Margaret Ann Spence Coming Home

Everything We Keep

By Kerry Lonsdale Lake Union Publishing August 2016 Amazon alerted me to the upcoming publication of this debut novel. Normally I read randomly, although constantly, and am usually way behind. But this was a book of Women’s Fiction and though I don’t know Kerry, I recognized her name as a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association, to which I belong. This story grabbed me from the very first sentence, “On our wedding day, my fiancé, James, arrived at the church in a casket.” Aimee and James had known each other since childhood, and both were expected to carry on their respective family businesses. But with James’ demise, Aimee’s life-plan has to undergo a radical change. It takes her a while to get there. While this quick summary may lead you to think that the ending is inevitable, it was not. The plot twists and turns and I really did not guess quite how it would turn out. Everything We Keep is a page turner. Somehow the expression “page swiper” does not have the same ring. Yet that is how we read on the e-reader. So page-turner it remains. Enjoy.

Summer In The Garden

Garden MintLinda Larson, fellow gardener, fellow author, and most importantly, my friend, sent me the loveliest note about my book reviews on this blog. She said, “I just loved your book reviews, your voice was so engaging, so specific about what you loved in the books.  It was like I was sitting in your living room hearing you tell me about the books.” Thank you, Linda! Actually, I thought about Linda and her passion for gardens when I wrote my last post on the Cambridge Botanic Garden. The link between gardens and writing is not just that they share the word “plot.” Both are creative, deeply idiosyncratic endeavors. Done well, they survive the seasons, offer variety and surprise, and calm the soul. Linda writes about gardens in her blog, A Traveling Gardener ( She and her photographer/wood-and- metal artist husband Rich have visited public gardens around the world. She shares what they learned and saw in her beautifully illustrated book, available on Amazon, The Traveling Gardener, Wandering, Wondering, Noticing…: A Collection of Essays and Photographs Celebrating Gardens Near and Far. It’s July, and gardens are in bloom. I planted herbs in pots today – can never have enough.  

The View From The Cheap Seats

By Neil Gaiman William Morrow, 2016 While we were in England I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman’s collection of essays and speeches, The View From The Cheap Seats. These delicious thoughts, on the value of reading, on the importance of libraries, on imagination, are balm for the writer’s sometimes self-doubting mind. Gaiman recalls spending his school vacations in his local library, and while the librarians to whom he gave this speech hastened to remind people that municipal libraries are not to be used as free child-care, the point remains. Only by reading do writers develop. The English language is a wonderful instrument. In Neil Gaiman’s hands it creates music because you can almost hear him speaking in his British accent as you read this book. Good writers bring us into worlds we never knew existed. They exist, whether real or not, in the imagination of their writers. Words have a life of their own, creating a collaboration between the author and the reader, as Gaiman points out. A young man of my acquaintance, Ben, aged almost seven, was just learning to read last Christmas. As we went through the book I had given him, he sounded out the letters. I said to Ben, “Aren’t these letters amazing? They are just squiggles on paper. But when you learn to arrange them in order you can make them say anything you want, anything in the world.” He looked at me with shining eyes and said, “I want to be an author.” Then we went to the Library and Ben came home laden with books. All fiction of course. Letting him into the imagination of others. Only by doing that can we cooperate with one another and create civilization. As Gaiman says in a later point in his book, reading enables empathy. Gaiman is funny and thoughtful. If in this collection he repeats some his jokes, because he gave speeches to different audiences, each version is still delightful. This is a book to savor, to reread on your summer vacation. Absolutely wonderful.