In 2002, the Daniel Boone Regional Library decided to start the community-wide reading program we now know as One Read. I was excited when it was announced that the first book selection was “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf. Kent Haruf was a former teacher of mine. This connection allowed me the opportunity to interview him for the library and to chauffeur him between readings and other events. Essentially, I was paid to spend time with the man. It was the best job I’ve been given in my time working for the library.
In every class I had with him he’d start the semester with a short speech to give the class an idea of the kind of writing he did. He told us about the town of Holt, Colorado, which existed only in his books. He said Holt was the kind of small town where everyone knew each other, “from the town drunk to the town mayor.” When he said that before a One Read event in Columbia, he got a little flustered. Columbia’s mayor at the time, Darwin Hindman, was there. Kent said he realized this was the first time he’d delivered that line with an actual mayor in the audience. Before a reading in Fulton, an elderly farmer and his wife approached Kent to tell him how much they liked his book. The farmer could especially relate to a scene where a cow gallops into the character Bobby and knocks the wind out of him. He’d had that exact experience many times himself.
Now I understand the true feat Kent accomplished in the classroom. We’re talking about short stories written by people in their late teens and early twenties. (I hope I’ve burned all evidence of mine.) Class after class. And he never seemed tired of us. He never made us feel like we didn’t have the potential, and he never made us think it could be easy.
Remember those good old childhood days of playing card games in a pretty old house while drinking hot chocolate and looking out the window at the limestone wall of a prison? Well, that might not be a typical childhood memory, but it gave local author Marlene Lee plenty of inspiration for her latest book, aptly titled “Limestone Wall.” The house that overlooked the prison, which happens to be the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, belonged to one of Lee’s father’s patients, and he would take her with him to visit the woman who lived there. In “Limestone Wall,” the main character, Evelyn Grant, moves into this very house in Jefferson City.
DBRL: Your most recent book, “Limestone Wall,” is about a recently widowed woman who goes to find her estranged mother, who is in jail for murdering twin babies. It seems like there are some pretty heavy themes in this book. Could you talk about your inspiration? I know that before becoming a full-time writer you worked as a court room reporter. Did that influence your work?
ML: I should make clear that my mother never killed anyone or went to prison! When I was a girl in Jefferson City, however, she died, and I’ve always wished I could see her again. This novel was a fictional way to think about what it is like to remember the past and to bring someone back to life and then to find firm footing between reality and wish-fulfillment.
My 30 years as a court reporter no doubt influenced the novel. The scene with Evelyn in the courtroom was easy to write because I’ve been in so many courtrooms. I also sat in that empty courtroom in the Cole County Courthouse so that I could describe it accurately and better imagine what it felt like for Evelyn to sit there, lost in thought about her mother’s trial.
I love chocolate chip cookies, especially fresh out of the oven. Two of my younger sisters remember baking cookies with me when they were kids. When I got married 34 years ago, they (ages 14 and 16) gave me and my husband a cookie jar shaped like Noah’s Ark to remind me of all the times I had baked cookies with them. Two years ago my older son said, “Mom, I remember baking cookies with you every Christmas. Will you continue the tradition with my son?” That year he and his wife gave me a Disney Cinderella cookie jar. (I am a Disney princess fan.) Since then my grandson and I have baked cookies together twice, and I look forward to doing it more often as he gets older. (He’s only 2 years old.) When I asked my younger son if he remembered baking cookies as a child he said, “Sure. I think that was the beginning of my enjoyment of cooking.” He now cooks for himself and loves to invite friends to his home for meals.
I always used the recipe on the back of the bag of chocolate chips until I discovered “Chocolate Chip Cookies: Dozens of Recipes for Reinterpreted Favorites” by Carey Jones. My goal is to try them all. It’s going to take some time (there are more than 40 recipes), but I don’t think my coworkers will mind being tasters!
My niece discovered a recipe that adds bacon to the cookie dough. Bacon! The cookies have a salty, sweet flavor. Just cook up 12 ounces of bacon, dice it, and add it to your favorite recipe. Or do a Google search for “Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.” There are many variations.
I’m happy to report that the first week of December has been designated National Cookie Cutter Week – who knew? It makes perfect sense to claim this week as such since the winter holidays are approaching and so many folks take up baking. Okay, and who knew there was a museum housing a collection of cookie cutters in Missouri? Well, if you didn’t, I can fill you in – I just found out recently myself. It’s in Joplin, and it’s officially called the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum.
Maybe you’ve guessed that I’m a little partial to cookie cutters. I’ve amassed my own small collection over the years, including an aluminum Santa Claus from my early childhood. It’s a sweet relic from a past life in which my mother baked a huge assortment of holiday cookies – between eight and 10 mouth-watering kinds. I don’t know how she did that year after year between singlehandedly raising four children and working full time. (The homemade, rum-spiked eggnog must have helped!)
I could never keep up with my mother’s high gear production, but I do like to crank out a few batches to enjoy with friends and family during this time. There is a little more work involved in making rolled cookies, but it’s worth the effort, whether you have kids involved (most love doing this) or not. Depending on your time and inclination, you can decorate them simply, extravagantly or not at all. One of the all-time easiest recipes to make is Scottish shortbread, with just three ingredients. I like to make this recipe, roll the dough rather thickly and use my heart-shaped cutter to make lots of little hearts, stack them in jars or boxes and give them as gifts. No one has ever complained.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year. We thought the timing was right to share this particular review since the film adaptation of “Wild” hits theaters next week.
“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” was an engaging autobiography about the author’s time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The topic was well thought out and never got boring. Reading a book with a setting that constantly changes really gets you involved in the character, and the way the writing flowed actually made me feel like I was befriending Cheryl Strayed throughout her journey. This was a charming read for the summertime!
Three words that describe this book: Wilderness for Dummies
You might want to pick this book up if: you are in the mood for a emotional, yet charming read.
Many library users take advantage of DBRL’s online tools, classes and reference collections to research their family trees. Creating a family history takes a lot of time and effort for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging for those who were adopted. In honor of National Adoption Month, we have gathered some tips and resources for adoptees.
- Start with yourself and your adoptive family. Write down everything that you already know about your adoption, and ask questions of your adoptive family, including information they might have about birth parents’ health, education, background and interests.
- Request adoption records. Laws for obtaining information about birth families vary by state. In the State of Missouri, nonidentifying information is available to adoptive parents, a child’s legal guardians or an adult adoptee. This can include the physical description, nationality, religious background and medical history of the birth parents or siblings. See www.childwelfare.gov for a summary of laws by state.
- Here in mid-Missouri, the Adoption Triad Connection helps adoptees find their biological roots. They generally meet every other month at the Columbia Public Library and provide search help and support for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents, as well as adoption professionals. I know of several people this organization has been able to help. Visit their website (www.atcofmidmo.com) for more information and for contact information.
- Register with state and national registries that assist in reuniting birth parents and adoptees when both parties consent. The International Soundex Reunion Registry is a good place to start. The State of Missouri also has an adoption information registry.