Novel Weaves Compelling Family Drama #Thursday Book Feature

Summer of 69

by Elin Hilderbrand

Copyright 2019


This is the story of one family during the summer of 1969. Jesse, thirteen, dreads spending a long, lonely summer on Nantucket with just her mother and grandmother. Her brother Richard is fighting in Vietnam. Her sister Curby, a college student, has a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard, and her other sister Blaire is married and pregnant in Boston.

This story is told from alternating third person points of view of most of the characters and is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the moon landing. In the author’s note at the end, she explains how this story relates to her own life and events in the news during that time.

Despite this author’s nasty habit of inserting too much narrative in scenes containing dialog between two or more characters, I was drawn into the story right away. I was right there with the characters, walking on a beach or eating in a fancy restaurant. Jesse’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother’s eccentricities. I was also reminded of when my younger brother first learned to play tennis.

The narrator in the Audible version is excellent. I like how the last part of the book, which is set at Thanksgiving in 1969, ties up most loose ends. Being a musician, I can appreciate how each section is titled after a song popular during that time. With summer drawing to a close, this is one more book you should read this season, especially since this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.



New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.


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Let’s Talk about Food

Thanks to Aman Khan for this tag. I couldn’t have seen this at a better time, since I was running out of ideas for my regular Tuesday posts. Here are my answers to twenty-five questions about food.


Q1. What’s your favorite breakfast?

A. I don’t have a favorite breakfast. From day to day, I alternate between oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, breakfast sandwiches, and pancakes with either sausage or a ham and cheese omelet. Most of the food I eat comes from Schwan.

Q2. How do you drink your coffee?

A. I don’t. I’ve never liked the taste. It’s funny, though, because I like coffee-flavored ice cream once in a while.

Q3. What’s in your favorite sandwich?

A. I like a sandwich with lettuce, onions, mayonnaise, cheese, and either lunchmeat or tuna or chicken salad. Once in a while, I’ll eat a hamburger.

Q4. Soup or salad?

A. I like them both. In a restaurant, I often order soup with a sandwich unless they have macaroni, potato, or pasta salad. When I order an entree, I usually ask for a salad. Most restaurants serve huge portions, and soup, I think, is too much, in that case.

Q5. No more sweets or no more savories?

A. I like both sweet and savory foods, although they may not be as healthful.

Q6. What’s your favorite cuisine?

A. Again, I don’t have a favorite. I like American, Mexican, Italian, and even Chinese.

Q7. What’s your favorite food movie?

A. I don’t have a favorite movie with food in it.

Q8. What’s your most guilty pleasure?

A. Chocolate.

Q9. The tastiest food I’ve ever eaten was?

A. I’ve eaten a lot of good food in my life, but I don’t remember the tastiest.

Q10. What’s your favorite cookbook?

A. I don’t have one because I don’t cook much anymore. Even when my late husband was alive, the recipes I used came either from him or from friends. You can read more about that in My Ideal Partner.

Q11. What’s your greatest inspiration source?

A. Now that my late husband is gone, I’m not inspired to cook as often. Most of my meals come ready-made from Schwan.

Q12. Cooking at home or going out?

A. I eat most of my meals at home, but once in a while, I’ll go out to eat with friends.

Q13. High end or low profile?

A. I like major restaurant chains and local establishments.

Q14. What’s your favorite restaurant?

A. I don’t have a favorite, but there are some I don’t like. I’m not very particular, though.

Q15. I do my grocery shopping at?

A. I rarely go to the store myself. With my limited vision, this can be tricky, even with someone to help me find what I need. Instead, groceries are delivered to my home once a week from Albertson’s and once every other week from Schwan.

Q16. Coffee with Leonardo Dicaprio or Gordon Ramsey?

A. I don’t know any of these people, and I don’t drink coffee, but I wouldn’t mind having a Dr. Pepper with Alan Alda.

Q17. What should not be missing in your kitchen?

A. The refrigerator, the microwave, and the stove.

Q18. What is your favorite snack?

A. I don’t usually snack between meals, but occasionally, I’ll eat a slice or two of just plain cheese.

Q19. What’s on your pizza?

A. Everything except jalapenos, anchovies, and guacamole.

Q20. What foods do you really dislike?

A. Peanut butter and liver and onions.

Q21. What’s the one food you refuse to share?

A. Although I won’t eat anything if someone else’s mouth has been on it, I don’t refuse to share any food.

Q22. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A. Kale.

Q23. What’s on your food bucket list?

A. I don’t have a food bucket list.

Q24. I couldn’t live without eating?

A. Anything.

Q25. If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you eat?

A. Chocolate ice cream.


Now it’s your turn. On your own blog or in the comments field below, answer any or all the above questions. Also, if you have additional questions about my eating habits, please feel free to leave them

below, and I’ll answer them. I look forward to hearing from you about food.


Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.


My Downtown Memories

Thanks to Mike Stanton’s post in Writing Wranglers and Warriors for inspiring this. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, my family was living in Tucson, Arizona, and a trip downtown was exciting because we had to drive through a large tunnel in order to get there. Dad or Mother kept honking the horn, as we drove through, and I loved the way the sound reverberated.

Once downtown, I enjoyed shopping in department stores with escalators and elevators. During the Christmas season, visiting Santa Claus was the highlight of any shopping trip. We often ate at a cafeteria, where my favorite meal was turkey with dressing and sweet potatoes. On my eleventh birthday, my parents took me and my younger brother to dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we ate outside on a patio.

The Tucson Community Center opened downtown while we were still living there, and Dad and I heard such performers as The Carpenters and Sonny and Cher. This facility also had a music hall where we heard performances of such works as Benjamin Britton’s A Celebration of Carols and Karl Orf’s Carmina Burana. We even heard a production of Rosini’s The Barber of Seville.

After we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, going downtown wasn’t nearly as exciting. The only tunnels were underpasses on the freeway. None of the department stores had escalators. One had an elevator, but it was old and creaky and had to be run by a human operator. However, there was a café where I enjoyed drinking milk shakes after school.

Now, that café has since been replaced by another that doesn’t serve milk shakes. The department store with the elevator is gone, as are other stores that were there during my childhood. I still enjoy walking downtown from my home in favorable weather to do banking and other errands.


Now, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I’ll conclude with a poem I wrote that was inspired by a childhood memory of downtown Sheridan at night. This is an acrostic in which the first letter of each line spells “downtown.” You can click below to hear me read it.



Dancing lights from cars pass
on busy sidewalks
with stores of all sorts to delight shopers who have
not a care in the world, as they stroll
to Penney’s, Woolworth’s
on streets that are crowded
with babies in strollers, children, and adults
needing nothing more than to shop and enjoy.


What do you remember about downtown when you were growing up? What has changed since then?


Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.


The Parking Lot Slog

Thanks to Alice Massa for inspiring this. In her post, she shares her winter travel adventures with her guide dog and explains why her accomplishments should have earned her an Olympic medal. I don’t have a guide dog, but here’s something I did last week that should have earned me an Olympic medal.

Last Thursday, a friend, who uses a walker, picked me up, and we drove to a restaurant downtown where we planned to meet others for our monthly friendship club luncheon. There were no empty parking spaces close to the restaurant, so we ended up in a lot about half a block away. Most of the week had been cold, with temperatures only in the teens most of the time, dropping below zero at night. On this particular day though, it was up to thirty degrees, which meant everything was turning to slush, including the parking lot.

The only thing to do was slog through the slush. Because of fear of falling at our age, my friend and I, clinging to her walker for dear life, made our way through the slush like two little old ladies out for an afternoon walk. We somehow managed to get to the street and across it to the sidewalk, which was clear, without falling flat on our backs. Now that should have earned us a gold medal.

Can you think of any winter adventures you survived that should have earned you an Olympic medal? I hope you’re staying warm and upright through these frigid, treacherous winter months. Take heart. Spring is just around the corner.


Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.


Sunday Best: Lunch at the Branding Iron

This past Thursday, some friends and I decided to get out of town for a while. We drove to Dayton, a little town situated about twenty miles north of Sheridan at the base of Wyoming’s Bighorns. The town offers a splendid view of the mountains, but on this day, all we could see was smoke from the many forest fires raging in Montana.

We ate lunch at a restaurant called the Branding Iron. This is an ordinary café, located in the heart of downtown Dayton. It serves hamburgers and other items you usually find in such establishments. I ordered what they called a branding iron burger: two patties with bacon, cheese, tomatoes, onions, pickles, onion rings, and barbecue sauce, all on a bun of course.

The first order of business was to eat the onion rings perched on top of everything else. Once they were gone, I put the sandwich together, but it was still huge. So, to the amusement of my companions, I picked it up with both hands, held it over the plate, opened my mouth as wide as I could, and dug in. That branding iron burger soon became a part of Wyoming history.

My father, may he rest in peace, would have been proud. My scale, on the other hand, was not happy. Oh well, you only live once, right?

What’s the best thing that happened to you this past week? Please tell me about it in the comment field. I hope something good happens to you this coming week.

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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