Written Words Bookstore

July 15, 2014

Review of “The Farm” by Tom Rob Smith

Filed under: Fiction — by Dorothy @ 5:59 pm

Farm“Your mother…she’s not well……..She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things……..She’s been committed.”

“Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I need the police.”

How would YOU like to get phone calls like that from your parents? Especially when you thought they were living a dreamy, idyllic life on a small farm in Sweden? Most importantly, WHO would you believe??

Daniel grew up sheltered and loved. Perhaps a bit too much. His parents shielded him from the frowns of life whenever possible. So when talks of madness, betrayal and conspiracies appeared seemingly out of nowhere, he was not only thrown for a loop, but upside down and inside out as well. Thus began a cat and mouse chase from Sweden to London, where Daniel resides, and where his mother headed after leaving the psychiatric institution with his father hot in pursuit not far behind.

The bulk of the book is a detailed flashback told from the mother’s point of view to Daniel, desperately making her case while attempting to convince her son that she is not crazy and that a terrible crime has been committed. With one eye on the clock and a finger to steady her last remaining nerve, the paranoid woman wish to gain an ally in Daniel so that together they could go to the authorities.

“If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.”

No pressure there, Daniel.

As you can see from my review of Child 44 a couple of years ago, I’m a fan of Tom Rob Smith and his talent of creating suspenseful, heart-stopping scenes to engage the reader. Having too many volumes on my to-read list, I skipped over the next couple of books by Tom until now, when the delicious synopsis of The Farm caught my eye while reviewing new releases. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Like an infomercial, where the pitch of “it slices, it dices and performs cataract surgery while you’re sleeping” has us all salivating, the more the promises dazzle, the higher our expectations. And I sure had high hopes going into The Farm. Therefore I blame my disappointment on me and no one else, for yes, I expected too much.

First on my list: I didn’t care too much for Daniel. Let me clarify: when a character is designed NOT to be likable, then I would have said that the author succeeded. However, I do not believe that to be the case here. Granted, for the most part he was merely the “medium”, the bridge between us and his mother, the reason why we get to hear the story. In short, he’s us, the objective 3rd party, the judge and jury, the voice of reason. Unfortunately he comes across as a non-entity pretty much the entire book – submissive, without opinion and dare I say, somewhat spineless. Not exactly the kind of person you’d like to have represent you.

Secondly, the readers are reminded repeatedly of the urgency and shortage of time, since Daniel’s father was to show up very soon, and who knows what he was going to do?? OH NO!!!! Yet his mother didn’t have any trouble taking her time with lengthy descriptions, which drove me bonkers. The suspense quickly ended up being weak and certainly didn’t last.

Finally, the big reveal. Perhaps by then I had already lost interest, for it was ultimately unsatisfying and somewhat juvenile.

Yes, I blame only myself for having huge expectations. I had to work on The Farm and it ended up not working for me. But I still believe Tom to be talented and will not hesitate to read more of his works.



January 15, 2013

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Filed under: Fiction — by Dorothy @ 12:48 am


Title: Mother Night

Author: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Genre: Classic Literature

Reviewed by: David Broder

Kurt Vonnegut was an American writer, novelist, journalist, pacifist and social critic.  His experiences as a POW in Germany during WW II and his witnessing the bombing of Dresden, a non military target, colored so much of his perception that he felt sad and tired for the world. His greatest book Slaughterhouse-Five is often required reading in high schools across the country.
My favorite Vonnegut Novel is Mother Night.

Vonnegut opens the book with a confession.  He writes that of all his novels Mother Night is the only one he knows the moral to.  He insists it’s not a great moral it is just that he knows what it is, and the moral is “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Thus opens Mother Night, the story of Howard W. Campbell, an American playwright of some merit living in Germany and married to a German before WW II.  The story begins with Campbell writing his memoirs while in prison in Israel awaiting trial for war crimes.

Howard is apolitical referring to he and his wife as a nation of two and doing their best to get along in the new Nazi regime where he becomes a Nazi in name only. One day Campbell is recruited by an American intelligence officer to be a spy for the U.S.  Howard accepts this role reluctantly and being a member of the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda under Goebbels becomes a radio commentator and one of the most rabid, fanatical, evil Nazis in the Reich.  All the top Nazis clamor to be his friend, to be seen with him and to socialize with him.  Because of his completely viscous, racist and anti-American propaganda he becomes one of Hitler’s favorites.

What the Nazis don’t know, and even Campbell is unaware, is that Campbell’s radio tirades are filled with coded messages to the allies with information that ultimately saves American soldiers lives and helps defeat the Nazis.  The only catch is that there are only two people in the world who know that Campbell is working for the allies:  the intelligence officer who recruits him and FDR and because, while Campbell’s propaganda does help the allied war effort, the words in his speeches also cause the death of millions of civilians.  For that reason neither the recruiter nor FDR ever acknowledge Campbell’s vital role.  At the end of the war Campbell visits his father-in-law who tells him he never liked him and that he always suspected Campbell was a spy.  He continues to tell Campbell that it didn’t really matter because even if he was a spy for the allies he did such a good job as a propagandist that no one could have served the Nazi cause any better.

After the war Campbell, the most hated propagandist in the world, is relocated to the U.S. where, as a middle-aged pensioner tries to live his life in anonymity.  To Campbell’s horror he is discovered not only by American veterans of the war who want to kill him, but also the only people who consider him a hero:  Racists, kooks and Neo Nazis.  The only people who love Campbell are the very people he hates.

Thus the story is set as Campbell is delivered from anonymity back in the public eye to be vilified and harassed once again.  Eventually he stands trial for war crimes in Israel with an old former fellow Nazi, Adolph Eichman.

The dilemma the story poses is just as Vonnegut says, we must be careful what we pretend to be because we are what we pretend to be.  We must also be cognizant of what effect that which we pretend to be will have on our conscience.  If you pretend to be something that you are not regardless of the reasons can you live with the consequences?  This is the question Howard W. Campbell attempts to answer for all of mankind.

If you want a book with something to say but without a lot of complex language, a dark sense of humor and very interesting characters then try Mother Night.  It could have a profound affect on you.


January 11, 2013

Turning a new page…

Filed under: Store News & Events — by Dorothy @ 1:30 am

Has it really been almost a year since I last posted? Where has the time gone? 2012 came and went and just as well, since it ultimately proved to be an extremely challenging year for us.

One of the most significant “events” was the expiration of our lease. After several foggy, aimless months, it was decided that our lease would not be renewed and we were to soldier on and find ourselves a new location.

This was truly bittersweet because not only was the store “born” here, everyone loves the big, bright windows and open space that is so pleasing to the eyes and soul. And being a mere five minutes from my house means quick trips home to pick up the extra sweater and short driving distances which saves on gas. My children’s bus stops practically right outside our doors, to the envy of many working parents.

Need a loaf of bread? I go see Christine, Tina or Chris at IGA across the way. Need a prescription filled? Sanjay and Dipika at the Medicine Shoppe are always quick to respond. Lee, Mike and Henry at Chinatown Shelton know plenty of tricks to keep my tummy happy, and Carlos from Trattoria Roma shares the love of my secret favorite Italian dish. Yoga Linda upstairs brings the “om” into my life, while the gals at Newtown Savings Bank keep me grounded. Then there’s the incredible friendship we’ve forged with Kathy, Bob and Morgan at Huntington Rental.

Sure I’ll miss this place, but as I’ve explained to many of my customers: I’ve never been “stagnant” in one place in my life. New challenges and experiences are always presenting themselves to shake things up and I’ve grown as a person with each and every one of them. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Part of me is giddy with excitement and can’t wait to find out.

Stay tuned as I’m sure we will be making an announcement soon on our impending move. Good night!


February 26, 2012

Noah Barleywater Review

Filed under: Children's Books — by Dorothy @ 12:27 am


Title: Noah Barleywater Runs Away

Author: John Boyne

Genre: Pre-Teen Fiction

Reviewed by: Dorothy

I received an advance review copy of Noah Barleywater Runs Away months ago but did not pick it up until recently. Author John Boyne had scored high with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which is young adult historical fiction. Not being familiar with the Irish novelist otherwise, I was surprised to find his next book a middle-grade fiction. What made it even more interesting was when I peeked into Boyne’s bibliography, there lists a slew of adult fiction and short stories, with Noah and Boy being his only works to date for the younger audience. Aside from that, I had no expectations and dove into the story with a clear mind. Unfortunately what once was clear was left muddled in the end.

Eight-year-old Noah makes a calculated decision to run away from home as a way of dealing (or rather, NOT dealing) with certain issues at home. He passes through a couple of villages and ends up at an unusual toy store and spends the day with the toy maker, who has a story or two to tell to the young lad.

It was confusing for me right from the get-go as I had a difficult time trying to grasp what Boyne was trying to achieve. The first problem for me was the story setting: Every indication points to quaint little villages, which gives me the impression that perhaps the story takes place during times past or at some sort of rural surrounding. Then out pop cars, hotels, people rushing to work……a jarring contradiction that just didn’t sit well.

Boyne also tried his hands on odd and at times clever happenings (a la The Phantom Tollbooth) such as newspapers with headlines of incidents that happened mere minutes ago and a donkey who is always hungry. Unfortunately they did not quite work. Most of them are glossed over, shallow and disconnected. The only place that worked was in the toy shop, where Boyne had time to describe the surroundings and enough pages were devoted for readers to park, savor the details and enjoy the fun.

The story itself falls flat, with too much narrative that would come across as dry and boring to young readers. Even who the mysterious toy maker turns out to be is no surprise and frankly, by the end, I couldn’t care less. All in all, a disappointing read for me.


January 26, 2012

Wake-Up Call

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Dorothy @ 2:51 am

A fellow independent bookstore owner posted the following on a Publisher’s Weekly blog last week:


Upon reading the article, waves of emotions swept through me as I recall the number of beloved small businesses which closed in the last couple of years in our town, the struggle that many of us continue to face, and the intense sadness of possibly not being able to continue to do what I love if things don’t turn around soon. But what was most appalling to me was the ignorant remark left in the comments section by someone who claimed she couldn’t care less about the financial woes of business owners. On the contrary, if this person lives in a community, she SHOULD care. A lot.

Like it or not, everyone who lives in a community is interconnected. Local small business owners are no different than your local teachers, priests, mailmen, firemen, etc. We’re your sibling, neighbor, spouse, parent, grandparent, child, aunt, uncle, cousin, best friend. We live here, eat here, pay taxes here. We work here, earn money here, spend it here, and the money in turn pays for the roads, buildings, public education, parks, and even salaries of city workers. It’s a big contraption with one wheel powering the other. Without earnings, we’re unable to spend, and the wheels slow to a stop.

I’ve lost count of how many times someone walked through our door looking for donations for a charity or school newspaper/yearbook/function or other worthy causes. While we tried to help as many as we could when we first opened, we’re no longer at the liberty to do so due to severe lack of business, hence lack of funds.

A local business owner once told me he was especially frustrated when he noticed the majority of people asking for money from him did not even shop at his store. I started to notice similar trends as many of our former customers turn to e-readers or shopping online. The next time one of them shows up asking whether we would support their daughter’s dance troupe or their son’s cub scout project, I want to know: “Since you do not support us, where do I find the means to support you?”

The same vicious cycle rears its ugly head when people complain about limited selections at small independents. If only they would stop and take a second to connect the dots: No business = no extra income = no extra funds to bring in extra merchandise. Just as our regular customers have noticed that shelves that were bulging to the brim a mere four years ago now seem skeletal in comparison.

There are still many more aspects to this which I will save for a later rant. In the mean time, I sincerely hope that Josie’s blog post on Publisher’s Weekly serves as a wake-up call for many. What businesses will YOU miss from YOUR community if they’re gone? Why not make a list, plan a visit, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Before it’s too late.


January 18, 2012

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Dorothy @ 2:52 am

Welcome to 2012, a year that we greet with cautious embrace. Unemployment remains a concern, budgetary issues continue to be on the forefront, and with a major election looming in the horizon, most of us are gingerly putting one foot in front of another, unsure of what this new year might bring.

2011 was an extremely challenging year for us at the store, as we continue to face the onslaught of e-readers on the market and unscrupulous business practices of behemoth competitors. Still, our loyal supporters propped us up and gave us the will to soldier on. Our passion for reading and physical books has not diminished, and as long as we’re here, we will continue to promote literacy as best we can.

If you haven’t visited us in a while, swing by and let’s get re-acquainted! We now have three in-house book discussion groups: one that discusses general fiction works once a month, one that focuses on the Civil War once every quarter, and another that will be introduced in February that discusses biographies, also once a quarter.

Our monthly Food & Friends Club is going strong, as are Diane’s knitting classes, poised to start again after a brief hiatus over the holidays. We’re working on scheduling special events for the year and possibly introducing more gift items to our inventory. Oh, and we now have a puzzle table in front of the window with an ongoing puzzle, well, just because.

So stop by and say “hello”! And don’t forget to support local independent businesses. We’re your friends and neighbors, and your support is more crucial now than ever.

We wish you good health, abundant joy and great prosperity in this New Year!



October 21, 2011

SWCT Youth Book Expo

Filed under: Store News & Events — by Dorothy @ 2:30 am

Yowza! Has it really been two months since I last posted? Tsk, tsk on me. But then, I was up to my eyeballs with the Southwestern Connecticut (SWCT) Youth Book Expo we were co-hosting with the Shelton Libraries.

The event took place last Saturday at the Shelton Courtyard Marriott on Bridgeport Avenue. 24 very cool, very happening children’s book authors were there to greet attendees and autograph books: from the award-winning Leslie Connor (Waiting For Normal, Crunch, Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel) to the hilarious Alan Katz (Take Me Out of the Bathtub, Where Did They Hide My Presents? etc.) and the ever eloquent Doe Boyle (Fun with the Family Connecticut, Coral Reef Hideaway, Otter on His Own), it was obvious from the get-go that they are all passionate about what they do and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Attendees were treated to demonstrations of cartoon illustrating by Jon Buller (Travels of  Thelonious, Noisy Counting Book, etc.), a great story by Jana Laiz on the origin of her award-winning book, Weeping Under This Same Moon, and even a chance to cradle a hissing cockroach courtesy of our favorite local author Amanda Marrone (the Magic Repair Shop series, Devoured, Slayed, etc.).

Rounding out the excitement was beautiful face-painting by graphic artist JeriAnn Geller, Amber Alert by the Derby/Shelton Rotary Club, and amazing magic by Chilean magician Matias Letelier.

Major thanks go to our partners who made it all possible: the Shelton Courtyard Marriott, BIC Corporation, Newtown Savings Bank and R.D. Scinto, Inc. They share our belief on the importance of childhood literacy and quality literature.

With the introduction of gadgets and gizmos, literacy has taken a nosedive in recent years. Many youngsters already suffer from lack of social and communication skills, creativity, and individuality. It is more imperative now than ever for us to continue putting physical books in children’s hands. In a world of gadgets and all things electronic, our fear is that one day children will only know electronic books and worse, not know books at all! While we are not trying to curb technology from moving forward, we could at least spread the word that good ol’ fashion reading can co-exist with the latest and the greatest.

Thank you all who attended the worthwhile event. With any luck, we’ll be able to do it again next year! Woohoo!!!


Note: The event doubled as a fundraiser for the Shelton Library System.

August 18, 2011

More Food & Friends Recipes!

Filed under: Food & Friends Club — by Dorothy @ 1:40 am

I’ve been behind on posting some of the recipes from our Food & Friends Club, no time like the present to try and catch up! Here goes…


(From the Moosewood cookbook)

1 cup chopped onion                                      4 1/2 cups grated carrots

1 lb chopped mushrooms                             5 eggs

2 cloves garlic                                                   1 cup fresh, whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 cup grated cheddar cheese                      1/4 cup butter

Salt, pepper, basil, thyme and parsley to taste

Crush garlic into melting butter. Add onions and mushrooms and saute ’til soft. Combine all ingredients (saving half of the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top). Season to taste. Spread into buttered oblong baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and cheese. Dot with butter. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered, then 5 minutes uncovered or until browned.


CARROT CAKE COOKIES (makes about 3 dozen)


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp)                 1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar                                                             2 large eggs (room temp)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                                           2 cups + all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda                                                           1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt                                                                       1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg                                1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats                                        1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots

1 cup raisins                                                                               Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe to follow)

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, beat on medium speed until well combined. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, stir to combine. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, mix on low speed until just blended. Mix in oats, carrots and raisins. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until browned and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using offset spatula, spread about 2 teaspoons of frosting onto flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich together with remaining cookies. Store refrigerated in airtight containers up to 3 days.


8 ounces cream cheese (room temp)                               1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar                                                    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Please cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, stir cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add butter and continue stiring until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and stir to combine.




1 large yellow onion (coarsely chopped)                       1 small green pepper (cored, seeded, chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)                                                        2 tablespoons olive oil

1 14 1/2 oz can no-salt stewed tomatoes                       1 cup chicken broth

1 10 oz pkg frozen sliced okra (unthawed)                   1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (crumbled)                     1 lb medium shrimp (shelled and deveined)

1 cup quick-cooking white rice                                        2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix onion, pepper, garlic and oil in ungreased 2 1/2 quart microwave-safe casserole. Cover and microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes or until the onion is glassy, stirring midway. Break up the tomatoes with a fork and stir into the casserole along with the juice, chicken broth, okra, red pepper sauce and oregano. Cover and microwave on high for 12 minutes or until okra is tender, stirring every 4 minutes. Add shrimp, cover, microwave on ghih until shrimp are cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and stir until all the grains are well moistened. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let stand in microwave for 3 minutes, then stir in parsley and lemon juice.


WEST AFRICAN STEW (6 servings)

(From allrecipes.com, slightly modified by Jan)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil                                          2 cups sliced onions

2 cloves garlic (minced)                                                 1 lb sweet potatoes (peeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices)

Coarsely chopped tomatoes                                         1/2 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup broth of choice                                                       1 15 oz can chick peas (rinsed and drained)

4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard or spinach

Heat oil in skillet, add onion and garlic, cook until onion is tender. Add sweet potatoes and tomatoes, cook 5 minutes. Add raisins, cinnamon, red pepper and broth, heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes. Add chick peas and spinach, heat through. Serve over cooked rice or couscous. Dish becomes more flavorful when it has a chance to sit awhile and the flavors blend.


DILL DIP (1 1/4 cups)


1/2 cup dairy sour cream                                         1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped green pepper       1 tablespoon dried dill weed

2 tablespoons mayo or salad dressing                1/2 teaspoon Beau Monde seasoning salt

Mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, approximately an hour. Serve with an assortment of vegetables.




1 cup mayo or salad dressing                                 1/2 cup dairy sour cream

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes                         1 to 3 teaspoons dry sherry, optional

1 teaspoon lemon juice                                             1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper                                                  1 6 oz can crabmeat (drained and picked over)

Mix all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, approximately 2 hours. Serve with toast rounds or an assortment of vegetables.



(Posted on epicurious.com by Traci Des Jardins)

4 medium sweet potatoes (peeled, cut lengthwise into quarters, then crosswise into 1/8 inch slices)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter + 3 tablespoons melted                   1 tablespoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

3 medium baking apples (i.e. Sierra Beauty, Granny Smith) (peeled, cored, and cut into quarters)

6 cups loosely packed braising greens (i.e. kale, chard, collard) (stems removed and torn into 2 inch strips)

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves (coarsely chopped)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On foil-lined baking sheet, toss sweet potato slices with 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake until cooked through and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Keep warm. In heavy medium skillet over moderate heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add apples and saute until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Keep warm. In heavy large pot over moderate heat, combine remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons water. Add greens and saute, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to moderately low and add sweet potatoes and apples. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in parsley, remaining 2 teaspoons sale and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Serve hot.



(Posted on food.com by Lorealle)

1 lb polish sausage (sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)       1 cup grape jelly

1 cup seafood cocktail sauce

Place sausage slices into crock pot. Mix grape jelly and cocktail sauce. Pour over sausage. Cook for approximately 3 hours.



(From littleshamrocks.com)

2 tablespoons cooking oil                                                    1 medium onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)                                                       4 lbs chicken wings

1 carrot (peeled and quartered)                                       1 parsnip (peeled and quartered)

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves                                         3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper                                                 3/4 cup Guinness

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Add chicken wings and cook approximately 5 minutes each side until lightly browned. Add onion, garlic, carrot, parsnip and spices, pour Guinness over chicken and vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes until sauce is reduced by half. Discard carrot and parsnip (or set aside to eat later). Place chicken wings on a baking sheet and brush with sauce. Broil on low for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, basting as you turn them. Serve hot.


That’s it for now! More recipes to follow as they are collected.

By the way, the Food & Friends Club is truly having a blast! Great food, great conversations, great camaraderie. You don’t have to be a seasoned cook to join. The whole idea, afterall, is the opportunity to try new foods, new recipes and share ideas. So whether you are a foodie or a wannabe, come check us out! Call the store at 203-944-0400 or send me an e-mail at dorothy@writtenwordsbookstore.com for more information. See ya!


August 12, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Dorothy @ 2:53 am

The door to the bookstore chimed, I looked up, and there she was. A petite brunette, four feet tall, perhaps, exuding quiet energy that is youth.

“Erm……is Harrison here?” She smiled shyly.

I glanced out the door and saw a car parked out front with the engine running. Did I forget my eleven-year-old has a play date? Is he supposed to be somewhere for baseball/swimming/Tae Kwon Do or a birthday party? I went through our schedule in my head quickly and couldn’t come up with anything.

“No……he’s not. And you are……?”

“My name is Chloe*. I was in Harrison’s class.”

“Oh, really? Ooh…….I bet you could tell me stories about Harrison, couldn’t you?” I smiled. Trust me, I wasn’t trying to put her on the spot. After numerous conversations throughout the school year with his teachers and the vice principal, I already knew most, if not all of the “stories” about Harrison at school.

“Yeah.” Completely at ease at having a conversation with me. “But I’m not going to tell you the incident about the dog.” Her eyes grew large as she realized what she just said. “EEEEPS!” She clasped her hands onto her mouth.

I laughed. “Too late now! You better spill!”

That led to a few minutes of conversation about their teachers and curriculum while whoever it was waited patiently in the car outside. I was utterly smittened by Chloe’s precociousness and warm personality. She handled her end of the conversation eloquently without the usual “you know, like” or one-word dead-end answers.

Just when I was debating whether I should type up a marriage contract, she cocked her head, looked at me with complete innocence, and asked:

“Are you his mother or sister?”

THAT’S IT!!!! We’re signing the contract today!!!

It took all I could muster not to laugh out loud.

“I’m his mother.”

“Oh.” She nodded with all seriousness.

For fear that whoever was in the car was going to bill me for gas if we converse any longer, I told Chloe I would let Harrison know she stopped by. She smiled politely, waved, and was gone.

I don’t think I will ever get used to the innocence that comes out of the mouth of babes. What I find particularly challenging are questions that require answers, like the ones my eight-year-old like to catch me off-guard with at the oddest moments: “What’s a comb-over?” “If Moms are the ones who get pregnant, why do we need Dads?” “Why can’t Dad sleep in my room and I sleep with you in yours?” “YOU SHAVE YOUR ARMPITS?!”

I recall finding a quiet and sullen-looking Harrison at the dining table one day. He had a slight crease between his brows and was apparently deep in thought. He was around five at the time, what in the world could have been so worrisome to him?

“What’s going on?”

“Mom, when I grow up, I’m going to marry a woman.”

“Right.” So far so good.

“We’re going to have a baby.”

“Okay….” Uh oh. Is it the birds & the bees? He’s only five! What should I do?? Where’s my husband when you need him?!

“We have to live with you or maybe build a house next door and we could all live together because because BECAUSE…..”

I was at the edge of my seat as his little voice got higher and the crease between his brows deepened.


Took me awhile to convince him that by the time he’s an adult, he would have had a driver’s license and would certainly know the route to the hospital.

Aaaah, if only such innocence lasts and that our biggest worry in life is whether we can find our way to the nearest delivery room.


*Name changed to protect identity.

July 20, 2011

“Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Filed under: Fiction — by Dorothy @ 9:46 pm


Title: Let the Right One In

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Genre: Fiction (Horror)

Reviewed by: David Broder

Let’s first begin with the understanding of two things:  1.  I have, up until now, only considered Bram Stoker’s original Dracula as the only “vampire” book worth reading and 2.  I saw both the Swedish movie and its American counterpart (Let Me In) before I read the book Let The Right One In.

Over the years there have been several types of Vampires.  First the traditional demon and purveyor of evil, Dracula.  Dracula was built on the gothic notion of a vampire.  He was evil incarnate, he was a sexual predator and he predominantly victimized women to satiate his need for blood.  He deliberately caused them to become vampires themselves who were subservient to his will and would often prey upon children, making them grotesque and horrid creatures.  They were dead, or undead to be more specific and slept in coffins filled with the earth of their homeland. 

Up until recently that pretty much defined the vampire.  Regardless of who the story was about Stoker’s Dracula was the model.  Then Anne Rice created LeStat.  LeStat was a little more human but because of his immortality, he was philosophically a cynic and a rogue existing from one hedonistic moment to the next.  He was a libertine, a cad and a bounder. Yet, he was charming and handsome.

More recently there have cropped up the genre of teen vampires.  These stories, geared to the young reader audience have taken the typical teenage angst and projected onto the vampire existence, the ultimate outsider and misfit trying to fit in with the dating scene.  What I have found in these characters is a pervasive narcissism and over dramatization of what it is like to be a young person.  Besides the difficulty of being a vampire they also have to worry about zits and who they are going to the prom with.

But I recently watched the movie Let The Right One In which was based on the book by the same name.  It was a Swedish film (as the novel was originally translated from Swedish as well).  I could also describe it as a quiet film.  I then read the book as I was fascinated by the story and the heroine of the story, Eli.

It is the story of Oskar, a boy, small for his age, who is continuously set upon by bullies and not occasionally.  He is the daily target of cruelty that would crush even the strongest of us.

One winter night in 1983 while 12-year-old Oskar is in the courtyard of the condo where he lives with his divorced mother, he is approached by a young girl who had just moved in the NIGHT before.  She begins their relationship with the pronouncement that she can’t be his friend, “that’s just the way it is.”  The next evening, however, the two, Oskar and Eli, start a conversation over a Rubik’s Cube.  Oskar notices however that Eli is only wearing a short sleeve shirt and jeans.  She isn’t cold, smells funny and when Oskar asks her age she can only reply, “12 more or less.”  The next night Eli shows up in the courtyard again with the solved Rubik’s cube and showered.  Smiling, she asks Oskar, “Do I smell better now?”

Thus begins a close friendship, a romance if you will, between a lonely boy who is an outcast and a lonely girl who is a misfit as well.  Of course as you can guess Eli is a vampire.  But one of a different sort.  In her world, vampirism is more or less like an illness.  Eli, unlike traditional vampires like Dracula and LeStat is not dead or undead.  She is a warm-blooded person like you and I, only that she needs the blood of the living to survive.  She is remorseful of this.  In one scene in the movie, she weeps after killing someone.  She must kill them or they will become like her and she doesn’t want to let that happen.

There is a strange and terrible sadness about Eli which for the true romantic is quite attractive.  When Oskar figures out Eli is a vampire he asks how old is she “really”.  Eli says quite emphatically that she is only 12 but has been “12 for a very long time”.  She lives a life that has no end and has no purpose.  She’s been alive for centuries but has never been close to anyone.  Oskar changes all that.

Oskar becomes her friend and confidante.  He protects her, talks with her, one night when she shows up at his window and crawls into his bed, he shows her and allows her to show him tenderness.  Ultimately she becomes his protector.

What makes the book and the movies so unusual for the genre is that the story is really a sort of character study. It focuses on the relationship between these two young people without the clichés one might find in the more teenage oriented versions or in the traditional versions.  This is an adult story about two pre-adolescents who find themselves in each other and develop a bond that transcends Eli’s being a vampire.

The reader feels sympathy for Eli.  She is after all a child but will never grow up and have a real life.  She must live in the darkness, in fear of being discovered and in fear of the knowledge that everyone and everything around her will age and pass and leave her behind.  But for now Oskar is her light.

I think if you are interested in this book, which is wonderfully written with a lot of detail, action and character, you should read it before seeing either of the movies.  The movies differ from the book in that the story is a bit more complex, there are more characters with their own stories and conflicts, like that of the detective who is trying to solve a series of murders which of course are connected to Eli. There are a few twists and turns and the author moves Eli’s character in a direction that at once was surprising but for me somewhat disappointing.  I really wish he didn’t add to Eli’s secrets this one in particular.

The movies have a simpler story, less dialogue and more mood, if you will.  Also, there is greater focus on Oskar and Eli (Abby in the American version).  In the movie version of the story Eli is a simpler character, more childlike and therefore more sympathetic.  The ennui that surrounds her is more evident and emotionally affective.  I enjoyed the book and the story but was moved by the film.

I highly  recommend the book and the movies.  Though they differ the story is engaging in both forms and provides something different from what you might expect from the genre.


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