Okay, everyone who liked all of their Christmas gifts and does not--not--want to "re-gift" much less send back to the company it came from--go into the utility room, sit up on the dryer and stay there! The rest of you are either lying or scared to admit to such a thinking or are being stoically brave and making mental notes to not even bother next Christmas trying to make your wishes known or picking out things in the store where you know the staff and telling them what to tell family members who wander in! You know, seriously, even with the over-done turkey and watery gravy and store-bought pies (vs. the ones that your mother used to make and your sisters won't), there's something special about the holidays--and there should be!
Himself gave me some lovely gifts and Rufus Cooper gave me a gift also--via Himself. One of my friends, who lives across the street, got a passport holder with a note in it saying it was for going to Paris and London this April, while another friend (who lives across the street also) grabbed my arm at the same party and said, "But guess what I got from my dear husband, Connie?" I professed ignorance and she said "An automatic card shuffler--and it even is battery operated!" Well, that did it! I let out a yell and we three laughed until tears came to our eyes! I mean to say, do we have a little gulf here between a trip to Paris and London--all expenses paid--and a battery-operated card-shuffler? I went up to the lady's husband of the card-shuffler and said, "Steve, you have the most exquisite taste in gifts to please a wife " (I was smiling evilly and dripping with sarcasm) and he said, with a modest aw-shucks smile--"Well, it's just a gift I have!" and we both stood there and laughed until I was in danger of spilling my wine--so, we stopped. Priceless anecdote--so, I repeat, how was your gift haul? Anyone going to Paris and London? On second thought, don't tell me!
What stories my friend will have to tell of that trip--and speaking of stories, it's Fiction column time (Patrice, how was that segue to start off 2012?) "The Dovekeepers", by the really talented Alice Hoffman is ready to be checked out, and you'd do well to get it, curl up in your baggy workout outfit or a blankie and prepare to be stunned as well as entertained by the story of the extreme heroism of four resourceful women in the year 70 CE as they joined 900 Jews standing off the armies of Rome, "each of whom has come to Masada by a different path.
The lives, hopes, and dreams of these four women all intersect in the last desperate weeks and days and final hours of the terrible, inevitable consequences of the Jewish rebellion. At one point, one morning, a grandson, who was mute, woke his grandmother up and she says, "Levi led me to the wall that overlooked the white cliffs which stretched on as far as we could see. We watched the doves fly. Let loose at this hour so they might stretch their wings, they turned the entire sky white. They rose and disappeared, then returned again, drawn back to their nests, They were devoted to their mates. My mute grandson was telling me that it was an honor to work with creatures who lived in the sky, so close to Adonai (God). I whispered a prayer of gratitude for all I still had."
And, again, a moving description--"We all felt the constraints of the mountains, the lack of food, the petty jealousies--many of the sheep and goats that we valued for their milk were being butchered out of need. Cucumbers on the vine shriveled in the last busts of heat, turning to ash, as the fruit was said to do in the blighted city of Sodom. Women in the nomads, as they too had been driven off by the Romans, the women who had been violated by soldiers cut deep gashes into the palms of their hands and soles of their feet to allow the sorrow to rise out of their bodies." Not an "easy peasy" book to read but praised by every critic and impossible to put down.
The Witch of Moab is fascinating to read: "By the age of 8, I had learned that the leaf of a DATE palm boiled in water was a sure cure for a scorpion bite, the nectar of the spiky blue flower of the HYSSOP dabbed on the wrist would ward off evil. I had the tooth of a black dog strung around my neck as a protection against wild beasts." Each woman had a history--but no future--except the two women and five children who, indeed and against terrible odds, were the survivors as the Romans finally made the summit of Masada. Was it a victory or a defeat? Is an enemy worth more alive or dead? READ THIS BOOK!
Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene have a good mystery/suspense one out call "Kill Switch", involving a dedicated forensic psychiatrist, Claire Waters, heading into facing a deranged inmate, Quimby, "whose boyish good looks hide a terrible, sordid history of dysfunction and abuse." Claire believes there are no such things as incurable psychopaths and Society can learn to ask the right questions and spot the tendencies, if done early enough, and the head of this unit believes the same thing, so he gives her a chance to "practice her theories and education" on this particular patient. A dangerous step as "Quimby triggers something in Claire she'd rather not face." A great read and one that I will, especially, enjoy in discovering the ins and outs of a criminal mentality and one other thing--this case makes Claire examine the mind of another homicidal killer "it could only end in madness or murder or both." Check it out--oh, and the authors are the former executive producers of "Law and Order" and I loved that show!
I am having to leave at the end of the afternoon to go into San Antonio to catch a plane, tomorrow a.m., for Webster, N. C. to attend the funeral of a much-loved friend, Bill McCue, who used to be a pediatrician here in Liberal before going to live in Amarillo, Tx. then Webster, so I will have to cut this column a little short this time. I know you will all understand and thank you--it's never easy losing a good friend, is it?
Charles Finch is, absolutely, one of my best and favorite authors, and his new book is "A Burial at Sea". It's a Brit cast--which I love for their humor and particular way of looking at things. Charles Lenox is, in this book, a new Member of Parliament, as was his brother, and is now on the high seas on a secret mission for the government." An officer is savagely murdered, however, and Lenox is drawn towards his old profession as a detective, determined to catch a killer before he can strike again." Good Heavens, it's even worded in a Brit manner--which isn't all that surprising, seeing that Lenox lives in Oxford!
The year is 1873 "and it's a perilous time in the relationship between England and France." It seems some English spies have been caught dead on French soil and government officials have concerns "surrounding the newly dug Panama Canal." (The French always seem to "have some concerns" about one thing or another, n'cest pas?) It's not his sailing skills that Charles will have to use but his detecting ones and of course one only has so much room on board a ship, either for sleuthing or attending to the King's business, so Charles has to keep in mind that he could be the next victim.
The language and setting is beautifully done depicting Victorian England and I, as I've said, am a Charles Finch fan. You'll like Charles Lenox's butler and wife, Jane, also and it's never easy solving Finch's puzzles i.e. just when you think you know who the bad guy is--you're wrong! I wish all of you a Happy New Year, again, and I look forward to seeing any and all of you when I return to Liberal mid-Feb. Keep reading and use your library! Bye!