Michael Lee West’s Mermaids in the Basement finds screenwriter Renata DeChavannes grieving from the recent loss of her mother and stepfather in an airplane crash. She retreats to her family home in the Outer Banks where she eats uncontrollably. While she is buying her movie-producer boyfriend a sweater in a little clothing store, she happens to see the tabloid article telling that her absent love is rumored to be dating his latest movie’s star in faraway Dublin.
Devastated, her drinking, too, begins to get out of control. One night, a drunken Renata has a beach bonfire and burns her manuscript. When she wakes up not knowing what she has done, she looks through all of her drawers to find it but instead discovers a letter from her mother instructing her to contact her paternal grandmother in order to find out the stories of her mother’s “dirty deeds.”
Recently, I found myself running around a hotel and trying to hide so that I could just finish my book and no one would see me crying. Last week my son got married, and even though I am not very emotional my family kept saying “You are going to cry when he gets married. I know you will.” I kept saying, “I am not. I am going to remain calm and collected.” When a friend called to recommend a book, “A Kiss Before the Apocalypse,” I decided to take it with me to the wedding. It is about an angel, Remiel or Remy Chandler who decides to come to earth along with a few other angels to pretend to be one of God’s most beloved creations – Man.
However, while he is here he falls in love with a woman named Madeline and they marry. Since angels do not age and humans do, the book begins with Remy visiting his elderly wife who is dying of cancer in a nursing home. Everyone who works there believes that Madeline is his mother, but the reader soon becomes part of a magical love story of a woman and an angel.
When you read a book at night until it unnerves you so much that you have to put it down to go sleep and then you dream about it, you know you have a great book! The Cypress House takes place in 1935 and focuses on Arlen Wagner. As a veteran of World War I, he develops the ability to tell when someone was about to die.
After the war, he is working as a CCC worker and is asked to take a train down to the Florida Keys to help build the bridge out to Key West. Unfortunately, when the train reaches Florida, Arlen can tell that everyone on that train is about to die. He attempts to convince everyone on the train to get off, but the only one who listens to him is a teenage boy, Paul Brickhill, who has been traveling with him.
One day several years ago I experienced the afternoon starvings, so I ran into a store to get my favorite snack—a mixture of nuts and dried fruit. My friends call it my hamster food. When I came out a gentleman was waiting beside my parked, smashed-up car. He explained that he had hit my car and had called the police. He was waiting for the police officer to show up to complete an accident report. “Okay,” I said between munches.
Sometimes a book tells a wonderfully enchanting story. Sometimes it is nonfiction and conveys information. There are a few books that are able to do both. Out of those few books that do both, there are a handful that can really cause you to question the reality that you have known as truth. Neither Wolf, Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, is one of those special books.
Nerburn’s book is a true story. When he was a young anthropologist who specialized in Native Americans, he was invited to meet with an Indian Elder in order to write down his thoughts and memories. After Nerburn accepts the challenge, he and Dan, the Lakota elder, begin to go across the Black Hills on a spiritual journey that is both mystical and enlightening.
Sometimes you find a book that reflects your own life so much that you just have to get it and read it. That is the case with this book. Oogy was a 10-week-old puppy who was used as a bait dog in dog fighting and then left in an abandoned house to die. They think that approximately a week later police received a tip about recent dog fighting in the house and discovered Oogy lying inside. His ear was ripped off, part of his head was torn away and his jaw was broken. Instead of taking him to the county pound which would result in the puppy being euthanized, the police took him to the Ardmore Animal Hospital. There, a courageous woman who worked for the veterinarian fought to save him and inspired the whole staff of the animal hospital to keep Oogy alive.
Always keep a book with you in case of an emergency. Last summer I was vacationing in the Outer Banks with my 18-year-old son, Rob, my older son’s fiance, Bec, and a friend of ours, Jen. My friend decided that she wanted to have her nose pierced. She began to look for a tattoo parlor and finally found a place near the beach house. As we drove out into the middle of nowhere, Rob began to think that he needed a tattoo, also. As the mother of two sons, you learn to choose your battles carefully, so I told him that it was his decision. However, inside I was screaming, “NO!! Anything you tattoo now will sag when you get to be my age!!!”
We drove down the island with my son trying to decide what tattoo he would get, and we finally arrived at a tattoo parlor that was in a home! I pulled into the parking lot beside the collection of motorcycles, convinced that now my friend would change her mind when she saw the house. However, to my dread she jumped out of the car with an expression of sheer delight on her face and began to walk quickly into the house with the rest of us racing behind her.
Sometimes you love a book so much that it becomes like an old friend. When you need the memory of that book, it comes back to you and comforts you from time to time. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman is like that for me.
Two years after the September 11 attacks, I decided that my 13-year-old son didn’t read enough books during his summer school breaks. I decided to host a book club for him and four of his best friends. We always met at fun places to discuss the books we read – poolside, pizza parlors, water parks, etc. We read about five books that summer, but the book we all loved the most was Green Angel. The book is about Green, a moody 15-year-old girl. She was the daughter of a farmer who grew produce which the family sold in the city. One day, after a fight with her family, she insists on staying home when they go into the city. There is a huge explosion in the city which causes her to lose some of her vision, and ash keeps falling for days.
You can tell a book by its cover. So, if a book’s cover or title “calls” to you, it's karma - pick it up! A couple of years ago I was in the library and a book by a debut author was in display. The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill was definitely calling to me. I thought, “Who is this Joe Hill? I don’t know him and maybe his book isn’t good.”
A couple of weeks later a patron came into my office and asked me, “Have you ever read anything by Joe Hill?”
“No. Why? Is he good?” I asked.
“Well, you know that he is Stephen King’s son. I wanted to see if he writes like his father.”
Now I am kicking myself mentally! I should have listened to the book calling me! I ran to the display and thankfully it was still there!