"...Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion." ~Madonna

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Author, Geraldine Brooks has used the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as her main character in her novel, MARCH. While Louisa May Alcott based her series on growing up with her sisters, Brooks has based her story on what is known of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s real father. From Alcott’s books, all we know about Mr. March is that he is away, fighting for the Union during the Civil War.  Brooks takes a deeper look into his life.

As a young man, Peter March toured the South as a peddler. From these journeys he met with Southern gentlemen as well as their slaves and ended up a very wealthy man. He returned home to Connecticut where he met and married Marmee, an avid abolitionist involved in the Underground Railroad. The March family eventually lost their wealth supporting John Brown and his plans to settle run away slaves in their own communities.

Having spent much of the pre-war advocating the freedom of all people bound in slavery, March feels obligated to enlist in support of the Union. Too old to enter as a soldier, he enlists as a chaplain, leaving his family close to poverty. His idealistic nature has not prepared him for the realities of war and he is almost destroyed.

Much of the story is told through letters March writes back home. He had promised to always be truthful with Marmee, but too many times the circumstances of war were too dreadful to share.

Having read Little Women I found the people in the story as familiar as old friends. For people who enjoy history, the real characters, such as John Brown and Henry Thoreau, help the reader to remember that this time in history actually happened.

The book is brilliantly written. Geraldine Brooks does her homework and her books are always well researched. She keeps us involved with her ability to use descriptive language, whether she has March telling us about the sun setting on the river or telling us of the horrors of a military hospital.

This book will be of interest to fans of the March girls as well as to Civil War buffs. Be prepared though. This is first of all a war story, not pretty or romanticized. I found it hard to put down, but also a little hard to watch this idealistic man come face to face with the ugliness of war.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

And in 2011, may
All of your books be page-turners,
All of your plays be SRO, and
All of your hands be Royals.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Mennonite In A Little Black Dress

Rhoda Janzen is probably best known as a poet. She was the University of California Poet Laureate in 1994 and 1997 and has previously published several collections of poetry. After being asked so many times about growing up Mennonite and leaving that community for the sophisticated world of art and academia, she decided to write her memoirs. The result is MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS.

Rhoda had turned her back on the Mennonite community, married an atheist, and became a college professor. Two decades later, while recovering from a bad automobile accident, her husband of fifteen years has left her for a guy named Bob, whom he met on Gay.com. Rhoda feels that it is time to go home.

Home is a conservative Mennonite family. Her father is an internationally known speaker for the Mennonites and her mother, a nurse, has the practical answers to help Rhoda recover. Her most often suggested advise is for Rhoda to marry her first cousin. He has a tractor and would be a good catch.

The book was very informative about the Mennonite life style. Rhoda had grown up without dancing, drinking alcohol, radios, eight-track tapes, Barbies, and unsupervised television. She had been surrounded by love, laughter, and tradition that now she has come to appreciate these things as well as having family to support her.

The book is humorous at times. Rhoda makes light of her present problems, especially the ex-husband. As with all of us, what was embarrassing in our teens can be funny to look back on. Most of the humor comes from the mother’s ability to bring inappropriate subjects into conversations. As a nurse, Rhoda's mother found nothing wrong with talking about pus at the dinner table while the family ate their mashed potatoes.

Even though this book gave me a better understanding of the Mennonites and I am not sorry that I read it, I did not like it. It was a #1 bestseller and the reviews promised a laugh out loud book. I found the humor to be forced and Rhoda a little hard to take. At times I felt that she was using four letter words just to show us how far she had moved from her strict religious past. Memoirs are tricky; the author walks a fine line between telling us the facts and sounding egotistical or whiney. Rhoda was the latter.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Millbrook Playhouse, located in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, is a true summer stock venue. Imagine the thrill when I learned that Millbrook was extending their season by doing a Christmas production at the Lock Haven Elks. To make things even more exciting, this play included the characters from Nunsense, a very popular, funny show.

Nuncrackers is the story of the first televised Christmas concert put on by the Little Sisters of Hoboken. In Nunsense the nuns were trying to raise enough money to bury the deceased sisters still being stored in the freezer. Through a hilarious twist of events, a large sum of money fell into their laps. That money was used to build WCON-TV, the cable access television station.

Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, was played by the multi-talented Marc de la Concha. The role demands a lot of stage time and Marc -- or Mother Superior-- does his/her best to hold the varied cast together.

The sisters, Mary Hubert, Robert Anne, Mary Paul "Amnesia", and Mary Leo are played by Amelia Lang-Wallace, Tiffany Green, Melissa Mabus, and Kali Haines respectively. Sister Mary Annette played herself. Nicholas Wilder joined the sisters as Father Virgil Manly Trott. The children were played by Derek Grove, Olivia Hanna, Brian Lose, and Tori May. These names should sound familiar to regular Millbrook supporters.

Some of the sketches were laugh out loud funny and the audience did, regularly. “In The Convent”, with bows to The Village People, was my favorite. Even the body gestures were correct. The harmony in “The Three Kings” did the Andrew Sisters proud.

Father Virgil had to fill in for Sister Julia Child of God, the convent cook, and the rum for the fruitcake seemed to end up in the good Father. It was his shining moment.

The star of the show is definitely Mother Superior. Every member of the cast is extremely talented, but Marc de la Concha can do it all. It was worth the price of admission to see him and Father Virgil do a Sugar Plum Fairy dance-off.

I am hoping we see this group of actors on the stage at Millbrook this coming summer. I have heard some hints of their upcoming productions, so watch for more information. It is always fun to watch talent working hard to entertain us, and talented this group is.
The Mother Superior, a.k.a Marc de la Concha, and three of the Loosely Lutheran Literary Ladies:
 Pat Park, Genevive Robine, and Lynn Dankanich

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BOOK REVEIW: When Will There Be Good News?

It is true. Sometimes a book is judged by the cover. I picked up WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? by Kate Atkinson based on the cover as well as the title. This is an author I am very glad that I found.

The first chapter introduces us to 6-year -old Joanna and her family walking down a country road to their home where Joanna witnesses a horrific crime.

Thirty years later, we again meet Joanna. She is now Doctor Hunter, married, and with an infant son who is the most important thing in her life. Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe comes to warn Dr. Hunter that the criminal who had changed her life thirty years ago has been released from prison.

When Dr. Hunter goes missing, the only person who believes that some thing is horribly wrong is Reggie, Dr. Hunter’s “mother’s helper”. Reggie has more problems of her own than a sixteen year old should have to handle. Reggie's mother is dead and friends of her brother Billy are threatening to kill her.

Reggie is responsible for saving a man’s life at the scene of a massive train accident. The man, Jackson Brodie, private detective, is an old friend of Louise Monroe’s and may be more involved with the Hunters than is evident at first.

As with any good mystery, to give you more information might ruin the story for you. So as complicated as this must sound, Atkinson cleverly intersects all of the characters’ lives in a way that might surprise you.

Kate Atkinson may be considered a crime novelist, but she is a writer that is hard for me to pigeon hole. Her development of characters is superb; her ability to unravel complex plots never feels contrived, and her dark sense of humor is a refreshing delight. This is an author that I hope to find again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BOOKS: Auntie Patty Claus' Shopping Guide

Once again it is time for Auntie Patty Claus to help you with your Christmas shopping. Here is a list of books that will make terrific gifts.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Although written for the Young Reader, this is
my pick for anyone who enjoys a good book.
Read My Review

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
 This is for the fans of Moby Dick,
and for those who weren't.
Read My Review

American Gospel by Jon Meacham
If your list includes a buff of U. S. history, this
will be appreciated.
Read My Review

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Vampire-o-phile on your list?  Give them this
historical background on Vlad, The Impaler.
Read My Review

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger
If you are looking for a gift for a person who
would enjoy a beautiful, spiritual story, this is it.
Read My Review

The Passage by Justin Cronin
Evil government experiments, vampires, the end
of civilization as we know it!  Need I say more?
Read My Review

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
We may have found a best seller to
make us think.
Read My Review

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
This story about a young woman's adjustment
to life in America is Chick-Lit at its best.
Ready My Review

Redfield Farm by Judith Redline Coopey
Anyone interested in the Underground Railroad,
Quakers, Southwestern Pennsylvania and/or
American history will love this book.
Read My Review

In case my personal Santa is reading this, I will be happy with the new Greg Iles, a recent Sandra Dallas, or anything by Kate Atkinsons.

I hope that this helped to make your yuletide shopping a little easier.