Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf ~ Featuring Garth Stein and Alan Bradley

By Lynn Willoughby

How Evan Broke His Head ~ Garth Stein

“Fathers never forget seeing their kids for the first time, but Evan is greeting his son, Dean, fourteen years late.”
This is the sum of the book. Evan believed his teenaged girlfriend, Tracy, had had an abortion. He’s even paid for it! Instead her family sweeps her up, moves away and Evan never sees her again. He get on with his life, then Tracy dies. Suddenly Evan is it – Dad! A single parent.

A surly, resentful, grieving teenager is not a beautiful thing. For a thirty one year old rock star – who is often on the road, who keeps late hours, who smokes marijuana for his epilepsy, who doesn’t have much of a home – it is hardly the making of “happily ever after.”

Now that he is a father, Evan will have to do something about his life. He is at odds with his own family and he and his father never see eye to eye, so he has no model. The biggest hurdle, though, means facing his epilepsy, that threatens to be episodic at every moment. His uptight upbringing has filled him with guilt, with anxiety and shame. Now, he tries not to have a seizure in front of Dean and is terrified all the time. The marijuana and diet that help Evan, become beacons for the troubled Dean and lead to mis-firings and misunderstandings all around.

There are a lot of relationship issues dealt with in this novel. They break, they mend, they break again. The tension Stein creates around epilepsy is often maintained for pages and pages. I applaud him for tackling the subject.

This is a great read – like Stein’s other books. It is funny. It is heart breaking. Read it!

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • How Raven Stole the Moon
  • Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 voices

Speaking From Among the Bones ~ Alan Bradley

A churchyard in the March moonlight should be enough to give anyone the willies – but not Flavia de Luce! This eleven year old detective is in the midst of a mess again, as she discovers the body of the choir master hidden in an already occupied tomb.

This is the fifth in the mystery series and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the earlier novels. Flavia is used to digging up clues, untangling mysteries and using her extremely unorthodox home life to keep us all coming back. These little books make good reading for all ages – in my family there were three generations of us reading them. After all, who doesn’t want to be entertained by hidden passages, a powerful diamond, a talking parrot, chemical reactions that all lead to solving the case. Very odd family dynamics, leprosy, lead poisoning and an attack on our heroine will keep the pages turning.

Flavia would be a terror in real life, but is both funny and charming as she deals with her potions and poisons in the book. The last sentence is a cliff hanger that will keep me coming back.

  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • A Red Herring Without Mustard

……………and others

Who Knew?

Symptoms of lead poisoning in adults include decline in mental functioning, pain and numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, memory loss and mood disorders. The use of lead in paint, gasoline, batteries, pipes, roofing materials and cosmetics are the leading causes in present day cases.

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