2013

Appetite for America Stephen Fried

3.9

This is the real life story of Fred Harvey. A young immigrant from England, he worked his way up from dishwasher to owner of the largest restaurant and hotel industry along the railroad line. He employed the largest female workforce in the country, hiring single woman to work in his restaurants. They were known as the Harvey Girls. His restaurants were catered to excellent service and food. He had it down to a science so that when a train was about to enter the depot, the restaurant workers would start cooking so that the customers would sit down, be fed, and finished by the time the train was to leave the station. He bought the best and freshest foods. Since he worked with the railroad, he had access to receiving his goods quickly. He hired people he trusted and brought them up within the company, not looking outside for new help. His employees remained loyal. He introduced souvenirs and books into the depots and hotels to sell. Many books became best sellers because of this. Fred Harvey never took his business public. It stayed in the family and was always known as Fred Harvey.

Fred Harvey lost his first wife Ann during the birth of his second son. Four months later he mat Sally and was married. Two years later, both boys died from scarlet fever. Sally soon became pregnant and would eventually have five children: Fred "Fordie", Minnie, Byron, May, and Sybil. Fred Harvey traveled constantly taking Fordie with him and leaving Sally alone to raise the children. When he was at home, he was usually resting as Fred suffered from abdominal pains and headaches. For a time period, he returned to London to live so that he could recoup. While there, he visited a well known doctor and was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was now apparent that his long distress was caused by colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. He underwent surgery. At that time, almost 40% of patients died after surgery since there were no antibiotics and and the doctors did not yet believe in antiseptics and sterilization. Fred returned to the States but was still weak and ill. He survived for a few months. Ford was now in charge of the company, increasing its value by four times. Byron worked for the company in Chicago but was considered a "lazy rich", accustomed to always having money. Minnie was the one woman who was active in the company. At that time, women weren't considered to be capable of owning a business. Therefore, Minnie had to give her husband money to buy her stock in her own company. Sybil remained at home with her mother, and May married and moved to New York.
There are so many more details in the book about other family members and how they worked and fit into the business.

As I read through the book, I found myself putting post-its whenever I came upon a fact I wanted to share. This is another book where you start out thinking you are reading about one thing, only to find out it is a history lesson of a time period of our history that includes: the building of the railroad across the west, staking out free land, the Pullman Sleeper Car, food service on the trains, how our time zones were established, the beginning of the Federal Regulatory Agency, Interstate Commerce Commission and how their act of keeping railroad fares low affected the condition and upkeep of the railroads, the panic and depression of 1893, the creation of the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon, the REAL Indiana Jones, Charles Lindbergh and his international flight, the beginning of passenger air travel and their first served meals,the beginning of Howard Johnson's, Hertz Rental Car, and a brief mention of a man named Birdseye trying to create frozen vegetables. During WWI, in December 1917, the federal government took over the railroads. Ford Harvey was summoned to Washington to head the advisory board on how to feed America's troops and train passengers during wartime. The Harvey company always opened its doors to those in need.

Because we live here in Kansas City, it was very exciting for us to read about our own town and surrounding area. We still have two restaurants at Union Station, Harvey's and Pierponts.

The only negative I have to say about the book is that it reads pretty dry and tedious at times, but it is worth reading.

True Believers Kurt Anderson

2.5

Karen Hollander is a powerful attorney who has written many novels. She was being considered for an appointment to the Supreme Court but withdrew her name. She has decided to write her memoir for fear that dementia may take away her memories and she wants to set the record straight.

Karen grew up in a suburb in Chicago in the early 60's. Her two best friends, Alex and Chuck, were fans of the James Bond novels and the three of them liked to reconstruct the missions of Bond in their own neighborhood. They stayed close friends throughout school and into college. As they entered college in the late 60's, students were protesting the Vietnam War, friends were being drafted into the war if they weren't in school, the Civil Rights Movement was strong, drugs were easy to access, and sex was an expression of "Free Love". Alex, Chuck, Karen, and their new friend, Buzzy, spent hours in discussion about the war, the government, officials, all in a heightened sense since they were taking drugs for hours at a time.Their discussions turned more aggressive as they devised a plot in James Bond fashion to take out the President of the United States.

Now Karen has decided to write her memoir.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, Karen requests copies of everything the government has under her name. She doesn't receive what she is hoping for and is worried there is more. She contacts an old boyfriend who works in the government to help her attain her information. In the meantime, she reaches out to her old friends to let them know that she is writing her memoir and asks them what they remember.

The story unfolds throughout the book jumping back and forth between time. This is an interesting look back into the 60's. The author being a male, did a great job writing in the voice of a woman.

The Mafia and the Machine
The Story of the Kansas City Mob
Frank R. Hayde

2.5


Kansas City was a major player in the mafia during the 20th century. It began when Irish Jim Pendergast moved to Kansas City from St. Joseph, Missouri. He purchased a saloon in the West Bottoms, using money he won gambling, and began the biggest political machine a city could ever have. He helped his fellow immigrants and citizens when they needed food or care, but for a price. They would help and vote for the right politician who would look away at his illegal businesses. When his younger brother, Tom, moved to Kansas City at the age of 16, Jim hired Tom to help him. Tom Pendergast would become one of the top mob guys in history.The Irish Mob worked the political machine with the aid of the Italian Mob to control drugs, money laundering, politics, liquor, etc. At the same time the Mob was becoming a strong hold in the area, the Midwest desperado's were terrorizing the countryside with robberies and murders. At times, they helped each other out. At one point, Kansas City was known to have had the most violent murders than any other city, even Chicago.

The dots are connected from Kansas City, Missouri to Las Vegas, Florida, New York, Chicago, and all the way to the White House. It accounts from the 1800's up into the late 1980's.

This book is a complete history of the Irish and Italian mafia in the Kansas City area. It is well researched and at the back of the book, there is a complete list of who's who. Being from the Kansas City area, it was fun to read about the local history, businesses, streets, and landmarks. The one negative remark is that it was a dry read. I had read three different books about the KC Mob for my book club selection and they all read that way. This was the shortest of the three and most compact.

ROOM Emma Donoghue

2.75


Room is the only room Jack knows. He has just turned five and he lives with Ma in Room. Room is an eleven by eleven foot space where Ma has lived for the past seven years since Old Nick kidnapped her. Every night Old Nick comes to Room but Jack is already in Wardrobe being quiet. Old Nick doesn't see Jack and Jack doesn't see Old Nick. Jack does however hear the noises Old Nick makes when he is in the bed with Ma.


Jack's whole world is Room and he lives a very structured life there with Ma. He only has Ma, and television, to teach him vocabulary, grammar, everything. He has meal time, study time, exercises, limited television time, art, etc. On Sundays, Old Nick leaves special requests for the week. These special requests consist of food and maybe a small toy or art supply. He has a few books which he likes to read over and over again. The only outside world he knows is Outer Space and what he sees as one dimensional on the television. There are no windows, only the skylight. The door to Room has a keypad for entering and leaving. Jack has no knowledge of what could possibly exist outside of the door. Ma realizes she has to get herself and Jack out of Room and devises a plan.


Jack is the narrator of the story and everything is seen through his eyes. The story is based on other news stories of kidnap and recovery. The author addresses the sociological, psychological, and physical issues that captivity play on the victims.

Flight Behavior Barbara Kingsolver

3.8

 

When Dellarobia Turnbow climbed up the mountain on her husband's family's property to have her first possible tryst, she beholds a sight of flaming orange on the trees. She sees this as a sign to go back down the hill to her family. The monarch butterflies who migrate from Mexico to Canada annually, have lost their Mexican home due to environmental changes. The butterflies have landed in a rural Appalachian town called Feathertown in Tennessee. Dellarobia married her high school sweetheart, Cub, when she was 17 and pregnant. Cub's parents built them a home on the family property. They lost the baby, but continued on with their life on the sheep farm. They now have two children, Cordelia and Preston.
 
Dellarobia told Cub of the butterflies and at church the following Sunday, Cub announced to the congregation that his wife had witnessed a miracle. Now people were wanting to go and view the butterflies. It became national news and scientists and reporters were coming into the town. Entomologist, Ovid Byron, who has been studying the migration of the monarch and their new migration patterns, has come to Tennessee. He is given permission to park his trailer near Dellarobia and Cub's house. Preston, who is 5, has become fascinated with the monarchs, Ovid, and Science. Ovid takes the time to teach him and answer his questions while enlisting Dellarobia to help him and his students document field tests and statistics of the butterflies. In the meantime, she is also helping the family with the sheep shearing and inoculations so that she is pulling her family weight. Cub isn't too pleased that his wife is now working and is finding outside interests. Dellarobia is finding that Cub has no ambition other than just staying on the farm. When Cub's dad wants to start logging the mountain for money to pay off his bills, it is up to Dellarobia to get Cub to understand the result the logging would have on the land and the future of their property. The area in Mexico which was the home of the monarchs, was logged, causing flooding and devastation for the area, People and the monarchs lost their homes.

Dellarobia realizes she has outgrown this life on the farm and her life with Cub. She wants more for herself. her children, and their future.

In typical Barbara Kingsolver fashion, she intertwines her themes throughout the book. Religion, climate change, man's effect on the land, religion, love and relationships, all are weaved together beautifully in a story of flight not only of the butterflies but that of a life worth living.
Zelda Nancy Milford

2.5


Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was born in Montgomery, Alabama. She grew up as a Southern Belle, attending dances and attending events at the country club. It was at a country club dance where she met F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was in the service and stationed outside of Montgomery. After his discharge, they began a long distance relationship when he moved to New York City to begin his writing career. Zelda continued to date other boys, at the same time professing her love and affection for F. Scott.This made Scott very jealous and possessive. He began selling articles to magazines. When his book, "This Side of Paradise" was published, Zelda felt confident with his ability to provide for her and moved to New York City to be married. A year later they had a daughter, Frances.

As the Fitzgerald's began to make money, they spent it just as fast. They moved to Paris to socialize with other artists. Fitzgerald continued to write, but Zelda and Scott liked to party. They would become drunk and argue in front of guests and wherever they happened to be. There relationship was tumultuous. As his alcoholism worsened, her mental health became worse. She became obsessed with her ballet lessons. She had danced as a youth and wanted to dance in a ballet again. Her mental state was becoming more erratic so she went to a doctor. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was institutionalized in Europe.

Zelda was an artist, writer and dancer. While she was in the hospital, she began to write and paint again. Once back in the States, Zelda wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, "Save Me the Waltz" and it was published in 1932 without Scott's knowledge. Scott was furious as he was also writing a novel at the time, "Tender is the Night". Both books were about their relationship and life together. Zelda was Scott's muse. He used her life, letters to him, and her diary to write his novels. Without a Zelda, there would not have been a Fitzgerald as we would not have "The Great Gatsby", and other writings of his based on the two of them.

As Zelda's hospital bills accumulated, Scott was under more pressure to write for income. He published many short stories, which were his primary source of income. This increased his stress and drinking. At times, Zelda was allowed to go back to Montgomery to live while under the care of her mother, but she would eventually need to return to the hospital for treatment. Scott wanted her to have the best care. Although their relationship became very destructive and unhealthy to one another when they were together, they still were very much in love.

Scott moved to Hollywood to write for the films and continued publishing his short stories. He died on December 21, 1940 of a heart attack. Zelda died March 10, 1948 while in Highland Mental Hospital, North Carolina, from a fire that broke out in a dumbwaiter. Twenty patients died that day.

"Zelda" was written for Milford's dissertation. The research is extensive but can be long and dry in sections. It is a fascinating look into the time period of the roaring twenties, jazz era, and flappers. It also gives great insight into the love, personal, and lifestyle of the relationship between Zelda and Scott. After reading this book, it will be interesting to read Scott's novels again knowing that Zelda's own words and experiences are a big part of the novel.

Nothing Daunted
The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West.
Dorothy Wickenden

3


When the author Dorothy Wickenden was going through her desk drawers back in 2008, she found a folder of letters her mother had given her years ago. They were letters from her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff who had traveled with her best friend, Rosamond Underwood.The first letter was dated, Friday, July 28, 1916, and was written on stationary from the Hayden Inn. The Inn was located in Colorado and the women had traveled there to begin a one year teaching job.

Dorothy and Ros met in Auburn, New York in kindergarten. They were together throughout their school years and both attended Smith College. At their first Smith reunion, many of their classmates were now married with children or had jobs as teachers and nurses. Neither of these appealed to Ros and Dorothy. They decided to go to Europe for a year accompanied by Ros's parents for the first few months. Ros and Dorothy lived in their own apartment in Paris and traveled through Europe. Upon their return, they attended social events, traveled to New York City to live for awhile, and then back to Auburn. After seven years out of college, they still wanted to find meaningful work and to not just settle.  In April 1916, they ran into another

Auburn girl who just that day had heard from a friend, Ferry Carpenter. Ferry was a lawyer in Elkhead, Colorado, who had worked with the town people for five years to build a schoolhouse. He was looking for a couple women who would be willing to come to Colorado and teach school for a year or two. This was just the adventure Ros and Dorothy were looking for. Unbeknownst to them, Ferry was also looking for single women to come to his town hoping they would stay and marry many of the single men that lived there.
The two women traveled by train and saw a part of the country they had never seen before. They lived with a family of homesteaders, the Harrison's. The room they shared did not have the comforts of home that they were use to, but they began to adapt. They soon found their rent money was helping the family to have food on their plate and soon became close friends and companions with the family. In the harsh winter weather, they rode horseback through blizzards to get to the school. No matter the weather, the students traveled miles everyday to get to school. They would receive a meal which could be the only hot meal for them that day. When the holidays came, the two women reached to their families and friends back home to send gifts and supplies for the children and their families.

The rest of the story unfolds with marriage, children, and life.
The author is a magazine writer so the book at times reads as if she is writing off her notes and letters as a research paper would be written. In the end, it is a great history lesson of the life the pioneers and homesteaders endured in the early 1900's Colorado.
The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan

2.5


This book was written in the 1960's and was based on interviews the author had mainly with suburban housewives. Women either married after high school or went to college to meet a husband. It was then expected of her to make a happy home for her husband and children, think Donna Reed or Father Knows Best,(referencing the black and white television shows of the late 1950's and early 1960's). The women were devoted wives and mothers who woke up early to pack lunches, make breakfasts, get the children off to school, the husband off to work, then spend the rest of the day cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, laundry, ironing, etc. She needed to be ready by the end of the school day to take children to lessons, get supper on the table, and to greet.her husband at the door with a drink. She had to look pretty for her husband so makeup, hair, and being dressed nicely was a must.  After dinner she cleaned up, bathed children, put them to bed, continued working until she fell into bed to please her husband.This lifestyle for these women became tedious and they felt unfulfilled. This led to depression and the women wanting more from their lives.

This wasn't true for all women. Many women had to work for a living, they had no choice. Other women wanted a career so they chose to work. The fact though was that women who did work, were not equal to the men in their jobs. They were paid less and did not move up in the company because men had priority.

 

The feminist movement has come a long way in the past 50 years but women's rights and pay equality are still unequal to men. It seems lately, their are some who want us to go back to the 1950's way of life. I think, and hope at least, that will not happen.
The Blood of Flowers Anita Amirrezvani

3.75


A comet flies by a village in 17th century Persia, signalling misfortune for the villagers. The narrator, a young woman of 14, looks to her future of marriage and family. She enjoys spending time with her father and rug making. She has learned how to make her own dyes for the wool. When  her father dies suddenly, she and her mother are forced to move to Ishfahan to live with her half uncle, Gostaham. Gostaham is the Shah's rug maker. The mother and daughter seek refuge from the very well off uncle, but are forced to become one of the servants to earn their keep. Gostaham learns of his niece's love and talent of rug making and takes her under his care. She assists him and his workers in his work, but also allows her to create rugs of her own. He sees the talent and teaches and encourages her to make her own rugs. If she had been a male, she would have been able to work right along side of him openly. Since she was female, she had to work on her own time and stay hidden when her rugs were presented. The aunt is greedy and convinces her husband to have his niece wed by signing a 3 month contract which is to be renewed until marriage or the groom, Ferydoon, decides to end it. This contract gives the aunt and uncle money for the mother and daughter's keep.

The author takes us through the city of Ishfahan, describing the; buildings, market, mosques, beggars, smells, and colors. We learn the art of rug making; the knots, dyes, and the wool. We go into the slums where the tenants live in one room houses sharing a common area. We see the strength and comradery in the women to support themselves in a world of men. We went to a time and place we hadn't been before and we loved it.

Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe

3.5



Achebe eases us into his story set in a tiny set of villages in the 1980's.It is there where we meet key characters and learn some of their rituals, spiritual customs/values, and family lore. It is not until Part Three of the book when white missionaries arrive, bringing new tensions, misunderstanding, and ultimately, grief and loss.

 

This was the Nigerian's author first book and it was written in 1958. it is a fascinating intro into African Literature, showing an indigenous perspective of the struggle between tradition  and change. the book offered thought provoking material for discussion. Specifically, how a culture can be affected by outside influences and how care must be taken with outside influences and how care must e taken when an outsider offers to "help" another.

 

We found it interesting that the author wrote in English, suggesting that it was designed to be a book for others to read and learn from. it is included in most college World Literature course syllabus.

The Light Between Oceans M.L.Stedman

4

 

Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after serving four years on the Western Front. In search of solitude, he takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly a half day's journey from the coast. While still on shore in Point Partageuse, a port located on the western coast of Australia, where the two oceans meet, Tom meets Isabel. The two have an instant connection and begin a correspondence while he is on Janus Rock. The two become married and after two miscarriages and a stillborn, Isabel is beside herself with grief. When she hears a baby crying, she finds a boat has washed ashore with a baby and her dead father. She pleads with Tom not to report it quite yet, and against Tom's moral and better judgment, he goes along with her. She becomes their daughter Lucy.
Two years later, the family return to the mainland and discover the identity of  Lucy's actual mother and father. They see the effect their decision has had on this family and his own. Tom is unable to live with the decision he and Isabel made those years ago and sets in motion a way to ease his guilt.
This is a story of love and loss. It is a compelling story and very well written.