Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue

“The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue c.2016, Little, Brown $27.00 304 pages c.2016, HarperCollins $32.99 Canada 304 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER The truth was bent a little bit. Okay, so it was actually mangled. Warped beyond anything that might remotely be real. Wrapped up in a colossal “liar-liar-pants-on-fire” conflagration. The truth was nowhere near the lie you told to save face, to save feelings, or as in the new novel “The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue, to save a life. Lib Wright was so angry, she could hardly breathe. Yes, she was told that she would be handsomely paid and put up – which was true – but she was also told that her skills as a nurse were essential, which was a lie. All those years of working in a field hospital in the Crimean War, all the time spent learning from the great Miss Nightingale, all the hours spent on patient care, and these Irish villagers were telling her that her assignment was to be little more than jailer. Anna O’Donnell, they said, was eleven years old and hadn’t had a bite of food for four months. She consumed water by the spoonful, which was to say sparingly, and skeptics had come ‘round. To prove that the child’s feat was a miracle of God, a committee had hired Lib and an elderly nun to watch the girl’s...

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“Playing Dead” by Elizabeth Greenwood

“Playing Dead” by Elizabeth Greenwood c.2016, Simon & Schuster $26.00 / $35.00 Canada 247 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Your wallet is genuine, original faux-leather from faux-Venezuela. It matches the pleather jacket you love so much and your favorite fake-silk shirt, which you like to wear when you drive the car you bought and can barely afford, but that looks great for appearances. Life is sometimes all about pretending but, in “Playing Dead” by Elizabeth Greenwood, faking your demise isn’t quite as easy. Loaded down with student loans in the six-figures, former teacher Elizabeth Greenwood was desperate: that kind of debt terrified her, and she began to toy with an idea that many consider. Rather than let the owed-money scare her half to death, maybe she could just fake her death instead. But faking a death is so drastic, on expert told her, and it leads to more problems. Instead, just disappear, which is “a very different act…” Faking is fraud; disappearing is easier, often legal, and you can still keep in contact with loved ones (though it won’t erase the debt). Disappearing doesn’t even have to be expensive, the expert said; in fact, the poorer you are, the better. Money, he believes, is one of the main reasons people disappear; the other is violence. Love is an “outlier.” “Faking your death almost never works,” said another expert....

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“I Will Send Rain” by Rae Meadows

“I Will Send Rain” by Rae Meadows c.2016, Henry Holt $26.00 / $37.00 Canada 272 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Rain, rain, go away. That never worked, did it?  You could chant those four words all you want, trying to keep your picnic, reunion, or party from being ruined, but the sky opened up and there you were. Rain, rain, go away – unless, as in the new novel “I Will Send Rain” by Rae Meadows, that’s the kind of storm you really need. Another day of hundred-degree weather. That was Annie Bell’s second thought, as she eased herself out of bed, off the sweat-soaked sheet and, away from her sleeping husband, Samuel. It would be a hundred-degrees again today, just like it had been for weeks. Her first thought had been of the baby she’d lost ten years before. Annie often wondered what Eleanor would be like, and it confounded her that Samuel never thought about their second-born. Then again, a lot about Samuel confounded her. And then there was Birdie. Annie’s worried about her first child. At fifteen, Birdie seemed to be on the edge of all kinds of possibilities, and none at all. Birdie thought she was in love with Cy Mack, and Annie knew that Birdie dreamed of life in a city but Cy Mack was never going to take her away from the Oklahoma panhandle, that was for sure....

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“Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman” by Mary Mann Hamilton

“Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman” by Mary Mann Hamilton c.2016, Little, Brown $27.00 / $32.50 Canada 319 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Your toast was burnt this morning. It was the first in a tsunami of irritation you had to endure today: the house WiFi was down, your shirt got wrinkled, the cat threw up on the carpet, humid weather, your coffee got cold. What next? Read “Trials of the Earth” by Mary Mann Hamilton, and review your day again. The “wild country of Arkansas … was just beginning to settle up” when Mary Mann’s father brought his family from Missouri down to buy a home. He didn’t live long enough to enjoy it, however – he died ten days after they arrived, leaving Mary’s mother with six children to feed. There was work in Arkansas , though, so Mary’s brothers got jobs at the sawmill, while Mary and her sisters took in boarders. One of them, a roguish Englishman named Frank Hamilton convinced Mary’s brothers that he had romantic intentions for the seventeen-year-old, though marriage wasn’t what Mary wanted. Still, she agreed to it as her mother and eldest brother lay dying. Married life was a challenge. Unbeknownst to Mary before the wedding, Frank was quite the drinker, which greatly embarrassed her. He couldn’t seem to hold a job for long,...

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“The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees” by Robert Penn

“The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees” by Robert Penn c.2016, W.W. Norton $26.95 / higher in Canada 256 pages BOOK REVIEW by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER Shade feels good right about now. Just sitting in it seems to lower your temperature by ten degrees. It calms you, too, and makes you feel drowsy. This time of year, the shade of a tree is a welcome thing and, as you’ll see in the new book “The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees” by Robert Penn, that tree can offer so much more. For most of Robert Penn’s childhood, an ash tree at the edge of a garden was the gateway to adventure. It was just a tree then; he never paid it much heed, nor did he consider that so many of his favorite possessions came from ash wood. And yet, that tree stood in the back of his mind and on a crisp winter day, he felled one just like it near his South Wales home, to see all that could be done with a single tree. The tree hadn’t been easy to find: because each kind of wood has its season and ash is best harvested in winter, Penn began his search early. He wanted a tall, straight tree of the correct width, no extra lower branches, and with a wide canopy. Surely, such a tree stood...

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