Volume 21 Number 1

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

Epictetus, Stoic philosopher
Oct - December 2017

Archives

 

 

 

JANE DOE JANUARY: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice

Written by Emily Winslow and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0062434807
William Morrow; First Edition (May 24, 2016)

The Best Revenge: A Unique Memoir

Is there a statute of limitations on the need for justice, truth, or closure? Apparently some states think so. Even though Emily Winslow is trapped by red tape and laws beyond her control, she is determined to find a way to get justice and share her story about her 20-year-old rape. The story makes great material for her new, personal, revealing memoir, Jane Doe January.

When Emily Winslow was raped, she got support from the drama department at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was enrolled, and concern from nurses and the police force. She was assigned to a detective who cared but could not track down her assailant or find positive proof of the crime, because the evidence did not involve a witness and there was no way to check DNA twenty years ago. She turned to her jounals. Later she turned to writing as a career, married, had children, and moved across the sea to Cambridge, England, while her evidence sat on a shelf in the Pittsburg Police Department.

Twenty years later, her assailant’s DNA was taken as part of a drug charge. Her case is reopened, along with that of a Jane Doe November, when his DNA was linked to the case. At last she will have a chance to face her accuser, a thought that both terrifies and empowers her. What happens when she travels to Pittsburg and goes to court? No spoilers here, so you’ll have to read the book, but I promise it is not what you are expecting.
 
Winslow combines her skills as a mystery writer and her ability to find and state her truths in this unique memoir about overcoming loss by surviving it and moving on.
Writing is the best revenge, as she shows us with the crisp, almost journalistic style that she honed for her mysteries. Not that it’s all hard facts. There is poetry (think Poe meets Frost) and depth in her memories. Best of all the story has already nudged officials into action. If this is her first memoir, I can’t wait to see what is next.
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SEE ME

Written by Nicholas Sparks and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN#: 978-1455520626
Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group

Distance, Passion and Creepy Threats

If you ever doubted that opposites attract, you need to meet Colin Hancock and Maria Sanchez, who meet one rainy night when Maria is stuck with a flat tire. Too Hollywood? Not in the skillful hands of Nicholas Sparks who has crafted See Me into a thriller that will keep readers guessing at the same time it explores those who can change and those who won’t.

Even though Colin has a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging him, he's determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. The last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants has a degree from Duke and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington. She is a dark-haired beauty with a nearly flawless professional track record. When menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface the last thing she needs is Colin, who is determined to protect her, unless that is exactly what she needs and she just can’s see it. Who is stalking Maria and what will it take to stop him?

Rather than being a hokey Hollywood plot, this is a story fraught with emotion, suspense, hope, and unexpected love that rings true. See Me demonstrates that love can grow in the midst of crises. . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always the ones easiest to recognize.

Sparks is a master of tension and suspense. He’s created two characters that are easy to love and a few others that are easy to hate. As events unfold, the story will have you on the edge of your seat. Fans of thrillers, romance, and the unexpected should not miss this one. Sparks’ novels include 12 #1 New York Times bestsellers. Over 100 million of his books have been sold around the globe. Fans of thrillers and romance will be equally enthralled with this story.

 

 

 

INVINCIBLE SUMMERS

Written by Robin Gaines and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN: 978-1942004219
ELJ Editions

Unexpected Humor Despite an Early Loss

Who do you want to be? How will you get there? Women often explore these questions more deeply than men. Claudia Goodwin, who shares my last name and my sense that pieces of my life are missing, is the fictitious narrator of Robin Gaines memorable and stirring fiction debut, Invincible Summers. Written in Claudia’s voice and covering several summers in the sixties and seventies as the narrator matures, the novel digs into Claudia’s psyche with the depth of any well-crafted memoir.

We start when Claudia sees the world through six-year-old eyes. She is on a car ride with Mommy and Daddy. Everything seems right though she has niggling doubts in the pit of her stomach when she listens to her parents talk and hears Mommy and Grandma arguing. In the next story, told when she is ten, her father dies.

Her brother, Burke, and she both struggle, as if the courage and confidence their parents were trying to instill is disintegrating inside them. If you want to assign blame it could go to the loss of their father; or their mother’s grief; or Uncle Wade, who is recently out of prison; or StepRoy, the man mom marries; or a multitude of other factors make them feel rootless. Or it could simply go to the lack of communication created by this unspeakable void.

What matters is how they try to live and cope with the emptiness that surrounds them and how they try to fill the holes created by their dad’s unexpected death. They are clothed, sheltered, and fed, but they are missing the emotional nourishment that helps children become confident, productive people. Claudia’s pursuit to find a purpose is particularly poignant when juxtaposed against two Kennedy assassinations, the Vietnam War, and her need to flee the guilt and responsibility she feels for her father’s death, her mother’s career-altering disfiguration, and her brother’s downslide into drugs and alcohol.

It’s easy to relate to Claudia and Burke, who know something is missing, but cannot label the problem, much less fix it. Gaines has created the angst, loss, and frustration her characters must cope with and sprinkled it with unexpected humor and discoveries. She is an award winning journalist and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines and anthologies. INVICIBLE SUMMERS is her first novel. She lives in Michigan. Her writing is honest and authentic. We feel like we are inside Claudia’s head, seeing the world through her eyes. SCN readers and others will love this story.

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This review was originally published on Story Circle Network, www.storycircle.org
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THE NIGHTINGALE

Written by Kristin Hannah and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-0312577223
St. Martin's Press

Who We Are 

 

Stubbornness is a powerful weapon, and there is stubbornness, pride, forgiveness, and love all working together to make an impact on the world as the Rosingals, a Parisian family, face the German invaders and the new life they impose on their beloved country.

Isabelle, who is proud and defiant, is the first to join the resistance and defy the Germans, first by distributing contraband leaflets and later by taking downed British airmen over the Pyrenees Mountains to safety in France. Later her sister, Viann, is more quietly courageous but just as important as she protects nearly 20 Jewish children from death.

The family is at odds. Today we would say they are dysfunctional with a deceased mother, an emotionally distant father and two squabbling sisters each struggling to be right. All of them choose to fight for liberation and defy the invading Germans, who billet in their home, eat their food, and suspect them at every turn. Perhaps it is their individual displays of courage or the overwhelming atrocities of war that help reunite them. Ultimately this is a book about the importance of family.

On her website, kristinhannah.com, the award-winning author says, “…when research on World War II led me to the story of a young Belgian woman who had created an escape route out of Nazi-Occupied France, I was hooked.  Her story—one of heroism and danger and unbridled courage—inspired me to imagine the women in that world….

“I found myself consumed with a single, haunting question, as relevant today as it was seventy years ago: When would I, as a wife and mother, risk my life—and more importantly, my child’s life– to save a stranger?

“That question is at the very heart of The Nightingale. In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.  And sometimes, perhaps, we don’t want to know what we would do to survive.”

Her exploration of the challenges these families face is deeply touching. It stirred new perspective, emotions, and questions in me, and I didn’t think that was possible after all the WWII novels we have read in my book club. If you want to read a book that challenges you to imagine the “what-ifs” of life, you need to get a copy of The Nightingale.

 

 

DIVINING THE PRIME MERIDIAN

Written by Carol Smallwood and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN # 9781625491114
Published by Word Poetry

An Exceptional Look at Ordinary Things

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just ask Carol Smallwood, whose newest poetry collection, Divining the Prime Meridian is full of beauty and a special awareness that she sees in the common objects that surround us on a daily basis. Her collection includes seventy-seven free verse and formal poems divided into seven sections: Domestic Life, The Natural World, Health and Welfare, Geography, The Mental Realm, Cities, and Seasons. She sees the exceptional in ordinary things: diaries, envelopes, water, phantom pain, and sand to mention five random subjects. There are many more of course including the intangibles that we all face: choices, chances, and assorted mysteries.

It’s not the objects, but what Smallwood sees in them, that spark her poetic imagination. “The Beauty of Lace,” she says, “lies in what is missing / as much as in what is there…” True. Then she takes the thought to a whole new level when she adds, “I suspect atoms are not / dissimilar.” That short, deceptively simple poem is an auspicious opening to the collection. She nails the truth about tooth pain in the three short lines of “Phantom Pain:” The tooth was gone/ but pain lingered— / like desire. I want to run my tongue over the phantom pain when I read her words.

Divining is a process of discovering insights, and Carol Smallwood, a multiple Pushcart nominee, definitely finds them in Divining the Prime Meridian. Her clear, crisp prose is accessible and perceptive. Her poems are quick reads that leave us with things to ponder and discuss. Whether you’re a poet or not, you should read this collection. It will broaden your thoughts and lead you to your own insights.

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This was scheduled for publication in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts Fall, 2015