Page 32: Short Takes on Five Vermont Books | Books | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published July 13, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated July 13, 2022 at 11:23 a.m.

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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 swarm of very determined ants. 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.

A Reporter's Vermont: An Eclectic Look at a Diverse State

Ed Barna, self-published, 428 pages. $15.99.
He hasn't forgotten the time he was 12, and the lake started kicking up near the Champlain Bridge.

Our quote describes longtime Lake Champlain angler Ray Giddings, who appears in a collection of newspaper and magazine articles assembled into a book by their author, Vermont journalist Ed Barna.

Besides Giddings' fishing memories, which date back to the 1920s, the 82 stories in Barna's compilation also cover such topics as home births, pollen in Middlebury, the Revolutionary War site at Mount Independence, the AIDS Memorial Quilt and a series of "Indomitable Vermonters."

Barna employs a bit of a humblebrag in the early pages of his book, informing readers that his journalism career was launched when his first wife told him, "You're some kind of genius, but I just can't live with you." In the preface, he writes that "again and again" he ran into people who asked him, "Are you THE Ed Barna?" The book would have benefited if he'd included the name of the publication in which his articles originally appeared and their publication date.

— S.P.

A Dusty Lady

John Dooley, BookBaby, 258 pages. $27.50.
The people were being helped because of poverty and violence in their home area.

The "dusty lady" is the Statue of Liberty, "standing as the guiding light at our open gateway as proof of our international invitation for all to see," Burlington author John Dooley writes. But this invitation has "fallen out of favor," he continues, as a rising tide of American nativism, stoked by Donald Trump, turns public sentiment against immigration.

Dooley, a 95-year-old World War II veteran who spent 21 years working for the Boy Scouts of America, stands against that tide. He dedicated his latest self-published novel to his immigrant grandfather. It's the story of a happily retired couple who watch with horror as the authorities seize the young, undocumented child of their senior home's custodian. Determined to end such separations, Phoebe and Abidiah found an organization called Salva La Familia. Their efforts will bring them up against the forces behind the January 6 insurrection. While the novel is heavily didactic, Dooley has done extensive research into the history of American immigration, and his argument packs a punch.

— M.H.

Let's Hear It for the Horses

Tricia Knoll, the Poetry Box, 50 pages. $14.
I'd long ago given over to horse love learned from my father.

Growing up, Tricia Knoll spent summer after summer riding horses in Rocky Mountain National Park with her father. That is, until her father passed away in a tragic riding accident when Knoll was in her twenties.

Let's Hear It for the Horses is a chapbook of 31 poems about Knoll's love and admiration for horses, dating back to girlhood. The poems' subjects range from Civil War thoroughbreds to horses covered in blankets during a Vermont winter to the trails on which her dad loved to ride. Though the poems bounce around in time and content, Knoll's evocative free verse ties them together. "Two of us stringing / dark mare tail / my long braid," she writes.

Knoll's sixth collection of poems since she became a full-time writer in 2007, Let's Hear It for the Horses won third place in the 2021 Poetry Box Chapbook Prize. It's her first time writing about horses, but she has plenty of material: "[Horses'] integrity is without question," she writes.

— M.R.

The Mountain Troubadour: 75th Anniversary Issue

Poetry Society of Vermont, 107 pages. $15.
You were on your way out of your prison / of physical pain, but still had instructions for me...

In Mary Rose Dougherty's poem "Fine," the speaker recounts a tender interaction with a dying woman who had, for years, been a thorny presence. Works by Dougherty, editor of The Mountain Troubadour, and more than 30 other poets grace the pages of this celebratory edition of the Poetry Society of Vermont's literary journal. Founded in 1947 and open to Vermonters and non-Vermonters alike, the society promotes poetry through events, contests and the journal.

This issue includes new and previously published works of many forms, including prose, haiku and sonnets, touching on everything from nature and gardening to relationships and loss. It celebrates Ann B. Day, the society's oldest and longest-serving member, who joined in 1959. A former society president, Day has written more than 400 poems and hosted many events at Knoll Farm, the Fayston business she owned for decades. But her most enduring gift, Dougherty writes in the editor's note, has been steadfast friendship — the gift of self.

— E.M.S.

All Men Glad and Wise

Laura C. Stevenson, Rootstock Publishing, 242 pages. $27.99 hardcover; $17.99 paperback.
I nodded sadly, wishing I had been able to see Mrs. Goodwin lately.

As automobiles replace horses in post-World War I England, and with once-stately Willingford Hall crumbling toward bankruptcy, stable boy Harry Green is about to be out of a job. Harry's prospects are especially dim given that he's actually a young woman posing as a boy — the only way Harry can secure work or even ride astride in a rigidly patriarchal society. His best hope: to prove his mettle by solving the murder of the Willingford Hall steward, whose body Harry discovered in a nearby dell.

So begins the mystery at the core of Laura C. Stevenson's period whodunit. Swiftly paced and populated by motley characters in a richly atmospheric version of early 20th-century England, the Wilmington author's eighth novel will surely charm fans of Agatha Christie. But this thriller's smart yet subtle social commentary is every bit as sharp as its plot turns. Stevenson's empowering message resonates amid modern discussions of identity and place.

— D.B.

The original print version of this article was headlined "| Short Takes on Five Vermont Books"