In the tiny Kansas town of Steadfast, a waitress named Annie leads an ordinary life with her husband Cal and daughter Avi. Annie has recently become a Christian, and Cal is none too happy about it. Her commitment to live by faith in Jesus causes a lot of friction in their marriage.
In a nearby town, a runaway named Jerod hides from his dad, finding a job washing dishes in a restaurant. His hard-working nature impresses the owner, Jinko, who offers Jerod some work on the side. What kind of work? Stealing valuables from people’s homes while they are dining in the restaurant. Jerod’s conscience bothers him at first, but the allure of easy cash is just too much to pass up.
Bruce Cable has found the perfect life for himself in the small town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island off the coast of Florida. His store, Bay Books, is one of the most popular places to hang out. Bruce and his wife have built close-knit friendships with the writers on the island, of which there are many. Something is always happening at the bookstore – an author visit, a book discussion, a party, or just an informal gathering. It’s an idyllic life.
But when Hurricane Leo heads toward the island, their paradise quickly becomes a dangerous place. Most of the residents flee to the mainland, but Bruce and a handful of other neighbors decide to tough it out. The hurricane strikes with terrifying force, and all power and telephone service is lost.
It’s not quite summertime yet, but this is the perfect time to pull a book like “Dandelion Wine”, a novel that focuses on the joy and exhilaration that kids experience when summer first begins. Originally Ray Bradbury wrote a short story with this title in 1953 for the magazine “Gourmet”. He went on to expand it into a full-length novel in 1957, which became “Dandelion Wine” as we know it. I would like to find the original short story sometime.
This book was a long time in coming. In the 1950s, Ray Bradbury presented a lengthy manuscript to his publishers. He wanted to title it: “Summer Morning, Summer Night”. The manuscript was so long that the publishers chose to select only part of it for the 1957 book “Dandelion Wine”. The rest of the story – “Farewell Summer” – was not published until 2006, just half a dozen years before the author died.
It seems quite appropriate that Mr. Bradbury published the rest of the story in his old age, as the novel is about the young and the old in society, the difficulty of being a senior citizen, and how the young and old struggle to understand each other.
If you have never read classic science fiction, but don’t want to tackle an entire novel, try reading one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. Some call his stories surreal fantasy rather than science fiction. Whatever label you want to put on his work, the author has given us a wealth of both short stories and full novels, many of which have been utilized by Hollywood. Some of the movies/television based on his writings include “Total Recall”, “The Minority Report”, “The Man In The High Castle”, “Blade Runner” and “A Scanner Darkly”.
In this short story by Lee Child, our favorite ex-military guy, Jack Reacher, finds himself in the tiny village of Naismith in northern Maine near the Canadian border. With nothing better to do, he spends a day in a rented cabin, enjoying nature. By the next morning, military police have arrived and closed off the entrance to the hiking trails. What is going on, and where are the people he hitched a ride with the day before?
Fifteen-year-old Xander’s family moves from Los Angeles to the tiny town of Pinedale when his dad gets a new job. They find a reasonably priced Victorian house in a wooded area on the edge of town. Xander has an uneasy feeling about the house from the first time they see it, and the feeling only grows after they move in.
Fifth-grader Nick is always trying to be the class clown. Mrs. Granger, the English Language Arts teacher, is a veteran teacher who has superb control over the class. She has a fanatical love of dictionaries, and requires her students to be well acquainted with them. Trying to burn up class time, Nick asks her a smart-aleck question, which earns him an extra assignment.
For my latest read, I chose historic fiction set in the 1890’s. It was the era of immigration, where people left every corner of the earth to seek their fortune in America, the promised land. The story centers on three Swedish sisters whose parents have both died. When the uncle that they are living with develops a pattern of molestation, the oldest sister writes to relatives in the United States, begging to be allowed to come to Chicago. Tickets are sent to the young women, and they set off for their new life.
This futuristic novel was written in 1981, with the author presenting the United States as a country that has become the healthiest on earth. Sickness is rare, the poverty level is down, people have good health care, and everyone seems to be middle class and happy. So how did they accomplish this? By enforcing strict life control.