Mind & Matter

Beach read, smeach read. I think that we should all read anything we want in the summer – spin the wheel and pick a genre, any genre. The New Yorker (available to us online, 24-hours a day, through RBdigital) published an article which unveiled the truth behind the summer reading season.

It turns out that the whole summer reading phenomenon is a put-up job created by the publishing industry at the turn of the last century. Those clever marketing people just wanted to sell more books! When vacation getaways became popular, thanks to railways and steamships, they got to work and made sure that their product would be ready for packing into stylish suitcases. They repackaged older titles as “summer” editions (I know that I would be fooled by this – I can easily be taken in by a book with a straw hat on the cover), encouraged their authors to write novels set on campsites and summer resorts and poof, made the summer novel an important part of the publishing market. Well, it all worked out well for them, didn’t it?

Now it seems like every newspaper and magazine we receive here in the library runs a feature on summer reads, beach reads, resort reads or cottage reads. Men’s Health magazine (available on the shelf and through RBdigital) has even promoted books that are ‘unsung beach reads’ in their July/August issue. I’m in favour of this, wholeheartedly. Let’s all read more!

I recently fell so hard for a book that didn’t have a straw hat on the cover and looks more like a back-to-school title than anything else but I encourage you to rush out and grab a copy. Mind and Matter, the memoir by former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel is not your typical NFL story. It’s really not like any book I’ve ever read before. The subtitle of his book is “a life in math and football” because at the time his book was published John was working towards his PhD in math at MIT. Not something might expect to read about a former NFL player and maybe that is what makes this book a fantastic read. I read it, one of my daughters read it and then my husband picked it up and we all have not stopped talking about it whenever we can move conversation towards the topic of John Urschel. If we have talked to you in the last few weeks we have probably mentioned him.

Although he was born in Winnipeg, Urschel had moved to Buffalo by the time he attended high school. He began to play football because he was inspired by his father’s college career and saw it as a way to be popular. Urschel enjoyed the sport and loved being on a team right away but it wasn’t easy. He worked hard, practiced at home and had extra coaching from his father so that he could catch up with kids who were far stronger players. But something that did come easy to him, even at a very young age, were puzzles and math.

When John Urschel was just 13 his mother arranged for him to audit a college-level Calculus course because she knew that he would enjoy it so much. They played a little game where she would let him have the change from their shopping trips if he could calculate the tax before the cashier finished tallying their purchases. She had to stop that quickly as his mental work was so quick.

Everything Urschel writes in this autobiography is very matter of fact, partially because he wants to tell a convincing story about following the path that feels right to you, even when people around you are telling you it isn’t the right one, and all of the little glimpses he shares about his younger grades just jump off the page.

He wrote this book with the assistance of his partner, author Louisa Thomas, and it is honest and inspiring (even when he gets down to the nitty gritty of explaining a multi-step logic problem). Urschel made the choice to accept a scholarship to Penn State in 2010 although his mother was pressuring him to attend Stanford because he felt like their football team would be the best fit for him. When he arrives on their campus it’s the first step in a long journey to the NFL and this half of his life story is filled with exactly what you would expect – grueling workouts, games out of town, making lifelong friendships with other players and fighting to keep his spot on the roster. Learning about his time at Penn State is particularly interesting as he was there during the time that football players were sanctioned for the acts of their former coach Jerry Sandusky. It’s the first of many moments in John’s life that the reader feels like they have that “fly on the wall” experience.

When Urschel was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 draft he had completed his master’s degree and even published a paper in an academic journal. At this time in his football career he was starting to feel the pull of his academic interests but still wanted to stay with the team. Incredibly he was able to balance both his school world and the life of an NFL player. It’s wonderful to read the story of his management saying that now that he is signed to a big football contract it’s time to do something about the horrible car he has been driving. Urschel had been driving the same car for years so he agreed to this and asked that they order him a Nissan Versa. A new one, certainly, but not the type of car you would expect of someone who has just signed an NFL contract. And definitely a slightly smaller car than would comfortably fit an offensive lineman. It’s a story that is constantly fascinating.

Something you would expect in a memoir about a football player is for it to discuss concussions. He talks about the possibility of injury, brain and body, throughout his career and the part they play in his life. Each time he considers whether he will continue on in the sport this is something that is on his mind and he spends time in the book discussing how he is able to compartmentalize his feelings about injuries. He is aware of the chance he could develop CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and addresses his concerns. He is honest about how it might change the direction of his career as a mathematician but he continues to work at both math and football with equal passion despite experiencing a concussion during Ravens training camp in August of 2015.

His love of football and mathematics are interwoven perfectly throughout the book and that is one of the things that make it such a pleasure to read – the balance. He gives equal weight to both and as you read you can see why he devotes so much to making both parts of his life a success. This isn’t an autobiography that gives much detail outside of those two pursuits but this helps you to see why he does so well in both vocations. He occasionally mentions other players on his teams, shares details about the mentors he has at the universities or says how much he enjoys the campus where he lives but there are very few incidental moments shared about how he spent his life. At the end of the book you realize the reason for this is because it’s likely he didn’t have much extra time between playing a competitive sport and his academic life. Well, he does mention wanting to take a break at one point, and this is when he takes up chess in a more serious way. He had enjoyed it off and on throughout his life but when he decides he needs it for a change of pace he orders specialized books, studies the most famous games, and finds himself spending hours contemplating a particular position on the board.

Finally Urschel does find that his life at MIT is the more appealing one. He acknowledges that either football or mathematics would benefit from his full-time attention and he knows that he is looking forward to going back to school more than being at ‘work’ on the football field. It isn’t a decision that he makes easily (and in an interview I read he says that he does miss his NFL pay cheque) and he notes that his fiancé and their daughter factor into his retirement from the NFL.

At a young age John Urschel decided that he wanted to choose an unexpected career path and put everything he could into making his unlikely future happen. In Mind and Matter he has written an inspiring, enjoyable memoir that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages – whether they enjoy math or football or neither of those things – his story is so compelling. And, if you want to, skip ahead to the logic puzzle it is on pages 8 through 12 (yes, it takes 5 pages to describe this puzzle and the solution, he is the real deal).

— Penny M.

The River

As we approach summer, here is a great read for those who long for outdoor living. In  “The River“, the story centres on two young men, Wynn and Jack, who have been best friends since their freshman year. They bonded with a similar curiosity and love for fishing, the mountains and camping.

Deciding to take a long wilderness canoe trip on the Maskwa River in northern Canada, the lads get themselves outfitted sparingly but wisely with the best quality equipment they will require during their adventure. Having done some canoeing myself, I loved reading about the gear they brought.. the utility of the cooking devices, the kind of sleeping bags and clothing, each piece chosen for the multi-faceted uses that would be required of them. They were able to live in a kind of sparse luxury. Even the food they brought was well-planned and intended to supplement a diet of fish and whatever other food that could be derived from nature.

At the outset, we find them living idyllically, paddling leisurely throughout the day and making camp as the sun ebbed. Books are a common denominator and they spend their leisure time discussing their favourite reads.

One day while out on the water, they smell smoke and as the day wears on, they come to understand that this smoke is the harbinger of peril for them. Knowing a massive forest fire is heading in their direction, they make the decision to run hard to their final destination. They try to warn a couple of Texan fisherman about the imminent danger but they drunkenly laugh it off.

The next day, en route, there is a commotion coming from the shore, the sounds of a couple arguing intensely. Making the decision not to interfere, Wynn and Jack keep a brisk paddling pace until making camp that evening. This is the part of the story when mayhem breaks out and the skills and intuitive sensibilities of these young men are tested to the limits.

Author Peter Heller’s research into forest fires, wildlife and survival training is what takes this fast-paced, well-written psychological thriller to the next level. I was absolutely glued to this book and felt emotionally spent at the end. I gave it 5 stars!!!

— Nancy C.

“A word after a word after a word is power” Margaret Atwood

When you hear the name Margaret Atwood, what comes to mind? I asked several people this question and besides the “Who’s that?” I got from my son (…sigh…), most people answered that she’s Canadian and that she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. Other people said she wrote stuff that was “weird” or “dark.”

In fact, Margaret Atwood is a world famous novelist of many titles, as well as a poet, teacher, literary critic, environmental activist with a particular focus on oceans, and an inventor. I recently had the opportunity to hear her speak at a fundraiser THEMUSEUM hosted at Centre in the Square. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the headliner “From The Handmaid’s Tale to Art &Technology.” What I discovered was Margaret Atwood is actually quite funny, brilliant, profound, and a little bit saucy!

Daiene Vernile, former journalist, politician and cabinet member, led the conversation…that is unless Atwood wagged her finger and either pointed out that she wasn’t finished talking, or would say “Didn’t you mean to ask me about…?”

I learned that Atwood grew up with very scientific parents in northern Quebec where there was no school to attend. Instead, she read any book she could get her hands on, including her parents scientific books.

When Vernile described her as visionary, Atwood disagreed. She said she reads a lot of science newsletters and magazines, and that the seeds of her ideas can be found in these items. Scientific American is something she reads faithfully: you can also read it at WPL in magazine format, or through our digital library using RBdigital and your library card.

As you may know, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of a totalitarian group named Gilead, who has taken over the government in the United States. Women who are still fertile are forced to become handmaids, in order to bear children for their masters and their wives. These handmaids have had their families, careers, and even their names have been taken away from them. Offred (she is now named this because she is of-Fred who is her master) tells her story, switching between her past life and her current circumstances.

Atwood said she had one rule while she was writing The Handmaid’s Tale: that she would only include things that had already been done TO someone BY someone. I don’t know about you but I found this very scary. She finished writing this book in Alabama, and mentioned the irony of this considering their recent anti-abortion law.

The popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale has increased dramatically with the release of the TV series by the same name. WPL has Season 1 and Season 2 in our collection for customers to borrow. Many people don’t realize that a lot of taping for the show occurs nearby, in Cambridge. You can search the Internet to look for familiar scenes or follow this link to Cbridge.ca for pictures and information.

The handmaid’s red cloak and wide white bonnet have become common sights at protests around the world. No words or signs are needed but the message they present is clear. Atwood seemed humbled that a costume she created in a book has become a powerful “voice” for women today.

Atwood has now written a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale entitled The Testaments. It will be released this fall, on September 10th. WPL already has copies on order. I can’t wait!

— Sandy W.

Time Flies

When I recently borrowed Cooking for Friends by David Wood, I received a shock. I remember the first David Wood cookbook I borrowed. Not his iconic Food Book but, unsurprisingly for those who know me or read my blog posts, The Dessert Book. I could even recall the cover, which featured an amazing-looking strawberry pie which I proceed to make and, yes, it tasted amazing too.

Seeing a new book by David Wood on the shelves, I just had to borrow it. The shock came when I realized it was 30 years (!!) since his Dessert Book was published which meant 30 years has passed since I made that bit of strawberry bliss! How is that possible when I’m barely over 30 myself? 😉 I even visited Wood’s gourmet food shop in Toronto once and treated myself to some decadent goodies.

Wood was born and raised in post-war Scotland where food was rationed and was viewed as something to fuel the body rather than rhapsodize over. As a young adult, Wood honed his cooking skills and his tastes became, like most people, more refined as he matured. Moving to Canada in 1973, he opened the first of three gourmet food shops 1984. A catering business and two cookbooks soon followed. In the 1990s, following some tough times including the closure of his shops, Wood left Toronto for the warmer climes of BC and in 1996 opened Salt Spring Island Cheese Company after “…six years of trial and error on the farm and in the kitchen.”

As Wood says in the Introduction to “Cooking for Friends” (which is worth reading, as is the forward), “…the best thing about food is that it brings us together with friends and family (who are also friends) – it eases conversations and opens our hearts and minds…” This cookbook is about creating delicious, satisfying and attractive food at home, without needing the skills of a professional chef.

I chose to make just one sweet (although the Pear and Ginger Galette will definitely be on the menu at my house at a future family get together), a starter and two mains. The dessert recipe I tried was Lemon Possets. The recipe contains just 3 ingredients but the result is a smooth, citrusy custard that is just divine. You can decorate the possets with a raspberry or two and some lemon zest or just eat as is. Wood’s Chicken Wonderful is, well, wonderful! He recommends serving it with salad and a baguette but we opted for a mixture of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Easy and scrumptious. I could happily eat this once a week.

The Spicy Garlic Shrimp would be a wonderful starter but the night I made it we enjoyed the shrimp as a main, perched atop my own un-fried vegetable fried rice. My favourite of the four recipes tried though was the Tagliatelle with Salmon, Crème Fraiche and Chives. This dish looked and tasted amazing even though I substituted a mixture of sour cream and yogurt for the crème fraiche. Served with a glass of chilled Oyster Bay chardonnay from New Zealand it was a treat on a weeknight. Yes, easy enough to make at the end of the work day.

Cooking for Friends would be a wonderful addition to any collection. This Canadian cookbook features beautiful photos, an excellent selection of recipes and clear, concise directions. Two whisks up from me!

— Sandi H.

Tagliatelle with Salmon, Crème Fraiche and Chives

2 egg yolks
2 c. crème fraiche (or try a yogurt/sour cream substitute like I did!)
½ c grated Parmesan
¼ c chopped fresh chives
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tblsp chopping Italian parsley + some for garnish
12 oz boneless fresh salmon fillet
1 tsp salt
1 lb. fresh tagliatelle

In a small bowl beat together yolks, ½ c of the crème fraiche, Parmesan, chives, zest, pepper and parsley. Set aside.

In a pot big enough to hold the cooked, drained pasta, bring the remained 1 ½ c. crème fraiche to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer.

Carefully cut the salmon into 1/4” slices, then cut the slices across into strips, each about the size of 4 matchsticks tied together. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain when done, reserving 1 c of the cooking water.

Transfer the pasta to the large pot containing the warmed crème fraiche and stir to coat. Add in the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine. Use cooking liquid as need to prevent the pasta from drying out or the sauce from becoming too thick. Add salmon and stir very gently to avoid breaking up the fish. The heat from the pasta will cook the thin strips of salmon perfectly.

Note: I chose to bake the salmon whole and serve the tagliatelle on the side.

salmon_blog

My Summer Reading Preview

A few months ago I read a magazine article featuring Crazy Rich Asian-worthy leather bags with the hottest spring novels poking out of them.  I’m pretty sure they were capitalizing on the idea that in the last year or so every celebrity has started a book club and many are choosing to be photographed with book in hand.  It looks like books are a go-to accessory.  Well, we always knew that in the library!

Of course a sturdy, stylish bag is required to carry these important items.  I approved of their thinking until I checked out the prices on the suggested handbags! One carried the caption “price available upon request” which is never a good sign if you are budget-minded.  Now if you are the Duchess of Sussex then any bag is a possible purchase.  Her bags will need to be roomy and practical for a while and the books she is more likely to carry will be board books.  Or maybe she could look into reading Weird Parenting Wins?  Perhaps she will be able to enjoy a novel once in a while if Harry shares the parenting.  I do hope so.

If you are looking for some fabulous summer reads to carry around in your beach tote, here you go (they are also gorgeous so you will look extra snazzy just in case you happen to be caught by Waterloo paparazzi):

81Z2hxtqlYLRoselle Lim’s debut novel is going to check several boxes for delightful summer reading because she is from Scarborough (let’s celebrate reading a Canadian author), and the book takes place in Montreal AND in San Francisco so it feels like taking a book vacation.  Also, her main character struggles with some mother-daughter-grandmother guilt and then falls in love giving us a prize at the end of all of that painful family reflection. In Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, Natalie has to return to the apartment she shared with her mother to tidy up, plan her mother’s funeral and decide what she will do with her legacy – the family restaurant.  There is a love story in this book, the grief of losing her mother, and the excitement of lots of cooking (the author includes recipes) all set in a cozy San Francisco neighbourhood.  I can’t think of anything more delicious – just look at that cover.

811i2lI31-LThe last book that Blake Crouch wrote was so much fun to read that I am planning to pop some popcorn before I sit down with this one.  Reading Dark Matter felt like watching a film with a full on thriller plot plus a touch of romance for balance and it looks like Recursion shares some of that same mix.  Crouch has a neuroscientist researching false memory syndrome as a way to help Alzheimer patients but the wealthy tech guru who is funding her project might not have the best motives.  Fantastic! In combination with this plot we have a NY detective investigating crimes that are linked to false memory syndrome and the thrills just keep piling on.  It might be worth popping two bags of popcorn (or use any manner of snack preparation you feel is appropriate in your home) because with a story like this you will not want to leave the couch for a moment.

the-stationery-shop-9781982129866_hrRoya and Bahman meet at the stationery shop in 1953 Tehran and slowly fall in love after an introduction by the owner, Mr. Fakhri.  They start meeting weekly and agree to marry despite the protests of Bahman’s mother.  One night he doesn’t appear at their agreed time and after several attempts to contact him Roya must eventually give up and move on with her life.  Sixty years later they meet in Boston and she is able to find answers to the questions she has carried with her for decades.  It’s a vibrant, lush story by Marjan Kamali of a young woman’s life and how she tries to move on from heartbreak.  You can’t help but wonder what their first conversation will be like after those years apart.

91Q73aHp3PLAnd in the category of books I would have wished to be written if I knew that I should have been wishing for them is Evvie Drake Starts Over.  This novel about an unlikely friendship between a grieving widow and a former Major League pitcher who has lost the ability to throw a baseball is going to be the highlight of my summer (even though I didn’t know that I could have been wishing for it).  Baseball novels and summer go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack and their unlikely friendship turns into a romance.  How do these people become friends and possibly more?  They are introduced to each other by a mutual friend because Dean (the pitcher) needs somewhere to hide away from the New York media and a small town in Maine seems like the place.  The best part of this remarkable summer read is that this is the first novel from NPR Host Linda Holmes so we know it is going to be warm, quirky and filled with authentic baseball references as she is known to frequent sports podcasts as a guest.  Batter up!  Evvie and I are going to be such good friends – I just know it.

downloadWho wouldn’t want to read a thriller about a book club where too many bottles of wine are enjoyed and a game of never-have-I-ever goes too far?  In the hands of Joshilyn Jackson I know that I am going to be invested in her characters but also a little bit tense because I will constantly worrying about them.  This is the perfect book recipe for a summer afternoon read on a porch, dock or extra-long soccer practice.  According to early reviews the main character, Amy Whey, is the perfect hostess, the kind of person who bakes cookies for new neighbours, and gets along with everyone (she is also a part-time diving instructor which is surely going create scenes which terrify me at some point) but finds herself on edge when a new book club member obviously knows too much about her secrets.  Yes!  How will it end?  I couldn’t possibly guess but the publisher used the words “betrayal, deception & temptation” so you know it’s going to be great.  I just hope it doesn’t cause me to worry when new people join our book club.  Maybe I’ll just discourage everyone from playing ‘never have I ever’ after we talk about the book.

You might not be thinking like Emma or SJP and carrying books around strategically or basing your next project on a novel like Reese does but you still need something wonderful to fill your book bag.  We have shelves filled with the latest choices for summer reading and would also be happy to help you out with a bargain of a stylish bag.  For just $3.00 you can carry one that proudly says “Waterloo Public Library” and holds at least eight hardcovers and twice as many paperbacks.  Come on summer – we are ready for you.

— Penny M.

One eRead Canada

Read Glass Beads with Canada-Wide eBook Club

one eread canada logo blueThis Indigenous History Month, from June 3 to 30th, readers all across Canada are invited to read Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont as part of the “One eRead Canada” campaign. Along with other participating libraries across Canada, WPL will make the eBook and eAudiobook editions of Glass Beads available with no holds or wait lists all month long.

About the Book

Glass Beads is by Saskatchewan-born Plains Cree author, actor, and comedian Dawn Dumont. It’s an engaging collection of interconnected short stories about four First Nations people, set against a backdrop of two decades of political, social, and cultural change.

How to Participate in One eRead Canada

Your Waterloo Public Library membership will give you free access Glass Beads in eBook and eAudiobook format through Download Library in our Digital Library. You can also borrow the book.

Join in the discussion with other readers across the country:

  • on social media using the hashtag #1eReadLivrelCanada
  • in a special Facebook Group, hosted by Vancouver Public Library and open to all
  • at a Facebook Live event with Dawn Dumont, on June 12th at [6pm in Saskatoon, 8pm EST, 5pm PST]. You can submit questions for Dawn using the hashtag #Question

Dawn’s Picks

The author of ​Glass Beads, Dawn Dumont, has provided a booklist of her reading recommendations

Marilyn Dumont – ​A Really Good Brown Girl

Chelsea Vowel – ​Indigenous Writes

Alicia Elliot – ​A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Cheri Dimaline – ​The Marrow Thieves

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm – ​My Heart is a Stray Bullet

About One eRead Canada

One eRead Canada is organized by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council/Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CULC/CBUC) – the people behind the eContent for Libraries campaign. Libraries are facing very high costs for ebooks and eaudiobooks – and some titles aren’t available to libraries at all. With this campaign, CULC wants to show that libraries introduce readers to new books, which actually helps to drive sales to publishers.

About Thistledown Press

Glass Beads’ publisher, Thistledown Press, is an independent Canadian publisher that is taking an active role in making eContent more accessible to the public, in partnership with public libraries.

Reviews

“Comparable to the complexity of Richard Van Camp’s work, ​Glass Beads
​ is a compelling representation of urban Indigenous life.” — Jade Colbert, ​The Globe and Mail

“Glass Beads​ is deeply political but never ideological. Its characters are full and complex. …[T]his book tells the stories of people vastly underrepresented in CanLit.” — J.C. Sutcliffe, ​Quill & Quire

The Home For Unwanted Girls: A Conversation

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman is a story about a young, unwed mother forced to give up her child. Loosely based on real life events, the book is set in Quebec during the 1950’s under the leadership of Maurice Duplessis.

The Home for Unwanted Girls is this year’s One Book, One Community selection. Bloggers Nancy, Lesley and Penny M. sat down to discuss the book:

What was your initial reaction to the book?

Nancy: I finished the book with a sense of despair and anger. Here is another example of the abuse of power that was and continues to be rampant in our world.

Lesley: I had feelings of outrage and at the same time optimism. The book covers a lot of unpleasant truths about the treatment of women and orphans in Canada, but overall it gave me hope. As a society we have come a long way from the days of asylums and terms like ‘unwed mothers’ and still continue strive for empowerment.

Penny M: I wouldn’t have chosen to read Joanna Goodman’s book if it hadn’t been this year’s OBOC pick (which is exactly what the program is meant to do – push us to read books outside what we would normally be drawn to) so I was thrilled to find that it was book that kept me interested to the end.

How would you describe the overall theme of the book?

Nancy: The underlying theme of this book was the reflection at all levels of how power corrupts and how insidiously entrenched in our societal mores the imbalance of power is. The chasms that exist between the rich and poor, the governed and the governors and the patriarchal church leadership and the masses, reflect the struggles for those who are forced to live their lives under that arbitrary inequality.

Lesley: I would say that there are many themes in the book – motherhood, women’s rights, abuse and corruption. But to me the main theme is resilience. Both characters (Maggie and Elodie) experience abuse but ultimately have the strength to form their own lives.

Penny M: It’s hard not to see this book as one that explores the abuse of power and the way that children and women were not given a voice but overall I think the author is talking about family.   Joanna Goodman writes in the author’s notes that she based some of the novel on her own family’s story so it feels like she wants to celebrate the way that family can triumph over a system designed to keep them apart.

What was your initial impression of the main character Maggie? Did your perception of her change during the story?

Nancy: I liked her strength and her spirit. She was caught between wanting to live a life different than her mother’s but also her fierce loyalty and love for her father. As the story unfolded, I saw her as a woman who was trying to break free from the societal chains that have always attempted to keep women from recognizing their power. Ironically, she was able to start coming into her own when she was finally able to reignite and solidify her relationship with Gabriel.

Lesley: I also saw her as a young woman who wanted more than the average life of a woman in that time period. She didn’t want to be defined by society’s rules, which was a very difficult thing to do. As the story went on Maggie definitely formed her own unique identity.

Penny M: As the scaffolding of Maggie’s story is known to the reader it seemed a little harder to feel invested in her.  I wasn’t as interested in her until she became an adult and began her life as a married woman because there was a little more to wonder about.  When she left the town where she grew up and started to think for herself she became more interesting and I enjoyed her character more.

What do you think draws Maggie to her first love Gabriel? Do you think they have a healthy relationship?

Nancy: Maggie was attracted to Gabriel for the same reasons that most teenagers fall in love… sexual attraction. But their worlds were so different and infused with the prejudices that were rampant during that time. So while they had a strong physicalconnection, their emotional bond was bound to be fraught with dissonance. As they matured, they were able to overcome the chains that had previously bound them and found solace and safety in each other’s lived experience.

Lesley: I saw their relationship very differently. I saw her seeking out Gabriel as part of a negative pattern. She witnessed her father treat her mother poorly, so on some level she also picked a man who didn’t treat her well.

Penny M: Maggie and Gabriel fall in love when they are both young and she could be making some of her romantic decisions based more on rebelling against her parents than anything else.  Their early conversations about their future are filled with optimism and it’s hard to be sure what might have happened in their relationship if her family hadn’t made the decisions for her.  Their differences in personality could have given them balance and guided them through the hardships they would have faced with a child so early in their lives.

In the book Maggie’s daughter Elodie is sent to an orphanage and later declared mentally ill. During the 1950‘s, orphanages in Quebec were reclassified as mental institutions in order to receive more funding from the government. Where you previously aware of this scheme? What was your response?

Nancy: I wasn’t aware of this act in particular but it is reflective of the historic and on-going abuse of power perpetrated on the masses. Whether we are talking about the residential schools, the Japanese internment camps, the destitution of the working poor or the muzzling of women’s voices, the end result is the same… power and greed win out over fairness and acceptance.

Lesley: I was completely unaware of this event. I never learned about it at school or heard it mentioned on the news. I was completely outraged when I read about it and even more outraged at the fact that it seems to have been quietly buried from Canadian history.

Penny M: I don’t have a memory of reading anything about the Quebec government making these decisions but the idea that a government institution would make conscious decisions that harm the people they are meant to care for while benefitting themselves isn’t surprising to me at all.  And, it is horrible to realize.  I recently read Shelley Wood’s The Quintland Sisters and this novel also explores the role of government in caring for (and possibly exploiting) children and the parallels between the two books are so very interesting.

What role did the nuns who ran the institution play in shaping Elodie’s character?

Nancy: I can’t fathom how the nuns, who were supposedly agents of a loving God, could treat other human beings, especially children, in such a horrific manner. They broke Elodie for the most part but a glimmer of her strength flickered and was able to come to life with the support of those who surrounded her with unconditional love.

Lesley: Some of the nuns were kind to Elodie and some were hideously abusive. Interestingly enough, the nuns that were kind to orphans were punished for it. The abuse is certainly something Elodie carries with her throughout her story and does affect her own view of motherhood.

Penny M: When Elodie was a young orphan she was educated and cared for by the nuns.  Some were benevolent and affectionate and she remembered this nurturing presence throughout her life.  Unfortunately, after the decision was made to transfer orphans to the mental institutions, she was no longer cared for by nuns with the same level of concern for her health and on more than occasion they were deliberately cruel.  Fortunately she was able to maintain some hold on the core good nature she formed in her early years during that horrifying period.

Which part of the book made the largest impression on you?

Nancy: The impact that religious tenets have had in shaping the belief systems that guide society. The belief that unmarried pregnant girls were sinners and deserved to be punished was/is absurd. No girl ever got pregnant alone but they were the ones to bear the onus and the shame. The church has had a devastating impact on women and there is still huge resistance to breaking those chains.

Lesley: For me, the largest impression was the extent of the abuse of the orphans that was province-wide that went on for so long. It only ended after Premier Duplessis died. No one seemed to speak out against it and there really was never any ownership of that abuse.

Penny M: The part of the book that dealt with Elodie’s adult life will always resonate for me – she is further trapped by being a young woman alone in the world just as she finds herself free of the asylum – it seemed heartbreaking after all she had suffered but she doesn’t give up.  I most enjoyed the moments in her first workplace outside of the asylum, made friends and share her personality with customers.  It seemed like the spark that we first saw in the little girl was returning again in a small way there.

To whom would you recommend this book?

Nancy: This would be a great book club choice. It’s not that riveting as far as the writing goes, but the story and the message would encourage much discussion.

Lesley: I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys character driven novels. It is definitely a ‘thinking’ book that has a lot of emotional subject matter. I would encourage anyone who reads it to go and learn more about “Duplessis Orphans.”

Penny M: The book has a storyline that compels you to keep reading so it would appeal to every reader.  I think that it would be enjoyed by readers of any gender as there are multiple characters to identify with (or dislike so, so much).  The romance between Maggie and Gabriel isn’t so overwhelming that it would scare anyone away and I loved the way that the author wove in elements like the seed store, Maggie’s married life and Gabriel’s struggling farm to make the novel complete.  You come away from this it feeling as if you have enjoyed a solidly researched historical novel.  It is a very satisfying read.

 

 

The Hottest Titles for Spring 2019

The snow has melted, and dreams of lounging in the sun will soon be a reality. What better way to welcome the new season than with a good book or two from our  Spring Featured Titles list.

Non-Fiction

Our topics are, as ever, wide ranging on the Featured Titles List. From a study of animal emotions to a look at how Canada’s past is affecting its future to following Alex Hannold on his free solo climb up el Capitan. We have a true tale of star-crossed lovers in Sicily or you could get the buzz from Meredith May about growing up on a honeybee farm. Hungry for more? There’s the latest from writer and food critic Ruth Reichl (including recipes!) and a behind-the-scenes look at Queer Eye’s Karamo.

Fiction

There are so many great new novels coming out this spring it was difficult to select just seven! “The Stranger Diaries” is a modern gothic novel which will have you guessing at the killer’s identity until the last page. In “If, Then” by Kate Hope Day, small glimpses at another life lead four neighbours to discover something cataclysmic in their small town. A woman suspects her new neighbour was involved in an unsolved murder but will anyone believe her? “Before She Knew Him” is a must read. High school romance moves to an elite university battleground for Marianne and Connell in the award-winning “Normal People” by Sally Rooney. Wilderness survival has never been as thrilling as it is in “The River” by Peter Heller. Or if fantasy mysteries are more to your taste, give “The Binding” by Bridget Collins a try. And finally, once again focusing on the relationship between neighbours, “White Elephant” by Julie Langsdorf is a darkly humoured look at the suburban town of Willard Park as it becomes a battleground.

FT-Spring-2019

Sweeet!

Let’s play word association. It will be easy. I promise. I say “Redpath”. You say? That’s right. Sugar! The Canada Sugar Refinery was founded in 1854 by John Redpath, a Scottish stonemason, but the business only took on his name in the late 1880s. Orphaned at an early age, Redpath was raised by other family members. By 13 he was an apprentice stonemason and by 20 he had decided to emigrate to Canada.

A hard working, ambitious man, Redpath was able to start his own construction business just 2 years after arriving in Montreal. His company was instrumental in the building of a number of iconic structures in Montreal including the Notre-Dame Basilica. After his death in 1869, two of his sons and a son-in-law took over the business and, in 1880, John Redpath’s signature became the logo for the business…a logo that is used even today.

A1xg9Ud9C0LI absolutely loved The Redpath Canadian Bake Book, from the interesting family history to the tempting photos and wonderful recipes. It was so difficult to pick just one or two to try…so I picked three!

I started out making a half batch of the Soft Oatmeal Cookies. What you might find surprising from a Redpath recipe is that they weren’t particularly sweet. Instead the cookies were nicely spiced and, as promised, soft and chewy. They disappeared almost as soon as I set them on the cooling rack. I also made the Buttery Shortbread on a day when I felt like baking but was lacking in eggs and a couple other key ingredients. The shortbread was delicious, more soft than crunchy, and we absolutely could not stop at just one.

The star of the 3 recipes though was the Chocolate Genoise Cake. I’ve never made a Genoise and this might be partially due to the fact that they have a reputation as being very difficult to make successfully. Get it right and you will have an airy, moist sponge cake. Get it wrong and you will end up with a flat, dense, inedible pancake of a cake.
I followed their instructions exactly and… Oh. My. Goodness. Rich but light, just as tasty without the frosting as with, and the smell…well, I just wish devices offered scratch and sniff!

If you’re looking for a wonderful variety of dessert recipes (and bonus, it’s a Canadian book!) then the Redpath Canadian Bake Book is a must…to borrow or to buy.

— Sandi H.

Redpath Chocolate Genoise Cake

4 large eggs at room temperature
2/3 c granulated sugar
½ c cake and pastry flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
Frosting
2 ½ tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp whole milk
1 ¼ c icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat over to 350F. Great 1 – 8” round baking pan. Set aside.

In large bowl and using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and thick and falls in ribbons when the beaters are lifted, about 8 minutes. (note: it took me 11 minutes with an electric hand mixer)

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the egg mixture. Very gently fold in the flour mixture until combined. Slowly fold in the melted butter and vanilla.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn out onto the wire rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting, in a small microwave-proof bowl combine butter and milk. Microwave on medium power until butter melts, about 30 seconds. In a medium bowl whisk together icing sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in the melted butter mixture and whisk until smooth.

Once the cake has cooled, spread the frost over the top of the cake Let stand 10 to 15 minute or until the icing has set before serving.

Note: the cake can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days

Being Green

I was excited to see that our latest issue of In the Loop has a focus on green initiatives because the public library is really the ultimate ecological tool. We are all about sharing resources around here. I recently had a book in my hand that had been checked out of the library over 250 times since it first arrived in the library. That’s how a community comes together to make use of valuable materials (quite valuable because it was an M.C. Beaton title, she really is the best). Many customers walk, cycle, or use public transit to travel to the library as the branches are centrally located – a win-win for everyone. Combining a public library’s outstanding resources with the ability for community members to come together in a shared space is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes WPL your one-stop shop for becoming more earth-friendly.

rrayI’ve noticed that our latest Program and Events guide isn’t the only publication feeling inspired by all things sustainable. It looks like every possible magazine is taking this for their cover story right now. Oprah is gallivanting in front of a waterfall and proclaiming “…the earth has taken excellent care of us, let’s return the favour.” Martha suggests 80 ways to live “cleaner and greener” and Rachael Ray has a gorgeous veggie-filled pasta on her cover. That image is really calling out to me, especially as the recipe inside includes a pistachio pesto. Yes, it does.

Each of these magazine powerhouses provides their own spin on how to reduce waste, shop more responsibly, and try to make your home a more earth-friendly one. It is curious to compare your own environmental efforts with those of these three women. Well, when you consider the options available to us and those that a celebrity has it might seem different at first but the impact of our actions are exactly the same (my personal chef will not be chopping the pistachios for my pesto). Each time we purchase less single-use plastic bags, decide to spend less time in a drive-thru or try to carry reusable cutlery so that we can enjoy bakery treats on the run we are all making a decision to keep help our shared planet. The same goes for Oprah, Rachael or Martha. Same earth but less personal chefs at my house.

We also have magazines that promote a sustainable lifestyle 365 days of the year like Mother Earth News and Taproot. These magazines regularly publish articles on topics like gardening, preserving, pickling, and suggest projects that use responsible materials or reusing what you have. Their step-by-step directions can’t be beat – even I have had success with a few. You can access some of our magazine collection both on the physical shelves and through RB Digital while other magazines, like Harrowsmith, are only accessible as an electronic version. It is worth a few extra clicks to get to this gorgeous Canadian publication – a trusted source since 1976 – to find their profiles of farmers and companies that work with the produce that comes from just down the road in some cases. A recent story was about a small dairy farm from Brantford called Little Brown Cow Dairy. One-hundred mile diet fans will love to check them out but you should too, if only to admire their beautiful Jersey cattle, sample the cheese and maybe some ice cream?

With sustainable ideas that come from our shelves (both digital and on the physical shelves) it’s possible to make some exciting plans for greening up your life in the next year. And you won’t have to feel guilty about purchasing anything to do your research because we have all of the information here for you in the library! For a more hands-on approach to some Earth-friendly activities you can join us here for one of our free activities. We have something for everyone because we’ll be gardening, learning about butterflies, making non-toxic dryer sheets (yes!), walking at Laurel Creek Nature Centre, and vermicomposting. Want to learn more? Come to the library…

— Penny M.