Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Himself by Jess Kidd

     Himself is Mahony, a young man often in trouble with the authorities of Dublin.  Mahony was raised in an orphanage in Dublin and his whole life believed what he had been told, that his mother abandoned him on the steps.  One day Mahony receives a photograph and a short note telling him otherwise and he leaves Dublin immediately to travel to the village where he was born, Mulderrig, to learn the truth of his mother.
      Mulderrig is an unusual place, the superstitions are real, the locals are secluded and the place is full of dead people who wander around still living their lives.  Mahony can see them.  He can talk to them. And they lend a helping hand in sorting out the mess of Mahony’s life. The villagers recognize  Mahony as soon as they lay eyes on him and are not so welcoming as the dead.
     Mahony was always told and continues to be told by the villagers that his incorrigible mother got on a train with him in one arm, a suitcase in another and good riddance to her. No one is willing to drag her life out into the open again.  Least of all her killer.
      Mahony has an ally in Mrs. Cauley, a very old, very frail retired actress who seems to hold the town in her hands and somehow manages to stay alive in spite of that. Mrs. Cauley agrees with Mahony.  His mother didn’t get on a train. The two of them use her annual production as a means to uncover the truth in this very closed village.
     I happen to believe in the ghosts around us so I had no trouble with this part of the story.  If you don’t consider the ghosts around you then you could look at it as an element of humor to the story.    Superstition, belief in fairies and the living dead are a large part of the Irish psyche and wow, Jess Kidd gives them a real part to play. 
     I don’t want to give away too much about this story, nor do I want to say so little that you will think this isn’t something special and deserving of your time. I loved the language in this book.  I loved the story, the mystery, the characters and living in the village for awhile.  Just give yourself a bit of a feel for the place and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Socks On, Socks Off

    Every year there are two particular days that are the clear signal of the change of seasons. Socks on and socks off.
In the fall when the days are just too chilly to ignore anymore there is one morning when you know the barefoot sandal days are done and you say to yourself, "Ok,  socks go back on."  And conversely, in the spring when the sun is shining, the snow is gone, the windows can be opened for a whole day and the jackets and coats stay in the closet, you can say, "Ok, socks off today!"
   That was today.  Yesterday was beautiful, too, but today was picture perfect and PH got my lounge chair from the garage, set it up on the front porch, I got my book, an iced tea, a couple of pillows and settled down in the sun for a nice little nap.  Shoes kicked off, socks off.
    I lay there listening to the sounds of the town, a little yappy dog somewhere down the street, a small airplane circling the river park, car radios because windows are rolled down, and then, "HI, GRANDMA!"  The girls rode over on their bikes for a visit.  SO much better than a nap.

 The first stop is always at the freezer to get a fudge bar.  Then they ran out to 'the fort' in the back to eat them.
 One thought led to another  and they started to build their own little pockets of ingenuity.  Sometimes they call these spots forts and sometimes nests.  I just thank God they have imaginations that take them everywhere. They gather sticks and twigs.
 Stones and small rocks.
Any found objects, including one of my plant supports. 
 Adelaide had the idea of mosses for softness.  Elizabeth found five different kinds of mosses today.
Their special spots grew, were decorated and I was given charge of keeping things right while they were gone.
SO much better than a nap.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Signs are Pointing

Yes, indeed, the signs of spring are all around us.  The temperatures are so mellow I sat out on the porch yesterday in the afternoon sun and read my book for awhile.  I could hear somewhere in the distance a robin, the true sign of spring here in the north. I couldn't see it but I could hear it.
 But there are other signs, too.  The gold finches are turning back to yellow.
 The sap is running and this little squirrel was licking the sap from this branch like you'd handed him an ice cream cone.
 And this morning PH hung our first batch on the clothesline.  When you live at the top of a hill in the woods you can go out in your jammies and no one notices, unless your wife has a camera.
Just look at that sunshine!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Juliet's Answer

Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon

     Glenn Dixon has taught Romeo and Juliet to his high school classes for over twenty years.  He knows the story inside out. When his own love life just can’t seem to take off, in despair, he travels to Verona, Italy, the home of Romeo and Juliet to clear his mind. Where else would one who is disappointed in love go for answers?
     In Verona, at Juliet’s house, there is a group of women who consider themselves the secretaries of Juliet.  They answer the thousands of letters written to Juliet and either mailed or left in the courtyard of her home. These letters are all about finding, keeping, grieving the loves of life.  From young girls to grown men, from all over the world, they write to Juliet. 
     While Glenn is in Verona he volunteers to help answer these letters.  All letters with a return address are answered by the secretaries of Juliet and these secretaries are always in need of help.  They agree to let Glenn become one of their group and he begins to look for love between the lines.  He questions what is love? He must give a listening ear and a compassionate heart to every letter’s writer and while doing so he questions love all the more.  He wanders the streets of Verona and learns about the real Romeo and Juliet. We are treated to a walking tour of Verona by Mr. Dixon that takes us to the sites of the real Romeo and Juliet, we live in the neighborhoods and eat at the best pizzeria, drinking the espresso thick as pudding.  We climb the stairs of Juliet’s house and stand on the balcony and feel his pain and his hope.   
     But finally, he must return home to his life and his classroom.  And once again he is disappointed in love but reinvigorated by his students. And once again he turns to Juliet and the secretaries when he returns to Verona, this time with the intention of living there.  But this time, it’s different.
     Juliet’s Answer is a memoir told with hope, humor and the despair of finding a special someone, for we do believe, as he does, that he will grow old alone, penning answers to letters written to a young girl.   
     I couldn’t help but think as I read this, “What a perfect Valentine gift!”  That’s not to say it’s schmaltzy.  It isn’t. It’s full of hope.