Saturday, July 25, 2015

Slave Time: Midnight a novel by Howard Potts

Imagine my surprise when author and former colleague, Howard Potts, sent me my own autographed copy of his new book,  Slave Time. This book was inspired by real life slave stories as told to interviewers involved in the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) in the 1930s.

I just started reading and am on page 55.  Tom Smart is the interviewer in the story, raised in the North, who is sent to Georgia and Alabama to interview former slaves. Tom thought his calling was to interview congressmen, senators, and presidents.  This was the depression period; Tom had to take this job interviewing elderly black people in the Deep South. Some of these former slaves were too old to remember life back then in great detail and some were suspicious of white interviewers from the North digging into their family history. Tom, however, hit the jackpot when he was directed to Old Sam Worthington who had a great memory, was known in the area as a storyteller and was willing to share his stories. Old Sam told his own first hand experiences plus the stories that were told to him as a child. For example, he was told that he was born into slavery on a day in 1833 when there was a Great Leonid Meteor and could relay this tidbit to Tom. He told the story of an African princess and her fellow villagers who were tricked into getting on a slave ship.

It's a fascinating book. It is very descriptive and would be of interest to history aficionados.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult

Jodie Picoult has taken me into the world of metaphysics of  Serenity Jones and the world of elephants of Thomas and Alice Metcalf in the book, Leaving Time. I am on page 165.  The main characters are Jenna Metcalf, a 13 year old teen; Alice Metcalf, a scientist/elephant researcher and Jenna's Mom; Serenity Jones, formerly a celebrity psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective and former cop. So far the story has been told by these 4 major characters. Alice, however, has been missing for 10 years. Jenna is looking for her and has recruited the other two characters, the psychic and the private investigator, to find out if she is dead or alive. If she is alive, why did she leave? Why did she leave her daughter?

The pace of the story started off slowly but once Jenna met Serenity the pace of the story has been moving along quickly. There is a back story to Serenity and she is intrigued by Jenna's case. There is a back story to Virgil who was briefly familiar with the missing Alice.  The missing Alice and the accidental death of an employee at the Metcalf's elephant sanctuary have haunted him for 10 years. It was fairly easy to get him on board to help find Alice. He is,of course, skeptical of Serenity.

There is a whole host of facts about elephants in the book. I have learned a herd of elephants are led by the matriarch. Elephants can only breathe through their trunk not their mouth. Elephants really do seem to have long memories, they think, feel, hold grudges and experience grief.

The themes in the book seem to be grief and memory. Interestingly, Thomas Metcalf has very little memory and has been institutionalized just around the time of his wife's disappearance.  If you have lost someone you loved through death, this book will tug at your heart as you read the psychic's point of view in relation to death and the spirit world.

At this point, this is not my favorite Picoult book but she always has a twist in the end so I am anticipating an interesting twist.  I am on page 165 and I have more to read. I could change my mind.

My all time favorite books by Picoult are My Sister's Keeper and Nineteen minutes.  I also enjoyed reading Second Glance which included elements of the paranormal world like this book