Sunday, October 28, 2012


Story Description: 
HarperCollins Publishers|April 30, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN 978-0-06-173093-1 
When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother.  But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.  Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes.  He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return.  And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim. 
One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument.  Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers.  In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand – and steal food to keep the other kids alive.  This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields.  And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.  He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down. 
Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick.
My Review: 
Arn Chorn-Pond is only 11 years old.  In his town of Battambang, Cambodia the people come out at night and make music.  Music is everywhere.  Rich people and poor people alike congregate together and play radios, record players and eight-track cassettes.  In Arn’s town, “music is like air, always there.”  The men and ladies stroll through the park to catch the newest songs.  Men play cards while ladies sell mangoes, noodles, wristwatches and other wares.  Kids fly kites and eat ice cream, it’s a happy place.  
Arn and his little brother, Munny like to dance for pleasure and to entertain the neighbours.  They loved to do “the twist”.  They also like to watch the movies in the cinema but don’t have the money to pay so they find a rather stout woman, stand beside her and get in for free.  If kids are with a parent they get in at no charge. 
After the show which had lots of shooting, they played outside mimicking what they saw on the big screen.  Suddenly they hear a whistle and the sky far away flashes white.  The palm trees shiver, the ground shakes and they suddenly realize the war is “real.”  They run to the pond near their home, jump in, water up to their noses and hide there.  The following day the music is back and the war is gone, it had come close but not into their town. 
Arn’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident and his mother was forced to go to Phnom Penh for work so the children lived with their aunt – Arn, his brother, Munny and four sisters; Sophea, Chantou, Maly, and Jorami.  Their aunt had no children so she loved them as if they were her own. 
One morning the Khmer Rouge arrive in Cambodia with bullhorns riding in trucks telling people that the Americans are coming to bomb the city and everyone, the entire country must leave, evacuate immediately but will be allowed to return home in 3 days.  They are told to walk 12 miles into the countryside.  The entire population of Cambodia is leaving in droves, each carrying something – bags of rice, blankets, food, dried fish and other items.  All of Cambodia is now on the road walking into the countryside.  A hundred thousand people. 
While walking, a kid who knows Arn yells from behind for him to wait up.  He tells Arn that his father is a high ranking official and had gone to the airport with the Khmer Rouge.  He said his big brother was hiding in the bush and watched the Khmer Rouge shoot his father to death.  He says the Khmer Rouge is going to kill them all.  Arn witnesses a man asking the Khmer Rouge for a drink of water for his pregnant wife, but he only grunts and points his gun for the man to keep moving forward.  The man opened his mouth to say something else but the Khmer Rouge hit the man in the cheek with his gun.  Arn learned right then to “be invisible around these Khmer Rouge guys.”  As Arn continues to walk he sees various people along the road with bullet holes and others with blood coming out of their mouths and others with shirts full of blood.  Arn thought: “in one day a person can get used to seeing a dead body.” 
Finally, many miles into the countryside, the Khmer Rouge tell 1,000 people to stop and make camp.  The rest keep walking until they reach another field where another 1,000 people are told to make camp.  The Khmer Rouge had promised they could return to their homes in 3 days but it’s now already been one week. 
The Khmer Rouge forced everyone to dig ditches in the hot blazing sun all day and the only break they get is when they use the latrine.  Arn discovers a huge hole in the ground while taking his little brother to the latrine.  The smell emanating from the hole is horrendous and unlike anything he has ever smelled before.  Arn soon figures out that the Khmer Rouge are killing all the rich people, those who are well-educated with good jobs, soldiers, doctors, and musicians.  It appears if you’re poor, they leave you alone.  Arn discovers the list in a black book, that’s how they decide who lives and who dies. 
One day the Khmer Rouge forced everyone to strip naked and then gave them a pair of black pajamas to wear.  Now all women, men, and children are dressed the same.  They burned all their other clothing.  The Khmer Rouge tell the people: “now all of us live as equals, no rich, no poor.”  They are told that now everything belongs to “Angka”.  Each day they are woken at 4:00AM and forced to work in the rice paddies under the blazing hot sun until dark then given a dinner of rice soup and salt. 
The atrocities that these people faced was horrible and hard to believe that people, human beings, could be so very cruel.  Never Fall Down is a difficult book to read but a necessary book to read.  I think everyone needs to read this true story to understand the magnitude of destruction of human life the Khmer Rouge forced upon the people of Cambodia.  Patricia McCormick has told Arn Chorn-Pond’s story well and my hat goes off to Arn for having the stamina, courage and fortitude to change from  being a killing machine to a man of peace.  An excellent piece of work!

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Story Description: 
HarperCollins Publishers|February 7, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-173092-4 
When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he’s honored with a Purple Heart.  But he doesn’t feel like a hero. 
There’s a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest.  Matt can’t shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death.  But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can’t quite put all the pieces together. 
Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with this squad; Justin, Wolfe, and Charlene, the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq.  He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was.  But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes.  In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty, is very complicated indeed. 
National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace. 
My Review: 
Private Matt Duffy woke up in a hospital ward with someone sticking what felt like pins in his feet and legs and asking: “can you feel that, Matt?”  Yes, he could feel it and that was a good sign.  Panic washed over him as he strained to understand what was going on.  He’d heard the doctor say “cognitive problems” and “traumatic brain injury.”  He wanted to ask what was going on but the doctor had already left his beside, and he drifted off to sleep. 
Next time he woke, he heard: “On behalf of the President of The United States and the citizens of a grateful nation…I award you the Medal of the Purple Heart, for wounds sustained in combat.”  Matt didn’t want a medal he just wanted to know what was wrong with him.  He felt his mouth flopping open and closed, gulping like a fish, but no sound came out.  He then heard: “Your mission now son is to get better and get back out there.”  Again, fatigue crashed down on him and he fell back into a thick, hazy sleep as he heard the man’s footsteps echoing across the marble floor as he walked away.  Soon enough Matt would find out what happened to him. 
Purple Heart is a story about war often “being fought by young people, like the ten-year-old Iraqi boy who finds himself in harm’s way in the story and two eighteen-year-old soldiers who must cope with his death and their part in it.  All of them are children under pressures no – adult or child – should ever have to face.”

Friday, October 26, 2012


Story Description: 
Turner Publishing Company|October 18, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-61858-013-9 
Myrtle T. Cribb, a special-needs teacher from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is captive in a dysfunctional marriage.  Tired of living up to her husband’s and everyone else’s standards, Myrtle impulsively heads to wherever the road will take her.  But soon she gets a surprise of her own.  She finds an unlikely stowaway on her journey: Hellcat, the local drunk.  Together, they embark on a pilgrimage that takes them everywhere from a shady highway motel to a hippie retreat center, developing an unlikely friendship while finding wisdom in the most unlikely places.  The journey forces Myrtle to evaluate her marriage, her priorities, and her own prejudices, and compels her to share her hard-earned insights with other women who feel some dissatisfaction in their lives. 
With its iconoclastic, complex, and irresistible cast of characters, and bold yet sincere advice, The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb is an engaging, heartbreaking, and joyful story to be cherished by those seeking an understanding of life’s greatest  mysteries.   
My Review: 
Myrtle T. Cribb is a special-needs teacher who starts out one morning in her Dodge truck for a procedure at the doctor’s office.  Due to nerves and a fear that the male doctor wouldn’t prescribe her with proper pain medication following the surgery, she takes a handful of her husband, Craig’s pain pills with her.  She takes one pill and begins driving but being it’s a 2-hour drive she decides to take a second pill when she stops for gas.  After many miles, Myrtle hears a knocking under her truck and can’t figure out what it is.  But the knocking became more insistent, and then seemed to be coming from behind her.  When she turned around to look, she got the bejeebers scared right out of her. For there, in the back of her Dodge pick-up was, Hellcat – stowed away, pounding at the camper top glass with both fists, staring at her with his bugged-out, bloodshot eyes.  So startled was she, that she ran off the road, swerved into a shallow ditch and bumped out the other side.  Hellcat had passed out drunk with a sleeping bag and 45 empty cans of beer.  Myrtle was again so startled, she took a 3rd pill. 
Hellcat was the town vagrant.  A tall lanky, black man with filthy clothes, and a limp, he dragged himself everywhere he went.  He was forever bothering people to rake their leaves or fix a lamp for 5 bucks so he could buy another bottle of liquor.  He slept wherever he could find space – abandoned buildings, construction sites or obviously in the back of Myrtle’s truck.  What was she going to do now?  Craig had absolutely forbidden her from having anything to do with him?  Hellcat had fallen back to sleep and was snoring so, Myrtle just kept on driving, what other choice did she have so far from home?  Besides, Craig was a cranky, tyrant of a man and she was fed up listening to him and being ordered around like she didn’t have a mind of her own so just kept on driving. 
She was so busy driving and thinking that she’d run the gas tank empty, filled it up, and ran it down again, and due to the 3 pain pills she’d already consumed where she went and what she did beyond that was almost entirely absent from her memory.  She couldn’t even pay attention to highway signs she was so busy mulling over her marriage to Craig and what his reaction would be when he found out she’d just up and disappeared.  
Now having crossed state lines and driving somewhere in Pennsylvania, Myrtle checks into a hotel for the night wondering what she was going to do.  Craig was going to kill her that’s for sure if he finds out she spent the night in a hotel room with Hellcat.  Well, by morning things would look brighter and she’d figure it out then.  She called home and left a message on the answering machine saying she had to leave in a hurry due to a family emergency and went to sleep at dawn. 
The adventure Myrtle and Hellcat undertake will have you laughing and shaking your head.  Sheri Reynolds always pens a good novel but she’s outdone herself with The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb.  I guess what you could say about this novel is that Myrtle T. Cribb has taken an “accidental pilgrimage” and what a pilgrimage it was.  Great story!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Story Description: 
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd|September 20, 2011|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-44340-709-0 
Scott Torres is a thirty-something Mexican American with a beautiful, blonde wife, Maureen; a mansion outside L.A.; and a staff of servants to tend his lawn, clean house and care for the three Torres children.  As the novel opens, all the servants have been let go save for Araceli, their maid.  Scott has fallen on hard times after a failed investment, and to make ends meet he has been forced to cut costs, even if it means he has to wrestle with this lawnmower just to get it started.  With the recent addition of a newborn into their family, tension escalates, and the couple soon part ways – Maureen to a spa with the baby; Scott to a female co-worker’s house.  Both think the other is caring for the children. 
Araceli, who has never raised children before, spends more time daydreaming about her former life as a Mexico City artist than caring for the Torres’ kids.  When she starts to run out of food, she spirits the youngsters off on an absurd adventure through Los Angeles in search of their Mexican American grandfather.  When the parents finally return home they panic, thinking Araceli has kidnapped the children.  Soon a national media circus explodes over the “abduction.” 
The Barbarian Nurseries is a lush, highly populated social novel in the vein of Tom Wolfe tempered with a bit of T.C. Boyle that explores dashed dreams through a city divided. 
My Review: 
Scott Torres was upset because the lawn mower wouldn’t start, no matter how hard he pulled the cord it just wouldn’t start.  Araceli, his Mexican maid was watching him through the kitchen window and knew she should tell him the secret that made the mower roar to life.  All he had to do was turn a knob on the side of the engine which made the mower start as easy as “pulling a lose thread from a sweater.”  Scott had recently let Pepe the gardener go and felt Scott’s struggle with the mower fitting punishment for doing so.  Pepe had been gone two weeks and Araceli missed him and knew she’d never see him again. 
Araceli enjoyed working for the Torres-Thompson household and thought working for them as a self-imposed exile from her previous directionless life in Mexico City.  However, neither of her bosses informed Araceli beforehand of the momentous news that she would be the last Mexican working in the house.  Maureen, the wife, never called herself “Mrs. Torres”, though she and el senor Scott were indeed married.  Araceli lived in their home 12 days out of every 14, but was often kept in the dark about what was going on in the family, for example; Maureen’s pregnancy with their 3rd child, which Araceli only found out about because of Maureen’s repeated vomiting.  The couple had two boys: Keenan, 8; Brandon, 11; and one daughter, Samantha, 15 months. 
Maureen Thompson was a petite woman, elegant and thirty-eight-years-of-age.  She and Scott had been married for twelve years.  Scott was a write of computer programs.  They had lived in their current home for 5 years. 
Now that Scott and Maureen had fired all the other staff, Araceli suddenly found herself being plopped with a baby in her arms.  This was never Araceli’s job – ever!  Guadalupe had been the children’s nanny and this sudden new role did not sit well with her.  The truth was Araceli had never been close to children; they were a mystery she had no desire to solve, especially the boys, with their screams of battle and electric sound effects they produced with lips and cheeks.  Scott had indicated they were going broke and couldn’t afford to keep all the staff so Araceli didn’t have much choice. 
Maureen and Scott had a horrendous fight over their severely depleted financial situation and Maureen had just spent 3 figures for a new back garden they didn’t need nor could afford.  That same day, Scott had taken his loyal employees out for lunch and when the bill came his credit card was declined leaving his employees to divvy up the cheque between them.  Scott was furious with Maureen and as the argument became more heated, he lost all control and pushed Maureen backward where she promptly fell on the large glass-topped coffee table smashing it to smithereens.  That evening they both slept in different areas of the house. 
The following morning, Maureen decided to take baby Samantha away with her for a few days leaving Scott to juggle work and the boys with Araceli’s help.  She packed up, loaded the baby into the car seat and left.  Unbeknownst to her, Scott had a similar idea.  He too took off leaving the boys and Samantha behind for Maureen to care for, or so he thought.  When Araceli arose and began making breakfast, she didn’t notice anything amiss until only Brandon and Keenan showed up at the breakfast table.  After searching the house she realized that Maureen, Scott and the baby were gone.  After 2 days of trying to contact both parents and running out of food, Araceli didn’t know what to do.  She finally decides to take the boys their Grampa John’s house whom they hadn’t seen in two years.  The boys were excited beyond measure.  Araceli locates his address, gets the boys to pack their suitcase with wheels and they set out for the bus stop.  Araceli is just not equipped nor prepared to care for two little boys long term.  However, little does she know her actions will be perceived as kidnapping and thereby starting a frenzied media circus like you’ve never seen. 
The Barbarian Nurseries was a fairly good read although I found it to be quite mundane and too drawn out in parts.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Story Description: 
St. Martin’s Press|February 14, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-250-01288-3 
From the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept comes an absorbing new novel about one woman’s resistance during an époque that shook Paris to its very core. 
Paris, France: 1860’s.  Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes.  By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussman has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, moulding it into a “modern city.”  The reforms will erase generations of history – but in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand. 
Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day.  Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband.  And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years.  Tatiana de Rosnay’s The House I Loved is both a poignant story of one woman’s indelible strength, and an ode to Paris, where houses harbor the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, and secrets endure in the very walls… 
My Review: 
Rose writes letters to her deceased husband, Armand who has been gone 10 years.  She is writing about the tearing down of the homes and shops on their street so the construction organization can widen the roads.  This is going to change the face of Paris forever.  Some of the neighbours and shop keepers are upset whilst others are not.  Flower shops and bars can be moved to new establishments, but the doctor in the area isn’t happy and worries over losing all his patients.   
Rose’s husband was born in the house she lives in as was his father and grandfather.  The house was 150 years old and had seen several generations of Bazelets living there.  “No one else but the Bazelet family had lived between these walls built in 1715, when the rue Childebert was created.”  No siree, Rose had no plans whatsoever on leaving her beloved home.  They could offer her all the money in the world, tear down around her, but she wasn’t budging!  Rose continues to putter around her home, making tea, sewing embroidery all the while the men outside are hard at work demolishing. 
When things get too close to her home, she takes to the basement and lives in the cold, drab dark where no one knows where she is except a lonely tramp of a man who brings her food and warm beverages.  Rose, by candle light, pens her story to her husband Armand and reveals to him a secret that she’s kept her entire life. 
Rose is a woman who possesses great strength and courage and is loved by everyone.  She reminds me of the quintessential grandmother, one I’d love to have myself. 
The House I Loved was beautifully written and was a gorgeous, loving, testament to the type of woman Rose was.  I loved this book so thoroughly that I want to read it again.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Story Description: 
NALTrade|October 2, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-451-23798-9 
Reporter Wendy Tynes is making a name for herself, bringing down sexual offenders on nationally televised sting operations.  But when social worker Dan Mercer walks into her trap, Wendy gets thrown into a story more complicated than she could ever imagine.  Dan is tied to the disappearance of a seventeen-year-old New Jersey girl, and the shocking consequences will have Wendy doubting her instincts about the motives of the people around her, while confronting the true nature of guilt, grief, and her own capacity for forgiveness… 
My Review: 
CAUGHT is a rollercoaster ride with more twists and turns that you won’t want to get off until the train hits the end of the track! 
Seventeen-year-old Haley McWaid is a high school senior who goes missing.  She has never been in trouble before, gets good grades and just seems to vanish leaving her parents heart-stricken. 
Dan Mercer, is a social worker who works with trouble youth and receives word that a young girl is in trouble and could he meet her at her home to talk as she is shy.  When Dan arrives he realizes he’s been caught in a sting operation set up by t.v. report Wendy Tynes who is trying to expose sexual predators.  Dan soon finds himself caught up in something he had no intentions of getting caught up in and Wendy is thrown into a situation she just wasn’t prepared for.
This book reminded me of the television show on MSNBC with Rick Hansen where they monitor chat rooms online and set up meetings with alleged sexual predators of young kids.
This is a book not to be missed!

Friday, October 19, 2012

CALL THE MIDWIFE: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (JENNIFER WORTH)

Story Description: 
Penguin Books USA|September 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-14-312325-5 
Jennifer Worth was just twenty-two when she volunteered to spend her early years of midwifery training in London’s East End in the 1950’s.  Coming from a sheltered background there were tough lessons to be learned.  The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying. 
My Review: 
At Nonnatus House lived a long list of midwives and was situated in the heart of the London Docklands.  The practice covered a wide area from Stephney to Limehouse to Millwall to the Isle of Dogs and beyond.  Family life was lived in close quarters and children brought up by a widely extended family of aunts, grandparents, cousins, and older siblings, all living with a few houses of each other.  Often families of up to nineteen lived in 3 rooms and the conditions were deplorable.  Fleas and lice were common pests.  There was no transportation in those days so the midwives rode bicycles to the homes of their patients to deliver babies.  Riding a bicycle through rain, thick fog, and freezing temperatures at two or three in the morning was no picnic I’m sure. 
Children were everywhere, and streets were their playgrounds.  In the 1950’s there were no cars on the back streets, because no one had a car, so it was safe to play there.  In some very overcrowded houses, domestic violence was expected.  But gratuitous violence was never heard of towards the elderly.  People worked hard for their money, working long eighteen hour days unloading crates at the docks.  Employment was high, but wages were low. 
Early marriage was the norm and most families had fourteen to nineteen children until the introduction of the pill in the 1960’s and the modern woman was born.  Women were no longer tied to the cycle of endless babies.  In the late 1950’s there were 80-100 deliveries per month and in 1963 that number dropped to 4 or 5 a month!  Nursing and midwifery were in a deplorable state and was not considered a respectable occupation for any educated woman.  In the nineteenth century no poor woman could afford to pay the fee required by a doctor for the delivery of her baby. So she was forced to rely on the services of an un-trained, self-taught midwife, or “handywoman.”  Finally in 1902 the first Midwives Act was passed and the Royal College of Midwives was born.  The work of the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus was based upon a foundation of religious discipline. 
Jennifer Worth first met with the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus in the 1950’s and it turned out to be the best experience of her life. At first, Jennifer wondered why she’d ever started this midwifery thing – she could have been anything: a model, air hostess, or a ship’s stewardess but there she is at 2:30 in the morning riding her bicycle through the rain soaked streets on her way to a delivery after a 17-hour work day and only 3 hours sleep. 
As she arrives at the home of her patient, she is greeted by a congregation of women –the patient’s mother, two grandmothers, two or three aunts, sisters, best friends, and a neighbour.  In the middle of this gaggle of women is a solitary man.  The patient is, Muriel, a girl of twenty-five who is having her fourth baby.  Jennifer realizes quickly that Muriel is nearing the end of her second stage of labour.  As Jennifer prepares to conduct an internal exam, she sees another pain come upon her – you can see it building in strength until it seems her poor body will break apart.  Jennifer readies her tray of equipment – scissors, cord clamps, cord tape, fetal stethoscope, kidney dishes, gauze, cotton swabs and artery forceps.  Muriel’s pains are coming every 3 minutes now and suddenly her water breaks and floods the bed.  With the next contraction Jennifer can see the head.  More and more contractions come and the head is coming fast, too fast!  She tells Muriel to pant, the head is out and she is just delivering the shoulders.  Finally the baby slides out and it’s a boy!  Jennifer is excited, she now understands why she does this job.  She steps outside in the bright morning sunlight with plans to return to see the new mother again at noon hour and once more in the evening.   However, as you will read, not all her deliveries go quite so well.   
Jennifer’s life developed from a childhood disrupted by war, a passionate love affair at only age sixteen, and the knowledge three years later that she had to get away.  So, for “purely pragmatic reasons, my choice was nursing.”  Does she regret it?  “Never, never, never.  I wouldn’t swap my job for anything on earth.”
Call the Midwife is an honest look at midwifery in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the deplorable conditions that these women were forced to bear their children under.  Without Midwives, I don’t know what these women would have done.  I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and read it in one sitting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Story Description: 
St. Martin’s Press|September 4, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-250-00104-7 
From the New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Lotus Eaters’, a novel of a California ranching family, its complicated matriarch and an enigmatic caretaker who may destroy them. 
When Claire Nagy marries Forster Baumsarg, the only son of prominent California citrus ranchers, she knows she’s consenting to a life of hard work, long days, and worry-fraught nights.  But her love for Forster is so strong, she turns away from her literary education and embraces the life of the ranch, succumbing to its intoxicating rhythms and bounty until her love of the land becomes a part of her.  Not even the tragic, senseless death of her son, Joshua at kidnapper’s hands, her alienation from her two young daughters, or the dissolution of her once-devoted marriage can pull her from the ranch she’s devoted her life to preserving. 
But despite having survived the most terrible of tragedies, Claire is about to face her greatest struggle: An illness that threatens not only to rip her from her land but take her very life.  And she’s chosen a caregiver, the enigmatic Caribbean-born Minna, who may just be the darkest force of all.  
Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together. 
My Review: 
The Forgetting Tree was majestic, monumental, and magical!!  An incredibly complex story with well-developed characters, the story basically focuses on two women: Claire, a white-woman dealing with cancer, and Minna, a black-woman who is Claire’s caretaker. 
Claire met and fell in love with Forster Baumsarg who owned a large citrus farm in California.  Claire gave up her literary studies to marry him she was so enamoured.  Early on in the story, Claire must deal with every mother’s nightmare – coping with the death of a child.  Her young son, Joshua, is found dead near a lemon tree.  Claire, already struggling with her loss ends up having to fight breast cancer and keep her family’s citrus farm together regardless of the financial or emotional toll. 
Minna, makes for an interesting character.  Originally from the Caribbean and having suffered through a rather rough life, she ends up in California.  She meets one of Claire’s daughters in Starbucks one day and is hired as her caretaker while fighting breast cancer. 
Minna tells Claire that she is the great-granddaughter of author, Jean Rhys, who wrote ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s famous Jane Eyre, focusing on the “crazy woman in the attic.”  Minna herself reminds you of that “crazy woman in the attic.”  Minna quickly gains Claire’s trust and is soon mixing up elixirs and other concoctions and potions for her to drink as part of her cancer cure.  The two women are both damaged but Claire continues to allow Minna to call all the shots. 
I can’t get into too much more about this story without creating serious spoilers but this is simply a book you MUST read. 
The Forgetting Tree was masterfully and skillfully written and kept me turning pages late into the night.  I haven’t read Soli’s first novel ‘The Lotus Eaters’ but will be doing so now. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Story Description: 
Baker Publishing Group|September 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-8007-2121-3 
There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought.  They are almost invisible.  Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we’d only take the time to listen.  Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park.  Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life.  Aaron is about to be found.  And the one who finds him just might find the love of his life as well.  Expert storyteller Dan Walsh pens a new tale filled with the things his fans have come to love – forgiveness, redemption, love, and that certain bittersweet quality that few authors ever truly master.  Fans old and new will find themselves drawn into this latest story about how God cares for everyone.  
My Review: 
Aaron Miller worked as a handyman in Bentleys Trailer Park and Campground and lived in a storage shed on the property for $150 per month.  The shed wasn’t much and only had a cot for a bed making for some uncomfortable and sleepless nights. 
Sue Kendall managed the park and on this particular morning she woke Aaron a bit early to tell him he was needed immediately as a guest from the park was leaving and needed his LP tank filled up.  Aaron arose from his bed, picked up his walkie-talkies, closed his Bible, then went back to the workbench and unplugged the battery chargers for his tools.  He turned his coffee pot off, collected his tools, and headed out the door.  Just ten steps outside his door sat his main means of transportation – a beat-up golf cart he parked under a palmetto palm to keep it cool.  As he drove to the filling station he perused his clipboard for the list of jobs to be completed that day: take down Halloween decorations, which he was sick of looking at and sort out and set up all the Christmas decorations.  To Aaron, it seemed much too early to be putting up Christmas decorations in Florida.  If they lived north where the weather was cold, he could understand it better. 
Just as Aaron was finishing filling the propane tank his walkie-talkie went off.  Sue from the office was telling him to get over to site 31 as there was a lot of yelling and screaming going on inside the trailer and other patrons were threatening to call 911.  She asked Aaron if he could get over there immediately as she didn’t want to scare off all the temps in the park as it made them think the park was full of low lifes.  Aaron heard Sue’s cousin, Bobby in the background say: “That’s all we got in here.”  Aaron had been called to this same site before where a woman named, Heather and her boyfriend, Ryan stayed.  Heather had a red mark across her face but she’d told Aaron she’d tripped over a big oak root but Aaron didn’t believe her as she appeared nervous.  Aaron detested men who hit women and thought they were cowards.  Heather didn’t appear to be more than sixteen or seventeen.  Ryan looked to be around twenty-years-of-age and thought, Heather too young to be shacked up with him.  Ryan had long hair, was tall, and wore baggy jeans pulled halfway down to his knees. 
As Aaron approached the site, he heard a loud noise, looked ahead and saw Heather’s boyfriend coming out of the trailer, slamming the door behind him, and getting into a blue souped-up Honda Civic.  He revved up the engine, put it in gear, and tore off heading in Aaron’s direction.  Aaron walked up to the open door of the trailer and heard the girl crying.  He called out “anybody there?”  The girl cried softer and Aaron stepped inside and saw, Heather lying in a corner by the couch, balled up into the fetal position.  He asked her if she was okay and when she lifted her head, her left eye was almost swollen shut.  He asked: “He hit you, didn’t he?”  She shook her head “no”.  He told her to get up and sit on the couch and he’d get her some ice for her eye.  When he returned from the little kitchen, Aaron commented: “You’re not going to tell me you tripped over a root.”  She smiled and shook her head.  Aaron told Heather he was going to call the police but she begged him not too saying it would only make things worse.  As they conversed, Aaron found out she’d run away at age fifteen, was now seventeen but would soon turn eighteen, and that she hadn’t spoken with her parents in over a year, they didn’t get along.  She said they lived in Georgia, north of Atlanta.  Aaron offered to call her parents for her but she said no.  He asked if she had anywhere to go before, Ryan came back.  Again, Heather said no, but that she’d be okay as she didn’t think he’d be back for a while.  She told Aaron not to worry that she could take care of herself, but Aaron noticed she’d made that statement without even a hint of confidence.  Aaron didn’t feel right leaving her there all alone but told her he was going to leave but would be keeping his eye on the place all day.  If he saw, Ryan’s car coming back, then he’d be back.  Heather was worried and said she didn’t want any trouble and Aaron reassured her he didn’t either and would just stay outside and listen.  He told Heather if he heard any yelling, or if she thought he was going to hit her again to just yell out his name and he’d come in.  Before leaving, Aaron asked Heather to look up at him and when she did he told her: “I’m not going to allow him to hurt you again.  You have my word on that.” 
After leaving, Heather, Aaron stopped by the office to fill Sue in.  Sue said she had a bad feeling about, Ryan when they first came there.  She gave Aaron a job at site 28 just across from Heather’s trailer replacing rotting boards on the wooden handicap ramp so he’d be close in case there was trouble again. 
Billy Ames lived at site 28, a Vietnam vet who returned from the war as a double amputee.  Aaron noticed such sadness in his eyes, “not the normal kind, like you get from a bad day…the kind of sadness that stacks up over many years.”  Billy seemed to mask it mostly by talking too much.  Billy had a sad plan to pull off but now that Aaron had arrived it’d have to wait until he was done.  (Beware folks, this is a sad part.) 
Aaron had a wife, Betty and two children, Karen and Steven who would be in their forties now.  He didn’t even know what they looked like now as he hadn’t seen them since 1992, and then only from a distance.  He’d sent birthday cards for a few years after he and Betty divorced, but never heard back anything from any of them so he gave up.  Aaron had been homeless and when he cleaned up in 1987 and got off the streets, he tried to reconnect but Betty made it crystal clear the kids would be better off if he just left them alone, for good.  They had a new life with a new Dad, a big house, nice cars and college funds.  Nothing like what he had put them through when he returned from the war. 
Dave Russo was a wire editor for the local newspaper.  He was writing a book in his spare time about the heroes of Vietnam, in honor of his father, who died when Dave was only three.  He found the most difficult part about writing the book as all the personal stuff, like seeing his mother cry every Christmas and every anniversary.  This went on well into his teens.  The book wasn’t even about Dave’s father, Joey Russo, it was a book about some of the heroes of Vietnam whose stories could be told, and he would dedicate the book to his father’s memory.  Anything Dave did know about his Dad came from his mother, Angelina but he was concerned this project was becoming too hard on her.  Dave lived in her condo and her seeing the materials about the war spread out on the kitchen table while he worked, upset her. 
Dave was now in Houston, Texas to interview John Lansing who received a Silver Star for defending a Huey that crash-landed, knocked the pilot out, and he kept the Viet Cong at bay until help arrived.  John Lansing was now an oil executive.  John received his medal during his first tour in 1967, then signed up for a second tour.  Dave arrived at the Lansing home in an upscale neighbourhood called “Bent Oaks.”  After introductions and John’s insistence that Dave called him John they got down to business and John didn’t waste any time.  All Dave’s questions were based on assumption that he was there to interview John for winning the Silver Star in 1967.  He got the impression John had other plans for their time together.  Dave began with: “It was your first tour where you got the Silver Star, right?”  John nodded.  “My first tour was between 1966 and 1967.  But really, Dave, you don’t want to interview me about that.  It’s a decent enough story, but I’ve got one you need to hear that’s way better.  It happened my second tour.  The fellow I’m talking about did way more heroic things than me.  Actually, I wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for him.  Me or my two friends.  He saved our lives during this one firefight in 1969.  Almost got killed himself doing it.”  Dave asked:  “So, who is this guy?  What’s his name?”  John responded: “His name is ???”  (sorry people, my review, for the most part ends here). 
I was already so into this book just by reading the little bit of detail I’ve provided here from the beginning in my review so far, but from here on out, I found my emotions changing more and more, chapter-by-chapter.  I was happy, excited, exuberant, and elated.  Then I began to shed a few happy tears, those happy tears turned into a river of uncontrollable water and by the end I was literally sobbing.  I haven’t read a book that has affected me as deeply and emotionally as The Reunion in a long, long time.  I didn’t want this book to end and sincerely hope that Mr. Walsh is considering a sequel.  The Reunion will most definitely become part of my permanent library and I’ll be purchasing many extra copies to give out as Christmas gifts this year.  
The Reunion was a beautiful, emotionally charged story that affected this reader very deeply.  It delves into the humanity of people and the human heart and how deeply we can feel and show true appreciation. 
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".