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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, May 29, 2017

Grace Takes Off--A Manor House Mystery

Grace Takes Off (Manor House Mystery, #4)Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haven't read an installment of this series for awhile. Easy to get back into but it stands alone well, too. Grace and her Uncle have spent a couple of weeks in Italy on vacation and we join them on their last day. They are staying with a college friend of her uncle's. As they are shown the man's large art collections, it becomes clear to Uncle Bennett that a Picasso skull that he and his friend had located in the old days is not the original. He wants to wait until he arrives at home to check pictures taken in college to be sure before he mentions his suspicion. On the flight home, Bennett is almost poisoned by a groupie of the rock band whose flight they have joined. By the time they arrive in the States the stewardess and the groupie have both died. So, who is trying to kill Bennett and why? Is the skull a copy? If so, where did the original go? As usual Grace finds herself following leads --some down dead ends, others leading to even more confusing information. Still, by the end and its dramatic climax, all becomes clear and Grace relaxes at Hugo's with her roommates, with the case solved and the perps in custody. Naturally, this is too simple and in the final scene someone enters and joins their table as Grace scooches over to provide room How can a reader not like a book by an author who uses scooch, not once but several times, in her story?

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another Pleasant Visit to Ballybucklebo--for an Irish Country Courtship

An Irish Country CourtshipAn Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth book in the Irish Country series and, still, Patrick Taylor continues to entertain. While an elderly community member of Ballybucklebo passes on, young Dr Laverty helps a set of twins into the world. Both he and his mentor, Dr Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, find themselves in the throes of romantic turmoil, resolved at least for O'Reilly by the end of the story. Donal Donnelly and friends find themselves in a losing position having invested with Counsillor Bertie Bishop in an apparent dud racehorse. The same Bishop who almost shoots Kitty at a grouse shoot at the Lord's mansion. A younger version of Donal shows himself as adept at shady dealings as his elder and is found out by the wise O'Reilly. A middle aged spinster finds herself with a life-threatening condition as the result of a youth spent in India.

As usual, the reader finds that he/she is transported to the village and joins the daily life of its inhabitants with great ease and comfort. One shakes one's head at the foibles of some, laughs at others, commiserates with the lovelorn, worries about the ill, enjoys the comraderie of the Doctors and is, as usual, admiring of the long suffering Kinky Kinkaid, who finds that Kitty is an ally rather than a threat. All in all a lovely sojourn in the Irish hills of Ulster.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Gypsy Moth Summer--I Wouldn't Bother Reading It

The Gypsy Moth SummerThe Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story takes place on an island --Avalon, the first symbolic trope of the novel--located off the coast of New York's Long Island--maybe another. The white daughter of a prominent executive of the main industrial and economic entity on the island--Grudder Aviation, manufacturer of war planes and polluter of the island--returns to claim her inheritance. She brings her Harvard educated husband, with an advanced degree in landscape architecture, and her two children with her to live in The Castle--royalty! He is in addition to being educated also black! Doesn't take long for the author to introduce all kinds of viewpoints, real and supposed, on race relations.
In addition to this woman, Leslie, her husband, Julius, her son, Brooks and little daughter, Eva, we are introduced to the coterie of men and women who were friends and of Leslie's parents and grandparents--all very shallow and all very proper and all very rich. All a big fa├žade of perfection.
There are also the younger generation, the teens of the island--the rich pampered teens of the East end where the Castle is located; the poorer, though not necessarily poor, children of the blue collar workers at Grudder located on the West end where these kids live. Naturally, never the twain shall meet--although a West end guy married one of the East end princesses and produced the two main teen characters Maddie and Dominic, Dom for short. Their father, being of lesser stock is an abuser of wife and children--though we are soon to learn that the mother, who spends her days in a pill induced stupor, grew up with a father who also beat her mother--so, I guess, even some aristocrats are abusers.
Once upon a time, when choosing colleges, Marymount was on my list--Leslie would have been entering college about the time I graduated in '63. The description of her time at Marymount is total fiction and, if it is not, then I am truly happy I opted for Mt St Vincent, where I was not forced to live like a nun with required Mass attendance and prayer times. But, at any rate, Leslie was repressed as a young woman--is it any wonder she broke out of the mold she was expected to inhabit.
Back to the teens--Leslie brings the two groups together, allows them the run of the ballroom at the Castle and their story devolves into sex, drugs and rock and roll--or metal, or grunge or whatever it was they were blasting all the time all night into the dawn. Where were the parents of any of these kids? Nowhere to be found or else,if included in the narrative at all, they are drunks, pill poppers, wife beaters, cheating husbands.
So,has the author left anything out of this story --any of today's hot button issues? She's covered big industry--warmongers, of course and just barely disguised Grummond wanta be--who are knowingly polluting the environment, causing all kinds of cancers and miscarriages in the community. We have socio-economic divide--the haves to the East and the have-nots to the West. Racial prejudice and social snobbery; abusive husbands and fathers; neglectful parents and drug and alcohol abuse are all covered. There is Alzheimer's in the old man who owns the factory. Oh, yes, Dom is a homosexual. Not much else can happen on this little piece of real estate. But to make sure that the reader is thoroughly confused and repelled the whole story takes place within one summer --but what a summer--it is one with a huge infestation of Gypsy Moths and their eating, defecating and crawling everywhere is the background music of the piece. This too was terribly overdone--actually quite disgusting--more than the story, in fact.
It was hard to get into this book--it was superficial and too symbolic at every turn. None of the characters was appealing and none of them mattered enough to care that the ending was supposed to be tragic. That it seemed the author wanted the reader to care was a bit sad--she just filled it with too many things to care about and so none of it mattered. Like the islanders at the end of summer, it was just good that summer was over and so was the book.
I received an advanced uncorrected proof review copy from Book Browse.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

X-C 2017 Has Come to a Close and We've Been Home 2 1/2 Weeks Already!

Hi Trekkies--so what have we done since we returned? Not much and yet, a lot! I had called from Batavia to have our newspaper resumed on Sunday, April 2. Betsy was here by 10 am--hugs and kisses all around. Catch up on what life was like in Vt and the cold snowy winter while we were basking in warmth and sunshine. Seems our plow man was less efficient than he could be and, while Bets couldn't get up the driveway on Sunday either, the driveway had been a hot mess more often than not the whole time. Didn't make us happy to hear but we'll deal with it in a few weeks.( Paid the bill but haven't said anything to the plowman--they are hard to find for this driveway so Bill is going to let it go!) Gave Bets her mail, which she didn't even sort out the one time she picked it up while we were gone--lol . As a result, she got her birthday card, which I took great pains to mail from Tularosa so it would arrive on time. Her birthday is March 9! Guess I won't knock myself out next year. She and Bill made several trips getting stuff out of the car. Driveway too soft and unplowed to get up yet. After she left, I read the Sunday paper and did the puzzle while Bill headed to Price Chopper to get some food for the next few days. Hello again, Trekkers! It is now April 19 and much has happened in seventeen days since I started this summary blog. Beginning on Monday the 3rd, it was a week of getting things in order and enjoying the antics of the cats, especially Shadow, who is beside himself with glee having us back home. Fortunately, the bills get paid from the road so it isn't urgent to get through the mail, though that is always my first priority. There are always the bills for the plow guy and, if she has gotten it out in time, for the garbageman. Unfortunately, Jeff Fifield, who does our rubbish died shortly after we left on our trip. He is someone we've known forever and he and his wife, Leslie, are dear friends. Their son was in Betsy's class all through school and it is Leslie who gave us the two pennies I keep in our log book on all our trips. She gave them to me the first year we went cross country as good luck charms. We were really upset when Bets told us he had died, though he has been ill for quite awhile. As a result there was only the plowing and my eye doctor's bill to pay. Also in the mail was a book I'd received from Book Browse which I needed to review. Fortunately, it was a very good book and easily read--I finished it in one and a half days. So enjoyable I almost hated to go to sleep and wait for the next day to finish it. It was just published and available on Amazon for the first time today ( April 19) It is called If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. By the way, I review most books I read on my blog https://kt-themindtraveler.blogspot.com/ if you have an interest in them. In addition to paid bills, which I filed in the annual records, junk mail that I filed in the circular file or the shredding bag, and books, there were the AARP magazine and the AARP newspaper as well as a couple of copies of a new magazine I've subscribed to--Writer's Digest. I'm still hoping to figure out whether there is a book in these travel journals. Took me a couple of days to get through all of that, as well as close out our travel journal. We were gone 7 weeks and a day, covered 8145.1 miles, were as far south as Alabama, as far west as New Mexico and as far north as Colorado. We visited old favorites, such as Eunice for Mardi Gras and Lafayette/New Iberia Louisiana; Alamogordo and the White Sands and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico; Perry Null in Gallup, New Mexico and Grandmother's Buttons in St Francisville, Louisiana. Got reacquainted with Mme LeBiche at Konriko and bought another James Lee Burke at Books Along the Teche. We returned to the Mississippi River in Vidalia and spent a couple of days just gazing at it from our room overlooking it, Natchez across the way and the dual bridges that connect the two. Only once did we eat raw oysters at Shucks with the side of crawfish etouffee but we did enjoy a new restaurant in Breaux Bridge, Chez Jacqueline, after our annual Swamp Tour on Lake Martin. Banana Splits for breakfast at Borden's in Lafayette and King Cake from Mac's Grocery in Jeanerette. The trek across Texas is unavoidable but we've seen almost every corner of this big piece of land and while it is beautiful in places there aren't any other sites we want to see. Although I do want to get to Brownsville and St Padre Island one of these days. Would also like to return to Galveston without being sick, as I was the only time we went that way. Bought pistachios from Heart of the Desert Ranch in Alamogordo. Returned to visit our good friends, Gloria and Bud in Belen, New Mexico. As always overate and laughed a lot. Just a second home, a home away from home with friends who feel like family. We could not be in Oklahoma without stopping at Boise City for No Man's Land beef jerky and in Guymon to see if Eddie's Steakhouse was reopened--and, happily, it is!! In Kentucky, if near Louisville-Lexington area it is necessary to stop at least once at a bourbon distillery. This year we returned to Buffalo Trace, where I got my Freddy hug and bought a bottle of a new release. And if we are going to do that, then it is the Clarion in Lexington and the Pub for steak and bourbon. Visited with friends in the Smoky Mountains, Karen, my high school classmate and her husband,Bill on this our first visit to Smoky Mtn National Park. Happened across Bush's Baked Beans in the process. Went to the home of Andrew Johnson, president after Lincoln's assassination and in doing that we completed visiting the homes of all three presidents from Tennessee. We looked for bald eagles in Lake Gunnerston State Park in Alabama--a first. Found a brochure on Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman and spent a morning exploring the miniature world created by one of the priests who taught in their school. Another new experience. Went to Artesia from Roswell this year--a new path--and went over Cloudcroft--something I'd avoided for years but decided needed to be done--we've gone over the mountains to the Tularosa Basin on just about all the other roads. Turned out to be a lovely ride and we'll go that way again, I'm sure. In New Mexico we focused a bit more on places we hadn't been before like the Wolf Refuge near Gallup and the area around Farmington in the north. We actually stayed there twice --before and after going to Durango, Colorado and the half way climb to the ruins of Mesa Verde. Another first as was the trek into Chaco Canyon, which we've wanted to visit ever since we came west. Having spent so much time on these repeat visits and new experiences the turn to the East was upon us. We followed an entirely new path to reach Las Vegas, New Mexico on our way to Oklahoma. Found another new spot to visit--Fort Union. It is truly a ruin, having been partially razed by the government before the locals and the lady who wrote Land of Enchantment prevailed upon them to preserve the remains. I need to go back again, since, until I read her book back home once more, ( again, reviewed on my blog) I had no true idea of the importance of this Fort. It was the supply warehouse and arsenal for ALL of the forts west of Las Vegas/ Santa Fe and was the junction of the two Santa Fe Trail branches and therefore the site of rest and final departure of pioneers using the Trail east and west! What a shame so much of it has been lost to deliberated destruction and natural erosion and weathering. Took an entirely new path in Oklahoma, too and hit the Chisolm Trail and the Cherokee Trail Heritage Center --one of the nicest museums we've experienced in the West--though nothing can compare to the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City that we visited the year of the Cobalt disaster in Tulsa. We made our way once more to that huge piece of Western real estate and headed to Lavon, a suburb of Dallas, to visit Bill's frat brother, Jimmy Jack. Spent a night and then made our way back through Oklahoma to Missouri and Corder to visit one of his Peace Corps buddies, Paul and his wife, Jean. Another couple who are like old comfortable shoes--just easy to be around and visit with. Some people are just like that and we love them. Hope they will come East again sometime--it is so nice to see them and catch up. Once we get to the Midwest the days become long drives to cover the road home. We do take different roads than in past trips so that we see some new things--for example, Jefferson City, Mo is pretty small and easy to navigate for a capital city! Once in Kentucky, it is two days home, weather willing. Ohio, Pa ( a sliver ), New York and Vt. So, once the trip and the log were closed out, the time came for tackling the pile of suitcases and shopping bags on the living room floor. We don't buy a lot of souvenirs anymore, just a spoon or pin, postcards but we do pick up things for Betsy, Barb and Charlie--foodstuffs mostly and of course we pick up jerky, spices, nuts, candy, bourbon, oil etc for ourselves and all those things require sorting and storing. The last of the laundry needs doing, too. Bill returned to work at Price Chopper in the mornings on the 5th--just Wed-Fr but that took him out of the organizing picture a bit. He, of course, had outside things to do, although the snow, as deep as it was the first week home kind of prevented him from doing very much. By the 8th, one week home, half the snow on the south side of the house was melted off the slope and a vernal pond was beginning to form and the river began to back up. By the end of the first week most everything was taken care of. Attilla needed to go to the vet for his shots and I needed to order seresto collars for them both to get ahead of flea and tick season. I continued to keep up with my POD project and to keep track of the snowmelt and to read. I have set a goal of 80 books to be read this year and thus far I've read 12!! I am very far behind, although of the 12 read, six of them have been since I've returned home, one was read on the trip and I have three going right now. Still, there is much catching up to do! After I read them, usually, but not always, I do have to write a review because I won the book on the condition that I would. Last week, I spent forever trying to get flowers ordered for Easter for my Aunt and Sister--the foolish website was undergoing construction less than a week before the day and kept refusing my credit card--each time I had to redo the order with gift cards etc--I must have composed six different cards by the time I got the ones that eventually were the actual greetings! Not complaining, really. I LOVE picking out the perfect arrangement for my Aunt--I send her flowers every month. I know it gives her a lift and it does me, too, since I ADORE flowers so the shopping for them is a joy. I needed to order ink for the printer since I didn't bother before I left, thinking it would just dry out over the two months that Betsy wouldn't be using it. One of my projects was to get all the brochures in the expanding file that I will use if I ever scrap the photos from this trip--haven't done any of the trips so probably won't get to this one either. Sold a book on Amazon so had to get that out in the mail within the day. We were on the last book of household checks so needed to order them--always a lengthy procedure because I like pretty checks so have to peruse the offerings. I also set up a project to refresh our maps and visitors' guides from the lower 48. That meant going through the map bag and determining which were outdated and then going to the Dept of Tourism of each State that required updating and asking for a map and guide be sent to me. That took two days, but they are pouring in. Interestingly, RI is so broke they aren't publishing highway maps any more--haven't a clue about guides. Ct didn't seem to take the order--the link didn't seem to work. And Georgia requires a visit to the Dept of Transportation to get the map. Nevertheless, the new ones are arriving daily and it is fun to peruse the guide to see if there are new things to discover that aren't in cities or expensive resorts. By the 12th most of the snow was gone and the pond was huge. On a beautiful day, a pair of mallards enjoyed exploring it as a possible nesting site. I think they opted for the more permanent river at the edge of the field, though they may have chosen a more secluded shore of the pool--out of the prying eyes of the resident cats who watch alertly from that porch yonder! Before we knew it, Easter was upon us. Made the grocery list and Bill picked up the stuff. Cook's spiral cut ham, brussel sprouts--for the B's and Kathleen, kernel corn for me, baked potatoes, baked yam for me, olives from the deli. Pistachio-white chocolate chunk cookies for dessert from Heart of the Desert. Betsy's college classmate, Kathleen, who hails from Montana but now lives in Boston, came for dinner. I met her several times in Montana but Bill had not. She is a real sweetie and it was great to have her here. I know we'll be seeing more of her this summer--she is the girl some of you may remember Betsy going to visit on Brexit Day in London. Her London room-mates are coming over to visit--maybe I'll go to London and get some of those behind the scene tours Betsy enjoyed. Bets mentioned that perhaps we could put them up--we'll see what happens when they arrive--but we wouldn't mind. Anyway, Kathleen brought Mimosa makings and we girls sipped the day away --she brought Bill Narraganett--made in Rochester--lololol--I didn't know it was still being made ANYWHERE. So here we are, April 19th. I left the house for the first time since returning home. Oh, I've been out in the yard and on the porch but most days in a house dress or lounger and barefeet. Not only did I go out in a car, but I DROVE it myself. Betsy's car--my old red G-5--to the new Dartmouth Coach terminal to pick Betsy up. She returned to Boston with Kathleen for the Marathon, so took the bus home today. Left her car here so I could get her, since Bill's Marigold is having muffler problems and so Douglas Bristlecone left at 5 am this morning for Maine. It is Bill's pig dinner frat weekend. When he returns I may head over to Saratoga for a few days visit and to bring Barb and Charlie their goodies. If the weather is good, Barb and I will head down to Highland to see Aunt Shirley. In the meantime, I have set myself a project to do a thorough culling, sorting and cleaning of the mudroom. Got the two big drawers under the bay window done yesterday and a bunch of old baseball caps and mismatched winter gloves went out in the garbage. Made an inventory of what is in them for future reference, since they always seem to get tossed about by people digging and tossing to find something that may or may not be there. Will they use the lists? Probably not, but I can ask what they seek and tell them where it is--maybe! Bets balked at having to say yay or nay on a few items when she got back but I reminded her that she has complained that there is so much junk she is going to have to discard when we die. I, said I, am trying to help get rid of some of the junk before hand. She said nay on all of the items so out they go. And, so my dear Trekkies, here is the coda to X-C with KandB in 2017. The snow is all gone, things look drear and gray but I noticed buds on the trees along the Interstate--closer to the Ct--very swollen and the catkins on the poplars etc hanging down. It won't be long before they look like that here on the Pond Estate and once that happens, overnight it seems everything is busting out all over and Spring has caught up to us. This year, I've managed to avoid the post trip depression that usually overcomes me--except for just one day and it was very mild. I think that extra week away made a difference--six weeks just doesn't seem long enough. Of course, when January comes, I'll be chomping at the bit once more. Until then---signing off for this year. Hope you'll come along when we head out again. Enjoy the best part of the year--Spring, Summer and Fall--at least in Vermont and the Northeast! Affectionately, kanb

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dave Robicheaux In Crusader's Cross--Another Winner!

Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux, #14)Crusader's Cross by James Lee Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual JLB creates an engrossing mystery that is convoluted and filled with questions. What ever happened to that prostitute who saved him and his brother, Jimmie, from sharks off the coast of Galveston Island in 1958? She was supposed to meet Jimmie at the bus station and take off with him to Mexico. Is she dead? Where's her body?

Who is killing and brutally disfiguring women--women who are middle class, good women--leaving them in the area of Iberia Parish but also in Baton Rouge. He's known as the Baton Rouge killer--but is he really from Robicheaux' area?

And should Dave really get mixed up with the Catholic nun who is ministering to the black community around Jeanerette? Why does the rich guy on the block, Valentine Chalon seem to want to destroy Dave's life and prevent him from investigating the serial killings. How is the Chalon family involved or are they?

Not to worry, Dave, Helen his boss on the New Iberia Police Force and Clete, his best buddy and probably the one who gets him into the most trouble outside of Dave's own self-destructive personality, manage to pull it all together. As usual, things are not what they seem and the ending ties all kinds of unexpected strands together. And, on a personal level, Dave seems to yet again be headed for some domestic bliss.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Land of Enchantment is As Enchanting Today As Ever!

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe TrailLand of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail by Marian Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marian Russell, her mother and brother traveled the Santa Fe Trail many times during her youth. Her first trip on the trail was at the age of seven when her widowed mother decided to move with her children to the gold fields of California and reunite with her family who had gone before her to the Coast. Before she was able to get there she learned her family had died in illness and so she and the children stopped in Santa Fe. Through the years she took them back to Kansas for several years, but homesick for New Mexico and also loving the excitement of the trail she returned to the West. This pattern was to continue throughout her life but Marian married a young lieutenant stationed at Ft Union during one of the stays in the West and from then on she remained there.

In her memoirs, Marian tells of the Santa Fe Trail excursions and her fellow travelers. She speaks of her childhood in school in Santa Fe and in Kansas. She speaks of the " Mexicans" and the Indians, both friendly and savage. Then after marriage there is the time as the young wife of a Lieutenant protecting those who ventured into Indian territories, their leaving the military, starting a family, moving away from Forts into the small towns of New Mexico and finally the establishment of their final home near the Colorado town of Trinidad where the Trail turns southward through the Raton Pass.

Her memories are so vivid and well told that it is not hard to feel the same sensations, smell the same scents, see the same sunsets and sunrises and hear the same singing voices she experienced throughout her life in the unsettled West. She died in 1936 after being run over by an automobile in Trinidad. Though the world had changed very much by then--especially the Western US--her story comes to life through her words. Having been to the places she of which she speaks, it is easy to roll back through time and imagine the young Marian arriving at Ft Union at 7yrs old sitting on the springboard seat of a prairie schooner. Also it is not hard to imagine her love of the place, because it is truly still an enchanted and enchanting land.

And as an added bonus, her brief mention of the Maxfield Land Company and its interference in the Stonewall Valley of Colorado inspires further research into the history of the land.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow LandThe Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fast-paced and interesting the book takes place in post-Communist Bulgaria. There are several interwoven plots here, some of which were overlong. Basically, we are introduced to a young American woman, who has arrived in Sophia, Bulgaria to take a teaching position for a year or so. Her childhood and loss of a brother in his early teens is revealed to us so that we may understand her desire to visit this country and spend time exploring it. Her name is Alexandra Boyd. Not speaking the language well, she finds herself erroneously deposited at the door of one of the hotels in the city, rather than the hostel in which she has reservations. In the confusion of people coming and going, she bumps into a group of Bulgarians hurriedly leaving the hotel and entering a taxi which she herself had planned on taking. As they, being older and she, being polite, get into the cab with their bags and drive away, she realizes that one of their bags has gotten mixed in with hers. And thus the scene is set for the ensuing tale, in which Alexandra becomes acquainted with a local taxi driver, she calls Bobby, and their endless travels throughout the mountains and villages of Bulgaria in an attempt to locate this family. It turns out that the misplaced bag contains the cremains of a talented but relatively unknown violinist. The people who were carrying the urn were his son, his widow and an aged, wheelchair bound friend of the deceased.

At the outset, the pursuit of the family and the ensuing pursuit of Bobby and Alexandra by unknown people who vandalize their taxi and who also seem to be searching for the family, is intriguing. Who would want the ashes of a relatively obscure Bulgarian musician and why? Soon, however, when the search ranges many miles in various directions from Sophia and involves far too many relatives and acquaintances of the family, the mystery starts to raise plot questions that become distracting. Why would Bobby spend all this time aiding Alexandra, whom he calls Bird, in what appears to be a fruitless and unnecessary search? He tells her pretty early on that he is gay, probably in an attempt to assure her that he is not a threat to her, so there isn't a romantic angle. Why does she become so attached to him--maybe she sees in him the companion she lost when her brother died--that is at least plausible. But why is she so obsessed with the thought of the musician's son, whom she saw very briefly and fleetingly at the foot of the hotel steps?

By the time, the story gets around to the life of the musician, Stoyan Lazarov, the constant dead end trails of the search just about ends the desire to finish the overlong book. But, here the story becomes truly interesting--Stoyan's time in a Communist labor camp --the suffering, the abysmal conditions and the amazing methods the man uses to maintain his sanity and dignity as his body becomes more and more wasted is described in such excruciating detail that the reader's mind is battered with the cruelty of men on others while at the same time, amazed at the resiliency and strength of the victim. One cannot help but wonder how well he or she would survive physically, emotionally, mentally under the same conditions. This section of the book is the very best part and if the reader can get through the almost 300 pages to get there it is so worth it!

The end of the book is sort of a letdown--so far as the family, Alexandra and Bobby are concerned. I would have loved to have read the poem her wrote for her rather than just having it mentioned. And, Stoycho would have had a different end, too.

I received an ARC from Random House Readers' Circle in exchange for a review.

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