HAPPY FALL YA’LL!
Mom’s at it again. She’s skipping around the house chirping about sweater weather. Pumpkins. Leaves changing clothes. And FALL! I have no idea what that means. But you know Mom!
Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Fall and reading. Like we noted before, Mom says fall is perfect for curling up with a good book and a cuppa hot whatever. She made a list of recent reads that fill the bill. Checked it twice. (I helped. The first list didn’t smell right.)
Anyway, here are some of our top picks for the season. In no particular order:
1.Gone to the Woods: Surving a Lost Childhood (Farrar Straus Girous Books/Macmillan, 2021)
By Gary Paulsen
“One of the most remarkable memoirs I’ve ever read” – Mom
Gary Paulsen has long been a favorite author. We love his simple, almost terse style of storytelling about nature and outdoor adventures. So when this book came along, we snapped it up quick.
Can’t Skim or Skip
Some books you can skim. Skip through pages or chapters like a game of hop scotch. Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood isn’t one of them. This is the kind of book you have to slow down for. You’ll want to savor each chapter. Suck the marrow out of every paragraph and sentence.
Gripping & Compelling
Indeed, the story of how Paulsen survived his turbulent childhood is gripping. Compelling. Contents include The Farm, The River, The Ship, Thirteen, and Soldier. All are vintage Paulsen: Real and raw.
With absentee/alcoholic parents, Paulsen pretty much raised himself. There were only two places he felt safe: the woods and later, the library.
He describes living in a basement at age 13 to escape his drunken parents. It’s “blue winter.” Paulsen stumbles into a library to get warm. With the help of a kind-hearted librarian, Paulsen discovers the wonderful world of books and reading. It changes his life.
This is Paulsen at his most powerful and riveting. An exceptional achievement.
2. Soldier’s Heart
By Gary Paulsen
“There’s always fear and there’s always a meadow.” – Soldier’s Heart
Charley Goddard didn’t really know what a “shooting war” meant when he lied about his age, 15, to enlist with the First Minnesota Volunteers. He didn’t really understand why he was fighting. He just didn’t want to miss out on “a great adventure.”
In this fast-paced, based-on-fact historical fiction, it doesn’t take long for Charley to discover the true face of war – and all its horrors – from the first Battle of Bull Run to Gettysburg.
Soldier’s Heart gives voice to all the anonymous young men who fought and died in the Civil War. It is brutal. Chilling. Heartbreaking. And not to be missed. At just 102 pages, you can read it cover-to-cover in an afternoon. We did.
Another absorbing Paulsen read.
By Laird Hunt
A farmer’s wife disguises herself as a young man and marches into the U.S. Civil War to fight for the Union.
Compelling & Mysterious
In this compelling, mysterious read, “Gallant Ash” becomes a hero, a traitor, a madwoman, and a legend.
Told in the first person in short, staccato sentences, Neverhome makes the Civil War stand up and walk as “Ash” provides eye witness accounts of the bloody battlefield of war. Also intense longing. Suffocating loneliness. Sweat-drenched fear. Fierce devotion. Confusion and bewilderment as thick as a pea soup fog.
The narrative has an authentic first-person quality to it, with phrases common to the language of the period. It reads like you’re looking over the writer’s shoulder as she pens letters home or drafts entries into her diary.
Swirling throughout the story is the inevitable undercurrent of “Why?” Why did this woman leave her home and husband and join the war in the first place? Readers are kept guessing in this intriguing, unusual account of some of the bloodiest years in U.S. history.
4. Night Swiftly Falling
By Tricia D. Wagner
Tragedy is narrowly averted when eight year-old Swift and his best friend and fellow pirate, Ash, suddenly discover the power of the restless sea.
After being warned not to play by the water alone, Ash tumbles into the deep. Frantic, Swift calls for help. But no one comes. So he dives in after Ash – and emerges with a fractured friendship.
Bewildered and confused by Ash’s sudden rejection post-rescue, Swift struggles with a friendship fabric torn asunder. As his older brother, Caius, helps Swift slowly realize he can’t control others, Swift discovers the anguish and frustration that accompanies the desire to help someone who needs help but can’t or won’t accept it.
As Swift mourns a friendship gone south, he slowly learns that sometimes letting go is all that’s left. And that change “is the nature of life.” But “how not to lose oneself?” Swift wonders. “How not to lose those you love in the face of unstoppable pain?”
This is one of the most clever, contemplative books I’ve read in awhile. In addition to a tightly woven plot, the author demonstrates a masterful command of the language in every paragraph that’ll keep you turning pages until the end.
Propelled by delicious prose, Night Swiftly Falling is also poignant and heartfelt. It’s relatively short – just seven chapters. But this beautifully written novella packs a punch. It’s honest and hopeful at the same time. A triumph.
5. Listen to Me: How My Down Syndrome Brother Saved My Life
By Lynne Podrat
This book opens in August 2020 as the author watches the original Star Trek TV series with her Down Syndrome brother. “Brucie” has been diagnosed with kidney disease and pancreatic cancer at age fifty-three.
The rest of the book is a retrospective on Bruce’s life and the impact he had on not just the author but on many others as well.
Intent on becoming a veterinarian, the author’s life mission changes from saving animals to saving Bruce and children like him. While focusing on Bruce’s life and his unique challenges, the narrative also touches on family interactions and events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, graduations, and later, trips to the hospital for Bruce as his health deteriorates. Through it all, Bruce remains a “source of heartache and inspiration.”
To ‘Open and Enrich’
The author writes that her plans for Bruce were “to open and enrich his world.” In the end, however, she realizes how being with Bruce “accomplished so much more.” She realizes how this “sweet small man” and “Brucie’s” capacity to love and to “just go on because there was no other choice” profoundly influenced her life. And how Bruce opened and enriched her world.
I’d bring tissue ‘fize you.