The flooding Mississippi and our own experinces with a wet, wet spring had us thinking about nature, disasters, and water. So, we turned to books of course. Lisa LC immediately started some research and found a novel she’d never heard of to read and discuss. J Lisa C reached back about 10 years and then another 30 years and found two books dealing with what happens after a water tragedy.
First – the book that was new to us — In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden by Kathleen Cambor – a New York Times notable book from 2001. Lisa believes this honor comes for good reasons. The novel provides back story for the Johnstown Flood of 31 May 1889 (coincidence #1 – we recorded this show on 31 May). The story line combines steel magnates – Fricks, Carnegies, Mellons, their Fishing Club in the Alleghany Mountains, local townspeople who work the Club, feats of engineering, why certain events change liability laws, poetry, an old fashioned love story and a truly large scale tragedy that left over 2,200 people dead. And, just as Lisa LC finished the novel over Memorial Day Weekend, our state capital experienced its own flood, making this theme somehow more timely and providing coincidence #2.
Coincidence #3 – the first book from J Lisa’s past reading was inspired by another Vermont flood — Chris Bohjalian’s Buffalo Soldier. This novel deals with what happens after a disastrous flood. Mr. Bohjalian’s story begins years after a couple tragically lose their daughters during a flash flood. As part of their grieving process, they take in an African American foster child who had bounced among houses before landing in their Vermont home. The novel probes themes of belonging and difference, and truly glows when it dwells on the relationship the young boy finds with his elderly neighbors. Why the title? Well, the retired couple comforts the boy with stories of Buffalo Soldiers – African American members of the US Army’s 10th Calvary of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Thinking about Vermont authors led us to the Newberry Award winning The Bridge to Terebithia by Vermont’s famous children’s author, and superbly nice person, Katherine Paterson. Coincidence #4 – the tragedy in this book deals with water. The novel will put a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes more than once as it explores themes of friendship, belonging and the aftermath of tragedy.
We usually try to end with an upbeat recomendation, but failed while recording. So, we inserted new sound features into the podcast, and then J Lisa’s husband Chris Trimble provided coincidence #5 by reading The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman. This nonfiction book separates fact and fiction in discussions about water shortages. We haven’t read it but Chris says the books outlines solutions. So there you are – a hopeful ending.