Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter by Mimi Matthews

She was a prim vicar's daughter. He was a notorious rake. They were ill-suited by societal standards, but the attraction between them was too strong to ignore.

Valentine's beautiful society mother was pregnant and alone when the vicar married her to save her. Val grew up understanding her mother was a fallen woman, a sinner, and her father endeavored to ensure that Val did not follow her mother's path.

The death of her father brings Val to be the companion of a vain and shallow beauty who forces Val to wear dowdy clothes and glasses. Val dreams of escape by going into missionary work abroad.

Unaware, Val is brought to a gathering of dissolutes, ensembled for a drunken and adulterous spree. There she meets Viscount St. Ashton, the devilishly handsome rake with a score of conquests behind him, an heir to fortune who has made nothing of his life. St. Ashton is attracted to the girl and when he makes advances he is not repulsed. He proposes to Val, but she believes he is motivated only by societal expectations, expiating for a drunken and unwise moment of passion. A time apart is forced upon them.

As St. Ashton tries to prove he is a changed man, both to his father and to Val, she discovers her true heritage and is offered other options. Misunderstandings arise as St. Ashton constrains his desire. The road to love is rarely smooth. And in Victorian society it is fraught with concerns that have little to do with the human heart.

Mimi Matthews employs her deep understanding of the Victorian world of 1861 in this romance.

Learn more about Matthews books and blog at https://www.mimimatthews.com

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

The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter: A Victorian Romance
by Mimi Matthews
Perfectly Proper Press
Publication January 23, 2018
Ebook: $2.99
ISBN: 9780999036426

Sunday, January 21, 2018

No Time To Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin

Subtitled, Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin's newest book No Time To Spare is a collection of writing from her blog begun in 2010 when she was age 81. Le Guin addresses a variety of subjects, from her rescue cat Pard to the feminist movement and The Great American Novel.

I was struck by her strong voice and in the early sections was very drawn in, enjoying my reading. In the first essay she reacts to a questionnaire that asked what she did in her 'spare time.' She remarks that retired people have nothing but 'spare time', yet she has always been 'occupied'--by living, reading, writing, embroidering, socializing, traveling... She ends by writing,

"None of this is spare time. I can't spare it. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eight-one next week. I have no time to spare."

I so related to this insight! I hate polls where I have the choice of checking 'retired' or 'housewife.' I am 'retired' because I collect Social Security, and I am a housewife because I do most, but not all of the cleaning and cooking and bill paying. But I have no spare time. I read, I write book reviews, I design and make quilts, I do research on genealogy. I am not paid for any of it, unless you call free e-books, ARCs, galleys and giveaway books 'payment.'

I was like, "You go, girl!"

The first essay I read was "Would You Please F******* Stop?" I had received the book in the mail the day of my family Christmas gathering, the Thursday before Christmas Day. I opened the book to this chapter and read it out loud. Perhaps not the best choice, but my brother laughed. Le Guin attacks the abysmal decay of American English that peppers the f-word throughout every sentence uttered. Le Guin writes that the word has taken on overtones of "dominance, of abuse, of contempt, of hatred." She ends with, "God is dead, at least as a swear word, but hate and feces keep going strong."

My favorite essay It Doesn't Have to Be the Way it Is, which concerns imaginative literature and the nature of fantasy, and why fundamentalists find it objectionable.

The later essays did not all resonate with me, perhaps showing the generation gap between Le Guin and myself. I have no WWII idealization of service uniforms, even if my Uncle Dave's Navy whites are a fond memory. She talks about the economy, politics, the feminist movement, but many times I felt dissatisfied and even bristled, while still a little unsure of what she meant. I was not comfortable with references to slapping children or her striking the cat.

In Lying it All Away Le Guin attacks political lying. In one paragraph she mentions Hitler, Nixon, Reagen, and Obama. The essay is dated October 2012, written shortly after the Obama-Romney debate. Le Guin remarks, "What was appalling to me about Obama's false figures and false promises in the first debate was they were unnecessary." I went to the Pulitzer Prize winning PoliticFact to see their fact checking of the debate claims by both Obama and Romney. Romney and Obama both made false statements and told half-truths, which tallied up come out about even. There is a bias in Le Guin's essay in that she only mentions one candidate.

That bothers me.

Le Guin is influential, a literary light and icon. But readers, I remind you to always consider that every artist and every work of art is personal, reflecting their own experience and perceptions. We must use critical thinking every time we open a book or watch a movie or listen to a song and not assume our icon's version of the world without thought.

I will say that Le Guin never shys away from saying her piece, even when she also remarks on her incompetence in an area.

The essays were entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking.

I received a free book from the publisher through a giveaway.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China,1949 by Kevin Peraino

In 1949 Mao's People Liberation Army was taking over mainland China while Madame Chaing Ka-shek endeavored to gain more funding for her husband's Nationalist army.

America considered China a minor power. Europe after WWII garnered most of American attention. President Truman was assailed with conflicting views on how to deal with China. There was the domino theory and its fear of Communist take-over of Southeast Asia. For all the help that Chaing Ka-shek had received, the Nationalists were losing the war. Was their cause a 'rate hole' not worth throwing more money into? Britain was considering recognizing Mao as the new head of China. Should America follow suit?

Kevin Peraino's narrative history A Force So Swift was fascinating to read. The complicated history of the time comes to life, especially the machinations of Truman's White House and the people who sought to influence his policy. Names I heard growing up were brought to life. After reading The Accidental President by A. J. Baimie about Truman's first four months in the presidency it was interesting to see how he handled issues in his second term.

"......Truman and his N.S.C. filtered into the Cabinet Room at the White House....From an oil painting at the front of the room, the face of Woodrow Wilson stared down, judging them. For his entire adult life, Truman had sought to emulate Wilson, to continue the twenty-eighth president's quest to develop a "collective conscience" and a "common will of mankind" that might replace the chaos of conflicting interests that had defined the first half of the twentieth century."

Instead of consolidating a way to universal peace, Truman signed the policy paper to halt support to "non-Communist elements in China." America would no longer support Chaing Ka-shek, now isolated on Taiwan. Money would instead go to covert operations. America was to give "particular attention" to the French and Vietnamese conflict in Indochina. Meanwhile, Mao was celebrating his victory and had turned his attention to Korea. The choices made in 1949 led to the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War and have implications that reverberate to this day.

I received a free book from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, as well as recently declassified CIA documents, Kevin Peraino tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of the key players, including Mao Zedong, President Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the influential first lady of the Republic of China. from the publisher

Lynne O. Ramer on Stables, Barns, Shantys, and Sheds

Today I am sharing my grandfather Lynne O. Ramer's articles about barns and sheds of his childhood in Milroy, PA in the early 1900s. Gramps sent his articles to Ben Meyer who shared them in his We Notice That column in the Lewistown Sentinel in the 1960s.
Joseph Sylvester Ramer and his second wife Barbara Rachel Reed Ramer were Lynne O. Ramer's grandparents.
The photo shows the Milroy, PA farm he lived on as a child.

Lots of Work and Fun-Making When Barns Flourished

Up in the Haymow
Being a Blue Hollow lad back in the days, when every famer had its great big and roomy barn, filling it was a lot of hard work. But there was something to compensate for it. There was lots of fun-making, too.

Up in the haymow there were also sheaves of wheat, oats, and corn stalks. The mow's floor consisted of scant, open-face planks where the food for the livestock had to be handled with tender care or it would be ruined.

To prevent spontaneous combustion and heatings and excess molds, causing fire to break out and perhaps burn the building to the ground, there had to be proper ventilation.

So the kids had to keep the hays and straws and sheaves in the most intricate manner. After these things began to settle down, the puzzle of getting out of it would have challenged the skill of an escape artist like Houdini. The kids had a job trying to untangle the mess.

It was hard on the kids, too, on a smotheringly hot day. In the haymows the harried youths dragged and tramped the hays until they actually dropped from sheer fatigue.

Remember, it was 108 degrees up there beneath the tin roof. Then the kids sweated, but in the winter time they almost froze up there, chutting the feeds down through the mow hole, down to the ever hungry horses and cows.

Yet, despite all this, it was like a paradise up there next to the cool tin roof on a rainy day. It was pleasant and relaxing, listening to the pitter-patter of the rain. Or the clank-clank of hail stones in sweet music as they descended on the corrugated galvanized roof.

'Twas no place to linger on sub-zero days, dragging the food supply to the mow holes. It was fully a 50-foot drop from the top of the mows to the barn floor below.
Early 1900s, John O'Dell on his farm near Capac, MI

 Knocked Out Cold

So the muscle-power of the cows and horses had to be called on to help. A one-inch hemp rope around the neck of Old Daisy, Old Bessy, or Old Dobbin, or Old Mary would pull the pitchfork holding sheaves up to the top.
Farm horses early 1900s. John O'Dell farm in Brown City, MI
This arrangement worked real well. But then one day Mary's colt whinnied at an unguarded moment. The rope was tightened as Mary tired to go to her baby and it caught the farm boy, who was tossed through the air "with the greatest of ease."

When he hit bottom he bounced off a heap of limestone. Result: The lad was knocked out cold. It was a long sleep for him before he woke up with the help of old Doctor Boyer*. Unconscious he was from 2 pm to 8 am the next day. The youngster had the "ride of his life," nearly the last ride.

When the thunder rumbled and the lightning flashed and the rain and hail pummeled the galvanized roof, nobody had to worry about being up in the haymow. They felt perfectly sage. There were four lightning rods. Ben Franklin proved a point with his kite.

If a lad got careless when the mows were being filled he ight disappear in the heap, falling through an unfloored section of the floor, reappearing again in the stable below--scaring a horse or cow half out of its wits.
Threshing in 1920. John O'Dell farm near Capac, MI

Thresher Comes Around

The time came when Homer Cressman** bought his throwing rig to separate the chaff from the grain. The thresher was set up. And soon the barn floors were littered with dust and chaff and the wheat and oats sheaves did fly.
Hay stack in early 1900s. Photo of the John Kuhn farm in Tonawanda NY
The cone-capped stack grew bigger and even bigger in height and width. There the livestock could munch later, but meanwhile the chickens followed the sifting chaff and grains away out into the meadows and fields.

Yes, the kids had lots of useful things to fill their lives. Unlike the youths today, they didn't need thrills such as some do nowadays--pulling over mail boxes, prowling rural lanes, scaring the people by the noise of their motorcycles.

Gone are the days and gone also are many of the old-fashioned barns which furnished so much work and play, not only for kids, but for all the family.
Barn raising and barn. John O'Dell farm near Capac, MI early 1900s.

Here’s What Goes Into the Barn and What Comes Out

Chicken Thief Surprised

Come, if you will, with us and we’ll take a look at the most important of all the farm buildings next to the farmer’s house. Namely, the barn. Let’s think of what goes on in them, what goes into them, and what comes out of them.
"tilling the soil" around 1920 involved a team of horses.
John O'Dell fam, Capac, MI

Lined up side by side are the various stables, three of them. First on the left come the horse (and colt) stables; next, in the center, come the bulls’ and calves’ stables, and on the right are the milk cow’s stables.

There are entries or runways between the rows, whence the brans, chops, grains, corns, hays fodders are dispensed into the mangers, troughs, racks, etc., from bins and haymows.

Stalls for the animals may be solid walled planks to prevent Old Dobbin from kicking Old Daisy. If there is nothing as substantial as the walls between the livestock, then merely a long chained to the ceiling, is poked though the hay and racks.  The log, swinging freely, gently touches the flanks or rumps of the horses, poking them and reminding them to stay in the middle of their domain.

The story is told of two young scamps who had stealthily come into the horse stables one night, seeking to get some roasting chickens for a dough bake at Potlicker Flat. {Note: Potlicker Flat was a real place!] The horses, let out to munch and sleep in the nearby meadows, had made room for the fowls to come in to roost for the night.

The kids had to work in the dark. One of them accidentally knocked against the log hanging from the ceiling. Like a pendulum, the big heavy log began to swing back and forth, finally sticking against the rump of one kid.

The one who was hit started to run away as fast as he could, yelling, “Charlie! Run! He got me!” He thought it was the framer, Andy Swartzell***, who hit him with a club.  Both of the lads, indeed all actors in the little episode, are now long gone.
Bringing in the hay early 1900s. Photo of John Kuhn on his farm in Tonawanda, NY

A Fall From Mow

Across the entire rear end of these runways we mentioned is a narrower runway for dragging feed to the animals. Across holes to the mows above are made, each one having a ladder to crawl up and down as one wishes.

A fall or jump from the haymow above or the straw mow or fodder mow to the heaped up pile below was a breath-taking thrill or a breath-taking thump, depending on whether it was intended or accidental. Many a farmer’s boy or even the farmer himself or a hired hand has been seriously hurt in one of these falls.

These horse stables and cow stables are cleansed daily (huh, well, maybe every day) but the colts and calves’ stables offal are allowed to accumulate on the floor.  That makes it easier for their shorter legs to reach the mangers and hay-fodder ricks.

Some accumulations remain all winter. Hence the spring cleaning is a task detested by the teen and pre-teen farm lads. When the oldsters aren’t watching some kids curl up in a wheelbarrow and read such smuggled literature as the Alger Books, the American Boy, Youth’s Home Companion, Jesse James, Liberty Boys of ’76. This is done between barrowsful.

Outside in the barnyard, too, are the straw stacks. There the munching, lunching cows and horses chomp away, but only as high as they can reach, say six to eight feet.  As a result the stack assumes a mushroom shape.

Roosters Lose Dignity

On occasions, tunnels are eaten straight through the stack and on rare occasions the pile tumbles over onto the cattle, sending them scampering and snorting.

Under the barn’s overshoot a clay-gravel path, an all-season access from the outside can be made to all stables. Two or three rock-salt boxes are handy. Also the water trough is under the overshot, so the feeders and drinkers can be out of the weather altogether.

In the troughs are horny chubs that tickle the noses of the cattle and tease the Rhode Island Red roosters which mostly fall in when pecking at a surfacing chub.  Lose all their fowlish dignity as they get a through dunking.

This is just a compressed resume of what goes on, into and out of stables in barns.  To which you can add your own imagination.  How about it?
John O'Dell barn near Capac, MI around 1920


Some Farmers Still Have A Shanty House Left

City folks are familiar with the vacation homes, which we recently described.  But there are still left county people having many different houses. They include at each farm the following: the shanty, the barn, the milk shed, the wood shed, the implement shed, the smoke house, the outhouse, and not forgetting the corn crib and granary, also the silo.

Now the shanty is most used of all.  Most of these are attached to the main dwelling, but some stand off by themselves.

So what is it used for?  Well, the shanty is merely a lean-to at rear of the farm house, used as a supplementary kitchen.  Or laundry. 

In a sense the shanty is an air-conditioned annex, to keep the boiling clothing on wash day from steaming up the kitchen, as well as eliminate the heat of canning, preserving, baking, etc. out of the summer kitchen. By air-conditioning we mean it’s cooler there than in the kitchen due to the opened and unscreened windows, during the summer time.

The shanty provides a means of preparing butchering dinners or holiday dinners or when the “city relatives” pile in on the farmer’s family unexpectedly.

In the winter it is not quite as warm as the kitchen, so that grandma, in her woolen shawl, can scrape the hog’s small intestines clean for the sausage-making. And all this without freezing her nimble fingers. 

If you ever tried to preserve jams, vegetables, and pickles all on the same stove, you can readily see how useful is that “extra stove” in the shanty.

We must not overlook the privacy of a shanty for a bath, either in a 12-inch basin or in a full-sized galvanized laundry tub. For both of these versions the bath must be taken in a stand-up position.

And when the soft (lye) soap skids across the floor, have no fear.  he soap can’t hurt the bare, splintery floor. So just gingerly trace the soap and retrieve it.

If you are fortunate enough to have like-minded cousins who want to take a scrubbing, you can exchange the scrub brush. Then both get a good going-over. While standing yet!

There really ain’t time, nor temperature, to play with sail boats or plastic toys else the water may begin to freeze before your toys float to the other side of the make-shift tub. You see, we can spare only one tea kettle full of hot water per person per week.  Rinsing is verboten.

Other functions of the shanty were for milk-seperatin’, butter churnin’, sausage grindin’, mush boilin’.
John O'Dell farm near Capac, MI around 1920
Snowbound in Barn
Now that all of these things are done for us, in national establishments, put up cartooned, canned, wrapped and shipped everywhere for immediate consumption, there is really no honest-to-goodness uses for a shanty.  (About as useless as a bath in a 21-day trip to the moon).

It was the custom to make all the different buildings inter-communicating in U or L formation so a person could walk from one end to the other without being exposed to the weather.
Why was this so? Because during a heavy snow the drifts might pile up 20 feet deep. Hence it was not a good idea to get snow-bound until the next spring in the barn. One might be marooned there and unable to separate the milk for a long time.

If the farmer and his family weren’t too finicky they could fetch the cows into the kitchen to milk, or the pigs to slop or the Rhode Island Reds to nest.
The fashion today is to have two homes or two places to live when the family is so minded where to have them located.  But that kind of life will never be as exciting as in the day when the shanty flourished! 

Sheds: Attached to Every Barn

Our story about the farm shanties naturally leads to another kind of building that always could be found nearby—the sheds. Let’s talk about a typical Blue Hollow shed located in one of the ravines in the east end of Kish Valley [Kishacoquillas Valley, known locally as both Kish Valley and Big Valle]. Here’s how it looked, say about the year 1915:

Like every barn, Blue Hollow’s has attached to it a shed, located at right angles to the higher barn roof. The shed generally becomes “all purpose,” for dozens of functions. In the back end of the shed are stored the harrows, the discer, the hay rakes, the tedder.

And in the forefront of the shed is the milk wagon, a light spring wagon, with no top to shield one from the weather. Then at the outer edge of the shed is a corn crib. Here are stored a few hundreds of bushels of corn.

The bottom and sides of the crib are lined with quarter-inch wire mesh to keep out the rats. But the mice find entrance and enough corn silk to make a dozen cozy nests, lined with chicken feathers and the fleece of sheep. But the mice consumption of corn kernels is not heavy due to the barn cat that keeps their number down.

Outside the crib door is a knotty old chopping block on which you cut corn-on-cobs into a dozen pieces with your trusty hatchet. There the barn fowls of all kinds can peck the kernels off the cob more easily and so the cobs will decompose in the nearby manure heap. Not only chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys gather for the feast, as do also the semi-wild guineas and semi-tame pigeons.

John O'Dell farm near Capac, MI around 1920
Implements Aplenty

To the other side of the shed is an assortment of things including a huge anvil mounted on a block, a few wooden horses to hold up any platform, a hand-operated forge and a boxful of coal.

Ranked against the stable side wall are these implements: Picks, hoes, rakes, grubbing pick, a 16-pound sledge hammer, a two-bitted axe, a crowbar or two, pieces of water pipe, iron stakes, etc.

Hanging of the wall are cross-cut saws, a crossback saw, regular woodsaws; a hacksaw, small hand axes, pip wrenches, monkey open- and closed-end wrenches, collars, hamess, fly netting, harnesses, whiffletrees, etc.---all of which need mending and re-riveting.

Oh, we forgot! There stands a 300-400 pound grindstone. And nearby is a stock of scythes, sickles, a cradle, cutter bars from mowers and reaper-binders, corn cutters, bush hooks---all needing tedious hours of turning and grinding and whetting.

Fastened to the wall are a 20-foot long, two-inch thick plank work benches side-by-side, with a few shelves, and drawers underneath for a grand assortment of boxes, cans, jars. The boxes once contained cut plug chewing tobacco. The cans were once full of paint.

As for the Mason glass jars, they were “stolen” from the missus’ cellar. In the receptacles were nails, screws, washers, cotter keys, nuts, bolts, glazier’s points, all sorts of rivets, hasps, hinges for small doors.

Busiest Spot on Farm

And in the large bins were hoops, hinges, clevises, snaps, open rings, closed rings, horseshoe nails, horseshoes, rasps, chisels, awls, punches.

There were barber-wire cutters, fence wire stretchers, also staples of all sizes. Ranked beyond the work bench were unused rolls of three different heights of fence and chicken fence and barbed wire, rolls of tar paper, and a parcel bundle of cedar shingles. There were shoe lasts for humans.

Over all was the layer of dust, mixed with chaff and chicken, pigeon and swallow offal.

On rainy days this was the busiest spot on the farm. Grinding edges of axes, scythes, cutter bars. This entailed the labor of chiseling off the rivets and installing new rivets, either by the anvil or on a handy length of rail from the Reichley**** Brother’s logging railroad, or from the Naginew***** or Shaeffer’s quarries. Yet, perhaps also from the Pennsy [Pennsylvania] Railroad.


* Old Doc Boyer appears on the 1910 census for Old Armgah Township  as  Dr. S. J. Boyer, age 53, with wife Emma E., age 42. On the 1920 Census Samuel J. Boyer is age 63 and lives with his wife Emma and their children Walter, age 13, and Roy, age 11. Samuel J. Boyer died in 1943 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Milroy, PA. His son Walter Wendell died of Typhoid fever at age 31; he was born Feb 3, 1857 and died in 1918. Walter worked as a telegraph operator for the Pennsylvania Rail Road.

**S. Homer Cressman appears on the Armagh Township census. He was born about 1859 and worked as a store clerk in 1880. He was widowed and a traveling salesman in 1920, living with his son Gilbert, daughter-in-law Minnie, and grandchildren George and Samuel, on Gilbert's farm. In 1930 he owned a saw mill.

*** According to his death certificate, Charles Andrew Swartzell was born Sept. 9, 1863 and died January 11, 1929. His parents were Andrew Szartzell and Mary Ann Aitkins. He married Ann C. Linthrust. His occupation was farmer. His death certificate was signed by Dr. S. J. Boyer.

****According to Lost Railroads, found at http://lostrailroads.com/about/: This railroad was built by Reichley Brothers to connect their operations with [the] tramroad Gotshall had constructed southwest from Poe Paddy, through Panther Hollow and past Dinkey Springs. It must have been built shortly after 1900, after they acquired the Monroe Kulp mill at Milroy and associated railroads and chose to abandon the original Reichley tramroad from Poe Paddy along Poe Creek.

According to a Armagh Township History from http://www.pagenweb.org/~mifflin/twp-history.html: *****Naginey [city] was named for Charles Naginey and is the site of a vast limestone quarry. It was also a station on the Milroy Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Month At the Library

I love my local library. This was book club week. We have a great core group of people.
 The display case held Coca Cola items.

 And of course there are quilts on display--with a winter theme.

 My friend Linda Pierce made this quilt last year.
I have nearly finished my next Great Gatsby block! Here is laid out for applique.
And we have enjoyed hearing the Detroit Symphony Orchestra twice this month! One at Orchestra Hall and once at neighborhood concert held in this amazing Temple.
I have one more book club coming up this month. It's going fast...but its been SO COLD that I don't worry about time flying by. I just want to get through this Arctic Blast!

What have you been doing this January?

The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

When I was a little girl I sometimes allowed my imagination to take me to dark places. Movies would run through my head after a thought like, "What would happen if Mom and Dad died?" I learned to push aside these 'what ifs' as I grew older.

But....what if...someone never was able to control these thoughts. What if they took over one's life, incessant and intrusive, so that with every moment one was confronted with the possibility of doom.

Barbara Claypole White's new book The Promise Between Us peels back the reality of people who live with the crippling 'what ifs'. Her character Katie has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A knife sends her into panic: what if she harmed someone with it? What if she killed with it? Before she was diagnosed and treated she abandoned her beloved husband and their child to save them from the acts she envisioned she might commit that would bring them harm.

Years later Katie unexpectedly finds her daughter Maisie in her life and recognizes the early symptoms of OCD. Somehow she must intervene and help her daughter before her life becomes the horror she knows so well. The complication is that Maisie believed that her mother had died.

Readers have loved this book, especially impressed by how White brings Katie's disease to life. We hear the internal dialoge of OCD and are shown how Katie self-talks to control it.

Along the journey we learn the tragic back stories of Katie as well as that of her husband and his best friend. Broken hearts and romance will be found in these pages.

The secondary story of the husband's PTSD, for me, was a bit too much for a book already brimming with broken people. The repetition of Katie's internal voices and the talk about how her daughter can control her thoughts took up a lot of space and slowed the story.

But who can blame White? In her Backstory page found here, we learn she is intimately knowledgeable about her subject matter. Her husband and their son has OCD. I commend the author for bringing understanding and insight. We are all better for it.

Readers will be propelled by the well-drawn characters and will adore Maisie. Book clubs can find lots to discuss with the help of the Reading Group Guide found here.

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

The Promise Between Us
Barbara Claypole White
Lake Union Press

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

I read this slender volume in an evening while my spouse was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie.


While he was vegging out to a feel-good wish fulfillment movie, I was reading a feel good wish fulfillment novel about a housewife estranged from her husband after the loss of two kids and a dog and his series of affairs, which housewife meets a frog man named Larry who escaped from a science lab where he underwent cruel tests and learned English with the help of electric shocks, so that Larry killed the scientists to escape, and the sad wife and Larry commence an affair that includes her hiding him in the guest room and serving him avocado salad and their enjoying night time swims and walks in other people's gardens, then some punks attack Larry and he has to defend himself and, well, the kids don't make it...


And the housewife's best friend is dating two men and her kids are troubled and the ending is very convoluted with the philandering husband meeting an appropriate end.

Did I wish I had watched the Hallmark movie instead of reading about a frogman creature learning about human experience and a housewife telling her story of alienation and loss and loneliness?

Heck, no.

Mrs. Caliban was first published in 1982, which explains the use of the phrase "pontificating" because I remember people did that back then, and author Rachel Ingalls had a flash of fame before people forgot her novel. But it was noticed by some very important writers such as Ursula la Guin and Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike and Eleanor Cotton (The Luminaries) and New Directions said it knocked their socks off and so they republished it this year and I am sure it will make connections with readers today.

Is Larry real or an alienated housewife's fantasy? Who cares. Just read it.

I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Mrs. Caliban
Rachel Ingalls
New Directions
ISBN 0811226697 (ISBN13: 9780811226691)