RELEASED JANUARY 7, 2021! Blind Turn; a New Novel by Cara Sue Achterberg

Anyone who has read this blog for a while will have met Cara Sue Achterberg in my reviews of her two wonderful books about fostering and rescuing dogs; Another Good Dog and 100 Dogs and Counting. I knew she was working on a novel that meant a great deal to her, but I’d also heard that this new book is a work of “chick lit.” My taste leans more in the direction of non-fiction adventure stories, but, within a few pages of Blind Turn, I found that there is a LOT more to this story than I have understood “chick lit” to be.

The two protagonists, Liz and Jess Johnson, mom and daughter, live in a gossipy little Texas town where “everybody knows everybody.” They tell their story in “real-time” interspersed with memories. Both are at turning points in their lives though they are not overtly conscious of this. 

Liz is a single mom in her late thirties. Jess, Liz’ daughter, is on the cusp of seventeen. For Liz, life has been a matter of patching things up and holding them together for the sake of her daughter with whom she became pregnant while still in high school. Jess, at sixteen is a track star at her high school. She’s under the thrall of her “best friend,” Shiela, one of those golden girls many of us want to be at a certain moment of our lives. Jess is wrapped up in the usual things; homecoming, the beginning of a first love, her future, her mom and dad and their very separate lives. The circumstances that drive the story — a fatal car accident apparently caused by Jess reading a text while she should have been watching the road — push mother and daughter to crises of self-discovery.

The novel also shows the confused, tangled complexity of life in general, reminding the reader how difficult it is for us ever really to understand another person. The novel also touches on the shock of being betrayed by someone we believed was a friend. At times, to me, complex subplots seem to appear and vanish almost as suddenly as they appear. While I sometimes found this distracting as a reader, as a human being living life in the world, I know things can really go like that. It’s difficult in a novel, though, where one expects just a little more tidiness in the procession of destiny.

Blind Turn resolves in the reality that, even when we’re grownups, life’s events can shake our sense of who we think we are, and we end up growing up more or again. The title, Blind Turn, alludes to more than the turning in the road where Jess’ accident happened.

Achterberg does a beautiful — and tender — job with the novel’s main theme, forgiveness. Anyone who has found themselves in a situation where they have needed to give — or receive — forgiveness knows how difficult it can be, either to forgive someone who has caused us irremediable harm or to believe in the forgiveness offered by someone we have harmed or to forgive ourselves. We also know that moving forward in life can depend on that very thing. 

Blind Turn is an engrossing read. Achterberg’s style is fast-moving and conversational. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it even if, like me, this is not your “go-to” genre.

And there are some good dogs in the story, too. ❤

Blind Turn is now available from Amazon and other booksellers!!!

Blind Turn; a New Novel by Cara Sue Achterberg

Anyone who has read this blog for a while will have met Cara Sue Achterberg in my reviews of her two wonderful books about fostering and rescuing dogs; Another Good Dog and 100 Dogs and Counting. I knew she was working on a novel that meant a great deal to her, but I’d also heard that this new book is a work of “chick lit.” My taste leans more in the direction of non-fiction adventure stories, but, within a few pages of Blind Turn, I found that there is a LOT more to this story than I have understood “chick lit” to be.

The two protagonists, Liz and Jess Johnson, mom and daughter, live in a gossipy little Texas town where “everybody knows everybody.” They tell their story in “real-time” interspersed with memories. Both are at turning points in their lives though they are not overtly conscious of this. 

Liz is a single mom in her late thirties. Jess, Liz’ daughter, is on the cusp of seventeen. For Liz, life has been a matter of patching things up and holding them together for the sake of her daughter with whom she became pregnant while still in high school. Jess, at sixteen is a track star at her high school. She’s under the thrall of her “best friend,” Shiela, one of those golden girls many of us want to be at a certain moment of our lives. Jess is wrapped up in the usual things; homecoming, the beginning of a first love, her future, her mom and dad and their very separate lives. The circumstances that drive the story — a fatal car accident apparently caused by Jess reading a text while she should have been watching the road — push mother and daughter to crises of self-discovery.

The novel also shows the confused, tangled complexity of life in general, reminding the reader how difficult it is for us ever really to understand another person. The novel also touches on the shock of being betrayed by someone we believed was a friend. At times, to me, complex subplots seem to appear and vanish almost as suddenly as they appear. While I sometimes found this distracting as a reader, as a human being living life in the world, I know things can really go like that. It’s difficult in a novel, though, where one expects just a little more tidiness in the procession of destiny.

Blind Turn resolves in the reality that, even when we’re grownups, life’s events can shake our sense of who we think we are, and we end up growing up more or again. The title, Blind Turn, alludes to more than the turning in the road where Jess’ accident happened.

Achterberg does a beautiful — and tender — job with the novel’s main theme, forgiveness. Anyone who has found themselves in a situation where they have needed to give — or receive — forgiveness knows how difficult it can be, either to forgive someone who has caused us irremediable harm or to believe in the forgiveness offered by someone we have harmed or to forgive ourselves. We also know that moving forward in life can depend on that very thing. 

Blind Turn is an engrossing read. Achterberg’s style is fast-moving and conversational. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it even if, like me, this is not your “go-to” genre.

And there are some good dogs in the story, too. ❤

Blind Turn will be released on January 7, 2021 and is available for pre-order for Kindle and as a paperback. You can learn more about it here: 

A Good Book and Decent Art’

I’m reading a book right now that is not in my usual “genre” of stuff I read. This book fits in the category of “chick lit,” which is defined as, “genre fiction, which consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists,” but it also isn’t. I will be posting a review sometime soon when I’ve finished. About 20 pages in, I managed to suspend my “I don’t read this kind of story” mentality and was captured by the story. I want to know what happens next and look forward to the moment in my day when I can sit down and read some more.

That says a lot for the book and the writer, but I can already recommend it. The book is Blind Turn, and the author is Cara Sue Achterberg. I’m only about 60 pages in, but I’m no longer reading to write a promised review. I’m reading because I want to find out what happens.

In other news? I’m painting garden signs, and none too soon. The first seed catalog arrived yesterday. That’s BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Gurneys clearly wants to beat out all the rest of those guys, beat out Burpees, beat out Johnny’s Seeds, beat out everyone, and it’s filled with vegetable garden porn. Lettering is the challenging part of this for me, but I’m getting better at it. Maybe I should’ve paid attention to my brother when he tried to tell me about the challenges of lettering, but I had a hard time caring. I couldn’t see 40 years into the future when I’d be lettering signs myself.

There’s no question this whole year has been the pits and the virus the deepest part of the pit. You can’t vote out a virus, but yesterday I took stock in my Etsy store and this morning I realized I’d never have done what I did this year if I hadn’t more-or-less been “liberated” to do it. I like being a working artist. It’s the best job I’ve had yet.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/22/rdp-tuesday-caring/

Skaði…

I’m reading a book, and not under duress. I know, right? Years and years of reading student papers, researching for and then editing my own work, and now reading for a living (yes, I do that) kind of wore out my reading glands, so to speak, though once upon a time I was a voracious reader. In spite of this, I have always retained an interest in “adventure stories,” but they aren’t really stories at all. They are the adventures of real people told by the real people themselves.

One of my all time favorites is My Life at the Limit by Reinhold Messner. Another is Jon Krakauer’s book which begins with his narration of his failed attempt on the Eiger North Face, Eiger Dreams. One of my four “desert island books” is George Schaller’s Stones of Silence. But I would not have known of George Schaller (I got to hear him speak about China and pandas sometime in the late 80s!) if I hadn’t read Peter Mathiessin’s The Snow Leopard.

The very first book of this nature that I read sat on my little girl lap as I rode the train from Billings to Denver, sitting on the little porch on back of the train, watching June-green Wyoming swoosh by all around me. It was Seven League Boots by Richard Halliburton. It had come to me out of an old trunk in which my mom had stored her books. The trunk was then in my grandmother’s cellar, but now it’s in my bedroom. The book is on my shelf with the other adventure stories.

One of the best (of the few) books of this nature written by a woman I’ve found (until now) is West with the Night by Beryl Markham. It was splendid. The title of the book I’m about to recommend quotes Beryl Markham in its title, “I learned to wander I learned what every dreaming child needs to know–that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.”

As soon as I opened I, I knew immediately that this is a book I have been looking for all my life.

I’ve thought a lot about what stories would be like if they didn’t center on a boy and girl getting married and living happily ever after, but, instead, the female hero went off and did something, or lived a complex life on her own. I even thought of trying to write it, but realized that the normal happy story has an optimistic simplicity we all yearn for. I saw clearly that we all live complex lives, and the happy ending story is relaxing (I’m enjoying it now watching film versions of Jane Austen novels). At least in my generation, and before, women usually played supporting roles, and some of the active drama of our lives was going to be our struggle to BE in a world dominated by men.

I didn’t create the scenario that was, and in a way I never even believed it even though I was living it. Human society moves forward but not all at once and I get that. Still, I wondered what all my favorite stories would sound like if they were told by women because Camille Paglia (Sexual Personae) was right; men’s stories are straight lines. Women’s stories are more amorphous. George Mallory could say, “Because it is there.” That’s not a woman’s response to that question. A woman? “Well, there are a lot of reasons. Of course, because it’s there and it’s a mountain, but the experience itself is certain to test me and teach me. I believe I will learn lessons that I might be able to share with others when I come back. Of course, I might not come back, but a person needs to test herself to know who she really is. I deeply value the camaraderie between me and the team. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their enthusiasm — our shared enthusiasm. That means so much to me. That’s a reason right there to attempt this mountain. And you would not BELIEVE all we will see just getting there!”

You get the idea.

I saw a mention of No Horizon So Far somewhere and thought, “That’s my kind of book.” And there it was, a story like this told by women? Be still my heart. It’s beautifully constructed. Two women cross Antarctica by their own power (and wind if they’re lucky). Each woman tells her tale and the two voices are quietly narrated by their editor, Cheryl Dahle. From the very first page, I was in love with this book. I was thrilled when I learned that both of the adventurers are teachers and thought of their adventure not only as a cool thing to do, as a first for women, but as a way to inspire their students. It’s a major theme of both their expedition and their book. At one point Arnesen makes the point — while Bancroft is on the phone with CNN — that even though they were electronically connected to the whole world, if anything happened to them in the middle of the frozen waste, no one could come to help them.

Bancroft writes about her struggle to be an athlete in a world where women didn’t “do” sports. While she was in high school, Title IX was passed and she immediately began fighting for sports at her high school. I wept when I read that passage. Anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time knows of my struggle to become an REAL athlete. I had the potential, but not the permission. That didn’t stop me from running, and I think a lot of women like me just went on to do our thing, anyway. Arnesen, being from Norway, grew up in a culture with a different perspective regarding girls and athletics. Skadi, after all.

And then I read this. This echoes the feelings of my own heart.

P.S. Another migraine, so if there is some strange writing in here, let me know… I’ve learned that asthma triggers migraines. Cold air and weather changes trigger asthma. I had this situation the first year I lived here. OH well…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/12/rdp-saturday-write/

A Walk to the Water by Daniel Graham

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A Walk to the Water
by Daniel Graham, SilverWood Books, 2015, 302 pages

I like to hike, and I’ve enjoyed Daniel Graham’s WordPress blog, “Scuffed Boots,” so when I learned of his book, A Walk to the Water, I immediately ordered it. I communicate a bit with Graham through our blogs; we’ve exchanged the titles of books we’ve enjoyed, commented on each others walking stories, so I was very optimistic that I’d enjoy his book — I did.

Essentially, this is the story of a looonnnggg walk taken by Graham and his brother, Jake, from their home in Bristol, England (yes, it begins at their front door) to Menton on the French Riviera culminating in a jubilant dip into the Mediterranean Sea. At the end of the book, Graham does the math — 3000 km/1800 miles in six million steps over the course of four months mostly over the Grande Randonnée 5. When the moment comes that they must leave the G5 for a sub-route, the G5-2, Graham writes, “…we felt sad to be leaving the highs and lows of the foot-wide abrasion that had been our home for more than a quarter of a year.”

For the most part, the brothers spend their days and nights on the trail, pitching their tent — Ted — wherever they’re able to find level ground. The brothers endure the expected agonies — blisters, hunger, digestive problems. Throughout the journey, the reader meets friendly, helpful people Graham calls “Trail Angels,” endures slug infested boots, observes the hunting and gathering methods of ants, meets fellow wanderers such as “Tim,” “Spiritual” and “The Friendly Eyed-Scot.” Graham seems to view human beings with the same curious, well-humored perspective he turns to the insects he names.

Graham writes about being “addicted” to walking, something I’m pretty well acquainted with. While there is (no question) a chemical component to that, there is also something elegant and liberating about a trail. It conveys a certainty that normal meandering through daily life doesn’t. As the brothers confront their journey’s final days, Daniel asks his brother if he’s excited about finishing the hike, and Jake responds, “Yes and no. I’m a bit scared.” Graham himself wonders, “How would we survive without the small comforts that we had come to love from the path, and with that the grandeur of the animals and trees, the water and the rocks? It was going to be hard to adjust, and, like Jake, I, too, was scared.”

I enjoyed the book very much. Graham’s writing is clean and clear, in rhythm something like a walk on a trail, each moment deserving attention. He skillfully balances the emotional challenges — missing family and girlfriends, for example — with the wonderment the brothers feel, and share, at their adventure and nature’s small and large revelations. Graham is an observant hiker, and the book is filled with luminous descriptions of  “ordinary” things, for example, “…the route dropped into great meadows, where cattle-trodden terraces bloomed with sleepy buttercups, whilst huddles of gossiping mushrooms whispered beneath the shade of their golden caps.”