Tag Archive | family

A Summer in Oakville (book review)

I’m ashamed to admit that I was reluctant to read this book. The title didn’t really grab me. Maybe because I live in Wisconsin near Oakfield and didn’t think that a book about Oakville would be all that interesting.  So why did I read it? Well, to be honest – because two authors I admire wrote it: Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel.

This book is an inspirational contemporary story about small town life and a family that hails from there. There is action, romance, a struggle against local politics and the desire to preserve heritage. What is unique about this story is that it is one series of events that is told in novellas based on the perspective of four members of one family.

The first to tell her story is Tessa. A mom of two grown daughters and a grandmother who is rooted to her hometown and willing to dig those roots in deeper even at the expense of her marriage. She is  plagued by a secret from her past that threatens to explode in the midst of her present challenges. Is her marriage doomed? And how will she deal with the man from her past that stirs up pain and longing at the same time?

Tess has a daughter, Lindsay. Her story is second in the book. Lindsay seems to be a little more mature than her mother, and wiser. She is struggling to find value and worth, while hanging out in the country at her Grandparent’s home and waiting for the career opportunity that will make the best use of her gifts and education. Can she ‘fix’ her grandparent’s problem? And what about her conflicting feelings for the young man who stirs her heart but might be her enemy?

The next story told is from the perspective of a hurting and rebellious young man, Andy (Tessa’s nephew/Lindsay’s cousin).  He struggles to understand why God would allow his mother to die and he acts out in ways that risk his own life. Sent to stay with his Grandparent’s in sticks of Oakville is not an ideal summer vacation when a kid has experienced life in Madison, Wisconsin.  Andy learns the hard way the  value of work, family and of forgiveness.  And he might be a bit in love too.

Andy’s father, Art (younger brother to Tessa), has run away from the farm in the country to escape his ghosts. Earning a PhD and having a successful career, he ironically studies gerontology (aging) while at the same time basically ignoring his aging parents. He feels like he is failing as a single father after losing his wife in a tragic accident. He struggles to believe in a God who would allow so much grief in his life. How can he reach his son when he is so wrapped up in his own pain? A lost romance lures him back to Oakville and his story actually has the sweetest ending of them all.

One series of events in a small town forces a family to reconnect. This story leaves some unanswered questions and I find myself wishing that the Grandmother’s story had also been told here. I would have been good to explore her  perspective as she juggles all the emotions  of her two children and grandchildren, the crisis that threatens her home, and her struggle to care for her disabled husband. What is impressive is that her character, as the glue to this family, is consistent through the four novellas. She’s one awesome lady in my opinion.

I recommend this book because it is written so differently from anything else I have picked up. Faith is important to this story. Two authors have written but there is one voice. I know both of these authors personally and could not figure out which one had written which chapter. The characters speak with authenticity. This family is not perfect, but their struggle is genuine. The book is a good reminder too that as we go through life – and face our difficult circumstances, there are people around us, experiencing those same situations through an entirely different lens of experience and emotion, and yet God is weaving all together beautifully.

Congratulations to Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel for crafting a unique book. I will probably be reading it again which I don’t often do with novels. Maybe, as a writer,  I’ll challenge myself to write Grandma’s story just for fun.

 

A Mood

James B. Pollard  (10/1/1920 – 1/22/89)

This piece was written during my paternal grandfather’s time in India in World War II – as part of a journal he kept. I had this read at my wedding, which he did not live to see. He was a hero, a gentle and gracious soul and I still miss him all these years later.

J.B. Pollard (WWII pic)

My Grandpa in 1944

Nightfall is once more preparing to enshroud Assam in its blanket of pitch darkness. An American soldier sits alone in his tent on the edge of his canvas cot, his heavy G-I shoes unlaced to cool his burning feet, a cigarette smoldering listlessly between his fingers.

He gazes out at the lengthening shadows in the nearby jungle. He listens to the weird cry of the small jungle wild life – and the insects. He becomes aware of the steady purr of the diesel generators which run constantly day and night supplying power for the small garrison.

Outside he hears the crunch of the guard’s boots on the gravel path as he starts his first tour of duty around the area on his long night vigil keeping his sleeping buddies from harm.

He hears the steady drone of jeeps and trucks racing back and forth on the nearby Stillwell Road. A G-I in a nearby tent is strumming a guitar and singing Western songs softly, while another next door makes a feeble attempt to blow some jazz out of a squeaky clarinet.

The generator coughs and sputters, then catches again and continues on and on with its steady rhythm.

The soldier’s eye falls to on a picture of his family, of which he has been thinking. The children’s locks of hair are in the little frame. He looks closely at it, then back at the picture. He wipes the mold from the leather frame and replaces the picture in its spot on the crude rough cupboard he has made. He continues to look at his pretty young wife and sees many things – First, the woman he is so deeply in love with. His mind flashes quickly back over the few preceding years and he is doubly homesick. He also sees the mother of his children – the financial wizard who makes ends meet somehow on a meager monthly sum. He sees the wonderful cook, who in happier days planned and prepared his menus. He sees many things in that wonderful wife. In his children he sees the happiness of days past and in those to come.

The tent door slams and the Sergeant from Tennessee appears, whistling loudly, “Flying Home.” He reaches over the rough table, snaps on the light and suddenly becomes quiet. His happy mood has been killed by the sullen expression on his friend’s face.

“What’s the matter ‘J.B.’ . . .  homesick?”

A dull reply of “Yeah. . . “ and the cigarette is ground into the concrete floor. For a moment, silence, except for the sounds of nature – and the machinery.

The Sergeant breaks the spell again, “Let’s get out of this rat trap, wander over the day-room and I’ll beat the pants off you in ping-pong.”

The door slams – the two men walk down the narrow path together, staring into the black jungle ahead. Neither man speaks. . .they are thinking. . .

It is nighttime in Assam.  . . .