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Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

    As of right now, I would say this book will end up in my top five for the year. Time will tell, but it was a superbly written debut novel. Here is my book review The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris.


    The Civil War is in its final days and the Emancipation Proclamation has freed slaves, including brothers Prentiss and Landry. But when Prentiss and Landry encounter George Walker wandering in the woods and grieving the loss of his only son in the war, everything will change.

    George’s wife Isabelle is distraught over the death of their son, and angry with her husband for it. George decides to turn his land into a peanut farm, to channel his own grief in work, and hires Prentiss and Landry to work the farm and live in the barn.


    Neighbors and the town’s elite are in an uproar over the Walker’s giving room and board and work to the black men and the Walker’s are chastised and admonished.

    But while this is all going on a forbidden romance bubbles between two confederate soldiers, until Landry witnesses the lovers together.

    The result will change the lives of not only the brothers, the lovers and the Walker’s, but nearly every person in the town of Old Ox.

    Beautifully Written

    The writing in this book is perfect and the story unfolds in Harris’ hands like a fine painting. I was riveted and could not put this book down. It is sweet, sad, violent, hopeful, painful and honest. A fresh new look from the viewpoint of exquisitely crafted characters, of this turning point period in our countries history.

    Go read this book. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris.

    Read last week’s review Lightening Strike by William Kent Krueger.

    My current read The Promise.

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    *****Five stars for The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

    One of my all-time favorite books was by William Kent Krueger This Tender Land. But I had never read any of Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series. So now I have. Here is my book review Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger.

    Each of the books in Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series stands alone. You don’t need to worry if you haven’t read any of the many previous books. Lightning Strike is a fantastic novel all on its own.

    We are introduced to Cork as a 12-year old boy in the summer of ’63. Cork’s father Liam is the local sheriff in the small Minnesota town of Aurora on the shores of Iron Lake. Long simmering prejudice quietly eats away at this town between the Native American Ojibwa people and the rest of the population of Aurora and the surrounding region.

    When Cork stumbles upon a dead body at the sacred Native site known as Lightning Strike, Sheriff O’Connor will need to use every resource he can muster to decide if this was a suicide or a murder. Cork also sets out on his own to find answers as those living on the “rez” close ranks and those living in town point fingers, and the town’s richest man accuses everyone but himself.

    This is a wonderfully laid out crime novel with a message of truth and justice in a coming of age story. Cork and his family, and everyone in this novel must grapple with a battle between their heads and their hearts.

    I hope you enjoyed my book review Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

    Read last week’s review The Warmth of Other Suns

    My current read The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

    Reading Wednesday

    Not quite a year ago on our California road trip we listened to Wilkerson’s astonishing work, Caste. It was one of my favorite reads last year. And now I’ve discovered Wilkerson’s other work (2010), a look at a remarkable time in American history that nobody really has talked about or written about. Here is my book review The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

    You don’t need to read Caste to understand the story being told in The Warmth of Other Suns, but I do recommend both books very highly. The remarkable years of research Wilkerson undertook for both books is staggering. But because of this attention to detail the reader is transported to another time in American history, the great migration of blacks from the south to points north and west during Jim Crowe.

    The Great Migration

    Beginning in about 1915 and continuing into the 1970’s, about six million black American’s, slave descendants, left the south in search of something safer and better. Using the routes most accessible to southern Negroes at the time, the great migration brought thousands to New York, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

    Years of Research

    Wilkerson interviewed more than a 1000 people for this book and dove deep into documents and records never before used to tell this story. With her research and writing talent she brings to the reader three incredibly brave real people;

    Ida Mae Gladney a sharecropper who left Mississippi in 1937 for a better life in Chicago where she lived the rest of her years.

    Robert (Pershing) Foster who left Louisiana in 1953 despite his success as a doctor but discrimination kept him from practicing in the way he desired. Instead he traveled by car to Los Angeles where he would become wealthy and successful but always feeling inadequate.

    George Starling who left Florida in 1945 to keep from being lynched and ended up in Harlem. Brilliant Starling wanted a college degree but he would spend his life as a porter on the trains but would make peace with his choices.

    The New American History

    Following these three individuals Wilkerson finds a way for the reader to feel all the slights, sadness, danger, injustice as well as happiness in these characters, their stories and all the people who they touch.

    Read this book. Open yourself to new American history we were never taught. Wilkerson is a writer for our times.

    *****Five stars for The Warmth of Other Suns – The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.

    Read last week’s review of The Garden of Small Beginnings

    My current read Of Women and Salt

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

    After listening to a few books on Audible about Greek Gods, the Trojan War and a lot bravado…I was in search of something a bit softer. And I definitely found in in the sweet, sad and funny book, a debut novel. Here is my book review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman.

    The Garden of Small Beginnings

    Although I am a writer, I do not write humor. Writing funny is hard. And it takes a very special talent. And Waxman nailed it in this sad story. This, her debut novel, is not about a funny plot…but she excels at dialogue that brings the reader right into the moment with hilarious quips and chatter. A big shout out too for the Audible reader Emily Rankin. She was a great.

    Lilian is a widow, a young mother with two small girls and a talented illustrator. For the past three years she has struggled to regain her footing in life after she witnesses the death of her husband in a car accident. She doesn’t believe she has the right to ever be happy again. She sees any future happiness as a slight to her husband Dan’s memory.

    New Beginnings

    But when Lilian’s employer asks her to take a gardening class in preparation to illustrate a vegetable gardening book, Lilian is thrust back into the social setting she has abhorred for three years. Here she meets an eclectic group of individuals each with their own mysteries and compassion, talents and foibles. The diverse group soon becomes close friends as they plant and bloom, and Lilian becomes even closer friends with the instructor, Edward Bloem. Edward’s family owns the European Bloem Seed Company the company Libby is illustrating the book for.

    Well of course there are many twists and turns, happy and sad moments and lots of plants and flowers as the gardening class individually and as a group all find their passions and small beginnings.

    I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it on Audible too. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. I look forward to what she does next.

    *****Five Stars for The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

    See last week’s review of Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.

    My current read The Descendents

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker

    This book was written by a local author in the town where I live. I was asked to read this book, which sometimes can be a little tricky…but not this time. I really enjoyed this unique story. Here is my book review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.


    I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and on the Kitsap Peninsula. And, as you probably know, I also LOVE Hawaii and spend as much time there as possible. So when I realized this story was based in these two locations I quickly was intrigued.

    Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods

    Walker creates a well-developed cast of characters who befriend Eve Sorenson on the island of Oahu when she arrives to care for her dying aunt. Aunt Meg has lived on Oahu for thirty years. Her seventy-year-old body is failing her, and she asks Eve to care for her in her end of life. But Meg is no push-over…she calls the shots and Eve who adores her is up to the task, including writing her aunt’s memoir.

    But Eve has left a complicated list of catastrophes behind back home on the Kitsap Peninsula when she answers her aunt’s call to come to Hawaii. Everything from an accusation from a student, a 15-year old son with usual 15-year old problems, a jerk ex-husband and a deep sadness for the recent loss of her father and the family home she grew up in.

    Spirits and Ghost Gods

    On Eve’s first day in Oahu she goes to the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii where she encounters a white dog. The dog leads her to a man who has fallen into a ravine and is injured and near death. After the rescue the dog has disappeared. Was the dog real? Or a spirit to help her find the man? Are the dancing lights around the man Hawaiian spirits? Are the tiny Menehuna forest people present and involved in the rescue? And why does Eve keep seeing her father’s eyes in the man’s face.

    This encounter will build the plot of this book that explores the Hawaiian myths and legends; the idea that our paths and choices may not always be our own; and how finding family and friends in the most unexpected places can change our lives forever.


    The well researched and written Hawaiian historical and cultural information in the book meld beautifully into the plot of this story. I particularly liked how the book discussed life and death, afterlife and how different cultures view passing differently. I also enjoyed the healing nature of both Meg’s end of life journey and Eve’s emotional one with her beloved aunt and her son.

    An overriding theme in the book is the role flora plays in both the Hawaiian and the Pacific Northwest lifestyle.


    You won’t find this book on Reese Witherspoon’s list of the Oprah Book Club…but don’t let that put you off. Like the characters in this book the unexpected things we find when we aren’t even searching are sometimes the best. That is the way with Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods.

    I hope you enjoyed my book review Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker.

    ****Four stars for Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods by Jan Walker

    See last week’s review of Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

    My current read The Women in Black

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

    This is a really great book, especially for me growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where when I was a child logging was still very much a way of life. Here is my book review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson.

    The year is 1977, the place Damnation Grove, California, where for generations fathers and sons have cut the Redwood timber for the Sanderson Timber Company. Rich Gunderson and his wife Colleen eek out a living but Rich wants more for his wife and young son.

    Colleen, who has experienced eight miscarriages also is searching for more…another baby, and better communication with her husband. Colleen’s unconventional sister Enid seems to drop out a baby everytime she turns around and Colleen finds the unfairness of it all stiffling.

    Daniel, a former boyfriend of Colleen’s arrives in town to research how the decades of herbicide spraying is contaminating the soil, the water and the people. Loggers and their families scoff at the research, saying if the herbicides were dangerous the government wouldn’t allow them to be sprayed.

    But when bees die, children are born malformed, cancer runs amuck and Colleen has another miscarriage, she begins to believe in the message Daniel is trying to spread.

    Set amidst a changing time in the lumber industry and in our country, Damnation Spring is a story of a vanishing way of life, family and tradition, big money and bribery and of course, the beginnings of the EPA. Told through the eyes of Rich, Colleen and Chub in believable and beautifully written chapters, Damnation Spring is a book you won’t be able to put down.

    *****Five stars for Davidson’s debut novel, Damnation Spring. I hope you enjoyed my book review Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson.

    Read last week’s review Run by Ann Patchett

    My current read The Warmth of Other Suns

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Run by Ann Patchett

    This is one of Patchett’s older novels, published in 2007. It’s another gem I found in my neighborhood’s “little library”. Although not my favorite of Patchett’s work, I did enjoy this family story. Here is my book review Run by Ann Patchett.

    There is a lot going on in this book. Beginning with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a family heirloom cherished for it’s family resemblance. But is the story behind this family piece true?

    Bernard Doyle is the former Mayor of Boston. He has one biological son, who has been in and out of trouble, and two adopted sons who are brothers. They are also black.

    Four years after adopting Tip and Teddy, Doyle’s wife Bernadette dies. He is left to raise the three boys. Sixteen years later, on a cold snowy night, Tip is nearly killed when he steps out into the path of an oncoming vehicle. He is saved by a bystander who pushes him out of harms way. The black women named Tennessee, is seemingly a stranger. But as the story develops we learn she has much to do with this family, and knows everything about them.

    Tennessee’s daughter Kenya is taken in by the Doyle’s while her mother is in the hospital. And it becomes clear that Kenya and Tennessee are family to Tip and Teddy. How will this tale come together? A few unique twists at the end I did not see coming, but in true Patchett fashion she weaves a story of family and faith, race and politics and particularly how close the have’s and the have-not’s live in a world of invisible people. I hope you enjoyed my book review Run by Ann Patchett.

    ****Four stars for Run by Ann Patchett

    Read last week’s review of A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

    My current read Rain Shelters and Ghost Gods.

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