Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet, Mingle, and Read -- Island Apart

Meet, Mingle, and Read (June 26, 2012)

“We’re all wounded in some way,” he said.  “It’s not what you have that makes you beautiful.  It’s what you’ve lost and still managed to go on living without.”

Steven Raichlen, Island Apart

Steven Raichlen has been many things in his career:  a food critique, a wine and spirits editor, a grill master, and a cookbook author.  His childhood dream, though, was realized when he published his first novel Island Apart, an unlikely love story set on the Martha’s Vineyard offshoot Chappaquiddick.  Originally titled The Hermit of Chappaquiddick, the story revolves around two central characters – The Hermit, a man who lives up to the definition of his nickname, and Claire, a woman surviving both breast cancer and divorce.  The two meet by chance when The Hermit discovers Claire in the aftermath of a minor biking accident and continue to escalate their friendship through the exchange of gifts of food.  “Food is essential and primal,” Raichlen explained.  And it’s expressive and important to both The Hermit and Claire, master chefs in their own rights, so this simple form of communication draws them closer without spending actual time together.  Eventually, they do break that barrier and discover kindred spirits in each other.  Even when faced with a dark past and an uncertain future, The Hermit and Claire fight for their desired happy ending.
            Raichlen spent some time reading from the novel as well as explaining his writing process.  He had a clear vision of The Hermit shortly after he and his wife began building their home on Chappaquiddick and that vision spiraled into including Claire and the other cast of characters – who they were, how they lived, what they did.  “I learned to write with an eraser,” Raichlen said as he took some time to discuss his editorial process with his editors and his agent.  Near the end of his presentation, he asked for questions from the audience, which prompted one woman to tell the story of a hermit she knew, thus sealing the universality of this sort of story.  We all have a “hermit” in our lives – someone who may have a rough or quiet exterior that shields a genuine and kind individual who may need to be coaxed out of his shell.  Island Apart is a reminder that the journey to discovering someone’s innate humanity is more than worth it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meet, Mix, and Mingle: Up

Friend of the Library and guest blogger, Sarah Wolf, attended last night’s program and had this to share. A big thank you to Sarah for writing this, and to Patricia for speaking at the Somerville Public Library!

Meet, Mingle, Read (May 31, 2012)
“I hope the book serves as a reminder not just to Alex as she grows,
but to all of us, that if you want to do something big, something daring
and grand and huge, then don’t automatically shrug and assume you’re
too young, too old, too weak, too busy, too poor, too frazzled, or too small.
Learn, persevere, sweat. Take the time to figure out how to do it correctly,
then go to it with a giant spirit of adventure and enjoy the climb.”
Patricia Ellis Herr, Up: A Mother and Daughter Peakbagging Adventure
On Thursday, May 31, 2012, Somerville writer Patricia Ellis Herr spent the evening sharing anecdotes and life lessons she learned while she and her five-year-old (at the time) daughter Alex took on the challenge of summiting the forty-eight peaks known collectively as the New Hampshire Four-thousand Footers (or 4ks). Starting out, this mother/daughter duo knew very little about what taking on this kind of challenge entailed but together, they quickly learned what the physical, material, and mental requirements were and proved that things like age, size, and gender don’t stand in the way of achieving a goal.
In attendance were Herr’s two young daughters Alex and Sage who have both successfully climbed all forty-eight peaks. The book focuses mostly on Alex’s quest for this goal but at the time of the book’s writing, Sage, who is two years younger, had not yet decided if she was going to follow in her sister’s footsteps. Since the book’s publication, Sage has “joined the club” and the family continues to set new hiking goals for themselves.
Herr is clearly very proud of her children and supports their inclination to think big and play hard. “I don’t understand parents that don’t let their kids get dirty,” she says. “It’s not a real hike unless there’s mud or blood.” Herr wants her daughters to get out there and find their passion. In their case, it’s hiking.
Herr spoke about hurdles along the way, namely unpredictable weather, the occasional wild animal, and nay-sayers who criticized five-year-old Alex’s ability to take on such a challenge both because of her age and her gender. Of all the potential set-backs, the idea that a stranger could dictate what Alex could or could not do based on surface factors got under the skin of both mother and daughter. A strong recurring theme in the memoir, Herr spoke about this with a great deal of incredulity. After all, Alex (and later Sage) proved more than capable of summiting those “grown up” peaks.
Up: A Mother and Daughter Peakbagging Adventure is a memoir about rising to the challenge – it’s about setting a goal and achieving it with gusto, something Patricia, Alex, and Sage Herr have all done in spades.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 1st, 2012 at 11:58 am and is filed under Local Writers, Volunteers.