We have had the delightful experience of reading and discussing, along with the authors, two fascinating first novels. Our first was Barbara Shafferman's The President's Astrologer. Barbara's inside look into her writing process was worth the price of admission. Leslie Pietrzyk's Pears on a Willow Tree was a heartfelt and ambitious first effort that explored the bonds of mothers and daughters through four generations. Now, join us for our next FICTION/AUTHOR EVENT here on SeniorNet's Books and Literature Roundtable.
7% of your purchase price
will be donated to SeniorNet!
FROM the CHICAGO TRIBUNE: "Very rarely does a novel come along that so warmly evokes both the heartache and the humor that composes a lifetime. In this debut novel, Gregg Kleiner infuses an unforgettable story with all the beauty and lyricism of the Pacific Northwest landscape. Weaving a tale of immense power in his singular, magical voice, he tells the story of a man determined to realize an improbable dream.
Eighty-year-old George Castor promised he would never let his best friend Ralph die alone at the Silver Gardens Nursing Home - but Ralph passed on while George was away fishing. Distraught, guilt-stricken, and seeking redemption, George buys a broken-down mansion in Lookingglass, Oregon, paints it fire-engine red, and begins searching for other old folks to share it with him. Because George has made anew promise that will alter the course of the rest of his life. And, with the help of a miraculous old woman named Grace, he assembles a ragtag bunch of aging strangers, determined to make their last days on earth- and his own - an adventure."
"A lovingly told story of aging...an insightful story about reconciliation- finding peace with our mistakes and each other. And it's a poignant story about dying with dignity- or at least flair...[Kleiner] has captured the essence of aging in these endearing, cantankerous, and very human characters."
For our discussion of this book - No Discussion "schedule"
A SPECIAL WELCOME FROM THE AUTHOR TO SeniorNet READERS
I'd like to welcome everyone in advance, to what I hope
will be a good discussion about my novel, WHERE RIVER TURNS TO SKY. I thank you in advance for your interest in my work. This is especially exciting for me to be having a discussion with "seniors" about my book, because the story is about older people and aging and living and loving. I do need to let you all know right off that I personally prefer to use the term "Elders" when referring to the older people among us. I feel this term extends a sense of respect and reverence to these people, which is exactly what they--you all--deserve. In many cultures around the world, the elders are respected and revered for their wisdom and understanding, simply because they've lived so long and experienced so much. Unfortunately, in the West, and particularly in the United States, we've lost this sense of respect and reverence for our elders. We're obsessed with youth and remaining young and seem to have no time to think about aging or to listen to the stories our elders hold in their hearts. But I wrote the book as part of an effort to shine some light on the real treasure that our elders are. Instead of becoming invisible, our elders should be seen as vessels of wisdom, knowledge, and stories with much to teach. You people have seen so much during your long years on this earth, and younger people could learn vast amounts from you--if they would just stop (turn off the computer games and television) and listen to your stories. Stories hold so much power! So I thank you for taking the time to read my novel, and for discussing it online with me and other readers. We'll have a very good time, I'm sure. Until we get started on the 10th, I hope you all enjoy a relaxing holiday break and the beginning of a brand spanking new millennium. May the new year bring you all your dearest dreams.
Charles Wendell, Fiction Coordinator
VERY glad to have you with us and especially glad that you've decided to join us for this one. These Author/Events have been quite fun actually and you've put us over the top!! This discussion had been scheduled as "tentative" to see who might be interested. With you joining in, we can now go ahead. THANKS!!
Following is Gregg's response:
" Dear YiLi Lin:
Thanks for your note about writers groups. The most important thing about such groups is to pick people who are supportive and honest. Egos get in the way, and can cause such groups to do more damage than good. You don't need more than 5 or 6 people in a group. I suggest you attend a writer's conference or event in your area, and then "hand pick" a few people you'd like to form a writing group with (after you've heard a bit of their work). You might also try the local senior center or community college where they sometimes offer a course about telling your life story; you could pull a writers group together from among the other students. Set up the group so that there is a trial period during which people are committed to attending, and during after which participants can get out or be asked to leave if things aren't working out. The rules my groups use are as follows: 1. Each writer takes a turn to read a 10-15 minute chunk of their work aloud (sometimes we pass out the manuscript before the group meets so that people can come with the material already read). It's good to hear a piece aloud, both for the author and the readers. 2. If you're the author, you can NOT talk until everyone has had a chance to comment and discuss your work. The minute you cut in to "explain" or "clarify" something, the criticism is lost. It's hard to keep quiet, but you'll have your time at the end. 3. Designate a time keeper, who keeps track of the time so that each writer receives an equal amount of time for discussion of their work. I hope you can find a good group of writers who are supportive and good critics. Good luck!
Ginny: Andrea is trying to access the archived Geisha. Any ideas? Are there problems there> (I got in ok)
BC Online: Archived: A Civil Action (242 messages) BC Online: Archived: A Man in Full (339 messages) BC Online: Archived: The Country Life (106 messages) BC Online: Archived: Cold Mountain (201 messages) BC Online: Archived: Elmer Gantry (131 messages) BC Online: Archived: February Nominations (74 messages) BC Online: Archived: Memoirs of a Geisha (303 messages) BC Online: Archived: Palace Walk (195 messages)
Recently, a brother-in-law lost his mother - just before Christmas. He has two daughters about 5 and 6. Their grandmother lived with them (almost) in an upsatirs "in-law" apartment. Their reaction to her death and people's understanding of that reaction was quite interesting. While some felt that they didn't really "understand" - I preferred to believe - I really DO believe - that their understandiung was beyonf what we, as adults, can comprehend. Their reaction seemed, to me, more natural - more accepting. When a death occurs, we truly do grieve for ourselves, and not for others, don't we? At the memorial service, they wanted to have "fun." Wouldn't it be nice if we could learn how to celebrate, joyously, the passing of a loved life, rather than concentrate on the pain of loss...
---Romance: Silent Honor (79 messages, 2 new) ---Twentieth Century: The "Good" War (1711 messages, 2 new)
Jim – the “trip” and not the “destination” – well, that’s a Grateful Dead concept, is it not? (Note that Franklin’s Tower lyrics are quoted to start Part Two). In some ways this is about coming to terms with the destination of the journey in order to proceed.
.Jim - Good point about the paper girl. Similar questions always come up in my mind when reading fiction. It is always fascinating to wonder why certain choices were made as to who would be more fully developed and who would not. Always interesting to speculate about “minor” characters, and what they would have been like with a more expanded role. Notice how many novels are coming out these days from those “other” perspectives: Ahab’s, wife, Hitler's niece, etc. etc.
Thanks, Jim also, for your personal experience with nursing homes – I don’t have any. I wonder if others do and would like to share them?? EDIT - I post this just after Gregg so I need to read his post. Thanks agin, Gregg - you've been terriffic!!
I also have to say that George’s description of the fire that burned down his barn and the horrible death of the brood mare was a very good piece of writing. Do you all remember it? Striking a match brings the memory back to George. A burning horse running from the barn, crashing into a wire fence and getting all tangled up, thrashing and burning, the wire rectangles of the fence glowing red on the horse’s flesh after she has died…It’s odd – there are some things I can put down to creativity and imagination – but I always insist that – well, the writer just HAD to have experienced THAT particular incident first hand. The descriptions are just too powerful. I’m almost always wrong of course, but that just goes to show that the creative process can produce some very REAL images. Nice job with that one.
A paragraph from this morning's Wall Street Journal (Page Bi, Health Journal column by Marilyn Chase): Centenarians' Genes May Unlock the Secret of a Long, Robust Life): "At the National Institute of Aging [so-and-so] says the number of centenarians is projected to increase to 70,000 this year from 37,000 in 1990, and could grow to one million by 2050. While half of 100-year olds are in nursing homes, studies find up to a third of them stay robust and mentally sharp through their 10th decade."
Ball bearings all wore out, nobody greasing the old girl regular?
Funny story, by the way about your upcoming house painting. Just don’t think about putting in an elevator!!
As far as Grace having a skunk as a pet…well, it just fits her somehow. As Clara thinks when she first sees her: “There’s something about this woman that’s not quite right. Out-of-place. Odd.” A skunk the perfect pet to enhance this image, no? Same with the purple hi-tops. She really gives Clara the “willies”. “Skunk woman” she calls her.
Where OH where are the lurkers? Why are you silent? Come share your thoughts about this good book with us. I know you are there, I used to lurk to and keep my thoughts to my self, but showed the color purple in Chicago to let people know I was a lurker. I will be looking for you my friends. I find the kidnapping etc. funny as It is ment well for the people envolved. Have much more to read.
Thank you Gregg. You have a very good way of putting things funny and yet we understand what you you are saying to all of us seniors and I for one will read your next book along the same lines as this one. Thank you for the post to add to our books as your reconition of us reading Where Rivers turn to Sky and will be ALMOST or maybe better than you signing our books, who knows the future.
Kathy Hill It is my pleasure to meet you. I have not been in this disscusion long but I am enjoying this book.
My Mother could not walk, talk or eat but we stayed in her house where she wanted to die and did.
ENJOY your food to the fullest as it is special, ENJOY the net and share with us your feelngs about the books as we appriciate all of your in put.
Your special friend, ginger
This chapter leaves me with the impression that Clara is the mute Greek chorus of this book.
I think you are right on. Those portions seem to serve that function very well.
I think YiYi Lin is very perceptive in pointing out that groups of women are more apt to be the ones to set up something like Hogan House.
We have a local situation that while not a Hogan House has some of the elements of it.
I mentioned in an earlier post that one of our local nursing homes while not a member of the Eden Alternative has adopted and applied some of the principles.
In talking to a lady whose husband has Alzheimers and she is not longer able to care for him at home I learned a little more about this home as it is the one she has moved her husband to after some experiences resembling those of the Silver Gardens in the novel.
She reports that a group of Nuns, Benedictine Sisters from a local priory, have a number of members who now need the care found in a nursing home.
They have a section of their own at the home (even though it is not a home affiliated with the church) and members of the sisterhood are housed in that section.
It is an ideal situation for them and for the home as well.
This order was very much involved in providing various social services in the community.
At one time in the 60's they opened up their priory and established an alternative high school for kids who for one reason or another did not fit into the traditional high schools in the area. They were very successful using innovative methods such as having the students set up individual learning goals and working with them to achieve those. They finally had to disband the school, but many of their techniques have become standard now in alternative schools set up by the district.
Another group of local nuns worked with emotionally disturbed kids in another setting used more of a Big Nurse (tough love) approach with dismal results.
I recall having some of both groups in my education classes at the local U where they discussed what they were doing and how it was going.
I lost track of them but am happy to learn that they are still at doing their thing- providing innovative approaches to meeting community needs.
They continue their regular religious routines as a group, providing continuity and support for each other, but also work with other residents of the home as they are able to and as they can do so respecting the individual needs of the residents just as they did with the high schoolers.
Their situation provides that:
none of them will die alone
to the extent they are able they continue to be valued particpants in the community.
I wonder if some of their former high school students ever visit them at the home? I think I will explore this situation a little further.
Sounds like a place I would like to be if I become one of that minority of people that ends up in a nursing home.
In some future comments I hope to make the case for
Nursing Homes in some form
Government Regulations and Inspections
Not really an easy thing to do after reading River-Sky
You mentioned how you “could feel and see this character [George] in all of this [First] chapter.” Same with Clara, don’t you think? And I always find it fascinating when a writer can make two (or more) voices come alive. That really seems a difficult task. Both George and Clara’s sections give us a sharp picture. The intermittent Grace sections are gauze like – soft focus – dream like.
Ginger - I second that request. Hooray, Kathy!! Diane, Dodie, Emily, Genevieve, Lorraine, Nita, Prissy…Are you there? We’d love to hear from you!!
Jim - Look forward to your comments on nursing homes. The sad fact is that we DO need some government regulation here. Where there is profit to be made, abuses, cutting corners are always a temptation, I’m afraid. Even co-operative ventures wouldn’t be immune to this.
It stems from the fourties when I was setting at our supper table and I used a bad word describing my day at the niebors My dad said WHAT did you say and I told him what the neibor had said. He got up from our table and went to the neibors house to I thought kill the neibor who was our friend until then. Both of the wife's and us children were trying to separate them, it has left it's mark on me. I am not a prude. Just skipp these thing so as not to aquire them I think. I am enjoying your book.