Book Review: “We Are All Welcome Here” by Elizabeth Berg – Good Summer Read

We Are All Welcome HereNot sure where I got this. Maybe a library book sale.
Anyway, wanted something small to read and this fit the bill.

Stats: 224 pages, published in 2006


It is the summer of 1964. In Tupelo, Mississippi, the town of Elvis’s birth, tensions are mounting over civil-rights demonstrations occurring ever more frequently–and violently–across the state. But in Paige Dunn’s small, ramshackle house, there are more immediate concerns. Challenged by the effects of the polio she contracted during her last month of pregnancy, Paige is nonetheless determined to live as normal a life as possible and to raise her daughter, Diana, in the way she sees fit–with the support of her tough-talking black caregiver, Peacie.

Diana is trying in her own fashion to live a normal life. As a fourteen-year-old, she wants to make money for clothes and magazines, to slough off the authority of her mother and Peacie, to figure out the puzzle that is boys, and to escape the oppressiveness she sees everywhere in her small town. What she can never escape, however, is the way her life is markedly different from others’. Nor can she escape her ongoing responsibility to assist in caring for her mother. Paige Dunn is attractive, charming, intelligent, and lively, but her needs are great–and relentless.

As the summer unfolds, hate and adversity will visit this modest home. Despite the difficulties thrust upon them, each of the women will find her own path to independence, understanding, and peace. And Diana’s mother, so mightily compromised, will end up giving her daughter an extraordinary gift few parents could match.

What I liked: It’s a quick read with characters that feel very real in a setting that feels very real (and I’m a 60’s kid so I know of what I speak, though not a southerner). Berg does a great job melding the times with the character’s lives. And to make it even more interesting, the idea came from the life of a real woman. Not a woman who is this character, but a woman who gave birth to a daughter while in a breathing chamber and who went on to live a very full life. That is the amazing thing.
What I didn’t like: The ending was very quick and wrapped a bit too nicely. Quite a happy ending, which was fine.
Rating: 4/5

Music Man Has a Partner – Schmigadoon

I am not promoting a streaming service, but I came across this song from Schmigadoon. It’s on apple tv, if you’re wondering. (I don’t have apple tv, btw). I just liked it. A very Music Man type song and I’m a big Music Man fan. This is Kristin Chenoweth, and it is told that this was done in one take – no stopping or editing. Wow. Nice job everyone on Schmigadoom!

Here’s how you can help the people of Ukraine : NPR

Feeling useless at this significant world event? Here’s how you can make a difference.

NPR’s list of organizations you can use to help:

This Forbes post also names some organizations:

We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker

This was the library book club read at my local library, and there was an audio book available so I thought I’d try it.

Stats: Published March 2021, 384 pages (hc), audio book – 9 discs narrated by George Newbern.

Blurb: Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

What I liked: It is a great story. The characters – primary and secondary too – are all very real and Whitaker does a great job with the setting, even though he’s never been in Montana or California (he’s from England), though from other reviews I’ve seen, he doesn’t get some English usage correct (which I missed listening to the book). And we really care for this teenager – Dutchess (I wonder why that name). It’s kind of a complex story – lots of pieces and characters in play – which helps make it difficult to figure out who done it. The twist at the end is perfect and resolved perfectly too, since he’s dealing with a teenager. Newberg does a good job with the narration.

What I didn’t like: The writing style can be a bit too choppy and poetic for my taste – feels like he’s trying a bit too hard. When he does it a lot, (and the whole piece isn’t written this way but much of it is) it is a distraction for me rather than adding to the story. Duchess may hang onto her “outlaw” mask a bit long for a teen. But maybe because of her gruff personality, she’s been sheltered from other teens so hasn’t grown out of her persona, maybe. There is also no mention of social media. I find that odd. It isn’t needed for the story, of course, and I’m not exactly sure when this story is supposed to have taken place but if it’s present time, it just seems odd when dealing with a teen. I also don’t understand Duchess running far away, then suddenly she is back home. It made me wonder if I missed a disc (that I was listening to) but I don’t think I did. And maybe I’m dense but I don’t understand the title. Whitaker has Duchess’s grandfather say this to her and even in context I don’t get it.

Rating: 4/5

MLK / Alberta Christine Williams King Day

Here is a great piece on CBS by author Anna Malaika Tubbs – [Link below image] (Anna’s book “The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation”)

On MLK Day, We Should Also Remember His Mother Alberta King | Time

Honor Our Vets Every Day

I’m honored to be able to live with, meet, or talk to these wonderful vets or their family. The interactions with the 95th nurses (or their children) was in researching the book (A Burnished Rose) and the TV pilot screenplay for a series about the 95ht nurses – think Band of Brothers but about 95th Evacuation Hospital nurses. You’d be amazed by what they went through. Their story needs to be told!