Grief & Bereavement / Love & Loss / Parenting & Relationships
Publisher: Union Square & Co.
Page Count: 240 pages
Publication Date: April 11, 2023
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A heartfelt exploration about what it means to process grief, by a bestselling author and journalist whose experience with two devastating losses inspired her to bring comfort and understanding to others.
Since losing her mother to cancer in 2018 and her sister to alcoholism less than three years later, author and journalist Dina Gachman has dedicated herself to understanding what it means to grieve, healing after loss, and the ways we stay connected to those we miss. Through a mix of personal storytelling, reporting, and insight from experts and even moments of humor, Gachman gives readers a fresh take on grief and bereavement—whether the loss is a family member, beloved pet, or a romantic relationship. No one wants to join the grief club, since membership comes with zero perks, but So Sorry for Your Loss will make that initiation just a little less painful.
In the spirit of Elizabeth Kubler Ross books like On Grief and Grieving, or C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, So Sorry for Your Loss is the perfect gift for someone who is grieving. With her blend of personal experiences, expert advice, and just a little bit of humor, Gachman has provided a compassionate and compelling resource for anyone looking for grief books.
PRAISE FOR SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS:
“Gachman perceptively puts words to the uncomfortable realities of loss…and deconstructs its social myths, helping readers feel less alone. Those facing loss will find solace here.” —Publishers Weekly
“So Sorry for Your Loss is a monument to the work of remembering and a testament to the immutable love of family and the grief that forever changes us.” —Lauren Hough, New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing
“So Sorry for Your Loss is a meditation on loss that reminds us how to go on living.” —Deirdre Fagan, author of Find a Place for Me and The Grief Eaters
5 stars! A natural storyteller, Dina Gachman reveals and explores love, loss, and grieving.
“So Sorry For Your Loss” by author Dina Gachman tells her heart-wrenching story and walks the reader through the minefield of emotions leading up to and the aftermath of two deaths in her family. She had my attention from the very start with her receiving news of her sister’s death, and I was with her on her journey until the final page (and after).
Having been involved as a caregiver in a hospice situation (that almost reads like “hostage” situation and may be amazingly appropriate), I can attest to the accuracy and overwhelming shock of the experience. Her vivid descriptions of what she and her sisters encountered, with the multitude of providers involved, matched up so closely with what we went through: none of which made this particular end-of-life choice a positive leave-taking. As the chapter title said, it was a difficult and long goodbye: exhausting and so emotionally draining that now, I still feel it two years down the road. Dina’s story brought so much of that time back, but not in a painful way. I was grateful to the author for sharing her story. I needed to hear that someone else had gone through a similar experience. I could relate.
With her natural manner of storytelling and needed to be shared experiences, I recommend “SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS” to readers of nonfiction, especially those needing to explore or feel a connection to another who has experienced grief and bereavement.
Dina Gachman is a Pulitzer Center Grantee and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Vox, Texas Monthly, and more. She’s a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter and the author of Brokenomics: 50 Ways to Live the Dream on a Dime. She lives near Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. Photo credit Jessica Comiskey.
Rural Fiction / Small Town Texas / Literary Fiction
Publisher: MidTown Publishing
Date of Publication: February 5, 2023
Number of Pages: 281 pages
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A stranger comes to Jackson’s Pond and everything changes.
Marva Cope, the fourth novel in the Jackson’s Pond, Texas Series, brings new elements to the story of the small town in the Texas Panhandle.
Marva arrives as the new postmaster in 2017. She brings with her a lifetime of hesitancy to open herself to others. It is here, while living with her elder Aunt Violet, that she comes to appreciate the value of true friendships. With new relationships, long walks, and conversations with herself, she comes to terms with her difficult past…the loss of a beloved teenaged brother in a tragic farm accident, her father’s death from a broken heart, and a distant mother who had no love for the young teenager.
Troubled teenage years followed as a flawed young man lures her to New Mexico, then left her alone with their newborn daughter. With her newfound courage of trusting others as friends, she reconnects with her daughter and a college dorm-mate she had deserted in years past. In Jackson’s Pond, she finds the ability to consider what to do with the rest of her life.
PRAISE FOR MARVA COPE:
There is so much to admire in this wise and luminous novel. Marva Cope is written with abiding tenderness and compassion. — John Dufresne, author of Storyville
The novel Marva Cope is a rarity— an artfully told “coming of age” story that morphs into a “getting on with life” saga that, in the end, celebrates the simple joys of human connection. — Martha Burns, author of Blind Eye
Teddy Jones is the author of five published novels, as well as a collection of short stories. Her short fiction received the Gold Medal First Prize in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2015. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction from Women Writing the West. Her novel, Making It Home, was a finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2017 and A Good Family (not yet unpublished) was named finalist in that contest in 2018.
Although her fiction tends to be set in West Texas, her characters’ lives embody issues not bounded by geography of any particular region. Families and loners; communities in flux; people struggling, others successful; some folks satisfied in solitude and others yearning for connection populate her work. And they all have in common that they are more human than otherwise.
Jones grew up in a small Texas town, Iowa Park. Earlier she worked as a nurse, a nurse educator, a nursing college administrator, and as a nurse practitioner in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico. For the past twenty years, she and her husband have lived in the rural West Texas Panhandle where he farms and she writes.
For as long as she can remember, Kylie Briscoe’s been searching for the moon even though she has no idea why it soothes her. Placed in an impossible situation by her mother, Kylie cries for help. It brings rescuers and a new life, but it feels more like a death sentence when she is separated from her three-year-old sister Aliza, the only person Kylie’s ever really loved.
Now she’s in tiny Patience, Texas, with her eccentric potty-mouthed grandmother, ever-patient stargazing grandfather, an uncle who reminds her a lot of a cop who terrified her during a drug bust, a herd of Norwegian Dwarf goats, their “guard donkeys,” and three canine roommates occupying Kylie’s former nursery.
When the authorities make a mistake that could cost her everything, Kylie must decide whether to tell the truth-all of it-in order to save herself and her sister.
Pre-order a copy of Find the Moon and enter the author’s giveaway! Three lucky winners will win a $50 Amazon Gift Card, signed set of THE PATIENCE TRILOGY, and signed copy of BIG FAT DISASTER. Ends 12/30/2022. Visit Beth’s website for more information and to enter!
Although this young adult novel addresses very difficult topics, it is ultimately a story of love, hope, and recovery.
Find the Moon by Beth Fehlbaum is an amazing story of triumph over childhood trauma and sexual abuse, resiliency, and hope. Kylie is a remarkable young heroine, surviving the worst situation while still protecting the little sister she loves above all others. This character’s voice is raw and genuine, and I felt so much emotion reading her story. I ached for her as her separation from Aliza dragged on and on. The reader also learns throughout the book that many of Kylie’s peers in high school have also suffered traumas of their own, each reacting and handling their grief in their own ways, some better than others.
The story is told from Kylie’s point of view, so we only get glimpses of what Aliza’s recovery looks like with her father and his new family. But Papa and Honey Briscoe are strong characters trying to get their granddaughter back to a decent life. They make mistakes, they struggle at times, and Kylie, who has experienced the greatest betrayals, must learn to trust again. She makes mistakes, too. But for the most part, she is surrounded and supported by good people who love her.
Readers should be aware that this young adult book addresses tough topics: child neglect and abandonment, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, drug use, drug dealing, date rape, animal death, and violence, but the story is ultimately one of hope, love, and recovery. I recommend FIND THE MOON for readers of young adult fiction that handle these critical topics.
Beth Fehlbaum is the author of the young adult novels Find the Moon, Big Fat Disaster (on the Spirit of Texas-High School Reading List, 2014-2015), Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience (A YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers), and Truth in Patience. With Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, Beth co-wrote the creative nonfiction book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt. She is a high school English teacher.
Authenticity, calling out hypocrisy, and finding one’s voice are frequent themes in Beth’s work, and they are absolutely essential themes in her life, as well. Beth has a B.A. in English, minor in secondary education, and an M.Ed. in reading. Beth is in-demand as an author-panelist, having presented/appeared at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, the American Library Association’s annual conference, YALSA, N.C.T.E./ALAN, and numerous YA book festivals. She’s a member of The Author’s Guild, SCBWI, Romance Writers of America, and the Texas Federation of Teachers. She loves doing school visits and meeting teens, teachers, and librarians!
Beth lives in the woods of East Texas in a house on a slice of family acreage. The home was built by her family over one very hot humid summer, a task she wishes never to repeat again. This sanctuary-of-sorts is lined by pine trees, and the woods are inhabited by raccoons, possums, and feral cats. All of these creatures appear to consider Beth their cat-food-providing goddess. There is no place she would rather be.
Holiday Romance / Country Music Romance / Clean & Wholesome Publisher: CKN Christian Publishing Publication Date: October 18, 2022 Page Count: 245 pages
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True heart’s desire cannot be ignored.
Destynee Olsen has always done what her mother asked, but the road to stardom could mean leaving behind a piece of her heart.
Travis Olsen tries desperately to honor his vow to support his wife. Watching their son grow up without a mother is asking too much and his resentment builds. A marriage alone and single parenting is not what he signed up for.
The line has been drawn between a woman who has been told that her destiny to be a star is more important than she is and a cowboy who refuses to destroy his wife’s dream. Destynee and Travis have to decide what’s important. Can they discover the life they were meant to have at the risk of denying their own hearts?
PRAISE FROM AMAZON REVIEWERS:
“The dialog brings the story to life, and the stage scenes are intriguing and vivid as Destynee decides just how much fame is worth, and the cost to her heart and family.”
“…an emotional read about a young couple, each trying to survive their marriage. The storyline brings heartache, forgiveness, and reconciliation as God works to bring peace and contentment back to their marriage.”
“My Country Music Connection to Finding My Destynee”
by Natalie Cline Bright
Country music plays a part in FINDING MY DESTYNEE, as the main character struggles with the desires of her heart to be a wife and mother or leaving them behind to build a musical career. The song by Dan Seals, “All That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” became the main source of inspiration for her character. The words are heart-wrenching as he sings about raising a child alone. The minute I heard that song, a character began forming in my mind. What if that character had been driven her whole life to be a star but along the way had lost sight of her purpose. As a wife and now mother, her priorities changed, but how could she ever tell her mother who had sacrificed so much for her daughter’s career? And what about the husband she has to leave behind?
“It smelled like baby powder mixed with a hint of the air freshener pod next to a diaper pail. His precious face floated in her mind and if she reached out her hand, she imagined he would come toddling into her arms.” —FINDING MY DESTYNEE by Natalie Bright and Denise F. McAllister
Was Destynee living the dreams of her overbearing mother instead of her own?
The country music scene has always held a fascination for me. I am a huge country music fan. One grandfather played the fiddle. My father sang lead in a band during high school. He played on a Gibson guitar that he bought at a music store in Plainview, Texas in the 1950s. My mother used to sneak out of her house to watch him. While serving in the military stationed in Germany, Dad met and jammed with Johnny Cash’s brother Tommy, who invited him to go on the road after the military. He ultimately turned down the offer to join Tommy’s band, instead returning to the Texas farming community to work and raise a family.
Our house vibrated to the sounds of hard-core country music records. Despite his best efforts in driving me to piano lessons and trying to teach me how to play that Gibson, I have not one ounce of musical ability. Now that I look back, I wish I would have tried harder to learn. Maybe not for me as much, but for my father. It would have been fun to jam together. I think he would have liked that.
In the book FINDING MY DESTYNEE, Denise and I combined the setting of a Texas ranch with several music venues. Destynee leaves behind her cowboy husband to raise their son alone while she fulfills the obligations her mother made for appearances throughout the Texas Panhandle. Things take a bad turn when her mother hires a publicist to change her image and increase her visibility on social media.
“In the search bar, Travis typed ‘Destynee’ and the first site that popped up was Destynee dot com. She had a website. He was surprised to say the least. He barely recognized his wife. Curly hair and a mini skirt, a saucy look on her face. She set his pulse raving alright. She always had.” —FINDING MY DESTYNEE by Natalie Bright and Denise F. McAllister
Travis sinks deeper in depression as his wife’s fame grows.
To add depth and realism to the performance scenes, we picked the brain of one of our talented friends, Micki Fuhrman [mickifuhrmanmusic.com]. She’s been performing since the age of seven, and in addition to writing music, she also is the author of several award-winning short stories and novels. I’ve never stood on a stage in front of thousands of people, but Micki has, and she graciously shared her experiences with us.
FINDING MY DESTYNEE is one of my favorite stories that I’ve worked on. I am always intrigued by stories involving a search for life’s purpose and the struggles that can follow.
I hope you enjoy reading about Destynee, Travis, and Wyatt. Let us know what you think. We love hearing from our readers.
Texas author Natalie Bright writes novels for kids and adults that combine her passion of the American West with a small-town vibe. She calls the wide-open land and endless sky of the Texas Panhandle home, which inspires her work. Her co-author is a Georgia writer and editor. Denise F. McAllister credits a love of horseback riding and 15 years in equestrian showmanship for her heartfelt connection to all things western.
A drunken mother makes childhood ugly. Jane runs away at sixteen, determined to leave her fraught upbringing in the rearview. Vowing never to return, she hitchhikes to California, right on time for the Summer of Love. Seventeen years later, she looks good on paper: married, grad school, sober, but her carefully constructed life is crumbling. When Mama dies, Jane returns for the funeral, leaving her husband in the dark about her history. Seeing her childhood home and significant people from her youth catapults Jane back to the events that made her the woman she is. She faces down her past and the ghosts that shaped her family. A stunning discovery helps Jane see her problems through a new lens.
Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost—make that two. Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.
Family Saga / Women’s Fiction / Historical Fiction
The new release from Joanne Kukanza Easley, the multi-award-winning author of Sweet Jane and Just One Look
A saga spanning five decades, I’ll Be Seeing You, explores one woman’s life, with and without alcohol to numb the pain.
Young Lauren knows she doesn’t want to be a ranch wife in Palo Pinto County, Texas. After she’s discovered by a modeling scout at the 1940 Fort Worth Stock Show Parade, she moves to Manhattan to begin her glamourous career. A setback ends her dream, and she drifts into alcohol dependence and promiscuity. By twenty-four, she’s been widowed and divorced, and has developed a pattern of fleeing her problems with geographical cures. Lauren’s last escape lands her in Austin, where, after ten chaotic years, she achieves lasting sobriety and starts a successful business, but happiness eludes her.
Fast forward to 1985. With a history of burning bridges and never looking back, Lauren is stunned when Brett, her third husband, resurfaces, wanting to reconcile after thirty-three years. The losses and regrets of the past engulf her, and she seeks the counsel of Jane, a long-time friend from AA. In the end, the choice is Lauren’s. What will she decide?
A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, Joanne lives on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes fiction about complicated, twentieth-century women.
Her multi-award-winning debut, Sweet Jane, was named the adult fiction winner at the Texas Author Project and shortlisted for the Sarton Award and Eric Hoffer Award, among others. Just One Look, Joanne’s second novel was a May 2022 Pulpwood Queen Book Club Pick. I’ll BeSeeing You, her third novel, features characters from Sweet Jane. Her prize-winning short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies.
Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Western / Family Saga Publisher: Admission Press Pages: 322 pages
Publication Date: November 1, 2022
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Emma Rosales is the heiress of the largest ranch in Texas—The Thorn. All the responsibilities of managing a million acres now fall into her fifth-generation hands. A task Emma could handle with her eyes closed…if The Thorn were any ordinary property.
The Thorn is home to many things. Clear, cloudless skies. Miles of desert scrub and craggy mountains. A quiet disrupted only by whispers of the wind. And an ancient web of secrets won’t let Emma out alive without a fight.
The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
“A delight to read.” —Theresa Kadair,Seattle Book Review
“Julia Daily builds a captivating world by letting her imagination lead the way. The result? A unique story that’s a little Wild West, a little old Mexico, a little ancient history, and a lot rebellious”
—Julie Cantrell,New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
“A novel that combines mystery, suspense,
adventure, and a romance that neither hardships nor time can erase between the main characters.” —Debra Holt,award-winning, multi-published Texas author of series such as The Tremaynes of Texas and The Lawmen Series.
“A dignified, passionate, and layered tale in a rugged yet picturesque landscape… This book testifies to the rewards of fighting for enduring connections between family members and home.” –RECOMMENDED,The US Review of Books
The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch by Julia Brewer Daily
The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a full and satisfying story of discovery, wonder, love, and loss. The tale unfolds from two angles: Emma’s experiences and those of the people left behind on the ranch. Both sides of the story are riveting. I was so engrossed in this book I almost completed it in one sitting, only putting it down because it had gotten ridiculously late.
Daily has populated her book with engaging, sympathetic characters and a couple of unique personalities who present some interesting conflicts (Chesma and Jeff Bower’s mother) to the leads. Emma is a good person and uncertain about her pre-ordained future. She’s a bold, free spirit in her actions but cautious when it comes to her heart. She’s rightfully suspicious of the sincerity of Jeff’s interest in her and considerate about committing to Kai when she knows she’s going to try and escape any chance she gets. I was totally on board with her mother, Josie’s, feelings and actions, though. I would not have held up nearly as well as she did under the circumstances.
The ranch setting is magnificent with its far-flung expanses, remote and hiding canyons, desert, and vacant spaces. It was easy to imagine the locations, getting lost in their vastness, and feeling the dust and heat that made the search and rescue and the possibility of escape so daunting.
I enjoyed the story immensely and wasn’t ready to leave The Thorn Ranch at the end of the book. The author leaves some things up in the air, so I’m hoping for a sequel. How about a Sixth Daughter? I recommend THE FIFTH DAUGHTER OF THORN RANCH to readers who enjoy family sagas or western fiction with some magical elements and clean romance.
Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi.
She has been a Communications Adjunct Professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, MS.
She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart.
As the Executive Director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (300 artisans from 19 states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public.
She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, Women Writing the West, and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club.
A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.
Shelton Williams’s book The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas is more than a collection of mysterious tales of murder and investigation. By bringing to life these characters, the author has highlighted the global issues of racism, drug abuse, political extremism, and women trafficking.
In the midst of it all is our protagonist, hell-bent on finding out what secrets he may find out if he stepped into the dark shadow of Odessa.
This omnibus edition of the Covey Jencks Mysteries includes newly edited versions of Covey Jencks, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, and The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts. It also includes a new preface from the author and foreword by Charles E. Morrison.
The newly updated Covey Jencks collection is delightfully exciting, and narrator, Stephen E. Lookadoo, Jr., brings Covey and JayJay to life.
Author Shelton L. Williams gives us three great mysteries to enjoy in this new Covey Jencks audiobook omnibus collection featuring long-held secrets, murder, mayhem, prejudice, human trafficking, drug abuse, love, and loyalty with settings in the state of Texas. Covey is a native son of the West Texas oil town of Odessa, returned home after a law career in DC, and ready to hang out his shingle in his hometown. The bread and butter of the new firm is helping clients with their business dealings after the creation of NAFTA (remember that), but, thankfully, the cases Covey and JayJay tackle focus on murder.
I enjoyed the description of Covey’s process of forming his new practice. He brings on board an interesting array of talented and, sometimes, quirky personalities who maintain the law practice while he and JayJay travel around the state hunting down witnesses and solving crimes. As a Texan, it was great seeing familiar place names mentioned in the books. But I really was invested in the rekindling love story between Covey and JayJay. The time period of the story is the mid-1990s, and a mixed-race couple was something that would raise eyebrows, so there is an encroaching fog of racism present as the two reunite and team up to investigate the murders in each book. Their love and support of each other get them through this in an admirable and inspiring fashion.
For his part, narrator Stephen E. Lookadoo, Jr. literally breathes life into our hero and heroine, main characters Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls. I’m usually pretty skeptical that I’ll fall into a female character who a male narrator voices, but I honestly bought into Lookadoo’s portrayal of JayJay. He’s excellent as Covey, but I connected to his JayJay. This made for a story that was all the more immersive and entertaining.
With its great characters and characterizations, solid mystery storylines, and well-done you-are-there settings, I recommend the COVEY JENCKS MYSTERIES: LOVE AND MURDER DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS to mystery readers who enjoy listening to their favorite genre and like stories that tackle real issues or those set in Texas.
Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the three books in the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.
Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.
Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.
The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.
Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”
Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.
A clever and imaginative tale of a quest through a future America.
Liberty Bell and the Last American is a highly-imaginative, amazingly clever, fast-paced romp through a futuristic American landscape after the country has been laid waste in the Great Blackout. Hundreds of years have passed since the devastation of the planet and its peoples, in which few physical books and nothing that depended on electricity survived. However, during the ensuing centuries, the remnants of the population left on the American continent had cobbled together a version of their history, verbally handed down through the generations and combined with a single found copy of quotations by famous people to create a foundational work called “The Americana.” Unfortunately, the result somewhat resembled what you got at the end of the child’s game known as “Telephone.” Written in “Old American,” not everyone could read the original version, relying solely on modern interpretations. Liberty Bell was one of the few who learned the old language.
Liberty Bell is a lively and lovely young woman. This is her first trip away from her home on her own, so she’s understandably a bit timid at first. However, as her journey is interrupted (and takes a wild left turn), she rarely wavers in her confidence and determination to do the right thing for her country (of which she has a naïve understanding) and for her companions.
The author is supremely clever in reimagining the language of the day, recombining idioms, maxims, proverbs, or aphorisms into new common phrases. Old ideas jumbled together with current cultural references entertained me to the very end and are probably my favorite element in the book.
But while the malapropisms shine, the author ingeniously uses actual quotations from historical figures to develop their dialogue throughout the story. The literal battle of quotes between chess pieces representing Jefferson and Churchill left me in awe. Winnowing through what was surely hundreds of documented utterances by these two and coming out with such a coherent whole is an amazing feat to me.
The landscape through which the characters wander is also the result of taking reality and revising it to account for the alterations of time, climate, and supposedly lost source documents. At times, I was reminded of Dorothy’s journey through Oz on her way to the Emerald City; not only did the scenery have some of the same ‘look and feel,‘ but there was also the quest-like nature of the journey itself.
Stoddard has created a unique, fresh, and very entertaining work. I recommend LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN for readers who like tales of quests with elements of magic and SciFi, coming-of-age stories, and especially for those who enjoy and are familiar with American history. (A copy of the Constitution and Amendments are included at the end of the book as an extra.)
James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.