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Original Essays | September 30, 2014

Brian Doyle: IMG The Rude Burl of Our Masks



One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something... Continue »
  1. $13.27 Sale Trade Paper add to wish list

    Children and Other Wild Animals

    Brian Doyle 9780870717543

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Customer Comments

Mels Musings has commented on (10) products.

The Great Lenore by Jm Tohline
The Great Lenore

Mels Musings, January 22, 2012

I read this book "in one exhilarating sitting", as Mr. Tohline says. The writing is charming and reminiscent of an earlier age, perhaps the twenties. The characters are well-drawn and likeable (for the most part.) And the mystery of Lenore carries you through the book to arrive at the shocking ending.

It's a glimpse into the affluent life of Nantucket high society, all the quirks, the dreams and the lifestyle. The plot will have you guessing, and the mystery will drive you through the book without coming up for air.

I highly recommend this short novel. I know I'll keep it and read it again.
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A Certain Slant of Light by Cynthia Thayer
A Certain Slant of Light

Mels Musings, November 19, 2011

This wonderful book truly shows life in rural Maine, revealing both the drudgery and the joy of fully living off the land. One feels present in the tiny cabin from which the main character, Peter, sets forth daily to perform his endless chores.

The complex familial relationships are as compelling as the eventual unfolding of the tragic story. We are allowed into Peter's mind, and the secrets it holds, in only small flashes, so the story reveals itself in a halting, flickering manner, the only way Peter can allow himself to think about his family and their terrible ending.

The other character, Elaine, who literally stumbles into his lonely world, is an enigma as well. Pregnant and deeply troubled, she keeps her own secrets hidden until their revelation is inevitable.

Cynthia Thayer has a special gift for poetic description. Her passages concerning Peter's bagpipes and his deep relationship with them, for example, bring an unexpected beauty to the otherwise prosaic instrument and infuse it with such a powerful presence that the reader may even hear the music and long for it to continue.

A Certain Slant of Light illuminates two strong, damaged people and the building of their relationship in an honest and very readable way.
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Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Mels Musings, October 8, 2011

Aminita will be a character burned onto your heart forever. The main character of "The Book of Negroes" (published in the U.S. as "Someone Knows My Name") is a strong, heroic woman. Her history will touch you and leave you changed.
The title is based on a little-known document, the book of negroes, which recorded the names and descriptions of 3,000 African-American slaves who escaped to the British lines during the American Revolution and were evacuated by British ships to points in Nova Scotia as freedmen.
The story itself revolves around Aminita, from her childhood in an African village to her status as a revered but misunderstood symbol of abolition.
The book is unstoppable reading, simply hard to put down.
You travel step-by-step with Aminita, and the journey is harrowing, joyful and ultimately worthwhile.
Here is an excerpt, a small sample of Mr. Hill's evocative writing.
'Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, Dear Reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary. And cultivate distrust of the colour pink. Pink is taken as the colour of innocence, the colour of childhood, but as it spills across the water in the light of the dying sun, do not fall into its pretty path. There, right underneath, lies a bottomless graveyard of children, mothers and men. I shudder to imagine all the Africans rocking in the deep. Every time I have sailed the seas, I have had the sense of gliding over the unburied. Some people call the sunset a creation of extraordinary beauty, and proof of God's existence. But what benevolent force would bewitch the human spirit by choosing pink to light the path of a slave vessel?'
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Salvage the Bones

Mels Musings, September 12, 2011

One of the best books I've read recently this story takes place before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.

It opens with the birth of China the pitbull's puppies and, through the eyes of Esch, the 12-year-old daughter of the family, it spins a story of love, poverty, trust and hardship.

Esch's family consists of all men. Her brother Skeetah, who owns, tends and nearly worships China, Randall, the oldest, a budding basketball star who takes care of the family when the father is too drunk to do so, and Junior is the smallest of the boys, by turns confused and hurt by life. China herself,is a main character and the money her puppies could bring would fulfill a dream for at least one family member.

The lead-up to the hurricane is desultory, she is a vague threat that no one seems to take too seriously. When she hits, she is terrifying and we're swept along in the fear and horror of her rage. Afterward, we wander the coast with her characters, awed and confused by the scale of the destruction. "There is a house sitting in the middle of the road, facing us, like it guards the secrets we will find farther in."

The prose is fluid and lovely even poetic at times. Read this book- a remarkable, well-written and touching story.
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Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Before Ever After

Mels Musings, September 9, 2011

What a great book!
It's a love story, an historical novel, a mythology and a detective story all in one.
The characters are intriguing and well-drawn, the story moves along at a rapid pace, and you are kept on the edge of your seat right up to the end.
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