Mississippi Books and Writers
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By Nevada Barr
Barkley (Paperback, $13.00, ISBN: 0425196038)
Publication date: June 2004
Description from Publishers Weekly :
“A life ago,” Barr writes, “I
was depressed, broke, homeless, unemployed and divorced.” One evening
she wandered into an Episcopal church, primarily because it was unlocked. Desperation,
not interest in religion, had brought her there, but warmly accepting parishioners
kept her, and soon she wanted to be confirmed. “I went to the priest
and asked him if it would be okay considering I didnt accept Jesus Christ
as my personal savior, didnt believe the Bible was divinely inspired
and wasnt entirely sure about the whole God thing. Fortunately Father
Andrew had been tending his flock long enough to recognize a lost lamb when
one came bleating into his office and put no obstacles in my way.” It
was a turning point for Barr, who here describes the resulting changes in her
life and thinking over the last six years. Readers of Barrs bestselling
mystery series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon might have hoped for a whole
book full of enlightenment about Annas creator. However, apart from the
introduction and occasional anecdotes throughout, her first nonfiction work
is more a collection of personal essays than spiritual memoir. In more than
40 short chapters, she looks at topics as varied as forgiveness, girlfriends,
being ordinary, Halloween and of course hats, usually saying more about how
she thinks life should be lived than about how she actually lives hers. Nevertheless,
Barrs sassy style, self-deprecating sense of humor and trenchant observations
make for a good-and, yes, enlightening-read.
By John Grisham
Dell (Paperback, $19.95, ISBN: 0440242002)
Publication date: June 2004
Description from Publishers Weekly:
Grisham demonstrated he could produce bestsellers without legal aid with The Painted House and Skipping Christmas, and he'll undoubtedly do so again with this slight but likable novel of high school football, a legendary coach and the perils of too early fame. Fifteen years after graduation, Neely Crenshaw, one-time star quarterback of the Messina Spartans, returns home on hearing news of the impending death of tough-as-nails coach Eddie Rake.
Neely knows the score: “When youre famous at eighteen, you spend the rest of your life fading away.” Its a lesson hes learned the hard way after destroying his knee playing college ball and drifting through life in an ever-downward spiral. He and his former teammates sit in the bleachers at the high school stadium waiting for Rake to die, drinking beer and reminiscing. There is a mystery involving the legendary 87 championship, and Neely has unfinished business with an old high school sweetheart, but neither story line comes to much.
Readers will guess the solution to the mystery, as does the town police chief when its divulged to him (“ We sorta figured it out, said Mal”) and Neelys former girlfriend doesnt want to have anything to do with his protestations of love (“Youll get over it. Takes about ten years”). The stirring funeral scene may elicit a few tears, but Neelys eulogy falls curiously flat. After living through four hard days in Messina, the lessons Neely learns are unremarkable (“Those days are gone now”). Many readers will come away having enjoyed the time spent, but wishing there had been a more sympathetic lead character, more originality, more pages, more story and more depth. —Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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