Book Review and Author Visit – Martha Fitzgerald’s “The Courtship of Two Doctors”

The Courtship of Two Doctors:  A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Letter writing has become, unfortunately, a lost art.  In earlier generations, people would sit down and write some of the most beautiful letters to their loved ones, often including descriptive passages to give the recipient a little taste of their life and experiences.  The letter would be stamped, taken to a mail drop somewhere, and then carried by a variety of different methods to places far and wide.  Upon arrival at its destination, the letter would be placed in the hands of the recipient, who had often been counting the days until that next letter would arrive and he could finally read the words of the sender.

Many beautiful relationships were formed by these letters throughout the years, with the postal service acting as the go-between who connected the two parties together.  And then, after having been read, they were often lovingly kept together –  sometimes held together by a bit of ribbon or twine – so that they could be read again in the days to come, as the two parties waited for the next letter to arrive.

And then the internet was invented and letter writing as we once knew it quickly became a thing of the past.  These days, there’s no need for descriptive passages to describe the landscapes and events; we simply include a jpeg file of a picture in the e-mail.  Thank you notes have become a quick e-mail or text message, often reading something as brief as “Thx!”  We can’t even spell the words out anymore.   What an incredible loss!

What could be more fun, then, than to unearth the old letters of a young couple as they come to know each other and build a relationship? That’s exactly what Martha Fitzgerald has done in her book, The Courtship of Two Doctors:  A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing.  In tribute to her parents – and with a Prologue written by her father before his death – Fitzgerald has painstakingly collected and ordered the hundreds of letters sent and received between her parents, spanning from the early years of their beginning acquaintance as medical students visiting the Mayo Clinic in the 1930s, through their budding romance that begins to grow through their written letters as they separate to different learning institutions, and finally ending in a love that will withstand the test of time.  While separated by more than a thousand miles, the letters between the two cemented not only their friendship, but eventually became the very foundation of the love they would share for decades.

Fitzgerald’s book is not only well organized, but is also a very enjoyable read.  And what a beautiful tribute to her parents to have been able to bring their love to readers throughout the world!

Rochester readers, library patrons and area residents are in for a real treat tonight!  The Rochester Public Library will be hosting Martha Fitzgerald as she comes to speak about this wonderful book!  Join us this evening, Sept. 24th, at 7:00 PM in the auditorium hear Fitzgerald speak, and then stay around for an opportunity to have your own copy signed by the author.  You can even purchase a new copy if you don’t have one!

This is one author event you won’t want to miss!

Book Review – “Blackberry Winter”

Blackberry Winter
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love when a book can grab you by the throat in the first few pages, and hang on until the last page is turned.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Too often a book opens with wonderful promise, only to lose my interest half-way through.  Even worse is when a book opens with great promise, keeps me on the edge of my seat through every page, and then drops the ball in the last few pages.  So disappointing that so many books do that.  Thankfully, that’s absolutely not the case with Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  From the first few pages of this book, I was completely hooked; and, as I turned the last page, I did so with disappointment that the story had finally come to a close.  I would miss the characters.

Blackberry Winter tells the story of two women, Vera and Claire, both suffering the loss of a child, but separated in time by more than 75 years.

In 1933 Seattle, Vera Ray is a young woman on her own with her 3 year old son, Daniel.  In the midst of the Great Depression, she’s poor and her resources are limited.  In order to keep starvation at bay, she must leave her precious child alone at night while he sleeps in order to keep her job as a maid at a nearby posh hotel.  She kisses her son goodbye late one May evening and heads to work, only to be shocked early the next morning to step out onto snow-covered streets.  She rushes home only to find her precious son missing from his bed.

In 2010 Seattle, Claire Aldridge is a newspaper reporter assigned to write a story about a freak May snowstorm that has occurred on the exact same day as the one in 1933.  Struggling to find an angle for her story, she notices the police blotter has a brief mention of the disappearance of young Daniel Ray.  Further investigating reveals that his disappearance was written off as “runaway.”  But Claire knows – as every rational adult understands – that 3 year olds don’t simply run away from home.

What happened to Daniel Ray?  It’s a question that Clair simply cannot let go.  As she begins the investigation into what really happened to Daniel Ray, the emotional wounds of her recent loss finally begin to heal.  The need to learn what happened to Daniel and to his mother begins to give her the first “purpose” since the loss of her own precious child nearly a year earlier.  In order for her own wounds to heal, she must find closure for the disappearance of Daniel Ray.

Blackberry Winter is a beautiful novel of loss and healing.  The characters are compelling and made me feel such complete empathy for the plight of both women that I caught myself more than once with tears of empathy streaming down my face.  The story was simply riveting.

This book will be released on next Tuesday, September 25th, and will be available at the Rochester Public Library.

For more information about this book, you can visit the author’s website by following this link.

Check out the YouTube Video Trailer for this book:

Book Review and Visiting Author – Brenda Child – “Holding our World Together”

Holding Our World Together:
Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community

A Review by Marie Maher

History books contain many stories of great leaders, but oftentimes the stories about quiet greatness stay behind the scenes.  Holding Our World Together highlights the stories of remarkable Ojibwe women who struggled through trying times to preserve a valuable community; a culture that may very well have been otherwise lost. Unsung Ojibwe leaders, as one example, did the hard labors necessary to produce, process, and distribute wild rice in order to economically maintain a community.  The Ojibwe women handled all of these tasks as an effort to survive, and they were oftentimes the business leaders of a community that did not limit women’s roles.

The unsung leaders of the Ojibwe women maintained traditions and cultural values when patriarchal European settlers did their best to Christian-ize Native American spirituality.  These women were strongholds in preserving their culture’s traditions.  These unsung leaders fought for strong family values and stood up for their children.  When the government insisted (often forcibly) that all children be sent to boarding schools so that they could be culturally assimilated, Ojibwe women knew that wasn’t “right” and did their best to make their voices heard and regain custody of their children.  “It seems it would be much easier to get my daughter out of prison than out of your school,” stated one woman who bravely approached government officials to voice her dissent.

We all know that atrocities were committed against Native Americans as our country was developed.  Brenda Child’s book, however cognizant of these acts, looks well beyond destruction to the courage and perseverance of a nation’s women:  women  strong enough to help the nation survive and thrive.

Using oral tradition and written documents, Child brings the Ojibwe women to life.  More than a well-researched history of Native North Americans, and more than an acknowledgement of Ojibwe women’s accomplishments, this book is a tribute to the courage, resiliency and leadership of the Ojibwe women.  What a wonderful tribute Child has written!

As part of the Rochester Public Library Visiting Author Series, Brenda Child will be joining us on Sunday, September 9th, at 2:00 PM in the Library Auditorium.  Admission is free and open to the public.