Late July Reading

Another month has whizzed by and left me getting ever more behind in reading all the books I want to read, but July was another rewarding month of reading for me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading “my take” on the three books I read the last couple of weeks of July. On July 17 (Reading South Africa and South Carolina Novels) I blogged about the two books I read earlier in the month.

The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff

I kept reading about The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff and decided I wanted to read it. It was the first book I’d read by Ms. Jenoff, who has a fascinating background in government work. I look forward to reading her other books.

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         The Orphan’s Tale,           by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale revolves around a toddler who is rescued from the Nazis by a young woman who is no longer welcome in her parents’ home. She ends up being taken in by a circus and assigned to the trapeze, although she knows nothing about being an aerialist.

The woman assigned to train her resents her. Throughout this book of numerous twists and turns, the two women resent each other, support each other, and risk their lives for each other. It is a tale of humanity, forgiveness, trust, friendship, love, and loss set in Germany and France during World War II.

Bird-by-Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

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Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

As someone learning the art and craft of writing, I enjoyed Bird-by-Bird, by Anne Lamott. In the book’s introduction she writes about learning to love books as a child. The following quote comes from the introduction:

“The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” ~ Anne Lamott

I set out to write about the many things I liked about this book and the beautiful way Ms. Lamott writes about the many things a novelist needs to pay attention to in the writing process. It soon became obvious that today’s blog post would be longer than anyone wanted to read if I did that. Therefore, I will write about Bird-by-Bird in my August 14, 2017 blog post.

The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

I read this book because it was set in Tennessee during World War I. I haven’t read many novels set in that era and I wanted to learn more about it. I’m participating in the Read America Book Challenge from the Mint Hill Branch of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The object of that challenge is to read novels set in as many different US states as possible in 2017. Thirteen down and 37 to go. Seven months down and five to go. Hmmm. Not good.

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      The Midnight Cool,         by Lydia Peelle

I was conflicted as I finished reading The Midnight Cool. Lydia Peelle has a way with words, but I found the book hard to follow since the dialogue was not enclosed within quotation marks. It was tedious to have to go back a couple of paragraphs at times in order to discern who was speaking.

I was interested in the subject matter, but the middle of the book did not hold my attention. I enjoyed the last 50 or so pages of the book, so I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. For all the hype of the book to be about mules for World War I and a killer horse, I found it to be more about the two men who traded in mules and the women they loved.

The book gave me some things to think about that I really hadn’t considered before, such as the massive number of mules the United States transported across the Atlantic in ships to pull artillery and do other hard labor in the Allies’ war effort in Europe.

I learned that horses have to be trained, but mules more readily reason things out. (Don’t hate me, horse lovers!) According to the book, the only thing the mules had to be trained in was being fitted with gas masks. Gas masks for mules was another thing that had never crossed my mind. This goes to show that you can learn things from reading well-researched historical novels.

The website, http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/farming/animals/father-of-the-american-mule/, confirms that George Washington was the “Father of the American Mule.” The site explains that there were advantages that mules had over horses in the Allies’ efforts in World War I in addition to their not needing much training. Mules eat one-third less than horses, they don’t need to drink as much water as horses, and mules are more surefooted than horses.

If Lydia Peelle writes another novel, I will check it out because she has a gift for turning a phrase and I believe she does her research.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I also recommend that you read Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.

Janet

George Washington Ate Here

That’s quite a change from my usual blog post titles! My post a few days ago was rather “heavy” in that it was about the things I think I need to do this year to further my writing career. I’m glad that’s out of the way now, so I can get back to more interesting topics. Today I’m doing something I haven’t done before in my blog. I’m sharing a small sample of my writing.

Did You Know?

I wrote a local history column titled, “Did You Know?” in Harrisburg Horizons, a weekly newspaper here in Cabarrus County, North Carolina from May 2006 through December 2012. It was a perfect opportunity for me as it allowed me to do two of my favorite things:  historical research and writing. It was my first freelance writing job. I had complete control over when I worked on the column and what topics I chose. I had a deadline every two weeks, but the day-to-day freedom the work gave me was a perfect fit for me. Once-a-month in 2017 I plan to share one of my newspaper columns or an essay or short story I’ve written. Today’s offering is a slightly edited version of my May 31, 2006 newspaper column.

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George Washington Ate Here

President George Washington didn’t sleep here, but did you know that he ate in Harrisburg? That might be a wee bit of a stretch, but on Sunday, May 29, 1791, he ate a meal where Charlotte Motor Speedway now sits. Most locals still consider the speedway to be in Harrisburg, although it is now in the Concord city limits.

Colonel Moses Alexander and his wife, Sarah, purchased the land from Henry McCulloch and built a house. Col. Alexander died around 1772. Sarah married Robert Smith and he moved into her home.

Robert Smith was a Colonel in the British Army prior to the American Revolution. He took up arms to fight for American independence and rose to the rank of Major General.

The Smiths named their plantation “Smithfield.” The house survived into the 1960s and stood just a few feet from US-29. It served as the ticket office for the Charlotte Motor Speedway for several years.

The beloved Revolutionary general and sitting United States President, George Washington, took a tour of The South in 1791. As a result of that tour, there are numerous historical markers titled, “George Washington Slept Here.” There is no such roadside marker at the corner of US-29 and Morehead Road, but there should be one that says, “George Washington Ate Here.” President Washington spent the night of May 28, 1791 in Charlotte. After noting in his diary that the village was “a trifling place,” he traveled northeast out The Great Wagon Road which was a forerunner of US-29.

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us,” by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, states that President Washington traveled “in a coach of pale ivory and gilt.”

C.E. Claghorn III’s book, Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, says the President “was accompanied by Major William Jackson, five servants, two footmen, coachmen & postilion [guide], chariot & four horses, light baggage wagon drawn by two horses, four saddle horses plus one for himself.”

The green meadows and hardwood forests of our area probably reminded the President of his Virginia homeland. Our red clay rolling hills were in stark contrast to the sandy South Carolina Lowcountry he visited on his way to North Carolina.

Can you imagine how nervous Sarah Smith was on the days leading up to the President’s arrival? It would be interesting to know the menu she planned. Being late May, the summer staples of squash and beans were not in season.

Mrs. Smith’s spring garden possibly provided turnips, radishes, and an assortment of greens and herbs. No doubt a servant retrieved a well-cured country ham from the log smokehouse for the occasion. In my mind’s eye, I see a bowl of fresh wild strawberries on the dining table or perhaps strawberry shortcake with fresh cream drizzled on top for dessert.

I would have liked to have been privy to President Washington and Gen. Smith’s conversation. Perhaps the President “broke the ice” by asking Smith about the battles he participated in during the Revolution. They probably discussed political matters of the day such as the moving of the nation’s capital from New York City to Philadelphia the previous year.

After dining at “Smithfield,” President Washington returned to his coach and traveled to Colonel Martin Phifer’s “Red Hill” tavern near the Poplar Tent section of the county. He lodged at “Red Hill” that night before continuing on toward Salisbury at four o’clock the next morning.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.  Feel free to Tweet about my blog or share it on other social media.

Janet

Sources I used as I researched this newspaper column’s subject:

Piedmont Neighbors:  Historical Sketches of Cabarrus, Stanly and Southern Rowan Counties, edited by Clarence D. Horton, Jr. and Kathryn L. Bridges.

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us, by  Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, 1971.

The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Peter R. Kaplan, 1981.

A Light and Lively Look Back at Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Helen Arthur-Cornett, 2004.

Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, by C.E. Claghorn III.

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