Volume 20 Number 4

"What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.”

Epictetus, Stoic philosopher
July - September 2017

Archives



TELL ME ONE THING

Deena Goldstone
ISBN # 978-0385538756
Nan A. Talese, Publisher

Counteracting Loss

I misunderstood the title of Deena Goldstone’s TELL ME ONE THING. I expected it to be about writers telling their stories. Instead I found a fascinating collection of characters engaged in their own tragedies and triumphs. I was glad to be along for the ride.

Whether we expect it to or not, loss and tragedy alter how we view the world and how we relate to it. Deena Goldstone makes a thorough exploration of how grief affects individuals and how they move past it in her linked short stories.

In "Get Your Dead Man's Clothes," "Irish Twins," and "Aftermath," Jamie O'Connor faces up to the influence of his tumultuous childhood. His father was drunk and abusive, and Jamie grew up surrounded by secrets and shame. Burying those emotions doesn’t work, and we are with him as he moves out of grief and into growth.

In the title story, "Tell Me One Thing," Lucia's leaves her loveless marriage, but the move has unintended consequences for her young daughter. Is there a solution that is right for both of them? This rich story deals with complex issues. It could easily be expanded into a novel.

"Sweet Peas," "What We Give," and "The Neighbor," show how librarian Trudy Dugan’s stubborn streak protects her until a cause and a neighbor prompt her to rejoin her community.

In "Wishing," the only story in first person, Anna falls into a relationship that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

All of Goldstein’s finely honed characters are vulnerable yet strong. The author’s skilled use of language combined with her insight into people and their needs, makes the situations simultaneously troubling and reassuring. This book will give you insights into what others face and how important everyone’s story is.



 

HUSH, HUSH

Written by Laura Lippman and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN-13: 978-0062083425
William Morrow (February 24, 2015)

Two Daughters and a Murdering Mother

Is Melisandre Harris Dawes a modern Medea? Although she killed her youngest daughter, Isadora, she was found not guilty. She pleaded insanity. Then she fled, leaving her two daughters with their father. Now she is back, documenting her experiences with the help of an aspiring filmmaker. Both the filmmaker and she yearn for a reconciliation with her daughters, who are now teenagers. Think of the coverage she could get, if only the daughters would cooperate. Melisandre hires private investigator Tess Monaghan to provide a security detail and protect her as she films a documentary about her attempts to reconnect with her daughters. Before long, though, Tess is receiving threats of her own in Laura Lippman’s latest novel, Hush, Hush.

Juggling work with caring for her demanding toddler, Tess is uneasy about the case. Two factors keep her on the case. Melisandre’s lawyer is married to Tess’s aunt, and Melisandre’s confidence, beauty, and shrewd intelligence draw Tess in. Is the woman she’s protecting a master manipulator or was she driven to temporary madness? Cold and calculating, or a mother concerned for her daughters’ well being? Someone is leaving Melisandre enigmatic, threatening notes. Should Tess, who is insecure about her parenting abilities and receiving cryptic messages demeaning her skills continue to protect Melisandre or should she be protecting everyone else from Melisandre’s manipulations?

Although Tess Monaghan is not my favorite Lippman character, the author has outdone herself this time. I’m fascinated by the courage of both women as they try to repair the past and avoid the ever-looming danger.

Author Laura Lippman looks at what separates good parents from bad amd madness from sanity. In energetic, accessible prose she explores the lengths anyone will go to, to protect what they cherish most. Author Laura Lippman is an award winning author as well as a New York Times Bestseller who began her writing career as a journalist.

 

 

FLESH and BLOOD

Written by Patricia Cornwell and Reviewed by Ashley Hall
ISBN # 978-0062325358
William Morrow

Action Packed Novel

It’s another adventure for Kay Scarpetta and her usual team, (niece Lucy, her husband & FBI profiler, Benton and long-time associate, Marino) after finding newly minted pennies from 1981 (the year that Lucy was born) lined up in her backyard. Then, a widely recognized music teacher is found killed by a gunshot, which appears to be an impossible mark, only miles away from her home. This sets the stage and a riveting pace and enthralling dynamic for an action-packed novel.

The author does a fantastic job of catching the reader on the hook within the first few pages and slowly reels us in with the unfolding details of what appear to be three unrelated homicides, creating an atmosphere that puts us at the crime scene with Scarpetta. She builds tension to what should be the inevitable climax-for a mystery/crime novel, that climax is normally determining “whodunit.” However, in Flesh and Blood, the big payoff falls short with no real conclusion. As a fan and reader of previous novels by Cornwell, my expectations were higher.

The plot begins strongly as they track evidence to determine who killed teacher, but the problems begin with the chaotic and unorganized dialogue a few chapters in. While Cornwell may be working to create a realistic cadence and dialect, it comes across more as syntax and grammatical errors that distract the reader from the true point of the storyline, which is unfortunate. I found myself confused more than a few times by who was saying what (something I have noticed on occasion if a few of her books) and often details are left out that I feel are necessary to understanding important plot points and twists.

That being said, Cornwell still brings aspects of the admirable Kay Scarpetta to life and her acute attention to forensic detail that has made the Scarpetta novels so famous is still alive and well. If you are a true blue fan, it’s worth the read.

+++

Ashley Hall is an avid reader and writing enthusiast. She currently resides in the Los Angeles area where, when not reviewing books or attending to her multimedia business, AH Media Arts, she enjoys tea, dancing, red lipstick and rock music.

 

 

A COMEDY & A TRAGEDY

Written by Travis Hugh Culley and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0345506160
Ballentine Books

Documentation of a Winner

Travis Hugh Culley has written a unique memoir. He shares his struggles with both his family and some learning disabilities and shows us how acting gave him his first reason to learn to read in A Comedy & A Tragedy: a memoir of learning how to READ AND WRITE.

Culley taught himself to read and write once he saw a need to document his own experience and tell the truth despite the lies his mother and brother fed him. Once he discovered that literacy, writing, and documentation were essential tools, he became a devoted, disciplined student. He mastered language at first so that he could audition and later so he could separate truth from lies.

He explains, “What I’ve learned is that literacy is a reflection of a need to document experience. We develop writing to keep record of changes that are happening around us. Writing is real. It is a form of calibration.” As he shares his perceptions, readers will realize that his brain may be wired differently from theirs.

When I worked in an adult literacy program I sometimes wanted to crawl into an adult learner’s head and see what a page looked like to him or her. Culley’s descriptions give me that opportunity. He documents his environment with amazing precision and clarity. The images he sees and hears are different from mine. Culley is a clown, a juggler, an entertainer, and a man who memorizes by the rhythms of words. He finds truth in his own words and in the words of many characters who he portrayed onstage at New World School, which specialized in giving artists the environment and nurturing needed to develop their talents.

He was a problem child who taught himself to soar. He protected himself from his dysfunctional family, earned an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is also the author of The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power.

His story is unique, powerful, and a call for empowering educators to meet the needs of every student. If you have learning challenges or have a child with them, you need this story. If you are an educator, an actor, or a member of a dysfunctional family, you need this story. If you believe in individuality, you’ll appreciate what it took for Culley to find his way in the world. You don’t want to miss this one.

 

 

DARKNESS THE COLOR OF SNOW

Written by Thomas Cobb and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0-06-239124-7
William Morrow

Past, Present, and Consequences

In the midst of a struggle with a drunk driver resisting arrest, Patrolman Ronny Forbert grabs his wrist trying to flip him around and cuff him. Instead Matt Laferiere, who has already been placed under arrest, lands in the road. An oncoming car slams into him and Matt is dead. Thomas Cobb’s Darkness The Color of Snow explores the consequences and weaves in an arresting back story of a lost friendship, a girl friend who has gone from Matt to Ronny, and a town looking for revenge. As the story unfolds we see power plays, political struggles, and we watch Ronny’s confidence deteriorate. Gordy, the police chief who hired him, may believe more in Ronny than he believes in himself. Or maybe a news story leaning towards sensationalism is his undoing.

The story opens with the arrest and only a hint of the back story behind it. Cobb layers the back story in giving us only what we need to know, and giving us time to absorb the past while living through the present. His timing is as carefully calculated as his story. The effects ripple out to encompass the community of Lydell. The ending is as unexpected as it is devastating. Readers will wonder what they would do if they were Ronny, Matt’s parents, or the girlfriend. Or perhaps they’ll know, and it will help solidify their decisions the next time they face a community crisis. Don’t miss this powerful story about choices, consequences, and small-town politics.

 

 

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