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Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. (Joseph Addison)

When I try to make a fist, my middle finger doesn’t want to cooperate. It remains in an upright position and causes my ring finger to cross over my little finger—a bully gesture caused by a hand attached to a profoundly nonviolent individual. I didn’t like football before I knew about the number of brain injuries in head-butted players.

Therefore, I wait in my orthopedist’s office to discover whether I will need surgery. I’m early for my appointment and I open Janis Thornton’s new cozy mystery, Dead Air and Double Dares.*

Janis opens the story with a powered parachute destined to crash. Inside is an asparagus-thin woman who runs a newspaper in a small town. Crystal Cropper’s age fits in the senior citizen category, but she bristles when she hears the o-word. Besides, she investigates crimes without fear. And, after her experiences in Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies, if she isn’t afraid after almost—oops, no plot spoilers permitted—she isn’t afraid of anything.

I have only read as far as Chapter Six and I have laughed several times already. Out loud. Crystal’s personality sparkles with every action. She has spunk.

Author Janis makes it clear the victim is dead, but long descriptions of the scene a coroner would explore, is gratefully absent. For me, facing a fictitious dead body beats the possibility for slicing my right hand.

I’m called back to be seen by the doctor sooner than I want. One more page, just one more page. This office is entirely too efficient.

Fortunately, an x-ray shows I do NOT need surgery, just a time machine to go back and remove twenty years of accumulated arthritis. Yes, the metacarpal fracture did cause residual damage, but occupational therapy should help. In time. Lots of it.

Patience is a virtue I’m told. However, when it comes to a good cozy mystery, I’d rather not wait. I wiggle my offending fingers a few times and pick up my new signed book. (Thanks, Janis.) Chapter Seven and onward. Reading is to the mind what occupational therapy is to my fingers. No interruptions please…my mind is busy.

*The links for Janis’s books can be found on her website.

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Be who you are. / Give what you have.  (Rose Ausländer )

 I watch my precious six-year-old Ella in Occupational therapy as she threads the letters to her name through a fluorescent green pipe cleaner. She recognizes the letters—she has been reading for more than a year. But she struggles through fine motor skills exercises because of her small hands and shortened fingers. typical for persons with Down syndrome.

At times she breaks away and puts on a show, her head between her knees, a look-at-me-I’m-cute expression on her face. I remain calm without reacting, showing no censure. Only what I hope is a you-can-do-it look. The OT is in charge. And she encourages Ella. With both experience and love.

And I realize how much I treasure my granddaughter because another image of someone with handicaps far more severe, appears in my mind. Her name is Diane Smith. I have never met her except through the written word, Dancing in Heaven, a sister’s memoir by Christine M. Grote.

The book is available through Amazon.

front cover

dancing-in-heaven cover

When Diane was born young Christine had difficulty saying her name. Diane became Annie. In the 1950’s diagnostic skills were primitive. And Annie and her family went through hell as the frightening news appeared. Annie was seriously brain-damaged. She would never walk, talk, live a normal life.

Through Christine’s sensitive, never-glossed-over memories about her sister’s life, Annie becomes real.  Beautiful. An angel spirit in a broken body. Yes, I suggest a box of tissues nearby. But I also recommend absorbing every word.

 Then, perhaps, the next time a man, woman, or child appears bound to a wheelchair at the mall or some other public place, that individual won’t seem either frightening or repulsive. The natural response will be an ability to look the person in the eye and see a unique spirit, perhaps someone with far more courage than many people could fathom.

the author, Christine M. Grote

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There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. (Frank Herbert)

From my grandchildren’s point of view my published book is something like an honorary mention trophy. Nice on a shelf. When I gave my eight-year-old a copy of “The Curse Under the Freckles,” she wanted to know where the pictures were. The girls are more impressed by ice cream—chocolate chips blended in sweet raspberry flavoring. Or a day of pretend with Grandma. Touch a child’s life directly; that is what matters. The words will hit later.

My older son, Gregory Petersen, is also a writer. His book, Open Mike, was published through Martin Sisters several years ago. He is working through an agent with his next book. Greg is capable of writing thousands of words a day even though he has a full-time position that includes a leash phone; he takes his job as daddy seriously. I am more proud of him for his excellent relationship with his daughters than I am for his incredible ability with words. And his gift for expression is exquisite.

All life can be presented as a story. I often have difficulty turning that perception off because imagination doesn’t always fit the moment. For example: in the middle of the night. Oh sure, I’m told to write ideas down, whenever they come. But that doesn’t seem to be realistic when the notion isn’t a one-liner. The rolling avalanche of a plot and the inevitability of sleep deprivation are counter-productive in the long run.

Sometimes relaxation comes from reading—letting the thoughts of others feed me, especially when those thoughts lead to the profound. My sister Claire shared a book she had already read, Same Kind of Different as Me. It fits into the grab-the-soul category. Thanks, Sis.

Authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell a true story. Ron is an international art dealer. Denver is a modern-day slave, a sharecropper, who runs away into a life as a homeless person and decides it is better than being unofficially owned. The love of Ron’s wife, Deborah, leads toward an unlikely friendship.

Denver Moore says, “I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me.” What and how he discovered that similarity, the human center-core spirit, is where the beauty of the story lives—sometimes clothed in miracles, or incredible pain, or deep sadness.

Stories never really end. The characters in my own tales develop a kind of reality. But in fiction, at least before publication, entire chapters can be erased and rewritten and then changed again. The past, present, and future are as pliable as soft clay.

In Hall and Moore’s story the facts of their lives remain solid because “The Same Kind of Different as Me” is non-fiction. At the end of the narration at almost seventy, Denver admits he has a lot to learn. The last page is not the last page.

In April Paramount plans to release a movie starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou based on Ron and Denver’s New York Times best seller’s impossible journey. I did not know this until I checked the Internet for more information about the original publication.

Impossible, hidden, a forgotten acorn that becomes an oak…who knows? The story continues…Any story can continue…

same kind of different as me

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