BCM’s Friday Fiction! Jessica – Chapter 6

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Chapter Six – The Springs Diner

The Springs Diner was a big restaurant, not a one-counter roadside place like the one on Route 30. The Magnusons must have known that Route 100 was going to be a big thoroughfare one day and they built it right on the corner of 100 and Pierce. I started waitressing there the year it opened. The Springs Diner quickly became the place to go and thirty years later, it’s still full of regulars. With two big rooms full of tables and booths and a long counter in the back, we had a big menu and plenty of room.

Despite its size and popularity, I got to know the regulars pretty fast. My morning shift people were mostly guys eating breakfast before their jobs, too lazy to get their own food, or just in a hurry to get out of the house.

Jimmy’s brother, Stu sometimes came into the Springs Diner when I was on my shift. He’d nod at me as he came in and if I wasn’t busy at another table, I’d go over to him and talk for a minute before I took his order. Stu was twenty-five and was a slightly older and more muscular version of Jimmy. Thin, but strong with a body that worked every part in his job building decks.

“What’s up, Jes?” he’d say, just like I was one of them, I thought. I liked that and wanted to belong there with Jimmy and his brothers and dad.

Jimmy and Stu both had messy brown hair, messy because I don’t think either one of them spent much time combing it into place and, from a distance I sometimes thought I was looking at Jimmy when it was really Stu. It happened the first time Stu came into the diner, about six months after I had started working there. I had had a fight with Jimmy the night before and was feeling shaky about the things we had said. I had felt like we had been on the edge of breaking up, just like you’d feel if you were standing up high on something that looked down and briefly lost your balance, just enough to feel the electric jolt run through your body that gave you a look at what was so close to happening. And I hadn’t gotten over that feeling the next day at the diner. So I was going through my morning there working the words we had said through my head in the order we had said them, each time thinking the last words would come out differently.

And while I was waiting on tables and working those words through my head, Stu walked through the door to the diner. Something in my head tricked me and I was sure then that Jimmy had come to the diner before work to apologize or do something to make things right. I had felt an overwhelming relief wash over me as I sensed his presence and when I looked up I must have had that look on my face, when I looked at Stu with my shaky body and sad eyes. And for a minute I thought I was looking into Jimmy’s eyes, showing him my soul and thinking he was going to do the same.

That’s when I noticed that Stu’s eyes were green, not brown the way Jimmy’s were and I felt the horror of my mistake, but it was too late. I had shown Stu my vulnerable self and he had seen the weakness. I knew that he would never bring it up, but Stu saw my face and looked back at me, straight into my eyes. He hadn’t laughed, the way some people might laugh when there was a simple misunderstanding. His look said something different, like he was reading something in my face, like I was showing him something that was interesting and maybe even useful.

I was uncomfortable seeing Stu stare at me like that, but it was over a second after it started and by then I had realized my mistake and was trying the best I could to stop shaking and say something that would carry us out of the moment.

Stu never said a word about it, only, “Hi Jes” and he made his way over to the counter for breakfast. But I got a creepy feeling about it.  Ever since that day, I’d always look twice to make sure I was looking at Jimmy, not Stu, before I said anything and the first place I’d look was in the eyes to check the color.

Since that day, Stu would always say, “What’s up Jes?” and not much of anything else. If he looked at me differently, I hoped it was only because he knew that someday we’d be related once Jimmy and I got married.

Thank you for reading.  All comments are welcome!

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Boston Girl – a light coming-of-age story

the boston girl
The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant
Rating:
3 book marks

The Boston Girl is a light story about Addie Baum, a young girl growing up in Boston during the early 1900s. The book begins in 1985 as Addie tells her story to her adult granddaughter, Ava. It has a casual feel, as if the two were sitting in Addie’s living room and this makes it easy to read.

Addie’s parents are Jewish immigrants from Russia and they struggle with the usual challenges of earning a living, assimilating into a new country and raising three daughters. Addie is the youngest daughter and an independent thinker. Her oldest sister Betty has boldly left home to find some fun. Middle sister Celia is frail and troubled and their mother frets she will never find a husband. Addie wants more out of life. She is smart, loves to read and continuously locks horns with her mother over what’s proper and expected for a young teenage girl.

She finds her way by connecting with prominent female do-gooders who help pave her way and introduce her to the world of literature, education and career-oriented women.

The Boston Girl is an adult story, but it has a simple presentation and vocabulary and reads more like young historical fiction. The characters are a little plain and, even though there are many adult situations and some innuendo, many of the major players are wholesome helpers, making it seem as if Addie is being protected by a guardian angel. And while Addie’s love life has its ups and downs, it’s not much of a surprise to see her meet the man of her dreams.

There is plenty of heartbreak in The Boston Girl, but the chapters are short and the characters lack a certain depth that would make these events realistic. World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic wreak havoc, but these references have an over and done feel and seem to be forgotten in the next chapter.

I enjoyed reading The Boston Girl, but I was expecting something different. It was mildly interesting, with many references to Boston, historical events and important social causes, especially women’s rights, education and child labor laws. But for me, the story’s preachy feel made it a little boring. And although it’s a small thing, a crack about Ronald Reagan and right-wingers at the end seems contrived and out of place. The author includes this reference as part of a fast-forward storyline conclusion. Perhaps she was just trying to add some political reference. To me it seems more like her own opinion, a risky move.

The Boston Girl was not my favorite, but I loved The Red Tent and I’m willing to try another of Diamant’s novels. Anyone have a recommendation?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Blog views and other obsessions – Part Three!

Last month, I ran a post about how to expand my blog’s exposure by branching out into other areas of social media. After nearly two years of blogging and totally enjoying the experience of meeting other bloggers and trading likes and comments, I started to think about the bigger and connected world of blogging and promoting myself.

I’ve learned a lot in the last month. I’m in no way an expert. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. But here’s what I’ve discovered:

TWITTER

  • Twitter is very powerful, but it has taken some getting used to. To me, my Twitter feed seems like a raging river of Tweeters and they’re all saying, “Look at me!” It’s hard to believe anyone would notice if I Tweeted the same kind of thing, but I’ve learned from my live-in social media experts. They tell me to just get in there and interact. Here’s their advice: Favorite things you like. Retweet things. Actively seek out followers. When you have a short lull in your schedule, scroll through and see what might be relevant to your blog and Retweet or Favorite. I have to be in the mood to do this, though because sometimes it’s overwhelming.
  • Follow, follow, follow and you will get follow-backs. A good way to find Twitter followers is to see who follows a popular account that’s related to your own interests and follow the ones that make sense.
  • Don’t be afraid to message someone if it’s relevant. I’ve had people message me on Twitter and tell me they like my jacket!
  • Add a Follow me on Twitter button to your WordPress site.
  • Use the WordPress app to find your Twitter friends who have WordPress blogs. Follow those blogs to make new friends.
  • Always share your posts on Twitter when you write them, but don’t stop there. Share older posts too. Just because you wrote something six months ago doesn’t mean it’s old.
  • Include a link to your blog in your profile.

FACEBOOK

  • I created a Facebook page for my blog. It’s connected to my personal FB page, but the followers are separate. I used to post my blog on my personal FB page, but I always felt a little weird about it, barraging my friends with all my book review opinions, whether they liked it or not! Once I created the Book Club Mom FB page, I invited all my friends to “Like” my page. A good number did and now I feel better that my posts are reaching the people who really want to see them.
  • I found out it’s very hard to get other people to “Like” your Facebook page. So use the WordPress Widgets feature to include a “Like me on Facebook” button. Just like all social media though, lots of people will follow you if you follow them.
  • I’ve also noticed that when I follow someone on Twitter, they often send me a message suggesting I check out their FB page. And they include a link. Smart. A good way to get follow-backs.
  • Whenever I read the blogs I follow on WordPress, I check to see if they have a FB account, and I Like it when they do, hoping they will Like me back. (Do the same if they have a Twitter account.)
  • Once you follow a group on FB, “Like” and “Share” what’s interesting and relevant with the people who follow you. Lots of people will return the favor.
  • Link your FB page to your Twitter account so that anytime you update your status, you’re also sending out a Tweet.
  • And always share your WordPress blog with your FB page!

GOODREADS

  • I started my Goodreads account about a year and a half ago, but all I really did with it was post my reviews. I recently started adding friends to my network. A great way to do this is to use the Twitter app through Goodreads to find friends who are your followers on Twitter. I made the mistake of inviting all my Twitter followers to be my Goodreads friends at the same time and my computer froze. Then I didn’t know if the requests went through or not, so I got caught up in trying to resend a block of requests at a time. Time consuming and tedious, though. I have to be in the mood to do it.
  • Goodreads has all kinds of groups you can join. In the beginning, I joined a couple book clubs, but I was too busy to even follow them and I got too many emails. So I dropped out of them for a while to keep things simple. I recently joined a couple new groups, for creative writing feedback. I’ll have to see how that goes.

WORDPRESS

I feel a little protective about my WordPress network. Do you? I feel like this is my golden group of my good blogging friends! For that reason, I don’t use the follow and like approach on WordPress in the same way. WordPress blogging and commenting is my way of interacting on a more personal and meaningful level. The other social media I’ve chosen is a lot less personal and that stuff is like a big marketing game.

As I’ve said above, I am learning as I go, and I have to be in the right mood to build these accounts. It’s basically a numbers game and it can really suck you in and eat up a lot of time. I’m very mindful of that. We all have responsibilities and lives outside of this world, so perspective is key.

What do you think? Are you trying to expand your network? What’s your strategy? What mistakes have you made? What other social media have you used? Have you ever gotten a little obsessed with the process?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

BCM’s Friday Fiction! Jessica – Chapter Five

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Chapter Five – Jimmy’s Truck

I saw Jimmy almost every night after my job at the Springs Diner. That day, like every other, I worked the breakfast and lunch shifts. My stomach had been in a knot all day about Jimmy’s truck missing from his driveway that morning. Where had he gone? It was very early when I left his house to get ready for work and only an hour later when I drove back past on my way to the diner. He’d whispered, “See ya, Jes” to me as I left his room. The sound of his sleepy voice sent a wave of warmth through me. I thought of him still sleeping under the covers we’d shared.

I knew Jimmy didn’t start work until ten o’clock. He must have gotten out of bed right after I left. Was he faking that sleepy voice, just waiting for me to leave? Why didn’t he tell me he was going somewhere? I told him everything, why couldn’t he? It was the first time I’d felt unsure about us.

I went home after work and had the house to myself for a few hours before Mom got home. This was the time of day I usually felt glad to be home, but that day I was still worried about Jimmy. I went upstairs and turned up my stereo so I could feel the music move through the hall and down the stairs. I didn’t care if I blew out my speakers or if Mom came home early. The noise felt good. I wished Jimmy could see me in my room with the music blasting. I looked at myself in the mirror I thought if he could see me then, he would know what he had.

I had felt a little better that afternoon when I drove past his house after work and saw his truck. I knew it explained nothing, but my stomach settled knowing that Jimmy was back home, where he should be. That’s all that mattered now. I had planned to ask him where he’d been, but I was worried he’d get mad and I was afraid of what he might tell me. Did he have another girlfriend? What else could it be? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. When I saw his truck, I told myself whatever was “off” between us was back in place. Who cares where he was? He’s back now, waiting for me.

By the time I got out of the shower I could hear the phone ringing. Sure enough, I heard the voice that always sent me into another kind of world, “Hey, Jes, what’re you up to, baby?”

If I could tell you what his voice did to me, you would understand what Jimmy meant to me and just how deep into my bones he went. Jimmy’s low and penetrating tone left my stomach bouncing like a child’s after a parade of big drums has passed. I felt the flutter when I heard Jimmy say, “Hey, Jes.” I forgot all about his truck missing from the driveway that morning and I said, “Hey, you.”

The next thing I knew Jimmy was at my door and his mouth was against mine and he was saying, “Let’s go upstairs before your mom gets home.”

Thank you for reading.  All comments are welcome!

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

What’s up next? The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant

the boston girlI’m looking forward to getting started on The Boston Girl, Anita Diamant’s latest book!

The Boston Girl is a story about Addie Baum, daughter of immigrant parents during the early 1900s. Here is the book description, from Anita Diamant’s website:

“The Boston Girl is a coming-of-age story about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End –at the time a teeming multicultural neighborhood—Addie’s intelligence and curiosity lead her to a world her parents can’t imagine, a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

She remembers staying at Rockport Lodge, a sort of “fresh air fund” resort located in a seaside town north of Boston, where she makes friends, who are part of a life that spans World War I, the influenza epidemic, and the Great Depression.

Written with attention to historical detail and emotional honesty, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

Anita Diamant Photo Credit:  Gretje Fergeson
Anita Diamant
Photo Credit: Gretje Fergeson

Anita Diamant is an American author of fiction and nonfiction. She was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951 and lived in Newark, New Jersey as a young girl and later in Denver, Colorado.  She earned a degree in literature from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s in American Literature from Binghamton University in upstate New York.  In 1975, Diamant moved to Boston and began her writing career as a journalist. She initially wrote for local magazines and newspapers and later for national media. Her first book published was the handbook, The New Jewish Wedding, and she followed that with five other guidebooks to Jewish life. She wrote her first work of fiction, The Red Tent, in 1997, which was honored by the Independent Booksellers Alliance in 2001 as the “Booksense Best Fiction of the Year.” In addition to The Red Tent and The Boston Girl, Diamant is the author of three novels: Good Harbor (2001), The Last Days of Dogtown (2005), and Day After Night (2009).

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

It’s all about the family, but not what you think!

The Dinner
The Dinner
by
Herman Koch
Rating:
4 book marks

WARNING: SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!

If you read my review of The Dinner yesterday, you will know that this book is filled with very unlikable characters and is narrated by the worst of them all. But while the overall bad taste you get from reading such a dark story is hard to wash down, its themes stick with you. I think this is an excellent book because Herman Koch forces you to actively hate its characters. And that makes you think about his message about family, morality and social responsibility.

Here are some of the questions Koch raises:

  • What would you do if your child committed a horrendous crime? Would you cover it up? How far would you go? Would you go as far as being an accomplice in another murder? And why? Is it more important to save your child’s future than do the right thing?
  • What happens to a family when it ignores something terrible?
  • What do you do if your spouse is violently unstable in certain situations, but loving towards you?
  • When you know your baby carries a genetic defect that will cause him to develop the same violent tendencies as his father, how do you raise such a child?
  • When are secrets acceptable and when do they make the situation worse?

Koch’s characters have to answer these questions, but we don’t like their answers. That’s how he involves the reader.

In addition to a commentary on choosing family over what is right, the author presents themes of politics, wealth, privilege, the working class and the homeless. Paul Lohman is disgusted by the restaurant manager, but the manager is just doing his job. The homeless woman’s life has as much value as anyone else’s, but Michel and Rick Lohman think she is repulsive.

I think one of the best parts about this book is Paul Lohman’s brother, Serge. Paul hates his politician brother, and describes him as insincere, simple-minded and selfish, but Serge is the sleeper in this story. He’s the only one with a conscience and wants to do the right thing. He’s not strong enough, though and in the end, he keeps the secret.

Here are my favorite quotes from The Dinner. They sum up the characters’ complete lack of moral conscience:

I think he understands now that some things simply have to stay within the family.” – Claire says this when Serge decides not to press charges after the attack in the café.

A happy family can survive a shipwreck.” – Paul

You don’t have to know everything about each other. Secrets didn’t get in the way of happiness.” – Paul

I think these quotes show how delusional the characters are, but taken out of context, they could be true. And that’s why I think this is a very clever look at human thought.

Have you read The Dinner? What did you like or dislike about it?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Twisted family dinner

The Dinner
The Dinner
by
Herman Koch
Rating:
4 book marks

NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Who could possibly imagine what two couples ultimately confront at an upscale restaurant in Amsterdam? Herman Koch tells a twisted tale about a seriously messed up and unlikable family with a terrible secret. The story is narrated by Paul Lohman, whose detestable ideas and actions you may never completely understand. The plot is structured around an expensive dinner, destined to fail. I hated the characters in this shocking story. The best are unlikable, the worst are despicable, with one exception, but the story and its themes are excellent.

Herman Koch brings out the worst in these weak and hateful characters and asks important moral questions about violence and social responsibility. It’s a commentary on marriage, secrets and family dynamics and the huge impact of selfish decisions, anger and violent behavior on society.

The Dinner is deliberately dark and negative. I don’t think Koch wants you to like the story. He wants you to think about it.

There’s a lot to talk about. Check back tomorrow for a more detailed review.

Warning: tomorrow’s review will contain spoilers!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!