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Like spent fire-works, emptiness stings consciousness; it creates new space and raises questions: whether to distract empty hearts or to reframe empty scenarios more congenial to our tastes or to accept what is, with grace. Multiple experiences of loss have always demand change, with subsequent satiation and depletion—The cycle is endemic to human nature.

At the same time, emptiness activates the multi-faces of grief today, and there is much to grieve about: the global pandemic and death, the cancel culture, CRT, little people smarting under dictatorships, the physically and spiritually malnourished, psychic unrest dulled with substances, the rancor of political divisions, the killings, and so much more. Such angst can undermine the still small voice within our depths; though not heard at times, we are never alone, even in the midst of dire suffering. It’s about humility, about accessing empowerment when all seems lost.

The Psalmist knew this as well as Job and they thrived; through them, we learn that life brilliances with unimaginable depths and shores up the faint of heart. We remain in God’s hands, no matter what’s coming down around us …

Weave together the gifted Dalmatian puppy with a gold earring, with the Collins’s children and their adventuresome single mom, and the children’s story, Gypsy – The Refugee (2021), emerges as a rollicking romp, often at breakneck speed. Adding to the momentum are family pets: the cockatoo Tina, the ferret Hardy, and the boa constrictor Frankie; even more pets appear later.

Besides these elements—more than sufficient to create the Collins’s world—others seamlessly evolve: international espionage, the CIA, and the Oval Office. Fast-paced dialogue exemplified by peppery interactions of the mom and children brings this about as they discover Gypsy’s special gift and its helpfulness to those in trouble.   

What’s endearing about this children’s story is its template for the author Patricia Coughlin’s own family, and Gypsy, their loved Dalmatian; it was drawn from their life in the 1980s and embellished by decades of reading spy novels. 

The surprise ending leaves smiles upon readers’ hearts. This is a story about really caring. This oldster found Gypsy – The Refugee fun to read.

Gypsy – The Refugee can be found on Amazon and B and N.

Greed has horrific expressions but none so despicable as found in the novel Before We Were Yours (2017) written by Lisa Wingate, based upon an actual child trafficking case that continued, undetected, for three decades, until its exposé in 1950.  

The abuse took place at one of the boarding homes of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, Tennessee; its director, Georgia Tann. Widely touted as the Mother of orphans and unwanted children—even drawing the notice of Eleanor Roosevelt—she was far from that—cunning, manipulative, and money-hungry. Her accomplices were ever on the lookout for stray, unwanted children; lovely ones were ripe for adoption with lucrative fees.

The story stood by itself until the author fleshed it out with Depression-era river-rats snatched from a houseboat moored at Mud Island near the Mississippi River. Only after having been subdued and driven to Memphis were the Foss kids locked inside the sprawling white-columned home, in great disrepair, and forced to comply with the mean-spirited staff, including the sexually abusive janitor, and stinking accommodations. 

Suspense glistens on every page of this novel, Before We Were Yours. Seasonal changes, so integral to the plot, waft authentic colors, smells, and sounds into the southern panorama. Silence has never been more silent, nor sinister. Only an intrepid heart can follow the abrupt emotional and physical changes as the Fosses work out their destiny; their cat-and mouse stratagems with their jailers left me breathless.

Never having been involved with a child-victim of trafficking, I was deeply moved by Lisa Wingate’s brilliant handling of this material. Before We Were Yours is a must read.

Available on Amazon

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