Saturday, October 30, 2021

October Reflections

In October, I read thirty-two books. I may have read fewer books overall. But I was able to finish three Bibles this month! Eleven books were review copies. Two were gifts. Two were books I bought. Seventeen were library books.

Books Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

126. How To Find What You're Not Looking For. Veera Hiranandani. 2021. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Library]
127. Abel's Island. William Steig. 1976. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]
128. Letters From Father Christmas. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1976/1999. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
129. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan. (Enola Holmes #4) Nancy Springer. 2008. 183 pages. [Source: Library]
130. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline. (Enola Holmes #5) Nancy Springer. 2009. [160 pages] [Source: Library]
131. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Mildred D. Taylor. 1976. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
132. The Beatryce Prophecy. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2021. [September] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
133. A Christmas Waltz. Josi S. Kilpack. 2020. [November] 130 pages. [Source: Library]
134. While I Was Away. Waka T. Brown. 2021. [January] 310 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Books Reviewed at Young Readers

153. Dear Beast. Dori Hillestad Butler. Illustrated by Kevan Atteberry. 2020. 80 pages. [Source: Library]
154. Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Christian McKay Heidicker. Illustrated by Junyi Wu. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
155. Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day. Dylan Dreyer and Alan Katz. Illustrated by Rosie Butcher. 2021. [September] 40 pages. [Source: Library]
156. Dear Beast Pet Parade. (Dear Beast #2) Dori Hillestad Butler. Illustrated by Kevan Atteberry. 2021. [February] 80 pages. [Source: Library]
157. Donut Feed the Squirrels (Norma and Belly #1) Mika Song. 2020. 112 pages. [Source: Library]
158. Apple of My Pie (Norma and Belly #2) Mika Song. 2021 [June] 128 page. [Source: Library]
159. Otter: Best Cake Ever. Sam Garton. 2021. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
160. A House. Kevin Henkes. 2021. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Library]
161. Outside, Inside. LeUyen Pham. 2021. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

63. Fix Your Eyes: How Our Study of God Shapes Our Worship of Him. Amy Gannett. 240 pages. [October] [Source: Review copy]
64. The Barrister and the Letter of Marque. Todd M. Johnson. 2021. 412 pages. [Source: Review copy]
65. The Joy of Hearing: A Theology of the Book of Revelation. (New Testament Theology #1) Thomas R. Scheiner. 2021. [November] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
66. Braced for Love. (Brothers in Arms #1) Mary Connealy. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
67. A Man with a Past (Brothers in Arms #2) Mary Connealy. 2021. [July] 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
68. Behold the Lamb of God. Russ Ramsey. 2011. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]
69. Love on the Range. (Brothers In Arms #3) Mary Connealy. 2021. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
70. Do You Believe? Twelve Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life. Paul David Tripp. 2021. [October] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
71. Ecclesiastes. Illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. 2018. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
72. When Words Matter Most: Speaking Truth With Grace To Those You Love. Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser. 2021. [September] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
73. The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery. Amanda Cox. 2021. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

8. Berean Study Bible. God. 2020. 1504 pages. [Source: Gift] [Source: Free Online]
9. 435E1B Paragraph Bible, Holy Bible, King James Version. Local Church Publisher. 1950 pages. [Source: Gift]
10. Matthew's Bible 1537. William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, John Rogers. 1537. 4304 pages. [Source: Bought]

Monthly Totals

number of books32
number of pages13,518

Yearly Totals

2021 Totals


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

134. While I Was Away

While I Was Away. Waka T. Brown. 2021. [January] 310 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One wintry January afternoon, my mom said to me, "Waka, chotto sentaku tatande yo."

Premise/plot: While I Was Away is a memoir. The author recalls her sixth grade year--1984--in which she's sent abroad [for five months] to Japan to live with her grandmother and attend a [Japanese] school. Her parents want her to be able to speak, read, and write Japanese. She'll miss all of summer vacation, and the first few months of her seventh grade year. She'll know what she's missing out on in Kansas...but she has no idea what will await her in Tokyo.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I thought it was a fascinating read. So much depth and substance. So much food for thought. It packs in a lot of emotions and feelings, and so many experiences. I think my favorite part was seeing the development of relationships. She's leaving her family and friends behind in Kansas. She's going to live with her strict grandmother. She'll be visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins. She'll be attending school and meeting a lot of people her own age. To see her build relationships--to struggle to build relationships--to make a life for herself and find her place to was just a beautiful thing to see. And one we don't often get in such great detail.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

133. A Christmas Waltz

A Christmas Waltz. Josi S. Kilpack. 2020. [November] 130 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The dark-haired man with the red satin waistcoat began walking toward her from the other side of the ballroom.

Premise/plot: Marta, our heroine, comes to look forward to waltzing with David every year at her family's Yuletide Ball. Their first waltz occurs when she's newly 'out' and just sixteen. She's yet to experience the season in London, and this first dance fills her with all the feels. The two seem to have a connection. Emphasis on seem. For while the dance is oh-so-wonderful, that's all it remains--a memory of a dance. When given opportunities through the years to take the relationship further, deeper, he passes. Content, at least temporarily, to keep it just a nice, cozy memory to pull out now and then. Every single Christmas, these two waltzes. Years pass. Circumstances change. Yet one thing never changes. No matter where they find themselves in their lives, they make their way to each other on the dance floor every Christmas.

My thoughts: A Christmas Waltz is a bittersweet historical novella. On the one hand, it is sweet how these two find joy and comfort in each other's company year after year. A few minutes together each year to share one's private thoughts and dreams. 

On the other hand, because Marta is almost romanticizing and idealizing this relationship with David, she's making her life more bitter the rest of the year. Because her husband doesn't stand a chance against this perfect, idealized, dreamy, swoony connection. Granted, from what Marta tells David about her husband, he doesn't all. He doesn't care if his wife is happy or unhappy. He is not physically present--all that often--and emotionally there's no connection at all. Still there are plenty of romance novels out there where wives and husbands fall in love with each other after the fact, putting aside previous loves and daydreams, working through misunderstandings, finding common ground and building a future together despite not having all the feels when they say I do.  

The book definitely reminded me of Storybook Love:

We've got a storybook love and that's all and that's all
A fantasy world where we love one another
A storybook love and that's all and that's all
A boy and a girl who hardly know each other
But I feel you lookin at me
And in your eyes it's plain to see
One day soon we both will be much more than friends
But until then
It's a storybook love
And that's all and that's all
A fantasy world where we love one another
A storybook love and that's all and that's all
A boy and a girl who hardly know each other
But I already know
How much I'm gonna love you so
I feel it inside me even though it hasn't happened yet
So all we get
Is a storybook love and that's all and that's all
A fantasy world where we love one another
A storybook world and that's all and that's all
A boy and a girl who hardly know each other

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, October 22, 2021

132. The Beatryce Prophecy

The Beatryce Prophecy. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2021. [September] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Answelica was a goat with teeth that were the mirror of her soul—large, sharp, and uncompromising. One of the goat’s favorite games was to lull the monks of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing into a sense of complacency by arranging her features in a benign and indifferent expression. For weeks, she would bite no one. When approached, she would merely stare into the distance as if she were considering something profound. And then, when the brothers had relaxed their guard, thinking that perhaps, somehow, Answelica had changed, the goat would come from behind and butt them in the backside as hard as she was able. She was very strong, and she had a very hard head. Because of this, the goat was able to send the monks flying great distances through the air. When they landed, she bit them. She was a goat who formed peculiar and inexplicable antipathies, taking an intense dislike to certain individuals.

Premise/plot: How much do YOU need to know about a book before reading it? For some, knowing that it is Kate DiCamillo's newest book might just do the trick. Her books are just that good. For others, knowing that it is medieval fiction might be reason enough. Combined those reasons might lead to some high expectations.

Brother Edik, a monk in the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, discovers a sick (possibly dying) child near the monastery being guarded by the notorious goat, Answelica. The goat has taken quite a liking (and this is the goat that hates everybody) to the young unconscious girl. It seems clear cut and obvious that it is right to take her in and try to heal her... But the girl's recovery seems to have a different set of risks... Someone--the king and his advisor(s)--are determined to find the girl. But their intentions with the girl, well, it isn't looking good.

Of course that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of plot. The less you know the better--in my humble opinion.

My thoughts: I really love Kate DiCamillo. I don't automatically love, love, love medieval settings. I don't. But when it is beautifully written by one of my favorite authors....I'm going to lean towards loving it. I really enjoyed the writing, the relationships, and the detailing of the plot. I love how DiCamillo weaves stories together piece by piece until suddenly everything clicks into place and there's a thing of beauty.

The monk—terrified, undone—would scream, too.
The monk and the goat would then engage in a duet of screaming until the goat was satisfied and trotted away looking beatific, leaving behind her a trembling, weeping monk.
The brothers of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing would have liked to butcher her, but they were afraid of the ghost of Answelica.
The monks agreed among themselves that the ghost of the goat would surely be more vicious and determined, more impossible to outwit, than the flesh-and-blood goat.
How would she seek her revenge from the afterworld?
It beggared the imagination to consider what the ghost goat would do.
And so she lived.
Which is just as well.
Which is, in fact, wonderful.
Because without the goat, Beatryce surely would have died.
And then where would we be?

All of this took place during a time of war. Sadly, this does not distinguish it from any other time; it was always a time of war.

“And what are the Chronicles of Sorrowing?” asked Beatryce.
“The Chronicles tell the story of what has happened and of things that might yet happen, those things which have been prophesied.”
“Sorrowing,” said Beatryce. The word was a heavy one. “It does not sound like a happy book, a joyful book.”
“Alas,” said Brother Edik, “it is not.”
“Well, then,” said Beatryce, “that is not a book I would care to read.”

What does it mean to be brave?
This was a question that Brother Edik asked himself as he walked through the dark woods with Jack Dory and Cannoc and Answelica.
To be brave is to not turn away.
To be brave is to go forward.
To be brave is to love.
Brother Edik was not turning away. He was going forward.
And he loved. This, Brother Edik could do—did do—best of all.
Still, he could not keep himself from trembling.
And he could not stop the words of the prophecy from tumbling through his mind:
A girl child
unseat a king
great change.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

131. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Mildred D. Taylor. 1976. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Little Man, would you come on? You keep it up and you're gonna make us late."

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry earned the Newbery Medal for 1977. The novel is set circa 1933 and stars the Logan family. Cassie Logan, our heroine, has brothers--many brothers, some older, some younger. The family is put through many trials as tension builds in their community. There is a thin line between holding onto one's dignity and staying strong and resolute AND doing what one must to survive the times. 

The family definitely is facing many grown-up problems. But the problems aren't limited to the grown-ups. No, the children--Cassie, Robert (her older brother), TJ (Robert's friend), etc. also face their own trials and tribulations. At its heart, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a coming of age story.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a heavy novel. It is more bitter than sweet. There are many tragic notes. I do wonder if this is the kind of book that adults would appreciate a million times more than a child reader. 

The love and tenderness in this family are heartwarming. There are other books--some set earlier, some set later--that follow the Logan family. This is the only one I've read. I *believe* this was the first to be published. But GoodReads now lists it as FOURTH in the series. It used to be a trilogy--that I remember from book fair days--but now there are ten books in the series.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

130. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline. (Enola Holmes #5) Nancy Springer. 2009. [160 pages] [Source: Library]

First sentence: "Miss Meschle," said Mrs. Tupper as she took my empty plate away, "if ye 'ave time to set an' talk a while..."

Premise/plot: Enola Holmes' newest case involves her landlady. Her landlady, Mrs. Tupper, just happens (oh-so-conveniently) to be receiving threatening letters in the mail. These threatening letters followed a little while later by a kidnapping....

Enola Holmes will have to outsmart the kidnappers and sort out WHY her landlady is being threatened. All while continuing to outwit her two older brothers.

My thoughts: I didn't like this one as much as I wanted to. I did really like the fourth book in the series. This one not as much. Again, Enola Holmes always manages to find and solve all her cases almost by coincidental circumstances. She is just always in the right place at the right time. I'm not entirely convinced it is her amazing detective skills solving these mysteries so much as coincidence and luck.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

129. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan

The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan. (Enola Holmes #4) Nancy Springer. 2008. 183 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So far, my only clients as "Dr. Ragostin, Scientific Perditorian" had been a stout, elderly widow anxious to find her lost lapdog; a frightened lady who could not locate a valuable heart-shaped ruby which had been given to her by her husband; and an army general whose most cherished souvenir of the Crimean War had disappeared, namely, his bullet-riddled leg-bone signed by the field doctor who had amputated it.

Premise/plot: Enola Holmes (aka "Miss Ivy Meshle") bumps into a former acquaintance--the young lady gone missing in a previous book. The young lady carries a PECULIAR pink fan and the fan language she is using to communicate with Enola, well, it signals trouble for her and a potential case for Enola. Turns out, she's being forced into marriage. The idea of her father--not her mother.

My favorite aspect of this one is that while she's investigating this case--trying to find her so that she can rescue her--she learns that SHERLOCK HOLMES has been hired by the mother for the same reason. So this one actually has these two somewhat working together. Their scenes together were quite entertaining.

My thoughts: This so far has been my favorite of the series. I haven't always appreciated the light, fluffiness of these mysteries. They've seemed light on history, light on mystery, and light on character development. I liked this one because of the scenes with Enola and Sherlock together.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, October 11, 2021

128. Letters from Father Christmas

Letters From Father Christmas. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1976/1999. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear John, I heard you ask daddy what I was like and where I lived. I have drawn me and my house for you. Take care of the picture. I am just off now for Oxford with my bundle of toys--some for you. Hope I shall arrive in time: the snow is very thick at the North Pole tonight. Your loving Father Christmas.

Premise/plot: The earliest letter from 'Father Christmas' to the Tolkien children is 1920. The latest letter is dated 1943 to his daughter, Priscilla. The letters speak of Father Christmas' affairs--his adventures and misadventures. Little details about the Tolkiens slip through, of course. He refers to their letters in which they mention pets and toys, etc. He speaks of Polar Bear, his greatest assistant. He speaks of red elves--some. But Father Christmas has a war to fight of his own--against the goblins! (Christmas is almost sabotaged several times!)

 My thoughts: How quickly time flies! These letters capture moments. I suppose that's as good a way as any to describe this one. We don't get to see the children's letters to Father Christmas through the years, but, we do get to see Father Christmas's letters to the Tolkien children... But children don't write letters to Father Christmas forever, one by one they grow up and grow out of belief. Still these are moments where we catch glimpses of Tolkien as both loving parent and creative artist.

Near the North Pole
Christmas 1925
My dear boys,
I am dreadfully busy this year—it makes my hand more shaky than ever when I think of it—and not very rich; in fact awful things have been happening, and some of the presents have got spoilt, and I haven’t got the North Polar bear to help me, and I have had to move house just before Christmas, so you can imagine what a state everything is in, and you will see why I have a new address, and why I can only write one letter between you both.
It all happened like this: one very windy day last November my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole. I told him not to, but the North Polar Bear climbed up to the thin top to get it down—and he did. The pole broke in the middle and fell on the roof of my house, and the North Polar Bear fell through the hole it made into the dining room with my hood over his nose, and all the snow fell off the roof into the house and melted and put out all the fires and ran down into the cellars, where I was collecting this year’s presents, and the North Polar Bear’s leg got broken.
He is well again now, but I was so cross with him that he says he won’t try to help me again—I expect his temper is hurt, and will be mended by next Christmas. I send you a picture of the accident and of my new house on the cliffs above the North Pole (with beautiful cellars in the cliffs). If John can’t read my old shaky writing (one thousand nine hundred and twenty-five years old) he must get his father to. When is Michael going to learn to read, and write his own letters to me? Lots of love to you both and Christopher, whose name is rather like mine.
That’s all: Good Bye
Father Christmas

Cliff House
October 31st 1931
Dear Children,
Already I have got some letters from you! You are getting busy early. I have not begun to think about Christmas yet. It has been very warm in the North this year, and there has been very little snow so far. We are just getting in our Christmas firewood.
This is just to say my messengers will be coming round regularly now Winter has begun—we shall be having a bonfire tomorrow—and I shall like to hear from you: Sunday and Wednesday evenings are the best times to post to me.
The Polar Bear is quite well and fairly good—(though you never know what he will do when the Christmas rush begins.) Send my love to John.
Your loving
Father Nicholas Christmas
Glad Father Christmas has wakt up. He slept nearly all this hot summer. I wish we kood have snow. My coat is quite yellow.
Love Polar Bear

Cliff House,
near North Pole
Christmas Eve 1940
My Dearest Priscilla
Just a short letter to wish you a very happy Christmas. Please give my love to Christopher. We are having rather a difficult time this year. This horrible war is reducing all our stocks, and in so many countries children are living far from their homes. Polar Bear has had a very busy time trying to get our address-lists corrected. I am glad you are still at home!
I wonder what you will think of my picture. “Penguins don’t live at the North Pole,” you will say. I know they don’t, but we have got some all the same. What you would call “evacuees”, I believe (not a very nice word); except that they did not come here to escape the war, but to find it! They had heard such stories of the happenings up in the North (including a quite untrue story that Polar Bear and all the Polar Cubs had been blown up, and that I had been captured by Goblins) that they swam all the way here to see if they could help me. Nearly 50 arrived.
The picture is of Polar Bear dancing with their chiefs. They amuse us enormously: they don’t really help much, but are always playing funny dancing games, and trying to imitate the walk of Polar Bear and the Cubs.
Very much love from your old friend,
Father Christmas


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, October 10, 2021

127. Abel's Island

Abel's Island. William Steig. 1976. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Early in August 1907, the first year of their marriage, Abel and Amanda went to picnic in the woods some distance from the town where they lived.

Premise/plot: Abel is separated from Amanda as a result of a sudden storm. Both seek shelter, of course, but Abel finds himself situated far from home (from a mouse's perspective) and on an island. Cut off by nature from the home he loves, Abel's challenged in more ways than one. He has to learn how to physically survive in a strange-to-him environment. He also has to deal with the emotional and mental stress caused by loneliness and depression. Will he ever see Amanda again? Will he ever get off the island? What does his future hold for him?

My thoughts: This was my second time to read the novel. I did know what to expect the second time around. Since I read it the first time, I've read Robinson Crusoe and ventured into Swiss Family Robinson. This is survival fiction that just happens to star animals.

I also noticed the second time around that it was his romantic (idealistic) gesture that led to their separation and isolation. Readers get his perspective,  not hers, but it must have been truly terrifying for her. To see him get swept away. And to not know if he even survived. She might have thought he died and blamed herself (for better or worse) for what happened. (Not that she asked him to save the scarf.)

2020 has also happened since I first read this one. I think the isolation and loneliness aspects of this one--and the NOT knowing when--if ever--things could/would get back to "normal" comes into play. Certainly the past two years have impacted how I read this one.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

126. How To Find What You're Not Looking For

How To Find What You're Not Looking For. Veera Hiranandani. 2021. [September] 384 pages. [Source: Library] 

First sentence: How to be the lazy one. It's harder than you think. First, lie on your messy bed wearing your Wonder Woman pajamas that are too small because you’ve had them since you were nine. Then, watch your older sister, Leah, pin up her hair for dance class. She sits in her black leotard at the small white vanity, her back straight as a board, a magazine cutout of Paul Newman taped to the corner of her mirror. She uses at least fifteen bobby pins for her bun. Count in your head while she sticks the pins in. One, two, three. She’s rushing because she has to be on the #4 bus by 9:00 a.m. for pointe class at Madame Duchon’s Dance Academy. She dances there every day except Sunday. You’re not even sure how she spends so much time at dance and still does well in school. Leah seems to do well at everything. Not you. You’re the lazy one. You’re just trying to keep up, but along with all the other things Leah does, she helps you keep up.

Premise/plot: Ariel Goldberg stars in Veera Hiranandani's How To Find What You're Not Looking For. The theme of 'how-to' continues beyond the title. Each chapter begins with a 'how-to' title. The first chapter being titled, "How to Be the Lazy One." The book is written in second person present tense, to "you." Ariel and Leah are sisters, and perhaps surprisingly close considering the seven years age difference. But when Leah falls in love with an Indian boy--as opposed to a JEWISH boy--bonds of all sorts are tested.

The novel is set circa 1967/68. It focuses on home and school, and all the DRAMA that occurs.

My thoughts: I really loved, loved, loved this one. Despite the second person present tense! I thought the characterization was great--very lovely. I thought the details were good. It was well-paced; it kept me reading. I love the writing. Very quotable. I also love the fact that writing poetry helps Ariel make sense of life. 

One of Ariel's poems:

The Ways of the World
The world has many ways
of spinning.
Many I don’t understand.
But love
is not that hard
to understand.
Doesn’t it just spin one way,
one person toward another,
without stopping?


Keeping a secret is not your favorite thing to do. Secrets make your stomach hurt. You can count on one hand the secrets you’ve kept. You once took a report card out of the mailbox and hid it in your schoolbag for a week. But you got caught. Sometimes when you hang out with your friend Jane, you make it seem like you have other friends. But you don’t. Occasionally you steal cookies from Gertie’s and keep them in a coffee can in your room. You’ve never had to keep a really big secret before, and certainly not forever.
Leah’s cheeks get blotchy, and her eyes start to fill again with tears. “Oh please,” she says. “I have to tell someone, and I need it to be you.” Leah saying she needs you—is there anything more special than that? Maybe if you know her secret, some of her specialness will spill over onto you. She bites her lip and grabs your hand.
You read the title on the album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You wonder what it means. Were the Beatles changing their name? Your hands feel sticky with ice cream. You press your thumb and forefinger together, and they stay stuck that way.
“I’m just so happy. I don’t want anything to ruin it. I feel guilty about being so happy.”
“Why would you feel guilty about being happy?” you ask.
“Because there’s so much wrong with the world,” she says and starts walking again.
There is, according to the newspapers. But you look around your town. You see someone driving by in a blue Chevy convertible. You see people walking down the block in sunglasses, sipping soda pop, riding their bikes, happy to be out on such a nice Saturday. This world seems okay.
“Do you know what happened at Rocky’s last week? A guy came in and heard Raj talking. Then he asked John, the manager, why he had foreigners working there and not Americans. He asked Raj if he was here legally. Raj said he was a US citizen, and the fellow demanded to see proof and wouldn’t leave! John had to threaten to call the cops until he finally left.”
“Gosh, that’s terrible,” you say. Now she’s walking so quickly, you can barely keep up.
“But our love is stronger than the racist establishment.”
“ ‘The racist establishment,’ ” you say, trying out her words.

How’s my muffin?” he asks.
“I’m all right,” you say and stuff the rest of the bread in your mouth. “Same as always.”
Daddy nods. “Me too, Muffin,” he says. “Same old, same old.”
This is what you and Daddy always say to each other after school. And every day, you know that you are not the same and neither is he. When you and Ma get back to the apartment, you go into your bedroom and take a sniff of the Chanel No. 5 perfume on the dresser, a sixteenth birthday gift that Ma gave Leah. The apartment used to smell of it when Leah was still here, along with her Breck shampoo, but you didn’t notice until she was gone and the smell faded away.
A little part of you still hopes you’ll find her sitting on her yellow-and-white bedspread, playing the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Or maybe even the Doors real quiet because Ma hates the Doors.


Ma does get headaches a lot. She calls them migraines and says she even sees flashes of color before they start. That sounds sort of magical to you rather than painful, but Ma sure does seem like she’s in a lot of pain when she gets them. Since Leah left, it’s been happening more often.
“Sorry, I mean your mom,” you say.
“It’s all right,” she says and is quiet for another few seconds. “He left my mom when he found out she was pregnant. They weren’t even married. And he never came back. My mom always tells people he’s dead.”
Now it’s your turn to be quiet.
“I was always afraid to ask. I didn’t mean to make you sad,” you say after a moment.
Jane shakes her head. “It’s okay. I don’t think about it that much. I never knew him, but I also don’t think my mom would care if I married someone Jewish. I guess most people aren’t like Peggy, though.”

Suddenly you feel the shape of your friendship with Jane changing, in a good way, like chocolate chips melting into a cookie as it bakes.

“The words I wrote might mean something different to you.”
Miss Field sits back in her chair and crosses her arms.
“They might,” she says.
“I don’t want them to. I want them to mean to you exactly what they mean to me.”
“That makes sense,” she says and pauses for a moment. “But that’s art, Ariel. It’s your gift to the world. People will see what they need to see. Sometimes it will mean to them exactly what it meant to you. Those people are your soul mates.”

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews