Book Review: There There by Tommy Orange

There There
Tommy Orange

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, has been on my TBR list since it was first published in 2019. It was one of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and is about the urban Native American experience of twelve characters as they plan to attend the Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California.

Each character has a separate story, all leading up to the day of the powwow. Central to the story and to these characters is the need to recognize and celebrate their native heritage as full or partial Indians. In the beginning, the reader only gets to know these characters as individuals, but Orange brings them together in unexpected ways. Honestly, even when I could feel the momentum building, I could not have predicted the genius of this story, which is tragic, sad, uplifting and a lot of other things. Orange says he thought of the ending first, then took several years thinking about how to connect the characters from the beginning.

How to explain this book, without saying too much? The first-hand experience of reading it is the way to go. But the characters need a brief description because they give you an idea of the additional struggles they face. Now imagine them all preparing for the powwow.

Tony Loneman, born with fetal alcohol syndrome, scored low on intelligence tests and suffered from ridicule in school. Now he’s a grown man, sensitive, strong and intuitive, but he’s mixed up with Octavio, a drug dealer. Dene Oxendine, half native, wins a grant to interview Native Americans in the Oakland area and these stories play into the events at the powwow. Edwin Black has a master’s degree in literature, but he won’t leave his room, he’s grossly overweight and is addicted to the internet. Bill Davis is Edwin’s mother’s boyfriend and an ex-con. He’s white and works clean-up at the Oakland Coliseum. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield and her half-sister Jacquie Red Feather look back at their lives on Alcatraz during the nineteen-month protest from 1969-1971. Jacquie, now a recovering alcoholic mourns the suicide death of her daughter, Jamie. Jamie’s three young sons live with Opal. Orvil Red Feather, Jamie’s oldest son, secretly dresses in Opal’s native regalia and learns how to dance from YouTube videos. Calvin Johnson owes a drug dealer money and gets caught up in a scheme to rob the powwow with Octavio and others including, Daniel Gonzales, Octavio’s cousin. Blue, head of the powwow committee, was adopted and raised by a white family. She ran off to the Midwest but is back in Oakland, seeking connection. Thomas Frank, an alcoholic, is half-native. He lost his job at the Indian Center due to drinking. Now he’s headed to the powwow as one of the drummers.

All these people attend or are in some way connected to the powwow. Some make discoveries. Some meet tragedy. Some become heroes. And they all grapple with their identities.

As I’ve said about other excellent books, There There is the kind of book that you want to re-read, to understand the complexity of the characters and the issues they face and to appreciate the effort Tommy Orange put into writing it. I highly recommend this book!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Richard Fulco

Author Name: Richard Fulco

Genre: Literary Fiction

Book: There Is No End to This Slope

Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? My paying gig is teaching high school English Literature and Creative Writing.

Favorite author/books: My list is quite lengthy, so I’ll just mention a bunch of authors I’ve been interested in recently: Baldwin, Morrison, Camus, Whitehead, Woodson, Adichie, Diaz, Frost, Eliot and Beckett. Always Beckett.

What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most? When I was nine, my teacher, Mrs. Nevins, told me that I had a creative mind and that I could be a writer when I grew up. A teacher’s words can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of toil and misery (kidding).

Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I keep a journal, though I don’t write in it every day. But I frequently jot down thoughts and ideas that I might explore or otherwise incorporate into a piece I’m working on.

Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: I haven’t had much luck with writers’ groups. It’s difficult to organize a quorum of like-minded individuals. Although I am fortunate to have a trusted and worthwhile collection of astute readers who are generous, kind and critical of my work.

Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? I’m up with the sun, plugging away before a full day of teaching. It’s not perfect, but it’s a faithful routine and a productive way to begin the day, especially in the dead of winter.

How do you get over a writing slump? I think writers, like baseball players, are in a slump more often than they are in a groove, and the only way out of a slump is to step up to the plate and take your cuts. Sure, you’ll strike out a bunch of times, but you’ll eventually get your hits too.

Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? I write plays too, so I am drawn to clean, crisp and provocative dialogue, dripping in subtext.

What are you working on now? My latest novel, WE ARE ALL TOGETHER, is the story of a young guitar player’s willingness to prove he’s not the washed-up wannabe he fears he might become. My novel addresses questions of race, integrity, narcissism and greed that drive the art and lives of those who have a dream. How much does the artist owe the world and what do we expect in return?

What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? First, ask yourself, “Why do I want to write a book?” If your answer is something like “I want to be rich and famous,” then you’re in the wrong profession. But if your answer is something along the lines of “I have a story that only I can tell,” then sit down immediately and begin writing. You should know, however, that the sea is lonely and it will be long, treacherous, disheartening and you’ll want to abandon ship on more than one occasion, but if you maintain the oars and ride out the storms, you will eventually steer the ship into port.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? I should probably get on that.

Favorite escape: My version of a great day includes, running, playing guitar, hanging out with my children and reading (and of course, some writing too).

Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? Kombucha is not my cup of tea.

Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? I prefer a couch with a couple of pillows to rest my head.

Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? If I even look at poison ivy, I get a rash. However, I’d rather rake leaves and weed the garden over the back-breaking work of shoveling snow any day.

Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? My favorite mask is one that hides my wrinkles.

Biggest writing challenge since Covid-19: It has been difficult to maintain my writing routine.

Website and social media links:
Publisher’s Website:
Amazon: There Is No End to This Slope
Twitter: @RichardFulco

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Who’s That Indie Author? Joanne Kukanza Easley

Author name:  Joanne Kukanza Easley

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Book:  Sweet Jane

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I’ve always been an avid reader and have had aspirations to write for years. As a young adult, I started taking classes and workshops. When I retired, I became serious about getting published. Although I was born in Chicago, I call the Texas Hill Country home. My small ranch is  the perfect setting to write.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I’m a retired registered nurse, so I am blessed with the gift of time to write. My three little rescue terriers take up a good deal of time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  The day my first adopted son was placed in my arms.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m a hybrid. I start out with a character, imagine her back story and current conflict. As I write the novel, I become more of a planner.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Yes. No problem.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  In my next novel, one of the characters is from Hungary and when stressed lapses into Hungarian. I used several translation websites to help with the dialogue.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides. Right now, I’m rereading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  You nailed my order of preference, although I rarely buy a hardcover these days. I finally broke down and bought a Kindle.

Do you think print books will always be around?  I really hope so. I do love the feel of turning the pages.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  No. I consider my phone both a useful tool and a nuisance.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  I do have a new iPhone and it’s great for Instagram and recording videos, but I’m usually on my laptop.

How long could you go without checking your phone?  All day.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I haven’t delved into audiobooks. I’m a very visual person.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  I do a lot of promotion on social media. Facebook is my favorite.

Website and social media links:
YouTube: Joanne Kukanza Easley Author
Twitter: @jeasleytx
Facebook: @J.Easleywrites
Instagram: joanneeasleywriter
Goodreads: Joanne Kukanza Easley

Awards/special recognition: Sweet Jane was a 2019 Faulkner/Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Finalist

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What’s That Book? The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney


TitleThe Nest

Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Genre: Fiction

Rating:  4 stars

What’s it about?  A dysfunctional group of middle-aged siblings who put the pressure on their charming but reckless brother to pay back a large sum of money from their inheritance. The story is set in New York and begins a few months before Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody Plumb are due to collect money from a trust (The Nest) their father set up years earlier before his death. Each had been counting on the money, which had grown substantially, but when Leo, drunk and high on cocaine, crashes his Porsche, their mother dips into the account to send Leo to rehab, pay off the young waitress in the passenger seat, and above all else, avoid scandal. Out of rehab, will Leo make good?

Leo, the oldest, made his money from a “literary” gossip magazine which helped propel their writer sister, Bea into fame. But Bea never got her long-expected novel off the ground and has been floundering ever since. Jack, always in Leo’s shadow, owns an antique shop, but he’s bad with money and has kept many financial secrets from his husband, Walker. And Melody wants desperately to send her twin daughters to college. She has scrimped and saved her entire adult life, but money is still tight. Secrets between the siblings and their spouses muddle up an already complex dynamic, heck to live through, but lots of fun to read about!

How did you hear about it?  Selected by my book club

Closing comments:  I loved this book. It’s a great balance between serious themes and entertaining plot lines. In particular, I love how the side characters develop and have their moments later in the story.

Contributor:  Ginette

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Who’s That Indie Author? Anne Leigh Parrish


Author name:  Anne Leigh Parrish

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

BooksWomen Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By the Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011).

Bio:  Anne Leigh Parrish is an award-winning author, now also a poet. She lives in the South Sound region of Washington State with her husband of forty years. Aside from the evergreen forests all around her, her favorite places are the deserts of the American Southwest, and the Hawaiin Islands.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Creating beautiful worlds full of complex, courageous characters

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  I’d say getting the word out about my books and story publications.

Favorite booksThe Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich; Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent; Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout; Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; The London Train by Tessa Hadley


Awards/special recognition:

  • Finalist in the short story category, 2017 International Book Awards, By the Wayside;
  • Best Fiction WINNER, 2017 Maxy Awards, Women Within;
  • Winner, Literary Fiction, 2015 Book of the Year Award, What Is Found, What Is Lost
  • Finalist in the literary fiction category, 2015 International Book Awards, What Is Found, What Is Lost
  • Finalist in the short story category, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Our Love Could Light The World

For a complete list, please visit the “Awards” page of my website.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Kathleen Doler


Author name:  Kathleen Doler

Genre:  Crossover Fiction: Literary, Crime and Action/Adventure

BookTHE HOOK: Surfing to Survive a Shattered Family, Drugs, Gangs and the FBI

Bio:  I was raised on the coast of Northern California. I’m an author, journalist and adventure sports addict. I write for national newspapers and magazines on everything from business and finance to helicopter skiing, sea kayaking and scuba diving. I also travel extensively, mostly to wild places, often while pursuing sports that have the potential to maim me. I own a wardrobe of wetsuits and a closet full of Gor-tex.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  I love being able to tell stories that touch people. I’ve enjoyed working as a journalist, but in business journalism you have to shelve the emotion. Now that my first novel, THE HOOK, is out, I get to experience how different readers connect with various pieces of the story.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  I have to pump myself up to remain upbeat every day in my efforts to promote THE HOOK and build my readership and distribution network one contact at a time. As a self-published author, it’s all on me. But I’m a journalist; tenacity is part of my DNA. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised and gratified at how other authors have shared information, opportunities and advice.

Favorite booksDamage, by Josephine Hart, is my all-time favorite. I love how she can just gut the reader with a short sentence or phrase. For the rest of my top five: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, The Wave by Susan Casey, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

Contact Information:
Facebook: @kathleendolerauthor
Twitter: @kathleendoler

Awards/special recognition:  THE HOOK now has 43 5- and 4-star reviews on Amazon. Also, in May THE HOOK was named a “Finalist 2017, Action-Adventure,” by the National Indie Excellence Awards. And Blueink Review gave THE HOOK a “STARRED” review and named it a “Notable Book of 2017.”

This editorial review made me swoon: “In THE HOOK, the pace is swift, the plot is involving, and character development is thorough … Plus, there is a lyrical, almost mystical homage to surfing, sailing, and the sea itself. Participants in this tale are never far from its enticing allure.” — Joe Kilgore, the US Review of Books.

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Who’s That Author? Tom Franklin



Tom Franklin is a best-selling, award-winning American writer from Dickinson, Alabama.  He is currently an associate professor in the MFA program at University of Mississippi.  He is considered a diverse Southern writer of several genres, including crime fiction, mystery and literary fiction.  Franklin’s wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, is an American poet and prose writer.  She also works at Ole Miss and is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.  They met at the University of Arkansas MFA program.

Franklin put himself through college at University of South Alabama, after his father cut off his tuition because of bad grades.  To pay for school, he worked in a wide range of places:  in a warehouse, at a plant that made sandblasting grit and at a chemical plant where he cleaned up hazardous waste.  He also worked in a morgue, a job that was unpopular, but one he enjoyed because of the stories he heard.

When asked about his writing, Franklin responded,

I’m a very happy person and very lucky with my life, my wife and my children, but when I’m writing I find conflict interesting and it goes to dark places for me.  I’m interested in the shadowy part of humans.  If I try to write against the dark, it feels false.

Awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger Award.

Books by Tom Franklin:

Mississippi Noir (2016)
The Titled World (2013) – co-written with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010)
Smonk or Widow Town (2007)
Hell at the Breech (2003)
Poachers (2000)

Check out these links for more information:

Amazon Author Page – Tom Franklin
Harper Collins Publishers

Interested in Tom Franklin’s books?  Click here to read
my 5 Bookmark review of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Tom Franklin


When Cindy Walker goes missing in 1982, the people of Chabot, Mississippi blame Larry Ott, the boy who picked her up for a date, but never brought her home.  Although never arrested, Larry is shunned by the townspeople, who hate him for what they think he did.  Now, twenty-five years later, a second girl disappears.  Is Larry, now a loner on the outskirts of town, responsible?  Could there have been other girls?  Silas Jones, the town constable and once Larry’s boyhood friend, is determined to find out.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a mystery crime story about a town hampered by racism.  As boys on their own and running through the woods, it didn’t matter that Larry was white and Silas was black.  Now grown men, they are no longer friends, but they share a history that neither completely understands and both have struggled to get past.  Years ago, Silas ran and Larry stayed.  Now they must overcome massive obstacles and if they do, they must then ask themselves, “Can a broken friendship be fixed?”

I loved this book, which is a great story on many levels, first with an intriguing scenario and a character-driven plot, but second with an important setting, full of moral questions about the impact of decisions and equally of the characters’ action or inaction.  Themes of family, friendship, religion and love are prominent, making the book a true literary work as well.  No wonder it is an award-winning best-seller!

Franklin jumps between the two time periods and fills in the details regarding Cindy’s disappearance.  We learn about Larry and Silas as both boys and men, and begin to understand their relationship to each other as well as to their families.  All this is enhanced by a close look at the culture of Chabot, the perspectives of people who perpetuate prejudice and others who try to rise above it.  Franklin puts his characters in situations in which they have the chance to step up and make things right and he makes the reader ask, “Is it ever too late to do that?”

With an uncertain, but hopeful finish, this is the type of book that generates thought long after the last page, one of my favorite measures of a great read.  While more about the people than the crime, it also stands as a mystery, with a well-paced plot and developments that help tie up the details.  I recommend Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter to anyone who likes mysteries, but also to readers of books about conflicted characters.

Who's that author finalWant to know more about the author?  Click here to read Who’s That Author?  Tom Franklin

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Who’s That Indie Author? Kevin Brennan

Who's That Indie Author pic

Kevin Brennan

Author name: Kevin Brennan

Genre: Literary Fiction

BooksFascination, available here.

FascinationOn Amazon: Parts Unknown, Yesterday Road, Occasional Soulmates, and Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound.

Brennan covers

Bio: Kevin Brennan has been writing fiction since he was a tow-headed lad, fascinated from the start with storytelling and the benefits of letting his imagination run amok. He lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with his wife, writing, making music, and cavorting on the trails with the oaks and pines.

Favorite thing about being a writer: It’s an amazing thing to be able to think up a separate reality and somehow make it real.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: The indie market has become so congested that it’s incredibly hard to stand out in the crowd. Too much promotion seems like spamming, but not enough translates into lousy sales.

Favorite book: Hard to pin down, but one that keeps coming to mind as the years go by is Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey.

Contact information:
Amazon author page: Kevin Brennan
Twitter: @kevinbrennan520
Goodreads: Kevin Brennan
Facebook: Kevin Brennan

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Who’s That Indie Author Recap: Mar/Apr 2016

Who's That Indie Author pic

Have you met these indie authors?

Here’s a recap for March and April 2016.  Be sure to click on the author’s name to view the full indie author profile.

Maighread MacKay

Maighread HeffernanGenre:  Metaphysical, Visionary and Paranormal Fiction
Book:  Stone Cottage
Favorite Books:  I love the Harry Potter series, Dan Brown’s books. Norah Roberts.
Biggest Challenge:  The rewriting and editing to make the story the best it can be
Contact Information:  Website: Maighread MacKay, Author & Artist
Facebook: Author Maighread MacKay
Twitter: @maighreadmackay

Sherry Mayes

Sherry MayesGenre:  Young Adult
BookStop the World
Favorite BookThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Biggest Challenge:  Finding support to get your novel ‘seen’.
Contact Information:  Facebook:  Sherry Mayes Author; Goodreads:  Sherry Mayes  Amazon:

Denise Greenwood

Denise Greenwood - CopyGenre:  Contemporary fiction and chilling thrillers
BooksTemptation, Star Keeper, Crushed
Favorite BookZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Biggest Challenge:  Making one’s narrative voice heard above the roar of millions of others within the book market.
Contact Information:  Website:; Twitter: @deniseGauthor; Facebook: Denise Greenwood and Book Trailers:

Jax Jillian

Jax JillianGenre:  Contemporary Romance
BooksLarkin’s Letters, Ryan’s Letters
Favorite BookSuzanne’s Diary to Nicholas by James Patterson
Biggest Challenge:  Definitely marketing and just getting the book into people’s hands.
Contact Information:  Website:  Blog:   email:

B. Lynn Goodwin

B. L. GoodwinGenre:  Fiction, Self-Help, Memoir
BooksTalent ; You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers ; Her memoir, a work-in-progress, has a working title: Never Too Late.
Favorite Book:  Usually the one I’m reading. As long as I care about the characters or am learning from the content I usually have a favorite book du jour.
Biggest Challenge:  Getting the word out about my latest book, blog, or venture.
Contact Information:  Website:; Blog:  B. Lynn Goodwin; Facebook:  B. L. Goodwin; Twitter: @Lgood67334

Mary Rowen

Mary RowenGenre:  Women’s Fiction
BooksLeaving the Beach, Living by Ear, another to be published some time in 2016 (fingers crossed)
Favorite Book:  One? That might be impossible. But if John Irving wrote it, it’s probably on my list.
Biggest Challenge:  Like almost everyone else: marketing.
Contact Information:  Website:; Facebook:  Mary Rowen Author; Twitter:  @maryjrowen

Thomas Whaley

Thomas WhaleyGenre:  Literary Fiction
BookLeaving Montana
Favorite BookThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Biggest Challenge:  Marketing – especially if writing is not your full-time job.
Contact Information:   Website:, Goodreads Author Page; Twitter @AuthorTomWhaley

Dorinda Balchin

Dorinda BalchinGenre:  Historical Fiction
BooksHeronfield; The Guardians
Favorite BookSophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Biggest Challenge:  Marketing.  I know that there are many readers out there who would love my work but as an indie author it is much harder to reach them without the resources and contacts of a traditional publisher.
Contact Information:  Author website:; Twitter:  @DorindaBalchin; Email:

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

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