Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bookviews - March 2012

By Alan Caruba

My Picks of the Month

Charles Murray, a scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has written a number of books that have garnered both recognition and controversy. He’s back with another that is sure to do the same, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 ($27.00, Crown Forum). Murray has looked back, dating his conclusions from November 21, 1963 when the assassination of President Kennedy set the nation off in a new direction with Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” spending and the expansion of the Vietnam War. Murray, however, is interested in the values Americans shared then and the erosion of those shared values, along with the rapid pace of technological and other changes in society, has brought us to the point where the old class divisions have given way to a new, narrow “elite” of perhaps five percent of the population and everyone else. These are people, 25 and older, the children of the “Boomers” who arrived on the scene after World War Two. These are the people in management and the professions, those whose rise has depended on superior educations and just generally being smarter than others. At the top are those who have “risen to jobs that directly affect the nation’s culture, economy, and politics.” This book is not light reading, densely and thoroughly researched, and coming to conclusions about our society, our culture, and our future that do not bode well unless our former, nationally shared values can be renewed and restored.

In his book, American Nightmare, Randal O’Toole ($25.95, Cato Institute, softcover) says “The 2008 financial crisis was not caused by regulation, low interest rates, or other federal actions alone, but by the conflict between federal efforts to stimulate home ownership and state and local efforts to discourage single-family housing.” O’Toole argues that policies implemented by state and local governments to slow the supply of houses caused wild swings in housing prices. No doubt that urban growth policies and stringent zoning and land-use laws played a role, but the heart of the financial crisis was the purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of mortgages that were then “bundled” and sold as secure assets. Together they still own some 50% of all the mortgages in American and the “toxic” assets they created bankrupted investment houses and put banks at risk of insolvency. If this is a topic of interest to you, the book is surely food for thought.

Another phenomenon in American life has been the spontaneous movement called the Tea Party. We tend to forget it was a response against the passage of Obamacare. It has since evolved and had a significant affect on the 2010 elections, electing enough Republicans in the House of Representatives to give the party control and narrowing Democrat control of the Senate. Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution by Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin ($23.00 Henry Holt and Company, softcover) tells the story of what may well be the most famous modern grassroots movement, a political force with which to reckon. It is composed of people who believe the federal government is increasingly out of control, over-regulating, borrowing and spending recklessly. If you believe power in America belongs to the people (the Constitution says it does), then this book will interest you with its long range plan for the future that applies to the government, the educational system, and even the entertainment media.

All In: The Education of General David Petraeus ($29.95, The Penguin Press) is a book for anyone trying to understand the Iraq war and our continued presence in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history. Written by Paula Broadway with Vernon Leob, it is by a woman who graduated with honors from West Point and knows the U.S. Army A-to-Z. She has had considerable access to the man who now is director of the CIA and who had an illustrious military career. Patraeus is the classic over-achiever, gifted with intelligence, the personality of a born leader, and a dedication to his nation. He wrote the Army manual on counter-insurgency and saved the Iraq war when former President Bush ordered the “surge”. He was put in command in Afghanistan by President Obama where his methods achieved a measure of success, but the real message of the book is that billions have been wasted on that effort. The sheer level of corruption there was and is a defeat for U.S. efforts. Much of this book will appeal to those who are interested in recent military history and the men charged with carrying out our campaigns in a region that defies modernization and democracy as we know it in the West. It is well written, well-researched, and a lesson about U.S. efforts since 9/11.

A book written by an environmentalist, David Owen, The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse ($14.00, Riverhead Press, softcover) overtly and inadvertently exposes the failure of the environmental cult and the “solutions” it offers for things over which humans have no control, i.e., the climate and population. At its heart, Owen embraces environmental beliefs in manmade emissions of “greenhouse gases” that are believed to cause “global warming” when, in fact, the Earth’s atmosphere keeps it from being a desiccated version of Mars or the Moon. Carbon dioxide is the gas that is responsible for all vegetation on Earth and, without it, all animal life would die. Owen exposes the failure of environmental beliefs, ideas, and its desire to “transform” human behavior to “save the Earth” which requires no saving. While goals of clean air and clean water are laudable, a massive bureaucracy determined to require changes in our behavior and the destruction of our economy is not. For a quick look into the “greener than thou” mentality, this book is worth reading.

The gun invented by Samuel Colt is famed as the one that won the West. Later two gentlemen, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson created some marvelous firearms. Now a book, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun by Paul M. Barrett ($26.00, Crown Publishers) tells the story of the invention of the iconic handgun of modern times. In the 1980s, Gaston Glock, an obscure Austrian engineer, came up with an innovative design of a handgun, one with only 36 durable, interchangeable parts, and one that could fire 17 bullets without reloading. It has since become the handgun of choice for two-thirds of America’s law enforcement departments and countless handgun owners. It is an intriguing story of genius marketing, uncanny timing, and the glamour that came to be associated with the semi-automatic handgun, filled with political maneuvering, bloody shoot-outs, and even an attempt on the life of the inventor. In turbulent and dangerous times, it is a reminder that Founding Fathers understood the need for an armed citizens as a brake on a potentially tyrannical government. There’s a reason why, after guaranteeing freedom of speech, the press, religious practice, and free assembly in the First Amendment, the right to own and bear arms was the Second Amendment.

Rabbi Shumley Boteach has authored 27 books and his latest is Kosher Jesus ($26.00, Geffen Publishing House.) It is bound to stir controversy because Rabbi Boteach asserts that the biblical Jesus and the historical Jesus are quite different and the facts that can be known about the human Jesus cancel out the belief that he was also divine. This is, of course, the heart of Christianity which assigns divinity to Jesus, but Rabbi Boteach makes a strong case that the human Jesus was a charismatic rabbi in a time of tumult in Israel as Jews sought to throw off the occupation of the Roman Empire. Citing the gospels as well as the Torah and Talmud, Rabbi Boteach effectively demonstrates that the historical Jesus was preaching exclusively to Jews as a Jew. The New Testament that came about several decades after his crucifixion is the Christian sect’s effort to seek accommodation with the Romans and assign a divinity that no Jew of that time or the present would ever accept as anything other than a form of paganism. That said, the author argues for Jesus as a bridge between the two religions, both faced with an Islamism that threatens them. It is, to say the least, a thought-provoking book.

I love “fun” books, often collections of items that have become part of our national culture. Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends ($13.99, Zest Books, softcover) fulfill this description with a timeline that begins in 1906 with the murder of famed architect Stanford White by his ex-lover’s rich husband and concludes with the drama of the 2000 Bush-Gore election that was decided by a Supreme Court verdict. The events are real and they made headlines for good reasons. Over the years I have edited Bookviews I have rarely included individual poets because it tends to bring a deluge of books by other poets. Poetry is a highly individual literary artform and I prefer anthologies with lots of different poems from which to select. Recently I received Night of the Republic by Alan Shapiro ($21.00, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). As a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle, I note that he was an award finalist and has won many awards for his work. Being a traditionalist, I like my poetry to rhyme and am reminded of Robert Frost’s definition of modern poetry as “playing tennis without the net.” Shapiro does not rhyme, but he brings a poet’s eye to his own life and life around him. His work reflects well on our republic.

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Pregnancy, Caring for the Ill, and other Health Issues

The 7th edition of Your Pregnancy Week by Week ($15.95, Da Capo Press, softcover) is now available. Co-authors, Dr. Glade Curtis, MD, and Judith Schuler, have written 18 books together over the years. Dr. Glade is board certified by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and this book has been updated to provide as comprehensive a body of information about pregnancy as you will find anywhere. Formatted in an weekly schedule, it covers all the questions and concerns that pregnancy involves, including a new appendix for couples having trouble conceiving. Not all pregnancies go smoothly and High-Risk Pregnancy—Why Me? Understanding and Managing a Potential Preterm Pregnancy is a medical and emotional guide by Kelly Whitehead with Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, MD ($26.95, Evolve Publishing, softcover). A scientist by training, the author was facing a high risk “preemie” pregnancy after the loss of her first child at nearly 23 weeks. She discovered there was a scarcity of information for women facing a similar situation and joined forces with Dr. Berghella, a specialist in fetal/maternal medicine. The objective was to write a book that the lay person could understand. An estimated 500,000 women in the U.S. encounter this and now there’s a book to guide them through to successful births. An interesting and disturbing book, Grade A Baby Eggs: An Infertility Memoir by Victoria Hopewell ($15.95, Epigraph Books, softcover) addresses the 7.3 million couples “whose eggs and sperm are not quite up to the task. Infertility is an existential slap in the face.” The author, a clinical psychologist who has held academic appointments at the medical schools of both Harvard and Cornell, reveals the truth about the in-vitro fertilization industry, “a wild-west baby business where women’s eggs are bought and sold over the Internet, and prices are based on everything from the donor’s SAT scores to how much you’re welling to pay to make sure your baby is technically Jewish.” The IVF attempts each year average more than $12,000 each “and it’s virtually unregulated” says the author. For anyone encountering this problem, this book must be read. It deserves wider media attention as well.

Walking on Eggshells: Caring for a Critically Ill Loved One ($14.95, New Horizon Press, softcover) by Amy Sales is filled with pragmatic advice and insightful self-assessments for caregivers. It advises what to say in difficult conversations, how to regain the patient’s sense of control, and new methods for self-care in order to bring their best to care-giving. This book addresses the unique needs of care-givens of parents, children, adult children, and spouses. It offers advice for care-givers who need to attend to their own health while providing for seriously ill loved ones. Anyone who has been through it will tell you it can be a difficult and daunting task. If you or someone you know is dealing with this, this book will prove invaluable. In April the Central Recovery Press of Las Vegas will publish When the Servant Becomes the Master by Dr. Jason Z.W. Powers, MD ($18.95, softcover) described as “a comprehensive addiction guide for those who suffer with the disease, the loved ones affected by it, and the professionals who assist them.” It covers a wide range of topics from what addiction is, its dynamics and neurochemistry; to drugs of abuse, treatment approaches and interventions, to relapse prevention. Not all addictions involve substance abuse. The book includes gambling, food, and sex addictions as well. Addiction is treated like a disease, not a moral failure. Colleagues have great praise for this book, noting that it is filled with relevant, clinically useful information that will help people understand addiction and take the right steps toward healing.

A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness by Victoria Costello ($19, Prometheus Books, softcover) is part memoir, detective story, and scientific investigation as the author tells the story of the mental unraveling of her 17-year-old son compelled her to look back into her family history for clues to his condition. She traced it back to his great grandfather’s suicide in 1913, but that brought no relief because, within two years of Alex’s diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, both she and her youngest son succumbed to two different mental disorders, major depression and an anxiety disorder. After a struggle to secure the best mental health care for her sons and herself, they each achieved full recovery. In the process, she discovered new science that explains how clusters of mental illness traverse family generations. If this describes your family or one you know, this book provides needed information and insight, particularly now that it is known that mental illness can be passed or skip from generation to generation.

Love, Loss, and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently by Cathy Greenblat ($24.95, Globe Pequot Press) is a remarkable collection of photos and text by the author who documents that those receiving an emerging kind of care that treats the person, not just the “patient”, is a portrait of how Alzheimer’s can be dealt with effectively by sustaining their connections to others, to their own past lives, with a level of success higher than is generally believed at this time. The book has a foreword by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, the daughter of movie star, Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s. “This book is not about the difficulties of dementia can cause, as some might expect. It is about the lives that continue in spite of it. It really is about seeing Alzheimer’s differently.” She is the president of Alzheimer’s Disease International and honorary vice chair of the Alzheimer’s Association (USA). The book is filled with excellent and inspiring advice for the families of those afflicted with this cruel disease. It’s photos are wonderful and it would make a great gift for anyone who is caring for a loved one.

Love, Love, Love

What kind of a world would it be without love? Dreadful! Much Ado About Loving: What our Favorite Novels can Teach you about Date Expectations, Not-so-Great Gatsbys, and Love in the Time of Internet Personals is one of those titles that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the book. For lovers of fiction, Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly ($19.99, Free Press) have gotten together to examine the vast body of literature with the view that there is much to be learned from the characters portrayed that can be applied to our own lives as we read about their foibles, misadventures, and eventual triumphs. The authors, relationship gurus, know that finding and keeping love is often tough for present-day folks who often turn to all manner of self-help books, daytime TV, magazines, friends, relatives and shrinks for guidance. This is a book about how to form relationships and make them work, using literature as signposts.

We know that fifty percent of marriages these days do not last, but Tiffany Current, the author of How to Move In With Your Boyfriend (and Not Break Up With Him) is of the opinion that living in sin ain’t what it used to be. She thinks that “shacking up” is almost a rite of passage with more couples living together than ever ($12.95, Hunter House, softcover). Let us note that Tiffany successfully navigated the perils of her live-in relationship and went on to marry the man who provided the fodder for her entertaining guidebook. She admits they got off to a rocky start and, as many couples discover, cleaning habits, house rules, and decorating tastes, and everything else can turn into an argument. She emphasizes communication, teamwork, and compromise to make a relationship work. It’s a witty and very sensible book that any girl should read.

Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love by Marci Shimoff ($15.00, Free Press), a bestseller, is now in softcover and has been hailed by Dr. Mehmet Oz, Jack Canfield, the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and has a foreword by Marianne Williamson, all renowned in their own fields as relationship gurus. The best relationships in life are based on this principle and, if you are seeking to achieve it, this is the right place to begin. Then there is love at the end of life. When All That’s Left of Me is Love: A Daughter’s Story of Letting Go by Linda Campenella ($17.99, Tate Publishing, softcover) was published in August 2011, so I am reporting on it a bit belatedly, but its message is eternal and the memoir about learning her mother had terminal cancer will resonate with many who have had time to bid goodbye to a beloved parent while ensuring their last days would be filled with as much joy as possible. She made that last year count and those who are experiencing a similar situation, they should too.

Loving History

When it comes to reading, I love history and a number of excellent new books serve it well.

We are all taught about the Lewis and Clark expedition, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, our third President. It did much to help open up the American West, at that time largely terra incognita to most who lived along the East Coast and in the South. Thomas C. Danisi has written a biography, Uncovering the Truth About Meriwether Lewis ($26.00, Prometheus Books), shedding light on the adventurous life and controversial death of this great explorer. Lewis encountered many difficulties in his life, suffering from incurable malaria for much of it, being court martialed at one point, enduring the challenges of the expedition, and either being murdered at the end or taking his own life.

The Civil War was the nation’s great trauma and continues generate many books on the subject. One of the latest is Decided on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and the Election of 1864 by David Alan Johnson ($27.00, Prometheus Books). The critical election for Lincoln’s reelection is the focus as the war had dragged on for more than three years with no end in sight. Lincoln was being challenged by George B. McClellen and he needed a victory to lift the voter’s spirits. It was the battles of Generals Grant and Sherman that made that possible and, in particular, the conquest of Atlanta. Lincoln would be reelected with a majority of 400,000 votes. The war would continue for five months before the South surrendered and the republic was reunited. This is a very interesting book on many levels and well worth reading. The South, of course, has its own version of the Civil War and it is served up by Leonard M. Scruggs in The Uncivil War: Shattering the Historical Myths ($16.95 plus $2.95 shipping, Universal Media, Inc., softcover). For southerners and others who pursue this chapter of our history, there is much they will find of interest in this book. For the South, the issue was state’s rights and the U.S. Constitution which they replicated in large part for the Confederacy. The war’s casualties were nothing less than astonishing. Its conduct was brutal.

Another brutal conflict occurred when Egyptians revolted against the decades of dictatorship of Hosni Mubarack and the military that backed him. Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater Than the People in Power by Wael Ghonim ($26.00, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) tells the story of the author’s anonymous launch of a Facebook page in 2010 to protest the death of an Egyptian man at the hands of the security forces. The page’s followers quickly expanded and, on January 14, 2011, it made history when more than 350,000 friends clamored to join and a revolution was declared. Ghonim was captured and held for twelve days of brutal interrogation. This is a remarkable story of how the modern communications technology of social networking on the Internet sparked a revolution and what came to be called the Arab Spring.

A much lighter topic is the subject of The Persian Room Presents: An Oral History of New York’s Most Magical Night Spot by Patty Farmer ($28.95, Vantage Press) which tells the story of this famed gathering place for the glitterati and visitors to the city. For more than forty years, from 1934 to 1975, the Persian Room showcased an unparalleled array of performers and many of them recall it. Among its contributors are Andy Williams, Polly Bergen, Diahann Carroll, Carol Lawrence, and others. It is filled with show business stories of the famous entertainers and other figures of that era. It is a wonderful remembrance of a past time of glamour and talent.

Kid’s Books, Younger Readers

The next time you’re feeling blue, if you have a pre-schooler, one in grade school, buy a book for their age group and watch how much fun it is to read it together. For pre-teens, sometimes called “tweens”, there are some excellent new books as well.

You can never go wrong with a published called Kids Can Press. They have some of the most imaginative books for both age groups. When I read the ones for the very young, I find myself laughing just like one of them!

Dear Flyary, as in “diary”, by Dianne Young and illustrated by John Martz ($16.95) is a hoot! It involves a kid from another galaxy who gets bright, new red spaceship and all problems that ensue when it begins to make strange noises, not unlike cars do on occasion. The fun is in the language of the story which is a space-talk version of English and very amusing. This one is for the very young up to around five. Also for this age group is Larf, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires ($16.95) about a hairy, seven-foot-tall vegetarian Sasquatch who is quite content to live alone with his pet bunny, Eric. Thinking he is the only Sasquatch, when he reads that another Sasquatch will be at a nearby town, he decides to go. He disguises himself (which is not easy for a Sasquatch to do) but it turns out it’s just some guy in a costume. Fate intervenes in the form of Shurl, a girl Sasquatch—also disguised—who he invites for supper. A happy ending is expected. A Hen for Izzy Pippik, written by Aubrey Davis and beautifully illustrated by Marie Lafrance ($16.95) has the feel of a Yiddish tale from former times. When a chicken turns up on Shaina’s doorstop, she tries to return him to her owner, Mr. Pippik, but he’s no where to be found. As time goes alone, more chicks are born until they are everywhere in the town. The townspeople discover that the chickens were so popular that business began to boom as people came from all around to see them. When Mr. Pippik turns up, he decides to give them all to the town. Roosters crowed. Children cheered. Hens cackled with glee! Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault ($16.96) is not about the famed author—spelled Woolf—but rather the sister of Vanessa who has awakened in a foul mood, like an angry wolf. Cheering her up is the task before Vanessa and this is the story of how she did it.

On a more serious and educational note, there’s Faith: Five Religions and What They Share by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel ($17.95) and provides a brief description of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. There are chapters on the cultural aspects of each such as their houses of worship. For ages six to ten or so, this book provides an look at the way various people pursue their religious lives. Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors ($16.95) is written y Jane Drake and Ann Love, and illustrated by Heather Collins. It is filled with activity that will put kids in touch with life beyond computer games and television, from building a birdhouse, making a tire swing, planting a garden, and much more. When I was a child, we were outdoors all the time and I would recommend this one to today’s parents.

Early readers, aged seven to ten or so, will enjoy three stories that include Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson with illustrations by Ben Clanton ($15.95). These are books where the story is the main attraction. This book is the first of a series about Jasper, a quirky and enthusiastic boy with an offbeat view of the world. Young readers will find much to laugh about when they read this one. Lower the Trap: The Lobster Chronicles 1 by Jessica Scott Kerrin ($15.95) tells of a gargantuan lobster caught by the main character’s father and the adventures that result. It’s a delightful introduction to lives devoted to the bounty of the sea. Finally, there’s The Island Horse by Susan Hughes ($16.95) It is a wonderful story of a girl who has to move to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, but home to wild horses. While Ellie loves horses, she is not happy to leave her little village. Once there, however, she forms a friendship with a beautiful chocolate-colored horse, but will he and his herd be taken away? These three books are a great introduction to the fun of reading.

Novels, Novels, Novels

The flood of novels continues and, happily, there are a number of very good ones worth recommending.

For those who love stories involving America’s intelligence services, The Right Guard by Alexandra Hamlet ($24.95, Foxboro Press, Annapolis, MD) is going to prove a suspenseful and satisfying story with ramifications of present times. Set in 1978, it reflects the present political and economic climate of the United States. Recall that Jimmy Carter was still president and the Iranian hostage taking of our diplomats was still a year away. When more than one million military weapons and equipment are missing from U.S. military inventories across the nation, CIA operatives struggle to find out who is involved in a secretive, “phantom” group hostile to a wildly spending, intrusive U.S. administration. The action is set against the world of intelligence and defense in the 1970s and chapters often begin with actual newspaper articles relating to the topics that are contained in the novel. This is the author’s debut novel and one can only hope she has another on the way.

Before the Poison ($25.99, William Morrow) by Peter Robinson is an old-fashioned thriller about a composer, Chris Lowndes, who leaves California after twenty-five years there writing musical scores for films. He has decided to return to the Yorkshire dales in England where he has bought, sight-unseen, a big, old, remote mansion. Turns out that his realtor neglected to mention that it was the scene of a murder in 1953 and Grace Fox, the wife of the victim was hanged for having poisoned him. Intrigued, the more he learns about the case, the more convinced he becomes that she was innocent. Despite warnings, he digs into it and you will dig into this mystery too. A thriller by Aric Davis, A Good and Useful Hurt, ($14.95, 47North, Las Vegas, softcover) features a tattoo artist who uses the ashes of the customer’s loved ones in their tattoos. The author is himself a tattoo artist who works at a popular parlor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the novel his fictional tattoo artist is on a collision course with a serial killer. As more requests for similar tattoos commemorating a lost one, his life begins to spin out of control when Deb, another tattooist, joins his firm and a romance ensues. This is a complex story worth reading. In a Long Drive Home by Will Allison ($14.00, Free Press, softcover) a single impulsive act leads to unintended consequences. When Glenn Bauer jerks his steering wheel to scare a reckless driver, it results in a crash that kills the driver. Realizing that he is the only witness to the accident—as well as the likely cause—he begins to lie to the police, his wife, and even his six-year-old daughter. When his wife panics with the potential of punishment, he begins to wonder if he did cause the crash. This novel is an exploration of culpability.

Everybody Says Hello by Michael Kun ($30.00, Livingston Press, University of West Alabama, softcover) is about someone we all know. In this novel it’s Sid Straw and his correspondence, and it reveals a man who is a good and decent person, but one for whom things just always take a wrong turn. He comes close to a right decision, but then swerves into a wrong one. Sid tries too hard, says a little too much, makes that extra effort that proves his undoing. If he could get out of his own way, his life was be so much better. This novel draws you into his life and is written by an author whose work has been well received over the past two decades. Welcome to the world of Sid Straw. The South has given us many fine novelists and has his own distinct culture. In The Lost Saints of Tennessee ($25.00, Atlantic Monthly Press), Amy Franklin-Willis mines the fault lines in one Southern working class family as it moves from the 1940s to the 1980s. It revolves around Ezekiel Cooper and his mother, Lillian. As the saying goes, if Zeke didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all. He loses his twin brother to a mysterious drowning and his wife to divorce. Only the ghosts remain for him in Clayton, Tennessee and he decides to leave and, in doing so, leaves behind two adolescent daughters and his estranged mother, herself a figure of sadness too, hoping to save what remains of her family. Zeke finds refuge with sympathetic cousins in Virginia’s horse country until he must decide whether to cling to the past or to move on. This novel is the real deal. In The Union Quilters ($15.00, Plume, softcover) Jennifer Chiaverini takes us back to the days of the Civil War with a story that addresses the challenges faced by women left behind when their men answered the call to arms and as they dealt with southern sympathizers as well as the many ethical questions the war raised. An informal group of women come together for comfort and support in a deeply moving story of an era fraught with conflict.

The Pacific Northwest is the setting for an historically based novel, Bring Me One of Everything ($16.95, Grey Swan Press, softcover) by Leslie Hall Pinder. Twenty-five years ago this Canadian writer debuted with her first novel to much critical acclaim. Four years later her second novel was published and now, twenty years later she returns after devoting herself to being an attorney protecting the rights of indigenous people. The result infuses this novel with her knowledge of native rituals and practices. An anthropologist, Austin Hart, who was charged by the Smithsonian to “bring me one of everything”, he was responsible in the 1950s for bringing the last of the totem poles of the Haida tribes who inhabit the Queen Charlotte islands in British Columbia. Now Alicia Purcell has been commissioned to create the libretto for an opera about him. The fusion of both their lives and the conflicts within her life are the heart of this remarkable novel.

For those who love an epic story, Jack Whyte has authored The Forest Land ($25.95, Forge) based on the life of the heroic figure of Scotland’s William Wallace. It is the first in his “Guardian’s trilogy” that will include the fight for Scotland’s freedom by Robert the Bruce and Sir James (the Black) Douglas. This is history writ large and in a fashion that will please anyone who loves the great battles of the past and the men who led them.

That’s it for March. So much to read and enjoy. So much more to come. Tell your family and friends about so they too can have their lives enriched by the fiction and non-fiction that light up the dark places of our heart and illuminate our lives with their stories. Come back in April!