By: Lesley Kara
Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler
Sally McGowan stabbed five-year old Robbie Harris to death in 1969. Sally was ten-years old at the time. Convicted of manslaughter, she was sent to a juvenile detention center and released in 1981.
Almost 50 years later, a rumor is spreading that the cold-blooded child murderer is living in the small seaside town of Flinstead. Joanna Critchley hears it in a hushed whisper from one of the other mothers while waiting to pick up her child from school. She dismissed it as idle gossip, even defending the condemned killer stating maybe Sally deserves a second chance. But Jo admits the story is intriguing and does a little private snooping when she gets home.
Desperately trying to fit in with a new circle of women, Jo repeats what she heard at the school gate the next night at book club. This gets everyone’s attention as Liz, Maddie, Barbara, Karen, Jenny, and the other women are all eager to get the latest 411 on the story. Suddenly Jo is included in additional social events and gatherings.
The gossip takes off and fingers are pointed at Sonia Martins, the proprietor of Stones and Crones, a New Age store in town. Information is spreading like wildfire.
Maddie’s British friend from Pilates class used to be a probation officer and said in the United Kingdom people like Sally McGowan are given witness protection. So Sally was most likely given help to relocate after her release. People who take on a new identity usually set up their own business. Maddie has since been doing an online search and discovered Sally McGowan is in a small seaside town and works in a store. Plus, Maddie’s sister Louise works in the boutique next to Stones and Crones and said Sonia turns down all invitations to join the local business group and does not participate in any of the street fairs. Louise also insists Sonia once told her she was from Dearborn, Michigan, where little Robbie was killed. But recently Sonia retracted that statement and said she used in live in Deer Creek, Arizona. And both women have the same initials; S.G. With all this evidence, many of the townspeople are convinced Sonia is indeed Sally McGowan.
Jo moved back to her hometown to get away from the city and be close to her mother. As a single parent of a young son, help with childcare would be beneficial. Jo was also hoping Alfie would have a better chance at making friends in the small community. But she had forgotten there can be a downside to such fellowship and feels guilty for passing on hearsay. When threats are made over a Twitter account, Jo fears for her safety and that of her son.
Lesley Kara’s debut novel is a thriller which I found hard to put down. I couldn’t wait to discover if the expanding rumor had any truth to it and who was guilty of the menacing acts. The ending was not what I expected. I would like to reread the book to see if there were clues along the way that I missed. I look forward to reading other books by this author.
The Rumor can be found in the fiction section of the library; FIC KAR.
Not all methods will appeal to everyone. Number 2 is “Wake up fifteen minutes earlier.” That one’s not for me. But number 7 is “Make a delicious cup of coffee.” He now had my attention. The simple act of lining up your shoes after taking them off provides a sort of order. To calm an irritable mind, join your hands together. Making time to be alone is the first step toward simple living, Zen style. Seek out the sunset; be grateful for making it through another day. These are examples of Part One, 30 ways to energize your present self.
Part Two consists of 30 ways to inspire confidence and courage for living by changing your perspective. This may sound like the trite topics of self-help seminars, but these have a different spin. Cast off your attachment to the past and do not fear change, he advises. Who does not look forward to spring and the end of winter? There is beauty to be found in change.
Adjusting how we interact with people can alleviate confusion and worry. Masuno suggests 20 ways to achieve this in part three. Being who you are and not keeping up appearances can be freeing. Having the ability to trust in oneself and not be swayed by the opinion of others is the key to less worry. Becoming aware of what’s really important can be challenging, but eventually becomes automatic.
Part Four culminates with 20 ways to make any day the best day with the last being to make the most of life. “Life is not ours to possess—it is a precious gift that we must treat as if it were placed in our care,” is the message in the last chapter.
The way of life in the 21st century has become one of hurry, stress, anxiety, and frayed minds. Many have lost their footing and are worried and confused.
Shunmyo Masuno serves as the head priest of a Zen temple, but also works as a Zen garden designer for hotels and foreign embassies. Zen gardens transcend religion and can refresh the minds and spirits of all nationalities.
The Art of Simple Living can be found in the nonfiction section of the library, 294.344 MAS.
The Last Year of the War
By: Susan Meissner
Reviewed by: Georgia Rindler
During World War II, American residents viewed as potential security risks due to their ethnic background were placed in internment camps. Across the country, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, approximately 11,000 German-Americans, and 3,000 Italian Americans were interned. Many were later repatriated to Japan or Germany in exchange for American citizens stuck behind enemy lines.
The Last Year of the War is a fictional story of fourteen-year-old Iowan Elise Sontag. Her parents had been in the United States legally for almost two decades, but her father was arrested because authorities thought he may be a Nazi sympathizer. The family spent 18 months in a camp in Central City, Texas. That is where Elise met Markio Inoue, a Japanese-American from Los Angeles. Despite the different backgrounds the girls became good friends. The friendship helped them deal with the barbed wire, armed guards, and the feeling of lost identities. It got them through the uncertainty of their lives, until the Sontags were sent to war-torn Germany. The girls promised to write and make contact when the war was over. But neither could imagine what the future would bring.
The story unfolds in flashbacks as Elise is now 81 and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Through the internet and with the help of her young caregiver, Elise discovers Mariko is living in San Francisco. Without telling her children who would object, Elise boards a flight from Los Angeles to visit the friend she has not seen in over sixty years.
Author Susan Meissner wrote the novel to be as historically accurate as possible. The characters are fictional, but the thoughts, emotions and feelings of young Elise, Mariko and their families are representative of those who were taken from their homes.
In the beginning of the story, Elise recalls her father saying there were five things he wished he would not have done in the years before the war. At the time his actions and words did not seem like mistakes, but in hindsight those five things formed the accusations against him. Elise reflects on how those five things concerned the FBI, leading to the detention camps, and repatriation.
The Last Year of the War is a riveting book on a topic that is largely unknown. I have read about the war and the atrocities committed overseas, but had no idea what was happening to American citizens on American soil.
The Last Year of the War is available in regular and large print and can be found in the library; FIC MEI and LP MEI.