A Long Drive for a Local Author

Truth &  Beauty by Ann Patchett


I live in Nashville, TN. Coincidentally, so does Ann Patchett. As a matter of fact, she’s in the process of opening an independent bookstore in the area. So, it made me giggle just a little when I realized that I’d driven 1300 miles this week to my favorite little bookstore in Great Barrington, MA only to buy a book from a local-to-me author.

I did balance it out with a copy of Alphabet Juice by the Berkshires’ own Roy Blount Jr. But I’m thinking the only way I can really even the score is to head back to Nashville and race into Ann’s store the moment it opens for a copy of Moby Dick.

On third thought, I bought my Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton novels in Tennessee. While I’m pretty neutral on The Scarlett Letter and honestly can’t recall much about Mr Hawthorne’s other efforts, reading Ethan Frome and not extending my grudge against Ms Wharton to all of Massachussetts was an act of generosity unsurpassed in my lifetime. (I’m still in contact with my high school English teacher, and my consistent expression to her of how much I loathe that story is entering into its third decade.)

Perhaps I should take a page from Berkshire history as inspiration and start my own novel while I’m in these hills.


But then again, when would I manage to find time to read the dozen or so books I added to my already-toppling pile of to-be-reads at home?

Such dilemmas. Good thing I have another 1300 miles to get it all sorted out.

Gina’s Reading: Broken for You

Broken for You by Stephanie KallosI picked up a copy of Kallos’ debut novel on the dual recommendation of Ev at the Bookloft in Great Barrington, MA and Sue Monk Kidd’s endorsement on the cover. This may seem insignificant, but without those two women promising I would be glad I’d read this, I wouldn’t have made it through the first half. Frankly, some of the situations and literary tactics were downright silly.

Starting with Part II, Kallos found her literary legs. I was finally interested in the characters–perhaps because she introduces a couple of folks who were believable–and the story started to make more sense. She also found her hook and finally gave you the piece of information that helped explain quite a bit that was out-of-place in the first half of her novel.

Where Kallos finally made it worth reading the 360 pages was in her weaving the global hurt of the Holocaust with the private hurts of her individual characters and giving a space for cathartic exploration of roads to healing. Not unlike the significance of the art created by her characters being more about the materials than the product–Kallos’ work gains its value, not from the creation of a well-executed novel, but from her exploration of themes that resonate with a searching reader.

Of course, it always helps to have a personal connection to the subject matter in a book. As luck(?) would have it, I’m sitting in my in-laws’ home in the Berkshires surrounded by my Jewish father-in-law’s gorgeous found-object collages. As I prepared to head out to the Bookloft this afternoon for a stack of new recommendations from Ev, this book called back to me.

I’ll leave the analogies for you to discover, but will be thinking lots about histories and family of origin and chosen family and finding a way to make something beautiful out of the tatters of another chapter.

Donald Solomon's Collages

Ned Andrew's father, Donald Solomon, made hundreds of these collages from every type of found object.


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