A novel by Laurie Foos
It is impossible not to be moved by Toast, a heartwarming tale of a day in the life of the Hamiltons and the joys and pains of raising an autistic child. Poignant in its brevity (a mere 94 pages), it is a story you will read in a single session and be glad you did. Young Will, a child “on the spectrum,” is normal in many ways. He loves Pizza. He loves McDonald’s. He loves video games, especially Minecraft, in which he blows up his sister Mia’s crops as fast as she can plant them. But he has his quirks: he marches in place; he must line up his stuffed animals on their shelf before going to bed; he converses in movie quotes (“You are made of plastic. You are a child’s plaything!” he declares, quoting from Toy Story); and especially, his toast must be prepared just so, perfectly tan, not too brown. Will is unsettled by changed—he has meltdowns—and tonight will present perhaps the biggest change in his young life: he will have a baby sitter! Is she up to the challenge? Can she adjust to his atypical behavior? And most importantly, can she make toast to his demanding specifications?
Sharing the stage with young Will are his empathetic and protective sister, Mia, and their mother and father who are loathe to leave him for the night; and off-stage is Gram, who has passed on but has a permanent warm spot in his heart. Altogether, the Hamiltons are a family whose strong bond of caring allows an exceptional child to mature in an atmosphere of love and solidarity. Toast is an endearing read for the young and old alike.
LOOKING FOR JOHN STEINBECK
A novel by Ginna Gordon
SET IN THE SYLVAN COUNTRYSIDE of Carmel Valley, California, Looking for John Steinbeck is the first installment of the Lavandula series, the saga of the Wyman family, Jock and Maria, and their daughters, granddaughters, and sons-in-law. We see familial drama play out through the eyes of blooming, precocious cousins Stevie, Jo, and Tate, as they witness and wonder at the intrigues of their elders from the safe haven of the Hobbit House, their rustic charming clubhouse in the woods, and wonder, too, what lies in store for them as the future draws near.
Each character in Looking for John Steinbeck is vividly rendered—we come to know them and love them—and the distinctive points of view of all are intricately woven into a tapestry of complex emotions and engaging theatre. Much like the method of William Faulkner in his break-through novel, As I lay Dying, the narrative of Ms. Gordon’s story unfolds through the quickly alternating points of view of its characters. Chapters range in length from a few pages to a mere few words, the shortest being: And those shoes! Skipping lightly from one point of view to another, the narrative remains fresh and the reader remains enchanted.
Gordon’s mastery of craft is commendable. A lover of words and sentences, her prose sparkles and delights and never fails to deliver a gem of insight: “It’s funny how certain moments are captured in a frame, while most moments in life are gone like dust motes in sunlight, and barely signify. I think there are only a handful of those crystal clear, frameable highlights: falling in love, having a baby, reaching a goal, meeting a true friend, connecting with the Creator.”
All in all an immensely pleasurable read that ends with a mysterious, beckoning conclusion that can only be satisfied by reading its sequel, Deke Interrupted. See you there!