Book Review: Revival

revival
Five StarsI am in awe. I want to give this book more than five stars, but I don’t want to have to recalibrate my other reviews. Five stars mean I love it, and I loved Revival.

Revival is the first of Stephen King’s book I have read. After having seen several movies based on his books, I had concluded I wouldn’t enjoy his books. Horror stories just aren’t my thing. Thankfully, I recently read his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, in which he introduces readers to his thought process when deciding what to write about as well as tips to those who wish to become better writers. From it, I learned that King observes the everyday and ordinary around him and then figures out how to create a riveting story around them. I knew I wanted to read them, not rely on a Hollywood rendition of his stories. And now I know I want to write like him, too.

Everything about Revival delighted me. It’s the story of Jamie Morton, an ordinary six-year-old boy living in a small town in Maine, and Charles Jacobs, a young adult, a newcomer in town who arrives with his wife and young son to take up the vacant Methodist minister position at the church just down the road from Jamie’s home. Rev. Jacobs  introduces the boy to wonder, a metaphorical breathing life into him. Though tragedy strikes Jacobs, causing him to leave town after only three years, the connection between the two remains, bringing them together 30 years later and then again in another 20 years.

Initially King surrounds the story and characters with innocence and wonder, characteristics of an idealized happy childhood. But it is no fairy tale; it is simply a well-written story with just enough hooks and teasers to keep the reader turning the pages to figure out what sadness awaits Jamie as well as what in the world the title of the book means.

I had expected to read a horror story; eventually it appeared. But everything leading up to it kept me smiling in recognition of what the passage of time does to tease, punch, and kick us as childhood blends into youth and then into adulthood, middle age, and finally into that age King describes as “how the fuck did I get old so soon?” King includes just enough stories of love–first love, later lust, even a case of abusive love–to keep the larger story moving forward.

Revival is a story about relationships and what makes–or breaks–them, and why they are important to us. It is a story of love, dependence, independence, and redemption as well as including just enough mystery to keep the reader turning the pages to see what else is in store. King uses the analogy of cooking a frog by placing it in a pot of cold water and then gently applying the heat so the frog doesn’t notice the water getting warmer to explain Jamie’s transformation through the story. King does the same for his readers with the horror story in Revival. By the time the horror appeared, I felt satisfied, not shocked or frightened. I didn’t notice the water getting hotter at all.

Readers Write-Making Ends Meet

The Sun banner

Each month, The Sun magazine offers fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and photos in a black-and-white format without advertising. Each issue includes provocative ideas from people of science, religion, philosophy, the arts, or a combination. Each issue also includes Readers Write, a feature compiling nonfiction submissions from the magazine’s readers on an intentionally broad topic. Occasionally I submit pieces for consideration. More often, I write essays on the topics too late to submit them.

This piece should have been submitted by March 1, 2015, for consideration for the September 2015 issue.

Is ignorance bliss? Or does a positive attitude beget positive results?

I married for the first time at 20 years old. Too young. And to the wrong man.

But the first few months felt like success. I’m still trying to figure out if it was because he and I were actually on the same page working towards the same goals or if I just didn’t know enough to recognize failure when it stared me in the face.

We were both still students, though set to graduate with our bachelor’s degrees within five months. We each had part-time jobs. His salary paid the rent. My salary paid for groceries. That’s all the expenses we had, and we had them all covered. At least for the six months our student loans were deferred and the four months of grace on our car loan. We didn’t have a plan for what we would do then. We just thought we’d figure it out when we needed to.

My part-time job was very part time. I worked 16 hours a week at 70 cents an hour. After withholding, my take-home pay each week was $7.67 cents. So long as I had three pennies to round the amount up to $7.70, I could cash the check at the Black Hawk bar next door to the movie theatre where I was an usher. The bar wouldn’t hand out pennies, and I didn’t want to settle for $7.65. Because that was all I had to buy groceries and all the other non-grocery items, such as toilet paper and shampoo, each week.

We got our checks every Friday evening. Saturday mornings, I headed for the warehouse grocery store in town with my detailed list of necessities. In order to stretch the money, I picked up canned and packaged goods first. Each shopper was handed a grease pen on arrival with instructions to write the prices on the items as we picked them up. I am amazed now at the trust the store placed in all its customers. But it never occurred to me to write anything other than the listed price. The act of writing also helped me total up the prices as I walked up and down the aisles.

Once I had the cans, boxes, and paper products I needed, I calculated how much money I had available for meat. Ground beef was about 49 cents a pound in those days, chicken was even cheaper, but only sold as a whole bird, and a package of hotdogs was also 49 cents. So for every dollar I didn’t need for canned goods, I could buy two pounds of beef, two packages of hot dogs, or a chicken. That determined the proportion of meat to rice or noodles in the meals I could prepare for the upcoming week.

It never occurred to me to complain that I had so little money. I had what I had. And that had to be enough. So it was.

 

 

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Eight Results

Week 8

Last week of the eight-week challenge is done! Whoo-hoo! Again, thanks to Danielle for inspiring others and me to take on this challenge.

I wish I had done better, but I’m pretty darn happy with having met the first goal, at least as measured by my body-mass index, for the entire eight weeks. And for cleaning up that backlog of unread magazines.

As a reminder, here are the goals I set for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • read at least five magazines each week to clear out my backlog of unread magazines, and
  • write at least 500 words (raised to 750 words once the magazine backlog was cleared) per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I tried one more twist on my eating habits this week, mostly to provide easy-to-prepare meals for my husband: I signed up with Blue Apron.  Our daughter-in-law signed up first, and after the first week she received three invitations for one free week of meals to share with others.

She shared one with us. The following Friday a refrigerated package arrived with everything needed for three meals-for-two: Serrano Pepper & Goat Cheese Burgers, Lemon Chicken & Green Beans, and Sweet Corn & Tinkerbell Pepper Pizza. I’ve cooked up the first two. Hubbie approved, though he did turn down most of the vegetable side dishes. More for me, so I can’t complain, though I would like him to eat more balanced meals, too.

I went ahead and had the burger the first night, though I fantasized about replacing the meat with a quinoa burger. I cooked up both chicken portions the next night, but left one for Hubbie to eat this week. I supplemented my meal with the rest of the summer squash he wouldn’t eat and the leftover veggies from the previous meal.

So now I have three invitations to send out to others interested in trying out Blue Apron. Interested? Let me know.

Exercise

The weather is getting warm here–one day was over 100 degrees by 9 a.m. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration to get sympathy. But I didn’t always get up early enough to walk while the heat could still be beaten. So I missed my goal more often than I met it. I managed to get to at least the half way point more often than not, so I count that as a half win.

Writing

My writing goal to write at least 750 words at least five days a week took a big hit this week. Too much to do again. The bright light in this area is that I was able to finalize a couple of first drafts. And I realized that one reason I haven’t reached the point of sharing my writing is that my standards are higher. A year ago, I shared anything I managed to complete that had a beginning, middle, and end. But now I know that showing, not telling, is important. And the really difficult piece, admitting how I feel or felt about the story, has been a big challenge.

But I’ll keep working.

Overall

AverageAs a wrap-up for the eight weeks, I calculated the averages for my weight/body-mass index, number of steps walked, and number of words written (for at least five days of each week), to see if the overall picture is closer to my goals than the last week’s results.

I like it! At least there is no red.

 

 

 

Readers Write-High School

The Sun banner

Each month, The Sun magazine offers fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and photos in a black-and-white format without advertising. Each issue includes provocative ideas from people of science, religion, philosophy, the arts, or a combination. Each issue also includes Readers Write, a feature compiling nonfiction submissions from the magazine’s readers on an intentionally broad topic. Occasionally I submit pieces for consideration. More often, I write essays on the topics too late to submit them.

This piece should have been submitted by January 1, 2016, for consideration for the July 2016 issue.

This year marks 50 years since I graduated from high school. One of the buildings that housed the high school back then no longer exists. A grocery store fills that block now. The primary building still exists (see below), but serves a completely different function.

MHS

I loved my classes, except for one. Physics. Now I’m not saying I didn’t like physics. I didn’t like my physics class. I never got the chance to discover whether I liked physics.

And that’s because the teacher ignored all the girls. He assigned the boys to seats in the rows closest the window and the girls to seats on the opposite side of the room. And then he talked only to the boys. He didn’t even make it convenient for the girls to daydream by looking out the windows.

If one of the girls raised a hand and asked a question, he’d tell us we didn’t need to know the answer. If we pressed him by asking if there would be a question on a future test, he’d tell us that didn’t matter. We were only going to look for a boy to marry anyway.

The boys loved the guy. Maybe they even learned some physics.

I don’t think any of the girls ever complained to anyone other than one another. We were used to things not being fair by then.

I’m going to my class’s 50th reunion. Maybe I should test out just how much physics those boys learned. Any ideas how I could do that?

 

 

 

The Memory of Scents

The other day during my early morning walk, I heard someone down a street mowing the yard. Then I smelled the sweet fragrance of cut grass. What followed was an unexpected surprise. I smelled the exhaust from the mower and it brought me right back to childhood, sitting in a boat with my brother Wayne and Dad, with all three of us holding fishing rods as Dad set the motor at a very low speed to troll for fish.

I could almost hear the water lapping up against the side of the boat.

I smiled all the way home.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Seven Results

Week 7

One week left! Each week one of my goals takes a back seat to something. This week the goal I was short on was writing.

As a reminder, here are my remaining goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories and
  • write at least 750 words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I continue to try out new vegetarian recipes–or more often just try putting vegetables together in new ways. This week I found organic strawberries and rediscovered what strawberries are supposed to taste like–so much better than the commercially grown and chemically treated bits that taste more like styrofoam than fruit.

Writing

WWIndexingEvent

My goal to write at least 750 words at least five days a week took a hit this week. Earlier in the week, the cause was too many other things on my plate–a common occurrence, according to my husband. And he’s right.

But the last three days the cause was my participation in the Family Search Worldwide Indexing Event for 2016. For those three days I reviewed scanned versions of draft records, death certificates, and lots and lots of Kentucky marriage records going back to the 1850s. Nearly every record I indexed suggested story. There were the cases of much older men marrying young women, very young barely-older-than-juvenile boys and girls marrying, even one case of a note being filed to request that a marriage license not be issued to a teenage boy and an older woman.

So many of the records of marriages in the early 1940s listed the occupation of the groom as US military. No surprise there.

All in all, I felt it was a good trade. Perhaps I’ll be able to marry up the experience with my writing goals in the future.

 

Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #6

A Tense Moment: Word Context, Past & Present, another common error from writers, from SDW/EG member Larry Edwards.

Polishing Your Prose

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The fifth of a ten-part series.

#6. A Tense Moment: Word Context, Past & Present

You and I are sitting at a bar, having a beer, and I tell you about an incident that occurred last week, while driving home from work: At a stop light, in the car next to me, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in ten years. Then, pointing out a little irony, I add that just yesterday I had thought of him and wondered what he’s up to these days.

You frown and say, yesterday? I’m confused. I don’t see the irony if you saw him a week ago. Don’t you mean you thought about him the day before you saw him at the stoplight? I do see the irony in that.

past-present-future-tense

And I look at…

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