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We give thanks for the daily gift of Warming and pray to remain open to its life-bestowing nurturance—Within it we thrive and share with others.

Happy Thanksgiving

From the eighteenth-century has emerged new friends, John and Abigail Adams, originally from a working farm at Braintree, Massachusetts. As husband and wife, their humanness enlivened my imagination: I was with them during their long relationship with its chilling hardships and lengthy separations.

Prior to this memorable experience, found in the pages of John Adams (2001), by the master writer, David McCullough, I only knew John and Abigail from history’s dust-covered pages about our country’s beginnings.

In McCullough’s perception, too few knew of Abigail’s emotional and spiritual and political support of John, of his intellectual brilliance and astute reading of character, his ease speaking in the political arena, his passion for truth, his sense of humor, his diplomatic work in Paris and the Hague that led to American independence—all these had been insufficiently addressed by Adams’s authors. So McCullough set to work. Years would pass.

Ruminating over John’s and Abigail’s letters, diaries, and journals, visiting all the places they had lived in America and Europe, and steeping his imagination with sensory impressions, McCullough allowed the story to take its present form in his unconscious, while ever critiquing what he wrote and checking his facts.

Readers of John Adams by David McCullough can’t help being touched by the immediacy of this piece of eighteenth-century history. As one of the Founding Fathers, McCullough honors Adams’s passion for American Independence, the form of government of the new country, and his role as one of the Founding Fathers.

Imagining and then composing sequels to award-winning books is a stiff challenge for any writer, but Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again (2019) pulled it off. Her readers first met the disconcertingly honest Olive Kitteridge (2008) that created a firestorm of interest: Here‘s a woman creeping over the edge of middle age whose honesty dances atop the knife-edges of sarcasm and humor. She’s either loved or hated in her coastal town of Maine, and thrives on the resulting tension. The first Olive Kitteridge (2008) won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and numerous accolades; in 2014 HBO put out a four-part miniseries.

Strout’s format for each novel merits comment: thirteen stand-alone segments, each containing short story components of setting, characters, plot and structure, conflict, climax, and resolution. Within each segment, the author weaves a significant piece of the plot from another character and thus carries the whole novel forward. Because this format necessitates the readers’ attending for these pieces, the emotional wallop is deep. 

Olive, Again picks up our protagonist in her seventies and eighties, still carrying her “big black handbag.” She has much to learn as she rear-ends the sensibilities of others, her barnacle-encrusted perceptions spewing anger, her shrinking world no longer working for her. Yet, she skates through on old age’s thin ice that sustains her and lands her ashore, with one true friend.

My experience with loss speaks of the authenticity of Olive’s: if accepted with grace, new life emerges from the old. We do change.

Available on Amazon

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