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Page 32: Five Short Takes on New Vermont Books

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Published April 18, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.


Seven Days writers can't possibly read, much less review, all the books that arrive in a steady stream by post, email and, in one memorable case, a clowder of calicos. So this monthly feature is our way of introducing you to a handful of books by Vermont authors. To do that, we contextualize each book just a little and quote a single representative sentence from, yes, page 32.

Inclusion here implies neither approval nor derision on our part, but simply: Here are a bunch of books, arranged alphabetically by authors' names, that Seven Days readers might like to know about.

On Brassard's Farm

Daniel Hecht, Blackstone Publishing, 406 pages. $29.99.

Another bastard hardest thing: For the first two weeks, I brought my water up the hill in plastic gallon jugs.

After penning six thrillers, Montpelier author Daniel Hecht changes course for his seventh novel. The story centers on Ann Turner, a Boston teacher who, after a divorce and a professional misstep (i.e., inappropriate contact with a student), retreats to rural Vermont. Suddenly unable to make the final payment on property she purchased from farmer Jim Brassard, Ann agrees to work off her debt as a farmhand. In her new role, the protagonist, whose experiences the author says reflect his own, gets schooled in the worry-ridden and labor-intensive existence of the state's farmers. At the outset, the narrator describes this as a love story — but not the typical kind. While romantic love does come into play, the book explores many types of love, including that of family, nature, farming and friends. And yes, Ann learns to love herself, but not before she gets her hands dirty and redefines herself as a woman of true grit.

— K.R.

The Long Shadow: The Winds of Freedom, Book One

Beth Kanell, Five Star Publishing, 300 pages. $29.95.

He reached up to take a bundle of clothes, it seemed, from the arms of a tall colored woman cautiously maneuvering her hoopskirts so as to neatly emerge without showing much more than her booted ankles as she stepped down.

The year is 1850, the place a small Vermont village called North Upton. Two neighboring families do what needs to be done to survive: farming, sugaring, endless cooking and other chores, taking care of one another and passing strangers. As it happens, the occasional stranger is a fugitive slave, and members of these families secretly help them make their way to Canada. Within this close-knit community, three young people become involved in the clandestine cause: teenage Alice; her best friend, Jerushah; and a younger girl, Sarah, herself a fugitive with still-enslaved parents in the South. This engaging young-adult book is grounded in history, redolent of its setting, and packed with detail about both quotidian life and the passionate, perilous mission of northern abolitionists before the American Civil War. Even as Alice's family members can't agree on how to end slavery in the fragile Union, the friends find their own strengths — and life-threatening challenges. The subhead of the novel includes the enticing words "Book One," so readers evidently can expect more from this Northeast Kingdom-based storyteller.

— P.P.

Two Lives

Reeve Lindbergh, Brigantine Media, 136 pages. $14.95 paperback.

It was clear to me that my father was really smart: how else could he have done all the things he did, and written all those books?

Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of aviator Charles A. and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has accomplished much in her own right over her 50 years in Vermont. She's authored more than two dozen books for children and adults, as well as pieces for numerous publications. In the state and beyond, Lindbergh has been active with libraries and other nonprofits. With Two Lives, she returns, in a manner of speaking, to her parents. It's not her first memoir about the remarkable Lindbergh family — two of the 20th century's best-known celebrities and their six children. Although the title might seem to refer to Charles and Anne, in fact Lindbergh means her own dual existence in the public eye and in the relative quietude of rural Vermont. But the duality is lopsided: Lindbergh admits that "hardly a day goes by" that she doesn't get a request concerning one or both parents. It is her fate to know, and share, virtually every detail about their lives. With this book, Lindbergh gently and candidly shares her own.

Reeve Lindbergh's book tour includes stops on Wednesday, April 25, 7 p.m. at Norwich Bookstore; Thursday, May 3, 6:30 p.m. with the Flying Pig Bookstore at Shelburne Town Hall; Tuesday, May 8, 7 p.m. at Phoenix Books Burlington; and other dates at bookstores around the state.

— P.P.

The Bardic Book of Becoming: An Introduction to Modern Druidry

Ivan McBeth with Fearn Lickfield, Red Wheel/Weiser Books, 272 pages. $24.95 paperback.

We use our power to do good and wholesome deeds, because it feels so much better than using our power for harm.

It's a shame that Ivan McBeth didn't live to see this book to completion; the British-born, Worcester-based founder of Vermont's Green Mountain Druid Order and School of Druidry died in September 2016 at age 63. But those who follow this nature-centric spiritual path or are curious about how to do so will appreciate the final product, completed by McBeth's partner, Fearn Lickfield. Anyone who knew the colorful, larger-than-life McBeth — who was also a master stone-circle builder — will hear his visionary voice throughout The Bardic Book. It doesn't take geomancy to know that humans are out of sync with Mother Earth, having in a shockingly short time thrown our planetary home into crisis. In these fraught times, McBeth's reminder of our interconnectedness carries a strong sense of urgency. Yet the Druidic view is a steadfastly optimistic and empowering one: that committed individuals can make a difference. Filled with gentle exhortations and expansive knowledge, the book offers a guide to gaining awareness, building a harmonious relationship with the Earth, and crafting one's own journey of transformation.

— P.P.

The Opposite of Never

Mary Kathleen Mehuron, SparkPress, 336 pages. $16.95.

She loved her child to pieces, but she still had a hard time looking directly at him.

Two widowed Vermonters find late-in-life romance while grappling with the fallout of the opiate epidemic in this second novel from Mary Kathleen Mehuron, a longtime local math teacher and author of Fading Past. As baby boomers Georgia and Kenny discover an unexpected passion for each other, Kenny's stepdaughter slides back into a ruinous addiction, taking the son of one of Georgia's best friends with her. Mehuron's fast-moving fiction explores all perspectives on the situation, which tests the bonds of friendship and the capacity for forgiveness. In an extended epilogue of sorts, Georgia and Kenny rediscover their own bliss on a trip to Cuba just before the lifting of the embargo — "before the Starbucks comes," as a Cuban character puts it. Mehuron took a similar trip herself in 2015, and this vivid, joyful section of the book brings alive the grandeur and squalor of Havana and the resilience of its people, albeit from an American tourist's necessarily limited perspective.

— M.H.