Monday, 22 December 2014

Yesterday I read a book.  Not a novel, but a musical score that was written in 1741 by George Frederic Handel.
I had been taking advantage of every musical concert that I could attend this Christmas season.  My daughter discovered this opportunity:

Messiah Sing-A-Long offers a shorter version of Handel’s popular oratorio and provides opportunities for singers of all ages and talents to sing along with the 
choir which will be seated amongst the audience.

We arrived just in time to be handed a book of music and given the last seats in the front section of a large, packed church, where the visitors were seated with the choir.  I was in shock as the music started. I opened the book and tried to find my line of music.  As the orchestra began playing, I felt like I had been dropped into a rabbit hole and was in another universe. "Betty in Wonderland".  I had not yet adjusted to the cathedral-like atmosphere, decorated beautifully for Christmas.  I had never seen this music.  What was I doing here????
Thankfully, there were two arias before we needed to start singing.  I thought I was familiar with some of the music, but WOW!  The first chorus number was "And the glory of the Lord".  I was swept away by all the beautiful voices around me.  I kept my eye on the members of the chamber choir that were sitting in front of me.  I may have squeaked out a note or two because that is a very familiar piece, but further chorus pieces were unfamiliar and hard to follow.  Since the church was full and the voices were loud and the orchestra was amazing, I could just stand in awe whenever I was swept away.
I waffled between complete amazement and disbelief.  I almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation!  One of the soloists added a dramatic flair as he sang his aria and I could hardly keep from giggling.  This was bizarre! 
Two and a half hours later, I was excited as we approached "The Hallelujah Chorus".  And then, I really knew I was in another universe!  The trumpets started as well as the drums!   I was swept away by all the spectacular sounds, but determined to be a part of that amazing piece of music!  I know I sang "King of Kings and Lord of Lords", but the rest of the time I was out of my body.  Amazing!

                                     Merry Christmas!

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Signature of All Things P.S.

Two additional thoughts about "The Signature of All Things":
The title:  Brilliant!  I have complained about thoughtless titles.  But, who came up with this title?  I'm not sure that it is original, but it is brilliant!
The covers are both very fitting.
The afterglow: I am finding it difficult to get involved with another book. I find myself still ruminating.  And I am reminded of this quote from "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield: "Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you?"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Signature of All things

What can I say about this novel?
It's long.  I listened to it on cd's.  It took 21.5 hours.
And it will take me longer to digest it.  
Elizabeth Gilbert has taken on such a complex subject.  The best description I have read is that it is a "botanical odyssey". That really describes it well- a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.  
Here is the plot in a sentence: Alma Whittaker, born in 1800, grows up with a fascination for botany and it leads her into the mysteries of evolution.
Simple plot but so complex!
A fellow reader that I respect has read it three times and says this: "I totally marvel that a 48-year-old woman explores such deep questions in her novel."
Now I feel guilty about complaining about the length!
Really, it is about the origins of the earth and everything in it.  Now how profound is that?

And I really appreciate history put into a fictional form.  Much of this novel is based on fact.  The settings are actual places- Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London and the Hortus Botanical Garden in Amsterdam.  
Some of the characters are real- certainly Darwin, but also Alfred Russel Wallace, who was a friend and follower of Darwin.  Alma never met Darwin, but she did have a wonderful encounter with Alfred when he read Alma's research and realized the "extraordinary simultaneity"- three people coming to the same conclusions about the 'origin of the species'- Alma, Wallace, and Darwin.  But Darwin was first!
And so, it is about the theory of natural selection. But it doesn't stop there.  Alma knew that there was something missing from her research- something to account for our unique human consciousness.  And so the book ends with Alma (at 82), discussing with Alfred Wallace, the mystery that goes beyond science.  Wow!  

Monday, 8 December 2014


We did not have money to buy books when I was a child, but we received gifts of books, mostly from the Sunday School for good attendance.  I loved these books and clearly remember reading them.
In my pile of 'oldies', there are books presented to various members of my family.  The oldest book is from 1909- a gift to my aunt at age 7.
There is no copyright date on that book. 

"Baby Kangaroo and Lilly Lamb" was given to me at age 5.  There is no copyright date.  It is adorable with coloured photos and black and white photos.  It is part of a series of baby animal stories.  What is better for young children?  Now or then?

Books with inscriptions:

Friday, 5 December 2014

More Old Books

This collection of books is also worrisome.  There probably is no point in donating them.  Who would want to read them now?  We are bombarded by new, exciting novels every day.  Also, they are yellowed and tattered.  I know my children and grandchildren would not appreciated having them moved to their homes.
So I have decided to re-read them, record and journal about them and then dispose of them.  There is a season for everything.  And their season is passed.

I decided to start with books by Grace Livingston Hill.  I remember reading her books in my teens.  And when I began to volunteer with the library at the Mennonite nursing home, these books were popular with the ladies there.Grace Livingston Hill was born in 1864.  She wrote over 100 novels and numerous short stories of  Christian fiction. Her characters were usually young strong Christian women.  Perhaps that is why they were popular gifts from Sunday School. Rereading them for the first time in many years, I can understand the appeal of a black-and-
white world where faith was strong.

"Coming Through the Rye"  c 1926
Romayne was one of those young, strong, Christian women. Her mother had died and she lived with her father and brother.  When she arrived home one day, she found Evan Sherwood and his fellow police officers waiting to arrest her father and brother who were involved in bootlegging.   She adamantly denied this and was rude to Evan.  When they showed her the proof, her father arrived home, collapsed and eventually died.  Evan was very protective and supportive of Romayne as she was in danger from her brother's friends.
In fact, Evan offered to marry Romayne and they lived happily ever after!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Old Books

What can you do with old books?  While re-organizing my living room, I cleaned out the book shelves.  And I found some old books.
Just look at this wonderful set of World Book Encyclopedia from 1967.
They are commemorating the centennial of Canadian Confederation.
Very special and very important to our family.
Our children were too young to use them in 1967, but we thought they were a wonderful investment.  And they were!

Now we are finding it hard to get rid of them.  They certainly are not needed any more.  But they have been important to our children and grandchildren.  They have become almost a part of the family.
At my age, anything that you part with makes a sad occasion.  The memories swarm back.
And parting with the encyclopedia was the beginning of weeding the book shelves.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Downhill Chance


   Donna Morrissey grew up in Newfoundland.  She now lives in Halifax but I have heard her speak and she has kept her Newfoundland expressions and dialect.  There is a lovely lilt to her voice and she is blunt and real and fun.

   Her first book, "Kit's Law" was written in 1999 and won several awards.
   I loved that book!  It was about three generations of women in Newfoundland. When Nan, the grandmother died, Kit was left with her retarded mother.  Kit was fourteen and it was interesting to read about the different reactions in the community to a retarded mother raising a teenager.
   The minister wanted Kit moved to an orphanage, but the doctor helped them stay in their home together.  Sid, the minister's son, was very kind and caring to Kit and her mother.  He helped out in useful ways, like chopping wood for them.  In fact, Sid witnessed a murder and took the blame.  Shine, a moonshine runner, had attempted to rape Kit and her mother Josie killed Shine with an axe.  Sid took the blame and was sent to jail.  When he had served his sentence, he married Kit.  Happy ever after?  Not quite.  Sid discovered that he was Kit's brother.  Whoops! That means that the minister.....
   Well, it was a fascinating story and I loved it when I read it in 2004. 
   Ten years later, I got around to reading her second book, "Downhill Chance".  What a disappointment!  The dialect is so strong that it ruins the story.  The sentences are awkward and confusing.  I suppose that some isolated communities did use that awkward grammar, but my friend who also grew up in Newfoundland has always used the English language perfectly.  Perhaps an expression or two thrown into the book would have been fun but constant use of the dialect was bothersome.
   The novel was long and did not keep my interest.
   This book was written in 2002 and Donna has published three more books since then.  Will I continue to read this author?  Probably not, but I will always wonder what I'm missing.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey

Richard Morais

   Richard Morais, the author,  has traveled the world, in the company of millionaires. He was a correspondent for Forbes magazine, and is now the editor of Barron's Penta, a quarterly magazine, offering insights and advice to wealthy families. In addition to his unusual business stories, he has written a biography of Pierre Cardin.  Obviously he must have experienced a great deal of 'haute cuisine' in his travels because his first novel is filled with culinary delights.
Richard's great friend Ismail Merchant, was a film producer who intended to make the book into a film.  Unfortunately, Merchant died before the book was finished. However, the film was made, thanks to Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Spielberg.  But some of the reviews are not great.
  John Patterson, based in Los Angeles, writing in "The Guardian", has this to say about the movie: "Cute foodie movie leaves a sour taste.  Lasse Hallstrom's latest piece of food porn will only be popular among critics looking to ram more metaphors down our throats."

   Speaking of metaphors, Richard Morais is the 'master of metaphors'. and I love them!  This definitely is a 'foodie' book.  There are dozens of foods that I have never heard of.  I knew foie gras and haute cuisine but that is all.  The book has a strong theme of family- three generations of chefs.
   The characters are interesting, the setting is fascinating, the plot moves along nicely and the language is great!  I really enjoyed the novel.

   I knew that the movie would have a different focus and so I was not disappointed in the differences.  But the setting didn't seem real and the dialogue was difficult to follow at times- with the Indian accent mingled in with lots of French words.  It was an enjoyable movie- but, once again, I enjoyed the book more.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Regis Philbin- how I love and miss him!
But the title of his autobiography is just awful!
Regis is a great storyteller and the book is very interesting to read.  Each chapter tells about a famous person who influenced his life.  I loved reading his stories, but the title!  So wordy and clunky!
The book is published by Harper/Collins.  Couldn't they think of a better title?
Perhaps he should have asked Barbara Walters for a suggestion.  She has a classy title- "Audition".  
I realize that Regis' book is not a full biography, and he is only writing about the influences in his life.  I have been searching through the thesaurus to find a title to reflect that.  I'm sure I can come up with one!

Perhaps the dull November weather is making me cranky.  You think?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Scotiabank Giller Prize

It's the richest fiction prize in Canada and I have not read any of the books!  How can that be? Every year I say that I want to get more involved with the Giller Prize but then it's November and it's too late. Oh well.  For sure, I will be watching the event next Monday- hopefully on my new T.V.  The new T.V. isn't hooked up yet, and when it is, I may be in shock. I am going from a 21 inch screen to a 50 inch screen.  Culture shock!

And this is the year for shocks.  Our 'dearly beloved' Jian Ghomeshi will not be hosting any shows.  I say 'dearly beloved' because I think his life is over.  My daughter disagrees.  She thinks he will go on to write books and become a different kind of 'star'.  But the court case will be very interesting and important in defining 'abuse'.
Rick Mercer is our man this year and I love what he says about taking over the show. He says that it is not about the host, but the books and he will not be mentioning Jian. He also is not putting the story on his show "The Rick Mercer Report" because he is into humour and doesn't have the resources for this type of story.  He feels that it absolutely should be discussed in other circumstances.
Mercer will certainly be a great host, but I don't think he is a reader.  He says that he has read the 'Coles notes' on the books that have been chosen.  And here they are:

This prize is a big deal!  The jury read 161 novels, came up with a short list of 12, then the 6 finalists. They saved us all that reading! The winner receives $100,000.00 and each finalist get $10,000.00.  Wow!  It is a big deal!  This is the 21st year.  Maybe I'll get my act together for the 22nd show next year and read all six books in preparation for the 2015 award show!

I am familiar with four of the authors and it seems like a really good selection of books.  I am especially interested in the content of "Us Conductors".  The jury said, "Sean Michaels makes music seem to sing from the pages of a novel".  This novel was inspired by the scientist that invented the theremin.  And that, in itself, is fascinating.  A theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact, invented in 1928.

"Tell" also interests me because I have read books by Frances Itani and she is a great writer.  Her sentences are well-crafted and she really gets into the emotion of her characters.  This books sounds similar to "The Deafening"- also about  a W.W. I injured soldier returning to Ontario and his life here.

I have taken a course on Miriam Toews but still find her cynical and sarcastic. But she is a good writer.

I am also not a fan of Heather O'Neil.  She grew up poor and motherless in Montreal and feels that she can profit from that in her writing, but I found "Lullabies for Little Criminals" terribly sad with poor plot development.  The novel seemed to be a shopping list of misery- abuse, poverty. drugs, prostitution. I did enjoy some of her description but I always need a ray of hope and she didn't provide any!

David Bezmozgis is the other author that I am familiar with.  His book "Natasha and other Stories" was a finalist for Canada Reads in 2007.

Next year- for sure!  I will read all six books in anticipation.  It's more fun that way!

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Orchard by Theresa Weir

The Orchard by Theresa Weir
   In preparation for our book club discussion of "The Orchard", I have been thinking about the different covers.  I love this cover, because it centres on the love story that is at the 'core' of the novel.  The orchard surrounds the couple and there is a swirling design around the page.  Does that represent the pesticides?  There seem to be nozzles at the top and bottom.  If so, it may to be showing the illusion of the perfect orchard.  The reality is that the pesticides are killing not only fish and plants, but people also.  But this novel has a fairy tale quality with the aspect of magic and enchantment.  As you read this book, you hope for the happy ending, but know that it cannot happen.
  The author admits to have written the book in order to illuminate environmental concerns. But this is actually her biography.  She did live on an orchard and speaks of the farming practices in 1996.

   This second cover presents only the story of the apple, but you can see that the apple is not going to be eatable.  Perhaps this cover is more simple and profound.  However, it is the personal story that I was drawn to and this cover doesn't nearly represent the book as I experienced it.
  Concerns about chemicals are not new. In 1962, Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" really caused a 'stir'.  She wrote in a very different fashion.  From her experience as a marine biologist, she wrote facts and really attacked the use of DDT.  The chemical industry spent 1/4 million dollars to discredit her and her research.  However, the then-president of the U.S.- John F. Kennedy paid attention and ordered investigations, which led to the banning of DDT.  This was called 'the book that changed the world'. Part of this article is shown here.  Unfortunately, the middle of the story is missing.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Living with Joy

  "Until I Say Good-Bye:
My Year of Living With Joy"
  by Susan Spencer-Wendel
   This book, recommended by a friend, was a great discovery!  Particularly at this time of year.  This is an autobiography of Susan, who died of ALS at 47.  That is the age our son was when he died last year.  So, on the anniversary, it is very helpful to read about Susan's uplifting thoughts, beginning with this great poem:

        Happy the Man
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
                     John Dryden

   Susan was a journalist with three children when she was diagnosed with ALS.  She realized that she may only have a year of reasonable health, so she decided to live it with joy.  She organized trips to the Yukon, Hungary, the Bahamas, and Cyprus with the people who were important in her life.  And, like a good journalist, she wrote about her experiences.
   Her book is enormously inspirational- from reminders to look up and appreciate the sky, to quotes such as this one from Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."
   The first chapter is about swimming with the dolphins with her nine-year-old son and the last chapter is about a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, with her 11-year-old son.  The trips were not ideal- many things went wrong.  But Joy's attitude surmounted every disaster.  She knew that events rarely happen as anticipated, but they are perfect moments nevertheless.  She accepted life the way it happened.  Her advice: "Don't force the world to be the one you dream.  The reality is better".
   As her health deteriorated, she was writing with one thumb on her iPhone.  She did finish the book and lived to see it published.

"Every day is better when it is lived with joy".

Friday, 24 October 2014

Food for Thought

Thought for Today:

Readers may be divided into four classes:
1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 
2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 
3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 
4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834) 

Next week I will be leading the discussion in two book clubs so I am working on the challenges of number four, mulling over the best way to profit from a book.

Monday, 20 October 2014

North Dakota, 1951

   I read about this book on a blog that I follow.  It seemed like a great change for me.  North Dakota.  I loved driving through that state.  It seemed to be a journey book and I was hoping to recapture the feel of North Dakota.  I was unfamiliar with the author.
   Well,  it certainly did make me feel that I was traveling in North Dakota.  The writing was so descriptive! This author can certainly write!
   There were not many characters in the novel, but there were some to love and some to hate.  Love that!  And the writing enabled me to really get to know all of them.  Margaret and George Blackledge are the main characters- grandparents to a little boy.  After their son died, their daughter-in-law lived with them for awhile until she was swept off her feet by Donnie Weboy, who took the boy and his mother to live with his 'clan' in Montana.  Well, Grandma is worried about the grandson and sets off to bring him home.
   Margaret, the grandmother, was described this way: "A woman willing to plunge into any water, no matter how icy or swift, if she has a reason to get to the other side."  But can she take on 'the Weboy tribe'?
  I found myself completely drawn into this story.  Beautiful language!  But..but..but.  What has happened to quotation marks?????

Friday, 17 October 2014


   Some people collect cookbooks.  I have never done that.  I am not great in the kitchen and the only cookbooks that I recall buying were "Magnificent Cookies Cookbook" and "Simply Souper".  I used to bake a lot of cookies and I loved making soup.
   But this is a cookbook that I wish I had bought.
"Fresh From the Farm: a year of recipes and stories".

   We visited the author, Susie Middleton, on her farm when we were on Martha's Vineyard.  She is a fascinating woman who has a great story to tell.  And she tells about it in this cookbook.  Susie had a corporate job, but finds much greater satisfaction from life on the farm.  She grows fruit and vegetables and writes great recipes for preparing them.  She has added chickens and cannot keep up the demand for fresh eggs.

  This little store on her property gives local people a chance to buy her produce.  It is run on the honour system.  Help yourself.

   Some of our group bought her book "Fresh From the Farm" and report that the book explains techniques for cooking vegetables that you can use often.  The gingery brussel sprouts and roasted broccoli florets tasted great and the recipes were easy to follow.  
  I have just discovered that this book is in the library so I will check it out and try some of the recipes and also read about Susie's mid-life change in career.
   Then I may decide to buy it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Martha's Vineyard- afterthoughts

                    Here are my fellow 'Bookwomen' in Edgartown Inn in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard.

 While on my "Bookwomen" experience in Martha's Vineyard, our group met 6 authors, a publisher, 2 book store owners, a curator at the museum, and a spokeswoman for the Wampanoag people.  All these women added to our understanding of the island and its history.

Laura Wainwright
view from Laura's house

Laura Wainwright invited us to her home for freshly-made pie.  She has written a delightful book of essays on daily life on Martha's Vineyard- "Home Bird".  The recipe for the cranberry pie came from her book and was delicious!
She chatted with us by a fire.  So cozy!  Just like her book!

We met June Manning at the Aquinnah Cliffs where there were some shops run by the Wampanoag people. She spoke eloquently about the Wampanoag people who lived on Martha's Vineyard when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620.
We had discussed "Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks, where the Wampanoag people were important to the story.  So, it was interesting to hear from this very involved Wampanoag woman about the life of her people on Martha's Vineyard today.

Cynthia Riggs is a fascinating woman who writes a murder mystery series with a 92-year-old sleuth.  Cynthia is working on the twelfth book in the series. She talked about writing, not from a summary or plot but just as the story comes into her mind.  Her characters are based on real people and she is often seen wearing a shirt that says: "Careful or you'll end up in my novel".  Loved her!

This beautiful room was the setting for a talk by Shirley Mayhew, a photographer/writer, and Susanna Sturgis, whose novel "Mud of the Place" was one of our discussion books.

The 'Bookwomen' greatly enjoyed the 5-day event on Martha's Vineyard with so many rich experiences!
Our thanks to 'Bookwomen' organizer, Molly Hoban.
Molly is the co-founder of Minnesota Women's Press in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She creates these 'Bookwomen' opportunities for women to meet, read, learn, write , talk and explore.
Thanks, Molly!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Martha's Vineyard : Book 5

"Caleb's Crossing" by Geraldine Brooks takes place on Martha's Vineyard in 1660.  It follows a group of Puritans that broke away from the larger Massachusetts settlement.
It is a fictional account of Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.
The story is told by Bethia, the daughter of the preacher, who believes herself to be very sinful because she loves nature and has a great thirst for knowledge.  She also has great ability in language and learns to communicate with the Wampanoag.

Geraldine Brooks
Geraldine Brooks was born in Australia
and now lives on Martha's Vineyard.
She has written 6 books, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for "March".

I had previously read "Caleb's Crossing" and was happy to re-read it for this event.
I had also read these books by Geraldine Brooks:

"March" by Geraldine Brooks
Louisa May Alcott fictionalized her life in her novel "Little Women" written in 1868.  Geraldine Brooks took the story of Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, and fictionalized that.
Actually, Bronson Alcott never did go to war, but it made an interesting narrative to put this man with abolitionist and transcendental convictions into the role of a union chaplain.  He ended up in spiritual torment, but wrote beautiful letters home to his family.
I read this book in 2012 for a book club.
It is a fascinating novel.  The story is not linear and is a little confusing but I appreciated the way Brooks put words together.

"Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women"
I read this when it came out in 1995.   It was fascinating and disturbing.
The title comes from Muhammad's son-in-law who said, "Almighty God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to man".
This is completely non-fiction, with a great deal of research, giving great insight into the women in the Middle East.
It explains honor killings, death for homosexuals, and clitoridectomy- all horrific subjects.
Very well- written.

I programmed these blogs to be posted while I was away. 
I will return from Martha's Vineyard by the next posting.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Martha's Vineyard : Book 4

author Dorothy West
"The Wedding"
Dorothy West
(1907 - 1998)
Dorothy was the last living member of the Harlem Renaissance.
She wrote her first story at 7 and continued writing short stories and publishing magazines. Her work is ground-breaking in her portrayal of African Americans.  She was one of the first black women to have her works published.
At 85, she finished her second novel "The Wedding".  It was made into a 2-part miniseries by Oprah Winfrey.
Dorothy dedicated her book to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her editor, who died before the book was published.

This is a small but powerful book.  The story takes place in two days, but there are many back-stories of ancestors.
"The Wedding" is about to take place on Martha's Vineyard in the 1950's, where there really was a community of wealthy blacks in an area called "The Oval". The theme is very obviously bigotry- colour and social standing. "The right colour was preferable, but not as mandatory as the right class." But the book begins with a quote about love:
I Corinthians 13: 4-7. "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.... It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things".
The marriages in the story are never based on love, but on what is 'needed' in a partner.
The writing is amazing!  Some sentences are so full of metaphors that it takes a few minutes to figure out what is being said.
The characters are compelling and strongly developed.  The message is strong!
About Shelby's marriage:  "That union in the time of generation, would return to its origination, the colored blood drained out, degree by degree, until none was left, either known or remembered."
About the future generation:
"I wanted to fight the whole white race for her but she must do it herself.  It's a private and internal struggle.  And to win she will have to fight back without bitterness, not replacing her hurt with hate but letting hurt enrich her experience."
Powerful novel!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Martha's Vineyard : Book 3

"The Mud of the Place" by Susanna F. Sturgis
The title comes from this quote by Grace Paley:
"If your feet aren't in the mud of a place, you'd better watch where your mouth is".

Susanna is a writer who lives on Martha's Vineyard.  She has written essays, reviews and poems for gay publications.
There are two gay relationships in this novel.

In the novel, one of the characters is commenting on a new book that has been published, describing it thus: "Nick's book has a moody monochromatic cover".
How's this for a moody, monochromatic cover?

  For the first half of this book, I felt that I was struggling through mud!  There is an overabundance of characters, an overabundance of plot lines, and an overabundance of description.
   I can't begin to describe the plot.  I will just say that it shows how difficult it was for gays and lesbians to keep a job in 1997, especially if that job involved children.
  All through the novel, you are expecting a 'big reveal'.  When it turns out that the protagonist is gay, it seems anticlimatic.  What's the big deal?  I guess that says a lot about how attitudes have changed.
  All in all, it was a sinister look at Martha's Vineyard.
"Most of us crawl around under our own little carapaces, and no one ever bothers to knock on the top.  No one cares what's going on inside.  Go through the motions, meet your obligations; that's all that really matters".
  In the acknowledgements, the author says that Martha's Vineyard is not an easy place to live.  How different from the last book -"Home Bird".