In her third novel, Sarah Collins Honenberger pays homage to the classic Salinger novel, Catcher in the Rye. Catcher, Caught is her way of hoping to rIn her third novel, Sarah Collins Honenberger pays homage to the classic Salinger novel, Catcher in the Rye. Catcher, Caught is her way of hoping to reconnect this generation with the story of Holden Caulfield and his coming of age journey. To accomplish this, she employs the narrative of Daniel Landon, a young man who has been diagnosed with leukemia and in his effort to deal with his illness uses Holden's journey as a guide book of sorts.
The story, told in Daniel's voice is fresh and incredibly engaging. The unique perspective given by his illness gives his voice a poignancy that touches the reader from the opening pages. The parallels between Daniel's and Holden's struggles are strong at times. They both experience a fundamental disconnect with their parents; Holden's disdain for the upper crust phoniness of his parents and Daniel's periodic impatience with his parents hippie lifestyle and the problems it causes him. (Chief among those problems is Daniel's parent's resistance to conventional Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.)
Daniel and Holden are each trying to understand the world with all its complexities and contradictory values and are each trying to reconcile their desires with their responsibilities. All of this in a world that tells them in one breath to act responsibly and in the next tells them they are still children.
While Catcher, Caught will stir memories for those who fondly recall reading Salinger's classic in their youth, it is not necessary to have read it to fully enjoy Honenberger's latest effort. As far as my personal experience goes. I read Catcher in the Rye for the first time when I was thirteen, and found myself identifying with Holden's feelings of alienation and frustration in the way only a teenager could truly do. When I read it again later, as an adult, I found that I couldn't connect with him in quite the same way.
My perspective had, of course changed and it was a different experience. As I read Catcher, Caught, I was able to recall quite vividly that first experience through Daniel's eyes. More importantly, I was able to know Daniel's character in a way that might not have been possible without his insights into Holden.
Daniel Landon and the way he deals with his illness, his family and the people and things that are important to him touches you in a way that Holden Caulfield's struggles may not have. Perhaps it is because of Daniel's illness and his urgency to experience all life can offer into a finite period of time. Possibly it may be that Daniel seems more invested in the life and feelings of others than Holden appears to. Whatever the reason, you will find yourself cheering for Daniel and hoping with all your heart that he finds his way and wins his personal struggle- not only with his illness, but with his need to understand and embrace everything life has to offer.
This time of year is great for sinking your teeth into a juicy mystery, and Mary Burton has delivered up two for us over the next two months.
The firstThis time of year is great for sinking your teeth into a juicy mystery, and Mary Burton has delivered up two for us over the next two months.
The first- January’s offering- Senseless is the story of Eva Rayburn, who returns to her home town of Alexandria, Virginia after serving ten years in prison for a crime she cannot remember committing. Hoping to regain some normalcy in her life and possibly gain some answers about what happened that dark night ten years past, Eva soon finds that her past is chasing her.
For those of you who fondly remember Terry McMillan's popular novel, Waiting to Exhale and the feature film adapted from it, you may have wondered whaFor those of you who fondly remember Terry McMillan's popular novel, Waiting to Exhale and the feature film adapted from it, you may have wondered what happened to the four close friends once they reached their moments of 'exhalation'. As of September you will no longer need to wonder. Terry McMillan has decided to revisit these four unique and interesting women and catch us up on where they are fifteen years later. When we last saw Bernadine, Robin , Savannah and Gloria they were all about to enter new phases in their lives. Bernadine had been awarded a divorce with a generous settlement and was ready to start her life anew. Likewise, Robin was awaiting the birth of her child, alone yet content. Gloria had found her true love and Savannah had found her own measure of happiness and fulfillment. In short, these four friends were happy. Of course, happiness is a transitional thing, a place that no one can remain forever, but it can be a destination to strive for. No matter what life throws at these four women, they do their best to keep that destination on their horizon. They accomplish that through the strength, loyalty, devotion and honesty that we first saw in Waiting to Exhale Terry McMillan does a wonderful job of stapling the past to the present without making the effort seemed forced. The loving and devoted tapestry of friendship these four women have shared over their lives is expanded without missing a thread, despite the changes they have endured. Although the essential elements of the characters of Bernadine, Robin , Savannah and Gloria remain true to the women we met in Waiting to Exhale, they have been changed and broadened by the experiences of the past fifteen years. Those experiences, in addition to the ever changing demands of their lives has altered the dynamics of their friendship in many ways. For one thing, they have to try a lot harder to maintain the connection which once was so effortless. Almost every woman with friendships of long standing can identify with that challenge. In many ways, these women are facing the same kind of challenges and problems they faced before, but because they are at different places in their lives those challenges take on a new dimension. Bernadine must once again learn to survive an awful betrayal, Savannah must learn how to trust again, Robin must learn how to live for herself, and Gloria must learn to let go and find strength in herself. As with the first book, McMillan has created women we can identify with, like and commiserate with - women we are or are friends with ourselves. They are true to life; flawed and inspiring, strong and weak, generous and petty, self-involved and self-sacrificing. Because of that, as McMillan takes us through this new chapter of their lives and friendship, we cheer for them, cry with them and wish them well as they make their way on the road to happiness. We are invested in the outcome, because they are each of us in one way or another, and we all want to "get to happy"- at least for as long as life will allow. Review by Brenda Seward ...more
Do you ever read your horoscope and think, ‘maybe that’s something I should consider’? In the new novel, Feng Shui Love, Lily gets a few astrologicalDo you ever read your horoscope and think, ‘maybe that’s something I should consider’? In the new novel, Feng Shui Love, Lily gets a few astrological warnings that are, for her, cosmically accurate. On her way to a seemingly, postcard perfect, second-honeymoon island getaway with her husband, Lily reads her horoscope: “This month you’ll see the true character of someone close to you, and it’s not a pretty sight. Things look up when travel opportunities arrive at the end of the month. And money finds you too.” Like most, her horoscope is irritatingly vague, while offering a tantalizing glimpse at information both good and bad. Little does Lily know at that moment how dead on those few lines turn out to be. Just as she is about to embark on the part of her life she has been waiting fifteen years for, the wheels fall off the wagon of her happy life, and she finds herself starting over. As Lily is trying to figure out the best way to pick up the broken pieces of her life, she makes the decision to reach out to her best friend- someone she has lost touch with over the years. Her friend, Brook, is immediately there for her, and offers Lily sanctuary in her home in New York. Brook is at her own personal and professional crossroads, so the timing of their reunion is perfect for both. On her way to her friend’s home, Lily makes a stopover at her parent’s home. While her mother is resistant to Lily closing the door on her marriage, she offers Lily a way to repair her broken love life- Feng Shui. A recent, but devoted convert to this discipline, Lily’s mother gives her a book on the subject that she proclaims will change Lily’s life. Armed with that, and the crystal her mother insists must be placed in her ‘love corner’, Lily departs for New York and her friend Brook. As Lily and Brook reconnect, they think back over old hurts and past glories, and set about doing everything they can to move forward toward love and happiness. At first, both are somewhat resistant to the Feng Shui concept of reorganizing their lives, but Lily’s mother is stubbornly insistent and eventually Brook and Lily become converts as well. As with any new and uncharted path, theirs is full of false starts and detours- not to mention a few bumps and potholes, but eventually things work out as they were destined to all along. Joni Davis and Lisa Hyatt chart the path of these two friends in fun and realistic ways, giving an entertaining glimpse into what is involved in the world of dating for the 40-something single (or single-again, as the case may be). They show how easy it is to get caught up in the pursuit of an ideal, and how that may just blind you to something that is right under your nose. As Lily and Brook set off red balloons with attached notes listing requirements of their heart’s desire, neither is entirely convinced they will ever find it. Lily, in particular, has a crisis of confidence along the way- especially when she discovers her love life isn’t the only thing that has been turned upside down. Feng Shui Love is a fun and engaging story that shows the path to true love is indeed a complicated one at times-( even with the help of Feng Shui and friends) but well worth the journey. ...more
Dead Weight is a novel based on a true story. It is the story of a nearly hundred-year-old injustice. One in which a man, wrongly accused and swiftlyDead Weight is a novel based on a true story. It is the story of a nearly hundred-year-old injustice. One in which a man, wrongly accused and swiftly prosecuted, paid the ultimate price for the prejudice, folly and deceit of others. Through the eyes of fictional character, Hal Hinson- a New York reporter sent to Charleston, South Carolina to cover the trial of a black man accused of killing a Jewish merchant, we meet the accused: Daniel Cornelius “Nealy” Duncan. Duncan is a quiet man, a baker’s assistant, who worked hard and never got into trouble. He was arrested for the murder days before he was to be married ,in a bizarre and contrived manner. The trial was swift, the conclusion foregone by those in power, his conviction was sealed before the first arguments were made. Nealy Duncan, sentenced to death by hanging, was the last man sentenced to die in this manner in Charleston. As Hinson chronicles Duncan’s trial and its conclusion, we see a more realistically diverse and sometimes darker side of a city long known for its gentility, grace and beauty. Far from being a dry recitation of an event that occurred ninety-nine years ago, this story comes alive in Humphrey’s hands. From the day that Hal Hinson arrives in Charleston (to cover a story he originally considers punishment from his editor) he is swept into a society and way of life that he is both enchanted and repulsed by. His guide, on arrival in Charleston, comes in the form of a precocious and street-smart orphan named Mojo. This unlikely duo forms a quick friendship of mutual admiration and protectiveness. Hinson, in his quest to find the truth surrounding the events of Duncan’s arrest and resulting conviction, makes other interesting alliances and finds himself involved in far more than the objective coverage of a murder trial. In truth, Dead Weight is far more than a legal thriller that chronicles the bigotry and injustice of a time long past. It is a story of love and devotion that transcends circumstance and time. It is testimony to the endurance of faith and both the simple goodness and awfully treachery that humans are capable of. Batt Humphreys, a Georgia native began his career in television news in Charleston, S.C. He spent 15 years at CBS News in New York before returning to his beloved south. He has petitioned the state of South Carolina to clear Duncan’s name. “The pardon is a chance to correct an injustice, to restore honor, even if it never connects to his immediate family. For those who believe in the continuity of souls, somewhere he will know and somehow we will have helped restore what was taken from him.” ...more
One of my great loves, other than books, has always been the study of history. More often than not, my attention was drawn, not to the great and widelOne of my great loves, other than books, has always been the study of history. More often than not, my attention was drawn, not to the great and widely known stories that we learn in the schoolroom as children, but the small and little known parts of history. Those moments, which in their own way, led to the epic events recorded in history books. As we focus on Black History this month, I wanted to draw your attention to a book you may not have heard of- The Education of Mr. Mayfield. This book by David Magee focuses on a small group of people who played a part in the nurturing of an artistic talent that may never have been known. A voice that would have been silenced due to the prevailing ignorance and injustice of the time. The story of how W.B Mayfield’s artistic talent came to the attention of the head of the new Art Department at the University of Mississippi is the result of a series of unrelated events that had a lasting impact for all those involved. Most know the story of James Meredith’s groundbreaking and arduous path to become the first black person to gain admittance to the then all white University of Mississippi, or “Ole Miss” as it is widely known. We know that it took a Federal mandate and escort to allow Meredith to cross the doors into this venerable state institution, and that it occurred under the cloud of riot, which resulted in two deaths. What most do not know is that more than ten years earlier a young black man named W.B Mayfield had been receiving an education in art at Ole Miss. Mr. Mayfield was not officially enrolled at the university. It would have been against the law at that time. The education of W.B Mayfield at Ole Miss would have been impossible without the help and understanding of the newly appointed head of the Ole Miss art department, Stuart Purser. Purser happened upon Mayfield and his art collection on a weekend road trip to a nearby town, and was intrigued and enchanted by what he saw. Upon learning that Mayfield had never received any sort of formal training, Purser came up with an idea- an idea that would give Mayfield a steady income and an education at the same time. Hiding him in plain sight, as janitor in the art department and caretaker of the university’s gallery, Mayfield took classes, along with white students, from an adjoining broom closet. Other like-minded and sympathetic members of the faculty aided Purser in his tutelage of Mayfield during his two-year stay at the University of Mississippi. Mayfield’s talent even came to the attention of another illustrious member of community- Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner. Viewed by today’s standards, Mayfield’s secret and segregated education may seem like nothing more than a token gesture, but it was in fact quite daring and innovative. While Purser was only with Mayfield at University of Mississippi for two short years, the impact he and others had on Mayfield would last throughout his life. Purser opened the door for Mayfield and others like him throughout his academic career, and while this book focuses on Mr. Mayfield’s life and artistic career, it is truly the story of both men. It is also the story of the University of Mississippi’s slow and sometimes troubled transition into the future. David Magee has a long history of association with the university, beginning with his childhood days when he played about the campus where his father taught and where he later attended himself. He chronicles the journey of Purser, Mayfield and Ole Miss itself with diligent care and honesty. The Education of Mr. Mayfield is one of those untold stories in history that deserves a place of honor alongside the bold headlines that followed it. It is a story of one man’s compassion and sense of justice and how that act allowed another to shed beauty onto a sometimes ugly world. Review by Brenda Seward, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts www.simplepleasuresbooksandgifts.com ...more
This book is a poignantly nostalgic look back at a time that was much simpler, but also incredibly complex. It was a time when images and sentiments wThis book is a poignantly nostalgic look back at a time that was much simpler, but also incredibly complex. It was a time when images and sentiments were exchanged through words on a page, or a far away voice on the radio. It was a time just before the world changed forever. When I first read the synopsis for The Postmistress, I knew it would go to the top of my stack of “must read” advance copies. The story begins in the fall of 1940, before the United States has fully awakened to what was going on in the rest of the world. A time when Pearl Harbor was just some distant post in the Pacific few had ever heard of. The story takes place both in London, England (during the peak of the Blitz) and a small town in Cape Cod, from the perspective of three vastly different women. Of the three, the two main perspectives come from the title character; Iris James, the postmistress of the small Cape Cod town of Franklin, Massachusetts and Frankie Bard a “radio gal” reporting with Edward R. Murrow from London during the Blitz. The other view comes from Emma Fitch, a shy new bride in a new town. She has married Dr. Will Fitch, a returning native to Franklin. Dr. Fitch has a past to overcome- a past of which his new wife is unaware- and all the accompanying emotional baggage to go along with it. Frankie Bard gives us an unvarnished view of London during the time of the Blitz. One that is daring and heartbreakingly poignant. Not only do we get a glimpse at what it was like for those living moment to moment, knowing that at any time a bomb could alter their world forever. We also see their unerring desire to try to wrench whatever normality possible from a horribly abnormal environment. In addition, we see how ignorant the rest of the world- especially the U.S- was to the plight of Jews in Europe at his time. When a colleague of Frankie’s (who was looking into this) dies in a bombing, Frankie takes on her friend’s mission and begins the daunting task of documenting the story of Jewish families trying to flee Europe. Little does she know the impact she has had on listeners across the ocean in America or the future impact she will have. In the small town of Franklin, Iris does her best to carry out her duties as postmistress- a responsibility she takes quite seriously. With the world outside seeming to be coming apart at the seams, Iris tries her best to hold on to the order and discipline of her duties and how the execution of those duties affect the people in Franklin. There is one instance in particular when Iris becomes conflicted over her responsibilities, and that conflict adds yet another layer of texture to an already intriguing and complex tale. The Postmistress is certainly a story of another, perhaps simpler, time, but it has an immediacy and relevance in our time as well. It is the story of the small moments that can affect us all in huge ways. The impact of a moment of inattention or a waylaid letter can have. It tells us that it is not the large moments that make up our lives, but very often the small, seemingly insignificant things that determine our path. It is a story that will hold you, move you, and stay with you long after you have turned the last page. Amy Einhorn Books, a member of the Penguin Group, will release The Postmistress in February 2010.
Review by Brenda Seward Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts ...more
One of the joys of being a bookseller is to get a chance to read new books before they are generally available. When we receive shipments of these advOne of the joys of being a bookseller is to get a chance to read new books before they are generally available. When we receive shipments of these advance copies from publishers and sometimes the authors themselves, it’s a little like Christmas morning or our birthday. For one- they are gifts (at least we look at them that way). Secondly, they sometimes include something we heard about and badly wanted. Other times we find they include a wonderful surprise- one that we were unaware of, but simply fall in love with. Receiving Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was my wonderful surprise. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt chronicles the young and turbulent life of the title character, Cecelia Honeycutt. She is an exceptionally bright and sweet young girl who is forced to grow up with a mostly absent father and a mother who is increasingly absent from reality. While her mother bemoans her exile north, to Ohio, away from her beloved Georgia and escapes from reality by reliving her beauty-queen glory days, CeeCee is left to her own devices. CeeCee’s only salvation during her mother’s mental decline is an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Odell and her books. By the time CeeCee turns twelve, her mother (and she, by relation) have become the joke of the town. When her mother dies in a tragic accident at the beginning of that summer, the young girl has terribly mixed feelings. While she is sad over her mother’s death, she is also relieved at no longer having to carry the burden of both watching over her as well as having to endure the embarrassment and ridicule caused by her mother’s antics. She is also well aware that now her only parent is a father who has spent the better part of her life ignoring her. Even that slim thread of security is severed when her father announces he is sending her away to live with someone she has never met- her great-aunt in Savannah, Georgia. Initially resistant to the idea of leaving everything she has ever know- most especially her beloved neighbor Mrs. Odell- CeeCee soon sees her exodus south as a new start. By the time CeeCee piles into her Aunt Tootie’s flashy Packard convertible with her clothes and her collection of books, she is ready to start the next chapter in her (as Mrs. Odell puts it) “life book”. Upon arrival in Savannah, CeeCee is introduced to a different kind of life and a new way of looking at things. For a child who has spent the majority of her life virtually motherless, CeeCee suddenly finds herself surrounded by surrogate mother figures. From her effervescent Aunt Tootie, to the wise and loving housekeeper Oletta, and a colorful cast of others who populate CeeCee’s new life, she learns and heals, as well as discovering that a wonderful life can be found outside of a book as well as between the pages of one. Set in Savannah in the 1960’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt touches on some of the racial issues of that time, but it does so in a wonderfully deft way. These issues are seen from CeeCee’s perspective (as is the entirety of the book) but they are given both a wide and deeply personal scope. Although those issues are not a large theme throughout, they are shown in a wonderfully poignant way that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. More than anything, this book is a story of mothers and daughters… of all kinds. Also one of love, faith, friendship and forgiveness -in all its forms. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will be available in January 2010 from Penguin Books and I highly recommend that you put it on your winter reading wish list. Once you find yourself among its pages you will be transported, along with CeeCee, to the warm breezes of Savannah –laughing and crying with them along the way. When the journey comes to the end, you will be sad to leave them behind and wish you could stay forever. By Brenda Seward Owner, Simple Pleasures Books & Gifts ...more
An amazing journey story. With inspirational nods to Harry Chapin and Flannery O'Conner, Baker tells the story of Harry Ducharme, a down and out talk-An amazing journey story. With inspirational nods to Harry Chapin and Flannery O'Conner, Baker tells the story of Harry Ducharme, a down and out talk-radio host who has burned his personal and professional bridges and lands in St. Augustine, Fla. to start a new life. While this seems like one man's journey, it is the collective tale of everyone involved even slightly in Harry's life. Through a strange confluence of seemingly random events, several strangers are brought together around a common purpose, and as you read it, you too feel as though you've been included in their journey. This is a wonderful story that touches you, amuses you and gives you a glimpse into the importance of seemingly small , random gestures and how very important they can be. ...more