THE FLOATING WORLD – BOOK COMMENT

The Floating World
Author: C. Morgan Babst
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 2017
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 370 pages
Source: Personal copy

“EVERYTHING MOVED ON, AND NO MATTER HOW YOU TRIED TO STOP IT, THE EARTH KEPT SPINNING IN THE INFINITE SKY.”

This novel written in powerful detail takes the reader inside survival and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The fast-moving storm wrecks homes, families and numerous relationships. Stacked up against both fiction and non-fiction about this storm of 10 years ago, no other read has so effectively taken the reader through the emotions of this storm.

There is mystery and suspense as the Boisdore family searches for a daughter and strives to discover what happened to her or what acts she may have committed in the aftermath of the storm. Deep feelings generated this story and as such it is real, tense and filled with grief. The author is a New Orleans native.

Hurricane Katrina brought destruction of different kinds, personal and political. Here the author gives us a close up of one family’s struggle. Not unlike the television series Treme that focused on one neighborhood, this story focuses on one family, a family with a deep history in the city, a family with some resources and a network of friends and family across racial lines. In both cases we see the damage up close and in a personal way. Personal trauma and natural disasters often exacerbate one another. This story is enlightening as it shows what can happen when the two collide.

The writing is detailed and real. Words and sentences are strung together with beauty and strength. Finding out just what happened to the family’s daughter Cora is perhaps a bit convoluted, but provides the forward movement the story needs as the storm abates and the ugly aftermath must be faced. As in so many novels these days, time moves around and the story is told from the viewpoint of a number of characters. One purpose is to keep the story interesting since it’s easy to get bogged down in the mud from the storm and the family dysfunction. For the most part the author gives readers markers to clarify time and place.

Its an exciting read, but not an easy one, enlarging our understanding of New Orleans and of what the damage of hurricanes can mean to people caught in the wind gusts and rising waters. As a debut novel, it hits a high mark. We readers can expect more from this author.

TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

St. Augustine is home to many historic churches. One of the most beautiful is Trinity Episcopal located downtown just off King Street and established in 1821. The original church was constructed of coquina (local shell stone), and three stained glass windows were added prior to the Civil War. Work began on the present structure in 1902.

The triptych of stained glass above the altar was made in Munich Germany. Over many years additional stain glass windows were added to the church. Each of the 28 windows is different, all add to the beauty and serenity of the church. The dark wood is another striking feature of the sanctuary.

This traditional window made in the 1920’s shows Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. In the bible Naomi and her daughters-in-law support each other through difficulties. Ruth is Moabite and her mother-in-law from Judea. When her mother-in-law returns home, Ruth says to her, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth’s story is told in the Old Testament Book of Ruth. She becomes the ancestor of King David.

The entire present structure and the grounds welcome visitors and parishioners to the beauty of this church.

The lounge connecting the sanctuary to other areas of the church building.

The church is filled with stained glass windows, making a visit there very special. The windows can also be seen with explanation at the church website. If you wish more information about this place type Trinity Episcopal Parish in your browser. The link is http://www.trinityepiscopalparish.org

STREETS AND ART IN ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

On a perfect sunny day in St. Augustine, the street scenes south of King Street are always a favorite. Among other things, this means stepping into one or two or three or more of the wonderful galleries that live in that part of the historic city.

This interesting piece is front and center at Sea Spirits Gallery on Saint George Street.

The above pictured sculpture and following pictures can be found at Plum Gallery on Aviles Street. I love these pieces. The artist is Mindy Colton who lives on a horse farm in East Orlando where she has a studio. Her work has been exhibited at galleries in Boca Raton, El Paso and many other locations.

This historic building continuously occupied since the late 1500’s is home to a public research library. This will be my next stop on Aviles Street.

And likely, I’ll have more of Mindy Colton’s work posted in an upcoming blog.

OUT-IN-PAPERBACK

Titles of interest now published in paperback editions

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Small Great Things by Jodi Picolt

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

The Women In the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

And as you see, even more of your favorites are available. Get to it. Which will you pick up next?

“STORIES MOVE THE WALLS THAT NEED TO BE MOVED” -FROM NICOLE MAINES

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family
Author: Amy Ellis Nutt
Publisher: Random House, 2016
Genre: Non-fiction
Paperback Edition: 262 pages plus Sources, Resources, Glossary, and Reader’s Guide
Source: Personal Copy

This book can be a difficult read because of the heartrending nature of the true story told, and the strong emotions a reader feels for children and family who must endure intolerance because a child is different. Wayne and Kelly Maines are parents of twin boys. From an early age one of the twin children, Wyatt, presents as a female. This is the coming-of-age story of a transgendered child and of her family. Perhaps telling this story was also difficult for the author.

Amy Ellis Nutt, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, writes a clear, compelling, factual narrative of the family and their experiences. She is never overwhelmed by the emotionality of the story. She demonstrates understanding, tolerance and respect toward all involved in the lives of the Maines family: parents, twins Jonas and Wyatt who becomes Nicole, and others they interact with in the state of Maine where they live. All the members of the family exhibit great courage in the face of an unexpected life experience.

Reading this compelling story, this reader felt a degree of shame to realize the fearful feelings I experienced in confronting this book. Stories of mistreated and misunderstood children often cause dread, fear, and strong feelings of unhappiness. I mourn for the children, the families and our intolerant society toward those who are different than others.

There is factual learning to be found in this presentation. The author includes new, important information about brain development. She explains terms and includes a glossary. She speaks of organizations, laws, schools, courts and more involved in this situation. Meaning, honesty and empathy are hallmarks of her writing. She creates a clear, readable text. As expected, different aspects of the story will appeal to different readers.

Nicole’s triumphant transformation occurs after many struggles. She and her family are an inspiration to others. This reader thanks the Maines family, so generous in sharing their story. It is a courageous and powerful book, but there is no discounting the fact it also takes putting aside fear and trembling for some to read it. I guess that calls for pride rather than shame. Hats off to this author Amy Ellis Nutt, the Maines family and most of all Nicole.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: SHRIMP AND WINGS FOR THE SUPER BOWL

Two recipes to anchor your Super Bowl Buffet. Often, favorites at our house in years past.

MIGHTY SWEET CHICKEN WINGS

2-3 pounds wings
1 10 oz. jar apricot preserves
1 bottle Wishbone Russian Dressing (red-oil type)
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix

Mix sauce and pour into a 9×13 pan. Lay chicken on top
Bake one hour at 350. Turn wings after ½ hour.

Add some Frank’s Hot Sauce if you must, or also very good if you use peach salsa instead of the preserves. Less sweet, more heat.

These wings are easy to prep, different and delicious!

JERRY LEIN’S CHEESE SPREAD WITH SPRIMP

4 oz. small shrimp, fresh (cook briefly) or canned, rinsed and chopped
4 green onion stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons Worceshire Sauce
16 oz. Kraft Cheez Whiz
2 tablespoons lemon juice – optional

Mix first three ingredients together well with wooden spoon.

Add the Kraft Cheez Whiz and mix.

Spread on Triskit crackers and broil to warm.

When you pass these around, folks love them. So little prep effort for such a great taste.

Enjoy the 2018 Super Bowl and the food. Maybe you will throw in one of these recipes that will seem new but some folks will know, not so.