Book Review: A Summer Out of Time

Fiction/Thriller

A Summer Out of Time

Larry Long

2011

ClemAdele

eBook

Author Larry Long’s latest novel, “A Summer Out of Time,” is a story about the fragility of family plus the possibility of time travel with an unexpected historical slant. The author pursues a myriad of social issues in this suspense infused thriller, offering readers a balance of action and drama.

When Cathy McClain finds eighteen-year-old Toby sleeping in a hammock on the family’s porch, she initially believes the handsome young man has amnesia because he isn’t able to tell her much about his background and seems shocked to learn that it is July 2012. Unfortunately for the town of Blue River, Nebraska, soon after Toby’s sudden appearance at the McClain home, several violent crimes are committed in the area. Toby becomes a suspect and Cathy and her parents rally to protect the young stranger from the suspicions of the local authorities.

After a picture of Toby runs in the local paper, an elderly resident of Blue River identifies the young man. When Toby meets with the man, he takes the opportunity to reveal that he does actually know his identity and that he has somehow been propelled from the year 1946 to 2012. As Toby and the McClain family pull together information about the crimes in Blue River, Toby discovers that he knows who the perpetrators are.

The author threads themes of family dysfunction and cultural variances throughout this story as it takes unexpected dips into sinister criminal acts then elevates to the sensual adventures of young love. Long offers a good deal of background information on the McClain family’s troubled past, which helps the reader understand why the family is so keen on helping Toby. And while the reader is given insight on the history of the protagonist, there seems to be a bit of an imbalance in the substance of information the author provides about Toby in comparison to the McClains. Since Long has already authored one series of books (“The Kurt McBride Mysteries”) perhaps the limited revelations about Toby’s background and the unexpected ending of this book means readers will soon see more of the character’s story in future installments.

“A Summer Out of Time” is a well formed, crafty thriller that offers readers a challenging plot with graphic detail and multi-dimensional characters. Mystery and suspense fans will enjoy this book.

Book Review: Winds of Change

“Winds of Change” is author Carole Eglash-Kosoff’s (“When Stars Align”) second novel focused on the bi-racial relationships of a wealthy Southern family. In the new book, Eglash-Kosoff  delves into the lives of the descendants of the Moss Grove Plantation. The three children who were relocated to San Francisco at the beginning of the volatile years of the post-Civil war reconstruction era learn the facts of their heritage which leads to lost love and many years of hunting for a sense of their true selves.

Bess, Stephen and Josiah were raised by Amy, the sister of Henry Roger’s late wife. Henry was Josiah’s father and the heir to the Moss Grove Plantation. He was murdered after whites in the community learned that he had black blood in his family. Amy made the decision to sell the plantation to Eli and Ruth Fineman, a Jewish couple, and take her nephew Josiah, her daughter Bess, and Stephen, the young son of friends who’d also been murdered, to the Pacific coast. Years later when Amy dies unexpectedly, Bess and Stephen learn who their true birth parents are when they fulfill Amy’s last wish to be buried at Moss Grove.  The revelation that the two are related destroys Bess and Stephen’s chance to marry and opens the door to full knowledge of the racial diversity that originated from the Rogers clan.

Eglash-Kosoff carves the plot of this novel through several historical events, including the Spanish-American War, the mass immigration of African Americans to the northern United States and World War I.  As these major events progress, the Moss Grove family expands two generations as the descendants of the Rogers clan become multinational as well as multi-racial. The planation serves as the base for this large family where they frequently congregated for weddings, births, as well as funerals. The author offers the reader an in-depth look into the lives of each of the core characters following their triumphs and heartaches.

What is most remarkable about this story is the love and trust that develops within this multicultural group even as the world around them continues to react violently to racial intermingling. Color soon becomes incidental as the individuals blend into a single family unit making life decisions together, caring for each other’s children, and making themselves available to offer a helpful hand in a crisis. During a time in American history when racial divides were deep, this family manages to be exceptionally good to each other. Eglash-Kosoff succeeds in developing a unique, supportive and loving family that consistently defies all odds.

“Winds of Change” is a moving story of a multi-racial family thriving in the South and all parts of the world where the members find themselves. It is a story of solid familial love that contradicts the irrational beliefs of its historical setting and illustrates how love can transcend all barriers.  I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Act Like a Man

Non-fiction

Act Like a Man

Ken Solin

2011

Dell Lane Press

233 pages

“Act Like a Man” is the story of a nearly twenty-year-old men’s group started by the book’s author, Ken Solin. The book is a testimony of the lives of several men who found the courage to share their individual stories and to strive to become better men. Solin offers readers a precious opportunity to experience the raw, honest interactions between a group of men as they excise old demons and open their hearts and minds to personal growth and change. While the lessons shared from this men’s group may positively impact the men who read this book, the content may also be a blessing for any woman who has found herself puzzled by the behavior of the men in her life.

After attending an event put on by the mythopoetic men’s movement leader, Robert Bly, Solin decides to start his own men’s group. The event opened up old wounds for the author concerning his abusive childhood. Although somewhat afraid of this new venture, Solin has a desire to improve his relationships with men and to begin healing from past pain. The first meeting is volatile and many men, including Solin, act out in anger. Two men leave the group after the first meeting. But over an eighteen-year period, the group settles into a core of six to seven men who make a commitment to be honest, open and respectful of each other. Each man is viewed as equal; his problems and pain as valid as the next man’s. This group becomes a safe place for the men to speak their truths. They also learned to expect and accept constructive criticism.

Solin takes the lead in sharing his pain when he talks in depth about the physical and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. With the support of the group, Solin learns that the abuse is the origin of his fear of men. He also grows to understand that the absence of protection from his mother and sister is at the root of his mistrust of women. Within the protection of the group, Solin slowly grows past the pain of his childhood and begins the hard work of becoming the man he has always wanted to be.

What is most striking about this book is the unadulterated honesty of the men in the group. Once the ground rules are set, every man speaks his mind. The language is raw and unapologetic. And the feelings expressed are genuine: fear of other men, mistrust of women, discomfort with conflict, and a sense of poor self-worth due to a history of abandonment. What is revealed as each of the men’s layers are peeled back is either a resistance to deal with the pain and anger in their lives or a willingness to become their best selves. I walked away from this book with the feeling that the core members who continue to meet are really good men I would like to know personally. I also came away with the understanding that men and women are suffering from many of the same demons. We are all much more alike than I ever imagined.

“Act Like a Man” is an amazing look into the hearts of men and the pain that keeps many from being their authentic selves. It is also a lesson in how making a commitment to change can dramatically improve lives. I highly recommend it.