Just a Peek Through a Secret Door

This morning at Mass, Father Krzysztof spoke of those moments of grace when a person experiences a flash of insight where revelation arises.  He talked about the importance of taking pause and giving time to reflect upon these insights in order that these not disappear into memory, but rather, so that they might impact the present moment, our actions or possibly even the course of our lives.

He began with the story of a night when the stars fell.  Over 200,000 meteors blazed through the night and into the morning of November 12, 1833, astounding people of the entire world. Can you imagine how such a sight such as this might take your breath away?  I know that almost every day, I feel that I’m watching 200,000 meteors flying across a dark sky.  In fact, I feel this way every time I am with my grandson.

In the telling of this story, I reflected a little on the circle I walk each day at the river and how by taking pause, I come to an experience of peaceful revelation and renewal.

I also remembered my student’s magic journals, written over the years.  Based on the journals written by protagonist, Douglas Spaulding, of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, I asked my students to write down their daily revelations in a ‘magic journal’.  Some of the students strongly disliked these.  And, a lot of the time, their parents disliked them more.

But, as I pondered these matters today at Mass, I have no regrets for my efforts with these students.  This is a practice of ‘noticing’ that I deeply treasure.  If the students approached this journal with a lack of sincerity and if my efforts were not appreciated by parents, it matters not…to this day, I am grateful that I followed through with this exercise.  This is insight that we can all benefit from.

Tanya Tagala and Sheila Watt-Cloutier at Convention

Thursday was a beautiful day. Cayley and I attended Teacher’s Convention together.  I’m proud that my daughter has chosen the teaching profession and prouder, still, that she takes her profession to heart.  She is a strong woman.  We share in a lot of the same concerns for our planet and its people.  We also really believe that there’s a lot of power in education and that it is essential to change, healthy perceptions and strength of character.

I have been blessed that over the last while, I’ve had a number of strong women coming into my circle,  These include artists, writers, mentors and friends. I feel in awe of their abilities to inspire and build up communities, families and their own experiences in so many impacting ways.  Strong women have always been in my life; don’t get me wrong.  But, recently, I’ve been really looking at what these women have done to influence me.  I’m noticing them more.

Our sessions in the afternoon began with a talk by Tanya Tagala, author of Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations.  (No photos for any convention sessions, so, I’m sharing one of the Massey Hall lectures delivered by Tanya…very similar content.)

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This was a very powerful talk, delivered with humour, honesty and generosity.  Tanya’s first hand experiences and personal narratives increased our understanding of our story as Canadians.  I know that many of my readers do not feel as I do on issues of Indigenous peoples and their rights.  We are willing to fight for the rights of others, but so often neglect our responsibilities to our Indigenous, Metis and Inuit neighbours across the nation.  I just don’t see how we can walk away from the treaties that our ancestors signed, in good faith.  We are all treaty people.  This is not an imagined past.

I value Tanya’s work; her writing and her voice.  She is strong and positive and she speaks the truth.  Every child deserves safety, clean water and shelter….it is not a child’s fault that they were born under the weight of history!

Cayley and I went for a movement break after the talk.  We were quiet for the most part, but talked a bit about the open mic question session and what questions we feel are still unanswered for us. We were reviewing, in our minds, what needs to happen to shift our delivery of content in our classrooms.  It was lovely to meet up with Lana and Heather during the break.

Next, we heard, in the same hall, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a beautiful woman who I had met a Mount Royal University some years ago, with my sister-friend, Karen.   I feel blessed to have had a second opportunity to hear Sheila speak and encourage my readers to take the opportunity when you can.  Please read her book, The Right to Be Cold.

Sheila shared a great deal of information and global concern for the melting north and the melting permafrost.  We need this global cooling system.  There are species that now arrive in the north, never-identified by the Inuit peoples.  This strikes me as a manifestation of our consumption and greed.  It is so easy to forget Canada’s north, abandoning her for all of the social and economic concerns of the south.  We need to make these connections and be more deliberate in our protection of her.

There were such stiff rules about picture taking…and procedural rules around book-signing, but Cayley managed to grab a quick photo from a distance of Sheila and me, together, in conversation.

This is not a very becoming photograph…but…I took an opportunity to chat, give a context and express my interest.  Sheila is a beautiful, authentic and very smart woman who has accomplished great and wonderful things in her life.  Thanks, Cayley for sitting on the sidelines and capturing this engagement.  Does it seem like anyone around me is concerned?

After the session, Cayley and I went To Bar Anna Bella’s for a cocktail and to bond.  It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and we were all on our own.  I had the Osmoz Gin from France.  Yum!!  Magic!

As we left, the winter festival was setting up.  I found it ironic and a little sad that this is what met us just around the corner.  Interesting that a great big ‘plastic’ igloo should appear out of nowhere.  Calgary moved on to the Glow Festival.

 

 

 

 

Greenwood by Michael Christie

I met Micheal Christie at Wordfest, here in Calgary, this year.  Little did I know that a single reading and a very short little narrative shared about a coin of wood from a tree on his own lot, would lead me to my favourite book of 2019!

Greenwood is exceptional from beginning to end.  If there is any weakness at all, it is in the character Jake and the segments written in the context of 2038.  I wanted to get that out of the way, immediately.  But, as the depth of the other characters emerges, the reader feels as though they have come to know a family and its related friends and enemies deeply.  I was moved by this book so much.

There were some really personal reasons why I connected with this novel, but I highly recommend it because I believe that every reader is going to respond just as positively, and perhaps for other reasons.

First, I treasure the book, Greenwood, because it is well-written.  Michael Christie is a relatively young author, having previously been a skate boarder.  His other accomplishments include The Beggar’s Garden and If I Fall;If I Die.

His debut novel (and of course I will be finding it and reading it) was The Beggar’s Garden.  Apparently this is a book of nine linked stories and similar to Greenwood, it interests itself in characters that are easily ignored and who are experiencing authentic suffering, oft-times brought on by choices they have made.  In other words, his characterization is entirely honest and believable.

I am disappointed that Greenwood was merely longlisted for the Giller Prize.  Reviews on Goodreads are overwhelmingly positive.  I always go there after reading a book, not before.

Recently, I have read some disappointing books.  Picking up The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff, (The Orphan’s Tale) I was left questioning the flat characters, the undeveloped romances and the lack of attention to the actual code senders, highlighted even in the title. The Girls by Emma Cline and The Huntress by Kate Quinn left me equally disappointed, for similar reasons.  The characters had no guts and their narratives felt simplistic.  In The Huntress, I felt that the focus of the novel needed to remain with the female pilots, but taking World War II settings and trying to build romances is always a wee bit challenging.  While my own readers will find a number of positive reviews about each of these three novels, they did not appeal to me and my own sensibilities. I am using them as a contrast to Greenwood because everything that was lacking in them was delivered by Michael Christie.

In Quill and Quire, a review on his book, If I Fall, If I Die, published in 2015, holds true for Greenwood, as well.

…This atmospheric work of gritty realism explores themes of class mobility, self-determination, and the impact of mental illness…

The writing in Greenwood is descriptive, eloquent and the syntax, remarkable.  While the structure is complex, it flows and I found myself buried in what is commonly referred to as a page-turner.  Harris, Everett, Liam and Willow very-much entered into my life.  Their stories were fraught with struggle, lies, omissions and these vulnerabilities built the tension that captured my heart.

I am not going to summarize the book in this review…I don’t like to do that.  I will carry on sharing my personal reasons for treasuring this book.

Having once lost a treasured journal of my own,  and on another occasion, having had someone take my personal journal and read it, the story of Euphemia Baxter’s journal became a thread that was very important to me throughout the book.  The Secret and Private Thinkings and Doings of Euphemia Baxter  is an object of real importance to me in the reading.

The metaphorical/symbolic presence of trees is another element that won my heart.  Both poetic and inspiring this exploration is seldom accomplished by any other fiction writer.

My own interest in the genealogy of my family is also a passion and delight. Once finished this novel, I felt as though I’ve learned about the Greenwood family in its depths.  I celebrate the foibles and mistakes of the family members and found that part of the writing to be authentic and true.

And finally, my interest in trees, the lives of trees and the stewardship that they require is right up there in my concerns and my interests.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Michael Christie and highly recommend.  My new favourite!  Greenwood!

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Remembrance Day 2019: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Yesterday I heard two presenters say that Remembrance Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.

Like everyone else, I am disappointed that the Don Cherry fiasco stole so much from the highlights of a beautiful day remembering those soldiers in our families and in our Nation who offered the ultimate sacrifice in past wars, Afghanistan and because of selfless service.

I was really pleased about attending the commemoration at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium this year and taking in the various rituals, but indoors, while cozy warm.  Last year, we headed to the cenotaph downtown and it got a bit cold at times, although it was also an amazing experience.  Next year, the field of crosses.

The seats were assigned, as we arrived.  This created a sense of calm and order.  Beautiful music was provided by the HMCS Tecumseh Band along with Jeanette Embree, Detachment Commander, CF Recruiting Center, Director of Music, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.  What a lovely repertoire.

I thought about my Dad while singing this hymn.  I used to sit next to Mom in the Protestant Chapel pews while Dad directed or sang in the choir.  I felt them beside me yesterday…and I felt surrounded by my family, many who have served.  My Great Uncle Joseph Gallant gave the ultimate sacrifice, as did my Great Grandfather John Moors.  This hymn was a perfect one to bring everyone home to me.

While we were prompted to save our applause until the very end of the laying of the wreaths, two of our Veterans from the Colonel Belcher caused our hearts to stir and we broke into wild applause.  I cried my face off at these points in the service, as well as during the Last Post.  Our friend, Helena, laid a wreath on behalf of the Alberta Retired Teachers.  We were very proud of her for representing us.

After the commemorative service, and as we were leaving, I noticed that Ralph MacLean, the 97 year old Veteran who had served with Canadians in Hong Kong in 1941.  Please follow the link and listen to his story on the Memory Project.  Through various circumstances and very quickly, I connected with Ralph’s son, daughter and grandson, author of Forgiveness, author Mark Sakamoto.  

I won’t soon forget the kind hearts of Ralph’s family.

I had the opportunity to exchange quite a number of stories with Ralph and I feel that it was a huge blessing to meet him.  I will be visiting him at the Colonel Belcher.

As I took my evening walk, slow around the circle because Max is ailing badly, I took in the beauty of the day, my friendships with Janet and Pat, my children, the freedoms I enjoy.  I thought about my family and their huge military connections.  I contemplated including their photographs here…but, I’m leaving the images of their faces and my research in my heart.  I’ll leave it all up to peace…the sky…the river.  I will always Remember.

 

 

Imaginairium: Wordfest 2019

The days are getting crisp…things are going to sleep for the winter.  I’m not writing as much, but I AM reading.  When this weather arrives, it’s wonderful to curl up and read.  In preparation for Wordfest, I read Birth House for the second time and loved it just a much or more than the first.

Birth House by Ami McKay is right up there among my favourite books.  I’ve read a lot of books by this time and so, there can never be a favourite, but there are heaps of favourites.  I couldn’t afford the time or the money for a lot of sessions at Wordfest’s annual event, however, I made certain to register for two of the sessions where Ami would be speaking and I purchased her most recent book, a memoir, Daughter of Family G.

The first session was delightful, a Cabinet of Curiosities, and featured a number of writers including Ami.  These authors each brought a single object to share, an item that connected with their books, process or lives.  It was an intriguing grouping, covering a big array of topics and styles of writing.  I picked up a few books that night.

Anthony De Sa shared a GI Joe camo jacket.  He shared a heartfelt story that I will not soon forget about Christmas at home and a loving gesture from his mother.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.  Anthony is writer of Children of the Moon.  This is now in my collection and I am looking forward to reading it.  Eloquent!

Marina Endicott shared her first Greek book.  It was a book that her Greek Teacher gave to her.  “Wherever you go, there you find your teacher’.  Her teacher, she shared, was her first home.

Cecil Foster writes for his grandmother.  His talismans are ideas.  As he writes, he takes pause and contemplates what might make his grandmother laugh or what might make her cry.  The material, he described, doesn’t really matter.  The idea matters.  He lifted a glass at the conclusion of his presentation and made a toast to his grandmother.  His most recent book is on my ‘to read’ list, They Call Me George.

Michael Christie’s new book, Greenwood, is also in my collection.  He shared with us the story of building his new home on Galiano Island and about how, during a huge storm on the family’s first days in the house, blew over a tree that crashed into the family Subaru.  He shared a slice/coin of the big branch that caused the destruction.  His reading caused me to weep.

A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions and half-truths that exists at the root of every family’s origin story. (From McClelland ​​​​​​& Stewart)

Ami McKay shared something her mother/grandmother said, “All of the flowers that our blooming in our todays are to be enjoyed because of the seeds that were planted in our yesterdays.”

Terry Fallis was very animated and shared several items via Powerpoint imagery; his fountain pen collection, a framed image of Robertson Davies and an old typewriter that he keeps close by.

And finally, Anosh Irani shared a map of one district in Bombay.  His story and the poetic gifts that he shared that evening, were beautiful.  I purchased his book, The Parcel.

What a tremendous evening.  Thank you, Wordfest.

The next day, I had the opportunity to hear Ami McKay talk about her family, in detail, and her struggles and strength as both connect with her life.  The initial disease suffered by my brother was Colorectal Cancer and so I was very interested in what Ami shared about her family’s journey with Lynch Syndrome.  I really appreciated the time that Ami took with me personally as I found myself first in line to have my books signed by her.  This was an inspiring book talk and I am presently 100 pages in to the book, Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate

I met Aracely outside of the Memorial Branch library.  Aracely is the moderator for the book discussions that I enjoy at the Fish Creek Library once a month.  She is smart, fun and very generous.  She is also in love with reading!  I was swooped up by her enthusiasm and headed over to the Central Branch for the Humble the Poet presentation.  Am I ever glad I went!  Such a timely and inspiring talk!  While I didn’t purchase it that evening, I’ve added Things No One Else Can Teach Us, to my list.

Good to meet dear friends, Diane, Bill, Catherine and Bob, sitting directly behind me.

Wordfest never disappoints.  I hope that next year I have it in my schedule to take in even more of the book talks.  They open up the mind, the heart and put you in touch with other big time readers!  Thank you, Wordfest!

Autumn Mash Up

I am a single woman, in the last decades of my life, and sometimes I lay my head down on my pillow at the end of a busy day and wonder about being solitary in the world.  My life plays through my mind like a thin thread of film, projected on the dark wall across from me.  I am both in awe and fearful.  My life, alone, is a peaceful one.  Perhaps this is what was always meant to be.  But that acceptance and peace does not necessarily keep me from looking at the connection that others have in their partnered lives.

Autumn often causes this rerun, the movie of over sixty autumns that I can remember.  In every other autumn I would not have written the previous paragraph down, especially not in this format, perhaps in a private journal.  But, now, how does it really matter?

I remember a moment in a single engine Cessna, somewhere over Wisconsin.  We were flying north into Duluth when we got into difficulty and with time, our cloud ceiling was at 200 and then 100 and our pilot was requesting permission to land on a highway, the only visual reference we had.  Knowing that there were towers in the area and knowing that our pilot only had visual rating was frightening.  I clung to my then-partner’s hands, both of them.  Averting the first option, the wings bowed deeply sideways into the white cloud as we banked to go south and out of the fog/cloud.  When we came around,  the tree tops were an arm’s length from the plane’s belly.  I remember them as though it was yesterday.  They were conifers.  I kept saying, “The trees.  The trees.”  Not yelling and not particularly panicked.  This was a nightmare.  I had time to think, “I wonder how Mom and Dad will find me.”  I let go of my partner’s hand.  Instinctively I knew, ‘in the end I face this all alone.’

And I do.

Winter is coming.  A family of bald eagles has taught me much these past months but for several weeks, the juveniles have been distant, sent out of this territory to hunt, fish and find their own way.  The female came to some demise and is now gone.  The male has sheltered and fed the young.  A new sub adult has made herself known and has done multiple demonstrations for the juveniles.  She is a beautiful strong huntress.  The male has been close to her, but it seems that they are always in some wild discussion, resistant and yet set on a path.  Who knows what spring will bring.  It was only in the first snowfall that the youngsters returned to their nesting territory, bleating to the cold wind, about their fears and their challenges.  It was the day before yesterday’s snow that both the male and female arrived and consoled me with their familiar roosts in their favourite tree branches.  These beautiful raptors act as a unit, but live deeply their singular lives…it is what they must do to survive and for the species to survive.

These photographs were taken over these few weeks of Autumn..in no particular order.  They capture the prayers and the beauty and the journey of a single woman in a very beautiful world.

 

What I Didn’t Photograph in an Hour

Max and I walked at the Bow River when the light was flat.  The sky was cool white-grey on warm white-grey and I thought that it was interesting that I could see one thick layer on top of the other and that there was no part of white that seemed transparent.  The sky was a panel of two colours, layered.  In front of the panel, brilliant white snowflakes fell, angled, to the ground.  The wind was bitter.  I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and hair and soon after, also the hood to my coat.  My cheeks were cold, but the wind was to my back, definitely pushing us from the north.  We were walking in a blizzard.  The landscape was softened in a white fog and the river was umber/ultramarine dark.

I stood still beside Lauren’s bench and looked at my phone.  A string of little bells had set off earlier and I knew that it was my daughter.  Some people write about things in very lengthy threads.  Some break their ideas into little bits and send them like jewels across time and space and through this abstract world of possibility and connection.  My daughter’s loving messages came to me…I typed, in return…

“Teachers earn their wage.”

“I’m worried about my eagles, especially the youngsters.”

“I’m booking off tomorrow.”

“I love you.”

She replied, “Love you too”

At her ‘love you too’  (and you likely won’t believe this), one of the juveniles, deepest umber and back etched in a layer of snow, flew directly in front of and past me, over the churning river, heading south on the cold wind, his wing span, forgotten.  Yesterday, in autumn, I saw both Dad and his new woman and that had given me a lot of peace.  I know that everything is natural to these raptors, but in my depth of gratitude for what pleasure they have brought to me, I am concerned, in the same way as a person is concerned for any creature that faces such a brutal winter.

Max spooked.  He and I saw the white-tail at the same time.  She thought she needed to bolt, but I assured her very quickly by moving Max and I the opposite direction and instantaneously averted my eyes and forced my excited dog to submit to me.  We walked closer to the water.

I found it interesting that the gulls were so active, weaving in and out of one another and skimming the surface of the water.  These gulls have a huge wing span.  And they seem very hardy, performing every sort of maneuver, often directly into the wind.  I stood still, very close to the river’s edge, and watched them.  Max nuzzled his snout deep into the cold snow, now and then, eating a bit.

While foot falls seemed swallowed by the snow and sounds were muffled, airplanes overhead were loud and interfered with the great mystery that is always lurking around each bend, the unknown, the hidden…waiting through every season, especially when a woman and her dog are alone, unremarkable, quiet.

My Canon was warm next to my chest and zipped under my winter jacket.  My phone rested in my right hand pocket.  I grabbed it and snapped three photographs of the distinctive textures of shrubs, still fully leaved, having lost the sense of autumn far too quickly.

A cacophony erupted from the east and over our heads, flew, in perfect formation and with winged concavity in synchronized motion, a huge number of Canada geese.  I would have snapped a photograph.  Such a beautiful pattern against the backdrop of our second big snow.  They strategically came to rest in the shallow channel of water that separates the small island from me.  A loud bit of sorting, their voices raised havoc on the river, the gulls, now, engaged in the mix up.

Once stepping into the deep woods, I turned my eyes upward in order to look for the dark form of the juvenile, but he did not reappear, so he must have gone beyond.  The snow pelted my face, not as much flakes as crystals.  I naturally opened my mouth.  I brought my face down, in gratitude, for having seen him at all.  The sky was turning a darker shade of grey and so I continued through the tall grass, now weighted down with snow and fallen across the worn path of summer.

Eastern starlings, many of them, lifted up and out of the golden brown canopy in unison, seeming alarmed but uncertain of where to alight.  It was as though they were of one mind…but, what part of that machine would decide/move/land and why would all of the others follow?  They disappeared.  I wondered if I had actually witnessed this.

Heading back on the groomed pathway and then once again, cutting through the trees, I saw her surrounded in the shrubs and wearing an aura or a crown of golden leaves.  Her eyes were deep black, dark pools of gentleness, her nose, just as dark.  I cautioned Max.  She stood perfectly still in an almost-grey silhouette.  I spoke assuring words for absolutely no reason until we had passed.

These are the moments at the river.

This is a culmination of an hour, not snapping photographs.  This is how people used to remember.

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Recently, I’ve found myself in the enviable position of reading during the day, instead of just before bed.  Reading nicely places another narrative in my head and I no longer ruminate about absolutely everything that’s happening in my own life, right before bed.  Naturally a worrier, my own life used to keep me up at night.

One of the books I read last month was one of a trilogy by Rachel Cusk, Outline.  I’m presently reading the second, Transit.

The structure and approach to Cusk’s writing in Outline is fascinating.  I hesitate to recommend this book, however, given that it is such an interesting read.  My friends don’t necessarily like my take on ‘interesting’ reads.  I missed the book discussion on this one.  It was held at the Fish Creek Library.  I did, however, drop my notes off to the desk one day, hoping that my group would get my take on the read.  In the end, I learned that the notes didn’t get passed on to them.  But, I wasn’t surprised to learn that no one in my circle enjoyed the book.  I wasn’t surprised with that news.

A female writer boards a plane headed for Greece.  She will be conducting writing workshops shortly upon her arrival and also taking in a bit of sun.  What happens on the flight is that she meets that person sitting next to her…he’s like every other person you stand next to in line or the one who sits across from you in class.  He is the person who sits alone at a table in the restaurant where you are reading your book and eating a salad at the same time.  These people in our lives are like ‘outlines’…we have no context with them…but, what Rachel Cusk does is she creates their stories, generously building their motivations, passions and needs…their vulnerabilities and strengths.  The reader is witness to the building of each character.  It’s remarkable.

I am fascinated with the exercises that the protagonist creates for her classes and with the participants’ reactions/responses.  I suggest, strongly, that you give this book a chance.

A couple of moments particularly delighted me.  I am captivated when one of the writer’s students walks under an open window and hears a familiar piece of music…oh my…so wonderfully- described and so rich in meaning! (page 138).  In truth, from beginning to end the syntax and the description is refreshing and new.

Cusk’s writing is thought-provoking.

On page 245…

“She had sat there, she said, and thought about her own lifelong habit of explaining herself, and she thought about this power of silence, which put people out of one another’s reach.  Lately, since the incident – now that things had got harder to explain, and the explanations were harsher and bleaker – even her closest friends had started to tell her to stop talking about it, as though by talking about it she made it continue to exist.  Yet if people were silent about the things that had happened to them, was something not being betrayed, even if only the version of themselves that had experienced them?  It was never said of history, for instance, that it shouldn’t be talked about; on the contrary, in terms of history silence was forgetting, and it was the thing people feared most of all, when it was their own history that was at risk of being forgotten.  And history, really, was invisible, though its monuments still stood.  The making of the monuments was half of it, but the rest was interpretation.”

In Rachel’s writing, her characters speak…they talk about themselves and we know them like we can not know other characters in other writers’ books.

I see parallels between Outline and my repetitive painting of a single bush at the edge of a pond.  It is the atmosphere, surroundings, weather/season, even the time of day that fleshes out what the bush is.  In part, this is why I responded to this book as I did.  The character (writer) surfaces out of the development of everything around her.

By Chance Alone by Max Eisen

Last week, I read Canada Reads 2019 winner, By Chance Alone by Max Eisen.

While books about this time of our history are very sad and very dark, it is so important, as a part of our education, that we continue to share these narratives.  This book is particularly well-written, so steeped in an authentic voice, that it is rich and heart-breaking.

Given that I believe that the human spirit is rooted in love and compassion, I am reminded when I read such historical memoirs as this one, just how horrible and brutal human beings can be. There is an innate spirit of hatred that has surfaced throughout our human story.  If a person focuses too much upon this, it can be very traumatizing.  So many atrocities in the name of power, greed and difference.

I strongly recommend this book.  It has been Max Eisen’s life work to bring his family’s story to light.  It is historical and contributes to the documentation of the experience of this time.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

This was a truly remarkable book.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Straight from the inside cover, “Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction – and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.”

I disagree. I love reading because it gives me the opportunity to make my own judgments on writing and what I personally value and see as good writing. Throughout The Girls, there are moments of poetic writing (Page 137. I lay there, staring at the framed photo that hung over the bureau: a sand dune, rippling with mint grass. The ghoulish whorls of cobwebs in the corners.) lively description or a flash of insight about what makes girls ‘tick’. But as a story line, this novel feels very contrived, and obviously based on the Charles Manson narrative. Sometimes, frankly, that just gets old.

In a more original way, the recent movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood invites the viewer to look at the cult story differently. But, the book, The Girls, just doesn’t do that. Contrary to the book jacket, I find the writing predictable and dull, anything but spellbinding. Hmmm…I’m negative about this one, aren’t I?

The great thing about book discussions is that when a group of ten readers convenes to analyse a book, I can find endearing and positive elements to every book and I can look at different parts or even sometimes, the entire book, with new eyes. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a reader who reads to its conclusion, every book I start. The book discussion on this one, was excellent. Thank you to the book discussion group at Fish Creek Library.

Being a part of the library book discussions gives opportunity to read books that I might not select. I like the huge variety that comes up. Sometimes I’ve got two or even three books going at a time and this can lead me into distraction. This one was an easy read…readers, you could do it in a few evenings.

I suppose the big ‘idea’ in this book is an old question, in my mind, “What is it that causes young women to latch on to ‘bad’ people? What is the allure? The obsession? How do young women allow others to have such control or power over them?”

While I see moments in Cline’s writing that are generous and beautiful, this particular story feels empty and familiar. So, on this one, I disagree with the New Yorker. Laughing to myself, at writing that.