A well-crafted, beautiful novel about a fraught childhood moment.

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DAHLIA IN BLOOM

A young girl in Appalachia during the Great Depression copes with her family’s move to a new farm in Koehler’s (The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop, 2013, etc.) novel. 

Dahlia Harrell is an 8-year-old girl in a family of tenant farmers in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s the 1930s, and though Dahlia is in a loving family, not everything is quite right. She has recently recovered from a case of diphtheria. Money is tight. The family can eat what they grow and rely on the chickens and cow, Ol’ Rosie, but having cash in hand is rare. Dahlia thinks: “With enough money, a person could buy away any reason they ever had to feel afraid.” Though Dahlia’s world is small, her life on Harrell Mountain is full of wonder, mystery, and big dreams. Her brother Charlie believes there is buried treasure on the property that will make them as rich as the Rockefellers. Grandpa talks of the family’s history in the area as he and Dahlia lie on the ground gazing at stars. But her father breaks the news that the family will be moving to a new farm, one owned by another family. He hopes it will improve their circumstances, but to Charlie, it means giving up on the buried treasure, and Dahlia can’t imagine living far away from her grandfather. But they do move—the girls in flour-sack dresses with cornhusk dolls—and a relief society steps in to give the kids new clothes for school. Nervous about her skills and fighting with her sister, Dahlia worries about her grandfather and wonders if she’ll ever be able to return to Harrell Mountain. Koehler’s Depression-era novel is concise but effective and weighty. In a time of great change for Dahlia, Koehler paints a clear portrait of this family and their circumstances with writing that is subtle and strong. Dahlia’s world has just gotten much bigger, and her increasing awareness of herself as compared with others is thoughtfully described. Rich details abound on everything from meals to economics to a precious missing doll, but it’s the author’s gift for making a specific story so universal that stands out.  

A well-crafted, beautiful novel about a fraught childhood moment.  

Pub Date: July 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9859438-8-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Turtle Cove Press

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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