Friday
Jul282017

Pieces of Happiness

Can life begin again from a new perspective for five old high school friends after the age of sixty? Newly widowed Kat sends an invitation to Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth to join her in Fiji and find out. Each accepts and brings a lifetime, with roots in their early years, in need of sorting out together. Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby follows the women as they look to answer the question.

There is single mother Sina with the son she chose to keep over her mother’s objections after a teenage pregnancy, a son now 50 years old and still expecting financial bailout from his mother. Maya comes as early onset Alzheimer’s Disease begins its destruction of her mind and body. Ingrid arrives with her less inhibited alter ego seeking to emerge. Lisbeth, who seemingly has had it all, needs to find out who she really is now that youthful beauty becomes harder to maintain. And Kat herself, who has lived the maverick lifestyle in the interim and issues the invitation, has unresolved secrets. Will renewing the old friendships give them a new lease on life? Do they want to stay and start a chocolate business together? 

The story line rotates among the friends and a secondary character Ateca, Kat’s housekeeper. Ateca sees and understands each of the group and the dynamics of their interaction together and may be my favorite character. Speaking her wisdom periodically through prayer, she mingles her concern for the women with her own hopes that her son Vilivo can find work and start a family. “Calm Madam Sina’s worries for her child, dear Lord. And calm my worries for Vilivo. Let him find work, so he can support himself, become an adult, and start a family. In Jesus holy name. Emeni.”  

The author, Norwegian Anne Ostby, is a world citizen herself having lived in several countries and writes often on themes of finding identity in a country not one’s own. The book publication is international with the English translation done by her daughter Marie.

Pieces of Happiness is a good read that can be appropriately enhanced by pairing it with some fine chocolate.

Monday
Jul242017

Tricube

Airplane recreation came with a new-to-me poetic form in a catchup read of the September 2016 Writer’s Digest. The form, tricube, adds some “not much ‘rithmetic” that I mention in my blog title. 3 syllables per line x 3 lines per stanza x 3 stanzas = 1 tricube.

 

Butterfly

seeks passion

flower vine

 

knowing her

picky babes

only eat

 

its green leaves

chewing from

outside in.

 

This tricube violates my writerly need to be specific about the Gulf Fritillary variety of butterfly, but you can see that “fritillary” has four syllables. My “passion,” if you will pardon my pun, of watching the stages from egg to butterfly and seeing the caterpillars (also an unusable four syllables) devour my passion flower (AKA maypop) vine through July and August sometimes plays havoc with my writing time.

Oh, and not to worry about the vines. They look stripped by the time the flock of Gulf Fritillaries feeds on my lantana bushes, but the maypop vines will pop up again in the spring and only fail to invade the yard because Al mows regularly.

Friday
Jul212017

LISTEN!

A few years ago, I sat at lunch with Leda Schubert at the Kaigler Book Festival and listened to her dream of a book about Pete Seeger. She had bravely faced her fear of flying to come down for the occasion. We Hattiesburgers (no joke, that’s officially what we are called) claim a close relationship with Pete. He was one of the movers and shakers of the Hattiesburg Freedom School during Freedom Summer. I’ve been waiting impatiently for Leda’s book ever since. It’s here and appropriately named LISTEN.

Leda emphasizes two themes in the book – LISTEN and SING.

Listen.
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam’s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.

The singing comes up as she strews those songs he sang throughout her narrative of his fight against social injustice. She recounts his popular concerts as well as his difficulties with the McCarthy era witch hunts. The beautiful illustrations by Raul Colon match her gift of story-telling.

Since I wanted my book signed for two special little boys and since I love supporting local independent book stores, I ordered it from her local Bear Pond Books. After it arrived, I suggested to those boys that I would read it to them after lunch. Benjamin said, “Oh, you can read it to us while we eat.” He didn’t want to wait to LISTEN. And I found myself wanting to SING when I came to a list of Pete’s song selections,

“If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning . . . ”

Don’t miss it – not the listening, not the nostalgic illustrations, not the reading, and not the singing.

Monday
Jul172017

Enjoy the Journey

Ideally, one starts with anticipation, but the To-Do List left me little time for that before our trip to visit our son’s family in Phoenix followed by a tour of the western national parks. The list did serve as a carrot, encouraging me to stay on task so I could enjoy the vacation without the guilt of uncompleted tasks. (I finished. Yes, I did!)

I can’t say I was overjoyed when the alarm went off at 2:30 AM on Thursday morning – at least half an hour earlier than necessary – but my travel agent is Al and that’s his schedule. With a good book already started on Kindle, pleasure began in the hour drive to the airport. (Al is also the chauffeur, giving me reading time.)

Al and I settled in to seats on the plane with leg room, pillows, and blankets. He was now forgiven for the early start since he had arranged for expedited check-in and a bargain upgrade to first class. Delta personnel from the first person who checked our ID’s through the cabin attendants all appeared to be morning people like me with their cheerfulness and helpful attitudes.

The hour to Atlanta included a gorgeous sunrise and my newest issue of Thema Magazine, enjoyed with offerings of roasted California almonds lightly dusted with sea salt and fresh hot coffee. Rising higher as day broke, we rode in the clear blue sky looking down on clouds reminiscent of discarded lumps of stuffing from an old couch. I even liked the view when we got to the Atlanta airport with the all-important words on the sign for our next leg – “On Time.”

In a cozy niche for the lengthy leg to Phoenix, I varied my activities. There was lunch before a nap. (Remember I got up at 2:30 AM.) Playing with words, I wrote a couple of blogs – including this one – before I began amusing myself with a new poem form – putting words in, taking them out, rearranging them. These will all be here for your reading pleasure in days to come.

Landing in Phoenix right on time seemed to complete a perfect trip until the announcement came over the intercom, “Phoenix temperature is 108.” As they say, nothing is perfect.

Friday
Jul142017

Almost Paradise

The first clue that Almost Paradise would qualify for a good Southern yarn came when I saw the author’s name, Corabel Shofner, on the Net Galley offering for an advance reading copy. She did, indeed, grow up in the Mississippi Delta with a long line of Southern ancestors. The second clue came in Corabel’s workshop at the Faye B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival when she recounted growing up among eccentric relatives. By this time, I had her book downloaded on my Kindle ready to read when it came up in the queue.

It’s a good thing I didn’t know just how entertaining it would be or my queue would have been completely messed up. There are problems aplenty for protagonist Ruby Clyde (also a Southern name) – a father who died before she was born, a mean grandmother, an estranged aunt. And these are before her mother’s boyfriend takes her and her mother on a trip where they steal/rescue a pig from a show and the boyfriend commits armed robbery. When her mother is falsely accused of abetting the crime and is put in jail, Ruby Clyde must rely on others to help her find the estranged aunt who turns out to have secrets of her own.

Spunk and humor lace into Ruby Clyde’s search for home and vindication for her mother. Those who do her harm are balanced by others who genuinely care for her. Even as the author brings rescuers into Ruby Clyde’s life, she pokes fun at the icons of Southern culture. “Mr. Gaylord Lewis had gone to court and told the judge he would watch after my mother until trial. And since Mr. Lewis was so big and important with football and money and God, the judge couldn’t say no.”

I’ll miss Ruby Clyde now that I’ve closed the last page of the book. It’s available for purchase on July 25.

I would suggest pairing this book written by a descendant of Delta landowners with Midnight Without a Moon, written by a descendant of sharecroppers, that I reviewed on June 16. The authors met in a coincidence as their books came out and have become friends.