The River Is Everywhere

I’m happy to report that I have recently signed a publication agreement with Vine Leaves Press for the publication of my second novel, The River Is Everywhere, which will be released in February 2022.

Literary fiction with hints of magical realism, The River Is Everywhere is set in the Massachusetts Berkshires and New Brunswick, Canada. It is the coming of age story of Ernest Benoit, a high school honors student from a devout Catholic Franco-American family, whose life is set on an unexpected and challenging path after his best friend, John Delaney, drowns while they are surfing together on Cape Cod.

John’s death makes Ernest question everything he once believed in, most especially God. He stops attending Mass and gets into trouble at school, but rather than going along with his parents’ plan to transfer him to an elite all-boys boarding school, Ernest buys a bus ticket to New York.

After surviving a fiery crash on the way to the city, Ernest saves a 7-year-old girl from drowning. While attempting to reunite the girl with her birth mother, a lonely middle-aged woman named Ann who had given them a place to stay lures Ernest into her bed. When Ann threatens them with a gun to prevent them from leaving, CL manages to remove the ammunition clip from the weapon, and they escape into the night.

The next morning, exhausted and chilled to the bone, Ernest and the girl, who he nicknames CL, meet Roland Laliberté, a modern-day adventurer and coureur des bois who makes a living playing poker, can shoot a bottle cap out of a tree from 50 yards away, and lives in a handmade log cabin with a tame black bear named Maurice.

Roland treats Ernest like a son, teaching him how to shoot a rifle, hunt for food, and drive a car. When Ann falsely accuses Ernest of rape, Roland sneaks him and CL over the Canadian border to protect Ernest from the police until the allegations can be proved untrue. But as Ernest settles into life on Roland’s family’s farm, it soon it becomes unclear who has saved whom, and whether Ernest will ever be able to return home.

Comfort vs. Enlightenment

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” —Pablo Picasso

I read an article recently about a California school district that banned several works of classic literature from its curriculum after parents complained that the books made their kids uncomfortable. All the banned books, which included Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, deal in some way with the ugly history of racism in America.

Among parents who filed complaints about the books was an African-American mother whose daughter had been subjected to racially charged taunts by a white student who said he was inspired to do so after reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. This is, of course, completely unacceptable as well as a remarkably sad indicator of the backwards belief system that many white people in this country are still holding onto for dear life.

But while I understand this mother’s desire to protect her daughter and other students from further trauma, I would also argue that this incident is solid proof that these books need to be read and discussed.

After the books were banned, PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend free expression and promote literary culture, released a statement saying, in part, “Blocking engagement with these important books is also avoiding the important role that schools can and should play in providing context for why these books inspire and challenge us still today.”

You don’t need to be an English lit major to know that the point of these books is to make people uncomfortable. They are designed to make us think critically about our past and current beliefs and actions, the state of our society and culture, and what can and should be done to make the country we live in a better place for everyone who lives in it, now and in the future.

If we don’t understand the history of racism in America, we will never be able to have a productive discussion about the racism that exists here and now. Only once we are out our comfort zones are we are truly free to consider new ideas and other people’s points of view, and to examine what our own roles have been in perpetuating poisonous belief systems and ideas.

We as a society have gotten used to having the ability to selectively filter out news and information we don’t agree with, or that we find upsetting in some way. We are quick to vilify and criticize people who say and believe things that conflict with our own ideas. But art and literature can and should be a bridge that spans the raging river that divides us—a safe pathway that can lead to constructive discussion and practical solutions if we are only brave enough cross it.

The white student who made those racial taunts (and likely his parents) is responsible for his own actions. His morally reprehensible behavior was not the fault of the book he was reading. He used Mildred Taylor’s masterpiece as an excuse for behavior he likely would have exhibited anyway.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we want our young people to develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to become good citizens and work toward making our society a better, more tolerant and just place? Or are we OK with future generations of Americans shying away from the difficult tasks that must be tackled in order for us to live up to the ideals that America supposedly stands for?

Art holds a key to the truth. We need more of it, not less.

Summertime

I swapped out my flannel sheets for the regular cotton kind this morning, which means that warm weather is here to stay, at least for a few months. Being a New Englander and avid year-round hiker, I don’t really mind winter or the cold. In fact, I’m not really at my best when the temperature outside gets above 80. This year, though, I’m really looking forward to summer.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into all the ways that 2020 was a complete drag. It was for just about everyone, except maybe for Jeff Bezos. But there were some lowlights: My mom died. My daughter’s college graduation was canceled. The U.S./Canadian border was closed. I was furloughed from my editing job for six months, and I found myself unable to concentrate on just about anything. Even though I had plenty of free time, I didn’t write a word that didn’t have a hard deadline attached to it, including updates for this website.

But summer is on its way. Flowers are blooming. My family and I are fully vaccinated, and I feel hopeful about the future for the first time almost 18 months.

Thanks for hanging on with me. I hope this summer brings you nothing but sunshine and happiness. Stay tuned for more in the near future.

Get “The Blue Bottle” for $5 Off the Cover Price

Exciting news! For a limited time you can purchase a copy of “The Blue Bottle” on Amazon for $5 off the cover price. Visit this link to purchase. Don’t miss your chance to own a copy of this soon-to-become summer reading classic.

Upcoming Readings

I will be reading from and signing copies of The Blue Bottle on the following dates. I hope to see you there.

Check back soon for additional dates and times.

February 21, 2019, 11 a.m @ Pollard Memorial Library, Lowell, Mass. — I will be reading from The Blue Bottle as part of the library’s February school vacation Kids Week activities.

March 16, 2019, 12 – 4 p.m. @ Mill No. 5’s Pulp and Press Event, Lowell, Mass. — Don’t miss this annual showcase of local authors and their work.

May 4, 2019, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. @ Parker Memorial Library, Dracut, Mass. — I will be reading from The Blue Bottle and signing books as part of the library’s inaugural Local Author Showcase event.

Reading at Pollard Memorial Library on Feb. 21

Hi Everyone,

I will be reading from The Blue Bottle on Feb. 21 @ 11 am at Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts, as part of their February school vacation Kids Week activities. I will also have books for sale. Come down and see me, and bring the kids.

The Blue Bottle is also now available to borrow from the library.

The Blue Bottle Now Available for Pre-Order

I’m excited to share that The Blue Bottle is now available for pre-order on North Country Press‘ website. Books are $14.95 and will ship in late September. If you have kids in your life age 7 to 14 who love to read, this book will make a great gift. Reserve your copy today!