Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Country Cousin

The Country Cousin

Betty Cavanna, il. Joseph Cellini (cover)

1967, William Morrow and Company

"You have this body in a raw silk right now," Eddie said of a sample he called a "very strong dress," apparently meaning it had been especially successful in the summer line. "Now we're doing it in a light-weight wool."

17-year-old Mindy Hubbard is disconsalate on her brother's wedding day. Jack, at 22, has always been her buddy and her shining star. Now, watching him move off into a new life, she's aware that it's past time she made her own mark. But how, stuck as she is on her family's beautiful but remote Berks County, PA farm?

The answer comes when a sympathetic cousin, Alix Moore, asks her to come stay and work at her dress shop, The Country Cousin, on Philadelphia's Main Line. Mindy, aware she's a little overweight, goes on a diet and sets in to learn the dress shop business. Through her mistakes and trips to New York City's garment district, Mindy learns quite a bit about the business of selling clothes, but it's through Bob, the friendly son of a dressmaker, that she realizes what she wants to do - design. He's also the first person to drop the name Parson's, and give the recent high school graduate an idea of where she'd like to further her education.

On the romance front, the newly svelte Mindy dates a bored but handsome Peter Knox, the son of a wealthy Main Line family who resents the idea of anything changing his beloved foxhunting region.

A dark, remarkably handsome boy with imperious eyebrows and the golden bloom of an early summer tan. Peter seemed aware that most girls thought him attractive, so he made no special effort to be charming, behaving correctly out of habit but barely concealing a deep-rooted ennui.

Mindy, while wistful over his good looks, quickly learns he's a jerk, but takes some convincing that shaggy-haired, bespectacled Dana is the right choice.

And here you have a perfect meeting of the old and new - the sixties hair and pseudo-intellectual glasses are overtaking the perfect physical specimen. Cavanna, you must admit, was game to change with the times. In her older books, Mindy would have wrinkled her nose at shaggy and gone tripping after Peter.

Minor quibbles - Mindy's unnervingly amiable at being told she's too fat by her cousin, and there's a feeble attempt to conceal the obvious nepotism of Alix just happening to choose her family member out of all the store's staff to go to Paris with her. If it's about family, just admit it, already.

About the Author

Cavanna grew up in southern New Jersey, attended Rutgers and worked for the Westminster Press in Philadelphia. The store in this book really did exist; The Country Cousin was a dress shop in Bryn Mawr and Strafford, PA, owned by Dorothy Lewis Lummis. The Bryn Mawr location closed down around 1996, according to the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society History Quarterly Digital Archives.

Other Books

Accent On April

Almost Like Sisters

Angel On Skis

The Boy Next Door

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Fancy Free

Jenny Kimura

Mystery At Love's Creek

The Scarlet Sail

Passport To Romance

Stars In Her Eyes

A Time For Tenderness

Fashion note

The brand John Meyer is mentioned several times. This was a women's wear company based in Norwich, CT, and one of the places Perry Ellis worked.


Merion Cricket Club (site of wedding reception)

Photo, exterior, Merion Cricket Club (clearly, the bride's family was not poor)



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beany Malone (1948)

Beany Malone

Lenora Mattingly Weber

1948, Thomas Y. Crowell Company

The Second World War is finally over, but the Malone family is still struggling. Eldest daughter Elizabeth is awaiting the return of soldier husband Don while raising their now 3-year-old son. Their father, Martie Malone, is still recovering from the near-fatal bout of pneumonia which he survived only because Mary Fred missed a year of high school to nurse him. Johnny is racing time with old newspaperman Emerson Worth write a history of Denver. And 16-year-old Catherine Cecilia or Beany is hopelessly in love with Norbett Rhodes, a moody senior who has a history of hopeless adoration for Mary Fred.

This is Beany's story. Martie goes off to recuperate further, leaving the entire clan in her hands, a less-than-responsible but typical thing for Denver's most self-righteous crusading columnist to do. Before he goes, though, he triumphantly carries out a campaign against Norbett's guardian, the city's safety manager, for not enforcing traffic laws. By the time he's done, Norbett has sworn vengeance against the entire family, a vividly unpleasant problem for lovestruck Beany - and possibly for the complicated Norbett, whose guardians are not the warmest or most loving of people.

Beany: "You wouldn't feel right if you didn't have an excuse for hating the Malones."

Norbett: "I'd hate you whether I had an excuse or not, Beany. Because you're everything that I'm not. You like people - and everyone likes you. You're like that breakfast food on the radio - you're strengthened from the inside."

She, meanwhile, has come under the influence of a new friend's mother. Faye Maffley looks and acts more like her daughter's sister than her mother, and says that she's stayed so young and happy by not getting involved in unpleasantness. Beany, constantly harassed by unpleasantness like an old drunk reporter bunking on the sofa or the pain of losing foster kids back to their real parents, decides that from now on the Malones will look out for themselves first and not stick their necks out for others.

And she'd see that the other Malones didn't lay themselves open to disappointment and hurt.

This is, of course, not possible. Beany learns how impossible - and undesirable - it would be to change this aspect of her family, and gets her guy.

About the Author


The Beany Malone books

Meet The Malones

Beany Malone

Leave It To Beany

Beany and the Beckoning Road

Beany Has a Secret Life

Make a Wish for Me

Happy Birthday, Dear Beany

The More the Merrier

A Bright Star Falls

Welcome Stranger

Pick a New Dream

Tarry Awhile

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Come Back, Wherever You Are

The Belford books

Don't Call Me Katie Rose
The Winds of March
A New and Different Summer
I Met a Boy I Used to Know
Angel in Heavy Shoes
How Long Is Always
Hello My Love, Goodbye
Sometimes a Stranger

Stand Alone books

My True Love Waits

Happy Landing

Sing For Your Supper

Nonie: An Autobiography

Wind On The Prairie

The Gypsy Bridle

Podgy And Sally: Co-eds

A Wish In The Dark

Mr. Gold And Her Neighborhood House

Rocking Chair Ranch

Riding High
My True Love Waits
For Goodness Sake! - cookbook
Beany Malone Cookbook - cookbook


New editions available through Image Cascade

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Healing Water (2008)

On October 11, 2009, the long process by which the Catholic Church mulls declaring a person a saint culminated in the canonization of Father Damien, famous as the 'leper priest' of Hawaii. His feast day will be May 10. His story is part of a very good new young adult novel whose young protagonist is a 19th century boy diagnosed with what is now called Hansen's disease and sent off to exile on the isolated colony of Molokai.

Healing Water

Joyce Moyer Hostetter
2008, Calkins Creek

"You're as good as dead already. And you are, too!" I shouted to a little girl with a thin face and wide eyes. I tried not to notice that she looked like my sister. "And you and you and you!" I pointed to anyone who dared to stare at me. "You're all going to die - all of you. Your grave is waiting on Moloka'i!"

If 13-year-old Pia is angry, he has good reason. The year is 1869, and the fatherless young Hawaiian has been diagnosed with leprosy, the dreaded disfiguring disease with (then) no cure, and sent to the new leper colony on Molokai'i. On a barren, lawless penninsula cut off from the rest of the island by massive sea cliffs too formidable for an ailing population to scale, Pia and his fellow sufferers are abandoned, save for a token police force and shipments of supplies which never come close to providing for all the unwilling inhabitants.

Pia, mourning the separation from his mother, sisters and 'ohana (extended family), is also embittered by a more personal betrayal. Kamaka, the young man who has been Pia's best friend, surrogate older brother and father, the person he looked up to and emulated all his life, fled from him even before the government shipped Pia away to Molokai'i. Haunted by memories of a childhood encounter with a leper, Kamaka ran rather than visit Pia in the hospital, or join the rest of the family to bid him aloha at the dock when he's forced to leave Honolulu for the last time.

Kamaka was like the steamer that dumped me here and then brought supplies to me. He was like Boki, who rescued me and then made me his slave. I hated all of them. But I kept wondering - how could I survive without them?

Angry and fighting to survive his first weeks in the colony, Pia becomes involved with the criminal Boki, a relationship which brands him a thief and an outcast even among this community of outcasts. Pia's only affection is for the little girl Maka Nui, who reminds him of his sister, and the elderly woman Keona. A few years later, a pair of new arrivals change Pia's world - Kamaka, who's unafflicted but accompanying his afflicted wife, and a 33-year-old Catholic priest named Damien. Kamaka, sincerely grieving his actions, patiently tries to persuade his old friend to give him another chance, while the assertive new priest sets to work rehabilitating the colony.

The book is haunting. On his first day on Molokai, Pia stumbles across a wild pig rooting in a shallow grave, and realizes with horror that the animal is consuming the remains of a leper. The reality of their shortened lives and the general lack of community in the colony means that Pia is revisited often by the question of his own death, and what will happen to his body in a place where there is no proper system to bury the dead. On Damien's first day on Molokai, he bullies Pia into helping him bury a dead man; seeing the man's disfigured, decayed form, he breaks down, leaving Pia with the impression that for the first time, someone cares about the hapless inhabitants of this de facto prison. And Damien proves this on a more personal level, caring for Pia's neglected feet. Leprosy causes nerve damage, and throughout the book Pia increasingly loses sensation in his feet. This loss of the ability to feel pain is a practical issue - infection sets in when patients fail to notice or care for small injuries, resulting in the disfigurement popularly associated with the disease - but Hostetter uses it to echo Pia's desire to stop feeling anything emotionally as well.

The questions of anger, forgiveness and their role in a good v. a bad life are handled well. Kamaka earns his forgiveness, and Pia witnesses, without neccessarily participating in, the unearned forgiveness dispensed by Damien. Pia is a strong character with a distinctive, believable voice, and there is great consistency to his actions. The plot is neat and collected, showing good control over the ending. One point that seemed to get away is the young girl Piolani, who seems for a time to be a romantic interest but who fades out of the picture.

About the Author
Author website
Author blog

Other Books

Visit Molokai website
National Park Service - Kalauppa
Photos of Molokai

Father Damien links
Catholic News story
Statue in the Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)
Damien (1978)
Damiaan (1986) (TV) (Belgian)
Father Damien: The Leper Priest (1980) (TV)
An Uncommon Kindness

St. Augustine Catholic Church in Waikiki plans to build Damien museum
Belgian and Canadian film crews work on documentaries on Damien

Leprosy/Hansen's Disease
1-2 million people are still affected by Hansen's today, though it is treatable.

The World Health Organization - Leprosy Today
Centers For Disease Control - Leprosy
Evidence that leprosy existed 4,000 years ago