The Search – by William Badke (1995)

The Search.jpg

“The Search” is the first book in the Ben Sylvester mystery trilogy, which I read many years ago. The main character, Ben, works as a political consultant for an international company that helps third-world countries develop democratic governments. However, things don’t always go smoothly. The book opens with him running for his life in some part of Africa. He makes it safely back to the United States, but his troubles aren’t over. His house is empty, and his wife Karen and their two kids gone.

The rest of the book is just as the title suggests, a search. The search leads him to an isolated area of Canada to find his missing family. About halfway into the book we also meet Karen, his wife. Karen has had her own kind of search, a spiritual one. She has become a Christian, and is now a much stronger woman. Instead of being a timid person and being afraid of many things, including her domineering father, she has a calmness and confidence that God has things under control. Karen wants Ben to have a relationship with Jesus too, but he is used to taking care of himself and doesn’t think he needs any help. But of course, all of us need help.

If you like action-packed mystery with a spiritual element, this is a good book to check out. Being an older book, you may have a bit of a search for it, but that’s what this book is all about – searching and finding the effort worth it!

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All God’s Children – by Thomas Eidson (1997)

All God's Children

The story is set in the 1890s, in the little town of Zella, Kansas. The main character is Pearl, a devout Quaker widow raising five children on a farm just outside town. To a add to her troubles, Pearl is also blind. When a black man running from a lynch mob takes refuge in her home, she shelters him. Later in the story, she also gives refuge to a Japanese family that was driven out of town by prejudiced folks.

There are bad guys throughout the book who are constantly trying to harm either the black man or the asian family. Pearl and her family suffer because of their association with them. As Quakers, they are dedicated to avoiding violence of any kind. They are so extreme in their views that they will not even defend themselves when they are being beat up. This made the story seem unrealistic to me, but perhaps Quakers are really that fanatical about pacifism. I have not had the pleasure of meeting any of them.

Basically, the “good guys” in the story seemed ridiculously good, to the point of allowing themselves to be run over, and the “bad guys” were bad to the bone and seemed to have nothing to do other than attack people of other races. Overall, I don’t think this book was worth my time.

Where The Red Fern Grows – by Wilson Rawls (1961)

Where The Red Fern Grows

This children’s novel was written nearly sixty years ago, but has been reprinted many times, and is still read in schools across the country. Billy, the main character in the story, is a child, but is so far from what today’s kids are like. Would today’s children even be able to relate to him? Billy lives in the Ozark Mountains, doesn’t go to school, does heavy labor with his father, and regularly goes out at night to hunt raccoons (“coons”) in the dark.

Near the beginning of the book, he walks miles to a neighboring town to collect the dogs he ordered, but doesn’t bother to tell his family. When he arrives back home several days later, his family said they figured that was where he went. In present-time, the police would have been alerted, freeway signs would be flashing amber alerts, and everyone would be hysterically looking for a missing child. But not in this book!

Billy’s dream has always been to own two coon dogs. It takes him several years to earn the money, but he perseveres and gets his hunting dogs. He patiently trains them, and they become one of the best coon-dog teams in the area. The boy and his dogs – Big Dan and Little Ann – are inseparable. Although the storyline moves slowly at first, it gradually picks up steam. By the end of the story, I was totally engrossed in it.

Although the book seems like it’s not relevant, the themes running through it – the longing for a pet, the love of a family, and dealing with death – will never be outdated.

Welcome To The World, Baby Girl! – by Fannie Flagg (1998)

Welcome To The World Baby Girl

Dena Nordstrom thinks she knows what will make her happy – to become a tv newscaster. So she spends her life trying to climb the ladder of fame and success. Eventually she makes it big, but finds that life at the top without any close friends or family is empty.

The story toggles between Dena in the big city, and her distant cousins, Macky and Norma Warren, in the little town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. The Warrens have tried to get Dena to visit them, but she always comes up with excuses to not visit them. Dena has been alone for so long that she doesn’t know how to make or enjoy any close relationships. She backs away from everyone who tries to get to know her.

I have to say that Dena was not a very likable character at the beginning of the book. But the farther I got into the story, the more sorry I felt for her. She was missing out of so much of life, and didn’t even know it. The townsfolk of Elmwood Springs were funny and lovable, and kept the story from being too negative. All in all, this was an enjoyable read.

The Influenza Bomb: a novel – by Paul McCusker & Walt Larimore (2010)

the influenza bomb

This book looked interesting when I first picked it up. It has a historic base – biological warfare and the influenza epidemic of 1917-1918. On that base, the authors wove a story that jumps back and forth in time, skips from country to country, and switches among characters so much that I lose track of who is who.

The main storyline is sound: a virus that has been gone for decades has been preserved and is being used by terrorists to cause a new epidemic. But most of the book jumps around so much that the characters remain shallow. They just run around, frantically trying to find the hidden virus and the bad guys who are spreading it around. There is not a lot of mystery here.

I did finish the book, thinking there would be some surprise ending, but it ended much as I expected. This is a book I shouldn’t have waste my time on.

Hope Was Here – by Joan Bauer (2000)

Hope Was Here

Hope may not know who her father is, or where her mother is, but at the age of 16, she is plunging ahead with life. It’s summertime, and she and Aunt Addy leave Brooklyn to take jobs at a diner in a small Wisconsin town. Addy does the cooking, while Hope is a waitress. She loves being a waitress, and throws her whole heart into the job. The owner, G.T., is struggling with leukemia, but decides to run for the office of mayor. It isn’t long before the townsfolk become like family to Addy and Hope.

What I enjoyed most in the story was the strong character of Hope. She started life with some serious disadvantages, but didn’t consider herself a victim, or expect anyone to pity her. She just accepted life, worked incredibly hard, and kept a positive attitude. I also liked the way the author made a humble job like waitressing sound like the most satisfying job in the world. Perhaps she waitressed as a young woman and had good memories of her work. Whatever motivated her to write “Hope Was Here”, this book reminded me that life is what we make of it.

 

Excerpt from chapter 15:

But when you’re in food service, you understand that sometimes you’re making up for people in your customers’ lives who haven’t been too nice. A lonely old woman at the counter just lights up when I smile at her; a tired mother with a screaming baby squeezes my hand when I clean up the mess her other child spilled.

You know what I like most about waitressing? When’s I’m doing it, I’m not thinking that much about myself. I’m thinking about other people. I’m learning again and again what it takes to make a difference in people’s lives.

 

Other books by Joan Bauer:

“Best Foot Forward”
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/best-foot-forward-by-joan-bauer-2005-re-printed-2006/

“Rules Of The Road”
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/rules-of-the-road-by-joan-bauer-2005/

Full Ride – by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2013)

Full Ride

Becka is just an ordinary 8th-grade student, until the day her father is arrested on federal embezzlement charges. It’s hard to believe that the loving man she believed her father to be is actually a criminal. Becka and her mom suffer through the shame and embarrassment of the trial, then relocate five hundred miles away under assumed names. Starting life over as someone new is much harder than they thought it would be, but they manage to keep their past a secret for three years. When Becca gets to her senior year in high school, she hopes for a full-ride scholarship to pay for college. But applying for financial aid may reveal her family secret.

Although this is a fictional tale, it conveys the agony of family members left behind when their loved one is caught and sentenced to prison. Kids are ridiculed by their classmates. Spouses are scorned by co-workers. News reporters hound them. Their finances are trashed, as they spend most of their money on court/lawyer costs. They might lose their home, and start over somewhere else, at a much lower standard of living. Society feels little sympathy for the family, rationalizing that surely they must have known about the crime, and perhaps were even participating in it or benefitting from i.

Margaret Haddix was inspired to write this book after visiting a juvenile detention center in Ohio to talk about the importance of books and reading. The detainees asked her to consider writing a book about imprisonment, and this is the result. It may not be quite what the young people she spoke with were anticipating in a book, but it portrays how difficult it is to be the family of someone imprisoned. Whether you are a teenager or middle-aged or older, this is a great book to read.