growing up in Brooklyn during the earlier part of the 20th century. She and her younger brother live in a shabby apartment with their alcoholic father and their mother, who supplies most of the family’s income by cleaning houses and doing other odd jobs. When the children are older, they take on paper routes and other work. Her mother’s family is supportive, but their resources are also limited.

When Francie is fourteen, her father dies, and her mother gives birth to a third child. With the added financial burden of an extra mouth to feed, Francie is forced to put her dreams of higher education on hold. The ending is satisfactory, yet unrealistic.

This book is hard to put down. There’s a lot of narrative, but it’s necessary in order to move the story along, since it spans over a decade. Everyone should read it to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be poor and thus be thankful for what they have and compassionate towards those less fortunate.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: The Enchanted April

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.The Enchanted April

by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Copyright 1922

 

Four English ladies retreat from their miserable lives in London to a medieval castle in Italy that they have rented for the month of April. Lottie and Rose are escaping their husbands. Lady Caroline is trying to get away from men in general, and Mrs. Fisher, a grieving widow, wants only to rest and think and not be disturbed. As the weeks progress, attitudes change, and things get interesting when the husbands and landlord show up.

This is a good story, but Elizabeth Von Arnim, like many authors of the time, includes way too much narrative, which slows it down. Because I was curious after seeing a theatrical production of this book, and my regional talking book library’s group decided to discuss it, I slogged through and found the ending, like that of the play, satisfactory. This might be a good book to read during the month of April in a sunny garden, perhaps in Italy. The excessive narrative plus the sun’s warmth may cause you to slip into a peaceful afternoon slumber.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book feature: A Low Country Christmas

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.A Lowcountry Christmas

by Mary Alice Monroe

Copyright 2016

 

Christmas 2018 is looking bleak for ten-year-old Miller and his family in rural South Carolina. Miller’s father, a shrimp boat captain, has been forced to dock his boat by rising fuel prices and limited income while his mother works two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. As a result, his parents have no choice but to tell him they can’t afford to buy him the dog he wants for Christmas. To make matters worse, Miller’s brother Taylor, a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, receives a service dog, but a miraculous surprise is in store. Each chapter alternates the storytelling from the first person point of view of Miller, Taylor, and their mother Jenny and is preceded by a quotation from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Recipes are found at the end of the book.

I would like to have known more about what happened to these characters after that miraculous Christmas in 2010. The prologue and epilogue take place in 2015, and we learn that Taylor still has the service dog and is married with a baby, but how did he get to that point? We also realize that Taylor did not reconcile with his high school sweetheart, with whom he broke up after returning from Afghanistan, but how and where did he meet his current wife, and what sort of work did he find once he’d overcome, to a certain extent, his post traumatic stress disorder?

What about Miller’s family’s financial situation? In 2010, after docking the shrimp boat, his father was working whatever construction jobs he could find, but did he end up with more stable work after that? Did his mother continue to substitute teach and clean houses? The prologue would have worked better as part of the epilogue.

I liked the many references to A Christmas Carol. I was moved to tears when Taylor was first presented with his service dog and fascinated by the training process, not unlike that of preparing a guide dog for someone with blindness or low vision. This is a great holiday read. I know it’s a little late now, but maybe you can put it on your reading list for next year.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.