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Page 32: Short Takes on Five Vermont Books

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Published November 16, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 16, 2022 at 10:22 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 skulk of foxes. 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.

Home Movie

Charles Barasch, Finishing Line Press, 70 pages. $19.99.
Why, when Carlton Fisk / hit the home run, / did the man in Section 22, / ... raise his hands for joy...

A gifted poet can find immeasurable beauty in life's darkness. For 50 years, Charles Barasch of Plainfield has been publishing poems that reveal tenderness and joy just as they chronicle loss and human frailty. A retired speech language pathologist who worked with young children, Barasch has filled this retrospective with poems on a wide array of subjects, including relationships, nature, life in Vermont and baseball.

"A Man and a Woman Are Lying in Bed" traces myriad events and decisions that brought a couple to an intimate moment. Little dead quadrupeds face their fate with aplomb in "Elegy for Mice." Neighbors are neither too friendly nor too unfriendly in "On Our Dirt Road." And the 13 short lines of "World Series," which is excerpted above, take the reader from the thrill of a celebrated 1975 game to the heartache of a marriage mismatch.

Reading Home Movie is like stepping inside the mind of a highly observant, imaginative and sensitive soul.

— E.M.S.

Olmsted and Yosemite: Civil War, Abolition, and the National Park Idea

Rolf Diamant and Ethan Carr, Library of American Landscape History, 186 pages. $28.
Yosemite, despite the claims of its promoters, was not a wilderness.

In this account of the influential work of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, coauthors Rolf Diamant and Ethan Carr focus on the Civil War era. Drawing a connection between the rebuilding of the nation and the emergence of national parks, the authors examine Olmsted's role in the latter phenomenon.

Best known as the designer of Central Park, Olmsted was the landscape architect of Shelburne Farms in the 1880s. This volume, enlivened by primary source material, considers (and reprints) his 1865 work "The Yosemite Report," in which Olmsted presents his "vision for a reconstructed postwar nation where great public parks were keystone institutions of a liberal democracy," the authors write. Key parks discussed in the book are bound by Olmsted's assertion that access to the natural world should be as equitable as it is beneficial.

Diamant, who teaches at the University of Vermont, is a former superintendent of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont's only national park.


Alzheimer's Canyon: One Couple's Reflections on Living With Dementia

Jane Dwinell and Sky Yardley, Rootstock Publishing, 272 pages. $18.99.
Some [posts] might even begin to rhyme / others have slipped their anchors to time / WELCOME TO MY WORLD!

In 2016, at age 66, Sky Yardley was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's. In response, he and his wife of 30 years, Jane Dwinell, launched the Alzheimer's Canyon blog "as a way to erase the stigma attached to dementia and to increase understanding of the way it affects people on a day-to-day basis," they wrote.

The above excerpt is from Yardley's first entry in this collection, which spans five years: the first year after his diagnosis through the year of his death in 2021. Yardley writes of everything from having trouble sleeping and feeling stupid in the first year to his hallucinations and poor balance in the third, the last year he blogged. Dwinell's posts are sporadic near the start and become the only ones in years four and five, when the disease took its greatest toll. In accessible and honest prose, the couple reveal how learning, creativity, flexibility and love helped them navigate a path neither wanted.

— E.M.S.


Estela González, Cennan Books of Cynren Press, 234 pages. $30.
My mother begged the Virgin to protect me; she promised I would never cut my hair for as long as I lived.

For children, a beach is a playground. For developers, a get-rich opportunity. And for the sea turtles that nest on the picture-perfect stretch of Mexican Pacific coastline in Middlebury College professor Estela González's new novel, a beach is the difference between survival and extinction.

All these factions and more converge in Arribada — or "arrival," a term also commonly used for the sea turtles' synchronized nesting. In 1990, concert pianist Mariana returns to her coastal hometown, where her beloved uncle has vanished and her mother has suffered a stroke. On her uncle's trail, she reconnects with an Indigenous friend who opens her eyes to the damage that decades of development — spearheaded by Mariana's late father — have done to the landscape they both love.

González's incantatory prose drifts freely among various perspectives and eras, its fluidity evoking the continuity of family tradition even as Mariana makes discoveries that redefine home for her. It makes for a powerful, immersive read.

— M.H.

Not Alone

Frederic Martin, NthSense Books, 302 pages. $12.99 paperback; $2.99 ebook.
Drawing was about the only positive thing that came from all her otherwise useless therapy sessions.

Misfit teens with superpowers aren't exactly new to young adult fiction. But Richmond author Frederic Martin inventively rewrites that formula with his self-published Vox Oculis series, which opens with Not Alone. Fourteen-year-old foster kid Blue can hear people's thoughts. Fiercely protective of her secret, she thinks she's the only one left of her kind until she moves to a placement in small-town Vermont and meets Will and his family, who can communicate using the same silent method she does. Will's scientist dad has researched their unusual trait — which he calls vox oculis (voice to the eyes) — and discovered that it isn't as supernatural as it may seem.

Martin, who won the 2018 Vermont Writers' Prize, spins an effective tale that recalls an earlier era of YA fiction. Will's supportive, science-minded family may remind readers of the Murrys in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and Martin folds facts about bioluminescence and other real phenomena into his exciting thriller plot. Two sequels are also available.

— M.H.