Where River Turns to Sky ~ Gregg Kleiner ~ 1/00 ~ Fiction/Author Event
November 22, 1999 - 09:02 am

 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.

Gregg Kleiner

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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."

Yout Host was Charlie W.

Further Reviews from Barnes and Noble on this book

Additional reviews and Reader's comments

For our discussion of this book - No Discussion "schedule"

PART 2: Franklin's Tower(Lyrics)        Listen 

 PART 4: "Do not go gentle into that good night"


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. 

All best,

--Gregg Kleiner

Charles Wendell, Fiction Coordinator

Authors who've participated in Books discussions

November 29, 1999 - 07:30 pm
if you are interested in reading this book. The author, Gregg Kleiner, has agreed to join us here for the discussion. Leave a message here if you think you might join us.


Andrea Flannery
December 1, 1999 - 03:41 am
Even as a young child, my interest in gerentology was piqued; spurned on by the warmth and kindliness of our older population. I have personally experienced a great deal of pain and frustration while circling around the policies and politics of nursing home admission for our aged parents. The sociological problems inherent in our lack of care and concern is abominable. Your choice sounds delightful and I would love to join in.

As always, I am certain you will lead us "onward" in a reflective manner.

December 4, 1999 - 07:56 pm
Charlie, the subject of this book will be of real interest to me. At my age, (75) and surrounded here by people who are either on their way to a nursing home or contemplating moving in with their children. I've already put in a request at the library to hold a copy for me. I'm anxious to read this book, and it will be exciting to read what the author has to say. Lorrie

December 11, 1999 - 09:43 am
I'm planning to join you in the book discussion. Picked up the book yesterday at the library, and have already read to page 60. The story and the characters seem real. George is trying to cope with his anger and pain, and gentle Clara is held prisoner in her soundless and paralyed body listening to the mean comments of the nursing home staff. Gregg Kleiner's contribution to our discussion will really add to the experience for me.

December 11, 1999 - 07:38 pm


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!!

Jim Olson
December 13, 1999 - 06:50 am
Sounds like a book I would like to read.

I will be on the road most of January but with a notebook computer so would join if all the contingencies work out.

December 13, 1999 - 09:18 am
Glad you found this one, Jim.

YiLi Lin
December 13, 1999 - 12:48 pm
Not sure how this works, my first post, but I would certainly enjoy reading Where River...with you all.

December 13, 1999 - 01:34 pm
WELCOME, YiLi Lin. Glad you found your way here. You will be receiving an e-mail to help you find your way around. THanks for joing us. Look forward to hearing from you as we read this book.

Pat Scott
December 13, 1999 - 01:54 pm
Welcome, YiLi Lin, to SeniorNet and especially to the Books and Literature folder!

As Charlie has said, an email has been sent to you to help you as you further explore these RoundTables.

If you like to read, you are in the right place and I hope that you'll feel right at home here.


Barbara St. Aubrey
December 13, 1999 - 10:09 pm
Yea, Yea, yea Yili Lin How much fun ...I can't belive this...who would have believed! Of course you know what this means, if I wanted to read this or not I just must read it now so that we can coffee klatch over our thoughts...

Purple Sage
December 16, 1999 - 08:57 am
I just finished the book. Yes, I enjoyed reading it and leaves me much to ponder. It will be interesting to have the author in the discussion. I'm going to join you for this one.


December 16, 1999 - 09:33 am
PURPLE SAGE - Good! We're getting quite a little group for this one. See you then.


YiLi Lin
December 16, 1999 - 12:29 pm
I placed a online to our public library and reserved the book. Hoping it does not arrive while I am away, they don't hold them that long. I am looking forward to the first thoughts by others on this book. So Barbara, I'll make the virtual fresh ground winter blend coffee- you'll ...? Please, please souffle NOT- too many pots to clean hehehehehe.

YiLi Lin
December 19, 1999 - 12:04 pm
Well i lucked out and picked up where river...from the library yesterday, was torn between first chapters of river and last chapters of harry, but harry won out so i've only just begun the kleiner book. lucky for me they had it in large print but i still need glasses to get the fuzz off the letters- well that was a defining moment!

anyway not sure how this is working discussion/author day, etc. but i do recall something about we could send a question that perhaps the author would answer. well here's mine...

would like to know more about the people and writing groups acknowledged in the book. as a struggling writer hoping to become "an author" in this incarnation, i was intrigued by the possibility that all these people were both spiritually supportive and sounds like contributed to the honing of the craft. this has not been my experience with writing groups or tuition based classes, so i'd like to know if the author would be willing to comment on what made these groups work. thanks.

December 19, 1999 - 12:43 pm
YiLi Lin: You are rarin' to go, aren't you!! Nothing wrong with that, though. The author probably won't be checking in here until after we start on the 10th, but you have an interesting question. I'll be sure and pass it on to him.


Diane Church
December 20, 1999 - 11:44 am
Ahhh - just found my way here and can hardly wait. What an exciting idea to have the author join in on our discussion. I'm crossing my fingers that our library will have a copy available for me to reserve. Thanks for putting this together, Charlie.

YiLi Lin
December 20, 1999 - 01:08 pm
so talk about rarin- finished the book last night, i'll be on vacation but back by the 10th and will look forward to thoughts by others. Happy New Year.

Genevieve O'Leary
December 21, 1999 - 07:56 am
I'd like to get in on this if I can get the book from the library in time. I'm new at this stuff too, but I love to read, and this one sounds interesting. I might need help about how it works. Count me in, anyway. Genevieve

December 21, 1999 - 08:00 am
Genevieve!! Welcome, welcome!! We are delighted to see you here! I know you will enjoy this discussion, it is shaping up to be a great one, and you'll really love Charlie's handling of it.

Please look around in all our Books discussions, draw up a chair, and make yourself right at home!

So glad to have you,


December 21, 1999 - 09:39 am
Hi, Genevieve. Any questions AT ANY TIME - please - just ask. Glad to have you with us.

Jim Olson
December 23, 1999 - 09:29 am
I did get the large print edition from our local library and read it in one sitting (it does have a strong narrative hold on the reader).

Now I have to make some notes on a file I can take with me to ask some questions on the 10th as I will be using my laptop on the road (hopefully) and won't have access to the book.

If I can just keep most of my "wires connected" that long.

December 24, 1999 - 07:21 am
Hello All!!! School is out for a few weeks and I'm going to try to join you for the discussion of Where River Turns to Sky. I'm just finishing up East of the Mountains so should be able to get into this new one before the start date. I hope I can participate a little before school resumes on Jan. 18. I've missed everyone esp. since my schedule was so intense that I didn't even get a chance to lurk in any discussions. I've almost forgotten what it means to read for FUN. My plans for my holiday include reading, reading, and more reading.

December 24, 1999 - 10:29 am
Hey, Prissy. Welcome back! Please do join us. And have a wonderful holiday.


Andrea Flannery
December 25, 1999 - 11:43 am
So happy to have found you all. I am still up in the freezing cold of NYS, heading back south in a few days. I started this book on the plane ride up and have only a couple of more chapters to cry my way thru. I was slowed down by my interest in finishing the escapades of Harry Potter and friends, here at my daughters house. I have been quite intrigued with not only the mention OF but the references TO water in this novel, in many aspects. I began to mark them in my book after the 3rd chapter. When I reread this for discussion, I will be interested to know if they were ALL intentional. The tears, the moisture on the windows (like rain, etc.) I can't wait 'til we start. Although I am younger than these gentle, affable characters, I do TRULY understand their dilemmas, and have unfortunately, been in agreement with their distaste of nursing home politics and idiots. (That was a little harsh for Christmas day, n'est pas?)

As usual, I am happy to see that Charlie will be our "fearless leader" once again.

Welcome to Yili Li and a grand hello to my old friends, that I've met before.

January 2, 2000 - 08:29 am
I've just discovered you, so don't know if I can get the book, but I'm sure going to try. As one who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and narrowing it still, in Oregon...I can understand the author's natural inclination to include water, ie rain, tears, etc. Here...we understand the natural and spiritual of water. I find it powerful and appropriate. Now...to find that for myself in the book.

I'll be contacting my Coos Bay library tomorrow AM.

Andrea Flannery
January 2, 2000 - 01:54 pm
I am a water sign and have always believed in the mystical strength and powers of the waters. (As well as the skies.) I'm quite excited about discussing this book. It seemed strange reading this, along with the first wo Harry Potter books. Upon returning home from the holidays, I finished reading the epic, History, a Novel. Quite a diverse reading schedule i've experienced since joining you. I love it and love all of you for making it such a great experience to share.

Diane Church
January 2, 2000 - 08:31 pm
Darn it! My library had this book and I couldn't make myself wait to read it. I will only say that everyone has quite a treat in store for them. This was one book that just seemed to get better and better. If it's still on the shelf, maybe I'll check it out again and read it with you.

Interestingly, since then I've read, "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks, also about nursing homes and the elderly but a very different story. Funny how those two books popped into my life, one after the other.

Nita! Great having you here - you of the ocean and the rains!

Andrea Flannery
January 3, 2000 - 08:15 am
Come on along for our merry ride. Wouldn't it be fun to have watched these characters? I worked in a nursing home as a supervisor in the early 70's and what the residents enjoyed the most was the crazy, zany antics that we indulged in, daily. Just having fun, loving and caring together in a world lost to many. what a wonderful job & I feel truly blessed to have met many of those folks.

I love Sparks writing and hope to get a chance to read it. I have just started Memoirs of a Geisha, which came highly recommended by my two daughters. I must check the archives to see if we've read this one yet.

January 3, 2000 - 09:40 am
Andrea, we have, and since our inimitable Charlie led that one, we enjoyed it enormously! So glad to see such a fine group assembled here and Charlie will be back with us soon!


January 3, 2000 - 04:13 pm
I am going to call my libary tomorrow to see if it is there I have been buying so many books my house looks like a libary. I will donate them soon. I like to take them to the Veterans Hospital too. so it will be a toss up for me.

Glad to see some known faces here too.

Love Janie

Andrea Flannery
January 3, 2000 - 05:24 pm
I wrote to Charlie asking him how to access that archived discussion and cyber-heaven being what it is fouled up his reply so that I only got 2 words back. would you be able to help me with this problem? I was able to find the listing but could not click on it.

In lieu of the theme of this book, allow me to repeat a joke I received today on email.

Two little old ladies were driving through town together on their weekly excursion. Neither one of them could barely see over the dash board... When they came to the 1st intersection, the light was red and Mabel drove right through it. Astounded, Bessie thought, "Gracious, I thought that was RED, I am losing it." They proceeded on to the next intersection, where the same thing happened. Mabel drove right thru the RED light. Bessie, aghast, (improvision here) thought "I had better pay closer attention and make certain that the next one really IS red, before I say anything to Mabel, or she'll think I'm senile." Sure enough the next light was RED and away went Mabel--- right thru it. Bessie, looked at her and shouted ,"Mabel, What are you doing? You just drove through three RED lights, in a row." Mabel, looking confused, smiled and said "Damn, Bessie, I thought YOU were driving."

couldn't you just hug them?

January 3, 2000 - 06:35 pm
Which discussion, Andrea? We've had a time with our Access Lists here, it may just be a glitch!

That story is a HOOT! hahahahaha I love it!


January 3, 2000 - 07:26 pm
YiLi LIn asked the following question in her post #15:
"would like to know more about the people and writing groups acknowledged in the book. as a struggling writer hoping to become "an author" in this incarnation, i was intrigued by the possibility that all these people were both spiritually supportive and sounds like contributed to the honing of the craft. this has not been my experience with writing groups or tuition based classes, so i'd like to know if the author would be willing to comment on what made these groups work. 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!

--Gregg Kleiner"

Ginny: Andrea is trying to access the archived Geisha. Any ideas? Are there problems there> (I got in ok)

January 3, 2000 - 07:44 pm
WOW!! What a wonderful message to SeniorNet readers from Gregg Kleiner and to YiLi Lin, too!

Isn't this exciting? I have a feeling this is going to be one of our best ones, EVER!

Charlie, I can see no reason Andrea can't access the Geisha discussion, (too bad we had to remove your gorgeous illustrations).

Andrea, and anybody else who would like to access our Archives: Look up on the top of this page and click on: Books & Literature. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and you should see: Previous Books Read and Archives--Still Open for Comments (104 discussions). Click on it. When you get inside look for:
    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)

You can see Memoirs there and someday you will see WHERE RIVER TURNS TO SKY!

Write me if you have a problem with this?

Congratulations, Lucky Readers, this looks like a great one!


January 3, 2000 - 10:07 pm
I was extremely touched by the welcoming notes from our to-be-discussed author, and I'd like to say here, as an "elder," I only wish his attitude were shared by more of the younger generation. Thank you, Gregg Kleiner!


Andrea Flannery
January 5, 2000 - 06:09 am
What a stirring introduction. Kudos to you. You have managed to craft a warm, inspiring taste of all of our futures and have done a wonderful job ot it.

While reading this, I was also enjoying Harry Potter and I couldn't help making parallels. There were so many correlations and counterparts between the two. The basics in the life of children and the desires of the elders are quite similiar. Mr. K has done a superb job of showing us this.

Any thoughts on this ?

January 5, 2000 - 09:48 am

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...

Andrea Flannery
January 5, 2000 - 01:23 pm
The only way that is possibile, is to celebrate WITH them as they live. Unfortunately, with death, comes guilt as well as grief. Grief is an agony that is much shorter lived than guilt. With guilt we blame ourselves for injury, wickedness, or some mis conduct. Many times it is merely lack of attention that we are guilty of. We feel remorse because NOW we know it is too late. Even with all of that self reproach the guilt never lessens. Sooo-o- until we learn that TODAY we must make a concentrated effort in our own behavior, towards those we love, we will be susceptible to that grief, anger and guilt. The children never did anything to feel guilty about. They loved her , unconditionally, each and everyday and she KNEW it.

It seems as if grace, in this story had the right idea about death. You are absolutely right, Charlie. We always indulge in grief for ourselves, more than the ones who have gone before us.

January 5, 2000 - 05:15 pm
You are absolutely right, Charlie. We always indulge in grief for ourselves, more than the ones who have gone before us.

Alf, I agree with the above statement. We are grieving for our loss of a family member or a dear friend. That is why I decided I do not want a funeral. No party where I can't join in..

Give me my parties while I am alive and we can all enjoy them.


January 5, 2000 - 06:49 pm
Like inviting your friends to your own wake, right, Janie??

Malryn (Mal)
January 5, 2000 - 06:56 pm
A dear friend has made it possible for me to get this book, so after I buy it this coming weekend, I'll be joining you.

I'll tell you what. Long ago I told all three of my kids to have cremation for me, and then hightail it up to Maine on a lovely day and have a clambake out on the rocks at Nubble Light with a Dixieland band there playing all my favorite tunes. They understand that I'll be at that party, too, tapping my foot to the music, and that's exactly what they're going to do.


January 5, 2000 - 07:20 pm
Gee, I hope so, Malryn (and glad you'll be joining us). I must say I was a bit disturbed that the immediate family didn't really follow the last wishes of the deceased as far as what kind of service she wanted, etc. Yet, I understand too, that I was being judgemental and that they did what they needed to do for themselves.

Malryn (Mal)
January 5, 2000 - 07:41 pm
I can understand your being disturbed about that fact that the wishes were not carried out. My kids know I'll haunt them with loud piano playing in the middle of the night if they don't do what I want!

You're from Harvard! This excites me. I'm originally from Haverhill, MA.


Andrea Flannery
January 6, 2000 - 09:44 am
Can I attend your wake?? Wow, my favorite things. Water splashing against the rocks on the shoreline, dixieland music playing , CLAMS (my very favorite) steaming , and thinking of you tapping away. Now THAT is a celebration. I'll bring the wine. I am all in favor of cremation and have stipulated as such in my will. It still grosses out the kids. Oh well!!! Very happy that you will be joining us and sharing your views, which are always enhanced with the writers eye and the writers touch.

Charlie: Is Mr Kleiner attempting another novel, in the near future?

January 6, 2000 - 09:47 am
Don't know, Andrea. Be sure and ask him when he makes his way in here...

Malryn (Mal)
January 6, 2000 - 11:02 am
Sure, Andrea, if you'll let me go to yours!

It would be great to meet Mr. Kleiner through this medium. Since I do a bit of writing myself, I always enjoy meeting other writers, especially ones who've managed to be published!


Andrea Flannery
January 6, 2000 - 04:18 pm
It must be thrilling for him also, don't you think? His 1st published novel and it is selling like hot cakes. I'm very happy for him. We're awaiting your first master piece, Mal. Andrea

YiLi Lin
January 6, 2000 - 07:07 pm
just got back from vacation and have to ask a technical question- i thought if one subscribed to a discussion that automatically the posts would be bookmarked where you left off and the next time you sign on it would start from there- can someone explain this and if this is correct then how do you do it. i find here and over on harry potter i am missing so much information because i don't sign on to where i leave off and then with 200+ messages whew.

but anyway if i get the jist of this thread let me share with you all my funeral (or anti-funeral if you will) wishes are clearly outlined in my will and my executrix is clearly held responsible to be sure these wishes are carried out and there is no disbursement of any potential assets until AFTER the party and fireworks display. so how's that for living up to the reputation of "control freak". heheheh.

January 6, 2000 - 08:00 pm
Here's another "control freak" No funeral, no memorial, no trip to the cemetary, no burial. My body goes to the medical school in Iowa City, IA.. And they can keep it, replacement parts and all.

And I hope the children have a fun party. I keep thinking I should keep a case of Scotch on hand, just in case.

Malryn (Mal)
January 6, 2000 - 08:27 pm
Andrea, I have rewritten an autobiographical novel I wrote in 1983 and five other novels in the past two and a half years. There are two others which are not yet finished. One, a thriller, is practically done and the other, a serious book which starts in 1903 and traces a woman's life from birth until about age fifty bogged down when I began to write about the twenties when she is at my alma mater in Western Massachusetts. At the moment I am working on chapter 13 of a new one, a sequel to a very funny book I wrote last year. I needed a rest from the drama I finished just before Thanksgiving, so went back to farce. When I finish it, I'll no doubt finish the other two. So, anyway, take your choice. There is a mystery romance, a couple of thrillers, three very funny farces,one of which I'm working on now, another mystery, and, gee whiz, I can't remember what the others are about, oh, yes, one's a ghost story that takes place on the New Hampshire coast. Ask Claire. She's read parts of some of them and thinks I'm a writer. A man in WREX who was a professional newspaper writer read all of my last book and liked it very much. That was encouraging to me. I need a vacation, but first I want to meet a publisher....and soon!


January 7, 2000 - 04:48 am
YiLi LIn: Are you "Logging in" each time you come to the B&L? I thought that would automatically bring you to where you left off each time.

January 7, 2000 - 04:50 am
YiLi Lin: I'm not a technical wizard, but there are two ways that you can be placed where you left off in a discussion? One is by "subscriptions," which I don't like and don't use, and the other one is what I do, and that might help you?

I'm assuming you somehow come here first?

In contrast, for instance, I usually come to either the main B&L page or the Home Page? Then I login? Then when I look over the entire B&L menu I can see any new post in any discussion. All the posts which are new will indicate same by saying (xxxx new) after their titles.

Here's what it looked like in a couple of the discussions on the main B&L page to me this morning:


---Romance: Silent Honor (79 messages, 2 new) ---Twentieth Century: The "Good" War (1711 messages, 2 new)

There were more, but I have looked at all of them but these, so far, working my way down.

When you do it that way, you get to see all the discussions not only in the Books but on the whole RoundTables which you might have missed and you can go where you like. With subscriptions, which I'll let somebody else explain, you get thrown back every time there's a new post in the area you have chosen to subscribe to. I like to throw my own self around, hahahaha, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, if you come here first Books & Literature Just check way up at the top of the page.

You should see: "You are logged in as....."

If you don't see that you will see "You have guest access to browse, login, or register." When you login that way (and you do have to login some way or you can't post,) you will then see every new post in every discussion in the Books as I indicated above.

Hope that helps, if I can be of any further assistance, please write!


Purple Sage
January 7, 2000 - 09:16 am
I've had this book in my mind and wondering about the symbol of water being used throughout the book. I know when I dream of water...I try to remember if the water was clear or murky to give me a clue to my awake likfe. Murky would tell me either I'm in the midst of a learning time or clear I would be in a contented time. Water means healing I think. And cleansing. I will ask the author what water mens to him.


Kathy Hill
January 7, 2000 - 09:36 am
Seems to me there was a whole strand on this issue of water in the discussion of _Memoirs of a Geisha_. Could be.

I am looking forward to participating in this discussion. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of this book which I ordered. Should be here soon. Maybe we will have some bad weather that will force me to stay in & read even more.


January 7, 2000 - 09:39 am
YiLi LIn: Are you "Logging in" each time you come to the B&L? I thought that would automatically bring you to where you left off each time.

Andrea Flannery
January 8, 2000 - 08:07 am
I'm reading Memoirs of a Geisha now so I can answer that question. Chiyo as a girl was told she had a great deal of H2O in her personality. "WATER NEVER WAITS. IT CHANGES SHAPE AND FLOWS AROUND THINGS, AND FINDS THE SECRET PATHS NOONE ELSE HAS THOUGHT ABOUT- THE TINY HOLE THRU THE ROOF OR THE BOTTOM OF A BOX. " I especially enjoyed that, as I had recently finished When Water turns To sky. It is the most versatile of the 5 elements. It cna wash away earth, put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and sweep it away. Even wood, its natural complement, can't survive without being nurtured by water, she is told.

I wonder if Mr. Kleiner read the Geisha. Chapter 9 states. We lead our lives like water flowing downhill, going more or less to one direction until e splash into something that forces us to find a new course. That is exactly what our protoganist in his story did . Ergo, the red house...

YiLi Lin
January 8, 2000 - 09:17 am
Thanks for all the input- yes i thought subscription automatically brought you to last read message rather than only the days recent. i'm thinking this might work only if you log in at each page rather than the login at the opening page????

look forward to our continued exploration of the water symbol. now that i think of it so many literary works have used water, i somehow recall the use of water by many authors, Henderson the Rain King, Like Water for Chocolate, Jamaica Kincaid's works, Jean Rhyss etc. In this book I noted that the water kept moving, so in a way for me I created a personal symbol for this book that the water reflected the passage of time- and in a way an urgency of time running out.

Purple Sage
January 8, 2000 - 02:25 pm
I thought about the area where River turns to sky. That space in-between that we can't really see. It's off in the horizon but we don't know what is there. I wonder if that is between life and death?


Andrea Flannery
January 9, 2000 - 06:07 am
Perhaps that place between river and sky is TODAY! Perhaps, it is that intersection between here and "there." OR, perhaps that is the venue where we all "meet our Maker." Hmm-m-m- another point to ponder.

January 9, 2000 - 07:42 pm

Purple Sage, Alf , YiLi Lin, Kathy: There certainly is much “water” symbolism to think about here. As we start out, George is wracked with guilt about the death of his friend Ralph. Ralph has “gone on down the river.” It is a nice image. And you can envision watching someone going on down the river until you can’t see them anymore. They disappear at that place, in fact, “where river turns to sky”. There are immediate intimations that George himself will be going down the river soon – although he seems not to be aware of that. But this guilt thing…..There is a specific reason which George gives for the guilt he feels – but is it more than that? Is there perhaps some of the guilt of being left behind? Not having gone down the river himself, as yet?

Purple Sage
January 10, 2000 - 05:39 am
Guilt! Guilt that Ralph has died alone. It wouldn't matter what he felt guilty over as I believe guilt is part of grieving. And our human nature will find something to feel guilty about when someone dies. I think George is the one who does not want to die alone. He surrounds himself with people who are themselves loners. Also he feels indebted to Ralph for the long ago help that Ralph gave hime.


Jim Olson
January 10, 2000 - 06:00 am
We seem focused on that point where the River Turns to Sky where a phase of the cycle of life is complete, but I think that was not a concern for George.

He seemed much more interested in the trip than in the destination.

He seems to have two almost contradictory personalities- The one is outgoing and dependent on interaction with others (like his experiment with catching the paper "boy's" throws) which compels him to his project with the group.

The other is introspective and depends on being alone on a trout stream- all trout fishermen I've ever known are like this- an almost spititual experience where one blends into the "river" and the sky and the bank etc. and becomes a part of it.

But out of the stream George is a lonely old man- his wife is gone- his son's death only finalized a separation of some time.

Dying alone is a metaphor for dying alienated from the oneness of life.

It's not really guilt that drives him to do what he did but his own need to be a complete person.

YiLi Lin
January 10, 2000 - 09:23 am
A little bit different perhaps, but I wonder if he is guilty because he fears death or if not fears does not want to pass on yet. I wonder if that bond of friendship as well as love for family is choking him- like he's supposed to want to pass on because these beloved are no longer here or pass on to "be with them" in another place. Yet he may be in a period of reassessing his belief system and his vision of "loyalty". So I'm suggesting survivor guilt is not just about still being here, but wanting to still be here. ??

January 10, 2000 - 09:47 am
Purple Sage – I have heard this expressed before – that “guilt is part of grieving.” I don’t know that I understood it. But, as expressed by YiLi Lin - well it makes sense to me in that way. I think that is right. You (PS) also make a good point about George not wanting to die alone. That, more than his “guilt” is perhaps the reason he does what he does.

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 Olson
January 10, 2000 - 11:43 am

Yes, I imagine coming to terms with various possibilities of destination is important. I was speaking of George.

I don't think that determined his choices.

But in the circle concept there is no destination as the journey continues- river turns to ocean- evaporates- turns to rain- back to river etc. etc.

Just as the novel follows the compass points and their color symbols from Native American Spirituality and the compass continues around and around.

Just as the Sun Dance follows the compasss and circles the sacred Cottonwood with dancers sacrificing bits of flesh in the process-

So it goes.

But this is not necessarily my theolgy-

Gregg Kleiner
January 10, 2000 - 01:33 pm
You all are great readers! Thanks so much for your comments about my story. I'll try to respond as best I can. But I like all your ideas! Bravo and thank you for participating. I already feel enriched by your comments. As with any art form, there are not "right" and "wrong" answers...it's all interpretation, is it not?

Yes, there is usually guilt when there is death. And yes, George is the one unknowingly running from his own fear of death, which is why he frantically surrounds himself with other people, telling himself that he's trying to make it up to Ralph, when in reality, he's attempting to build a barricade against his own fear (some of which stems from the deaths he experienced as a young man, especially his mother's...we carry these experiences with us, seared into our psyches all our lives, don't we?). I believe most humans in the West these days have a deep sense of fear when it comes to death. I know I do, which is part of the reason, I'm sure, that I wrote this novel in the first place. I often marvel at the native peoples of the world who did (and still do) NOT view death with such fear; it was/is simply part of living, akin to birth. In fact, one need not go back very many years to see where death was much more integrated into life: fatal accidents and disease were much more common, and people buried their own dead, so the thread of death was woven into the bulging braid of life. Today, however, we have funeral homes that attempt to "soften" and sanitize death for us. This is one of the reasons I included the scene in which George and Grace wash Fred's body, in the home. In the Jewish tradition, this is still done...the loved ones and members of the community prepare the body, instead of a funeral director you've never met before. I believe if death were more present to all of us, we'd have less fear about it. Most of us don't fear birth, do we?

But let's move on from death to water. Yes, the water image is present throughout the novel. Water symbolizes so much. And a river indeed makes an incredible journey. Yet rivers are only one-half of the circular path water makes: water rises from the seas in the air, is blown inland contained in clouds, and falls on the land to flow back toward the sea in rivers. Again, in Western cultures, we tend to view life as linear...only the river part, if you will. However, many native cultures view life as circular, so there is no real "end" to fear. In this novel, I use the Hopi aspects, and the character of Grace, to illustrate some of these native peoples' beliefs, and to contrast them with our own. I believe we have so much to learn from the peoples who lived on this earth before us (as we're learning with ancient Chinese medicine vs. modern medicine). This is also why I believe that the elders among us (such as you all!) have so much wisdom to share with us before they "go on around"...if we'd only just slow down and listen. More later. --Gregg

January 10, 2000 - 08:03 pm
Welcome, Gregg – and thanks for joining us. Yep. That was me – thinking in straight linear terms!! It really IS a habit. I must say, I really loved the Clara character – to draw a character in a wheelchair, a stroke victim without voice, who was a singer-piano player – well the contrast really made her alive. I kept thinking what an interesting life she must have led! She has her OWN guilt of course. Interesting choices to have the narrative framed mainly around George and Clara – with Grace only having her few dreamlike sections. Grace seems so central to where George (and Clara, perhaps) are headed – and yet the ‘linear’ narrative moves between George and Clara. It works very well. Interesting choices.

Purple Sage
January 11, 2000 - 03:55 am
Grace raises in me fear. She is strange and magical. I question why I fear her. Is it her stangeness or her old woman quality? I find myself reading fast through her narratives. I am more in touch with Clara. I like Clara. Have others felt fear with Grace? Grace is also of nature and I fear nature. Earthquakes, floods, storms, etc. all frighten me. Grace has this element. Also I can't control 'Mother Nature'.


Andrea Flannery
January 11, 2000 - 04:14 am
Purple Sage" Fear not! Grace represents mysticism. I see her in a fanciful way. She is shrouded in magnetism. She is enchanted and enchanting. Her narratives are extraordinary. To me, she is at the bridge, making the transition "where the river turns to sky" easier for the mere mortals.

Mr. Kleiner's acknowledgement speaks for itself, as he says. "This book is not mine, it is ours.!" Wonderful, Greg.

When I first started reading this, I referred to my Native Am. treasures that I've kept while traveling thruout New Mexico and Arizonia. My favorite book of all time was She Who Remembers.. There are so many parallels to the Anazassi culture, in regards to the manner in which they viewed death. Mr. Kleiner, are you a Native Am. scholar?

Andrea Flannery
January 11, 2000 - 04:20 am
I was most impressed with that 1st chapter as George gets "pelted" with the rain. I felt the flooding, soaking, splashing hard-driven rain as George became consumed with grief, with fear and guilt. Masterful analogy.

Andrea Flannery
January 11, 2000 - 07:05 am
That's it! The Zia, is the sun symbol, sacred emblem of the Zia pueblos. This sign is on the NM state flag and many official and (unofficial documents.) The 4 lines or bars extend in 4 directions from the sun. Four is the sacred number to the Zia, and the sets of rays on their symbol are translated thusly: TOP- the 4 winds blowing from north, south, east, and west; Right side- morning,noon, sunset and night-time; BOTTOM-- spring, summer, winter, fall; and LEFT stands for infancy, youth, adulthood and old age. All of these are bound together by the sun at the symbols's center, signifying the circle of LIFE without beginning or end.

Part I of our story is NORTH. What is the yellow? Any ideas Charlie?

YiLi Lin
January 11, 2000 - 08:20 am
I liked Clara's "tunnel vision" and the author's description of what she saw (and how she saw it). When I had an extended illness, I recall that I had intuitively shut down a lot of external stimuli. In the hospital my sense of space and world was at first defined by that damn curtain then even more limited as I got a bit weaker and my space and vision was limited to the area of my bed. I remember being so aware of that and within that confined space created a world wherein i focused energy for recovery. To this day I can recall what I "saw" through my own tunnel vision at the time and can relate to this character.

Malryn (Mal)
January 11, 2000 - 08:29 am
I'll be joining you in just a few days. What Andrea said in her post reminded me something I published in one of my electronic magazines by Eagle Man, Ed McGaa, an Oglala Sioux, a lawyer who has written some marvelous books. In his book Mother Earth Spirituality there is a chapter called The Significance of Four. I am posting a portion of that chapter here.

"There are four faces, or four ages: the face of the child, the face of the adolescent, the face of the adult, the face of the aged.

"There are four directions or four winds, four seasons, four quarters of the universe, four races of man and woman......red, yellow, black, and white.

"There are four things that breathe: those that crawl, those that fly, those that are two-legged, those that are four-legged.

"There are four things above the earth: sun, moon, stars, planets.

"There are four parts to the green things: roots, stem, leaves, fruit.

"There are four divisions of time: day, night, moon, year.

"There are four elements: fire, water, air, earth.

"Even the human heart is divided into four compartments.

"Since the Creator has made so many things in four, the Indian, therefore, strives to express in ceremony and in symbology a reflection of four: There are four endurances in the Sweat Lodges, four-direction offerings in the Pipe Ceremony, and four-direction facings in the Sun Dance."

Purple Sage
January 11, 2000 - 09:11 am
Also the animals in the story. Max, the skunk, the birds. I can't recall if there are four women and men.

I guess you can tell that character interest me in most novels. It may seem strange, but I know Emma. To me...Emma has been either abused or she has learned to mistrust. She lives a life enclosed in food, which gives her comfort, and the Tv which gives her a family. She can't see Fred. Too risky. Not only is she lazy, partly her size, but she is grumpy, because she can't afford to like anything including herself. I'm not sorry for her as much as I hope she learns her lessons in this lifetime.


January 11, 2000 - 12:24 pm
Hi.I haven't finished the book yet.I love the characters-rhino reminds me so much of the Ad-ministrator at my mom's nursing home.I'm wondering about the picture of "old folks" I like the ingenuity-fixing up the ball field, playing catch with the young paper gal, but painting Hogan's house red with yellow trim? Perhaps it's striving to learn still is wonderful for these elders. Emma-I've had so many relatives like her,I hate to think.And the circle is I've thought a real part of life-coming back to so many beginnings-with I sometimes feel, death as coming back to our beginning.

January 11, 2000 - 01:33 pm
Glad you found your way here. Rhino remind anyone remotely of Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over….??

Gregg Kleiner
January 11, 2000 - 05:39 pm
Hi Charlie. Thanks for your comments. Don't worry about thinking in straight lines. The world needs those, too! But curves and circles are good. Yes, I wanted the challenge of writing from the point of view of a character who can't speak (Clara). I also wanted to show that there is often a great deal going on inside the heads of those who can not communicate with voice. Clara is indeed dogged by her own guilt, but she arrives, at last, by chance, at a good place. Grace, of course, is the spiritual core of the novel, and, as ALF said, she is the "bridge" for the others...Grace knows what she's doing, knows why she's there, yet she's not heavy-handed. I'm sorry she spooks some readers. Readers seem to either like her very much, or not at all. She's one of my favorite characters. Many folks ask about the bold sections, are confused by those, wonder who and what is going on. I tell people to see them as abstract paintings you pass by as you read...interpret them as you'd like, but don't worry about "getting" them. They do all deal with Grace from a very "pulled-back-camera" point of view...I wanted the reader to see Grace, but not through the eyes of George or Clara. And I wanted these sections to break up the see-saw rhythm of George and Clara's voices. I'm rather busy with my work for money (not fiction, unfortunately, but other kinds of writing, like journalism, marketing/advertising copywriting, and some editing), but I will check in here as often as I can. Thanks to all of you for your comments. I'm very much enjoying this, and only wish I could respond to each of you individually. I'll try my best. More later. --Gregg

Kathy Hill
January 11, 2000 - 06:22 pm
Wow, the author! This is too cool.

At last my book arrived today. It is a very cold winter's night. I am kitty sitting for 3 weeks. I hope I can get this cat cuddled in so that I can start on what looks like a very interesting book.


January 11, 2000 - 06:56 pm
Sage - At first I though Grace was not “real” – a vision, actually. I though she might be a “shape shifter” or something. I’m sure, as Andrea hinted at, she is easier to understand with a familiarity with native American cultures and mysticism. (Where IS my Carlos Castaneda, anyway??!!) She is a difficult character to get a handle on. Her sections were the most difficult for me, although I wouldn’t say that she raised a “fear” in me. Her leave taking though was very poignant and made her more real for me somehow. And yes, the animals…have you all ever danced with your dog like George? Or is that a guy thing? Oh, I’ve danced with my dog many a time. That tail just a waggin’!! And I’ll admit it – yes, I’ve played my harmonica too, and my dog howling along. Don’t tell anyone. OK?
Andrea - Do you think the key is learning to “jog along inside the rain”? to avoid being pelted? Thanks for that ZIA, Andrea. And thank YOU Mal for the selection you posted here. Terriffic stuff! George is certainly in turmoil in Part 1 – being buffeted about? The colors eluded me though. But I know that SOMEONE will come up with something that I can nod my head at – they always do. Like YiLi Lin who has already completed truncated thoughts I had and expressed what I couldn’t quite get out. She captures what was appealing about Clara. Thank you. And what did you all think about Clara’s little thought hiccup, repeating the last word of her thought. Something about this feels so right – something in the thought process that I could imagine from a stroke victim. And she ‘misses her voice’. That’s great.

January 11, 2000 - 07:17 pm
I feel so fortunate to be involved with this discussion group. Having comments from the author has added such joy the reading of the book for me. I really liked the character George. I agree with Jim Olson that George seemed more interested in the trip than in the destination. But I’ve often found that the trip is where all the adventures are, and that sometimes waiting for something it the best part. Maybe some people have dreamed of the day the house would be paid off, when they could relax and enjoy life, just to find that some of the best times were the lean times, with not much money to go to exotic places. Maybe they look back and find that the really good memories are of the times at home playing cards with family and friends, or playing marathon Monopoly games with the kids. And who hasn’t thought that the best time with kids will be when they're grown, only to remember their smiles and silly giggles that can’t be replaced. And sometimes looking at adult/children one can wonder where that wonderful kid went. And those times, all those smiles-- that’s what life it about-- that’s the trip! And George knew that! George was clearly an action person, although sometimes without much thought of the consequences. It may be that the action kept his fears at bay, but I’d rather think that action was just his plain old talent of taking the “hand he was dealt.”. Ralph died alone, but George was determined to prevent the same thing from happening to others. He turned his sorrow and guilt into something that could help others and himself. Life for George was heartbreaking, as it can be for anyone, but "he kept on truckin’."

Andrea Flannery
January 12, 2000 - 04:43 am
LORRAINE: Correct! Thank God for the Georges of this world. How marvelous to have leaders who give a damn amongst us.

MAL: Yes, yes, yes. It all comes back. As usual, you are a wealth of information. Thanks for the post.

GK: Having you with us just tips the scales.

Chas: WHO hasn't danced with dogs? ooops! Thants not what you meant is it?

Claras condition is called expressive aphasia; the inability to express herself as she wants. Many stroke victims have this malady. It is one of the biggest hurdles and aggravations that beseige stroke victims. In their minds, they know what they want to express, but thru the damaged brain pathways it does not come out as such. Grown men cry and nurturing women curse when beset with aphasia. It takes these people a very long time to express one word and still keep the thought alive; ergo--- the last word is repeated. As a nurse, I always attempted to address this problem with a bit of humor. "YOU are not gonna believe what words you'll hear come out of your mouth." Then I would whisper--- "you'l be able to say things that you've always wanted to say and didn't dare." WHISPER is the key word here. Their sense of hearing is seldom affected, yet families and loved ones enunciate LOUDLY and emphatically, as if that could facilitate a patients response. As Clara tells us, the stroke took not only her voice, but 1/2 of her body. How well she compensates. No? She's colorful and she sees colors. Being well aware of these maladies, she knows that her "eyes, ears and whiffer are all the sharper." It's a great idea GK has --- no voice , only a mute determination to live the best way she can as she witnesses life marching right along, as if she WERE playing the accompaniment.

Jim Olson
January 12, 2000 - 07:38 am
The author speaks of the three speaking voices in the novel

The first person view of George, that of Clara, and the third person voice that speaks about matters related to Grace.

I found this very effective in creating the narrative as each voice developed the story line from a different perspective.

Early on I realized that both of the main speaking voices would probably not survive (ala the Poisonwood Bible) until the end as one had to remain to end the story with an account of the others or at least one had to be given the role of last speaker.

That added a little tension to the reading to wonder who that would be. I suspected Clara since hers was the most objective- common sense- view in spite of her handicap-or maybe because of it.

I would have liked to be able to hear a third first person speaking voice, that of the paper girl. I think she would have been an ideal additional voice to tie together the generations and complete the circle of life .

Did she ever, for example, learn from her participation in the story that she too would grow old and did she ever wonder if what she was seeing was in some way a preview of the other side of the circle?

I would have preferred her as the third voice as I felt the amorphous Grace related voice was the weakest link in the novel. I felt it was too closely aimed at a central theme- pushing the reader in a direction the reader should have been allowed to go on his/her own as the story unfolds from the other perspectives.

One of my teen age granddaughters recently gave a harp recital with one of her friends at the local assisted living/nursing home where my brother stays (called Oak Gardens with a glass door similar to the one in Silver Gardens).

She does this two or three times a year at local nursing homes and always stops to talk a little to residents who come up and ask about the music- the harp-etc.

I wonder what she thinks of them (and they of her) She never talks much about it but seems to enjoy talking with the residents and playing for them. I'll ask her this summer as we spend a family week at a resort in northen Wisconsin and it is one of the few times I get to talk with grandkids as they are constantly busy most of the year.

There is a Nursing Home plan called "The Eden Alternative" that attempts to solve some of the issues about aging that the novel develops so well (borrowing a little from from Cuckoos Nest- as Charlie points out)

I visited one in St.Paul this fall where one of my brother's friends stays (post polio syndrome) and was impressed with it.

Residents have a big hand in making decisions and carrying out activites, animals roam about the halls and rooms - specially trained dogs and cats, (no skunks) in summer there is an actual garden, etc.- medications are kept to a minimum- There is a nearby park where residents can walk the dogs (Swede Hollow Park-)

There is intergenerational activity as well as local school kids assist with the animals- maintain aquariums, aviaries etc.

But this is the exception, and as yet there is no solid scientific evidence as to its effectiveness. Unfortunately most nursing homes resemble Silver Gardens and many are much worse. Oak Gardens is somewhere in the middle.

Gregg Kleiner
January 12, 2000 - 09:50 am
LoarraineT and Jim Olson have some excellent thoughts about how it is often "the trip" and not "the destination" that counts. My wife, Lori, and I have two children (7 and 4, boy and girl), and I am constantly shocked by how they are growing up (much too fast for us!). And so I thank you Lorraine for reminding me that the moments when you're playing games with your children near the woodstove, or dancing on the living room rug together, or reading to them snuggled into the couch, or watching their faces when they sleep are the most precious. I try to sear these moments into my memory, so they'll not fade too fast. I also attempt to live in the current moment, with not too much thought about the future or the past, but that's a hard thing to do in our culture. It must have been easier when life was simpler, when we did not live in a world of a million rushing things.

ALF, I enjoyed your words about stroke victims. I can just see you whispering to them. Bless you for having been a nurse! That's such important work that is vastly undervalued. Sometimes I think nurses and doctors should switch positions (and income levels)...there is so much healing that takes place when someone is "nursed." Clara's definitely all there. She's sharp inside that head. I added the repeated words because some stroke victims do this, as you confirm, but also to help distinguish her voice from the others.

Jim Olson, your point about having the papergirl's voice in the novel is a good one. I'd intended to have her play a large role in the story, but as it was, my editor made me cut 80 pages from the manuscript. I do believe that while the papergirl might not have realized, during the novel, that she'll one day be old too (is that even possible before one is in the late-20s, before the flush of youth and that sense of immortality has started to fade?), as she grows up she will, and she'll definitely look back at the characters she met in the Hogan House, and might one day do the same thing George did--start her own Hogan House!

You mention of "Eden Alternative" is interesting. I think they're on the right track, to have elders interracting with plants and animals and younger people in a "home" environment. I vote for elementary schools and nursing homes to merge, but in the right way! Are these Eden Alternatives all around the country?

Now a question for all of you: Do you think a Hogan House like the one I've painted in this novel (well, maybe not quite as bright a red, and maybe not this crazy!) is at all a realistic option for elders? Would you sign on for one, if the right people were involved, and the location was right for you? I know of so many elders who live alone, and not by choice (they've lost a spouse, etc.). Or course I know others who like living along. I also feel that too many elders are uprooted from the places they've lived all their lives, to be plopped down in foreign towns and cities. This must be a tough adjustment, but one that's hard to avoid in our mobile and transient society. Is it better to be closer to family, than remain in the community you've spend years and years in? A sense of place is something I'm very interested in. We need to live in a place for a long time, to get to know the plants and people, the weather and water. And community is so, so important. More later. --Gregg

January 12, 2000 - 10:00 am
Andrea - Thanks for that note on aphasia. You sound like a terrific care giver

.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!!

Jim Olson
January 12, 2000 - 11:32 am
I'm not necessarily an advocate of the Eden Alternative system although I do think the concepts of that system can be adapted and used by nursing homes whether they are part of that system or not.

We have one home in our area that while not a part of the system does utilize some of the basic principles.

For more information about the Eden Alternative go to


just a footnote to my visit to one of them. One of the benefits of the animals is the relief of stress and tension gained from petting a dog or cat- it seems to lower blood pressure.

One of the things I noticed was that the staff seemed to take advantage of that and when a staff member came up to the nursing station a little tense they seemed to relax visibly upon petting the dog at the station.

My presence seemed to create some tension in the staff as I was taking notes and I think they suspected I might be an unannounced federal or state inspector.( inspectors do not always announce their appearance)

Actually I was writing poetry trying to capture some of the thoughts and images generated by the experience. I never did finish any of it though.

Gregg Kleiner
January 12, 2000 - 11:53 am
Charlie--as a writer, one of the hard things is deciding who is going to tell your story. Often, for me, one of the minor characters pushes her or his way onto the stage and I must listen, hard. This was the case with Clara...she evolved from a minor character to a point of narrating half the novel, and her voice came easily to me. Grace tried to be more present on the pages, but in this case it didn't work...she and I both agreed that a more subtle role for her would be the best (as a writer, these characters are your friends...they live in your head for years...to this day, when I see an old red pickup truck go by I look, thinking it might be George behind the wheel!). George was always chomping at the bit, but I had all of him in 3rd person, to begin with, then changed it all to 1st at the last minute. That was some work!

Jim--thanks for the website info. Animals can do so much for elders, I believe. Keep writing the poetry! And visiting nursing homes!

Kathy Hill--hope you get those cats to bed so you find some time to read my novel. I always think longingly about Homer, AK, as I'm here in the grey, wet drizzle of Oregon, wishing we had a bit more of a winter (although I'm sure you wish you had less of winter way up your way!).

Andrea Flannery
January 12, 2000 - 02:10 pm
HOW EXCITING!! Our author has visited twice today. That's great. a Hogan House is next to impossible, Greg, because of the Feds. There are hundreds of regulations that they place on such a home. Even IF, as George says, "it's NOT a damned nursing home, its where we live." If you get more than two or three people in a residential setting such as this, the word spreads and the local legisltors come out of the wood work. They make it nearly impossible to obtain licensure or assistance in caring for these people. IF this were a possibility, many of our aged folks would have a home with a heart that was less burdened ...

Good point Jim re. the animals and kids. Many nursing homes, or residential facilities, as they are now named are unable to have these animals because of regulations. Who won't reach out to caress an animal or to pat an adoring child??? Very healthy!!!

YiLi Lin
January 12, 2000 - 04:26 pm
thanks for keeping clara alive. something about her living inside herself continues to intrigue me, makes me wonder how we negotiate our multiple selves- the inner life and the outer life. clara makes me more conscious of the conversations i have with myself and how i often step back and sort of peer out at the world. it would be interesting if the author had another work with clara before her stroke or made clara before a stroke the center of a whole novel. i'd like to know more about how clara negotiated the outer world and her "other self" in it in the past.

May Naab
January 12, 2000 - 07:38 pm
This discussion has been the greatest. I read the book, enjoyed it, but had to take it back to the library. It is just wonderful to have the author here talking to us--actually, I think I will purchase the book--there are many things I want to reread. All of your comments, are, as usual, so meaningful.

Andrea Flannery
January 13, 2000 - 11:37 am
There is evidence which found that the death rate among people who were socially "connected" was 1/3 as high as the death rate among those who lacked strong social connections. The MacArthur Foundation Study on Aging, found that the two most important predictors of well-being in old age were the frequency of visits with friends---- and the frequency of attendance at church, bingo and organizations or clubs. Our characters promoted their own heatlth as well as one anothers, didn't they?

Gregg Kleiner
January 13, 2000 - 03:07 pm
Yi-Li, your idea about Clara BEFORE the stroke is interesting. She led a sort of wild life, but she was a good soul. I'd sure like to be able to sit in on one of her shows at one of the clubs where she played in her earlier days. Interesting to have a "pre-quel" to a novel instead of a "Where River Turns to Sky II." Hmmmm. Numerous readers have commented that Clara's character has made them stop and view people in wheelchairs in a different light. I'm glad for that.

ALF, you're no doubt right about the authorities cracking down on pseudo-homes. BUT college students do it all the time, so why can't a bunch of elders?? And, yes, it is the human interactions (and animal) that help people live longer. Important to keep those relationships right on into the late years, gaining new ones along the way, with younger people as well! An aside: I think the public shools would benefit from elders coming into the classrooms to tell stories to the children. Some of your true-life adventures would make these kids put down their video games and take notice, and the canvas of their imagination would bloom bright.

May--Thanks for your kind words about my novel. Hope you can find a copy to purchase. If I lived closer, I'd sign it for you. For now, print out this message and tape it inside the front cover: "For May, with gratitude for reading my tale of love, life, and loss in a big red house out here in Oregon. May your days be full, your life rich. --Gregg Kleiner"

Thanks to all of you for writing. I'm learning a great deal from this discussion. Thanks to you, Charlie, for setting this up. --Gregg

May Naab
January 13, 2000 - 05:19 pm
What nice comments, Gregg!! Thanks for signing my "book". I will treasure it.

January 13, 2000 - 06:51 pm
HOGAN HOUSE as REALISTIC OPTION - One would like to think so. The idea of them is attractive. Then there are the political obstacles, which Gregg, if anything, minimized. I’d have to agree with Andrea - wonder if those wouldn’t just about be insurmountable? The other question raised: “Is it better to be closer to family, than remain in the community you've spend years and years in?” is a difficult one. It would depend on the strength of family ties vs. the “sense of place” and ties to community which Gregg mentions. A real balancing act. And wherever possible the decision should be left to the “elder” affected - regardless of the guilt that relatives might feel. Interesting that Gregg mentioned changing George to the ‘first person’ voice at the last minute. Interesting because, as some of you may recall when we read Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, we learned that he also changed the voice of the manuscript at the last minute.
YiLi Lin - A novel about Clara would be interesting wouldn’t it? But a whole ‘nother ball game probably. I’d say it’s the mark of a pretty good writer in that we wonder so much about this character, what her earlier life in the lounges of Vegas was like, how she came to be where she is…
May - What a surprise to see you here. I didn’t know you were reading this one. Glad that you enjoyed it.
Andrea - I think, instinctively, everyone who lived at Hogan House knew that they were the best caregivers for each other. Some came to this understanding easier than others, though.
I loved the part about George remembering staring into Ralph’s eyes when he visited him at the Garden – sometimes seeing a “a wolf running across that desert on Ralph’s eyes” – I‘ve thought a lot about that image. It also conjures up American Indian mysticism. I have a feel for what it tells me – but can someone with specific knowledge of these things tell us what this might indicate from that perspective? Andrea? Mal?

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.

Andrea Flannery
January 13, 2000 - 07:19 pm
Charlie: as you mentioned striking the match George wondered what the hell was he doing wandering thru the woods in the middle of the night with a GD candle. THEN he spots a trillium, with a pansy nearby and hears the music coming from the ground "Music and one of Ralphs words, WONDER" I loved the next paragraph---"Why didn't this old earth just give up and stop spinning? Toss in the towel? Ball bearings all wore out, nobody greasing the old girl regular?" Poor English, but a wonderful question for poor old George who wants to do JUST that. Our candle (the spark of life) burns on as George runs full throttle down the deck and SAILS out over the black water, hitting it. What a delicious sentence "Water so cold it felt warm and thick as fresh cream." He prepares to die, certain that his time is up. He is disappointed, it seems. My father in law used to say, "When the good Lord says come forth--- he don't mean fifth." I thought of him as I read this chapter. George must remain here, the angels never show up. . The tiny flame of the candle burns on, up on the dock. Ralph had the spirit of the wolf , Chas. in answer to your question. The spirits live on, after the body goes. George saw the soul of the hunter.

Malryn (Mal)
January 14, 2000 - 06:09 am
Charlie, you asked about wolves. The following excerpt is from the pages of Morningstar Outreach, a mission run by Native Americans for the purpose of helping other Native American Indians on reservations in the United States.

"The wolf, like many humans, is a misunderstood animal. True, the Wolf is a predator. It chases down its prey and kills with its powerful jaws and incisors, but it isonly fulfilling the Great Spirit's overall plan for natural selection and reduction. The Wolf is a great deal like the two-legends (humans). Wolves are territorial, hunts and seeks provisions and is loyal and dedicated to his family. Along with having an equally dedicated tribal bond to its Wolf Pack.

"No doubt the security that the Wolf gains from all its close family and tribal connections and travels., it gains courage and curiosity to seek knowledge. Be like the Wolf, seek adventure, explore the World, then report back with your new-found information.

"Wolves, in a sense, became the successful living example of a mammal family surviving in the wilderness. It is an achievement embraced by all American Indians who came in contact with the Wolf. They studied the Wolf and integrated the things they learned into their stories and ceremonies. They absorbed the attributes of the Wolf that made them stronger and passed these along to each succeeding generation."

Malryn (Mal)
January 14, 2000 - 06:17 am
This is a poem about wolves by Momfeather, a full-blooded Cherokee, which I published in my magazine Sonata. I am buying the the book today, so will be back with some comments later.


My senses have always been heightened just looking at a good picture of a wolf.
I am connected. They are my brothers.
To touch one is an intense experience. I enjoy just watching them.
I find myself wanting to scent the same way they do and breathe in the same exact way.
I want to feel their heartbeat and the blood that runs smoothly through their veins.
The jaw line is so perfect and the beautiful ears that peak to the slightest sound.

I would like to see through their beautiful eyes.
I am keenly aware of the strength in the leg muscles
down to the paw that has left eternal footprints on my heart.
The soft sounds they make speak of tenderness beneath the strength of the mighty wolf.

My true adventure came one night as I was sitting on a tiny slope,
enjoying the crispness of the air and hearing the trickles of water as it flowed down the little hill.
I noticed a shadow coming toward me…a wolf!!!

I was excited, and all my senses were awaken just watching him.
A serene feeling washed over me as I watched his body move
and looked at his sleek smooth coat glisten in the moonlight.

My senses were intensified as I stared at him.
He looked at me, and the sensual joining of mind and spirit took me to another time.

This is his freedom, his domain.
I am honored to sit quietly in the shadows and watch him. AHO


Andrea Flannery
January 14, 2000 - 06:55 am
What a terrific reference you have given us. I was very moved by this poem from Momfeather. Thank you for sharing it with us. You're right, the Indians incorporate the wolf into many of their ceremonies. George incorporated Ralphs "wolf spirit" into his world.

Today, I read in our local paper that an Alzheimer- dedicated care facility was forced to close due to lack of funds and the exorbitant cost of renovation. How sad. What a poor testimony for us.

Andrea Flannery
January 14, 2000 - 07:51 am
George loved this solid house with its wrap-around porch and the lights that "would confuse the hell out of any angels or shepards" looking for the manger." (Nice illustration, Greg.) May I relate a story that happened to me yesterday? We had a painting contractor at the house for an estimate on an outside paint job. As he hemmed and hawed, pushing and poking at the exterior, alls I could think about was George!!! I giggled and sputtered conjuring up that image and when he questioned us about what color choices we wanted, I hollared "RED, I want red." My husband thought that I had lost it. "Yep, fire-engine red, for all my B&L friends," I told him. My husband winked at the contractor and said, "You'll have to excuse her, she reads too much." Thought that you'd appreciate it, folks. True story. I never know how touched I am with a book, until something like that comes up. I am SOOO going to enjoy watching the painting. Oh by the way, I had to settle for grey.

I noticed, while visiting my brother in Washington that most Northwesterners feel the way about Californians as George does. My brother contends that they're "moving north with their new age ways trying to absorb all the good land." Is that true?

Malryn (Mal)
January 14, 2000 - 08:14 am
I drove through the country in brilliant sunshine on this very cold day for NC. Arrived at the lovely housing development with the beautiful little shops and went in the bookstore. No book! I ordered it, but will go downtown to the mall tomorrow to see if it's there. I'm disappointed. I was sorry, too, not to see the Galloway cows that feed in the pasture by the barn of the inn at the place where I was. Guess it's too cold for them to be out. Anyway, one of these days I'm going to have Where River Turns to Sky in my hands and read this book. That's a promise.

From Mal

Jim Olson
January 14, 2000 - 09:41 am
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."

Maybe Gregg should have added 10-20 years to the age of the major characters.

Ball bearings all wore out, nobody greasing the old girl regular?

I can't resist commenting on that phrase. I once taught theory of grammar and with a minimum of boring detail can explain that construction as an exapmle of what some theorists call "deep structure" vs"surface structure" and the delightful and often poetic results of the ambiquites resulting from confusing the two.

For example we say "He was knocked silly" which has a deep structure something like- " He was made silly by a blow on the head" and there is no ambiguity.

But "He was greased regular" can have a number of deep structures-

He was made regular by greasing.

He was greased on a regular basis.

He visited Jack quite often.

The reference to the earth here is also interesting- most tribal cosmologies have the earth as a "she" feminine and the sun as masculine.

The spiritual load in the novel is carried by the female characters. George evidently sees his role as one of a person needed to make it all regular- or to tinker with it on a regular basis. He is really the handy man in the novel- making elevators, etc. The metaphor fits him well.


I agree with you about the wolf metaphor and really liked the poem you illustrated it with.

I view myself in tribal terms as the coyote- the trickster- the animal with the sense of humor. I don't always live up to it well as a perpetrator but as a victim am well suited.

YiLi Lin
January 14, 2000 - 12:21 pm
I guess I would like to see the author just keep on writing- back on the thread of the papergirl. I think she too needs her own well maybe short story for this one. A vignette about an epiphany understanding aging. That concept could be explored in such detail that it might have crowded out the themes playing for the adults.

Hogan houses in an informal sense I think are taking hold in spite of government. I know of two groups (predominantly women) who have already moved in together in a cooperative living arrangement. I think the biggest test will come when one or more will need some outside assistance- home care etc. That will probably draw the attention of agencies.

Oh in case the author drops by again- could he tell- of course I am someone who lives in a house already painted Red Raspberry in a very sea-green and beige neighborhood.

Andrea Flannery
January 15, 2000 - 08:04 am
JIM: Thanks for the take on greasing. So true! Why did GK use the skunk as Grace's little friend? Any ideas?

January 15, 2000 - 11:07 am
Andrea - Yes, the trillium and the pansy….and the “pale green violins” of the fern fiddleheads. That’s my favorite sign of spring where I live. There’s woods all around me and in summer it’s just a mattree os green fern….which all turns brown in the fall…but in the spring when they’re all getting ready to pop…that’s a great feeling. “Seasons and sap coming and going year after year…The wonder.”

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.

(as ALF has become Andrea Flannery)

YiLi Lin
January 15, 2000 - 11:43 am
skunk- the cuddly creature who can create havoc when threatened?, roadkill?, earthbound vs airbound? rooted vs flighty? yin/yang (that dark stripe)? ebony and ivory? hmm we could have fun with this....

January 15, 2000 - 12:41 pm
I have just started reading and the purple high tops caught my eye. I am enjoying what I have read so far. But must get back to it now. Purple high tops, Hummmm. (BG)

January 15, 2000 - 01:54 pm
Charlie: You are so crafty, "Has Hope become Grace?" Cute. How the hell my real name got there is beyond me. I've been fooling around with my subscriptions, as I have been having difficulties. Needless to say, I'm still having difficulties but my real name has appeared. Nope! No elevators for me, thank you Mr. Otis.

I love everybodys thoughts on the skunk. How about skunk as in--- to defeat over-whelmingly? Trying, in vain, to defeat the inevitable-- -death!!!

With the "eye" of a true musician, Clara notices, "Her eyes were as black as quarter notes. " "Yellow eyes and white stripes flash in the piano-black of my head."

Anyone know what OLY is? Is it a soft drink or the good stuff, that George drinks?

Malryn (Mal)
January 15, 2000 - 02:11 pm
I just got the book and am barely through the first chapter, but I had to come in and talk about what a great writer this is. Am I impressed! The first sentence pounds the reader because immediately he or she wonders who the heck it is in the bed if it isn't Ralph, and who is Ralph, anyway, and who's speaking?

I love the way Kleiner got into the head and body of his character, George, and writes as George would think and speak. In the shock of the realization that the person in the bed isn't Ralph, George thinks about how those aren't Ralph's feet because "Ralph's feet were so big he had to feed them Purina dog chow". This is funny. Right away, the reader knows this man has a sense of humor.

The pace of the writing struck me the minute I began reading the book. After he realizes what has happened, George is full of adrenalin and racing. I was a little disappointed because Gregg Kleiner telegraphs the book by talking about the circle and what he did because of Ralph's death, though it did give the reader the knowledge that George is looking back. I may feel differently about that later.

The author pays great attention to small details like the buttons on the Ad-ministrator's dress. "She paused to get breath. The buttons on her dress getting bigger. Then she kept going, words flooding out of her again, the black buttons shrinking back down." With these three sentences Kleiner tells the reader exactly who she is. What she tells George in such a dispassionate and businesslike way is devastating, of course. Often in times of shock, I have noticed that small details become very important, and the author, having recognized this, too, has used this writing device extremely well.

George's reaction to Ralph's death is fierce anger. I could feel his anger throughout most of the chapter. The climax of the chapter comes, I think, when George thinks, "And what was I doing while I was breaking the promise? While Ralph was dying all alone here at the Gardens? I was fucking fishing for rainbow trout up at Odell Lake. Fishing!" His anger turns to himself at that point. The memory of the tiny feet slows him down a little, but the beat and pulse of the writing stays the same with thousands of George's thoughts running together. I could feel and see this character in all of this chapter.

Kleiner has created a painting here of many different colors and hues with the use of words, rhythm and pace. George's hallucinations add to the over-energized, abstract feeling I received from this chapter, which reminded me of some of Kandinsky's paintings, actually. I can't wait to read the rest.


January 15, 2000 - 04:39 pm
Mal I to find this a good book, but I read over some of the words that I do not like and am enjoying it very much.

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
January 15, 2000 - 04:43 pm
Time for me to start participating. I have a good start on the book. Gregg, where did you get your background on elders' houses? Did you go to visit a variety of assisted living facilities? How about the characters? Are they from your life? Wow, that is something to have 80 pages cut from a novel. That must take some regrouping. That has to be so hard when you know that it is yours & yet you are turning it over to someone else who says cut it out.

I liked what you said about the wonder of the seasons. I love the seasons, but particularly the transition time as I am saying good by to the departing season & greeting the new one. It is an exciting time.

I,too,liked the neighborhood discussion of the formation of the Hogan House with a new garden being put in & red being splashed all over the sides. I can just imagine my neighbors talking. What a hoot. When I built my house, I added a 1/2" strip of wood painted chartreuse that was nailed on top of my blue trim to just give another accent. I can remember when I was painting this & it was being hammered up. You would have thought that the whole house was chartreuse!

Catch you later...Kathy

January 15, 2000 - 04:54 pm
Gregg, I would apprieciate it you could, would let us know the pages cut not all at one time but a little at a time, If not we understand that you cannot for some reason.

Kathy Hill It is my pleasure to meet you. I have not been in this disscusion long but I am enjoying this book.

Malryn (Mal)
January 15, 2000 - 05:52 pm
First of all, Ginger, the language doesn't bother me. It suits the characters, and that's why it's there.

It's interesting to read Clara because I've spent time in a wheelchair off and on during the course of my life. I also am a classically trained pianist and singer who, after all that training, worked playing the piano and singing in clubs.

It has amused me that people speak down to those in wheelchairs or, in my experience, to the person who pushes the chair rather than to the person who occupies it. I've assumed under those conditions that the speaker thinks because one is in a wheelchair for one disability reason or another that your brains aren't quite there. Anyway, I can identify well with what Gregg Kleiner says through Clara's thoughts and internal dialogue.

She's a musician, for sure...."music notes blowing off a page of sheet music". "Piano music in the sky"...."that little sixteenth note of doubt." "Blue sky." "The sky is blue." Blue Skies Smilin' at Me?

Clara also is an acute observer, and her role in this chapter is to develop the character of George. She describes him and his faithful visits to B24, his chalk-colored hair and rusty eyebrows and whiskers, his truck. By the time this chapter ends, we know a good deal more about George than we did before. This chapter leaves me with the impression that Clara is the mute Greek chorus of this book.


Malryn (Mal)
January 15, 2000 - 07:01 pm
This has to be the introduction of mystical Grace. The word that came to my mind when I read this was Magi. Her skirt is rimmed with mirrors which reflected the light. The concrete is wet, reflecting the candlelight moon and probably Grace's face. The skunk is on a leash. After she lights the candle and sprinkles the yellow powder, she ascends the stairs to the porch and uses a heavy knocker to knock on the door. The porch light goes on. "....the moon on the sidewalk is blown out. The skunk has vanished."

I found two Indian folklore stories about skunks. The first describes how the skunk was once a much larger animal that began to shrink. Worried about his work and survival, he gathered plants which he ground into a fine powder. (Note Grace's use of powder in this chapter.) The skunk put this powder in a pouch which he carried with him at all times. To test it, he shot some at a large oak tree which shrank and died, leaving only a pile of ashes.

The second story I found was of a woman who gave birth to a beautiful girl who had pure white hair. Many men courted this girl when she grew up, but she was more interested in looking at her reflection in still water (like Narcissus) and applying the perfume of flowers to her skin than she was in their attention.

At a certain point, a strange, ugly man courted her. She laughed at him and mocked him. What she did not know was that this ugly man was the great god Turtle in disguise. He shed his outer skin and stood before her in all his glory. Then he told her she would become a lowly animal whose scent would repel. She began to shrink and black hair began to grow all over her body except for the long white stripe on her back, all that remained of her beautiful white hair.

I read also that the Hotcak myth describes the dichotomy between inner versus outer excellence. In other words, the ugly turtle was the reverse of the beautiful white haired woman.

Now to see how and if these folktales apply to Grace.


January 15, 2000 - 08:24 pm
MAL I am enjoying the book (WHERE THE RIVER TURNS TO SKY very much and hope the new lurkers are also and are feeling comfortable with me to express there thoughts.

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

Jim Olson
January 16, 2000 - 04:14 am
Mal says:

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

Malryn (Mal)
January 16, 2000 - 07:13 am
The author continues with George sitting in the cab of his truck as he remembers Ralph and the friendship they had. He kicks himself because he went away for five days and was not beside George when he died. I truly do not get a sense of guilt. Aggravation, anger, questioning why he did what he did and a search for reasons why Ralph had to die when he was away are what I perceive. I think George had anticipated and accepted the reality of Ralph's death long before and is frustrated because it happened when it did.

The description of his finding Ralph after his stroke is remarkable, especially when George looked into his eyes to try and read what might be on Ralph’s mind. The later chapter in which Kleiner describes the fire and Ralph‘s rescue of animals adds to feeling of closeness between these two men. A most terrific scene, which was written in a very dynamic way. Water and fire are what I thought of when I read it. Basic elements. That is emphasized again when George wanders through the woods with a candle and leaps into the pond, a parallel to the earlier chapter about Grace.

George takes the envelope which announces his inheritance of the funds that allow him to buy the Hogan House out of the mailbox. The inheritance is almost too convenient a literary contrivance, but with what follows about the death of George’s son, it becomes credible.

In my opinion, this book borders on fantasy, and in fantasy anything can happen and is accepted by the reader.

George’s son lived a kind of life he didn’t like; the "California syndrome". The scene where George dances with his dog is beautifully written and shows what a gamut of emotions George has run through. All of this leads to his impulse buying of the Hogan house.

What a fate for Clara! Mashed potatoes, cream of wheat, bland food for a woman whose previous life was full of spice. Her repeated inner talk about Amy arouses the reader’s curiosity at this point. I have felt thus far that the portions about Clara are transitions to something else, rungs on the ladder of the book. Grace enters the lobby of the Gardens, a disturbing experience for Clara, a shadow on the fishstick existence she leads, a portent of things to come.

I loved George’s defiance of the Neighborhood Yard Competition, a sort of comic relief after the story about Hope, which left many questions in my mind. Jim Olson may be right about Hope and Grace. I’ll read on and see.

January 16, 2000 - 10:33 am
Mal - Great! You got the book! (You sound persistent when you set your mind on something…) And a piano player to boot (me too!)…who has actually worked at it, like Clara. And a wealth of information on Indian lore. Great!

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.

George is reading the obits in the Sunday paper and realizes with a shock that nearly everyone his age that he has known is dead: ”You won’t recognize anymore names! You don’t know anybody your age anymore!” I know that my mother-in-law has lost some close friends over the past year and it has seemed to become harder and harder for her to take…

Malryn (Mal)
January 16, 2000 - 11:02 am
I'm a writer, Charlie, and as one I don't find it hard to write in more than one voice. I know plenty of writers who do, though. In fact, I urged one of them in another book discussion to open up and try a voice that wasn't herself. Just heard from her, and she's doing exactly that. Gregg Kleiner speaks in many voices very, very well.

You're right in a way. The Grace passages are different from the George and Clara ones. To me they are not filmy like gauze. They stand out sharply to me from the rest of the book because they're unexpected, mysterious and in brilliant contrast to the rest.

Yeah, where are the other people here? I wrote to one just now and told her to get back in this discussion about this marvelous book in a hurry.


January 16, 2000 - 11:58 am
MAL: I'm tickled that you're enjoying the read. I was certain that you would. Thank you for all of your wisdom and the references that you shared. I love the skunk stories. I respectfully, must disagree on one point. I believe George had a heavy burden of guilt. Why? He had promised Ralph that he wouldn't die alone. He was gone for 5 days instead of two. "If I'd stayed here going into Lookingglass to see Ralph the same as ever, maybe I could have done something to SAVE him." He was "floating his fly line over the water and tipping the good Dr. Jack." (I love that phrase.) That's guilt, to me. Such triumph-- As beneficiary, George turns death (Jasons) into a place for the living. (Hogan house.) What a nice tribute.

Don't you love the paragraph that starts, "back then we were all young, working hard to make a go of it, the last thing on our minds getting old." Lordy, how often I've said that myself.

January 16, 2000 - 12:05 pm
Welcome: Virginia and Kathy" I agree with Mal, Ginger, the words that come out of Georges mouth are appropos for this character. In fact, I smiled, almost hearing his profanity.

Charlie and Mal: You guys can play the piano anytime at all, for me.

I have repeatedly told my children, "I do NOT want to live with you. Put me in a nursing home. At least I get to play Bingo, singing, piano playing and games." My daughter tells me "No way, you will live in our basement as a troll and DO MY LAUNDRY ---DAILY!!" I can NEVER win with these young'ens. Yet, they know how serious I really am, tho

Malryn (Mal)
January 16, 2000 - 02:38 pm
Andrea, I said, "I do not get a sense of guilt". That's this I, me, not you or anyone else. This person, me Mally me, sees more anger and regret on George's part that he did not keep his promise to himself than I see guilt. That's the kind of reader I am, and you well know I read books in a different way from some people because I am a writer; just as I listen to music in a different way because I am a trained musician. I do not see a heck of a lot of beating of chest (not literally) and other things that go hand in hand with guilt in this book.

What I see in George and the other characters thus far is an enormous amount of life. Clara is a good example of that. Despite her body's stroke-caused malfunctions, she is full, full, full of life, as are the rest of the characters. I think this is important in this book and in reality.

I am particularly touched by George's gesture of throwing the gravestone in the river, I think it was. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. The flowing water would return that gravestone back to its original sand and rock. Ralph's memorial, thanks to George, was living, green grass.


January 16, 2000 - 04:48 pm
Mal": "HALLELHOLYLUJAH!!! gOtcha, my friend. Isn't it strange that to the right of George's front door was a knocker--- a brass barn owl. Was Harry Potter there, I wonder?

George smelled "years of nobody living there." A world he'd never known before, a world where you needed money. You can really feel George's excitment , his senses heightened, as he climbs the stairs to view his "new in-town neighborhood." He longs for his friend and thinks of Jasons money spent on this house. AHA-- a shooting star--- hello Ralph, hello LIFE. You're right Mal, he's living NOW!!!

Barbara St. Aubrey
January 16, 2000 - 09:40 pm
Well!!! I was NOT going to buy, read nor discuss this book! Huh...Ha...

Found it this evening as I browsed Boarders and couldn't put it down. Oh if Crichton could make voices jump off the page like Gregg Kleiner! First time in years I just want to read and let the words and sentences roll without analysing or caring, who does what, thinks what, feels what! I can see pine trees and trout fishing and puddles and old pick-ups and dogs ohh this is heaven. My fantasy has plaid shirts and a two day beard - George is like a 10 year old that just threw a temper tantrum that he doesn't know what to do about since he hasn't done that since he was three!

Malryn (Mal)
January 17, 2000 - 05:32 am
Barbara, it's nice to see you here.

I am nearing the end of the book and am left with a vision of scenes from it. The surreal food fight, the waterfall scene, how wonderful that was! Fred's catch of the fly ball. What a way to go! The way George made space in the house for the elevator. The picture of the Hogan house gang in their yellow baseball tee shirts. Clara in her chariot. George shooting up the Gardens. This book is so visual that I see it more than I think it now. I'll be back after I finish reading it with some comments.


January 17, 2000 - 06:25 am
This truly is a read that inspires awe, reverence and just plain old fun. I see George as a grand-fatherish farmer; one who is earthy, tasting, feeling and touching his surroundings as much as he can. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a friend such as George, someone who cares deeply for and about things? I love these characters that pull at my heart-strings. This is my 2nd time reading this book and Greg will be happy to hear I've added it to our list of "must" reads, for our womans group.

Mal: I'm interested on your theory of the candles, throughout, burning brightly, blowing slightly, and glowing dimmer.

Purple Sage
January 17, 2000 - 07:38 am
Clara is in the book for many reasons but one reason I think about her is...would I want to live as she lives? A mind but no body. In Claras case she lives looking out but also she lives looking inside herself. Her inner life is rich and full with memories and with growth as she experiences the others and life. She does expand as a person. She loves and is loved. It is marvelous how the group finds places for her. Keeping score etc. Wonderful.


Malryn (Mal)
January 17, 2000 - 08:54 am
It's an interesting metaphor, Andrea, the candles I mean. They did not make a real impression on me because that's what candles do, flare up and flicker down. There's much symbolism in this book which I think needs discussion, but time must be taken to think about it. Yes, this book needs much more than one read.

Purple Sage, Clara does have a body which she mentions often in her internal dialogue. Without doubt, if one has never suffered any sort of paralysis, it isn't easy to understand what Clara is.

I suffered a paralytic illness early in my childhood. It left me without the use of my arms and legs, and I couldn't lift my head off the bed. As time went by, I regained the use of my right leg, arm and hand and most of the muscles which allow me to hold my head erect. I was left with a paralyzed left leg and weakened muscles on my left side, back, left arm and hand muscles, plus the aftereffects of the illness like a spinal curvature and other things.

Through a lot of persistence and perseverance the weakened parts of my body improved in function, capability and mobility. Part of that persistence was learning to play the piano and play it well. Another was to live life the best way that I possibly could. That included a whole lot of things, including working at many jobs after my marriage and mothering of three children ended. One of those jobs was stocking shelves and washing the floor in a health food store. Some career for a former professional musician!

Paralysis, which Clara has in a more severe way than I, causes problems which those who have never experienced it cannot really imagine. Reaction to those problems by at least some victims of paralysis is a kind of compensation by development of other senses. Clara's senses of smell and vision and hearing are very acute, for example. My own paralysis left me with an enhancement of these senses.

Gregg Kleiner's description of Clara's physical condition are accurate. I empathized with her falling over in the back of the police car, for example. Similar things have happened to me because of balance problems which always exist for a person who has suffered paralysis.

Yes, if a person is like this, in most cases I would say that he or she very much wants to live. If one part of you goes, or even more, your life is there. If you have any gumption, you want to live to the max, as kids say. You just don't give up. I see in Clara much the same zest for life that I myself have.

There's a whole lot more than brain in Clara. Gregg Kleiner understands this well and has described the "whole" person, Clara, very, very well.


Gregg Kleiner
January 17, 2000 - 10:32 am
Hello All.

My, my, it's hard to keep up with all your comments, and your energy. But thank you, thank you for your words; it's so nice to hear in detail what you all think about my work. I'm grateful to each of you, and I'm sorry I can't log on to write more often...gotta earn a living, and writing fiction, as you can imagine, does not pay the bills...alas I have a day job.

Mal, thanks for the wolf words, and all your careful reading, insights, etc. There is a foster home program here in Oregon which allows people to take elders into their homes to help care for them. They're not Hogan Houses quite yet, but it's a good program for the most part. My gratitude for all your comments. I can tell you're really reading it page-by-page. Thanks so much.

Andrea--How's the gray paint looking? Good for you for shouting out "Red!" to the painters. That's the spirit. I laughed out loud! Yes, some folks here in Oregon don't look too kindly at Californian's moving up. Of course it's a bit ridiculous to hold such views of people, and most Californians are very fine individuals. But some do move up and attempt to turn our rural and slow-paced state into something more like what they left behind. They often ask why there aren't as many good restaurants, or places to shop. The population of this state is exploding, so those of us who've lived here all our lives tend to be a bit resentful of anybody moving in. But it's all rather silly I suppose. I personally believe in staying put in one place for a long time. That way you gain community, and come to know the land. Oh, and thanks for reading my novel twice, and adding it to the books for your women's group. I appreciate that. Many book clubs have read the novel, and I hope more will.

Jim, so you're a trickster, eh? Quite a grammarian, too, I see. I appreciate all your keen insights. Keep up the humor...that has a lot to do with staying healthy. We all need to laugh more. Lots more. Funny you should mention a priory (that's a great story, by the way, those nuns helping out the community in different ways). In the novel I'm working on now, there is a convent and all-girls school, but I'm not done with that book yet. Darn.

YiLi--Kudos to the groups of women you know who are living together! We need to just do it, and forget about the authorities. At some point we'd reach critical mass, and the regulations would no longer apply. However, as Charlie (I think...I get confused) said, it is important that nobody gets taken advantage of, and that things are safe and healthy, and that no greedy profiteers enter the picture (as they have in many retirement-home businesses). But it will be fun to see if more Hogan Houses pop up, especially as the feisty Baby Boomers get there and try to decide how they're gonna "do" old age.

Andrea--if I may use your real name, Oly is short for Olympia, a beer made in Tumwater, WA. It's a weak, watery beer, but my grandfather swore by it. It was cheap and wet and worked to take the hot edge off during haying season in the summer. Your skunk comments are interesting. I'll let you all wrestle with the skunk imagery. You're right on in most of your thoughts. There was also a skunk clan among the Hopi people. I like YiLi's comment about the yin-yang. Life is definitely a balancing act, and I like to think of it as a dance. Glad you all liked George's dance with his dog, Shag William.

Ginger--welome. I realize some of the swear words are off-putting for some folks. Feel free to skip right over them. I was attempting to get the flavor of how George spoke...my own grandfather used GD almost as a regular word when he spoke...and he was a devout Irish Catholic. To him, it wasn't "the Lord's name taken in vein" but just a figure of speech. I cut out 80 pages total, but mostly in small chunks here and there. I did remove an entire long chapter about George as a boy in Ceresco, NE when the snow storm hit, and his mother died trying to give birth to his sister while his father was out in the snow on horseback trying to fetch the doctor. It was gripping, but didn't seem to fit in quite right.

Kathy--I've not spent a lot of time around nursing homes, but enough to get a taste for how bad the bad ones can be. Glad they're improving these days. I did spend time with my maternal grandparents growing up. They were small farmers, with little money, but large hearts. They're the ones I dedicate the novel to. The place I really got a feel for elders and the respect they deserve was when I spent a year in Thailand as an AFS exchange student in high school. There, elders are still very much respected and revered. I returned to the states a year later and was shocked that here elders become invisible, and everybody's trying like crazy to never grow old, which is silly.

Barbara St. Aubrey--Thanks so much for your kind words! I hope your fantasy in a plaid shirt with a 2-day beard comes true for you, soon!

In general: the barn burning scence came to me as a gift. I have never experienced such a thing, but I have seen fires at night and been around horses a bit. The horse coming out through the burning barn wall is one of those things writers live for...a gift dropped right down from the writing gods. That scence is tough for animal lovers to read, but I am trying to show the bond that was forged between George and Ralph years ago, which was real, because back then, you needed your neighbors to survive. I recall people dropping by my grandparents' farm house all the time...if it was dinner time, they'd just put another plate on the table. Otherwise, it was a cup of coffee and conversation. They all helped each other out with haying or butchering or whatever it was that needed doing. We've lost some of that, what with agribusiness, and most of us no longer living rurally.

Again, thank you all for reading and writing. I MUST get back to work now. --Gregg

Malryn (Mal)
January 17, 2000 - 11:35 am
Mr. Gregg Kleiner, author, we elders are reading your book and getting a lot out of it, as you can see. In my opinion, Where River Meets Sky is a book that doesn't come around very often, and I hope very much that you get the recognition you deserve as a writer. You're more than just good, and you get yourself into the scene and your characters in a way that too many writers today do not. Truth to tell, you do a whole lot more than that. It's not possible for me to hazard a guess how you managed to do this, but I'm very glad you did.

You're right. For me your book's a page by page read because I think it's really good. As an electronic publisher, I don't do that for just anybody. You should see some of the submittals that come my way.

Now, do me a favor and tell me how the heck you got published in hard copy, okay? Or is that a trade secret?

P.S. Just as an aside, I really don't think this book of yours is a treatise about nursing homes or their alternatives. Just thought you might like to know.


January 17, 2000 - 03:55 pm
Purple Sage" You be your sweet bippy you'd want to be where Clara is. See my post of # 82 and keep in mind that God does compensate for our frailities, somehow. CLARA"S ALIVE!!

Mal: I got real psyched when I started analyzing the candle references. I saw it as light waves colliding ( in intensity) with each other (our characters) transferrring ENERGY!!!! Atoms colliding, some weak, others strong, some excited for a long, long time before radiating a light. Am I getting too much into this? I didn't have to think about this, it just "beamed." (Scotty)

Greg: Stay focused and give us another one, like "River." Remember, this is merly the beginning. Obviously, you can tell we LOVE YOU!!! Our appreciation extends to Lori, Eli and Sophia, for sharing YOU with us!!!

Even here in Fla. many folks resent the northern influx. I do undrstnd it, but will always strive for harmony.

January 17, 2000 - 09:13 pm
Gregg Kleiner, I have heard alot worse words in my day.

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.


Malryn (Mal)
January 18, 2000 - 08:06 am
This is a quote by Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.....

"The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours....

"Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves."

Malryn (Mal)
January 18, 2000 - 08:21 am
Quite a long time ago, I told someone that we go full circle from innocence to innocence.

What a beautiful ending Where River Turns to Sky has. Clara awaits the birth of her great grandchild after Amy and Clara's granddaughter appear, the start of the circle again.

I was bothered by Grace's decision at first, but realized that her soul must be ready. She was the seer, the wise one in the book, and I didn't want her to make the decision so soon.

This book is about life, not death. A few sessions of "Tie Sheet" brought tingling to the fingers of Clara's dead hand, for example.

Now I'm going back and read this most wonderful book again.


YiLi Lin
January 18, 2000 - 09:12 am
interesting to think this author through a work of fiction might have engendered a "movement" out there.

Purple Sage
January 18, 2000 - 11:29 am
I would think that living in this group would have been very difficult for me. Being a Libra I want everything to be fair, equal, etc. I would insist on cleaning and gardening help. Believe me it gets harder every year to do these thing. And a good cook would help, plus laundry and access to doctors.

As for the games and fun...I love to roller skate. Care to join me? No one really wanted to play baseball. A swiming pool or the pond on the property would be nice. Swiming pools are great for seniors if they are kept warm enough. So are dances, bikes, skates would get us all up and moving. I think every retirement site should have a warm pool.

IMHO of course.


Malryn (Mal)
January 18, 2000 - 03:52 pm
I wonder what the reaction of a younger audience would be to this book? I'll bet you two to one that they'd laugh a lot more than some of us did. Parts of Where River Turns to Sky are very, very funny.

George's chat with Mrs. Beasley with his fly unzipped and his shirt tail sticking out. The shooting up of the Gardens. The picture of Mutt and Jeff in reverse with Emma and Fred. What's his name from Thailand smoking Camels up to the minute he does Tai Chi. The building of the elevator. The tilling of the garden and the shock of the neighbors. The picture Kleiner painted in the reader's mind of the baseball games. The building of the diamond by two old curmudgeons, both drunk as skunks. Clara's sitting in her wheelchair in the back of George's truck with the cops all around and a religious program blaring out of the radio. She laughed her head off, remember?

There's a lot of humor in this book with these wonderful and somewhat whacky characters and the situations Gregg Kleiner puts them in. How come we're talking nursing homes when this book is so jam packed full of life?


Jim Olson
January 18, 2000 - 03:59 pm
I found the conclusion to the stories of the major characters, George, Clara and Grace to be very well done and effective.

After the laundry episodes with Grace it was evident that she was approaching a time when she would no longer be in personal control of anything except her own ending - no longer a contributing member of the group- no longer able to respond to the needs of others- time to move on and complete the circle.

Clara grew in both inner and outer strength throughout the novel and by the time the book ends she has not only gained much of what she lost but added new dimensions to her life. She is a kind of living tribute to the work George undertook for whatever reasons he did so.

George has completed the work he was driven to undertake and it will survive him and flourish.

Or will it?

I guess this is where I have some problems with the odds and ends of the ending.

It just seemed to me that too many things came together too conveniently- the return of Clayton Liu with his ideal blend of the best of the qualities of both Grace and George - the arrival of Clara's long lost daughter and grand daughter to insure an intergenerational quality to the project- the emergence of Mrs. Beasley (this had been foreshadowed, however) as a member, insuring a strong fiscal base for the project. I don't buy it.

Somewhere someone is going to light one of those candles in the wrong place and burn down that uninspected fire trap (probably in the chicken shed and the fire will spread to the main building quickly). The survivors if any will be whisked back to Silver Gardens.

My view is probably colored by the fact that I've always hated chickens from the time I was a kid on the farm and had to take care of the hen house. But if it means really fresh eggs for breakfast it may all be worth it.

Actually from a social point of view I think the value of the novel lies in its dramatic, esthetic. and spiritual presentation and positive view of aging and exploration of some of the major aspects of issues involved with it. I hope other writers will take up some of these themes and find this time of life as interesting as Gregg Kleiner obviously did and treat it as well as he does (including the humor).

Malryn (Mal)
January 18, 2000 - 04:30 pm
Here's where we differ, Jim. I don't think this book is about issues. It is about one issue only, and that is to live your life while you've got it. That's what George offered the rest, the chance to live a little rather than wasting away in some institution.

As I said before, this book is part fantasy. In fantasy the return of Clayton Liu and Amy and Hogan House are perfectly acceptable.

I've noticed in other book discussions that people have a tendency to take what they read too personally, to try and identify too much with characters and situations.

I will repeat what I said in another forum. If we read what the author says, not what we create; then we'll better understand what the writer has tried to accomplish.


Kathy Hill
January 18, 2000 - 07:07 pm
I was saddened reading about the death of George's wife. So sad when he spoke of the 2 men taking her away who were complete strangers to him. Why does our culutre do this? Why aren't the family and friends just in charge? Our parting from here sure appears to be impersonal.


YiLi Lin
January 19, 2000 - 08:55 am
wondering if george was a little controlling in that concept of providing people opportunity to live their life the way they want- as time would go on do you all think people would still have independence of life style or would Hogan House take on a lifestyle of its own? just pondering waiting for the snow.

January 19, 2000 - 11:26 am
I thought this book was most creatively written, but probably being out in left field, I really didn't like the picture of old folks it gave me. I would never want to live with just people my age-I believe some placesin Europe have senior homes in center of towns. I didn't like the idea of parking farm trucks in the street and just generally not contributing to the aethetics of the community.I just think as you age you can always learn new things and try to contribute and be a vital part of your communityand its progress.

Malryn (Mal)
January 19, 2000 - 01:37 pm
Where River Turns to Sky is fiction. Hogan House and all of the characters in the book are fiction. This is not a true story and should not be taken as such. A person in another discussion not here in the Books and Lit folders said it better than I can. Here is the quote:

"A book is a book, you read it, put it down, pick it up again with great expectations, but you don't live in it. You might empathize with a given character, but identify with it? You don't become part of the book you read unless you have willingly suspended your faculty at discernment."

He's so right.


January 19, 2000 - 07:40 pm
Black Elk Speaks. Great Book. I’m sure you’ve read that Mal. And I agree that this book is full of gentle humor – maybe its greatest asset. But neither do I dismiss what I anyway, perceive as Gregg’s very real call for how seniors might live – live – what could be their most glorious days. No way do I box this in as a one issue book.
Jim - I read the story of these people as almost allegorical, or as fantasy to use Mal’s term. So I didn’t really have any problem with some of the somewhat ‘convenient’ turn of events – with the exception maybe, of Clara’s daughter showing up. (I will admit my ‘reality based’ reading kept expecting the house to burn down – lots of candles!
On another issue – I can’t conceive of reading only “what the author says, not what we create” just not me – just not the way I read. And a story doesn’t have to be a true story to be true. Do it?? And I identify – and still know the difference between real life and fiction.

Malryn (Mal)
January 19, 2000 - 08:11 pm
Sorry, folks. Guess I saw a little too much emphasis on nursing homes and not enough about the fine way this book is written.

Charlie, "true" and "truth" are not always the same thing.


January 19, 2000 - 08:14 pm
Let us take it for what it is, folks. An amusing, emotional, illustration of life!! A picture full of fun and frivolity, laced with the bitter-sweet reality of tomorrow. I loved it.

Someone recently wrote me (Im paraphrasing) that "when you're born you are the only one crying, while those around you, are celebrating and smiling. Live your life so that when you die you are the celebrant smiling, leaving everyone else crying." I thought of that while reading "When River-----"

January 19, 2000 - 08:16 pm
ALF - You chameleon, you. You keep changing your "prefs"!!

January 19, 2000 - 08:18 pm
Hey Charlie: It was quite by accident that I did that. How are ya? I'm pleased that your reading this with us. I posted this and later realized you are our coordinator. I'm losing it!!

Malryn (Mal)
January 19, 2000 - 09:43 pm
After thinking about it, I thought maybe I should come in and say something else that I just wrote to a friend, so you won't have the impression that I'm not concerned about nursing homes. I've had close relatives in nursing homes. I also was in one for four weeks when I was ten years old after four weeks in a hospital where a muscle in my thigh was transplanted to my back, a surgical procedure that made me very, very ill.

Because of the illness I had when I was seven years old, I've seen a lot more and had a lot more done to me than most people do in an entire lifetime, including being close to death more than one time. Perhaps these experiences make my attitude about life a little different. I really don't know.

To tell you the honest truth, I did not want to read this book because I was afraid it would bring back some tough memories. It didn't. What I saw in it was a kind of joy in life that I will remember for a very long time.


Jim Olson
January 20, 2000 - 06:34 am
OK Mal

Let's just have fun with the book.

Plenty of other places to deal with issues.

But- you clean the chicken coop.

I'll ride in the back of the truck with Clara.

Malryn (Mal)
January 20, 2000 - 06:54 am
Jim, it's a deal, but only if you'll let me play some ball after I finish the cotton pickin' job. I can't run, but I sure could pitch and hit that ball. We'll let Emma run for me, so she can take off a little of that extra weight she's carrying around. Crack! There it goes right over the scoreboard. Whoopee! Emma's almost to first, round second, to third. It's a triple bagger! Whatta game!


January 20, 2000 - 09:24 am
JIM & MAL: I want to be the ad-men-u-strator. OOPS. That's not right, is it.? How 'bout the AD- min-ister. OOPS NO! OK. I'll be charge of the administrative aspects of the "Hogan House." I'll keep the nasty neighbors and cops away from our playing field. I'll incorporate a visiting day from the Gardens. I"m a candle freak, so I will assume the responsibility of making and lighting the candle. What else? Let's use my daughters black lab for our mascot. The fool thinks she's human and loves to get all 87 # of herself into your lap. We'll allow children to visit, dogs, cats, birds. Whatever. Lord HOW I want to be a part of that for our country. If only the regs weren't so stringent. A few yrs. back a friend and I delved into the possibility of opening an intermediate care facility. A place for those who didn't need an assisted care facility or nursing home placement, yet. We wanted a spot where the "client" could take that first step towards relinquishing their home or apartment, yet maintain their physical independence. Our goal was to literally "assist" the people into coping with their limitations. Long story, but NO GO!! I believe we need that middle of the road assistance. Especially those that have no family or desire NOT to let the family take over. The only doctor we'd allow in would be George's "doctor."

YiLi Lin
January 20, 2000 - 09:45 am
got a little mixed up, posted my message on the wrong discussion- so in brief just wanted to say that i thought this book did its job as a work of fiction, believable characters moved about through a series of events that gave us a situation to reflect upon. i did not think the author used "essay tactics"; he didn't try to persuade us or argue a particular stand for or against nursing homes. he used characters and events to explore an observation. (no we all know that human observations are usually subjectdive).

January 20, 2000 - 09:55 am
Yi Li - Your comments were just as good "The Second Time Around"

Jim Olson
January 20, 2000 - 03:10 pm
Speaking of kidnapping, I just went over to pay tribute to Patrick O'Brian who continued writing his sea adventure novels until he died recently at the age of 85.

I was at once caught and "pressed" into service on the "Sophie" and I'm now sailing the Mediterranian looking for adventure in the year 1800.

I'll be back to Hogan house as soon as I can get free at some convenient port. It is fun but the food is awful.

January 20, 2000 - 05:48 pm
Another of my favorite parts……
After Clayton Liu’s first 3-day visit, Grace tells George that Clayton’s “soul just isn’t ready for this palace.” This touches off thoughts George had about the loss of his wife, Dora….mixed up with thoughts of the loss of his mother. “I smelled ice and dead ashes.” …thoughts about the slicing open of an egg engorged coho. His own reflection in the smooth running water…the “dark space” between his lips the same as the dark space between his wife’s lips when she died. The same lips as his mama’s. Intimations….beginnings and endings.

January 22, 2000 - 08:03 am
Yes, Charlie, beginnings and endings... After Shag William had been buried , nasty Emma replies "good riddiance," causing Clara to swallow a bulkiness in her throat and remark that Fred and Emma, (a little family of two) "Part of our poker-chip family are as FLAWED as all the other families out there. " Even GK understands there is no ideal family.

Even George, depressed and peeing rust asks himslef, "What the hell am I doing, siting around trying to guess when I was going to die?" Do you think we all should wonder about that once in a while? Would it be better for us? Perhaps, it would encourage us to all consider life a little deeper, a bit more profoundly. Remember Geo. telling the young lad, "You'll be 80 tomorrow. And then you get to die."

I had remarked in an earlier post that we are having the house painted. I jokingly said I wanted RED like the Hogan house, I've grown to love. Well, it ain't red, but it ain't the right color either. See what I get for being a smart ---.

January 23, 2000 - 03:35 pm
Bless Clara for making George's exit out of this world just a little easier. Has everyone finished this book?

Purple Sage
January 24, 2000 - 12:41 am
Yes, I finished the book. I was unhappy with the neat, tyed together ending. It seemed to run out of steam. I thought George was the one holding everyone together. Alas, I was wrong. Now everyone had become independent and George seemed to have not been the 'Force' at all. Life goes on. I enjoyed the book very much and I enjoyed this discussion. The book will be in my mind for a long while.


January 24, 2000 - 05:31 am
Purple Sage: ME TOO! Any other comments out there?

Gregg Kleiner
January 25, 2000 - 06:43 pm
Hi all. I've been extremely busy with my day job the past week or so, and have therefore had no time to log in and read and comment (and of course no time to work on my next novel). But I thank you again for all your feedback and interest in WHERE RIVER TURNS TO SKY.

I'll let all of you duke it out about the ending. I tend to agree, in hindsight, that perhaps the ending arrives a bit too swiftly, and yes things are tied up perahps a bit too well. But I wanted to hint at the idea that a place like the Hogan House could, indeed, carry on without the leader... that, like all of life, things move forward. George made his contribution and then departed, leaving the others to "swim" for themselves.

The book was recently optioned by Fox for a possible movie. Not that it will ever get made, but readers seem to always be casting actors and actresses in the various roles. We'll see. Maybe one of you all can have a part...? Thanks again for all your comments. --Gregg

January 26, 2000 - 05:32 am
Congratulations on the option, Gregg (don't go Hollywood on us) and thanks for the generous gift of your time with us. We all, I'm sure, appreciated it.

January 26, 2000 - 05:33 am
Greg: THANK YOU!!! You've been just grand, logging on and chatting with us, sharing your passion for this book. I am an ardent fan, my dear. (Get busy with that next book and do check in periodically to fill us in.) WOW!! A movie. I've always seen Jack Lemmon as George as your story unfolded. "Grace" would have been a fabulous role for little Mary Martin (whose river has already turned to sky.) Kathy Bates, made up for Clara-- hey I'm the new casting director.

May God bless you Greg and hold your hand as you spread such poignant words.

Jim Olson
January 26, 2000 - 11:37 am
I've been away from this discussion for awhile-

Off sailing with Patrick O'Brian- I'm not well suited to sea life- sea sick most of the time and banged up a little when captured by the French and Spanish. One voyage a year enough for me here.

Helping that British lord and his Sgt Barabara solve a murder at Oxford with Elizabeth George.- always a good read here- the whodunit takes second place to the meticulous character development.

Tramping the hills of the rez with Jim Chee looking for the " First Eagle" with Tony Hillerman- he just gets better with each mystery. He should after that awful "Fly on th Wall"

Finally back to the midwest to hear a "Plainsong" done by Kent Haruf.

"Plainsong" is perhaps a good book to compare with River-Sky etc.

Both end up with a number of characters of various ages together in an extended family relationship.

Both have a strong narrative line- books you can't put down.

Both explore the human condition and reveal essential aspects of it.

Plainsong has its roots in the midwest and River on the west coast and it shows. Plainsong brings back echoes of Sherwood Anderson- tersely written- well wrought in fine but compelling detail- River- well, what can I say about the west coast? best not to delve into that. I'm too much at home with my midwest roots.

Plainsong a third novel- River a first- that shows, too. Haruf shows more tells less.

Both by writers we look to for more development in the future.

I'll be reading the next books of both.

January 26, 2000 - 03:25 pm
Unless there are objections, I'd like to put together a compendium of our thoughts on this book - a SN review of sorts to post at B&N and Am***n. OK?? (We've done this before). I figure we owe it to Gregg for his efforts...THis discussion will remain open for awhile to post your final or other thoughts. Thank you all very much for participating.


January 26, 2000 - 04:21 pm
I enjoyed. Thank you. Have not finished it yet, but intend to.

January 29, 2000 - 03:35 pm
Of all the disgusting things! I waited all this time for a copy of this book at the local library, and it was finally available yesterday! I've been reading like mad, and would just like to say that I think it's a wpnderful book! I laughed and cried intermittently so far, and even though I'm not finished, these characters seem to jump right out at me!


Jim Olson
January 31, 2000 - 11:55 am

There is a new discussion opening tomorrow on books into movies etc., and since this book was mentioned as a possible movie, maybe you could discuss it there in terms of how you feel it might do as a movie-

Who might play the roles- which parts are most subject to graphic symbols- which part might be left out (I nominate the whole baseball thing)

January 31, 2000 - 01:03 pm
Jim, that's a marvelous idea! And it won't be a problem, because I'm leading the discussion. hahaha

I think that when we get to contemporary writers, Ill do just that. This is too good a book to just let go of it now, especially if Hollywood is nosing around, as Gregg intimated. Thanks for the suggestion.


betty gregory
February 2, 2000 - 12:51 pm
Hello, old friends. I'm settling into Yuuuuston (TX) and trying mightily to keep to myself how much I miss the Oregon coast. For most of the 7 weeks I've been here, the temperature has been in the mid 70's (and above) and I have had the air conditioner on to combat the humidity, missing all the while the 50's temperature and low humidity (between storms) of my beloved Oregon. However, however, reconnecting with my old friend (and incidental sister-in-law) who is in her post-operative chemo phase (pre-operative 3 months of chemo did a lot but not enough) has been wonderful, really wonderful, why didn't I do this sooner!! We've been friends 18 years and sisters-in-law 16 years. Now we live 8 miles apart after having lived in different cities for 10 years. Almost immediately, we began talking on the phone 2 or 3 times a day. No long distance bills!! Plus, my brother is more grown up than I expected him to be---when did he become this rock of strength?? I could tell right off the bat that having three small children has changed him in ways I like very much. Some time during my first week here, he said, "I think you still have fever." (I'd been sick but knew my fever was gone.) As I was pleading my case, he marched over and clamped one hand on my forehead and the other on the back of my head. "Hmmm," he says in a parental tone, "maybe you don't." (I think my being the oldest and his being the youngest of 5 doesn't count any more.) So, trees or no trees, I'm glad to be close to these two.

Anyway, I've just finished River/Sky book and am so glad I checked in about a week ago to see what everyone was reading. What a wonder this author is. Not many can avoid the entrenched ideas about aging folks, but he has. And how I appreciated the depth of Clara's character. Her "limitations" came mostly from her environment, not from her body. Can you see red dress Nurse Rachet pushing her into the swimming hole up to her neck? Or putting her in charge of after baseball barbeque?

What I appreciated most, though, of the many things, was the delicate and so authentic balance of the characters' internal and external limitations/pressures----the wary attitudes toward change. Clara, and even George, had to deal with self-doubt and internal reluctance to step off the familiar path (moving, baseball, etc.). And it felt just right that they continued to have doubts as they went along. Another outside pressure that people would face (on top of the city, neighborhood and nursing home pressures in this book) is from family. You're going to do what? In that trashy place with the tractors on the street? Mother, have you lost your mind?

My longest laughs came with each unusual change to the house/yard. Electric cables strung out the window. Roosters. Bleachers. A sound system. Remember how the neighborhood shock began?....a garden in the front yard. Little did they know. I loved the whole mess of it. I loved being reminded in this way how sterile our neighborhoods are today, how few people feel connected to others in their neighborhood or even see their neighbors for stretches of time. (Pull into the garage, the garage door goes down.) There is far less out-in-the-yard activity that we do today. With the closed up houses that air conditioning brought us, we no longer can even HEAR our neighbors.

Another insightful touch from Kleiner was the fuzzy line between being bold/eccentric and crazy/losing-it/psychotic. Of course, each decade of the 20th century brought fewer diagnoses of mental illness for being eccentric or not conforming to a social code, although I think we still do too much of it. I'm sure that most of us understood as we read of George's escalating odd behavior toward the end that it was part of the stress/trauma of his medical condition, on top of everything else. Gregg Kleiner, what a gift you have in seeing, understanding and (my goodness) writing about this fuzzy area. And Grace. Speaking of fuzzy areas. I like it when an author leaves some of the interpretation up to the reader.

I liked Grace a lot. From my own biases, I expect. The small interludes with her felt like meditations. So, that's another area that felt seemlessly melded---the otherworldly Grace stuff and the reality of George and Clara. Have you ever noticed how good writing feels easy to read? Some of the writing issues that get talked about in other book discussions sometimes don't come up when we've read good writing.

George---Paul Newman. He's doing more break-out roles like this. Or maybe Jason Robards. Jessica Tandy, if she were still living, would have been wonderful as unreadable Clara. Ellen Burstein for Grace.

And here's where you'll say, what??? Elizabeth Taylor as Emma. She did her best work when she played rotten people. I can see her dressed waaay down, sliding around the house in old house-shoes, complaining about all the work. Whining. Or, maybe...Shelley Winters. Is she still alive? She's a good whiner.

Anyway, sorry to be so late with my comments, although it was interesting to finish the book then immediately read through all your comments. Gregg, you need a grant. With your skills, you need to be free to write and write. Your reference to Cannon Beach in the intro made me wince, though---my heart's still there, if not my furniture.


Barbara St. Aubrey
February 2, 2000 - 01:15 pm
Hurrah Betty is back Hurrah!

February 2, 2000 - 02:53 pm
Betty: What a marvelous post!! I'm just finishing up the book--I'm way late because it took so long to get a copy from the library. But isn't it wonderful! I love the different settings--today I read the part where George took them all swimming, and you could almost feel Clara's bliss, couldn't you?

Yup, Paul Newman as George. I can see that. But Elizabeth Taylor? Well, maybe. She did do a good job where she played a frowsy housewife, forget which one. Maybe. Jessica Tandy, for sure.


February 2, 2000 - 03:35 pm
This is so great that you've returned. I am sincerely, sincerely pleased.


February 2, 2000 - 03:45 pm
I see you sill have the ability to cut through to the core of things. On Clara: "Her "limitations" came mostly from her environment, not from her body" Yes, yes, yes. What a timely book for you it seems - even located in your beloved oregon Coast - and the stress of change. Welcome back, again.

Diane Church
February 2, 2000 - 06:06 pm
Wow, Betty - that WAS a great post! You said everthing so well - do you write? You must.

Enjoyed your casting suggestions but wonder if anyone can relate to my feeling that Danny Kaye would have made a great George. Or a blend of Kaye and Jimmy Durante? I think I still miss the magic that those two brought with them and saw some of that magic in George.

February 3, 2000 - 07:33 am
BETTY: How fortunate for us you have returned... You have such a talent for expressing your understanding of the written word. You are delightful!! Welcome back to us. I know how it is to grieve for a "spot" you've loved and lost. Think of it as a NEW chapter, a new awareness. You are so lucky to have your family near-by, as they are fortunate to have you there with them, as well. I've probably said this before but I think Kathy Bates would make a great Clara and Jack Lemmon, George. Whomever!! I'll be the 1st to rush to the movie theat.er

Jim Olson
February 3, 2000 - 09:01 am
I guess I would not be so interested in who would play various roles as in how the film might be done.

I'd prefer all newcomers in the roles so no stereotyped baggage is brought along.

I can imagine some key scenes- the group riding along in the pick-up with Clara in the back etc.

I would not like the Nurse Rachett stereotype any better than the aging stereotypes. One could always haul back Jack Nicholson to reprise One flew over the Cuckoos nest-

Not for me-

I want to see a fresh approach including throwing out that Field of Dreams reprise as well.

I'd like to see the new concepts and fresh ideas that Kleiner has in the book developed in the film and not those several elements that seem derivative

I would not focus on the nursing home at all but on the community of people living in the house and their adventures.

I'd take Clara back to her days in Vegas- lots of flashbacks to her younger days and focus on her story.

February 3, 2000 - 10:29 am
One thing about the book. It's very easy to imagine a movie scene showing that huge, red, dilapidated house, with all George's farm equipment, the chicken coop, the baseball diamond, the various "junk" around the yard, and the shocked expressions of his neighbors. I simply loved that scene where they were doing all the chicken-plucking and one got away and on to what's his name's golf shoes!! I laughed so hard I almost spilled my coffee!


February 5, 2000 - 07:42 pm
I had the pleasure of meeting the author and collecting a signed copy many months back at a Caring for the Caregiver Conference. It was soon tear-stained though with laughter. Never mind that they'd be arrested in this state for running an unlicensed care home...you have to cheer on their bittersweet attempts to beat the system. The issue of self-determination is at the heart of it all, yes?

February 6, 2000 - 04:26 am
Happywind, a bright good morning to you and welcome to our Books and I hope you will look about you and plan to stay a long time! We have been honored to have read this book with the author, everybody has raved about it and we here in the Books are so proud of our Charlie and Gregg and all of our participants here, it's a singular event!

So glad to have you!


February 6, 2000 - 08:24 am
Happywind Welcome to this little corner of the world. It is so nice to meet you. I will be watching for your posts in books and literature. I really enjoyed Where River Turns To Sky.


February 6, 2000 - 12:07 pm
HAPPYWIND: Welcome aboard our reading train, we are very happy to find you here. Stick with Charlie Wendell and the gang and you'll be in for a great treat. I don't know when I've enjoyed reading more, than with this group.