Volume 22 Number 1

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

Epictetus, Stoic philosopher
Oct - December 2018

Archives

 

THE WEIGHT OF AN INFINITE SKY
Written by Carrie La Seur and reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN-13: 978-0062323477
William Morrow

Overseeing Reality and Drama

 

Carrie La Seur’s third novel, The Weight of an Infinite Sky, is filled with beauty, sorrow, tradition, land encroachment, intimidation, guilt and all kinds of human resistance and drama. It’s laden with conflict and discoveries.

Anthony Fry, an unsuccessful actor, returns to Billings to run a summer children’s theatre, but he did not return earlier in the year when his father, Dean, died. Dean was a tough old soul who might be distressed to know that his brother, Neal, the black sheep of the family, gets closer and closer to his wife, Sarah. Once they are married, Neal begins to control the property, though he was not supposed to have that privilege once Dean’s was gone. Anthony was to inherit rights. But Anthony wanted to be an actor, and when he returned to Montana the cravings had not left. Nor had his old girl friends. As the theatre director, he develops a hidden talent, playwriting, and as a native Montanan he develops the courage to speak his mind.

Both truth and honesty rise to the surface—especially in small towns where people know each other’s business and care. The three-dimensional characters will grab you and you’ll be invested in the outcomes of each one’s stories.

La Seur’s prose comes to life with gorgeous, lyrical phrasing. She captures the vastness, the beauty, and the ruggedness I saw in Montana years ago, painting an exquisite background for this story of families, priorities, and taking care of oneself. I know first hand that Montana has a seemingly infinite sky. The weight of that sky, though, comes from the human mind. Its roots are in responsibilities and failings as well as optimism and change.

Author Carrie La Seur is an energy and environmental lawyer in Billings, Montana. She’s the founder of Plains Justice, http://plainsjustice.org/, and a founding member of This House of Books, http://www.thishouseofbooks.com/. She is the author of The Home Place, a Rhodes scholar and a seventh-generation Montanan.

 

CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW
Written by Brad Parks and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 978-1101985625
Dutton

Action, Adventure, and Fresh Eyes

 

For many of us, disaster is closer than we know. A traffic accident, a slip and fall in a parking lot, or a tax slip up could happen to almost anyone. But the loss of a child? That’s unexpected.

Melanie Barrick is a new mother working as a trucking dispatcher, supporting her husband on the fast track to a PhD and caring for 3-month-old Alex. Her days are full.

Having grown up in foster care she’s used to disaster, but when she goes to pick up Alex from day care and learns he’s been snatched up into the foster care system, she has no idea why. She and her husband are living clean, honest lives, but the loss of her child devastates her. Fighting to get him back, things get tougher and stickier until she believes she can’t get anything right. Thank goodness her attorney  . . . Never mind. No spoilers here. Let’s just say that one calamity after another piles up and she has no idea why all this is happening to her.

Who is sabotaging her life? Who is it that is closer than she knows? Not the person you would suspect. I am 99% sure of that.

Parks’ prose is clear and uncomplicated so it’s easy to follow the twists and turns of his plot. He drops hints but keeps readers guessing with great skill. This is a story about action told from the point of view of a woman who wants her child back. It’s a thriller, though not a psychological thriller.

Readers will   relate to the high stakes and the confusion Melanie experiences. Parks’ brisk, crisp style and action/adventure premise will appeal to most readers. Thriller readers will definitely enjoy this.  



THE AFFLICTION
Written by Beth Gutcheon and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 9780062431998
PUBLISHER: William Morrow & Company

 The Cost of Cutting Corners

Ever watched a teacher make friends with a student who has learning disabilities or special emotional needs? Ever seen that teacher floating face down in the school’s pool? If you didn’t see that leap coming, you’re fairly normal, but that’s what happens to Florence Meagher, aka the affliction. She disappears and turns up dead, while an external committee is evaluating the prep school where she teaches. To say that crises abound in Beth Gutcheon’s latest mystery, The Affliction is an understatement.

Maggie Detweiler, who Gutcheon fans met earlier, is chairing a team sent to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls. “A school is a moral universe,” according to Gutcheon, and this one has a young, new principal, some girls who cyber bully, and expenses beyond their revenue. When a student finds Florence’s body floating in the pool, questions about privilege and students with keys escalate. So do issues around board members, funds, and some shady circumstances.

Gutcheon layers all kinds of complications into The Affliction, which stars Maggie Detweiler and her good friend Hope as academics and detectives. Both are educated, aging professionals with intelligent minds, and they bring wit, optimism, and scrutiny to the story.  Hope stands out for her independence as well. Imagine the world through their eyes and you might feel very differently about privilege, personality, and the risks of eliminating those who get in one’s ways.

Beth Gutcheon is the best-selling author of eleven novels. Her work has been translated into at least fifteen languages. She has a flare for fun and drama. This is especially recommended for teachers and parents who ever considered cutting corners.


 

THE OTHER MOTHER
Written by Carol Goodman and reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
ISBN #: 9780062819833
William Morrow—an imprint of Harper Collins

Secrets and Lies

Have you ever suffered post-partum depression or been the spouse of a sufferer? Its effects can be harrowing for the whole family. Confusion and projection take over, and “whodunit?” questions rise to new heights. They’ll do that regardless of what provokes them in a Carol Goodman thriller and her engrossing new novel, The Other Mother, is not exception.

Daphne Marist is a new mother in a post-partum support group where she meets a more confident woman, Laurel Hobbes. Both have babies named Chloe. When Daphne’s husband becomes too domineering, she and Chloe flee to a job as a live-in archivist for her favorite author, Schuyler Bennett. Bennett’s crumbling mansion borders the mental hospital where Bennett’s father was once a doctor, and from the beginning things are too easy and slightly creepy.

Daphne brings a secret into the house. She’s using the name and career background of her friend, Laurel. Will she be able to reclaim her own identity when she needs to? Will she be able to unearth the secrets of Edith Sharp, a patient of Schuyler Bennett’s father who has been institutionalized for over 40 years? Excerpts from the diaries of Daphne, her friend Laurel, and E.S. aka Edith Sharp help readers sort through the points of view, puzzles, and assumptions in this thriller.  

Critically acclaimed Carol Goodman the author of 20 books written under 3 different names. She has the skills to tell this complex gothic story of misunderstanding, manipulation, and greed. Her descriptions, storytelling skills, and carefully paced plot make Goodman a superb writer. This is not a cozy mystery. It plumbs deeper places and shows us more than one path to the truth.
 

STARTING WITH GOODBYE
Lisa Romeo
ISBN:
University of Nevada Press

 A Deep Look at the Sandwich Generation

There’s no going back. Not after death. The loss of a parent hurts and haunts the children, yet it is as inevitable as the joy of birth. A part of the circle of life. Lisa Romeo explores pain, unrequited guilt, obsession, and her continuing, improving relationship with her deceased father in Starting with Goodbye.

Author Lisa Romeo was a busy writer, wife, and mother living in New Jersey when her dad, living in Las Vegas, became ill. A strong, opinionated man who liked to smoke and read the Wall Street Journal, he funded her horse show obsession, took the family on first-class vacations, and made them feel privileged but under-appreciated. He never gave the emotional attention she craved.

So it’s no surprise that she wouldn’t rush to Las Vegas when she got a call about her dad’s heart trouble or the uncertainties of Alzheimer’s. She was not close with her dad, and that makes this book special: She chronicles their increasing closeness after his death. She went so far as to talk with him when she saw him at her kitchen counter or in the mirror. As the years pass, as she continued to explore her story, as she developed more insight into family, heredity, and the father-daughter bond, he came around less often. Both her parents will always be with her. I understand, because mine are with me.

In precise prose and beautifully rendered detail Romeo explores her life in the sandwich generation. With increasing depth and insight she develops the relationship she wished she had when he was alive. “Grief is how we work out what was wrong in the pre-death relationship,” she says towards the end of the book. We’ve been with her on the journey that got her to each discovery.

Our connections with those we love don’t always end with death. Any woman who has ever lost a father, any child who has ever lost a parent, anyone with a hole in her life that she keeps grieving should read this book. Romeo’s narrative and analysis illuminate some tough issues and her ideas will spark insights into your own relationships.

Starting with Goodbye is Lisa’s first full-length book, the story of a midlife daughter reconnecting with the deceased father she didn’t feel close to in life. Lisa has published hundreds of short memoir pieces, essays, nonfiction narratives, and freelance articles in popular magazines, newspapers, and websites, and in many literary journals and essay anthology collections. Those include work in the New York Times, O The Oprah Magazine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brain Child, Inside Jersey, Under the Sun, Longreads, Hippocampus, Brevity, The Chronicle of the Horse, L’Anne Hippique, and many more.


 
 
M E D I A   R E L E A S E

CONTACT: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
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CONTACT: Magdalena Ball
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For Immediate Release

Poet Published in Award-Winning Review Journal

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poem from her unpublished chapbook Nushu and Other Silenced Voices, “The Writing Woman” will be published in the next issue of Flagler University’s Flagler Review (FLARE .
The poem, from Howard-Johnson’s unpublished Nushu and Other Silenced Voices, encapsulates the chapbook’s theme with these lines, from the prologue poem, “The Writing Woman:”

“Must our skin or religion be the same to know the clockworks of our fellows. Does being the same let us see in focus or does it force astigmatism.”

FLARE, the literary magazine of Flagler College has published a print edition of poetry, fiction, art and nonfiction every fall for more than a quarter century. It also has published an online edition since 2104. It won first place in the College Media Association’s 2015-16 Pinnacle College Media Awards and Four-Year Literary Magazine of the Year, College Media Association’s 2015-16 Pinnacle College Media Awards and was a third place, Four-Year Literary Magazine of the Year in 2014-15.To read the online edition or learn about submitting work, visit: theflaglerreview.com

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s poetry appears frequently in review journals. She is listed in Poets & Writers highly respected catalog of poets and her chapbook of poetry,  Tracings (www.bit.ly/CarolynsTracings), published by Finishing Line Press was given the Award of Excellence by the Military Writers Society of America. She is an award-winning novelist and short story writer, was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts, and honored by members of the California Legislature as Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment.

You’ll find more information on her poetry at http://howtodoitfrugally.com/poetry_books.htm.
Download a media kit for Howard-Johnson from the media room at http://howtodoitfrugally.com.