As our detective duo uncovers new facts, and tangos with a decidedly subpar and self-serving police chief, their position in society and ability to move through the world unencumbered becomes even more important. Like wealthy daughter-of-a-lawyer Nancy Drew, their bold moves and demanding lines of questioning are only possible because they have the resources and status to back them up.
Near the middle of the book, Smith concludes her elimination experiment. Changing her habits has helped her regain her equilibrium, but the shift is not as drastic as she envisioned. Life looks the same as it did pre-pandemic but clearly something in her inner experience has changed.
All in all, these poems are sensitive, moving, perceptive, and carefully crafted gems. Discouragement might lurk in the words, yet the balance is tilting toward hope. As expressed in the poem “A Close and Constant Rage,” the poet notes “my continuous rage colliding / with the natural world, … / surround me with a can-do moment of hope.”
She laughs when she talks about those who think she’s locked up somewhere “blowing square bubbles.” She went on to have a “normal” life, got married, raised a family, wrote twenty novels, worked as an anthropology professor at the Colorado School of Mines, volunteered as the first female EMT in her mountain community, tutored students in Hebrew, made jam and sewed clothes…and made trouble when necessary.
Whitacre makes it clear from the start that this is family folklore handed down over generations at Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas celebrations and other family gatherings. Indeed, the second poem, “Jennie at Thanksgiving,” introduces us to the central figure, now a toothless old lady who is hard of hearing, her food “ground to mush” so that she’s able to eat. “She gums away fitfully.”
This book will be of interest perhaps most to Franklin fans who will appreciate the spotlight shifting from him to the multiple women who play secondary characters in his biographies. It must be noted that Stuart does more than simply tell the stories of these players that usually otherwise merely populate the background of the US colonial and revolutionary drama; she offers several insightful and challenging reappraisals.
Ottaway explores the way that women are often taught to mask emotions which can make diagnosis difficult. The book is also deeply personal, putting the reader directly into the experience and incorporating a welter of complex emotions, sensations, and perspectives that are powerful. Poetry is the right medium, embracing the complexity through rhythm, structure, imagery, and an engagement in the senses that creates immediacy.
Robert McKean spoke via email with Caitlin Hamilton Summie about his latest novel, Mending What is Broken, published by University of W. Alabama/Livingston Press on August 20th. While also a writer, Summie is also McKean’s publicist. Their conversation focused on his new book but also included a few questions about craft, as McKean always writes about the same fictional place, across all his books. Each book, however, works as a stand-alone.
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O’Hagan manages a delicate balance between immediacy and nostalgia with a light hand that feels natural, inviting the reader into the moment to share in the meaning making. There are layers of desire pervading the work, time and space condensing, folding into itself in sudden revelations that come into a quiet scene with the force of empathy