C. J. Box had me at the first bike ride through North Dakota’s icy, rutted, snow-covered fields at dawn. And at the cold, the really, really cold. And with the kid on his bike in the cold, witnessing a car roll over. My ND childhood kicked in as I loved my way through C. J. Box’s new mystery, Badlands, though it is set in western ND and I am an easterner. He writes sparely and fairly about the oil boom and about the big-sky country with wind which are so like his and Joe Pickett’s Wyoming. The unexpected tug came as I relived good times long past and the spot-on decisions of the ten-year-old. It lingers still. Is that reason enough for me to recommend Badlands? Kathy with the broken ankle, torn ligaments, dislocated shin bone and hugely unexpected immobility — “I stepped on, instead of over, the pipe” — is test-reading Badlands to see what she thinks. She was raised partly in South Dakota, so hers may be a less-than-pure reaction.
I have the same recommendation problem with Leann Shapton’s Swimming Studies. She was a really good, much-trained swimmer, thinking about the Olympics, and I swam every day of every summer from first grade through college with stints as lifeguard, instructor, and enthusiast until 2005 when I could no longer get in and out of the pool by myself. I loved her memoir for the swimmer tales, yes, but I loved as much her art: swimming suits and swimming places with notes, underwater portraits of her teammates, and the colors of Switzerland. Her art I knew and liked from her earlier book, Native Trees of Canada — which Roseledge Books carries — and I pay some attention to the comments of NYT book critic, Dwight Garner, who liked Swimming Studies a lot. But is a book that stays with you for particular reasons right for a general recommendation? This will become a real quandary only if Swimming Studies is issued in paperback and Roseledge Books has to decide whether or not to buy it.
All of this fretting masks the real worry about my getting to Maine next summer and stocking Roseledge Books in time to convince some one — or ones — of you that a strange, if good, book might be the unexpectedly right choice .
I will be in Tenants Harbor next summer — I hope, I hope — but I will need Charlie with me and that will be tricky. I’m not walking and may not walk again. My knees buckle for reasons no one knows. I’m in a power wheelchair and Charlie adapted a standing frame on wheels to get me from one chair to another, but I can’t do it by myself. I trust December’s pulmonary embolism will be the last of my body’s surprises. My blood pressure stays good and Charlie stands ready.
And so does Roseledge. The electricity works, the roof is patched, the new tree is staked, and Scott, who is a dear, visits his mom in Wiley’s Corner and drives by to keep the yard clear of errant candy wrappers. All that is missing is friends on the porch, arguing about books with a glass of wine at hand and the harbor eagle flying overhead. Here’s hoping….