We've recently highlighted the winners of our annual book award program. Now it's time to show off the finalists. Here's the first batch of finalists. To see the full list, visit:
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
The Heroin Addict’s Mother: A Memoir in Poetry
By: Miriam Greenspan
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: January 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: March 1, 2021
Miriam Greenspan, noted psychotherapist and author, here uses the medium of poetry to express the many deep feelings evoked as she learns about and comes to grips with her daughter’s addiction.
Greenspan’s saga begins with a phone call: a stranger has discovered her daughter in New York City –“she’s shooting heroin on the street.” She finds her child, a product of the best schooling who as a toddler “knew the Latin names of fish” now
on a once white towel
in a Westside hovel.
“Cold as a corpse,” her girl is trapped in a self-made Hades. She is living a degraded life, at the mercy of dealers who demand, and get, sexual favors. The spiral downward began with legal prescription medications in college, to the “black seeds” of heroin and a bare survival underpinned by lies and thievery. Well-meaning friends offer Greenspan advice:
They say it’s a phase
She’ll outgrow it
They say it could be worse
She’s not dead yet
Greenspan attends meetings, hears horrifying stories from other parents, tries to forgive herself for anything she might have done to let this happen, and finds herself caught in the generation between Holocaust survivors and a child who is creating and living in her personal holocaust. She must choose to cosset her daughter and try to be her ally in getting through and beyond her addiction, or coldly ignoring her and forcing her to “suffer the consequences of her actions.” All avenues of help seem futile – sent to a halfway house with daily urine checks, the young woman still finds that “buying smack was easier than ever,” and methadone appears to be just another dependence without end. In these agonized plaints, Greenspan sometimes imagines that her daughter is “dead,” yet refuses to believe that or to wish for that outcome. Small rays of hope filter through:
Nothing is ever lost – only transmuted –
like ice to water – water to vapor –
invisible – lighter than air
Sometimes a fact-tight narrative of the sort that Greenspan is accustomed to writing (A New Approach to Women and Therapy, Healing Through the Dark Emotions) cannot provide the solace of a metaphor strongly stressed, or a sensitive story from an omniscient observer. Greenspan’s works in this emotive collection speak of sorrow at the breakdown of her daughter from promising, intellectually gifted child to someone with needle marks all over her body, as well of the outrage that we all might feel when looking at the broken system that makes drugs like heroin so easily available and of the pharmacology industry that has almost nothing to offer, it seems, by way of a cure. It took true courage to compose this cathartic work that can offer comfort and perhaps a new, enlightening perspective to parents and loved ones of those caught in addiction.
Quill says: In The Heroin Addict’s Mother, Miriam Greenspan presents an honest view of an undeniably difficult, distressing subject, and in doing so may help others who struggle with similar challenges.
For more information on The Heroin Addict’s Mother: A Memoir in Poetry, please visit the author's website at: miriamgreenspan.com
Looking for some great reads? Here are some additional selections - books that placed in our 2021 annual award program. See all the books at:
Monday, March 1, 2021
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Risah Salazar is talking with Ron Seiler, author of The Engine of Survival (A Charlie Edmo Murder Mystery).
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Risah Salazar is talking with Cam Lang, author of The Concrete Vineyard.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
The Concrete Vineyard
By: Cam Lang
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Publication Date: December 2020
Reviewed by: Risah Salazar
Review Date: February 25, 2021
On Canada’s 150th birthday, 91-year old Edward Mitchell, who is quite the celebrity on Niagara-on-the-Lake, is mysteriously killed. As the investigation begins, instead of finding answers, more questions arise as leads and revelations point to different people; it seems like everyone has a motive. As if his death is not enough of a mystery to solve, it is also a puzzle to figure out what happens now to his vast private property since he doesn’t have a next of kin. Or does he?
Detective Bryan Dee, the chief investigator (also an avid golfer), makes his move but the private property alone would take days, even weeks, to finish searching. He's annoyed he's losing time for his dear sport but he's got to do the work. Fortunately, his urban planner best bud Kris Gage is taking a vacation and visiting the town shortly. Since Kris is an expert with properties, Bryan initially asks for his advice. The next thing they know, Kris is also investigating the murder. But the deeper they go, the more and more people get involved. Is it the shady realtor and his son who did this? And just a few days after Edward's death, his best friend and executor of his will, Benedict Picton, goes missing. Looks like the cause of this whole fiasco points to the will, the beneficiary, and of course, the inheritance. The more secrets they uncover, the more Bryan realizes that he can’t trust anyone, not even Kris.
Cam Lang’s The Concrete Vineyard has the power to intrigue. A huge chunk of the book carries an intellectual tone but there are witty moments too. The book anchors on great world-building that strongly appeals to the senses. However, due to the complexity of the story, the main narrative gets sidetracked by subplots, character backgrounds, and the setting’s history.
At first, it’s not even obvious what the plot is about. It was mentioned at the very beginning that it will be Edward’s last day, but it takes a while to get to his death and the audience’s anticipation dies down waiting for that. Lang writes incredibly well and nothing ever gets predictable. However, as he pours his heart into writing, he gets carried away with details. Although the facts about Canada, wine, and grapes are interesting, as the story progresses, these facts tend to drag down the reading experience. As mentioned earlier, the main narrative gets sidetracked by these facts and more.
While The Concrete Vineyard does a good job in engaging the readers' minds with the main plot, it does have an issue with its voice. There is a constant shift from third to first person. It would have been better if the change happened per chapter. But no, sometimes, within the same chapter, there would be a sudden change in point of view. This makes the transition rough and confusing.
Quill says: In general, Cam Lang makes a good and compelling debut in The Concrete Vineyard. But looking closely, some details need to be more concise and consistent.
For more information on The Concrete Vineyard, please visit the author's website at: www.camlangauthor.com.