Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat


In the previous chapter: Jesse told Sarah Jane and her family that he brought her long lost sister Rachael to town but she left when she called her ex-husband’s home to visit her son and the new wife answered the phone. Sarah Jane was angry that Jesse let her go and she ran inside and up the stairs.

Chapter Ten

I just reached the top of the stairs when I knew I had to turn around and go back down. I was behaving like a petulant thirteen year-old whose mother told her to take out the garbage in the middle of a Justin Bieber song. I was too old to be a Blieber and April and Nathan shared the trash chore.

My feet clomped down so the group still on the porch would know I was coming. I paused at the screen. “I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”

Jesse flashed a look at Nathan and Anna. “May I talk with Sarah Jane alone?”

Nathan immediately stood and reached out a hand to Anna. Her jaw tightened but she took it and allowed him to pull her inside.

“I’m sorry, Sarah Jane. I didn’t know it would hurt you for me to come back to town.” Jesse’s eyes never blinked or broke contact with mine.

I had to look away. “You give yourself too much credit.”

“I don’t mean it that way. You were an amazing girl back then and I’m sure you’re even more amazing now as a woman and a teacher. I was stupid to think you’d wait for me when I left for college.”

A horde of angry gnats started buzzing in my ear. “That’s not what happened, Jesse.” I took a deep breath and sat on the wicker rocker. “You never asked me to wait. You took the scholarship money and you ran to Boston. You never considered staying and going to college here.”

“You could have come with me. You had the same offer.”

“You know that’s not true. Rachael had just left, my mom had just been given a terminal diagnosis. April was a newborn and Anna couldn’t get out of bed with postpartum depression. The last thing I could have done was leave and go to college across the country.”

“Did your staying change any of those things?” Even as a high schooler, Jesse had that ability to be sensible and spout out things that were true on the surface but missed the emotional heart of things by a country mile.

“You still don’t get it.” I took a deep breath. “I thought after seven years, your emotional maturity might have caught up with the rest of you, but you’re still a selfish boy who can only think about how things impact you. Yes, my mom died whether I was in Rosedale or Boston or Nairobi. But if I’d left, I would have lost those last few months of memories.”

“And you wouldn’t still be stuck in this town in the dust, teaching kids of migrant workers.”

“This town and its teachers gave you a pretty good start at your life. You think the east coast schools came calling because you were naturally smart?”

“You know what I mean. I love Rosedale. I just outgrew it.”

Understanding flooded my heart and the final bits of stained glass fell off my eyes. “That’s convenient, Jesse. I just realized I’ve outgrown you. Finally. You can go now.”

Jesse stared at me and he must have seen my new resolve because he slowly got to his feet and headed to the steps down to the driveway. “Just remember, Sarah Jane, you made a choice back then. It’s not my fault your life didn’t go the way you thought it would.”

“You are exactly right, Jesse Hofer. Nothing in my life is your fault. And I thank God for that because you’re also not responsible for any of my blessings. A family who loves me, a niece who adores my rollkuchen, and a classroom of kids of all nationalities who want to be in Rosedale.”

He nodded once before turning and leaving. The rattle of his dad’s truck echoed long after he turned out of our lane and onto the main road.

I sat and rocked and thought and prayed.


Woe! It’s Wednesday

I took a couple weeks off ranting. Not that I didn’t have anything to rant about, but I thought I might come off as too cranky. You know the saying: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Now, I can’t remember what was so upsetting that I couldn’t even talk about it. That’s the way it goes. Time really does have a way of healing things. Many things. Not all.

I did have someone recently handle a sticky situation in a good way. It was so refreshing to experience. I’d had another similar situation in the last year or so that was handled in exactly the opposite manner and it was so hurtful, so disrespectful, and so wrong. This new one was joyful, right, and wonderful. And so easy to do it right.

I’m trying to remember this. There’s a good way and a bad way to handle relationships. I hope and pray I choose the good.


Book Talk Tuesday: A Lasting Impression


I’ve said before that I’m not a big historical novel reader, yet I continue to read them and enjoy them. So I guess now I am. If the novel has great characters who come alive in my mind, vivid settings and compelling stories.

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander has all of the above.

Set just after the Civil War in Nashville, A Lasting Impression is the story of Claire Laurent, a young woman with a talent for painting. Too bad her father forced her to paint forgeries which he sold in his gallery.

Clair has to flee the gallery and her home and ends up employed at the grandest mansion in Nashville, and in hiding from her father’s business associate. She grows particularly close to another member of the household, a young lawyer who happens to be investigating rumors of fraudulent painting sales.



From it’s beautiful embossed cover to the vivid descriptions of the art to the lovely prose, A Lasting Impression is a delight to read and savor.

I highly recommend it.

(NOTE: I received a free copy of A Lasting Impression to read and review. This did not influence my feelings or thoughts about the book. It’s so good, I’d pay for it! And I will, since I plan to buy copies for friends and family member whom I know will it enjoy as much as I did.)


Book Talk Tuesday: That Old Cape Magic


A friend of mine says his most favorite book of all time is Straight Man by Richard Russo.

Straight Man

I read it and enjoyed it. My writing teacher/mentor often mentions the movie Nobody’s Fool when she talks about character development. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Richard Russo.

                                       Nobody's Fool


A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in a bookstore. Which, by the way, is getting harder and harder to do, but I digress. I picked up a copy of That Old Cape Magic by Russo. I read the inside flap and decided to give it a shot.

                                                                                                  From the Trade Paperback edition

I expected to love it.

I loved parts of it. I loved the writing.

The contemporary story never grabbed me. I kept reading because I liked the main character’s backstory and reading about his childhood and his atrocious parents.

Jack Griffin and his wife attend a wedding on Cape Cod, the place where Griffin’s academician parents took him every summer. His father is recently deceased and Griffin can’t seem to get over it and let his father go. Figuratively and literally, since he’s driving around with an urn of ashes in the trunk of his car.

A year passes. Another Cape wedding. Griffin’s eyes are opened to just how much of an influence his parents had on him.

I really did like the backstory portions. They came alive in both Griffin’s and his mother’s voices. She was a piece of work.

I’ve read other criticism that Russo’s female characters aren’t fully developed and sure enough, Joy Griffin, Jack’s wife, felt as real as a paper doll and about as substantial. His mother was real, but she was … ummm … well, I can’t say what she is in a family blog.

If you’ve read other Russo work, I’d say give That Old Cape Magic a try. If you’re new to Russo, start with Straight Man. It’s better.


Book Talk Tuesday: Wings of a Dream


I just finished Anne Mateer’s debut novel, Wings of a Dream.


I loved it!

I’m not a big historical fan but I was hooked from the beginning. Anne drew me in with real characters and a compelling story.

Rebekah Hendricks yearns to live a life of adventure, far from her small Oklahoma hometown. She and a visiting young aviator plan a soaring future. Arthur returns to his air field in Texas and Rebekah’s presence is also needed in Texas: to tend to her ailing aunt. Arriving just before her aunt dies of the Spanish Influenza, Rebekah finds herself with her aunt’s four young motherless charges to care for. Their father is off fighting in World War I. Rebekah’s heart and emotions careen like a panicked horse when Arthur’s plans diverge from hers. The local sheriff comes calling. Then the children’s father returns. Should Rebekah follow her dreams or her heart?

Set in 1918 and 1919, I felt Anne Mateer really made the era come alive. Whether people are battling Spanish Influenza or Swine Flu, World War I or Desert Storm, hearts and human nature are much the same.

I’m so pleased to be able to highly recommend Wings of a Dream. Let me know what you think!


Disclaimer: I know Anne personally and I was furnished a copy of Wings of a Dream for review purposes, but neither factor influenced my review and recommendation. They just made my life a little easier.


Woe! It’s Wednesday


We’re back from our trip and it was amazing! It lived up to and exceeded all my expectations.

We did have some problems. Getting out of town and on our way turned out to be a major issue. We had a cancelled flight, a misbooked flight, and a delayed flight, which meant we missed our connection. We reached our destination about 18 hours later than we hoped.

Then, as we finally arrived and got our rental car, I was tossing a bag into the back of the car, standing on my toes to give it a good shove when I felt a POP on the back of my knee and severe pain. I could hardly walk for the rest of the day. With pain killers on board, I was able to hobble around and do most things, but I was so discouraged.

I walked miles and hours getting ready for this trip so I could keep up. I slowed everyone down immensely. They were very kind, but I know we could have done more and seen more if I was moving more quickly.

Some highlights:

In Washington, DC, we took a Segway tour and had a blast! The Segway has a small learning curve but we mastered it in under 5 minutes and were led down the streets of DC and onto the Mall and around the memorials. If you get the chance, DO IT!

Summer, fall 2011 101

Getting the instructions

Seeing the DC memorials at night. They are wonderful during the day, but, in particular, the Lincoln and the Korean War memorials are especially haunting at night.

Summer, fall 2011 107

The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial at night


In New York, we saw The Lion King on Broadway. The costumes and masks and puppets are as amazing as you’ve heard.

Summer, Fall, trip 2011 151


The very real and lasting impact of 9/11 in New York. We weren’t able to get passes to the new memorial at the World Trade Center but we did get to see the site and witness the new construction. We visited several other 9/11 memorials in New Jersey, including the Teardrop in Bayonne, NJ which is moving. We were puzzled by how hard it was to find the Teardrop memorial and when we did arrive, we had it to ourselves. It’s Bayonne’s best kept secret.


Summer, Fall, trip 2011 128  Summer, fall 2011 251

Visiting Hamilton, NY where my father-in-law grew up. We were able to go inside his home and look around the ground floor and the yard. 

Summer, Fall, trip 2011 208



We were gone two weeks, which is a long time, but we had so much to see and do that we felt rushed and constrained by time limits. I’m thinking of this first trip as our scouting expedition. We need to go again to see the things we missed or rushed through.

If you’ve been to NY or DC, what was your highlight?


Book Talk Tuesday: There You’ll Find Me


I’ve enjoyed other Jenny B. Jones titles, so I picked up her newest, There You’ll Find Me.

Since it’s written for a young adult audience, I don’t quite fit its targeted demographic but I still found it an engrossing and charming book.


There You'll Find Me by Jenny B Jones


Finley Sinclair is traveling to Ireland as an exchange student. She’s also still grieving her brother and practicing for her audition to a prestigious music school.

She meets Beckett Rush on the plane. Beckett is an actor filming a movie in Finley’s new hometown. His reputation precedes him and Finley is not interested in becoming a broken heart left behind by one of Hollywood’s biggest partiers.

Beckett convinces Finley that he’s not quite the bad boy the tabloids portray him as and they forge a friendship, helping each other overcome the hurdles in their paths.

There You’ll Find Me is a lovely story of finding the future when you let go of the past. Not forgetting the past, but treasuring it as a part of what makes you you.

I highly recommend it.