My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author and poet David Romtvedt details the immigrant experience of an unremarkable Basque woman’s journey. In doing so, he draws a larger point. Merely because we exist on planet Earth, we are remarkable.
Romtvedt writes “…the human world we’ve made often ends up diminishing our humanity.” This is not true of Zelestina. She is as fully human as Adam and Eve. Like them, she will find the strength to live out her days in alien territory. In this case, the foreign land is Wyoming.
Due to displacement, Zelestina’s life becomes a frontier experience. Through literary devices–poetry and historical/theological musing–the author explores the larger context of such a life. But he is most effective when he peers through her eyes.
With a sense of wonder, the author shows us how a young girl develops the resources to survive. He reveals Zelestina’s lasting bond with an American Indian woman whose life history mirrors hers. The two women join forces to seek protection against a violent and clumsy hunter who haunts them.
Thomas Teague represents a predator who pursues them in life and in death. Who is the true predator? The author explores the historical and spiritual roots that connect two cultures. He questions life’s mysteries. Appropriately, he does not propose answers. Instead, he mourns an old woman’s ignoble passing with respect and affection.
Center for Basque Studies
This book is part of the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno’s Basque Originals series. Publishing fiction is a new venture for the center. Their mission is to keep Basque culture alive in hearts and minds of a people spread out around the world. I only know this because I chose a Basque heritage for the protagonist of my debut novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter. It will be published as a Basque Originals in the spring.
Look for vibrant cultural histories in cultural centers, universities, museums, and national parks. Often they make fiction available in their bookstores. You will find little gems like Zelestina Urza in Outer Space.
I can’t help but compare Alice Hoffman’s Shelby Richmond to Lee Chandler, the self-hating protagonist in the film Manchester by the Sea. Both have caused misery to themselves and others. Both have had their hearts ripped out, but in Lee’s case, most of his soul died too. Not so with Shelby. As despairing as the film is, this novel is filled with hope.
We don’t all grow up, but most of us grow older. Maturity and an indomitable spirit are Shelby’s saving grace. Grace and patience and love–a mother’s love and that of a few friends.
Some books are meant to be read by mothers and daughters. This is one. Shelby’s mother Sue is always in the background but, as mothers do, she exerts a force to be reckoned with. In this case, it is gentle support of a healing that will take years.
The only thing I could fault this narrative for is overstatement of the role guilt plays in Shelby’s self-destructive behavior. We know. What I laud the author for is for challenging the dystopian point of view that we are victims of forces beyond our control. People do grow up, move on, and realize their potential.
Alice Hoffman’s Faithful is a cup of water drawn from a well of despair that gives precious hope to those who are thirsty for forgiveness. A beautifully crafted, realistic account of the human condition.
These days, inquiring about a person’s New Year’s resolutions seems akin to asking how they voted. Some grimace, some growl, many abstain. Not so with writers. We tell the world what our intentions are for the coming year.
In our journals, we scribble our desires to improve ourselves, our writing, our communities, our world. We organize our thoughts on 3×5 cards or in apps. Next we rewrite for clarity and edit for punch. Then we write memorable mantras on our white boards and quote poets, sages, and scriptures.
I am still processing my intentions for 2017. I don’t know whether world events (or my own life) will spin out of control tomorrow. But the Christian faith teaches us to face the future with hope, knowing that God’s purpose will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
Try new things
My partner in the sublime and I have pledged to shake it up this year–challenge some entrenched mindsets by trying new things. Normally we lay low on New Year’s Eve. This time we welcomed 2017 by attending our first performance of the Phoenix Symphony.
I harbor a common attitude that symphonies are dying. To survive, they must educate new audiences in the old ways. The thought that a conductor might be expected to engage an audience with anything other than excellent musicianship? Appalling! How could the big dose of “happy” that guest conductor Stuart Chafetz promised the packed out symphony hall further the cause of classical music?
Well, let me tell you.Read More»
I am developing a fondness for this type of historical fiction–plucky girl defies stifling mores of the day to seek justice and self-fulfillment. That it is set in my favorite time period, the early twentieth century, is even better.
I read this book with a smile on my face. The sweet relationships between the sisters; how they accommodate each other’s eccentricities; their resolve to be independent; the way they handle the weapons at their disposal–Amy Stewart deftly draws these interactions with an amusing, lighthearted touch. The direst of threats to their lives are occasions for the sisters to show their mettle. Even has we shudder at the dastardly behavior of the their ruthless adversary, we cheer in the knowledge that these ladies have what it takes to overcome.
Constance Kopp is a delightful heroine. She plunges headlong into any opportunity to ultimately give the villain his day in court. In the process, she discovers that intrigue, adventure, and danger act like honey to her believer’s heart. What does she believe in? Never give way to a bully. Defend home and heart–your own and that of unfortunates that cross your path–with resolve and, when necessary, all the firepower available.
This novel is a romp through the early progressive era and a lesson that opportunities abound when you have your the target firmly in your sights.
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Next on my nightstand
Another Historical Fiction–This Road we Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick. Aging Tabitha Brown won’t be left behind, so she hits the Oregon Trail.
I keep track of my “want to reads” on Goodreads. Do you have a reading list for 2017? How do you keep track of your booklist? What book are you excited to read? Please share.
The Great Giveaway is over and gone. Gone in 365 days–365 personal possessions; that was the goal. But how was I to rid myselfof stuff when the majority of it lives in the mountains and I have retreated to the desert for six months? On October 31st I treated myself and took this self-imposed duty off my To Do list. (Yes Virginia, I see that smile on your face.)
I have achieved my fundamental goal. I feel lighter for living with less, purged of possessions (physical and mental) that outlived usefulness. Heading into the holiday season, I want to focus on other things. Traditional holiday celebration, by the way, hit my list on October 31. My last entry. There will be celebration, just not traditional.
An exercise in motivation
I have donated, pawned off, and tossed more than 365 items. The one-a-day stipulation was an exercise in motivation to keep the purge top of mind. It worked. I have established a habit of questioning the tenure of every dust accumulating object my eyes light on.
Of course, the giveaway involved more than physical objects. I axed email subscriptions, deleted unused apps and stopped services. The end result of the entire exercise is that I feel less burdened and more in control.
In the past, when I opened the closet and saw boxes of unsorted photographs stacked on a tower of old photo albums my spirits sank. Now, I am very close to one book shelf of albums that tell our story. And only one binder of recipes, culled from a multitude of binders, files and folders. The rest? All gone. I’ve been a busy girl!Read More»