Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden
Author: Alan Buckingham
DK, 2010
352 pages

If you read Gypsy Roots (one of my other blogs), then you'll know that I've been spending a little time in the garden lately. I'm still a novice vegetable gardener, so I'm constantly on the lookout for resources that are basic but not too basic, with just the right info. I like things in small bites, otherwise I get bored. The Kitchen Garden is, in a word, perfect. For me, anyway.

It's divided into four main sections. 1) An introduction, with just enough of that basic info mentioned earlier. Particularly helpful for me were sub-sections on plot layouts and bed systems, tools/equipment, and crop rotation. 2) A month-by-month listing of tasks to be completed (specific to the northern hemisphere, I must point out), e.g., what seeds to start indoors (or outdoors). I wish I would have had this info in January. 3) Detailed info on various vegetables, in mini-sections divided by the type of vegetable (root, brassica, etc.) 4) A troubleshooting section, with helpful info on problems, pests, etc.

Like most DK books, there are lots of photos, and I find this to be particularly appealing. The layout and photos aren't just helpful, they're beautiful and inspiring. I want my vegetables -- heck, I want my gardens -- to look like the ones in this book. :-) I know I'll be referring to The Kitchen Garden on a regular basis. Highly recommended for beginners, and maybe even for those with several years of experience who are interested in growing something new.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Algonquin, 2010
320 pages

The year is 1907. The place: a small town in northern Wisconsin. A man named Ralph Truitt waits at a train station for the arrival of his bride-to-be, a woman who responded to his want-ad in a Chicago newspaper for "a reliable wife." As it turns out, neither of them is really who they seem to be, and the theme of trust (along with several other themes including loss and redemption) is a key component of Robert Goolrick's first novel.

Goolrick isn't exactly a spring chicken, and neither are his characters. Truitt is pushing 60, and Catherine Land, the beautiful woman he will marry despite trickery, plots, and schemes you simply cannot imagine until you read the book, is at an age where she is "no longer youthful."  Like his father before him, Ralph is a very successful businessman. He wasn't always responsible, but over time has become worthy of inheriting his kingdom. Catherine is equally interesting, a person with many secrets whose photographic memory enables her to make her way through the world in a chameleon-like fashion.

From northern Wisconsin with its long winters to the slums of Philadelphia to old world Europe to opium dens and whorehouses of Chicago and St. Louis we go, experiencing nearly every human emotion imaginable. I can't remember ever reading anything (fiction or not) that describes the "seedy" side of the early 20th century like A Reliable Wife does. It's disturbing, and (for me) it was difficult to put down. Nearly every chapter ends with something you didn't expect, leading you to keep reading . . . all the way to the shocking and unpredictable (for me, at least!) ending. I read it in about four hours - maybe less -- not in one sitting, but if I'd had the time it could have been so.

I read online that the movie rights have already been snapped up. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood interprets this story for the big screen. I'm perplexed by the negative reviews on Amazon and B&N's web sites. Both ratings are averaging 3 out of 5 stars, but it seems as if people either really love or really hate this book. If I'd seen the reviews before I read the book, I might not have read it. But I'm glad I did, and I'd like to give a shout-out to my co-worker friend Jan for the recommendation.