Category Archives: writing

The Monday Book-turned-TV-series: THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood

HT MAI resisted watching this for three seasons, under the same reasoning I avoided watching NARCOS for quite some time: too close to reality. Please, divert me while I crochet, until I’m ready to re-enter Reality.

After Anne with an E built my saccharine to sufficient levels, I was ready. And so began what was not so much a binge-watch as an eyes-averted analysis.

The book has been interfered with, that much is clear. But not necessarily in a bad way. The end of Season 1 ended with Atwood’s famous quote as June Osborn is ushered into a police van,

“And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.”

Most people deem the book to end there, and readers had to choose whether June was getting out or not. It actually ends with a public address by a future scholar analyzing the fall of Gilead, and that speech is amazing in its chilling sarcasm, suggesting not a lot has been learned from the bad times.

The TV series continues from June (Offred) entering the van, going with the assumption that June is indeed rescued, sorta, for awhile. While waiting to escape, she makes some very human choices, creating a shrine for those killed in secret places, saying real prayers instead of the warped quotations of the Commanders and Wives.

The series is interesting because it lets in the thoughts and motivations of other characters; in Atwood’s book there was a moment when one of the aunts broke down and told the girls she was trying to help them, they all had to make the best of what was left available to them. Atwood also made clear in her book that the Marthas and Aunts feared being deemed no longer useful; in the TV series, it’s a little more complicated. The aunts are enjoying their power. Also, Serena Joy in the series is not a former televangelist as she was in the book, but the author of A Woman’s Place, one of the manifestos that later ousts her from being a thinking part of the Glorious Revolution into the meek helpmate Gilead requires women to be. She is more complicated than in the book. I like this.

There are also more clear examples of the regular working folk outside the extremes of Handmaids and Wives, and definite hints at the blurred lines between collusion, collaboration, and just trying to survive. In all honesty, in this series, none of them look that different from each other. Which is kinda terrifying.

What does look different is the venom poured out toward religion overall in both book and TV series being very carefully differentiated from True Religion, the kind Jesus talked about, taking care of widows and orphans and showing compassion. Quakers come out well in the series as they did in the book, I am pleased to note. But there are also points where characters are shown praying with sincerity versus being rote repeaters of things they are supposed to say. Churches are torn down, nuns and priests hunted, because they weren’t doing religion Right.

When June lights a candle at the wall of memory she’s created from an execution site, she prays with humble sincerity. Which is kinda brilliant contrasting against the constant Gilead reminder to her that God loves the Meek, which means she should keep her eyes down. Subtle, and thus so effective, this juxtaposition. When June gets to choose how she acts toward God, she IS meek, and loving. When it’s forced on her, not so much. Hello Christian Right movement, are you listening? Don’t alienate us from REAL relationships to God through your rhetoric. That’s in the Bible, actually; Jesus says it’s a very bad idea.

Back to Handmaid: its beyond-the-book parts are so clearly reflecting the cultural lexicon found in today’s divided America. While the book is usually better than the movie, I’m highly recommending this series for MATURE audiences only; it is violent and sexual, usually to make a point, but sometimes gratuitous.

And that’s my final thought on the series. Do you remember The Stanford Prison Experiment, which had to be stopped early because those chosen to be guards with near-absolute power over the “prisoners” became so brutal, injuries occurred? I wonder how many of the men wearing all-black and acting as low-pay extras playing The Guard cried during or after the filming, how it made them feel or act at home. There is one scene in which a large group of handmaids believe they are going to be executed for an act of defiance. Herded in restraints into an execution site, the scene involves guards roughly handling the women and such.

If you look closely -he is only there for a fleeting second -one of the men who reappears often as a non-speaking Guard throughout the series is an older, balding man. He is in the midst of the terrified group of women, shoving them around, and when you catch his face, he is distraught. Not angry, not trying to get the job done.

Not acting.

He looks something between remorseful and despairing and terrified, and I swear he’s crying.

Holding us all in the Light, that’s my review.

You can read about the Stanford Prison Experiment here.

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Monday Book – My Song is my Weapon

My Song is my Weapon – Robbie Lieberman (1995)

Reviewed by Jack Beck

Once upon a time (actually about eighteen years ago) Wendy and I were booked to perform at the Orkney Folk Festival off the north coast of Scotland. The festival took place in various venues in Stromness and we were accommodated in a lovely old hotel overlooking the harbor. Not surprisingly the hotel bar was a favorite gathering place late at night after the official concerts and ceilidhs were finished.

stromness-hotel

One night we found ourselves chatting to a young American lassie who said she had published a book we might find interesting! I immediately bought a copy and have now read it for maybe the fifth time –

As a young man in the late 1950s and early 1960s I was developing my left of center political views as well as a strong interest in folk songs. So I was well aware of Pete Seeger, the Weavers, the Almanac Singers, the connections to Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson.

What I didn’t know was what had preceded this in the US and where all these people had in their turn served their apprenticeship, both politically and musically.

my song is

Lieberman’s book was a revelation to me in many ways –

First of all I had no idea how large and popular the US Communist Party was in the 1930s and how well accepted that generally was. Then again, I knew nothing about the ‘popular front’ and was fascinated to see how that had helped generate the ‘folk revival’ of the 1950s and 1960s.

There was much that was familiar too – the ‘redscare’, McCarthyism, the blacklist and so on.

I have to admit that on first reading I found the book pretty dense and hard going. However each time I’ve re-read it I’ve found it not just easier but more enlightening. Each time I find more gems I’d missed before!

I can thoroughly recommend this to anyone with an interest in 1930s US politics, the roots and routes of the 1950s folk revival or all three!

 

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The Monday Book – The Trumpet Unblown

THE TRUMPET UNBLOWN (Doubleday,1955) by William Henry Hoffman

Reviewed by Phyllis Wilson Moore

trumpet

 

Winners Do Not Take All

 

The World War II era novel THE TRUMPET UNBLOWN (Doubleday,1955), by Charleston, West Virginia, native William Henry Hoffman echoes every war. It  is not an easy novel to read and dismiss. It has clout.

Published in 1955, twenty-five long years before Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) became an official diagnosis, it could serve as a template for understanding the condition. Reading it might help families understand why some veteran have difficulty articulating their distress and might help counselors assist veterans in putting the pieces of their lives back together.

It is the story of idealistic eighteen year old, Tyree Jefferson Shelby, III, and his stint in a World War II Medical Corps at war’s end.

Like many high school seniors of the day, Shelby, eager to prove his loyalty and manhood,volunteers to risk his life at the Front defending the United States against Germany and Japan.

A leader and top notch new graduate of a private military high school, Shelby feels prepared for war. After all, he was a cadet officer and many of his ancestors served nobly in previous wars.  A teenager, he eagerly enlists, leaving his proud, religious and wealthy family, his virginal girlfriend, and his plans for college behind. In a few months he is in England, the youngest man in a medical hospital unit waiting for what we now know as the Normandy Invasion.

Being a “third”, and obviously from an affluent family, he is immediately at odds with some of the older more seasoned veterans. He does things by the book. He likes to keep clean and neat, no easy feat with cold water and no soap. He doesn’t drink. He is a virgin and plans to remain one. When his girl’s country club poolside photograph is stolen he finds it soiled and hanging on a support beam in a room the Corps shares. He fights for it and loses.

As they wait for their orders, Shelby goes with the other men as they make the rounds of the bars and brothels. He is goaded into paying a prostitute but can’t perform.

Once in France he learns to hurry up and wait. Disgruntled fellow soldiers and an ineffective commanding officer make matters worse. Setting up the field hospital is grinding work but once  it is done, they wait. No battles ensue. Members of his unit begin to explore the area and visit neighboring villages. From the supply tent they steal canned food, cigarettes, drugs, and army supplies to barter for alcohol, sex, and fresh vegetables.

Finally a major battle occurs and the hospital staff is overwhelmed.The mind boggling carnage and chaos troubles him but he does his job of carrying the wounded to and from the operating arena.

Between battles they wait. Sometimes they tear down the camp hospital and move closer to the action and the carnage begins again.

Each day the Corps proves the opposite of what he expected. He is not fighting the Germans or the Japanese; he is being bullied.

When another young soldier offers two villagers a ride and then rapes the girl, Shelby, in the jeep’s front seat, does and says nothing. He listens as the struggling girl and her now restrained boyfriend beg someone to intercede. Finally,the couple is thrown from the jeep more dead than alive.

Back in camp, Shelby begins to steal from the supply tent. He joins the drinkers in their search for prostitutes and more alcohol. He finds a prostitute and pays her with drugs he steals from the medical supply ten

Eventually, he and his buddies are suspected of pilfering and selling the belongings of their own wounded. When military investigators arrive there is no proof. The Corps reputation, bad to begin with, is further tarnished.

At war’s end his Corps is tangled in a major SNAFU (situation normal, all fouled up). It receives no orders to return from the field and prepare for a return to the United States. Other units do. As the rains set in camp morale plummets and bad behavior goes unchecked. Finally they are given busy work. The useless task of hauling rocks to create an unnecessary road to nowhere only to watch as each day’s rocks sink into the mud.

Shelby, the intelligent, religious, well mannered boy, breaks and is sent to a military psychiatric hospital. Instead of feeling relief he feels shame The physicians have no treatment plan (tranquilizer and mood stabilizers were not invented until 1953) for him except to discharge him. He does not want to go home.

Eventually, he is forced to return home. Home  to his waiting girlfriend, his worried and adoring family, and a world he can’t imagine re-entering. Apathetic, he wants nothing. He finds pleasure in nothing. There is no way he can recount his military experiences around the dinner table. College does not interest him. Invitations to parties or dinners are ignored. He is offered business positions but refused them.

To everyone’s amazement, he avoids his sweetheart. He will not say why. How can he explain his bout of Gonorrhea to his parents or his girl? How can he kiss her? How can he marry her?

In his own home, he is daily unnerved by the wall of military portraits showing his heroic ancestors. When relatives visit to hear of his war exploits he makes himself scarce. What he would like to do is go away, be alone, and sleep.

The book is chilling in its ability to show war at its worst and the effects of what was then referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” (General Patton called it malingering).  For me, this work explains PTSD better than anything I’ve read on the subject. This haunting novel is relevant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Monday Book: ME MYSELF AND HIM by Chris Tebbetts

Sorry for the missing Monday books, folks. Jack and I have been everywhere but home for May and June. One of the fun places I was brought this next Monday book. I met Betsy Kepes as a fellow workshoper at Kettle Pond Writing Conference in the Adirondacks. She offers this interview with Chris Tebbetts, a writer from Vermont whose book Me Myself and Him is out July 9. Enjoy!

me-myself-and-himI think this is your first YA? How many books have you published before this? And I think this is your first solo book?

This is my second YA. In 2006, I co-authored a book called “M or F?” with Lisa Papademetriou. It’s a contemporary romantic comedy, with a Cyrano-inspired plot line, and two protagonists telling the same story from their own perspectives. We each took one voice and wrote their respective chapters. My protagonist is gay, and his sexuality is not the problem of the novel.

This is my 21st book (not counting the ghostwriting I’ve done), and not my first solo venture. That was a fantasy adventure series called THE VIKING – my first novels, but those were work for hire, after which I fell into co-authoring, and have been only co-authoring since THE VIKING, until now. So technically, this is my YA solo debut, and also the first book I’ve ever published in the usual way (if there is such a thing) – by writing it with no contract, and then selling it through my agent. It’s been an unusual trajectory, compared to other author friends, but one that has suited me well.

The MC is Chris and you’re a Chris–I think some autobiography is here? Ohio too for both the real and imaginary Chris. 

The prologue of the book, where Chris falls and breaks his nose, is essentially autobiographical, written from the memories of when that happened to me at age 19, in Ohio where I grew up.

This character and I have a lot in common, and there are emotional truths throughout that come from my own experience – like being the gay third wheel to my straight friends — but the two story threads that flow from the inciting incident, and most of the plotted events of the story, are fictional inventions.

As you noticed, a lot of the book is about lies, and the nature of truth, and (my personal fascination) the way in which two seemingly conflicting ideas can both stand up against one another. People often assume that writers are their characters, and it was interesting to me to tackle a story where that was closer to being true and untrue at the same time, in a more direct way than usual.

One idea I picked up in my research was the suggestion that the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth. For instance: Life is beautiful—and—life is a suffering. Both completely true. Or: We are physical beings./We are spiritual beings. Both completely true. And etc. That notion, of the yin/yang of all things, fascinates me, including the yin/yang symbol itself, which is made up of two pieces that are simultaneously identical and opposite to one another. A lot of the writing of this story flows from that fascination.

Did you have the idea for the two plot book from the begin or did that evolve as you wrote it? 

It evolved as I wrote it. The original story was going to be solely about Chris going to California to live with his dad for the summer, but as I drafted those early chapters, the pages just kept coming and coming, and Chris kept not leaving Ohio, for reasons I couldn’t even understand. It was as though the story itself was reluctant to change locations, and eventually, I decided to listen to that impulse, and respond to it. The parallel realities in my narrative emerged from there.

I’m also a fan of the movie Sliding Doors, which does the same thing. That was an additional inspiration for me, once I realized I might want to explore more than one outcome from the same incident.

Do you think teens are especially interested in “What if…?”s? Certainly Chris is!

“What if?” is a huge interest of mine. I give a lecture about creativity and fear (among other things) where I talk about my own revelation, that “What if?” is great for storytelling, but it’s also fertile ground for personal anxiety. I’m someone who has suffered from panic attacks, and for me, that kind of anxiety always stems from “what if?” questions. What if the elevator stops between floors? What if the house catches on fire? I have to wonder if my tendency to ask “What if?” in a storytelling context has some relationship to my tendency to ask the question in a more worrisome way. So while it’s tempting to wish away some of that tendency toward anxiety in my life, I know that it’s also part of what makes me a storyteller.

I like how the two stories become more and more intertwined as the book goes on. And how what seemed the “bad outcome”– having to leave Ohio as a punishment– generates the best outcome for Chris. The problems of lying are central here and what lies can lead to. It makes the book complex and interesting. I think of the lies most teens make– myself included– and that teen readers will find this fascinating. Did you ever lie as a teen and have the outcome be radically different from what you thought it would be?

I wasn’t a big liar as a kid or teen – not compared to some of my friends. But what this makes me think about is the way in which I was gay at that age, but without being out, even to myself. There was always an element of both conscious and unconscious suppression, as I tried to fit into the (straight) mold I thought I was supposed to fit into, and as I figured out who I was. So in that sense, my teen years were marked by their own kind of lie.

Also, to answer your question, as I did finally grapple directly with my sexuality, there was a lot of fear that my life would be a certain way, that some kinds of happiness would be unavailable to me, that I would lose friends and family — none of which turned out to be true. So again, that was a kind of lie I told myself, even if I didn’t know it was untrue at the time.

A lot of this book is about the relativity of truth. If I believe someone’s lie, and if I’m never corrected in that assumption, then that lie becomes my truth. Or if two people have two different understandings of a given issue, aren’t both of those understandings true, for them? I don’t have hard answers for this kind of thought experiment, but it’s one I particularly like to engage in.

I’m curious why you included Gina, the Born Again character. She has a parallel in Mitch, though we don’t find out much about his religious background. Gina is an enigma for Chris, and a bit for me too.

The original inspiration for this story came from my interest in the intersection of science and religion. At some level, physics, like religion, is about looking for the one truth that rules supreme over everything else. In physics, we have things like the so-called god particle, or the Theory of Everything. In Christianity, we have God himself.

That’s why I gave the physicist father character a secretary who was born again, to let my protagonist Chris be exposed to both sides of that dichotomy. Chris is neither a physicist nor a religious person—for that matter, neither am I—and yet, I’m interested in both.

Gina, my born again Christian character, was also inspired by a co-worker I had at Friendly’s, back in my teen years. At that time, I was very judgmental about religion and religious people. This co-worker really changed some of my thinking about that – not by making me any more or less religious, but simply by showing herself to be a funny, thoughtful person whose life was about more than just that one thing. We joked around at work, played racquetball, went out for food…. Nothing earth shattering, and I’m pretty sure she had no idea of the impact it had on me, but now here she is, showing up in my story. That may reflect some of the enigmatic quality you saw in her. It was important to me that Gina be neither vilified nor celebrated for her religion.

Did you come up with the idea for the charts and boxes and diagrams from the start? It is also a delightful way to create “choices”. 

Thanks! Yes, those charts and boxes were part of this novel from the very beginning. That just happened in a creatively organic way, as a reflection of how my own mind operates, and how I often organize my thoughts. From there, I suppose they “took” in the writing for exactly the reason you mention – it was a great way to explore the various possibilities of any given choice, or fork in the road.

Chris has a very difficult time dealing with his father. I’d say this is quite typical (I’m thinking of my two sons and their father. It wasn’t/isn’t as bad as the Chris/father scenario but there is lots of wariness related to being “judged”.) I find this a very strong part of your book, especially the scene after Chris stays out all night with Swift and then he and his dad have the “breakfast talk”. Do you think all parents and teens live on different planets?

If I had to pick a yes or no answer to that question, I’d have to say yes. It’s so common to detach from one’s parents as we swing into adolescence, and (as was the case for me, starting around fourteen) to want as little to do with them as possible. I’ve certainly never kept nearly so many secrets from my parents as I did in high school.

That said, a lot of teens have great relationships with their parents, and I’d say that was true for me as well. (Can you see a theme here? I’ve never been one to confidently stick to yes/no thinking. I’m a master of shades of grey. ☺).

It was interesting to write a character who was so much like me, in so many ways, but not in every way. Specifically here, I mean, to write a character who detests his father as much as Chris does in the book. For my own part, I adored my father. He was an amazing man and one of the most well-liked people I’ve ever known. I honestly am not sure where that element of the story came from for me, and I’m curious about what readers will make of it, including readers who knew my dad.

What was it like to write the two parallel stories? Did you write one first and then the other, or write them simultaneously?

I wrote the whole thing in chronological order and in the alternating chapters as they appear in the finished book. Part of the fun (but also the challenge) was in fitting together all the puzzle pieces in a way that allowed the reader to learn things from one half of the story that inform their understanding of what’s going on in the other half, even if the characters themselves are limited to what they know within the confines of their own, singular reality.

I love it that this is a book about a gay teen boy but that is not the central part of this book. Yes, a character falls in love for the first time, that is what matters. Did you have access to any books like this when you were a teen? 

Thanks for saying that. It was definitely part of my thinking. I have one other YA book with a gay protagonist, and one of the driving ideas behind that book was to have a young gay character whose problem in the story is not his own sexuality. In ME, MYSELF, AND HIM, you don’t even learn that Chris is gay until maybe page 75, and that was very much on purpose.

Ultimately, I hope there’s room on the bookshelf for books that tackle the difficulties of queer identity for young people in this world, as well as books about what I call incidentally queer characters – where their sexuality isn’t invisible to the reader, but where their stories are about something else altogether. Right now, I’m reading BLACK WINGS BEATING by Alex London. Next up is DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY by Adib Khorram. Those are two good examples of the kind of book I’m talking about.

As for my own teen experience, I’m old enough that those kind of societal cues were few and far between when I was a teen. My first exposure to gay characters came more through tv shows and movies than through the books I was reading. The landscape has changed significantly over the years, and I’m glad for the more diverse reputation you see in books these days, even if we still have a ways to go there.

 

 

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The Monday Book: VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler

This week’s review comes from crowd favorite Paul Garrett –

anne tyler

Dr. Battista, an obscure researcher of autoimmune disorders, has been slaving away in obscurity, almost forgotten by his employer, Johns Hopkins University. Now he feels he is on the verge of the breakthrough he has been searching for all his professional life. There is only one problem: Pyotr, his research assistant and right arm is about to lose his visa and be forced to return to the Eastern European country of his birth. Dr. Battista is terrified that all his work will go down the tubes (pun intended? Maybe, maybe not.) without Pyotr there. He hatches a plan to save his project and his lab assistant. All that has to happen is for Pyotr to marry Dr. Battista’s daughter.

Nobody thought to ask his daughter.

Kate Battista is a tall lanky girl approaching what used to quaintly be called spinsterhood. Almost thirty with no love interest and no prospects, she spends her days gardening, working as a teaching assistant at a preschool and looking after her widowed father and younger sister. She is awkward socially and has a habit of saying exactly what is on her mind, to the detriment of her relationships with just about everybody, especially the parents of the little crumb crunchers who are entrusted to her care.

Anne Tyler’s novel Vinegar Girl (Hogarth, 2016) Is a nod to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew as the poor and equally awkward Pyotr, along with the help of his boss try to woo the standoffish Kate.

Tyler is one of the few authors (along with Kurt Vonnegut) who can make me laugh out loud.  Her tragicomic style is on full display as the characters careen from one mishap and plot twist to the next.  The rehearsal dinner scene alone makes the book worthwhile.

Unlike in T.C. Boyle’s preachy Tortilla Curtain, Tyler avoids the controversies of the American immigration system, preferring to stick to the Shakespearian template and leave the intellectual heavy lifting to others.

This is a small volume for Tyler, but she manages to pack it full of her normal cadre of oddballs, miscues and mishaps. The story ends with an odd (for today’s audience) soliloquy on the plight of men in society.

The book’s brevity may be the only drawback, as Tyler felt the need to add an extensive epilogue. Brief or not, Tyler fans won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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The Monday Book: A FORGOTTEN PLACE by Charles Todd

The last of our Todd reviews – we hope you’ve discovered some new series ideas!

A FORGOTTEN PLACE: Unforgettable!Forgotten place

 

Looking at the cover of this book, if you are an avid follower of Bess Crawford (British WW1 nurse who has been to the front line in France many times), you have to wonder what sort of post-war trouble the heroine will encounter.  You can tell she is in a desolate place, a surprise since the story picks up after the Armistice in 1918 and her return to England.  Bess is looking away from the reader, and you expect her to turn her head and ask you where you’ve been and what took you so long to arrive. It isn’t your fault it takes so long to get your hands on the book that follows A Casualty of War (2017, Harper Collins/Wm Morrow, ISBN 978-0-06-267878-2), but you cannot tell her that.  You just go with her into the depths of a forgotten Welsh village named Caudle, located on the Gower Peninsula.  And I promise, you will not sleep a wink until you get to the end of this book because the darkness of it seems far worse than the Great War itself.

Bess Crawford’s work in France is done when Matron sends her back to England with a Welsh unit commanded by Captain Williams.  Every man is an amputee, and as they are miners, they have no future in their coal mine village. Bess is worried about her charges and goes to Wales to check on them—without informing her parents or friends of her intentions. By the time she arrives in the village where Captain Williams said he’d be, almost everyone in the Welsh unit is deceased, and she hurries to Caudle to check on the Captain when she finds out he left to help his widowed sister-in-law with her meager sheep farm.

From the moment of her arrival, you realize that every word you read moves Bess, the Captain, and Rachel (his sister-in-law) closer to danger, closer to death.  But you cannot help yourself because the story is so compelling, and the characters of the village make life dark and dangerous.  There is jealousy, greed, several brutal murders, and neighbors who watch Bess’s every move.  She is stranded in Caudle, a guest in Rachel’s home, and each day she digs for the truth about the village, the residents, and the dark secret they have kept through many generations.

The storms and murders, and the residents’ unwillingness to let Bess leave the village or settle with her lot because her parents and Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon do not know her whereabouts, make you stakeholder in her resolve to get to the bottom of a mystery and survive.  You, the passive participant in this adventure, cannot stop puzzling over the characters, the clues, and the desire to find a murderer before Bess, the Captain, and Rachel come to any great harm or end up buried in an unmarked grave near the Rectory or tossed into the angry sea to wash ashore weeks later.

The village has a secret it protects. Newcomers are not welcome. No stranger leaves alive, and you set your jaw and resolve to make sure Bess Crawford gets away before the killer gets away with murder. Hers.  When Simon discovers her whereabouts, you want to relax and see how it all falls into place, but you cannot—because he has to leave temporarily, and it is up to you to stand watch as you read.  Before he returns, Bess has to figure out a way to protect the villagers and their dark secrets without letting the killer get away.

As it is with all Bess Crawford novels, you marvel at A Forgotten Place because the last pages are a reveal that leaves you in awe.  Even if you think you know it all, you discover you do not!  When Bess leaves Caudle and heads home, you wonder if you stand to live the year in your time while she moves within a few weeks of hers. You want her to settle down and stay out of harm’s way, but you cannot resist counting the days until the next Bess Crawford mystery is in your hands.

 

 

 

About the Reviewer:

Liz Phillips is a middle school educator and writer living in Southwest Virginia, another forgotten place. Contact her at lizphillips.author@gmail.com.

 

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The Monday Book: A CASUALTY OF WAR by Charles Todd

This week’s Monday Book comes from writer Lizbeth Phillips, author of a pending YA fantasy series set in Abingdon.

A CASUALTY OF WAR toddby Charles Todd

(2017, Harper Collins/Wm Morrow, 377 pages)

ISBN 978-0-06-267878-2

The Great War: Living Casualties and Murder

 

Bess Crawford, a British nurse stationed at the front lines in France during the Great War, understands that the Armistice is just weeks away. Yet, the fighting continues.  On her way to the front line after her orders are changed, she meets an English officer, Captain Alan Travis, who is from a plantation on the island of Barbados in the Caribbean.  After a cup of tea, they part ways, but their brief encounter sets the novel into motion.

In the midst of all the gunfire, Captain Alan Travis arrives at a medical station with a bullet graze that skimmed his skull.  He tells her that his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis, shot him as Germans were fleeing Allied forces. He is sent back to the front lines after being patched up.

He returns in an ambulance days later with the same claim about his cousin.  Bess is curious about his unusual case and decides to investigate as the war comes to its end. She discovers the accused was dead when the shootings took place, but she cannot believe Captain Travis is lying or has lost his mind.  Who shot at him if it was not his cousin?  The war ends, and Captain Travis is evacuated to England to be treated at a brain injury hospital.

When she finds time, Bess travels to check on Captain Travis and discovers he is locked up for a brain injury and shell shock.  Everyone thinks he has lost his mind. Everyone but Bess.

Determined to prove the officer has not lost his mind, she follows leads to expose the truth about cousin James Travis, a complex family history, and greed that threatens the Captain’s life.  She will not stop until she has the truth, even when she puts herself in grave danger.

A Casualty of War drives the reader to the realization that the war is over, but the fighting at home has just begun.  Dark deeds committed under the umbrella of war have come home to England to haunt villages and to taunt Bess Crawford in hopes she will give up.

 

 

 

About the Reviewer:

Liz Phillips is a middle school educator and writer living in a forgotten corner of Southwest Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains. Contact her at lizphillips.author@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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