My review from the Burlington Times-News, Sunday, May 27, 2012
Gran Gran Satterfield is in her nineties, living alone in the kitchen house of the Missi...moreMy review from the Burlington Times-News, Sunday, May 27, 2012
Gran Gran Satterfield is in her nineties, living alone in the kitchen house of the Mississippi plantation where she was born and raised. Her days as a healer and midwife have come to an end as the tide of public opinion has turned against the old ways of healing, in favor of licensed doctors and sterile hospitals. When a young woman comes to Gran Gran for help “unfixing” a pregnancy, Gran Gran assists her. Months later, the woman is dead and her seven-year-old daughter, Violet, has been abandoned on Gran Gran’s doorstep Violet is deeply traumatized, and in an effort to reach out to her, Gran Gran talks. She begins with the loss of her own mother, seeking common ground with the sad and frightened child. As Gran Gran pulls at the gossamer threads of memory to weave a tale, her story is revealed. Gran Gran lost her mother when she was just a few days old. When plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield’s young daughter died of cholera, she took a newborn slave girl from her mother and brought her into the big house to rear. Amanda named the baby Granada, dressed her in her dead daughter’s clothes and treated her almost like a member of the family. Granada’s birth mother, Ella was sent to the Satterfield’s furthest-flung fields to keep her away from her daughter. As Granada grew, she became a source of embarrassment for Master Satterfield, and an object of amusement for their friends and neighbors. When Granada was twelve, Master Satterfield bought a new slave, named Polly Shine, from a trader in North Carolina. Polly was reputed to be a powerful healer, and Satterfield was desperate to save his field hand population, which was being decimated by a mysterious illness called “black tongue.” Polly was the real deal, and slaves who appeared to be little more than breathing corpses when she arrived, walked out of her hospital whole and healthy within a few weeks. As Polly’s reputation grew, so did her power on the plantation. When Polly told the master that she needed Granada to be her apprentice, he willingly complied. Over his wife’s protests, Satterfield banned Granada from the house and moved her into Polly’s cabin. As Polly trained Granada, she pushed the girl to “remember who she is.” Convinced that she belonged by Mistress Amanda’s side, Granada denied any connection to the field slaves. But as unrest on the plantation grew, Granada was pulled between two worlds. Ultimately, her choices would bring both crashing down. Author Jonathan Odell has crafted a gripping, beautiful and moving tale of the importance of memory and the healing power of stories. His female characters are strong, intelligent and powerful women, so amazingly wrought that I kept forgetting that the author is male. At its heart, The Healing is a treatise on the nature of freedom and the importance of knowing who we are and how we fit into the world. Add it to your summer reading list – you’ll be glad that you did! (less)
My review from the Sunday, March 4, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times-News.
October 25, 2008 promised to be another gorgeous day on the Great Barrie...moreMy review from the Sunday, March 4, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times-News.
October 25, 2008 promised to be another gorgeous day on the Great Barrier Reef for Jan and Dave Griffith. They loaded their boat, the Honey May, and headed out of Mackay Marina in Queensland, Australia with their blue cattle dog, Sophie, onboard as always. Sophie was truly a water dog. She grew up playing on the nearby beaches, and loved to swim in the surf. A seasoned sailor, Sophie had logged many nautical miles before that fateful October voyage. The trip began beautifully, with perfect temperatures, clear, blue skies and calm seas. Conditions worsened as the Griffiths motored past St. Bee’s Island. Dave and Jan were momentarily preoccupied as they bustled about preparing for the coming storm, and in an instant, their beloved Sophie was lost overboard. Dave, realizing that Sophie was missing, called for Jan to hit the man-overboard button and began frantically scanning the surrounding water for any sign of his dog. The Griffiths spent hours slowly retracing their path, alternately zigzagging through the rough sea and dropping anchor, hunting for Sophie. They knew that with every passing second, the odds that they’d find her safe and unharmed grew longer. Gut-wrenching guilt set in as Jan and Dave imagined their girl swimming through shark-infested waters or fighting against the raging currents. Lethal box jellyfish, poisonous sea snakes, and even the drumlines set to protect swimmers from sharks posed a great danger to a dog. They pictured her scared, alone, injured and exhausted. Heartsick, but certain they had done all they could, Dave and Jan turned the Honey May back onto her original course. The Griffiths spent a sleepless night moored at Scawfell Island, and began the journey back to Mackay in shock the next morning. They took the long route home, hoping to spot their Sophie along the way. Using binoculars, they combed the beaches of the small islands, wondering whether Sophie had found her way to land. They pulled into Mackay Marina empty-handed and broken-hearted later that day. As the Griffiths learned to navigate life without their much-loved dog, Sophie’s journey was just beginning. In early December, over a month after Sophie was lost at sea, a resident of Keswick Island spotted a blue cattle dog. Brian Kinderman was shocked to see a dog on Keswick, since nonnative animal species are prohibited on the island. He tried to catch the elusive dog, but finally lost her in the brush. By mid-December, sightings suggest that Sophie left Keswick Island and swam to St. Bees, which had a more readily accessible supply of food and fresh water. Sophie was spotted around St. Bees until the end of March, when QWPS rangers trapped her and returned her to the Griffith family. Sophie’s tale of endurance is a testimonial to the strength of the bond between pets and their people. Author Emma Pearse has penned a captivating, sweet story that any dog lover will enjoy. (less)
My review of this book will appear in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times News
We meet Victoria Jones on her eighteenth birthd...moreMy review of this book will appear in the Sunday, December 2, 2012 edition of the Burlington Times News
We meet Victoria Jones on her eighteenth birthday, the day of her emancipation from the foster care system. Abandoned as an infant, Victoria has bounced from foster home to foster home and finally to a series of impersonal group homes when it became evident to her social worker that she would never be adopted. Emancipation leaves Victoria with nowhere to turn. With no safety net and limited social and coping skills, she ends up sleeping in a public park, tending a stolen garden. Flowers, it seems, are the only things that wriggle through the cracks in Victoria’s prickly shell. Renata owns Bloom, a small florist shop in San Francisco. When Victoria approaches, dirty and disheveled with leaves in her hair, Renata takes pity on her, offering her five dollars to unload the day’s flower shipment. Quickly Renata recognizes Victoria’s natural talent with flowers, and hires her to assist with arrangements for weddings. Victoria’s arrangements are more than beautiful – each flower is carefully chosen for a specific purpose. A foster mother taught her the Victorian language of flowers, and Victoria weaves their meanings into her arrangements . Daffodils represent new beginnings, lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness, jonquil means desire, and hazel stands for reconciliation. Victoria’s reputation spreads, and clients seek her out, hoping that her flowers will fix the broken or disappointing parts of their lives. She listens carefully to each person and makes a list of the key words and phrases that best summarize their heart’s desires. As adept as Victoria is at sorting out the hopes, dreams and relationship issues of her customers, she is unable to reconcile herself with the shadows in her own past. A chance encounter with a vendor at the flower market brings her darkest secret and deepest regrets surging into the present, and Victoria must decide whether she can seek the forgiveness she craves in order to move forward and find happiness. I could not put this book down! My dear friend Karen put it in my hands when she returned it to the library, and told me to read it ASAP. I am so glad that she did. Victoria Jones is one of the most frustrating, heartbreaking, stubborn and endearing characters I have encountered in a while. I spent a fair amount of time wanting to shake her, because I was so involved in her story it hurt to watch her sabotage herself time and again. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s style reminds me quite a bit of Allen’s writing. Diffenbaugh’s enchanting story flows beautifully, compelling readers to keep turning the pages. I hope that she is already working on her next book, because I have added her to my must-read list. The Language of Flowers is an amazing, triumphant coming of age story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a beautiful meditation on love, trust, and exactly what binds families together. Just make sure you keep the tissue handy, because you’re going to need it! (less)
This book is going to take me a while to digest. On the surface, it is a compelling, page-turning read. Scratch that surface, and there's lots and lot...moreThis book is going to take me a while to digest. On the surface, it is a compelling, page-turning read. Scratch that surface, and there's lots and lots of food for thought. (less)