The Darkest Evening of the Year

I had never read a novel by Dean Koontz before, so I was intrigued when I found The Darkest Evening of the Year in a pile left for me by my voracious reader- (I don’t know how she puts the books away like she does) soul sister- friend.  The image of the Golden Retriever on the cover sealed the deal as I am a dog lover, especially of Retrievers.

index.jpeg

So, reading through chapter one, Koontz had my attention, but not in the way I had hoped.  Tears were welling in my eyes at his description of dog abuse.  I was nearly “out,” so to speak, and onto the next novel, until my friend reassured me the novel does not focus on the abuse for long.  Whew!  Give me murders, natural disasters, disease, I can read on and on, but I cringe at even the mention of animal abuse.  Yes, I am the one who changes the channel when “that commercial” comes on because the one time I watched, I was wiping tears as I reached for the computer to search the inventory of our local humane society.  Ugh!

As for the book itself, its structure reveals each character’s perspective chapter by chapter which kept urging me to read further even into the wee hours of the night.  The protagonist Amy Redwing has such a passion for Golden Retrievers she has founded Golden Heart whose mission is to find forever homes for this particular breed.  Koontz detailed description of the behaviors of Redwing’s dogs is uncanny.  I laughed thinking of how my own Labrador Retriever acts in the same manner if not in a more untrained fashion.  Working on it!

The reader slowly learns along with her boyfriend Brian of her past which she has kept secret for nearly a decade.  As he reveals his own regrets, the truth of how the characters’ lives are entwined comes to fruition.

What made me sit up and take notice is that sprinkled throughout the novel, Koontz offers his outlook on life with some truly deep thoughts.  One such example comes at the conclusion of The Darkest Evening of the Year:

Too many dogs continue to be abused and abandoned- one is too many- and people continue to kill people for money and envy for no reason at all.  Bad people succeed and good people fail, but that’s not the end of the story.  Miracles happen that nobody sees, and among us walk heroes who are never recognized, and people live in loneliness because they cannot believe they are loved . . ..  (354)

Standing in the Rainbow

When an avid reader and dear friend recommends a novel, her favorite one at that, I gladly agree to read the loaner.  In this case, Fannie Flagg’s Standing in the Rainbow does not disappoint.

standing

Following the lives of residents from the small town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, through generations, the reader becomes emotionally engaged, and, in essence, a member of middle America.  Visualizing Bobby Smith, the only son of the Smith family, overcome his fear in order to climb the water tower as a young boy and his coming to the realization of his smallness in this vast universe offered the reader his raw humanity:

Could it really be possible that . . . [I] was nothing but just another small dot among a bunch of other small dots? . . . always thought . . . [I] was something different, something special.  Now . . . [I] was thrown for a complete loop.  (21)

Furthermore, reading of Bobby’s school work struggles which resulted in the repeat of sixth grade allowed me to bond with this young man, and I found myself silently cheering him on.  His eventual enlistment in the Korean War caused me great tension because I was so invested, fearful he may not return, so I proceeded slowly and with caution while reading as my buddy who had given me the loaner has probably been wondering when I was planning to return her novel.

Flagg writes with such humor as in her depiction of the Oatmans crammed in their car travelling cross country to their next singing gig.  With the older brothers and daughter, Betty Raye, in the back, and the chaos and noise from the front seat, the reader learns, “Chester the dummy was out of his box, yammering away at Ferris and complaining because Floyd had also wanted to stop at the gas station and get himself a cold Dr. Pepper”  (100).

Flagg, in her writing, is able to capture such a simpler time, bringing forth a sense of nostalgia for the reader.  When Bobby’s Cub Scout field trip is canceled due to rain, he is not bothered or unable to entertain himself.  Instead, he spends the day on the porch watching the rain and listening “to the sounds of the cars swishing up and down the wet streets” (102), no cell phone or computer needed.  Later, when his grandmother joins him on the porch, and he inquires about life when she was a child and whether she was bored with no electricity, movies, or radio,  Mother Smith explains, “We had books and we played games and sang and went to parties.  You know, you don’t miss what you don’t know”  (103).  This brought to mind my many weekends spent with my own grandparents feeding the geese, helping grind meat, and walking around their farmhouse in the ice and snow pretending I was on quite the explorer’s adventure.

Just a friendly suggestion, but towards the end of Standing in the Rainbow, be sure and keep the tissues within an arm’s reach.  As the reader concludes following roughly four decades of life, there is the inevitable end of life and reflection on what has been, what could have been, and what inevitably remains.  Thus, take the time to meet Tot, Macky, Neighbor Dorothy along with the other residents of Elmwood Springs and really listen to their stories.

i knead A editer!

640px-We_Can_Edit

Reading is my passion.  Being transported inside a character’s head or to an unknown locale  makes me speechless when an author writes well.  In fact, on more than one occasion, I have been  known to grieve when the conclusion of a novel arrives.  Usually, a replacement novel is one of the only means of rescuing me from the depths of reading despair until the replacement novel’s conclusion.  Thus, a cyclical cycle of addiction and sorrow emerges, worth every savored word on the page.

So, it comes as no surprise I enjoy reviewing books, sharing books, gifting books, discussing books, decorating with books, etc.  Saturday I received a novel in the mail for the purposes of review for a blogging book tour.  Snuggled in bed I picked up this new read and ogled the front and back covers as I always do prior to reading page one.  Disappointed to find a spelling error on the back cover,  I did not abandon all hope and proceeded to open the book and commence my read.

On page four I found two additional spelling errors and another on page five which was when I made the decision to read no more.  This particular author, according to the brief biography, worked as a journalist.  So, I think this person in particular should know better.  However, I believe anyone who is pursuing a career as an author should definitely revise and edit for the cleanest draft possible for his/her readers.  To me, this is  an essential part of the author job description.

My English 111 students are on draft three of a Memoir Essay assigned on day one of class;  we are now two-thirds of the way through the semester.  Revisions will continue until each student is able to walk away with a clean copy in hand.  While enrolled in this class, these students are authors and should respect the craft of writing.

In the same manner, when I purchase a cupcake from the store, I expect it to taste sweet.  If the baker misplaces salt for sugar in the recipe, I would not expect him/her to reason, “It’s close enough.”   While undergoing surgery to eradicate the cancer found in my breast, my surgeon performed three procedures for a successful clear margins outcome.  I am grateful she did not determine “close enough” was good enough.

With this being said, authors please revise and utilize an editor (friend, peer, family, Writing Center, writing group) always.  Keep hope and grammatically correct writing alive for your readers.