|Home for Erring and Outcast Girls
This story is told by three different narrators and covers three decades. Cate is a university librarian where she is handed some information about Beracha, a home for unwed mothers. She begins her research on the home, the founders, and many of the women and children who lived there. The home was founded in the early 1900's by Reverend J.T. Upchurch and his wife Maggie Mary. It was founded for the protection and redemption of 'erring' girls and life circumstances. These circumstances included prostitution, rape, poverty, addiction, abuse, and pregnancy. Although there were many homes for these type of needs, this home was a faith based haven for the outcast women. This is where the women did not have to give up their babies.They received training and skills to prepare them for the outside world. Mattie Corder and her son, Cap, arrive at the home in 1904. Lizzie comes with her daughter, Docie. Both women have a common back story, similar to the other women who find themselves at Beracha. They have all suffered from heartache and loss. They have had to make difficult choices in their past. They were out of options. Mattie and Lizzie become friends. They help each other to adjust with this new life in a home which is very different from the ones they left behind.As the story continues, time moves on. Both women will make different choices as to how they will live their life. Lizzie will find that she has grown and changed, unlike the family that she had left behind. Mattie will use her education and life experience to make a new life for herself.The Beracha home existed for thirty years. The home held yearly reunions for the women who had once lived there. Lizzie would attend as she had stayed there for many years. However, Mattie never did.
|Ask Again, Yes
|Mary Beth Keane
The year is 1973. Francis Gleeson, immigrated from Ireland, and Brian Stanhope, saying he is Irish also but back a few generations, have graduated from the police academy and are now partners in the Bronx. When Brian recommends that the two of them stop off at a bar for a drink, Francis reminds Brian that they are on duty. Brian goes in anyway for a quick drink. Francis tells Brian of his future wife Lena, who is of Polish-Italian descent, and Brian talks of his future Irish bride Anna.
Disturbed by what Francis sees on the street every day, he purchases a home outside the city in the town of Gillam. He and his now wife, Lena, move into their home and begin a family. They have one daughter, Natalie, and Lena is pregnant again. The house next to them sells and when the new owners move in, Francis recognizes Brian from when they were partners. Lena is excited to have a new neighbor and quickly tries to be Anna’s friend. Anna wants nothing to do with her. When Lena becomes pregnant again with Kate, Anna is also pregnant. Anna gives birth to a baby boy named Peter. Peter and Kate become close friends. They do everything together. Anna however, is not happy with their relationship. Kate’s family learn early on the Anna has a temperament and is unrealistic. Brian ignores his own household. He comes home every night, grabs a drink, sits in front of the television, and continues to drink. When Anna goes to the grocery store one day, an incident occurs and Francis helps Anna. Anna has forbid Peter from seeing Kate. They are now fourteen and Anna does not trust Kate with her son. She has forbade Peter to see Kate. Peter and Kate make a plan to meet outside at midnight. This act leads to a series of events that are devastating to both families.
The novel continues with the Gleason story, the Stanhope story, until the two stories merge once again.
|The Great Alone
Ernt Allbright was twenty-five when he met and fell in love with Cora. Cora, sixteen was still in high school but she fell hard for Ernt. She came from a very well off family. When Cora became pregnant with Lenora/Leni, Cora and Ernt ran away and eloped, leaving Cora’s family behind. They were very happy until Ernt went to Vietnam where Ernt’s chopper went down. He and his fellow soldier, Bo Harlan, were captured and became prisoners of war, POW. They were tortured and Ernt was forced to watch his friend, Bo, die. When Ernt returned home after the war, he was a different man. He had scars over his arms and back from being tortured. Gone was the loving and fun husband and father. He now suffered from nightmares, mood swings, paranoia, and was distant. When the weather was cold, dark, and gloomy, so was Ernt. He drank to escape and became violent when provoked or jealous against Cora. He took his anger out on Cora physically. Leni heard him beating her and would see the results the next day. Cora always excused his behavior on the war and that is not how he use to act. She loved him no matter what he did to her and he was always sorry after. He could not hold a job so they moved around from one place to another, one town to another. Leni was not able to make friends in school since her parents kept moving. The day that Ernt was once again fired from a job, he received a letter from Earl Harlan, Bo’s father. Bo had left instructions with his father that if anything happened to Bo, he wanted Ernt to have his forty acres and cabin in Alaska. Ernt saw this as a perfect opportunity for his family to have their own house and to live off the land. They would live a more “simpler life away from all the bullshit down here. We could be free”.
Once they arrived in Alaska, they headed to the small town of Kaneq. It was located at the very end of the Kenai Peninsula. You could only get there by plane or by boat. There was only one store in town and was owned by Large Marge. Large Marge helped them by picking out the supplies and food that they would need to get started. She was a transplant to the island herself as were many others who lived there. She explained how many people would come to escape the chaos of their lives in the lower States but many did not stay. It was a hard life to live there and they had to be willing to work long and hard to survive the long dark winter. She also told them that residents would barter for goods. Ernt was glad to hear this. He was very good at construction and mechanics. Large Marge gave them directions to the cabin. As they dove closer to the cabin, the roads became worse and over grown. When they reached the entrance to the cabin, they were unable to drive any further. They trudged up to the cabin taking only what they needed for the time being. When they reached the cabin, they were shocked. The cabin was broken down, small, and filthy. Ernt was still excited to make this place his own but Cora and Leni were not. They cleaned what they could for the day and Ernt had to chop wood before he could heat the house. The next day, Large Marge and another woman, Geneva, arrived and helped them clean and fix up what they could in the cabin. They told the family what they needed to do right away in order to be able to survive once fall and winter came. Leni learned that there was a school and she could start right away. Leni was excited. On her first day of school, she learned that it was a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher. The only other student that was her age was Matthew Walker and she was to sit next to him. The Walker family had been on the island for generations and settled the land. They owned businesses, property, and a plane to go back and forth to other towns and conduct business.
Ernt wanted to meet Earl Harlan, known as Mad Earl, and pay his respects and give thanks for the property. The three of them went and Ernt took a half gallon of whiskey with him. Mad Earl was a survivalist and was ready for the next war. He had guns, gas masks, arrows, and ammunition. He was ready for war. He was convinced that the Commies were everywhere, that the immigrants and Negroes were taking over the States. Ernt became excited. This is exactly how he felt. The more Ernt and Mad Earl talks, the more they drink. Cora knows this is not going to end well.
Ernt, Cora, and Leni work non-stop. Alaska is mostly daylight during the late spring and summer months. This means that there are more hours to work non-stop. It also means that they are not sleeping well. Ernt does not sleep well as it is because of his nightmares. As time goes on, Ernt spends more time with Mad Earl; the more he drinks, and becomes a survivalist like Earl. He will then come back and take out his anger and frustration out on Cora. As winter approaches, so does the darkness during the day. Ernt does not fare well in dark, gloomy, bad weather. He drinks more and takes his moodiness out on Cora.
The rest of the story centers on: the relationship between Leni and Matthew, Ernt’s drinking and violence against Cora, the resentment and jealousy Ernt has against Tom Walker, the relationship between Cora and Leni, and the choices each make and how it effects other people’s lives.
|My Dear Hamilton A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton
|Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Elizabeth Schuyler, aka Betsy as a child, and then Eliza as an adult, was the daughter of General Philip Schuyler. General Schuyler was a Senator in the New York State Congress then later in the United States Congress. He lived in Albany with his wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer. Both Catherine and Philip came from very prominent families. They had fifteen children, eight survived. They built a family mansion in Albany and a county house. Betsy often traveled with her father as he visited other districts in the area. He had a relationship with the Iroquois Indians and he could speak Mohawk. Betsy learned as well. The Iroquois adopted Betsy as a member of their tribe. This relationship becomes very important later on when she assists General Washington during the American Revolution.
General Washington was host to many British Generals, Majors, soldiers, and politicians. Betsy knew them all. As the men came in and out of the house, they noticed Betsy and she became friends with a few. In 1780, Betsy went to stay with her aunt in Morristown, New Jersey. Nearby was General Washington’s camp. Betsy attended a dance and it was there that she met Alexander Hamilton, and aide-de-camp to the General. They became engaged in April 1870 and married in December 1870 at the Schuyler mansion. Betsy left home to travel with her husband from camp to camp. She assisted him with his writings and tended to injured soldiers. She became a close friend to the General’s wife, Martha Washington.As time goes on, the roles that Eliza and Alexander play to the founding of this country is vital. Washington, Adams, Monroe, Madison, and Jefferson, their actions politically and through their friendships created the basis of what started this country and the two party system. “He’d fought and won a war and built a federal government. He created a coast guard, a national bank, and invented a scheme of taxation that held the states together. He founded a political party, smashed a rebellion, and put in motion a financial system that was providing prosperity for nearly everyone.” Unfortunately, some of the very people he helped would also be the ones to betray him. Eliza and Alexander were parents to eight children. As Alexander was often away, the running of the household and the children were Eliza’s responsibility with the help of their slave, Jenny. Slavery was another issue brought up in this book. It became public knowledge that Alexander had had an affair. There were also accusations that Alexander had taken money from the treasury, which was false. Eliza and Alexander loss their oldest son, Philip, to a duel. Three years later Alexander would suffer the same fate. After his death, Eliza learned of Alexander’s debt. Many of their belongings, including their home were to be sold.Eliza lived another fifty years after Alexander’s death. Eliza had the gift for charity. She founded a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning. She was intimately acquainted with the management of all her endeavors. At the same time, she had to endure the bad press and false allegations from the very people she had once had in her home. It took her several years of inquiries and meetings with these very people, Presidents, during their terms, requesting Alexander’s pension from the time he was in the military service. Eliza left no correspondence behind. However, Hamilton made copies of every letter he sent. There was a vast amount of information in the archives as well as from others during that time. There were also many other story lines that were part of this story but too numerous to include. Such as, her relationships with her sisters, brothers, parents, friends, her own children, betrayals, even the origination of the word gerrymandering. Politics and elections from the very beginning are still the same as they were then.
History really does repeat itself.
|The Boys in the Boat
Nine Americans and Their Epic
Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
|Daniel James Brown
Daniel James Brown learned that his neighbor’s daughter had just finished reading one of Daniel’s books to her father, Joe Rantz. Daniel knew that Joe had been of the nine rowers that won the Olympic gold medal in Crew in the year 1936. As Daniel crossed over the cedar fence that surrounded Joe’s property, he knew that Joe had hand-split the cedar logs into fencing and posts and that he had dragged them down the mountain himself. There was 2,224 linear feet of pasture fence. This shows just the work ethic Joe had made for himself beginning as a young boy trying to survive on his own, through college, crew, and throughout the rest if his life. Joe was now dying from congestive heart failure and his daughter, Judy, was staying with him. As Joe and Daniel began to talk, the conversation went to his rowing days and his life. Daniel asked his permission to write a book of his life and experience at the University of Washington, which led him to the Olympics. Joe agreed to write the book, as long as Daniel made the book about the boat. Not exactly the boat he rode at the Olympics or at U.W. but, the boat as an entity of friendship, work, and a shared experience.
When Joe was three years old, his mother died of throat cancer at the same time that Joe’s brother Fred was in college. Harry found it difficult to raise Joe by himself. Harry, overcome with grief, sent Joe to live with his aunt while he headed to Canada. Fred became a principal and moved to Idaho with his wife, Thelma, and he sent for Joe to come live with them. Thelma’s twin sister, Thula, met Harry and although she was much younger than he, they married. Harry sent for Joe to come back to live them. Life was difficult with Harry. He was always moving around from one job to another, one town to the other. After Thula and Harry started having children of their own, Thula wanted Harry to send Joe away. She thought it was too much work to care for him and the other children. On his own again, Joe became quite self-sufficient making a home for himself in the town of Sequim, going to school where he meets the love of his life, Joyce, and finding many ways to make money to support himself. Joe applied and was accepted to the University of Washington. The UW known for its crew team, many freshmen, including Joe, tried out for the team. The men would meet in the shell house, a type of hangar, where the boat/shell builder, renowned George Yeoman Pocock, had his workroom. The head coach of the team, Al Ulbrikson, was an alumnus of UW and rowed crew for them. The freshmen soon found out that rowing crew was very hard physically. In a manner of days/weeks, more freshmen dropped out. The freshmen coach, Tom Bolles, was responsible for training and selecting the men who would now be on the actual crew team. Joe was one of those chosen. As training continued in all elements of weather, the coaches would decide who would ride on what team and which seat position fit the person.
Now that the teams were established, competitive races began between school on the west coast and then traveling to compete with the elite schools in the east. The main goal of all the teams were to be the team that would go to Germany in 1936 for the Olympics. During this same time, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression and the weather was causing windstorms, dust storms, and drought. Joe spent his summers working hard to make money for the following years. One summer he and other teammates found themselves working together building a dam. Like Joe, some of the students came from families of loggers and farmers, paying their own way in order to have an education.
Germany was now under Hitler’s rule. Hitler wanted to show the world the Germany was a wonderful country and not what was reported. Before the other countries arrived, the area was sanitized to represent this.
Throughout the book, the author describes in detail the art of rowing, the competitive races (won and lost), and his relationship with his father. His research from written material and interviews with Joe along with other teammate’s families is the heart and soul of the book. Not only was the team successful at crew, but they became very successful in their chosen fields.
The sport of rowing, known as crew, dates back to Ancient Egyptian times. In the early 1800’s, in England, rowing became a popular sport and many rowing clubs were formed, including the universities. Germany joined in shortly after. Rowing is a very physical and mental sport. It takes an enormous amount of strength and energy to burst in just a very short time. Physiologists have calculated that rowing a two hundred meter race, the Olympic standard, takes the same physical toll as playing two basketball games, back to back, in only about six minutes.
Empire of the Summer Moon
Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
The book has two story lines. One is that of the Comanches. It traces their journey from centuries ago. Feared by other tribes, they would raid and pillage any tribe they came across. They would rape, scalp, torture, and burn entire villages. Spain came to this continent settling in the area of Mexico. They brought the first horses over with them. When the Comanches first approached these new wild horses, the horses became calm. The Comanches were the only tribe to have the ability to fight while riding on the horse, not on foot as was the custom. The Comanches were able to stop Spain from entering into the northern land. White settlers from the East came to settle this new frontier, unaware of the dangers they were about to face.
The second storyline is that of the Parker family. John Parker had been a soldier for the United States Army and had experience with other Indian tribes. He was sent to Texas to build a settlement fortified against Comanche raids. The raids were making it impossible for other settlers to make a home for themselves. The government was hoping that Parker would be able to make a treaty with all the tribes. The Parker family had built a fort, Fort Parker, for themselves and extended family. One day, the Comanches raided the fort, catching the compound off guard. They kidnapped nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker, Cynthia’s brother, along with Rachel Parker, a baby, and her mother. A couple of the captives were brutally killed. Rachel, after fifteen months of captivity, was sold to a Mexican trader, who then sold her back to her family. She wrote a memoir once she returned. Cynthia remained with the tribe. She was adopted into the tribe by a Tenowish couple. They raised her as their own daughter and Cynthia became part of the tribe. She learned their language, and their way of life. She married Peta Nacona, a chieftan. They had three children together. Quanah was the oldest son.
Empire of the Summer Moon is an extensive history of the Comanche tribe. It details many of the battles won and lost with the army soldiers and the newly formed Texan Rangers. The introduction of the Colt and Walker Colt pistols changed the way the army and Rangers were able to fight the Comanches. Samuel Colt was just sixteen when he designed the five-chamber pistol, made out of wood, and obtained a patent. In 1838, he began manufacturing the pistol. In 1847, with the help of Samuel Walker, he redesigned the colt to contain six chambers. In 1847, he convinced Eli Whitney to make the pistols. The book details the treaties that the government made, and broke, with other tribes. The Great Plains buffalo are also a main “character” in the book. As history has taught us over the years, the Native American Indians were forced to live on reservations, and their way of life was taken from them. Even the great Quanah Parker, had to succumb to the white man ways.
Myra Brooks was looking for someone to chaperone her daughter, Louise, to New York City. At fifteen, Louise had been accepted to the prestigious Denishawn Dance School for five weeks in the summer. Louise was hoping to join the troupe. When Cora’s friend told her about this need, Cora decided she wanted to go. Her twin sons were in college and away for the summer. It would give her an opportunity to see New York City, but also to go back where her life started, The New York Home for Childless Girls.
Cora’s first memories were of being a young girl in the NYHFCG. Nuns ran the home. One day, the nuns chose Cora and five other orphans to be bathed, dressed them in clean clothes, and taken to the train station. They did not know why. Sister Delores told them they were very lucky children. The Children’s Aid Society had funded the train to take these orphans across the country to find permanent homes. Whenever the train stopped in a major city, the orphans would leave the train and line up at a certain venue where hopeful couples were waiting to adopt them. When Cora went back on the train, she noticed that a couple of them did not return. At a stop in Kansas City, she met the Kaufmann's. Mr. Kaufmann had older children from his first wife. Mrs. Kaufmann did not have any children. They lived on a farm in Kansas and Mrs. Kaufmann told Cora that they had a room ready for her. Years later, the Kaufmann's died in a farm accident. Cora had to leave the farm since there was no one to care for her. She went to live with the next-door neighbor. The Kaufmann adult children did not want to share any of the estate’s money. Since the Kaufmann’s never finished with the adoption papers, Cora had no legal claim to the estate. The neighbor had a friend who knew of a lawyer out of Wichita, Andy Carlisle. Mr. Carlisle visited with Cora and eventually did recover some money for her. A friendship began between the two. Although Andy was older than Cora was, he courted her and they married.
Cora and Louse traveled by train to New York City. Louise may only be fifteen, but she dressed and behaved as if she was older. She flirted with men and used her looks to attract and get what she wanted. She also wanted to have fun. While Louise was in dance class during the day, Cora set out to find the home where she came from. She wanted to talk to the nuns about seeing her file. The nuns refused her requests twice. There was a handyman at the home, a German named Joseph. His wife had died and Joseph and his daughter, Greta, stayed at the home. While the nuns were in church, he slipped Cora into the file room where she discovered her papers. In the file was a letter from a woman who wanted to know if Cora had found a good home. There was a name and address of the woman, Mary O’Dell.
Louise was accepted into the Denishawn Dance troop and was to perform with them the next day in Pennsylvania. Cora and Louise went across the street to a diner they frequented often. Louise had been flirting with the college student, Floyd, who had been serving them. That night, Louise snuck out with Floyd to go to a party. The next morning, with Cora’s insistence and help, Louise managed to get up and travel to Pennsylvania for the performance. Once back in New York, Louise informed Cora that she was accepted into the dance company. As of the following day, she would be staying with the instructor and Cora could now go home in two days. The next day Joseph arrived at Cora’s door with Greta. He had lost his job and home with Greta after the nuns saw Cora there the night before. Cora told him that they could go back to Wichita with her where he would find plenty of work.
This is Cora’s story. Her life from the beginning to the end. Her life consisted of loss, lies, and secrets. It began at the Florence Night Mission, (Cora found this out while she was in New York), the Kaufmann’s farm, her marriage, and once she arrived back home in Wichita.
The Water Dancer
Hiram Walker was born a slave on the Lockless Plantation. His mother was a slave and his father, Howell Walker, was the owner of the plantation. When Hiram was five, he awoke to a commotion and his mother was gone. Hiram found out later that she had been sold. Hiram was now alone. Hiram went down the street to live with another slave, Thena. Thena had once had a family and husband of her own, but they too, were sold years before. Thena let Hiram stay with her. One day when Howell was out on his horse, he spotted Hiram and threw him a coin. He later called to have someone bring Hiram to the house. He enjoyed having Hiram around and had Hiram move up to the house along with Thena. They two lived in an area called the Warrens which was under the main house and gained access through the tunnels.
When Hiram was older, he would help and accompany his half-brother Maynard. Maynard was the only child of Howell and his deceased wife. Maynard was reckless and spoiled. Howell relied on Hiram to keep an eye on him. Maynard was engaged to Corrine Hawkins. Corrine owned a nearby plantation. The marriage would be beneficial to the Walkers as it would now be a part of the Walker plantation. Hiram had to drive Maynard into town one day. As they were heading back to the plantation, Hiram felt the pull of the river beside them. The next thing he knew, they were in the water. Maynard could not swim and Hiram could not reach him. Hiram grabbed for something to keep him from drowning. The next thing he knew, he was at the edge of the plantation. He had no memory of how he got there.
The river was a special place for Hiram. It was there that he would recall a vision of his mother on the bridge dancing with a jug on her head. She emitted a blue glow. Hiram’s mother and his aunt use to dance with jugs balanced on their heads, being careful not to spill any water. They were known as water dancers. Hiram had perfect memory recall, yet the one thing he could not remember was his mother, what she looked like, and her name. This lack of her memory would prove vital much later. He also learned, with guidance from Harriet Tubman, that this pull to water, conduction, allowed him to transport himself and others, from one place to another. Once he arrived, he would have no memory of how he got there, but he would be exhausted and need sleep for a few days before he recovered.
Hiram knew it was only a matter of time before he would run away to be free. Hiram wanted to escape and take Sophia, another slave, with him. When Hiram went into town with Maynard, that day, he had visited Georgia Parks, a free slave. Georgie told Hiram that he would help him escape through the Underground Railroad. One night, the two left the plantation only to be captured by Roland and his hounds. The owners of the plantations paid Roland to bring back runaway slaves. When the two were back at the jail, Ryland put them in an outside pen. Sophia was gone first. Hiram had no idea where she went. A few days later, Hiram was sold. His head covered, he was placed in a cart with other slaves.
That began Hiram’s odyssey through the Underground Railroad, the part he played for others to be free, and his eventual return to the plantation.
Clara Kelley has just arrived in Philadelphia departing from the ship ‘Envoy’. She has come to America from Galway, Ireland. Clara is the middle daughter in her family, sent here to gain employment so that she could send money home to help them keep their farm tenancy intact. There is opportunity in America and her family has cousins in Pittsburgh. Pittsburg is an industrial city and she is hoping to find work there. As she disembarks the ship into the crowd, she hears a man calling out "Clara Kelley" from and from "Galway". She approaches him and he asks her if she is indeed Clara Kelly from on board the Envoy. She replies with a “yes sir”. He boards her onto his carriage and is told that he will be taking her to Pittsburgh. She realizes that there must have been another Clara Kelly from Galway and that Clara had died on board the ship. Many passengers did die on the ship from cholera and typhoid. Once in the carriage, she learns from the other two girls seated, that the three of them had been on the boat together, passage paid for by Mrs. Seeley. Mrs. Seeley owns a servants’ registry in town and for a fee, checks references and qualifications to place the servants in the right homes and positions. She recoups her fees from these girls’ wages. Clara learns that she is to be the new lady’s maid for Mrs. Carnegie. She has no idea what a lady’s maid is and what is expected from her.
After a brief introduction to Mrs. Carnegie, Mrs. Carnegie leaves her with Mr. Holyrod, the butler, who gives Clara her instructions for the night. Since Clara is unsure what to do, she asks Mr. Holyrod, claiming that every mistress wants things done differently. Clara learns quickly what she needs to do. On a day when Mrs. Carnegie is resting before dinner, Clara goes into the library. It is there that she meets Mr. Andrew Carnegie. Startled by his arrival, he puts her at ease by reading her a poem titled “Is There for Honest Poverty”. Clara herself loves poetry and as Andrew reads the poem, she recognizes as one that her father and his political mates sing at their meetings. This poem brings tears to her eyes and Andrew sees them. He tells her she is welcome to come read in the library anytime. This becomes the first of many meetings the two of them will have in the library. Their conversations give Clara insight to Andrew, his family’s immigrating from Scotland, and how he came from poverty to a successful businessman. He tells Clara of his business deals and Clara gives him her thoughts on the matter. She also tells him of her overheard conversations between Mrs. Carnegie and her friends. These become invaluable to Andrew.
When Clara goes to visit her cousins near the factories, she witnesses the dirt, waste and soot in the streets and in the air. The workers are living in poverty, crammed into rooms with barely enough to eat. With each visit, she takes what food she can. Experiencing the abundance of the rich compared to what her life would have been had she not been the other Clara Kelley, she is determined to make her life better for her family and those around her. Through her continued conversations and growing relationship with Andrew, she is able to do just that.
This is a work of fiction.
Where the Crawdads Sing
In 1969, two boys find a body in the marshes outside of Barkly Cove, North Caroline. The body identified is Chase Andrews. It appears that Chase has fallen off the large water tower. No evidence of foul play is apparent except for the fact that the seashell necklace that Chase was wearing the night before, is not on his body. Chase had worn the necklace for years, never taking it off.
In 1952, Kya Clark is six years old. She lives with her mother, father, and brother, Jodie in a rundown shack in the outskirts of her town where the marsh is. She is sitting on an outside step as she watches her mother walk down to the road carrying her suitcase. Every day after that, she continues to sit at her post, hoping to see her mother return. Kya’s father is an alcoholic and often disappears for days, weeks, only to return home in a rage. Now that her mother is gone, it is up to Jodie and Kya to fend for themselves. Jodie knew his way around the canals and outlets. He would take the boat out fishing and Kya would join him. When the father returns finally returns home, he and Jodie get into a fight. He beats Jodie and that is when Jodie decides to leave for good. He says goodbye to Kya explaining to her that he can longer stay there. Kya is now home alone.
Kya tries to support herself with what food she can find left in the garden. She has some change and goes into town to the local grocery store. She is dirty and barefoot. She picks up what she can and puts her change on the table. She does know not know the value of her coins. The people on the sidewalk step aside and the boys call her Marsh Girl. One-day two visitors arrive from the truant office at the local school. They convince Kya to come to school where she will receive a hot meal every day for lunch. Kya only goes the one day. She does not own a pair of shoes and the other children make fun of her. When the officers show up several times after, Kya hides. One day while she is out on the boat fishing, a boy waves to her. She recognizes the boy as Tate, a friend of Jodie’s. Kya eventually lets him come ashore. He teaches her how to read. They have a mutual interest in the marsh and all living things that inhabit, including grasses, insects, birds, fish, and animals.
At one point, Kya’s dad returns home. Kya cooks for him, they go fishing together, he teaches her how to clean fish, and leaves her money every week to buy supplies they may need. When a letter arrives in the mail, Kya recognizes her mother’s handwriting. Since she cannot read, she leaves it for her dad on the kitchen table. She can tell by the noise coming from the shack that he is angry and tearing things up in the house. He then leaves. She finds the remnants of the letter burned. Kya’s father never returns.
There is a gas station/store at the edge of a dock where boaters and residents stop for supplies and gas. Kya makes a deal with the owner, Jumpin, a black man who lives a distance down the road in the black section of town, to sell him mussels and eventually smoke fish in exchange for gas and food. Jumpin tells his wife, Mabel, about Kya. The next time Kya shows up at the dock, Mabel is there. She sizes up Kya so the next time Kya sees Jumpin, he has a bag of clothes and shoes for her, along with some seeds and vegetables.
On one of Kya’s excursions out on the boat, she comes into the bay and sees the local teenagers playing on the beach. She watches them and notices one handsome boy in particular. His name is Chase Andrews. Chase befriends Kya and they begin a relationship. Tate has gone away to college and Kya welcomes the companionship with Chase.
The rest of the story continues from there and leads up to where the finding of Chase’s body begins in this book. Of course, there is much more to the story between the years.
Olive Kitteridge lives in Crosby, Maine. She was a junior high math teacher for forty years and is retired. She lives alone, since her husband Henry passed away and her son, Christopher, lives in New York City. He is married for the second time. His wife has two children and now Christopher has one named Henry, after his father. He and Olive do not have a close relationship. Olive has a tendency to be blunt, outspoken, and critical of others. She has no time for idle chitchat.
Jack Kennison is a Harvard professor with two PHD’S. He had an affair with a fellow teacher, Elaine, and when she was up for tenure, Jack voted against her because he did not think she deserved it. It was not because of their relationship. When Elaine found out, she went to the dean and filed a sexual harassment suit. Jack left Harvard on a so called “research leave”, never to return. He and his wife, Betsy, left Cambridge and relocated to Crosby, Maine. His wife passed away seven months ago. The last time Olive saw Jack Kennison, was when she left him in his bed after just lying beside him for a night. That was a month ago. He had asked Olive to call him but she never did. Jack has not talked to her since. In fact, he drove an hour out of town to shop just so he would not run into her at the grocery store. However, Olive did see him at the grocery store one time and he was speaking to another woman.
One day Olive is at a baby shower and finds herself delivering the baby in her car at the house. She calls her son to tell him. The conversation did not go well. Two days later, Olive calls Jack to tell him. This renews their relationship. After a time, they decide to get married. Olive invites her son and his family to come up to Crosby. Olive tells Christopher that she and Jack are getting married and that she is going to sell the house and offers her son to take whatever he wants. Christopher is angry and yells at Olive. His wife rebukes him for talking to his mother that way. As Olive witnesses this, she realizes that this is exactly how she talked to Henry.
Olive and Jack have now been married for eight years. After a few years into the marriage, Jack starts to think of his past life, his time with Betsy, his regrets of his affair, and his estranged relationship with his daughter. He becomes withdrawn. After his death, Olive is doing the same. She hates being alone in Jack’s house, misses her house with Henry, and misses Henry himself.
The chapters in the book alternate with Olive’s storyline and storylines of other people in the community. Some of these characters are from the author’s previous books. When asked why she did this, she said that sometimes she need a break from Olive. Olive did appear in some way or another in each of the other storylines.
Olive’s life comes full circle when she finds herself living in a self-assisted senior community. Once there, the characters from the previous chapters make their appearance once again. Seeing them, Olive reflects on who she was and who she wants to be now.
The Nichol Boys
Elwood Curtis is a thirteen-year-old African American boy growing up on Florida. The year is 1962 and he lives with his grandmother, Harriet, who has raised him since Elwood’s parents took off when he was six. Elwood receives an album for Christmas of Martin Luther King’s speeches at Zion Hill. He listens intently and is determined to follow King’s words and fight for justice. Elwood likes to spend time at the neighborhood grocery store. The owner, Mr. Marconi notices that Elwood will read a comic book and then purchase it. Mr. Marconi asks Elwood if he would like a job at the store. He asks his grandmother and she agrees. Elwood notices that the neighborhood boys often come into the store to steal candy. Mr. Marconi sees this but does not say anything to the boys. Elwood asks him why, and Mr. Marconi tells him it is a small loss when you consider that the parents and others in the community shop there. One day when Mr. Marconi is not watching, Elwood sees the boys stealing. He sees the injustice of allowing the boys to stealand tells them to put it back. While walking home he sees that the boys are waiting for him. He is beaten.
Elwood excels in school. He wants a good education. He is now sixteen and a junior in high school. He meets his history teacher Mr. Hill. With the encouragement of Dr. King’s words. Elwood starts to attend civil rights protests. Elwood sees Mr. Hill there. Later, Mr. Hill wants to help Elwood prepare and go to college. He has a friend at the colored college Melvin Griggs Tech. There is an opening available for achieving high school students. Elwood would be able to go there free the first semester. The day comes when Elwood is to leave. He is so excited and eager to get there that he decides not to wait for the bus, but to hitch a ride. He waits on the highway until he sees a car with another colored person. He gets in the car and after driving a distance, the car is suddenly pulled over by the police. The driver had stolen the car and he and Elwood are arrested. Elwood is sent to the Nickel Academy for boys.
Upon arrival, the grounds and buildings look like a college dormitory. Once inside, things are very different. The boys are segregated. The white boys have their own building and the coloreds their own. The superintendent, Mr. Spencer, tells the boys the rules. They are to go to class, work, and stay out of trouble. This will allow them to raise their rank and perhaps go back to their families earlier. If they do get into trouble, there are severe consequences. Elwood meets a boy, Turner, who has been in, out, and now back at Nichol. He tells Elwood the dos and don'ts. The one thing you do not want to do is get in trouble. If you do, they will take you to the white house. There have been boys that have gone there that never returned. Elwood sees a boy being bullied and intercedes. By getting involved, Elwood is now in trouble. In the middle of the night, he is grabbed out of bed and taken to the white house. He is there for hours and is severely beaten and whipped. He has huge lacerations on his legs and back. He spends multiple days in the infirmary, unable to move or walk. Turner is there also. He purposely drinks something that will make him sick so he does not have to work.
Once Elwood is well enough to return to his dorm, he receives his work assignment. He and Turner are to ride into town to deliver food and other goods to various places. Elwood realizes that these goods are meant for the boys at the Academy, but Mr. Spencer is profiting from them. There are days when the boys go to work at a house of a certain city member or a benefactor of the Academy. When news comes that the facility will be inspected. All the boys work to repair, replace, and paint the entire area. Elwood sees this visit as an opportunity to report all the wrong doings that is happening. He makes a thorough list and now needs to find a way to give it to an appropriate person. Following the event, the lives of both boys changes them forever.
The book begins when archeological students find unmarked graves on a piece of property where a reform school had once been. The remains show that some bodies have bullet holes and some bones are broke from beatings. The book is based on the true story of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in the Florida panhandle. In the century of its existence, nearly 100 black boys between the ages of six and eighteen died. Some of them were buried in unmarked graves. The survivors of the White House stay in touch with each other. The school finally closed in 2011.
This book won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.