Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens: A Review

rush home road
by Lori Lansens
(c) 2002; 2008 (paperback)
Back Bay Books
387 p

I finally kept my promise to myself to devote some quality hours to reading for the first time in months. Today I finished the novel I started on Mother's Day and that was technically a restart since I first began reading this book the day I did this Book Blurb post on it shortly after I received my review copy from Hachette last August. Do not blame the story for how long it took me to finish it. No story is less deserving of such blame. I set it aside reluctantly last October because of preparations for NaNoWriMo and before NaNo was over life had sent me on a six month detour that forced me to drop many things by the wayside.

No story could have had more resonance with the circumstances I found myself in as I read it this spring. Home was the theme--leaving home, returning home, nostalgia for home, yearning for a home, making a home of where you are--so it reverberated though my heart as I read it while staying in my Mother's home for six months, missing my own home which was really my in-laws' home and a place where I hadn't really thought I felt at home until I was looking back at it from the place that had once been my home but couldn't have felt less like my home when I first arrived in late December.

In Rush Home Road, Addy Shadd and Sharla Cody live in a trailer park in Ontario Canada and though they had roofs over their heads neither one felt much at home before life arranged for them to share a roof when five-year-old Sharla's mother packs her off to board with the elderly Addy for the summer. Having the little girl under her care opens a gushing well of memories for Addy but the memories are cleansing and healing. The memories wash over her as vivid as life and often Addy looses track of when in time she is.

Soon after Sharla's arrival with only the clothes she was wearing and a single small suitcase containing a single too-small red rubber boot, Addy learns that Sharla's mother has moved out of the trailer park with her boy friend leaving no forwarding address. The pity she feels for this child thus abandoned by her mother awakens the memories of the moment she was locked out of her parents' home the day her brother Leam died in a fight defending her honor. The day she walked out of her home town of Rusholme on the one road out of town, Rusholme Road, with only the clothes she wore and the baby in her belly which she loved already though it had been planted by rape, with the words 'rush home rush home rush home' keeping rhythm with her heart, with her steps.

From that very day Leam's spirit has been her guiding light, ever present through the crisis of her life . The summer of Sharla's arrival Leam is telling her that it isn't long now before she can come home but she has one last task and that is to find a home for Sharla. She begins by making one for her not only under her own roof but in her heart.

A second theme, tightly woven in with the one of 'home' is the one of 'belonging' which is highlighted by the racial identity of Addy, a colored woman raised in a town founded by ex-slaves where even in those years just before WWII was one of the few places in Canada where most property was owned by the colored. At the time of Sharla's arrival in the early 70s, Addy is struggling with the way she is expected to stop thinking and speaking of herself as 'colored'. The new 'correct' terms seem silly to her.

Sharla's mother, Collette is white, but Sharla is not. She and Collette lived in the 'white' end of the trailer park where the other children see Sharla's difference as license to taunt and tease and torment her with impunity. As do several of Collette's boyfriends. It wasn't only her different skin color that contributed to Sharla's sense of not belonging anywhere but it did play a role.

This story is also a musing on the meaning of story and its power to shape us. Especially of the stories we tell ourselves about the people and events in our life past and present. Addy's lonely life before Sharla's arrival had been swelled to bursting with the stories she had no one to tell having outlived all those who had reason to care about her stories. But Sharla had been as starved for story as she had been for love, food and security. She soaks up Addy's stories like a flower in a dessert rain and blooms under them.

This story is one of the most moving and powerful ones I've ever read.


Monday, June 29, 2009


Pictured are some of the crocheted bookmarks that came off the hook in the last month but which still need to have the finishing touches applied--their tails tucked and ribbons and/or beads attached. This picture was taken several weeks ago while I was stil at Mom's and several of those pictured have been finished and then given away already and a few more, not pictured were made and finished and given away and yet several more have come off the hook and are awaiting their ribbons/beads. The last time I counted there were fourteen off the hook and two still on.

One evening last week, Wednesday I think, I got out the ribbons and beads with the intent to make selections for awaiting bookmarks only to find a mess in my ribbon box. I'd forgotten that the weekend before I'd left Lonview my nephew's cat, Bradley, had knocked my craft tray off its perch on my Mom's bed as he made his way to his favorite perch in the window. Though the lid had been on the box and kept the ribbons from falling out, there had been enough room inside the box for the spools to shift and allow the ribbon ends to tangle with each other and get trapped under the spools. So Wednesday evening I spent over an hour reorganizing the ribbon box.

Then yesterday, Sunday, as part of my laid back agenda, I got out the ribbons and beads again. This time indoors on the bed. After laying all fourteen bookmarks in two rows on a tray in my lap, I began to select potential beads for each of them. Sometimes laying the bead on top of its intended and sometimes in the corner of the tray. I had a couple dozen beads or more on the tray when our cat, Merlin, decided he needed to get to the window which was behind me and the most direct route was over my right shoulder.

In one fluid motion he marched onto the tray and launched himself off it only for it to act like a teeter-totter as the corner resting on my knee broke and the other corner--the one full of beads--shot ceilingward. He fell back towards the tray knocking my glasses off my face and over my left shoulder to be lost among the pile of pillows. I didn't learn where they ended up for several minutes tho and until I found them I was afraid to move much; visions of planting hand, knee or buttocks on them and hearing the crunch that would auger a weeks long moratorium on close work--from reading to sewing and crochet.

By the time I'd found my glasses and gathered up the scattered bookmarks and beads, I'd been called to dinner and after dinner Ed was setting up my new printer. So instead of picking out wardrobes for the waiting bookmarks, I started another one.

Can you hear the Twilight Zone music playing? On two separate weekends two weeks apart, two different cats in two different towns on two different beds found my beads and ribbons an obstacle on their paths to window perches and turned the order I'd imposed on them into chaos.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Serenity #133

I took this picture on the drive south last Sunday and I just love it. I'm such a total beginner at photo taking (can't even give it the title of photography) I rarely get results that appeal to me and when I do, I don't know what I've done right or even if an experienced photographer would call it right--I just know I like it.

I'm seeing a needlepoint or cross stitch project in it. But then lately I'm seeing every image rendered in thread somehow.

I can't believe it's been a week since I left Longview. It almost feels like one very long day. I spent another six hours on Saturday working on cleaning, sorting, organizing and unpacking. I reached the biggest goal--preparing a spot to hook up the printer/scanner I got for my birthday in November. Ed is going to help me set it up this afternoon. But other than that project, I'm going to have a laid back Sunday.

I think I've earned the right to relax a bit, to read a novel, crochet, surf blogs, or play in my story files, maybe print some hard copies of some of them as long as it remains a relaxing, playful endeavor and not stressing on any level. It's time for a play day.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Winners of The Night Gardener

The 5 winners of The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos :

one of the family
Rebecca Cox
Dawn M.

Many thanks to all who participated and extra appreciation to those who helped spread the word.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Workspace

A lot of my plans and goals relating to my fiction writing got put on hold while I was helping care for my Mom the last six months. Now I can put them back on project status. This past week has been all about getting my stuff unpacked and our room clean and organized again and my highest motivation to keep plugging away at it in spite of the heat and fatigue is the thought of re-engaging with my stories again.

Last November, during NaNo and around the week of my birthday, I had set a goal for the coming year of beginning to submit stories and poems. I got a printer for my birthday in mid November which couldn't be set up until I could rearrange things in our room to make a space for it but I couldn't do that until after NaNo. Then just before Thanksgiving I got the news of my Mom's fall, her broken hip and the stroke following surgery and everything changed.

My printer is still in its box. A box that is taking up valuable space in this small room I share with my husband and our cat. One of my immediate goals is to get that printer set up. I don't know how realistic it is to expect myself to get something ready to submit by the end of the year now though because in effect--with NaNo and the holidays--that means by the end of October only four months away. But at the very least, I would like to prepare a portfolio of all of my poems and fiction drafts just so I can see them. It has been years since I've made hard copies of my work. The first step is to get familiar with all the protocol again.

Or the first step after setting up the printer.

I have a spot in mind for it but it is in use at the moment. You can see it in the picture heading this post. Behind my desk is the closet in which you can see the top of a plastic drawer chest from Wal-Mart. That is my sewing and craft storage and I was already overflowing it before my recent visits to craft stores and scavenging among my Mom's remnants. All that stuff you see sitting atop the drawers is sewing and craft projects and supplies. If I can find other space for these things the top of that chest would be ideal for the printer.

But here's what I got to work with:

If I were sitting on the edge of the bed in front of my laptop the above image reflects what is over my left shoulder and the one below is over my right.

I must admit to a significant section of the room not pictured and that is the area below the TV which is sitting on top of an entertainment center the shelves of which are stuffed to the gills with misc. Some useful--like the printer still in its box--but most not. In fact the bulk of it is cardboard boxes containing either junk or smaller empty cardboard boxes which I've saved for their potential usefullness. I'm a shameless hoarder of containers of all kinds. Well I can't imagine any higher motivation for letting go of some of these than what is motivating me now to make space for my printer.

Above is directly behind me and the two below are directly to my left. The empty spaces on the shelves below are already filled now with the books I brought back with me and the review copies that arrived while I was gone.

Where you see the three purses sitting side-by-side below is the shelf reserved for library books and is now all but full again after my trip to the library yesterday. The purses only set there from the time we unloaded the car Monday morning until Wednesday afternoon when I got around to unloading them of the extra misc I'd packed in them.

This evening we bought a small drawer tower at Wal-Mart to sit beside my desk where that precarious cardboard box tower now sits. It's for typical desk items--pens, pencils, paper clips, post its, glue, tape, desk toys... Tomorrow Ed is going to the dirt track races with his folks and I'm getting serious about making space somewhere else in this room for those things on top of the blue drawers in the closet so that Ed can help me hook up my printer on Sunday.

In case you lost the thread here as to what all this has to do with 'Forays in Fiction.' Let me reiterate: I'm recommitting after a several month hiatus, to daily or nearly daily work in my fiction files. I'm committing to being ready to start submitting my work by the end of this year which involves re-familiarizing myself with making hard copy of my manuscripts. Which means using a printer. Which means making room for a printer in my workspace.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Giveaway: My Name Is Will

I'm authorized to give away 1 copy. Rules for entry in the drawing are below. Please read them carefully.

My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
by Jess WinField
(c) 2008
Publisher: Twelve
304 pages

"Utterly delicious, original, witty, hilarious and brilliant. Shakespeare In Love on magic mushrooms. The Bard has never been this much fun."

Christopher Buckley, author of Boomsday and Thank You For Smoking

A Tale of two Shakespeares...

Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of...

Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome... This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors.

Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to come... but the very course of history itself.



Jess Winfield: "Books That Have Influenced Me"

Read an Excerpt


  • Leave a comment in this post expressing your interest in entering the drawing.
  • Provide an @ by which I can contact you in case of a win. Either in your comment or in an email to me at joystory AT gmail DOT com If you email your @ be sure to connect it to your entry. If I do not receive an @ your entry will be disqualified.
  • If, in the case of a win, you would like me link to your blog in the winners announcement post, provide your URL in your comment or via email. This is not a requirement for entering nor do you have to have a blog yourself in order to enter.
  • If you blog or twitter about this giveaway, send me a link to the post and your name will be entered a second time.
  • Deadline for entering is NOON PST Saturday, July 18, 2009. I will select the winners with a random sequence generator using www.random.org.
  • I will announce the winners in a post as well as notify by email. Winners must respond with their mailing info within two days or forfeit. In which case I notify the next entry in the sequence generated by random.org.
  • Winners must provide a US or Canadian mailing address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes. Also, for those of you winning the same title in more than one contest, be aware that Hachette may not deliver multiple copies of a single title to a single address.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Giveaway: Off Season

I'm authorized to give away 1 copy. Rules for entry in the drawing are below. Please read them carefully.

Off Season
by Anne Rivers Siddons

Acclaimed novelist Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel is a stunning tale of love and loss.

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does...in loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future.

It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

Interview with Anne Rivers Siddons


Reading Group Guide

Read an Excerpt


  • Leave a comment in this post expressing your interest in entering the drawing.
  • Provide an @ by which I can contact you in case of a win. Either in your comment or in an email to me at joystory AT gmail DOT com If you email your @ be sure to connect it to your entry. If I do not receive an @ your entry will be disqualified.
  • If, in the case of a win, you would like me link to your blog in the winners announcement post, provide your URL in your comment or via email. This is not a requirement for entering nor do you have to have a blog yourself in order to enter.
  • If you blog or twitter about this giveaway, send me a link to the post and your name will be entered a second time.
  • Deadline for entering is NOON PST Saturday, July 18, 2009. I will select the winners with a random sequence generator using www.random.org.
  • I will announce the winners in a post as well as notify by email. Winners must respond with their mailing info within two days or forfeit. In which case I notify the next entry in the sequence generated by random.org.
  • Winners must provide a US or Canadian mailing address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes. Also, for those of you winning the same title in more than one contest, be aware that Hachette may not deliver multiple copies of a single title to a single address.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where Did it All Come From and Where Did it Go?

Under the wondering gaze of my nephew's cat Bradley Saturday evening, I began to gather the bags and boxes I'd been packing all week into one location--the living room couch. Even as I took these pictures I began to wonder where I was going to put it all once I got it home. My sister had been wondering if it was going to fit in the van. My husband had been wondering if it would fit in his Dad's car, reminding me of it's modest size at least once during every one of our talks on the phone in the last couple months--every time I mention having bought, been given or scavenged this, that or another thing. I had never been really worried about that. But once I saw it all in one place...

I did begin to think with trepidation about size of the room we share with our cat Merlin at my in-laws trailer house and the logistics of getting it all stowed away in there. Where was it all going to go?

See, getting it all into Mom's van was no problem.

Even fitting it into my FIL's car when my sister and I met my husband at Rice Hill OR was not much of a challenge though we did have to break open one box and pull its contents to be fit in several nooks and crannies. I forgot to get pictures of that being so wound up and focus on greeting Ed and saying good-bye to my sister.

Well. I'm still wondering. It took me a day and a half to get it all into the room and stowed and a modicum of order put to it all. I'm far from completely unpacked but I have my workstation set up. Had that Sunday night. I have my clothes put away and the books are back on their shelves. All the work I did at sorting and organizing my sewing and crafts while still at Mom's made them a breeze to put away.

Most of the work Monday went into cleaning the room and doing laundry before I could start bringing my stuff in off the front porch where we'd had to put it before Ed took the car to work. Ed had been batching in that room for six month so I expected to find some disarray and plenty of dust. And there was lots of dust but little visible disarray. But looking closer--onto the shelves and into the drawers and boxes where I expected to be able to at least put the things I'd taken with me back where they'd come from, I kept finding odds and ends--his hats; his computer games; his ear buds; a dried up bitten into piece of fudge with ants crawling on it.

One of the space management tricks I used made use of those three shams I bought a couple weeks ago because I wanted the plastic pouches they were in for my crafts. There are quilts in each of the striped ones and the white one with a black boarder holds all of my light weight jackets. I put two of Ed's heavy winter coats into pillow cases which are also in that pile. This is going to work pretty good for watching movies on that big TV his brother gave us just before I left and for working on our laptops on our laps--though I'm not sure there is enough elbow room for us to do that side by side...

But that's OK, I like my workstation fine.

Now that I've got the pictures off the camera, I'm going to put illustrations on Sunday's and Monday's posts retroactively so watch for them to show up in the next little bit.


Monday, June 22, 2009


Sorry. Got nothing left. Had ambitious plans for this post but... All the pictures I took in the last four days while packing, traveling and unpacking are still on the camera. I just have no energy left and I'm sore and hot. I spent the last six months in a house with a heat pump that kept the temp inside between 62 and 76 day and night. I don't know how warm it got here today, I was afraid to look. But not only is this trailer house not equipped with a heat pump, my MIL won't use the cooler until the temps top ninety and I could not afford to allow myself to be enervated by it. I had to keep moving all day from 5:30 this morning until 5 this evening. Ed and I unloaded my stuff from the car onto the front porch before he left for work. Then I spent the next six hours cleaning and organizing our room and doing laundry including the bedding from quilt to mattress pad. Only then did I start to bring my stuff in. I was already exhausted by then and the heat was just starting to zap me so I gave up on my ambition to unpack the bags and boxes I brought back with me. Instead I made spots for them the best I could. All except for the dozen large Ziplock bags that hold clothes, coats, yarn and other cloth items. I did a couple of those but the rest I left on the porch for the night. I promised myself as I got my shower just before dinner that I wouldn't get all sweaty and dirty again tonight.

One of the pictures I took today was of the stack of boxes and shipping envelopes containing the review copies of books and those I won in the Read-a-thon in April that came for me while I was gone. There were eleven total. Thank you Hachette and Goodreads authors. It's like having a second birthday or Christmas.

I would not let myself open them last night nor all day today. I was holding them out to myself as a reward for getting this massive chore done. I meant for that to include the unpacking to. But after dinner tonight I decided I had earned the right to take a look and besides, I needed to get rid of the extra volume of the packaging materials. Ed and I took the whole stack out onto the porch where it was soooo much cooler than in our room. There turned out to be twenty books. I took another picture of the stack of books. I intended for that pic to head this post but I just can't face messing with the camera and software for getting them prepped for posting. (Edited to add pics.)

I can't believe it but it isn't yet dark outside and I have that huge stack of books to explore but I'd rather sleep...


Sunday, June 21, 2009


My sister and I left Longview WA at 9:30 this morning and after stopping at Costco in Vancouver we headed on south to meet up with my husband at Rice Hill OR about 4PM where we transferred my stuff. Ed and I pulled into Phoenix OR about six-thirty. Having not slept one wink last night and only three the night before, I decided I was too wiped to unload the car tonight and try to undo the thing I just spent three days doing and try to do it in under three hours. Yeah right. So we left all but the essentials in the car. I'm crashing tonight along with Ed who has to get up at six for work and I'll be getting up with him to help unload the car and then spend the day unpacking and putting away, getting reacquainted with our cat Merlin and exploring the upteen boxes and padded envelopes containing review copies of books that came for me while I was gone. It's going to be like Christmas in June. I took a zillion pics today but i can't be bothered to get them off the camera...Ha! I can't be bothered to make paragraph breaks.


(I added the pictures when I got them off the camera Tuesday night)

Saying Goodbye:

I said goodbye to my Mom Saturday afternoon as she left to spend the weekend with my brother's family.

I said goodbye to Bradley, my nephew's cat, and my nephew at nine-fifteen this morning.

I said goodbye to my sister at 5PM after we'd finished transfering my stuff from Mom's van to Ed's Dad's car.

Saying Hello:

I said hello to Ed about 4:30PM when we met up with him in Rice Hill OR.

I said hello to the Phoenix OR exit just before six. And minutes later...

...the house.

And as soon as I could get to our room I said hello to Merlin. This pic was taken Monday afternoon though as the ones I took while we said our hellos didn't turn out. He wouldn't look up at the camera being too busy sniffing and head-butting and kneading my hand, arm and leg.


Sunday Serenity #132

Today is the day I've been waiting for. I should be home before dark today. After six long months it seems almost unreal to think that the next time I post will be from there.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Winner of The Shack

The Winner of The Shack by Wm. Paul Young and one of my crocheted bookmarks is:



I will send a notification by email and you have until 8AM tomorrow to respond with a mailing address.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Spot the Story II

Like last week, I'm going to share more from the family picture scanning I've been engaged in for weeks. I've selected them for the way stories seem to jump out at you from them.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I Learned Today

That my Dad's mother was a teacher in Nebraska between 1916 and 1919. I don't remember ever knowing that before. Which means that both my Grandmothers, my maternal Grandfather and one of his sisters and my own mother were all teachers.
I also learned that the woman I remember as painfully camera shy was no such thing once upon a time. Yet one more thing she and I have in common. Below, the top left picture shows her posing in Grandpa's WWI uniform. I've no idea whether that was before or after their 1920 marriage.
In the bottom picture, while her cousin or sister or friend stands stiff at the left Jeannette Hoppe mugs for the camera between the tree branches like a magazine ad model.

I learned many more things from the pictures and documents I scanned today but I've too little time to share any more. In forty hours I'm supposed to have all but the overnight necessities packed and in the van. I will have said my good-byes to my Mom Saturday afternoon when she leaves for my brother's where she'll stay until my sister picks her up on her way back north. My sister and I are to leave this house no later than 9AM Sunday. We need to stop at Costgo in Portland and hit the freeway south no later than noon.

We're meeting my husband in Rice Hill OR 3ish to transfer my stuff into his Dad's car. It will proably fill the back seat and the trunk. Let's hope no more or I'll be riding on top. Then he and I have a 2.5 hr drive to Phoenix OR where we must unload the car and then I must get it all put away in our room before he has to have the lights out at 9pm as his work day starts early Monday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

I've still got one largish box of pics to scan before I leave--the one with Mom's childhood and her side of the family. Today's was all from my Dad's life before Mom and his side of the family.

Between now and Monday or Tuesday I'll probably be doing most of my 'talking' her with pictures. There will be no time to get chatty again before then.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Where I Grew Up

Once again, I'm leaning on the pictures I've recently scanned for a quickie post. I'm too time pressed or lazy to crop these. I'm just posting the whole 'scan bed' for each of them. The top one features the house they brought me home from the hospital to. But I only lived there about six weeks before...
...we moved about half a mile to this house.

Between the ages of six and nine they built an addition of two bedrooms and a half bath on the back and a carport to the side and my grandpa built a shed in the back yard. During those same years a mall was built across the street from us (see top right above). The parking lot for the high school I eventually attended abutted our back yard.

As soon as the addition was complete the entire house was given new siding and painted charcoal black with gray trim. That picture in the top right corner above was taken some time after the house was sold. It was never that color when I lived in it.
Shortly before I turned eighteen we move two miles across town to the house pictured on the left above. I lived there until just after I turned 21 whereupon...
That is the house I spent the last six months in helping to care for my Mom as she recovered from a broken hip and minor stroke and from which I'm leaving on Sunday to return to Phoenix OR and Ed and Merlin and the house we share with Ed's parents and Sweetie.

Three more days.

Meanwhile I'm continuing to scan fifty to a hundred scanner beds worth of pictures every day since last Thursday. If I hadn't slacked off on this project for the last four months I wouldn't have to push so hard this week. Sigh.


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