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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Writer's Life 9/6 - Baby

Born in 1938, Patricia MacLachlan has had more than 20 books published in the children's and young adult categories since 1980. She was awarded the Newberry Medal in 1986 for Sarah, Plain and Tall, which was adapted to the small screen by Hallmark in 1991, and starred Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. I just completed another of her works, Baby, published in 1995. Its main theme is loss and how people cope with it. It is told through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl whose family has buried the pain brought by the death of a child who lived only one day. Their life changes when a one-year-old is left on their doorstep. The child's mother did it knowing they are a loving group. She says she will return. At first wary of new pain, the family falls in love with the adorable girl, as do the inhabitants of the entire island, which sets them up for more loss. Told in clear, unpretentious prose, it is the epitome of decency. Its 132 pages read like less than 100. Only the hardcore would fail to get misty reading it. The key point arrives late in the narrative when a teacher reads an Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem, Dirge Without Music, to her class. Here is the final stanza:
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.
I was immediately reminded of other great works on loss: the monumental soliloquy that closes James Joyce's The Dead: "...he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." And John Donne's Meditation 17: "...never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." And Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night..." One should not infer that Baby is depressing. It is life-affirming, filled with beauty and humor, and tinged with the sadness so prevalent in all mankind. It is not just for children. 53 users at Amazon have rated it, forging to a consensus of 4.6 of five, a tad high perhaps, but certainly reasonable.

For several days weather forecasters have been warning inhabitants of the east coast of Hermine, which, thankfully, blew out to sea. There are amusing posts on Facebook lampooning the prognosticators. One shows a single lawn chair turned over. Well, the effects of the storm finally were felt in Brooklyn today. The wind was so strong I had to keep all the floating book shop's wares in boxes. None were enticingly displayed. My thanks to the gentleman who donated 25 novels in Russian, and the three kind folks who purchased seven between them, and to the gregarious middle aged woman who bought Colleen McCollough's 1977 romace blockbuster, The Thorn Birds.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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