Thursday, September 14, 2017


              It’s impossible, said pride…it’s risky, said experience…it’s pointless, said reason
           Give it a try whispered the heart.

This moment for me…Surreal, Dreamlike, Otherworldly, Illusory, Fanciful…you’re tired of overwhelming, so how about engulfing instead.

30 Bookers and special guests met at the home of Melanie Prebis to toast the beginning of Bookers’ fourteenth year of reading, walking in each other’s shoes, and discussing our mutual love and respect for the magic of the written word. It was a mix of family, my first cousin, Cindy Camp, and new Bookers, Pat Reid and Joanne Bara, and old friends Mary Jacob and Leslie Mullins, many clad in Life in a Box t-shirts…I may go back to overwhelming. Many thanks to Melanie for providing the mimosas, and to all who brought sustenance to soak up the champagne. It was a special occasion!

Elaine Bownes, not a Booker but a backbone of our community, has been diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer. She is handling the chemotherapy treatments like a trooper and wants to acknowledge how grateful she and Jim are for the outpouring of love and support. They do not need anything at this time, but would appreciate our thoughts and prayers.  

Guest reviewer extraordinaire, Penny Barshop, offered a little background and overview of the creation of Life in a Box. She recalled sitting by the outdoor fireplace on MN Stanky’s back porch with a fifty-page sampling of the manuscript. The fire crackled and the journey began. If Penny were to teach this book, it would be a “two to three week study” in order to understand the complexity of the story as it relates to the characters. Penny pointed out the similarities between Andee and the author with The Yearling reference to “write what you know,” the fulfillment of a dream, a passion for golf, propensity for pristine books, and Las Vegas weddings. From a stylistic standpoint, Jackson offered Andee a critique of her writing, one that held true in Life in a Box. From the suggestion of limiting quirky minor characters, more blending of the narrative with dialogue to adjust the pace of the book, and Andee’s ability to create visual settings from the scene descriptions, the references to Heron’s Nest Golf Club and the women’s club Christmas parties tied the author and character together.

There were side stories that pulled the reader away from the main plot, but provided a glimpse into the makeup of the characters, telling their stories through a series of events. Christmas at the Camps in Dauphin Island set up the conflict between Andee and Scott’s sister, Blanche, the discovery of Scott’s Dad’s illness, the Santa story from the little “Southern” girls, and Beau’s special gift to Andee of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. We learned how protective Scott was of Andee and how much he worried about the toll the writing project would take on her health. We discovered the launch of the S.C.C & Brown Group with the connection between Scott and Andee’s father, Will, each bringing a different skill set to the successful partnership. And, historical events happening during the varied timeframes of the novel showed what people were reading, eating, watching on television and going about their everyday lives during those scenes.

Penny pointed out one of her favorite parts was the numerous mysteries and clues scattered among the text often leaving the reader with the answers before they knew the question such as  Jackson Barton-Brown’s relentless pursuit of the identity of his birth parents. Was Sonny’s drowning accidental…what happened to VJ, Ben and Will on the beach, who knew what and why? What was the significance of the big orange teddy bear Will brought to the beach…Was Sonny involved with the fire that took the life of his sister and critically burned his father? Why was Will and VJ’s relationship different after he returned from the war? What happened after VJ’s twenty-second birthday party and who was responsible? On VJ’s wall of shadowboxed teacups, why was only one dated, chipped and not shaded in pastels?

I loved everyone’s comments and questions proving how we each garner different things from our reading…things that touch us personally or speaks to the parts of our lives that we have experienced. It was uncanny how many incidents were brought forth, from a Jell-O salad recipe, to Don Cherry’s love song “Thinking of You,” to the 1970 University of Houston’s NCAA golf championship. There was a connection to horse “whispering,” same spelling of a name, sorority  ties, favorite perfume, and a wedding date of April 26, 1941 – the same as Muriel and Sonny’s – with the bride a twin, and of course the Pinnacle community and PWC connection.

Many have asked how much of the book is true…that’s a hard question to answer without a specific question, but here are a few facts that might satisfy any curiosity. Penny has already accurately pointed out the similarities between Andee’s character and me, but beyond that, her relationships with her parents are based on mine who were married for 43 years. Andee’s initial melanoma diagnosis is from my own lab report in 2003, but the reoccurrence dictating the clinical trials is fictional. Fictional Scott mirrored Mickey only in mannerisms…he was born in Dallas, grew up in Garland and has only one brother…no golf scholarship or development company and was not engaged at the time he and fictional Andee married…the Las Vegas wedding did take place however. The real-life Smith twins were as bonded as VJ and Ben. Catherine and Fulton are based on my maternal grandparents…she was very active in the women’s movement and a member of the P.E.O…he was President of a California bank. Hilda Hatter Otter was a “real” imaginary friend of my Aunt’s. The Brown segment contained mostly fictional characters, although my dad’s stepfather had characteristics not unlike R.M. Stinson. Please enjoy the characterizations of the real-life figures, but keep in mind, the events surrounding the story are fictionalized.

Bernie Crudden asked a question about the title of the book…did it refer only to the contents of a box that included the Smith/Brown histories, or was it two-fold also addressing the protection and security of living within the confines of a box. VJ spelled it out in her letter to Andee… “you are the rare bird in the protective shell your father and I created for you…robbing the songbird of lyrics and shackling your independence to our expectations.” Jackson on page 91 noted that possibility as well. Bernie, thank you for recognizing the significance of the “box.” Although I was an only child and very protected especially from failure, I had a fascinating childhood and what I am today is a reflection of that.
On the business side
Our donation in Jane Freer’s name to the Friends of the Animals enabled twenty-five families to have their pets spayed and neutered. We intended to purchase Jane’s brick for the memory garden but Gary beat us to the punch. We’ll hold on to our petty cash for another project.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Jean McSpadden who lost her mother to kidney cancer. Best wishes to Barbara Creach who will soon be undergoing partial replacement of both knees.

                              COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                             WHITE:          LIGHT READ
                             PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                             RED:              CHALLENGING
October 3                               Moved a week early due to garage sale conflict
                                                Beartown by Fredrik Backman
All the hopes and dreams of a small hockey town rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
                                                Host home: Ann Ireland
                                                Reviewer: JoDee Neathery
November 14                         Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Based on a true-life scandal, Memphis, Tennessee, 1939 about a family who lives on a shanty boat in the Mississippi River.
                                                Host home: Chris Batt
                                                Reviewer: Melanie Prebis
December 12                          The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Set in England in 1976, quirky, charming coming of age story of two ten year old girls
                                                Host home: TBD
                                                Reviewer: TBD
January 9, 2018                     Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Based on a true story of a forgotten hero, an Italian teenager during World War II, soon to be a motion picture.
                                                Home of Daryl Daniels
                                                Reviewer: Patty Evans
February 13                           The Mourning Parade by Dawn Reno Langley
The mother of two sons killed in a school shooting leaves her successful veterinary practice to volunteer in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
                                                LIGHT RED
                                                Home of Bonnie Magee
Reviewer: Jean Alexander
March 13                                Possible: The Rainwater Secret by Monica Shaw – stay tuned
Debut historical fiction by Dallas author based on the life of her great aunt about a missionary woman in Africa to teach leper children.
Home of Patty Evans
                                                Reviewer: TBD
April 10                                  Book: TBD
                                                Home of Sandy Molander
                                                Reviewer: TBD
May 15                                   Change of date due to travel plans
                                                Book: TBD
                                                Host Home: Donna Walter
                                                Reviewer: TBD
Sleeping Beauty said if you dream it more than once it is sure to come true…
Happy Reading,                                             


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