Thursday Book Feature: Fishing for Maui

Image contains: me, smiling.Fishing for Maui

by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Copyright 2018.

 

This novel about food, family, and mental illness is set in a Maui village off the coast of New Zealand. Main characters include Valerie, a doctor and mother of four children; Elena, her oldest daughter who is pregnant and writes a food blog; Michael, her oldest son, a university student obsessed with surfing and his heritage; her younger son John, sixteen, and her daughter Rosa, eight. Over the course of a year, Elena discovers her partner is having an affair; Michael is diagnosed with psychosis; John leaves school, and Rosa is struggling to make sense of everything. The book includes recipes.

I like the way the author takes us into the minds of each character by alternating the storytelling from each character’s point of view. I found the snippets of information about Maui culture interesting. A review I recently read said this book should be read in November, but I think it could be read any time of year. Since it takes place in a coastal village, it could even be a summer beach read.

 

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

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Waves (Fiction)

“Why are we doing this?” I asked, as the van pulled into a parking space next to the beach.

“Honey, it’s your birthday,” said Mom, turning in the front passenger seat to face me. “You always loved going to the beach.”

“Yeah, when I could walk,” I said, tapping the side of my wheelchair for emphasis.

“Anna, all you’ve done since you got home from rehab is feel sorry for yourself. It’s time you got some fresh air. I made all your favorite foods: fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob. I even baked your favorite kind of cake, chocolate.”

“Mom, you just don’t get it. My legs don’t work anymore. I can’t surf, walk in the water. I can’t even sit on the sand and build castles like I did when I was a kid, let alone go back to college. I can’t do any of it.”

“Listen Anna,” said Dad in his no nonsense voice, as he turned off the ignition. “Your mother went to a lot of trouble here so the least you can do is show some gratitude.”

He was right of course, but I still couldn’t get out of the funk I was in for the past six months since I woke up in the hospital and realized I would probably never walk again after the car crash. I fought to keep from crying, as Dad opened his door and climbed out of the van. “You all stay here a minute,” he said. “I’ll run and find us a spot.”

“I’ll start getting stuff out of the trunk,” said Mom, climbing out on her side.

“Let’s get you out of here, Sis,” said my brother Will, flipping the switches to open the doors and unfold the ramp.

With a sigh of resignation, I unfastened the seat belt as both my younger twin brothers Will and Tim worked together to undo the tie-down that held my chair in place and maneuver me onto the ramp. “Okay, here we go,” said Tim, standing behind me.

I grasped the chair’s armrests, as we descended to the parking lot in the California June sun. “I hate this stupid thing,” I said. “I know. I know I should have thought of that before texting Monica last Christmas Eve while driving to the market for those eggs so Mom could make her world famous eggnog. If I hadn’t been asking Monica what she wanted me to bring to her New Year’s Eve party, I wouldn’t have hit that stupid truck, and Bonnie wouldn’t have gone flying through the windshield.”

“Hey, quit beating yourself up,” said Tim, patting me on the shoulder.

“Yeah, look at it this way,” said Will who’d jumped off the lift ahead of us and was standing on the ground. “The truck only sustained minor damage while Dad’s car was totaled, and the driver, unlike Miss Bonnie, was wearing a seat belt, and since the air bag worked, he was hardly hurt at all.”

“Yeah, but Bonnie’s gone, and I can’t walk, and how could I have been so stupid?”

“Anna, knock it off,” said Tim. “You’re not doing yourself any good.”

Of course he was right. Why did men always have to be right? I stared ahead of me at all the people sunning themselves on the uneven sand. “Oh God,” I said. “even if Dad finds a place, how will I get there? This is a wheelchair, not a dune buggy.”

“No problem,” said Tim. “I’ll carry you.”

“What?” I asked, as I turned to stare at my brother. He was a few years younger but a head taller. Since he played football in high school and lifted weights, his arms were strong, but I still wasn’t sure.

“Don’t worry, Sis,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of girls and haven’t lost one yet.”

Will guffawed. “Knock it off, Will,” said Tim.

“Both you boys stop,” said Mom, coming around from behind the van with the cooler. “Here comes your father.”

“I’ll take that,” said Dad, as he approached her. “I found us a spot a ways down. Tim, you get your sister. Will, you grab her chair, and I’ll help your mom with the food. Once you boys get Anna settled, you can come back for your boards.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was bad enough I couldn’t walk on the beach, let alone surf, but now, I had to sit there and watch them surf. They may as well have rubbed salt on an open wound. It was all I could do to keep from crying, as Tim flung me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried me through the crowd.

We reached our spot, and miracle of miracles, Will found a flat place to set the wheelchair. “We’ll be back in a few minutes,” said Tim after positioning me. Mom was spreading a blanket on the sand, and Dad was unloading the cooler.

A woman with a dog approached, and I took in a breath when I realized the pooch, a Golden Retriever, looked just like Bonnie. Was I imagining things? “Oh how cute,” said Mom. “She looks just like our dog.”

Apparently, I wasn’t. The dog came up to me, and without thinking, I reached down and stroked the soft head and scratched behind the silky ears. The woman smiled. “You must be Anna Martin.”

I stared at her. How could she possibly know who I was? “Yeah,” I said, not knowing what to think.

“I’m Judy Fridono, and this is Ricochet,” she said, patting the dog. “You might have heard of us.”

I shook my head. “Ricochet is a surfing dog. She likes to surf with people like you.”

“People like me?” Then I remembered. “Oh, I saw something on Facebook a while back about a dog who surfs with disabled people, but I thought she just surfed with kids.”

“No, Ricochet surfs with people of all ages. She’ll surf with you today if you’re up to it.”

It was then I noticed the two guys behind her, lugging a surf board. I couldn’t believe it. How could I possibly surf? My legs didn’t work at all so how could I even climb on the board? With only my arms, what would I do if I wiped out?

In answer to my unspoken questions, she said, “These guys will help you. They’ll get you on the board with Ricochet, take you out into deep water where you can catch the waves, and let you go. They’ll be there if you wipe out.”

“Happy birthday,” said Dad, opening a bottle of beer. He and Mom were both grinning. I looked at them and then at the woman and dog.

“Oh honey, this will be so much fun,” said Mom, rushing to my side. “Here, let’s get your shirt off.”

I now knew why she insisted I wear what I would have normally worn to the beach: my swimming suit with a long t-shirt over it and flip flops. Stunned, I lifted my arms while Mom helped me out of the shirt. Dad knelt and removed my thongs while Mom slathered me with sunscreen. Then, one of the guys put a life jacket on me, much to my relief. At least I’d be able to stay afloat if I wiped out. “You ready?” asked the woman.

“Sure, why not,” I said.

The next thing I knew, I was being lifted onto the board face down with Ricochet in front of me. I reached out and stroked her neck, and she licked my face and wagged her tail. “You set?” one of the guys asked.

“Yeah, let’s do this,” I said, feeling more confident, as we moved into the water. Before I knew it, we were past the shallows, and one of the guys said, “Okay, you’re flying solo, but your brothers are coming, and we’ll be right here.”

Hugging Ricochet, I found myself soaring to heights where I thought I’d never go again. It was as if the accident never happened. For the first time in six months, I felt the exhilaration of the waves, as they rolled over us, and we rode them with ease.

“Hey Anna, isn’t this fun?” I turned to see Tim at my left side on his board, smiling. I grinned back at him.

“Anna, look over here and smile.” It was Will on his board, balancing his camera.

“You’re gonna get that thing wet,” I said.

“So what? This is the underwater camera I got for Christmas, remember?”

Christmas, there it was, but for once, I didn’t feel angry or depressed. Another wave came, and we were airborne once more.

When the water became calm, I stroked the dog’s back. We were both soaked, but that didn’t matter. ”Oh Ricochet!” I said, kissing her forehead. “Maybe life doesn’t suck after all.”

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Note: Ricochet actually exists. To watch a video of this dog surfing with two terminally ill teen-agers, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yksy4M6HRxQ . You can learn more about Ricochet by reading my review of Judy Fridono’s memoir at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/riding-waves-with-a-dog/ .

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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Riding Waves with a Dog

Dogs can do incredible things. When I first started reading Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspired Millions by Judy Fridono, I thought it was just another one of those uplifting dog stories I enjoy reading from time to time. Although the book starts out as a story of a service dog in the making, it turns into something totally unexpected, at least for me.

Judy Fridono starts out talking about how she spent a year raising a service dog puppy while living in Chicago. She describes the agony of having to return the dog to the training facility for service dogs once her year was up. After that, she talks about her life growing up in a tough Chicago neighborhood. Her father was an alcoholic and a drug user, and this made her childhood difficult at times. When she was a teen-ager, both her parents died. She was attacked once and robbed another time, and all this caused her to have nightmares and panic attacks. She also contracted rheumatoid arthritis which didn’t help matters.

She then talks about how Rena, the puppy she raised for a year, helped her overcome her fears and inspired her to train service dogs. After she returned Rena, she moved to San Diego, California, to attend a dog training school. Through a miraculous twist of fate, Rena was returned to her, and after completing a dog training course, she formed her own service dog training organization.

Ricochet was part of a litter of Golden Retriever puppies, and Fridono started training her soon after she was born. However, although Ricochet was intelligent, after several months, she became stubborn, reminding me of the Irish setters we had when we were growing up who would only do something for us if it pleased them. Ricochet loved to chase birds, and since this is not a good trait for a service dog, Fridono became increasingly frustrated with her.

Ricochet also loved to surf, and on a whim, Fridono entered her into a competition. She feared it would be a disaster because of the dog’s obsession with birds. Fridono was afraid the dog would jump off the surf board after a flock of seagulls instead of focusing on her task. To her astonishment though, Ricochet stayed on the board through several waves and didn’t even look at a bird. She then realized that Ricochet had a different purpose in life and started looking for other ways the dog could be of service.

Fridono then describes how Ricochet inspired many people through surfing and other activities: children with autism and physical disabilities, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, even a teen-aged boy in Florida with terminal cancer. Ricochet put smiles on their faces and gave them the courage to go on, despite their limitations.

Ricochet also raised money for therapy and other essentials. She even helped Fridono when she underwent open heart surgery. The dog’s efforts gained world-wide attention through Facebook and other media. I’d never heard of Ricochet until I read this book, but I was touched by her story. To learn more about Judy Fridono and Ricochet, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8tUI3EC66M . This video consists of an interview with Fridono and footage of Ricochet in action.

In the summer of 2005 before my late husband Bill suffered the strokes that paralyzed him, we took a trip to California to visit friends and relatives for a couple of weeks. One of our stops was in Valley Village, near L.A., where my uncle lived. After he demonstrated how he does sound effects for movies, Bill asked, “Is there any chance I could work for you?”

At the time, we were living here in Sheridan, Wyoming, and I had no inclination to move anywhere else so I laughed, and nothing more was said. After reading Ricochet’s story, I can’t help wondering what might have happened if we did move to California. Although Judy Fridono lived in San Diego, she and Ricochet didn’t just work with people in that area. Would synchronicity have brought Bill and Ricochet together? He would have loved surfing with this dog. Would Bill still be alive if Ricochet had given him a reason not to give up?

I’m just a 53-year-old writer living in Sheridan, Wyoming. I’m able to walk and care for myself, and I don’t have any serious emotional problems. The only parts of me that don’t work well are my eyes. Because others need Ricochet’s care more than I do, I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to surf with this incredible dog, but maybe I’ll give boogie boarding another try the next time I go to Florida. When I visited my brother in Jupiter last summer, we went to the beach, and I borrowed a boogie board from one of my nieces. After I paddled around in the shallow water for a while, my brother offered to pull me into deeper water so I could catch a wave. The sky was growing cloudy, and the waves were getting choppy so I chickened out. Perhaps next time if the sea and weather are calm, I’ll take him up on his offer. Who knows? Maybe I’ll ride the wave of my life for Bill.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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