Tag Archives: Theft

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

Sheriff Les from a rural Appalachian community has just a few weeks left before he takes an early retirement, more than ready to spend his time communing with the beauty of the mountains attempting to capture their loveliness with his paint brush.

Yet, a lot happens before the big day. Who knew that life in a small town was so full of adversity. From poaching, trespassing, theft, the cooking of meth, child endangerment, and bribery to an environmental disaster, all occurring over a one week period. The reader is exposed to this whirlwind of activity as Les attempts to tie up all the loose ends without hurting the townsfolk he feels compelled to protect.

At first I found Above the Waterfall confusing before I figured out the narrative was a back and forth between the Sheriff and Becky Shytle, the Park Ranger. Each of the characters has some baggage which make them somewhat damaged. Unfortunately none of them are especially endearing which makes it difficult to be more than superficially concerned about the traumas they face. Becky is the most appealing of the bunch with her love of nature and poetic skill. Despite her childhood exposure to violence and unrealistic feelings of guilt, she is the one who trusts her instincts even when the evidence points to a forgone conclusion.

The ending (or lack of a conclusion) leaves an opportunity for further discourse in other novels as Ron Rash often has recurring characters intermingled throughout his novels about small town life in the Appalachia Mountains.

Three stars.

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The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

It was on Memorial Day 1938 when Willa realized that everyone seemed to be keeping secrets from her, which lead to her honing in on just one goal in life – to surreptitiously ferret out the unspoken mystery. What the twelve year old fails to realize is that sometimes there are some very good reasons to keep the truth hidden from view. Looking back she is only able to lament her aptitude at acquiring such potent sleuthing skills, but by then it is too late to unremember her discoveries.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows captures the essence of small town life during the depression era where everybody has nothing better to do than keep their nose in everybody else’s business. There are no secrets between “friends” – or are there?

The story unfolds through the eyes of matriarch Josephine (Jottie) and other members of the Romeyn Family as they struggle through the summer heat in Macedonia, West Virginia. A parallel story intersects their lives when Layla Beck, an upper crust daughter of a US Senator who (after a major disagreement with her father) ends up boarding at the Romeyn house while writing the history of Macedonia’s Sesquicentennial for a WPA project.

As Layla sets out to learn the true story behind historical Macedonia (versus the boring “official” accounts of the founding members), she discovers a talent for something other than being the center of attention at social events. The back story about her former life as a debutante is revealed via a flurry of letters back and forth between family and friends.

Lottie reveals her innermost thoughts through flashbacks to her childhood. Barrows slowly reveals details about the devastating loss which has colored Lottie’s life resulting in her “old maid” status. Rumors abound about her past, but In order to avoid a potential scandal which might hurt the children, especially with Willa asking questions, she strives for respectability. Lottie spends her time helping her beloved brother Felix take care of his two daughters, Willa and Bird, whenever he is out of town on the frequent business trips necessary to acquire some cash to help them through the hard times.

There is so much to this story it is impossible to summarize the details. Expect quite a bit of rambling towards the beginning as the author introduces a myriad of characters. It takes a while to keep them all straight (an annotated list of townsfolk would have been helpful, although there is a Romeyn family tree for reference), but once the events start to snowball, the reading pace picks up.

One of the highlights of the story is the various eccentric personalities found in Macedonia. Barrows makes us a part of the community through their thoughts and actions, especially those of main characters Lottie and Willa. Willa, in a way, reminds me of Scout from Montgomery’s To Kill a Mockingbird, somehow getting caught up in all the action. Lottie’s childhood stories are both entertaining and informative in helping the reader get a handle on her personality. Whether you love or hate the smooth talking, womanizer Felix depends on whose eyes you view him with – as a brother, a father, a friend, or a curious neighbor.

While the ending isn’t totally unexpected, it was at times a bit confusing, yet despite these flaws, The Truth According to Us is still a beautifully written book.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Random House for providing this ARC in exchange for a honest review.

The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marois, illustrated by Patrick Doyon

Marin has a problem, the special sandwiches his mom puts in his school lunchbox have gone missing. Besides going hungry in the cafeteria, he is angry that someone has invaded his personal property, but who to blame. He looks at each of his classmates determining the likely suspects. There are many, but the next day when he rigs his lunchbox with a bell, his school chums are all sitting in the classroom when the culprit strikes once again. Marin then starts suspecting one of the adults, even the haggard principal who promises to get to the bottom of the matter. Finally he tells his parents about his dilemma, and mom, famous for her homemade mayonnaise and unusual sandwich fixings, decides to boobytrap the next lunchtime treat. Chemistry set in hand she creates a combo sure to locate the guilty party. The suspect, caught in the middle of his dastardly deed, is taken off to receive the proper punishment, after rinsing out a mouthful of, shall we say, not very appetizing tastes. Marin, now a hero, can once again enjoy his hand crafted lunches in peace.

The Sandwich Thief by Andre Marois had potential, but fell short. Instead of a cute little tale, it was an angry accusatory story which portrayed all the characters in a less than positive light. Cliched stereotypes included Poor Cindy who was poverty stricken and Big Bobby who never saw a snack he didn’t like. The adults were less than admirable, included the messy, overworked principal (another suspect) who ate less than appetizing store-bought items for his lunch (which he generously offered to Marin to compensate for his missing food). Part of the problem were the illustrations by Patrick Doyon. Despite Doyon’s talent as an artist, his drawings were in a simplistic, comic book style instead of being cute and endearing. Some of the adults were actually kind of scary looking in a Frankenstein sort of way. Perhaps it’s the fact that both author and illustrator are from Montreal, Canada and this “picture book” was originally written in French, only recently being translated into English. While heralded as an early reading book, the vocabulary is not “kid-friendly” for that age group, and despite the numerous illustrations, it is too long to be considered a picture book. It actually would appeal better to the middle school crowd who are already distrustful of adults and would find Marois’ attempts at humor more appealing. Perhaps the author wanted to emulate the Wimpy Kid series, but unfortunately it just didn’t capture the appeal of Jeff Kinney’s works.

Since I didn’t like the portrayal of characters or the entire tone of the story, I am tempted to give this book a rating of one and a half, but I’m sure there are some who will appreciate the warped humor so I reluctantly rate this two stars.

This ARC was received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.