Tuesday, November 21, 2017

To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

Caitlin Hamilton Summie's ten stories in To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts are heartfelt revelations into the universal experience of loss and grief. Told in the first person, each story offers a fully rounded and complex character caught in crisis. The stories are set in the upper Midwest where people 'grew up cold'.
The writing is lovely and evocative, transporting us into another's life and world.

  • A girl whose father is a WWII pilot the admits that the war's generals were spoken of as if her family knew them personally. "I knew these men better than my father." 
  • A woman's sister dies in a car crash. Their mother had died choking on a peanut butter sandwich. (This is not a joke. I was barely twenty when I met a man whose sister chocked to death on a peanut butter sandwich. I worry about this every time I have a PB sandwich.) The woman misses being close to her brother. She drinks too much. 
  • I related to a woman who lasted only six months in New York City, lacking inner city street smarts and an understanding of the rules. My husband and I lived in the inner city for a year and a half before leaving. 
  • The fierce need for independence drives a paraplegic to the family's deep woods cabin after his divorce. His brother fears for his safety living alone and pressures him to return.
  • A woman visits her grandmother in the nursing home. She is desperately curious about her grandmother's sister, who no one speaks of. Yet that sister's name is embroidered on the family patchwork quilt. The woman asks her mother about this missing family member and is told that the grandmother asked her not to talk about it, "not to carry that particular ghost through the generations." The woman presses for information, battling over who would control the past.
  • A man who grew up on a farm grapples with his son's wanting a different life for himself. The son fears his newborn son will never understand who he is without understanding the farm. 
  • The death of a grandfather brings division between sisters, one who attended him in his illness and death while the other stayed away. Their own needs drive them apart as they try to find reconciliation.
  • A single mother watches her only child, a daughter, leave for college. She had gone to California instead of taking a college scholarship, returning home pregnant. Now she is a mother, learning how to let go.
  • An elderly man is bedridden in his son's house, his memory teeming with ghosts. He knows his son and daughter-in-law are getting weary while he lingers on. I was reminded of my grandfather Milo, my grandmother's second husband. He lived to be over 101, outlasting two wives and a daughter and three step-children. He wondered why God did not take him. He was unable to walk and was blind, living in my aunt's home. To have one's mind and a failing body is a horrible fate.
  • After a miscarriage, a wife takes a break, leaving her husband to struggle on his own for a few days. He is comforted by a neighbor's dog who has adopted him as a surrogate owner. The neighbors are friendly but keep to themselves. The man realizes he did not even know his own wife's heart. He contemplates loss and grief and how we are all separate and alone in grief.
I purchased this as an ebook and read the stories over several weeks. I love these short stories; they are like a concentrated laser light into the human soul.

Owner of Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, promotion for books, authors, publishers, and literary organizations, Caitlin has represented several books I have reviewed, The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber, This Is How it Begins by Joan Dempsey, and Wild Mountain by Nancy Hayes Kilgore. Read an interview with Caitlin about her personal library at David Abram's blog The Quivering Pen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Elizabeth Berg's The Story of Arthur Truluv: A Model for Living

For six months Arthur Moses has packed a bag lunch and taken a bus to the cemetery to eat lunch with his wife Nola. He stops to visit her neighbors, reading their headstones and imagining the lives they had lived when alive. 

At Nola's graveside, Arthur sets up his folding chair and eats his sandwich. 

Arthur is eighty-five years old. His doctor congratulations him; he could live to be one hundred. It would be an empty life, now Nola Corrine the Beauty Queen is gone.

But on this spring day when the buds 'are all like tiny little pregnant women' and Arthur wishes Nola, like spring, would return again, even as a new born baby, Arthur notices he is not alone with his dead.

A teenage girl, who should be in school, is sitting under a tree. He has seen her before. This time, he waves. Her hand flies to her mouth, and thinking he has frightened her, Arthur leaves.

Maddy watches the old man walk to the bus. She is comforted by the graveyard. In life, she is a loner, a loser, a motherless girl with a distant father. She likes to take photographs of little things, blown up big. She sneaks out of the house at night to meet a handsome older boy. They don't talk much.

Arthur befriends Maddy, changing both their lives.

The Story of Arthur Truluv probes the depth of loneliness and depression in the elderly and the young, bringing disparate characters into clear focus, revealing their common humanity and mutual need. 

Arthur's untapped capacity for love expands and embraces Maddy, and then his cranky elderly neighbor Lucille. 

Named Truluv by Maddy, Arthur embodies true love not only for his lost Nola but also for the lost Maddy and unloved Lucille.

This charming, quiet novel will appeal to many readers. At first, though, I wondered what made it different? What made it worth reading over other books about friendship between the old and young or between the elderly?

In the Acknowledgements, Elizabeth Berg says, "When you write a novel as delicate as this one seemed to me to be, you can only hope that readers will see beyond the simple words on the page to the more complex meanings behind them."

And it hit me. This story is a kind of parable. 

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
“Who is my neighbor?”

Love your neighbor. And who is my neighbor? My neighbor is any person God has put in my path.

This gentle story reminds us to love one another. The cranky, the misfits, the girl with the nose ring, the ineffectual father, the unborn--and ourselves. 

Can we ever hear this message enough? It is today as revolutionary as it was millennium ago, going against common sense and financial sense, even against this administration's  governmental goals.

Our inability to love one another is the greatest threat to democracy today. We have cut ourselves off, categorizing our fellow human companions on this small planet as 'other', inferior, contemptible, unnecessary, mistaken, and misguided.  

Who should we love? The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not about helping those who are like us, supporting people of our ilk, class, race, faith. We are to love whoever God puts into our path. Right there, next door to us, the person mourning at the cemetery across from us, even the person who has caused another to feel unloved and rejected. We are to love the stranger, those who grieve, those who are angry, those who have been rejected, those who are warped, and those who cannot love themselves.

Arthur Truluv's example teaches us that by our acts we can impact the world for generations. Love your neighbor as yourself. If each of us resists the world's wisdom by this radical act, what a wonderful world it would be. 

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Story of Arthur Truluv
by Elizabeth Berg
Random House
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
$26 hardcover
ISBN: 9781400069903

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Schism & Recovery: Two Years in Delton

June, 2010 we moved again, to a town with under 900 people. The closest city was Hastings and most people worked in Battle Creek or Kalamazoo. A local attraction was the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. Not far was the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, recreation areas, lakes, and even a casino. Gary's mother as a teen had spent summers at a church camp on nearby Gull Lake.
Kara and Suki
We really thought that Faith UMC in Delton would be our last appointment before retirement. We were not excited to be in an even smaller town than we had lived in before but we went in with a positive attitude. The upside was being closer to Clawson and Gary's father.
Faith UMC, Delton, MI
Our doggies took the move well. When they found a huge linen closet with piles of rugs and blankets on the floor waiting to be put away, Kara led the way to stake a claim. He and Suki moved in, happy as can be. As puppy mill dogs, they were used to intimate spaces. We gave them a bowl of water and they kept out of the way as we settled in.

Suki and Kara staked out this closet for their bedroom

A nice lady from the church volunteered to paint the parsonage. She became a good friend. The parsonage was a 1970s, two level house with a home office, three bedrooms, a bath and a half, and finished, if dated, basement where I set up my sewing room.
The Delton parsonage with the church in the background
The house was surrounded by open land next to the church complex, a huge mown area enclosed by a farm field, with a wooded marshy area beyond that.
 wheat field view from our deck 
The wheat field was very beautiful. Only later did I wonder about drift from chemical applications to the field. Now that I know about these things, I am concerned about the safety of the parsonage so close to farmland.
Sandhill Crame in the mown wheat field
Sandhill Crane came by the hundreds. A family came in the spring and summer. After the wheat was mown, they came to feed. And in the fall they gathered by the thousands before flying South.
Sandhill Crane on the wing
Our dogs loved the open field! We had Suki on a 100-ft rope but Kara we could let run as we could always catch him. Kara loved to sit outside in the sun and Suki was happy, with her tail held high.

Kara enjoying the sunshine
Suki blossomed. For a dog who had been afraid outside of four walls, she loved running as fast as she could. We trained her on a 100 foot rope; she would lag behind me so she could run the full extension. I removed the rope when I thought she had learned her 'territory'. She would run around the field, and then run to my side, smacking into me. She would lean against me and let me pet her. This was huge for our shy, damaged dog.

Suki loved running free, fast as the wind
The dogs loved playing with a dog that lived across the street, Jack. Whenever Jack's owner saw us out he brought Jack over to play.

There was always something new. One day I found a rare salamander in the field. I saw a murmuring of starlings one fall. Another day I watched a hot air balloon take off! The sunsets were glorious.
Hot air ballon
Central UMC in Muskegon held a quilt show and asked me to bring quilts. I had completed my original quilt I Will Lift My Voice Like a Trumpet while there. This was its first showing. In 2013 it appeared in the American Quilt Society shows in Grand Rapids, MI and Lancaster, PA.
I Will Lift My Voice Like a Trumpet, by Nancy A. Bekofske
Also in the show was my crayon tinted and embroidered Children of the World quilt, a vintage newspaper series pattern.
 And my Little Women quilt, the pattern by Marion Cheever Whiteside Newton and sold in 1952.
Little Women by Nancy A. Bekofske, left
My Pride and Prejudice quilt, my original Story Book quilt inspired by Newton's patterns, and Cranes in Winter also were in the show.
Pride and Prejudice Story Book Quilt by Nancy A. Bekofske, left
Cranes in Winter, right.
And Remember the Ladies, my First Ladies redwork quilt, and Autumn leaves.
Remember the Ladies and Autumn Leaves by Nancy A. Bekofske
It did not take long for Gary to learn about some issues of contention that had been simmering in the church for years. He did note in the meet and greet that the church officials did not support the United Methodist mission board, where Gary served as the committee on relief disaster response secretary. Instead they supported a mission board from another denomination that focused on evangelism, not relief. By October the issues became apparent.

Gary was approached by church leaders about his stance on several divisive social issues and asked if he would support and join the group's resistance to the denomination, even if he would be willing to lead the church in separation from the denomination. He would not, and that meant he was the 'enemy'.

Over the next months it came out that twenty years previous a charismatic preacher had brought in members from a more conservative denomination and when he retired this group was never happy with succeeding pastors. They had assumed leadership over the years. They attended a second praise service. They ran an organization that helped unmarried pregnant women, providing support and baby layettes and supplies. The group was against abortion and this was their outreach to support their values. Gary supported this ministry as reflective of the congregation's core values.

My husband answered questions put forth honestly and Gary's views were considered too liberal. One of the most irate leaders attacked Gary and his sermons during Sunday School in the church building. The virulence and anger all landed on Gary.

The group wanted to leave the denomination but keep the churc--building and membershp--and the investments and everything else.

The Bishop sent people to meet with the congregation in open meetings. First, to explain the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. The denomination has struggled for decades on being inclusive to the world wide diversity of  views on hot-button issues. The founder, John Wesley, tried to circumvent division; as long as the core Christian beliefs were agreed upon, members were to 'think and let think'. The Social Principles were guidelines and at that time stood against abortion but recognized there were circumstances that led people to choose abortion, as in the case of deciding to save a woman's life or the baby's life. This upset this core group. But they also believed that money flowed to groups they did not approve of. Many stopped tithing or offering support to the church. Homosexuality was another hot button issue. Our denomination does not support gay marriage or appoint pastors in homosexual relationships. Yet the ddenomination was considered too liberal.

The Bishop's envoy explained that the local church did not own the building or the investments. Closing the church meant all assets went to the conference. That infuriated this group.
Gary and I
During these months, Gary was under huge stress. He started grinding his teeth, wearing them down significantly. He also went on the same anti-anxiety medication I had been on for two years. Looking back, I wish I had not been an involved pastor's wife. I was suffering the same anxiety as my husband. I sat in one meeting where people tore down the denomination we had served for so any years, and I wondered if our lives had been wasted, the sacrifices for nothing. I sat in the pew, crying, alone.

Before leaving the church and starting a community church, the group tried to destroy the church they could not keep. But they failed.

A core group held fast to their roots and church. When the church split they remained.

Gary had to make a decision. The congregation could no longer afford his pay level. We had the Clawson house and a dependnt son. We could not take a pay decrease. There were no real job posibilities for me. I had sent out some applications on arrival, to no avail. I was selling on eBay and Amazon and writing articles which earned me pin money. We felt broken. Did Gary move on? Or did he stay with equitable salary help from the conference and work for healing and new vision?

We stayed another year.

The remnant surrounded us with love as Gary helped them to envision a new future. I was in a Sunday School class with some great folk. I went to the weekly craft circle with more great folk. They ended every meeting in a prayer circle remembering the needs of people in the church and the greater community. I supported the service projects by contributing quilts and handcrafted purses-and buying the pizzas they made to raise funds.

I joined a book club at the library, led by a retired college professor. Many of the ladies were from the church. We read some great books, including books on Detroit-- Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle and The Dollmaker by Harriet Arnow.

I took decorative painting classes with a church member, a retired teacher who had moved to their vacation home on a lake nearby. She was a nationally known decorative painting teacher. Another great group of ladies! I found I was quite adept at painting. The group went to lunch after class.
Ladybug banner by Nancy A. Bekofske
Loon by Nancy A. Bekofske
Blue Jay by Nancy A. Bekofske

We made friends with some great people. Learning Gary liked to make bread, another bread-making man gifted Gary bread recipes books.
Sadly, in the autumn of our first year, Kara's health began to decline. His kidney failure was worsening. We tried changing his diet, and finally water therapy to flush the toxins out. Suki knew her friend was not well. In the end we were giving Kara the water treatment every day in our home. He hated it. It upset Suki to see him upset. We had to let Kara go. I bawled. He had been so much trouble, so expensive. But he was also charming and loveable.

A professional artist who was a member of the church offered to paint Kara's picture. Later she also made a painting of our first Shiba Inu, Kili, as a going away gift to Gary.
Kara playing, Kili, and Kara sleeping painted by Nancy Munger Anderson

Suki was so depressed. We went online to research another companion for her. We found Safe Harbor Animal Rescue in Vermilion, OH and drove out to meet several new dogs. We loved one for his beauty, but he was totally shut down and broken in spirit. I wanted Suki to have a friend that would bring her out. Another was happy and would have been a good companion for Suki. But it was the third dog who won Gary's heart. She followed him around. And we brought home the dog we would name Kamikaze.
Kamikaze had spent her life in an Amish puppy mill in Ohio and was only 'out' in the world two weeks. She had the spirit and joy of a puppy. She was excited by life and loved attention. She hopped when she ran and flopped to her belly when she did the Shiba Shake because of a congenital issue with her hips. She suffered from interdigital cysts between her toes from a lifetime standing on a wire cage.

Kaze  was also confident and pushy. She stole Suki's toys. Suki let her. She stole Suki's food dish. Suki let her. She stole Suki's favorite sleeping spot in the corner. Suki stepped over her and somehow crammed into the corner. One time Suki did go after Kamikaze. I heard Kaze crying and Suki had hold of her neck. I pried open Suki's mouth. There was no broken skin. Apparently Kaze learned her lesson for it did not happen again, even with Kaze doing her Alpha dog thing. Suki, the stronger and larger dog, just let Kaze be boss.

We still made trips to Clawson to visit Gary's father, and once brought him to the house to stay for a while. Our son was living in Clawson, looking for a job after graduating from Grand Valley State University. It was a hard time to find work and he did not know anyone in the area except my brother. We let him borrow both dogs, or Kamikaze, for long visits to keep him company. When we found ourselves with four vechicles we downsized: Chris kept my dad's Dodge Ram and we traded in his Taurus and our car for a new vehicle that could hold two dog kennels for traveling. We gave my Buick, which my old boss had given me, to Chris's college friend.

Gary's second year came to an end and the conference found a suitable pastor for the church. I designed and painted a banner for the Sunday school classroom.
Banner by Nancy A. Bekofske
 My painting teacher was very excited about how far I had come.

We had high hopes for our last church. The District Superintendent would not tell Gary what church was being considered, but said she'd go there in a flash. It got our hopes up. We were pretty shocked to learn we were returning to Lake Michigan, to a resort town where we used to take our son to the district family camp: Pentwater. 

Sunset in Delton

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist

He spent his later life living in a cave, a vegetarian and animal rights activist who made his own clothing and traveled by foot. Yet his estate at his death in 1759 was valued at $117,000 (in today's dollars).

He was an early convert to abolition, causing disturbances that drove his Quaker meeting house to remove him from membership.

He was a dwarf who married another Little Person, Sarah, a well-liked Quaker preacher, while he himself was reviled for his extremism.

The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker resurrects the forgotten man who dared to stand up to wealth and power with the message that all creatures are God's children, and that to own a slave is to be steeped in sin.

Lay went to extremes to get his message across. Lay had been pressuring a neighbor Quaker in Abington, PA over their owning a slave girl. One day Lay encountered the couple's son and invited him to his cave. When the distraught couple found their son with Lay, he chastised them saying, "You may now conceive of the sorrows you inflict upon the parents of the negroe [sic] girl you hold in slavery, for she was torn from them by avarice."

Without a formal education, Lay wrote a book that was printed by Benjamin Franklin. It was Deborah Franklin who commissioned a portrait of Lay, a gift for her husband. It resides in the National Portrait Museum.
Lay's book printed by Benjamin Franklin
This vivid portrait of a unique personality is interesting as history, but Lay's vision transcends the years, for his concerns remain with us to this day and are more relevant than ever. As society struggles with issues of wealth trumping morality, consumerism and its impact on the environment and human health, and the continual fight against hate groups that devalue certain human lives, Lay's life stands as an example of how to live according to one's values and one's faith.

I received a free book from the publisher through LibraryThing.

Read an excerpt at http://www.marcusrediker.com/books/benjamin-lay-detail.php

The Fearless Benjamin Lay
by Marcus Rediker
ISBN: 978-080703592-4
Publication Date: 9/5/2017
Price:  $26.95

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Works in Progress, TBR Books, Sad News

Sunset from late October
Frost and cold arrived late this year in my part of Michigan. In October we watched people walking dogs in shorts and flip flops and then temps dipped into the twenties. This past week we had an Arctic Blast!
This week's last roses of summer--or rather, autumn
There are still green leaves on the apple trees, now curled and frost-bitten. We are waiting for the maple leaves to fall.

Now that summer's heat is over I am back to hand quilting my Austen Family Album quilt. I sure hope to finish it this year!
I made a lap quilt top to go into our living room, a pattern I previous made in a little larger size. In January I plan have my projects machine quilted. I can't keep up with quilting any more!

I picked the colors to match my newly upholstered 1930 club chair. A quilt friend made me matching pillows for my settees.
My grandfather Milo bought this chair in 1930
fabrics from Connecting Threads
Matching pillows
I found such lovely fabric called Neverland and was thrilled to find an Etsy shop with Marian Cheever Whiteside Newton's Story Book quilt pattern for Peter Pan! I plan to make some, not all, of the applique blocks and set them with pieced blocks made with the Neverland fabrics.

Peter Pan Story Book quilt pattern
Fewer books are published in these last months of the year. Look for my upcoming review on Elizabeth Berg's heart warming novel The Story of Arthur Truluv, and a sweet tale from Australia, A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay.

I am trying very hard not to put in too many requests for upcoming books. I have already read 158 books this year!

ARC from W W Norton: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve
On my TBR shelf:

  • Starlings by Jo Walton
  • The Boat People by Sharon Bala
  • Daphne by Will Boast
  • As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
  • Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris
  • Lear by Harold Bloom
  • Debriefing by Susan Sontag
  • The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt

Books I won and am expecting:

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Endurance by Scott Kelly
  • Winter by Karl Ove Knausgard
  • The Book of Joe by Joe Biden and Jeff Wilser
  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

ARC from W W Norton, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah
Reading now:

  • To Lay Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie (purchased book!)
  • A State of Freedom by Meel Mukhejee
  • Building the Great Society by Joshua Zeitz

I am also going to reread Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro this month for one of my book clubs.Book club selections coming up that I am looking forward to next year include Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, plus rereading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Books to be discussed which I have already read include Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood, The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, and Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue--which my library club read last month! I likely won't need to reread those last three.
Bookish ARC win; review soon to come!
All the ebook reading has wrecked havoc on my eyes! I am glad to have 'real' books to read from Blogging for Books, giveaway wins, ARCs from publishers, and Bookish. It's easier on my eyes.

I also bought some great used books at the library book sale! I enjoyed Hannah Kent's The Good People, and I hear that her Burial Rites was even better--which must mean it is magnificent. I also snagged Zadie Smith's Swing Time!

My book sale finds
 My husband won a book club pack and we can't wait to use it! The author will Skype with the club! Hubby is in a mystery book club and also we will use it with the library book club.

Book Club pack win for Girl Waits with Gun
We are now without our two dear doggies. They both had cognitive dysfunction and were blind. After we had to let go of Suki, whose quality of life was no longer good, Kamikaze went downhill fast. They did everything together, helping each other remember to drink water, find their way around the yard, and they comforted each other when we were gone from the house.
Our dear Kamikaze, one of our last photos. She did not show her age.
Over Kaze's last months she became confused, slept all the time, and was restless at night. She had always slept very well before we lost Suki. Kaze was getting lost in the house and in the yard. I had to rescue her from under bushes and lead her home when she was waiting at the gate thinking it was the door to the house. Whenever we were out, and we only went away for an hour or so at a time, she waiting at the window, watching for our return.

We miss our girls so much!

We have had a pet for 44 years: a liter box trained bunny, two dachshunds, and four Shiba Inus. It is truly an 'empty nest' feeling we are experiencing.
our girls one year ago

The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

In a world of governmental breakdown, wars, and natural disasters, winters without snow, the over expansion of American government, something--perhaps a virus-- has tampered with genomes to set off a cavalcade of reverse evolution.

In this world lives one twenty-six year old pregnant woman, Cedar, writing to her unborn child. After an ultrasound, the doctor tells her to flee and go into hiding. Congress has revitalized articles of the Patriot Act to round up pregnant women, searching medical data bases, considering it an 'issue of national security.'

Cedar decides to seek out her birth parents on an Ojibwa reservation. Her adoptive parents warn her about an impending state of emergency. Siri and GPS no longer work, the world is falling apart. But Cedar is determined.

As she nears the reservation she sees a billboard. "Endtime at Last! Are You Ready to Rapture?," and another that reads "Future Home of the Living God."

Cedar had turned to Catholicism for an extended family. She writes and publishes a magazine "of Catholic inquiry." Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin thought evolution was bringing humanity to perfection. But all creation is devolving, backward, to prehistoric forms. Is God asleep at the wheel? Has God abandoned Earth? Will the written word die out, incomprehensible to whatever humanity is becoming? Is humanity losing its spark of the divine, their souls?

Cedar's birth father is nonplussed. "Indians have been adapting since before 1492 so I guess we'll keep adapting." Cedar counters, "But the world is going to pieces." "It's always going to pieces," Eddy replies.

Aware of the beauty of the vanishing 'now', haunted by an unknown future, Cedar must hide from the  American Government, now the Church of the New Constitution, which is rounding up pregnant women, controlling who is bred and who is born, endeavoring to save humanity.

Louise Erdrich's novel The Future of the Living God  is many things: an extended letter to an unborn child, the story of a woman seeking her family, a fable warning of the over-extension of governmental power, a warning of the consequences of tampering with nature. It is a theological reflection and speculative fiction. And it is the story of resistance and the fight for self-determination.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Future Home of the Living God
Louise Erdrich
On Sale Date: November 14, 2017
ISBN: 9780062694058, 0062694057
Hardcover $28.99 USD, $35.99 CAD

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Miss Fisher, Queen of the Flowers

Queen of the Flowers, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries #14, finds the socialite lady detective solving the disappearances of several young ladies.

The carnival is in town, bringing old friends; several shady characters are looking for Rose--they are so vile the most vile bar has banned them; and Phryne is slated to be the Queen of the Flowers in the upcoming 1928 Flower Parade. Now, if only the Flower Girls would stop disappearing...

I have been watching the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries on Netflex as entertainment while hand appliqueing in the evening. The books are being published by Poison Pen Press and I thought it would be fun to read one.

Miss Phryne Fisher goes on the trail of her missing adopted daughter who has been searching for her birth father. Phryne is also hiding Rose, a girl who nearly drowned, and whose life is threatened. Phryne's investigations bring to light instances of abuse against girls, a professor's double life, and the workings of a gambling ship. The girls fight over a vacuous but angelic looking teen. All the gang appear: Dot and her beau Hugh, Detective Jack Robinson, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, and Bert and Cec, and of course the ravishing Lin Chung.

I enjoyed the humorous authorial asides such as "Phryne had rescued the girls from slavery at considerable trouble and expense." When Pyryne checks out a lead and is asked about it she replies that  it was "Remarkably like being inside the Castle of Otronto without the giant hand, thought it might have put in an appearance later." I also loved her adage, "Guilt is a useless emotion and not to be indulged in."

I thought the book Phryne is very like the TV show one: well-heeled, confident, and nonplussed in the midst of danger. I did cringe a bit over her willingness to be considered her Chinese lover Linn's concubine ("Phryne, fortunately, liked being an amusement.") and her acceptance of prostitution as a welcomed career for impoverished girls.

It was an enjoyable, light read with wonderful historical ambiance and a definite Australian flair.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Queen of the Flowers: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries #14
by Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press
Pub Date: Nov.7,2017
Paperback $15.95
ISBN: 9781464207785

From the publisher's website:

The circus is in town for St Kilda's first Flower Festival, which includes a parade. And who should be Queen of said Flowers but the Honourable Phryne Fisher? She has dresses to purchase, cinemas to visit, and agreeable cocktails to drink. 
However, one of her flower maidens is unstable and has vanished. So Phryne investigates, trudging through the underworld with the help of Bert, Cec, her little beretta, an old flame from Orkney, the owner of the most exclusive brothel in St Kilda, and several elephants.
But when her own adopted daughter Ruth goes missing, Phryne is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her retrieving her lost child.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

White Wash: How Science is Corrupted by Business

Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam is an expose' of how Monsanto's pesticide glyphosate came to dominate the farming industry--and its product Roundup in suburban back yards--even when evidence of  its threat to human health and environmental degradation arose. It is the story of how chemical companies, not the federal governmental programs we believe protect us, drive policy and law.

Gillam is a career journalist who in 1998 was moved to Kansas to write about agriculture for Reuters. Previously she wrote about Hurricane Katrina and reported from race-torn Ferguson, MS. She spent a lot of time learning her new beat, talking with farmers as well as company executives at Monsanto and other chemical companies. 

Glyphosate was sold as the safest pesticide ever, a wonder product that would help farmers increase their yield. Monsanto then developed plants that were resistant to their pesticide, the GMOs we hear so much about. Farmers left behind the older ways, even ending crop rotation. Monsanto owned the marketplace.

As her research led Gillam to become concerned with GMOs, not accepting the 'desired narrative,' Monsanto-funded organizations pressured her editors to remove her! As Gillam tells it, "What I've learned, what I know with certainty, is that when powerful corporations control the narrative, the truth often get lost and it's up to journalists to find it and bring it home."

The result is this book.

This was a hard book to read--not just because of the density of information, but because it taught me that business runs more of government than we are aware of. It's not just lobby money. It's in the research they pay for and tweak and offer to the EPA as unbiased studies when decisions are to be made about public safety. And its about the professors and professionals they enlist to tell their story. 
Wheat field
I buy organic foods whenever possible. I have the luxury of being able to afford to make that choice. I am not an agricultural worker who is around chemicals that are associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the disease that took my father's life.

We did, for two years, live next to a farm field. There was a beautiful field of golden wheat when we moved in on a late June day. A few months later I sat on the back deck to watch the farmer cut the wheat.

Cutting the wheat
The next year he planted corn. Our dog loved to run down between the row of corn. We moved before it was harvested.
Sandhill Crane in the farm field

The Sandhill Crane came in pairs in the spring and over the summer we watched them and their young birds. In the autumn, after harvest, the Crane flocked to the field in the hundreds before flying South.
Sandhill Crane in the late fall
So when in the book I read about 'chemical drift', how the pesticides sprayed on the soil before planting or on the GMO crops before harvest are carried on the wind, I shuddered. Was the yard my dogs played in safe? What about my open kitchen windows, my bedrooms that faced the farm field? What was I tracking into the house on my shoes? I am ignorant about that farmer's use of pesticides.

And the Sandhill Cranes that came every year in the hundreds to eat the insects in the field? What is the impact of pesticides on the birds? We had Bald Eagles flying over the fields, looking for prey. On the other side of the field was a wet land, and also senior housing. I found a rare salamander in the yard once.

After we moved a family with a young child moved into the house. Will that boy's health be impacted negatively?

"Most of us are Guinea pigs in this horrendous toxic experiment."--from White Wash

I was taught in environmental biology that pesticides are poison, and not just harmful to the pests it was developed to kill. Gillam shows how glyphosate, which is combined with harmful chemicals to make it 'stick' to crops, impacts more than weeds. And it has created resistant weeds and has affected the soil.

I am continually appalled by all the ways big business has manipulated government. You should be, too.

White Wash is available in ebook form (ISBN: 9781610918336) at your favorite seller for $7.99 the month of November, 2017.

Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science
by Carey Gillam
Island Press
ISBN 9781610918329
PRICE $30.00 (USD)