Monday, August 31, 2009

That Old Cape Magic

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Hardcover, 261 pages
Knopf , August 2009
ISBN-13: 9780375414961
contemporary fiction
Very Highly Recommended

Synopsis from cover:
...Richard Russo gives us the story of a marriage, and of all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.

Griffin has been tooling around for nearly a year with his father’s ashes in the trunk, but his mother is very much alive and not shy about calling on his cell phone. She does so as he drives down to Cape Cod, where he and his wife, Joy, will celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. For Griffin this is akin to driving into the past, since he took his childhood summer vacations here, his parents’ respite from the hated Midwest. And the Cape is where he and Joy honeymooned, in the course of which they drafted the Great Truro Accord, a plan for their lives together that’s now thirty years old and has largely come true.....
That Old Cape Magic is a novel of deep introspection and every family feeling imaginable, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter’s new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. The storytelling is flawless throughout, moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternating with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and its ending is at once surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.
My Thoughts:

I heard Russo talking about how That Old Cape Magic came to be. Starting out as a short story, it slowly developed and grew beyond that into a novella, and then eventually into a book. I think Russo would easily concede that this novel isn't Empire Falls or Bridge of Sighs, as many detractors of That Old Cape Magic like to point out, but I also don't believe that's what Russo was trying to accomplish when writing That Old Cape Magic. I've enjoyed all of Russo's novels and this, his most recent novel, was no exception.

Russo is a terrific writer. He knows what he is doing so it would be a mistake to fault him for not developing all the characters fully. That's not the point here. This is a story about Jack Griffin and, in relationship to him, family, and the entanglements and frustrations that are always present whether or not they are openly acknowledged. As current events charge forward, Griffin reminisces about the past, contemplates his memories, and considers his current life. Russo's character Jack Griffin, as a middle age man going through a crisis, has a greater sense of humor than many other similar characters, like Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe, and this made the novel much more enjoyable.

I do think that a case could be made that That Old Cape Magic will be appreciated more by readers with a little bit more maturity under their belts and maybe a long marriage. It may give them a deeper understanding of the character and his thoughts. Things look very different at 50 than they did at 30.
Very Highly Recommended - one of the best


Though the digital clock on the bedside table in his hotel room read 5:17, Jack Griffin, suddenly wide awake, knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. He’d allowed himself to drift off too early the night before. On the heels of wakefulness came an unpleasant realization, that what he hadn’t wanted to admit yesterday, even to himself, was now all too clear in the solitary, predawn dark. He should have swallowed his petulance and waited the extra day for Joy. opening

In any event his wife’s suggestion that he go on without her had seemed less than sincere, which was why he decided to call her bluff. “All right,” he said, “that’s what I’ll do,” expecting her to say, Fine, if it means that much to you, I’ll reschedule the meetings. But she hadn’t said that, even when she saw him packing his bag, and so he’d discovered a truth that other men probably knew already— that once you’d packed a bag in front of a woman there was no possibility of unpacking, or of not going and taking the damn bag with you. pg. 4

Zipping along Route 6, Griffin realized he was humming “That Old Black Magic,” the song his parents had sung ironically—both university English professors, that’s how they did most things— every time they crossed the Sagamore, substituting Cape for black. When he was growing up, they’d spent part of every summer on the Cape. He could always tell what kind of year it had been, moneywise, by when and where they stayed. pg. 6

While he roamed the beach unattended, full of youthful energy and freedom, his parents spent sunny afternoons lying on the sand with their “guilty pleasures,” books they’d have been embarrassed to admit to their colleagues they’d ever heard of. pg. 9

Later in the month, on a rainy day, they’d go so far as to look at a house or two at the low end of the Can’t Afford It category, but the realtors always intuited at a glance that Griffin’s parents were just tire kickers. The house they wanted was located in a future only they could see. For people who dealt largely in dreams, his father was fond of observing, realtors were a surprisingly unromantic bunch, like card counters in a Vegas casino. pg. 10

Joy wouldn't arrive until evening, probably late, and the sooner he got to the B and B where she'd booked a room for the wedding, the sooner he'd feel compelled to open the trunk of the convertible, which contained, in addition to his travel bag and his bulging satchel, the urn bearing his father's ashes, which he pledged to scatter over the weekend. He wasn't sure that disposing of cremated midwestern academics in Massachusetts waters was strictly legal, and would have preferred Joy be there for moral support (and as a lookout). pg. 11

Stories worked the same way....A false note at the beginning was much more costly than one nearer the end because early errors were part of the foundation. pg. 67

Friday, August 28, 2009

Their Fathers' God

Their Fathers' God by O. E. Rolvaag
Trygve M. Ager (Translator)
Trade paperback, 338 pages
University of Nebraska Press
originally published in 1931, this edition in 1983
ISBN-13: 9780803289116
very highly recommended

Susie Doheny, an Irish Catholic, and Peder Holm, a Norwegian Lutheran, fall in love and marry in South Dakota in the 1890s. Soon their marriage is tested by drought, depression, and family bickering. Susie believes they are being tested by their fathers' God.
Peder blames Susie for the timidity of her beliefs; Susie fears Peder's pride and skepticism. When political antagonism grows between the Norwegian and Irish immigrant communities, it threatens to split their marriage.
Against a backdrop of hard times, crisscrossed by Populists, antimonopolists, and schemers, Rölvaag brings the struggle of immigrants into the twentieth century. In Giants in the Earth the Holm family strained to wrest a homestead from the land. In Peder Victorious the American-born children searched for a new national identity, often defying the traditions their parents fought to uphold. In Their Fathers' God , Rölvaag's most soul-searching novel, the first-generation Americans enter a world of ruthless competition in the midst of scarcity.
My Thoughts:

Stop. If you haven't read the previous two books, Giants in the Earth and Peder Victorious and plan to in the future, do not read this review.
Their Fathers' Gods is, like Peder Victorious, a Norwegian novel translated into English thus, as Agar, the translator notes, some of the actual mood -art- of the original is lost. This is the last book Rolvaag wrote featuring the Holms family. In this novel he tackles the mixed marriage of Catholic Susie and Lutheran Peder, as well as the political antagonism between the two groups, Irish Catholic and Norwegian Lutheran, in South Dakota. What is surprising in many ways is how universal the themes in these last two Rolvaag novels have been. Even today we struggle with the question of immigrants becoming Americanized, especially in speaking English. While there are many mixed marriages of different faiths today, there is still an underlying hurdle that must be crossed for them to succeed. Once these different religious beliefs are woven together with opposing political views, with various clergy fully participating, the outcome is bound to be negative. In the end we are never told if Peder achieves either happiness or success. He has been truthfully told he will not have both in his life.
Very Highly Recommended for those reading all three Rolvaag books


No hope for rain to-night, either. opening

Pious people sought out their closets in secret and there, behind shut doors, sobbed for mercy from the lash of the Lord's wrath. At every Sunday service the shepherds entreated for rain. pg. 2

"All fooling aside. Haven't you heard about that crook who breezed into town the other day with an offer to punch a hole in the sky for us?"
"Ah-ha - it's Mr. Jewell's scalp you're after?"
"-And that the county is going to plank down seven hundred honest American dollars for letting him do it? Have you heard that, too?"
"Oh, he'll never get that much."
"Those seven hundred dollars will be added to your taxes," Peder continued, unhalted. pg. 9

"So you boys would like to see me strung up in order to save the county seven hundred dollars? Well, that shows a mighty fine public spirit, but it strikes me that the milk of human kindness in you is running kind of blue. The whole affair won't cost you, Peder, more than a few cents. Can't you afford that much when you realize the life of a neighbor is at stake?" pg. 13

"You take my word for it, any commissioner who dares to vote against the rainmaker to-morrow is simply gambling with the noose." pg. 14

Every place I go people pounce on me, asking me how the Nordlaning is getting along with his Irish wife. They all grim wickedly... want to know how it feels to be related to a lot of Catholics... how much the pope is taxing you... when you're joining in the war on the Protestants - " pg. 20

"Mr. Jewell cannot give us the faintest shadow of a guarantee, He's dishing up a lot of cheap talk. I make no bones about telling you that your decision is madness! This foolishness may cost our country seven times seven hundred dollars before were through with it. If this man could make rain fall whenever and wherever he pleased, he'd certainly be a member of the President's Cabinet!" pg. 47

"It's the first time I've ever seen grown-up people falling for anything so damn silly. And you" - his voice cracked - "you voted with them! You deserted us. Why didn't you say so last night?... But of course you had to side with your 'big-hearted' Father Williams, the chicken-headed leader of all the asses in this county!" pg. 49


I'm going to participate in the RIP IV Challenge

hosted by Carl

at Stainless Steel Droppings

For this challenge I've chosen to do:

Peril the First

Which requires that I read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peder Victorious

Peder Victorious by O. E. Rolvaag
Nora O. Solum, translator
Gudrun Hovde Gvale, introduction
trade paperback, 340 pages
University of Nebraska Press
1929, edition 1982
ISBN-13: 9780803289062
very highly recommended

Peder Victorious, the sequel to Rölvaag's massive Giants in the Earth, continues the saga of the Norwegian settlers in the Dakotas. Here again, years later, are all the sturdy pioneers of the earlier novel, Rölvaag's "vikings of the prairie"—Per Hansa's Beret and their children, Syvert Tönseten and Kjersti, and Sörine. The great struggle against the land itself has been won. Now there is to be a second struggle, a struggle to adapt, to become Americans.The development of the Spring Creek settlement in these years is manifested in the rebellious growing up of Peder Victorious. Peder is a beautiful and moving novel of youth and youth's self-discovery. It is the story, too, of Beret's pain and dismay at the Americanization of her children, what Rölvaag described as the true tragedy of the immigrants, who made their children part of a world to which they themselves could never belong.Out of the inevitable conflict between the first-generation American and his still Norwegian mother, Rölvaag built a powerful novel of personal growth, guilt, and victory.
My Thoughts:

First, read Giants in the Earth before Peder Victorious AND before you read the quotes. If then interested, read this review before Peder Victorious. Second, although Gudrun Hovde Gvale's introduction is certainly well worth reading, unless you want a synopsis of the whole story before you read the novel, don't read it until after you have finished the book. Alternately, if you just want to know what happens without read the book, by all means read it. There is also a biographical note on Rolvaag at the end of the novel.

Giants in the Earth is more accessible and perhaps more riveting than Peder Victorious, but for those who are interested, this novel of settlers on the South Dakota prairie brilliantly shows the conflicts that must have arose with the Americanization of the Norwegian settlers. As Peder matures throughout the story, the conflicts that surely sprang up between the original Norwegian settlers and their now American children are illustrated in Peder's life. The relationship between Peder, as well as his other siblings, and their mother is especially poignant. The normal separation of children from their parents is magnified as the children are also separating themselves from their parent's culture and their own heritage. While I would very highly recommend Peder Victorious, I know it is not a book for everyone and needs to be read after Giants in the Earth.


Gvale: " is more of a Norwegian book translated into English than the preceding one. In the original the Norwegian style fits the contents more intimately..." pg xix

The moment the sun lifted his red face above the horizon, Peder was up; and in summer, just after the face had dropped out of sight, Peder was in bed again... opening

But the intimate comradeship between God and Peder came to an end during the spring that Father was found dead over west on the prairie. Suddenly God changed; He became a hard, heartless monster, One that one must look out for. pg. 5

- St. Luke's was certainly blessed with a remarkable board of deacons, aye - that he must say! Here they were chasing around the prairies, poking their noses into all the filth of the whole settlement. And then they came dragging the stuff into the congregational meetings! ... Funny the minister didn't consider himself above such things. If this continued, they'd have to bring lunch with them to church, and bedding too - since they'd have to camp here most of the time to hold congregational meetings.... Let him who knew himself guiltless cast the first stone!" pg. 24

Beret and Peder sat in one of the seats near the front. She felt, as the proceedings were about to begin, that perhaps she ought to take the boy and leave the room; but then it occurred to her that being present at the trial might impress upon him the fatal consequences of sin - and so she stayed. pg. 28

A period of storm and disruption broke loose over St. Luke's Norwegian Evangelical Congregation. The boat keeled perilously, with no one to calm the troubled waters. The worst of it was that Reverend Isaksen wanted the steady hand and clear eye of his predecessor, and was, therefore, but ill-fitted to stand at the helm in the terrific tempest which now began to rage. pg. 44

The desirability of a congregation consisting exclusively of confessing Christians arose out of the turmoil. And no sooner had the idea found utterance than it began to gain followers. Several of the brethren saw it at once: there was but one thing to do - they must withdraw from St. Luke's and set up a church of their own! pg. 49

That kind of Christianity which must go off by itself in order to thrive may have a hard time of it when it gets to heaven. pg. 64

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Breaking News...

Police in a small Kansas town outside a metro area kept a close watch on a sweaty, fat, old lady out walking her two dogs after 10:30 PM on Tuesday. As she walked through the public pool/school parking lot the officer pulled up behind her and kept his headlights trained on her in what appeared to be an attempt to hustle her and her charges along. The dogs in her custody (one large, one small), having heard a cicada on the ground, spotted said bug and were fighting the old lady's attempts to keep them walking in a normal, unthreatening manner. The officer continued his surveillance, keeping his car headlights on her as he observed her stopping to talk to two other old woman who had been out walking on the school's track field.
The officer did not leave his position until he saw the old ladies disperse and move along. It is a well known fact that all old ladies out late at night are suspicious characters.
True. Profiling in Kansas at work.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Traveler by Ron McLarty
hardcover, 280 pages
Viking, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780670034741
very highly recommended

Synopsis from cover:
In Traveler, McLarty serves up another winning hero with the beautifully crafted story of a man who returns to his hometown to discover the truth about his past.
Jono Riley is an aging bartender and part-time actor in Manhattan who specializes in one-character plays. usually performed in front of an audience in the single digit. He still lives by himself in an Upper East Side walk-up, and though he's got a great girlfriend, a firefighter named Renee, his life is stuck and his acting career is going nowhere fast. As the novel opens, news of the sudden death of his childhood friend Marie D'Agostino - his first true love - compels Jono to return for a few days to the place he grew up, the working-class neighborhoods of East Providence, Rhode Island. McLarty weaves the story of Jono's return with that of his coming of age in the early 1960's with his three best friends - Marie's brother Cubby, Billy Fontanelli, and Bobby Fontes - including the story of a series of mysterious shootings that occurred back then, one of which lodged a bullet in Marie's back when she was twelve.
My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Traveler. At first it appears that Traveler is going to be a mystery and Jono is going home to Rhode Island to solve the long standing question of who shot Marie, but suspense is not the driving force of this fine novel. Chapters alternate between the present and memories of Jono and his friend's adolescent years in the sixties, so it's actually more of a novel of Jono's coming of age. It's these memories and interaction with some of his former friends and classmates that eventually solve the mystery. Like me, you may have a good idea what happened much sooner than it is revealed, but that won't matter to most of us. This is a great novel.

McLarty is a gifted writer. You aren't being compelled to read Traveler to find out "who done it." You are compelled to read it because it is so well written. Jono is a likeable main character with a self depreciating sense of humor. The whole novel feels authentic, realistic. McLarty really captured the feeling of growing up in East Providence, R.I. in the sixties. Jono's recollection of his adolescent memories in many ways are universal. Much like Doig, McLarty takes these recollections and shows how the past has effected the present.
Very Highly Recommended


"Dear Jono,
I am writing to tell you that Marie has passed away..." opening

In 1961 I fell wildly in love with Marie D'Agostino. She was tall and graceful and had a smell that was as if she had just toweled off after a bath in rose water....But the thing that caught me, hexed me - engulfed me, really - was her deep, round voice. It seemed to roll out of her small mouth and burst onto your face. And it was with that full, sober, and dependable sound more than any other facet of this astonishing human being that I have compared all women since. pg. 3

When I think back, I can understand Ponserelli's rage at being scored upon, not once but twice by the Pillsbury Doughboy in corduroys, yet I have to think his breaking my stick on my head and quitting a slight overreaction on his part. pg. 8

Because she was standing on my left, as I say, admiring our handiwork, when the bullet struck her just above her left shoulder blade and drove her headfirst onto my [snow] angel. pg. 9

Marie would have been... what... fifty-two? A year older than me. I think she was eighteen the last time I saw her and already engaged to be married. pg. 11

Later on, though, as my brain sorted and re-sorted through the minutiae of those minutes and seconds we spent in that snowy field, it struck me that we might not have been alone, and a blurry vision of something or someone coming hard and fast off the water tower gave me a lot of sleepless nights. pg. 19

We had met on a New Jersey local cable commercial shoot for Gonsalves Fish Market in Newark's Ironbound district. Andrea was assistant to the director. I was Carlos the fishmonger. I suppose when two people collide under such glamorous conditions, sparks are bound to fly. pg. 23

"Why not Broadway? Why not us?" he said with a joyousness that made you truly want it to happen for Robert, even though you knew "why not." pg. 47

It's funny how early years blur by, only slowing a little at those singular moments that are determined to stick out in memory. The rendezvous at the A&W root beer stand, the girls I followed around like a puppy, or even games lost and won seem like a prospect or even an expectation rather than something that has actually happened. A cloudy dream, maybe. The frantic teenage life seems to me hard to believe I ever lived it. pg 76

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Trouble With Harry

The Trouble With Harry

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Edmund Gwenn - Captain Albert Wiles
Mildred Natwick - Miss Gravely
John Forsythe - Sam Marlowe
Shirley MacLaine - Jennifer Rogers
Jerry Mathers - Arnie Rogers

Composer: Bernard Herrmann

This is a humorous black comedy about a body and several people in a small New England town who think they may have had something to do with his death. The trouble with Harry is that he just won't stay buried. Several misunderstandings have Harry being buried and dug up repeatedly during one day while at the same time friendships flourish. The location shots are simple beautiful; without them The Trouble With Harry would more closely resemble a play. This was Bernard Herrmann's first musical score for Hitchcock. The cast is incredible. In the opening we see a young Jerry Mathers pre-Beaver days. The Trouble With Harry was Shirley MacLaine's debut film. We all found this a thoroughly enjoyable film and are sad that The Summer of Hitchcock has come to and end.

Thank you Amy at My Friend Amy for a totally enjoyable summer of films!


Capt. Wiles (Edmund Gwenn): [after Dr. Greenbow trips over the body] "Couldn't have had more people here if I'd sold tickets."
Capt. Wiles (Edmund Gwenn): [as he sees Sam Marlowe coming] "Next thing you know they'll be televising the whole thing."

[Discussing Jennifer's recently deceased husband Harry]
Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine): "You can stuff him, for all I care. Stuff him and put him in a glass case, only I'd suggest frosted glass."
Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe): "What did he do to you? Besides marry you."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prairie Nocturne

Prairie Nocturne by Ivan Doig
hardcover, 371 pages
Scribner, 2003
ISBN-13: 9780743201353

From the Publisher:
Prairie Nocturne is the epic saga of two former lovers sired in the pages of Ivan Doig's acclaimed Montana Trilogy. Susan Duff — the bossy, indomitable schoolgirl with a silver voice from Dancing at the Rascal Fair— has reached middle age alone, teaching voice lessons to the progeny of Helena's high society. Wesley Williamson, young married heir to the Double W cattle empire, has been forced out of a political career as a result of his affair with Susan having become known. Years later, Wes and Susan have reunited to share in an extraordinary goal: launching the singing career of Monty Rathbun—a man on the wrong side of the racial divide. In this triumph of sure-footed storytelling, motives and fates dangerously entangle.
Set in Montana, France, Scotland, and New York during the Harlem Renaissance, Prairie Nocturne is a deeply longitudinal novel that raises everlasting questions of allegiance, the grip of the past, and the cost of passion.
My Thoughts:

Readers of Doig know that he is known for western literature, often historical, set in Montana. Relationships between his characters or their families are intertwined in all of his books. In Prairie Nocturne Doig explores racism in Montana during the 1920's through the strong willed characters of Susan Duff (previously in Doig's Dancing at the Rascal Fair), Wes Williamson (of the Double W ranch), and Monty Rathbun (a black chauffeur/ranch hand). Much of the novel covers the voice training Susan gives Monty at the behest of her former lover Wes, and it is this act that set other events into motion. True to his characters he's giving voice to in this specific historical time there really is none of the language issues in Prairie Nocturne that I found in Ride With Me, Mariah Montana. Those familiar with Doig's other novels will recognize some common themes - the effect of the past on the future, and homage to family ties and the big sky landscape.

I found that Prairie Nocturne moved a little too slowly for me. I almost set it aside numerous times but then something would happen in the story so I'd keep reading. This happened almost right up to the end. I'm not sure if this was because I'm not a singer and couldn't fully appreciate what Susan and Monty were doing or if it was some other distraction outside of the book. This time the flashbacks in Prairie Nocturne, and found in all of Doig's novels, were less appreciated by me. Perhaps it was a mistake to read these particular two Doig novels back to back. All in all I like Ride With Me, Mariah Montana better.

As an interesting aside Harold Augenbraum in a Library Journal review of Prairie Nocturne wrote, "Astute observers will recognize many of the plot lines of the Elvis Presley movie Jailhouse Rock..."


The last ringleted girl had finished off the ballad on a hopeful note -- she would have given her ears for a praising word from Miss Duff -- and night and quiet came again to the house on Highland Street. Regular as the curtain of nightfall was Susan Duff's routine in closing away her teaching day. opening

As fixed as a star, the telltale glow of her gable window appeared over Helena at the last of dusk and burned on past respectable bedtime. You might think a woman of her early climb in life, singled out by her father's God for a soaring voice to lift His hymns and then casting away choirsong for the anthems of a harsh young century, would find it a hard comedown to be faced with a nightly audience of only herself. You'd be as wrong as you could be, Susan would have you know in a finger 1-2

Time did not lag here in her industrious garret; it was not permitted to. pg. 3

She looked at Wes across the small white field of pages. Just looked at him. When you have cost a man a governorship, what further scandal does he think you are apt to inflict on him? pg.6

That was another of the jokes, using the red hanky like a matador's cape when he had to draw the bull away from a bucked-off rider. It occurred to him that it was actually pretty funny to be swabbing at himself this way with the hard-used piece of cloth, because at this point of the rodeo he was an irredeemable mess. The bib overalls six sizes too big drooped on him, and the screaming-red long underwear that was the other part of the costume was darkly wet with sweat. pg. 13-14

When he and his mother used to go to the church picnics, they would pause as soon as they were in sight of everyone but just out of hearing. pg 14

You get so sick of it you're a walking piece of resentment, he could have testified to the world. Again now he banked the anger he didn't dare let flame up. Maybe he was going to be lucky, maybe the show-off one was joshing about the whiteface makeup. pg. 16

Snooty wasn't quite the word for the way she'd stood there giving him a going over, or at least he hoped it wasn't. Keen, that was it, he tried to convince himself. Although maybe starchy said it better. pg. 28

"Miss Susan, honest, that's as good as I can do."
She seemed surprised. "Then simply do it the same way. I'm sorry, but one time through a song is not being a singer. That's merely" - she searched for an uncritical set of words - "whistling with your voicebox..." pg. 33

Ghosts ought to be interesting company, she reasoned, particularly here. Not gauzy visitors who popped out of walls and grabbed when least expected: she could do without those. But why shouldn't leftover spirits, to call them that, constitute a kind of echo of the soul, lingering tunelike in the air after life was gone? A nocturne, she wouldn't be surprised: ruminative, tending toward melancholy - after all, the poor things are no longer the freshest notes in the musical arrangement, are they - yet with a serenade melody that would not leave the mind. pg. 38

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh my goodness!

Land sakes alive!
Is it bad form to mention that I've "been nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award in the category BEST WRITING" ?
It is?
OK, please pretend I just didn't mention it but help me anyway.

Now I have to send the judges links to 5 posts that I think are representative of my blog. I don't even know where to start. I'm NOT a writer, so I don't expect to win, but I should make sure it's an even mix of book reviews and maybe some of the memory posts... and ??? There are some very good, professional writers out there, but I'm really rather geeked and in a tizzy that I was even noticed, let alone nominated.
Any and all suggestions are welcome... Feel free to email me. Man, I may have to tell the family no grocery shopping this week until I make some decisions.

Ride with Me, Mariah Montana

Ride with Me, Mariah Montana by Ivan Doig
my edition (not pictured)
Penguin, 1990
trade paperback, 322 pages
ISBN-13: 9780140156072
(Montana Trilogy Series #3)
highly recommended

From the Publisher:
This greathearted novel is the finale of Ivan Doig's passionate and authentic trilogy about the McCaskill family and their alluring Two Medicine country along the hem of the northern Rockies.
Jick McCaskill, the illustrious narrator of English Creek, returns as the witty and moving voice in this classic encounter with the American road and all the rewards and travails it can bring. Jick faces his family's - and his state's - legacy of loss and perseverance from the vantage point of Montana's centennial in 1989 when his daughter Mariah enlists him as Winnebago chauffeur to her and her ex-husband, the magnificently ornery and eloquent columnist Riley Wright, when their news-paper dispatches them to dig up stories of the "real Montana." Just as the centennial is a cause for reflection as well as jubilation, the exuberant travels of this trio bring on encounters with the past in "memory storms" that become occasions for reassessment and necessary accommodations of the heart.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this western road trip novel. The road trip in question is across Doig's beloved Montana and occurs during the state's 1989 centennial celebrations. Even though this is the third book in a trilogy, you can read it as a stand alone novel. The McCaskill trilogy includes English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, along with Ride with Me, Mariah Montana. There was a little bit too much taking the Lord's name in vain in it, in all slurred-together oaths, but once you get into the story it seems to lessen and can be easily overlooked. It also suits the character, Jike. Ride with Me, Mariah Montana could read like a guided tour across Montana's historic places and shows how actions in the past can impact the present. I enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.


CLICK. Her next snap of the shutter caught me by surprise as it always did. After all this while, why didn't I know that the real picture Mariah wanted was ever the unexpected one, the one after you'd let your guard down. pg. 2

"Jick, somebody's going to use you for a doorstop if you keep on the way you've been," she started right in again as if I was running a want ad for advice. "I had to half-drag you here today and now you can't wait to mope off home to the ranch and vegetate some more. I mean, what is this, suicide by boredom? Before, you were never the type to sit around like you got your tail caught in a crack." Before.
"You know as well as I do that you've got to get yourself going again," she supplied in the next breath. "That's why I want you to pack your socks and come along with me on this."
I'd already told her no. Three times, N-O. Actually I guess it must have been four, because Mariah never starts to really listen until you say a thing the third time.
"Sitting sounds good enough to me," I tried on her now. "The world can use more people who stay sat." pg. 4

"Jick. Jick, I need to have you along."
Damn. Double damn.
Going Winnebagoing around the countryside with her and the other one was still the last thing on this earth I wanted to do. But need instead of want. Do people really know what they are trying to reach for with that word? I wasn't sure I could tell, any more. pg. 6

Four entire months of letting myself get just exactly where I knew not to get, between the pair of them. Mariah the newspaper picture-taker, my headlong daughter. And writing Riley Wright, my goddamn ex-son-in-law. pg. 6

A person has to wonder: is everything going to be owned by somebody somewhere else? Where does that eventually end up, in some kind of circle like a snake eating its tail? pg. 8

There was that whole situation, too. Even yet, in the worst of the nights when the question of what to do with the ranch was afire in my mind, I would turn in bed to where she ought to be and begin. "Marce..."
Her at every window of my mind. Ghosts are not even necessary in this life. It is hard facts that truly haunt.
I was not supposed to outlive Marcella. In just that many words, there is the history of my slough of mood, the brown trance that Mariah kept telling me and telling me I had to pull out of. But how do you, when the rest of a life together suddenly turns out backwards. Not that it ever can be a definite proposition, but any couple in a long marriage comes to have a kind of assumption, a shared hunch about who will die first, which is maybe never said out loud yet is thoroughly there. Our own fund of love, Marcella's and mine, seemed to have its eventual sum clearly enough set. My father died at sixty-five, and his father must have been a whole lot younger than that when the labors of his Scotch Heaven homestead did him in. In both of them, the heart simply played out. So, you didn't need to be much of a betting person to figure I'd go off the living list considerably before Marcella. pg. 10

Holy H. Hell, it couldn't be her, out of a past that seemed a thousand years distant. But yet it indubitably was. I mean, I know what is said about why coincidences so often happen: that there actually are only twelve people in the world and the rest is done with mirrors. pg. 13

So imagine the mutual nasty surprise when Mariah unbeknownst put her suggestion to do a series of photographs around the state during its centennial celebration and Riley in equal ignorance put in his suggestion to write a series of stories about the same, and their editor the BB - his actual name was Baxter Beebe - degreed that they were going to have to do their series together, make a mix. Likely that's how gunpowder got discovered, too. pg. 19

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Now. why would I possibly need a new book case...

Lisa at Books, Lists, Life has dared us to show her  our TBR stacks or the most important books in those stacks.
Here are my TBR books.
Yes, they are all shelved in front of other books in a bookcase.

The two large pictures show the TBR books nicely lined up in front of the other books in the bookcase. The close up of the one shlef contains all the books and alternates for the TBR Challenge.
Other than that, there is not real organization, except the mysteries passed on to me are all together by author

Honest Scrap

I was tagged for the Honest Scrap Award by Lisa at Books, Lists, Life.

The "Honest Scrap" award requires me to tell my readers 10 true things about me and then pass it on to 10 more blogs.

Oh boy...

1. I am a Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

2. I like to make lists and even think in "talking points"

3. I love fiction and nonfiction books about plagues and viruses.

4. I used to harvest rose hips from wild roses growing at one house we lived in and made wild rose hip jelly.

5. I have always moved around a lot. I'm never quite sure if this is good or bad.

6. There are three reality TV shows I have watched from their inception: The Amazing Race, Survivor, and Big Brother. Only moving has interrupted my devotion to following these shows.

7. The above revelation embarrasses my family, with perhaps the exception of The Amazing Race, which is sometimes watched by some of them.

8. I can not sing even though that talent runs rampant in my family.

9. I intensely dislike hypocrites.

10. I homeschooled our kids through high school. It was very successful for us so don't be dis'ing homeschooling around me. (My son was a National Merit Scholar and is on a full academic scholarship. My daughter did high school in 3 years - her current college GPA rivals her brothers.)

If you want to do this consider yourself tagged!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Us, Holding up or Posing by Dead Things

There are many pictures of all five of us siblings and at this point even several grandchildren all posing for pictures by dead things. We may or may not be holding or helping to hold some dead things up. Although this sounds potentially very creepy, the dead things were usually fish, fowl, or had fur. Our father (or grandfather to some subjects) is the perpetrator. I am not sure why, exactly, it was necessary to take pictures of our children or us by these dead things. I somehow suspect that while desiring a visual documentation or record of the hunt, it was and still is more acceptable for Dad to do so by morphing it into a family picture at the same time. It makes for many family pictures that will never be enlarged and proudly displayed in the living room.

The obvious problem with all of these photos is the subject matter. Pictures of loved ones are good; pictures of them with dead game, not so much. You can see why this would be the case. Let’s look at a hypothetical conversation of me sharing family photos with my children:

“Here’s an old photo of Grandpa, Uncle ED, Aunt Hipee, and you with dead geese all laid out on the ground in front of you. Why are guys always by some dead animal? And you always look so happy about it, too.”

“Well, Grandpa wanted a picture… you know Grandpa.”

"I still remember when we'd hear that Grandpa was out hunting and would be coming over sometime with a dead turkey for us to pose by. It was like he's stop by with his dead turkey, Wonder Boy and I would go and pose by it with him, and you would take the picture, forever immortalizing the deceased turkey's remains. Then Grandpa would leave as quickly as he came, with his dead turkey in tow . . . Man! Is that Aunt Hipee holding up a dead duck? Goodness. “

“Yes. Hipee wasn’t too whippy back in those days.”

“You all look demented, like all of you need help."

“It was the sixties.”

“"I thought that the sixties were supposed to be fun, carefree lighthearted times - who's that?"

“That’s my uncle, your Grandpa’s twin. He passed away before you were born.”

“ . . . why are you all standing underneath a bunch of dead fish?"

"It must have been a good day of fishing and Grandpa needed a record of it. We are all happy and smiling. Look at this one.”

"Oh, goodness, bunnies! Why bunnies!? Why does Grandpa look so happy about it?"

“Grandpa is no fan of rabbits. They eat his garden. Obviously he’s never read Watership Down or Peter Rabbit and felt any empathy for the bunnies.”

"I think a little part of me just died. Is there any group pictures of you guys without the theme of death and decay?"

“Not too many.”

"I bet that was fun for you."

“Well, you know, he’s a good grandpa. He just has that one little problem. You enjoyed going out hiking with him, looking for turkey sign.”

"Yeah. I remember the one time we went hiking, and I had been at the back, following Wonder Boy and Grandpa. One of grandpa's footsteps had uncovered a deer's ribcage. I called everyone over. It was fascinating. Grandpa took off the head and when we got back, he made it talk to you."

“Yes, I remember that very clearly. Try as I might, it would be hard to forget.”

“Whoah, look at those froggies! They're all dead.”

"Grandpa wanted us to try frog legs."

“I thought you grew up living in cities? You people were all kinda going natural there, weren't you? Were you some kind of early survivalists?”

“No, well, sort of. We always lived in cities, but Grandpa grew up on a farm and his family was very poor. You had to get game for your family to eat. He just never forgot that and he enjoys being outdoors. Look, at least we never ate raccoon, possum or squirrel… at least not to my knowledge.”

"The pictures were just kind of a bonus then, weren't they?"

“No… yes… I think grandpa wants to record the good day and so he takes pictures of what he caught along with those he loves.”

“Why isn’t Grandma in any of these pictures?”

“Someone had to hold the camera and I imagine she was quick to volunteer.”

"You were never in the pictures with dead turkeys with Wonder Boy and I. You wouldn’t join us, even when I asked."

“Yes. I had already had a lifetime of turkey pictures. It was your turn. Be thankful you’re older now and can offer to be the camera person.”

I know for a fact that my Dad recently had a picture taken with his fishing buddies – and a whole bunch of fish. He was planning to take it along to the various retired-men-who-go-for-coffee-time places he frequents.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery
Score Composer Bernard Herrmann
Psychological Thriller

My Friend Amy's The Summer of Hitchcock

Marnie is the story of a emotionally disturbed habitual thief (Hedren) whose employer (Connery) tries to understand/analyze her. Even though Marnie is considered a lesser Hitchcock film, I thought it was quite good. While the general public may not have appreciated it in the mid sixties any Hitchcock film fan will likely enjoy Marnie and see some interconnecting themes shared with other Hitchcock films, especially compulsion and obsession. Like Spellbound, Marnie is very Freudian but the naive treatment of psychological disorders in both dates the films today. Hitchcock may have been influenced by German Expressionism. Several film critics have pointed out the influence of Expressionism in the "red-out" scenes and some include in that the painted backdrop, and artificial-looking thunderstorms, while others simply think that either Hitchcock was being sloppy or didn't care about the painted backdrops because he considered it unimportant in relationship to the story. Certainly different colors were used in a symbolic way.

I'm not completely convinced that Tippi Hedren was talented enough to play the title character, Marnie, well. While she certainly gave a better than average performance, I think the role required a more gifted actress with a well developed range. You know some actresses can expressed a wide range of emotions just with their eyes. Hedren can't. Sean Connery, while easy on the eyes, was also miscast simply because of his Scottish brogue. Also, to be honest, after our somewhat recent James Bond marathon, it is hard to not see Connery as James Bond and some of us kept irrationally expecting a few Bond-like moves. It was fun to see Bruce Dern and Mariette Hartley in small roles. We immediately recognized Bernard Herrmann as the score composer, which added greatly to the film.

Marnie Edgar (Hedren): You don't love me. I'm just something you've caught! You think I'm some sort of animal you've trapped!

Mark Rutland (Connery): That's right - you are. And I've caught something really wild this time, haven't I? I've tracked you and caught you and by God I'm going to keep you.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Codex by Lev Grossman
trade paperback, 348 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, copyright 2004
ISBN-13: 9780156028592

Synopsis from cover:
Edward Wozny, a hotshot young banker, is about to leave for vacation when he is sent to help an important yet mysterious client. His task: search the family library for a precious, centuries-old codex that may not even exist. Enlisting the expertise of medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codex and to decipher the parallels between the codex legend and a computer game that absorbs him in the dark hours of the night.
Weaving the medieval and the modern aspects of its plot in a chilling twist, Codex is a thriller of the highest order.
My thoughts:

After seeing some rave reviews for Grossman's new novel, The Magicians, I decided to read my used-bought-on-clearance copy of his book Codex. Based on Codex it's unlikely I'll be reading any more of Grossman's novels. Now, it's not awful, but it's nothing special. The writing is OK. The parts of the novel dealing with the mystery of the codex certainly had the potential to be very intriguing, but that potential along with character development was really never fully realized. We all know I can forgive many things if the action and mystery part of the novel is great. It isn't. The parts concerning playing the computer game "MOMUS" were painful to read. I might have still given Codex a recommended rating if it were not for the ending. The end of the book is awful. It's totally abrupt and incomplete. Nothing is resolved. It's like Grossman had a deadline so he just ended the book. In some way I think Grossman had a movie scenario in mind when he wrote Codex. The script writer would still have to work on a better ending. On an interesting side note, apparently, according to a reviewer on Amazon, "Grossman attempted to up his Amazon rating for his previous book by writing fake five-star reviews, then wrote an article for Salon about it." Interesting.
Rating: so-so for this reader

(Possible spoiler: Another explanation for the abrupt ending of the book would be that it was all supposed to be part of a computer game, and it was "game over" but Grossman gave no hints or clues that that was the case so it's probably me searching for a reason.)


Edward Wozny stood squinting at the sun as crowds of people excused themselves past him in both directions. It was hot and bright. He was wearing a very expensive gray handmade suit, and he had to check what seemed like dozens of inside and outside pockets of various sizes and shapes before he found the scrap of paper he was looking for. opening

He didn't know what to do with himself,with this blank, unscripted, in-between time. Yesterday he'd been a hard-charging, highly paid investment banker in New York, and two weeks from now he'd be a hard-charging, highly paid investment banker in London. For now he was just Edward Wozny, and he wasn't totally sure who that was. pg. 2

"...All we really need is for somebody to get it all unpacked and onto the shelves. Just to break those crates open, for one thing, and start putting it all in some kind of order. Organizing things, getting them cataloged." pg. 12

He was a senior analyst with Esslin & Hart, and she was apparently looking for some kind of glorified intern to do her housecleaning for her. pg. 13

He was about to try aborting it when the hard drive started thrashing again. He hesitated, his hands poised over the keyboard. The screen cleared.
At first Edward thought he was looking at a photograph, frozen and digitalized. The scene was strikingly realistic. It was like looking through a window onto another world. pg. 46

"I sometimes wonder if we aren't all her idea, in some complicated metaphysical way. Her world seems somehow more substantial than ours. pg. 63

This was somebody who spent all her time just reading and thinking about what she read. In a way it seemed like a ridiculous waste of time; and in another way it seemed so much more urgently important than what he did all day. Or used to. pg. 100

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
pages 179-360 (181 pages)
From: Jane Austen: The Complete Novels
Gramercy, 1994 edition
ISBN-13: 978-0517118290
classic romance

Synopsis from Penguin:
Many consider this rich social commentary to be Jane Austen's finest novel. It is certainly among her more famous ones. Austen sets her entertaining study of manners and misconceptions against the backdrop of a class-conscious society in 18th-century England.

Spirited, intelligent Elizabeth Bennet is alternately enchanted and affronted by Mr. Darcy. She is quick to suspend her usual, more rational judgment when it comes to him. She also is quick to believe the worst gossip about this haughty, opinionated man, who soon manages to alienate Elizabeth and her family. But is the condescending air that Mr. Darcy wars an indication of his real character? Or has Elizabeth's pride gotten in the way of her chance for true romance?
My Thoughts:

I DID IT! I have now read Pride and Prejudice. Take that Just Me! You too, Hipee! It took fifty years but I now have that monkey off my back! I hereby declare that: Yes, it is worthy of being a classic and I understand why people proclaim their undying love for it. Austen is witty and clever and deserves all the praise, but, ultimately, no, I really did not enjoy it. I think I would be hard pressed to enjoy any eighteenth century romance novel, even a classic. I'm not an Anglophile. I normally don't enjoy historical fiction. I don't like romance novels. Plus there were no surprises. (Come on, it would be hard to be my age and not know the plot.)

So, even though I was being a huge Critical Monkey over NOT reading Austen and I'll admit that for the Don't be A-Hatin' Amendment I deserved to have Austen assigned to me as a novel I have been snobbish about not reading and should have read, ultimately in the end my feelings were spot-on and Austen was not my cup of tea. Since this is a beloved classic my lack of enjoyment matters not. I have put off reading this novel for years but now I'm feeling a real sense of accomplishment over completing my first Critical Monkey book, as assigned to me by Just Me. Yes! I did it! I suppose reading Austen could have been on a personal bucket list. No one need ever harass me to read Pride and Prejudice ever again! Who would have ever imagine it would feel so good to have tackled this major hurdle.


IT IS a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters. opening

NOT all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways; with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sir William had been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and, to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley's heart were entertained. (chapter 3) pg 182

What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters. (chapter 3) pg. 183

``Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.'' (chapter 4) pg. 184

Elizabeth listened in silence, but was not convinced. Their behaviour at the assembly had not been calculated to please in general; and with more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment, too, unassailed by any attention to herself, she was very little disposed to approve them. They were in fact very fine ladies, not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of being agreeable where they chose it; but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others.(chapter 4) pg 185

``Pride,'' observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, ``is a very common failing I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.'' (chapter 5) pg. 187

``I am not now to learn,'' replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand, ``that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.'' (chapter 19) pg. 229

``Nay,'' said Elizabeth, ``this is not fair. You wish to think all the world respectable, and are hurt if I speak ill of any body. I only want to think you perfect, and you set yourself against it. Do not be afraid of my running into any excess, of my encroaching on your privilege of universal good will. You need not. There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense. I have met with two instances lately; one I will not mention; the other is Charlotte's marriage. It is unaccountable! in every view it is unaccountable!'' (chapter 24) pg. 241

This is a special bonus note to anyone who pays attention to the quotes.

May I also add that after reading Pride and Prejudice the little review I received of it for a teen newsletter several years ago looks even more pathetic now then it did at the time I received it. This is exactly how it was submitted to me:

"although hard to follow at times and hard to keep a the characters straight. Pride and Prejudice is one of the best books I have ever read. Seeing how a young woman had to live back then is trying and sometimes hard, but I'm glad I have had the chance to read it and see how it was. Seeing how a man could marry any woman he wanted if he had enough money and that if your not pretty enough you get nothing. But nowadays women have the same chance to get a job as a man does. Fortunately I get to live in the 21st century and have all of the wonderful things I have. BUT as I have said it is one of the best books that I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and seeing as most of us are in high school I suggest reading it if you get the chance ( and when your all done see the movie) thank you for letting me share my opinion "

Sometimes it's OK to be a critical monkey...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
My edition (different cover)
Norton, 1999
trade paperback, 365 pages
ISBN 13: 9780965024020
contemporary fiction

Random Reading Challenge #1

From the Publisher
In this riveting novel of almost unbearable suspense, three fragile yet determined people become dangerously entangled in a relentlessly escalating crisis. Colonel Behrani, once a wealthy man in Iran, is now a struggling immigrant willing to bet everything he has to restore his family's dignity. Kathy Nicolo is a troubled young woman whose house is all she has left, and who refuses to let her hard-won stability slip away from her. Sheriff Lester Burdon, a married man who finds himself falling in love with Kathy, becomes obsessed with helping her fight for justice.
Drawn by their competing desires to the same small house in the California hills and doomed by their tragic inability to understand one another, the three converge in an explosive collision course.
My Thoughts:

While Dubus is a good writer and gave a different voice to each of his characters, I just can't recommend The House of Sand and Fog. I didn't like any of the characters and had to force myself to finish it just to see how it was going to end. My so-so rating is simply based on how I felt about the novel. I guess it could have rated a recommended based on the quality of the writing, especially in the first part of the book, but it was just w-a-y too depressing. I understand that it is partially a study of flawed characters, but... good grief. I grew to actually actively dislike the characters and I was exceedingly tired of them driving here, driving there, driving some more. Park already!
So-so for this reader


The fat one, the radish Torez, he calls me camel because I am Persian and because I can bear this August sun longer than the Chinese and the Panamanians and even the little Vietnamese Tran. opening

I have been looking into many possibilities; a small restaurant, or a laundry, a video store perhaps. Though I know these American papers, I know what they say of this economy, still I see small shops going out of business on both sides of the bay. And of course we have no money for to buy a house
as well, but there are many auctions in my country. There it is known as the legal way to rob. pg. 17

She also packs for me radishes, bread, one apple, and a small thermos of hot tea. The Panamanians watch me pour the steaming tea into my cup and they shake their heads as if I am a stupid child. They do not know what I know of the heat, that there must be a fire inside you to match the one outdoors. pg. 18

But many nights my sleep does not come when I think of how unwisely I let that sum be burned up, burned because my dear Nadereh could not and cannot bear to let other families know we have next to nothing left from the manner in which we used to live. pg. 19

But I am prepared now to give all the orders necessary until we are out of that pooldar apartment. The rent is paid through the month, two more weeks, but the Behrani family will be discharged this weekend, I promise that. I have a security deposit of three thousand dollars to claim. This leaves a total of six thousand dollars for us after I pay the remaining thirty-five on our new property. Tomorrow, Friday, I will receive my checks from this store and from the Highway Department, and I will leave these jobs with no notice. Torez and Mendez, and even Tran, can watch my backside as I go, as Genob Sarhang Behrani prepares for a new life, a life in the buying and selling of American real estate. pg. 33

The man in the suit handed me back the court order. "The county has petitioned the court in its behalf, Mrs. Lazaro. This should come as no surprise to you. I'm sure you had ample warning: your house is up for auction starting tomorrow morning." pg. 35

"Look, I inherited this house from my father, it's paid for. You can't evict me! My eyes filled up and the men began to blur. pg. 36

My new lawyer couldn't quite understand that, why I threw away all that mail from the county tax office without opening it....She poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat down a chair away from me with her legal pad and pencil. She asked me to tell her everything, which I did, including that I had already went to the tax office in Redwood City and signed a statement saying we'd never run a business from our house.... pg. 43

"Do you mind if I give you some professional advice?"
"I guess not."
"Keep your head and do it all through your lawyer, Kathy. If I were you, I wouldn't even drive up there until the keys were back in my hand." pg. 53