Posts tagged ‘Candace Simar’

BOOK REVIEW: DEAR HOMEFOLKS

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BOOK REVIEW:
DEAR HOMEFOLKS
By Candace Simar
Published by River Place Press
Of Aitkin, Minnesota
ISBN 978-0-9989116-2-5
195 pages

If this collection of short stories and poems were a restaurant, it would get five stars for its offerings.

Candace Simar provides a large menu of literary tastes in DEAR HOMEFOLKS. There are longer stories several pages long for the larger appetite. There are shorter stories of just a few pages to cleanse the reader’s palette. Is gourmet more to your liking? There’s some of that, but then there’s some very tasty ‘meat and potatoes’ stories, too. Do you want some dessert? There are humorous accounts as well.

Candace Simar draws from several sources for DEAR HOMEFOLKS. She gives us a taste of her understanding of the pioneer prairie days of Minnesota that you may have read in her Fort Abercrombie books. There are testaments to her Scandinavian heritage. There are some touching memoir-type moments, as the reader gets to meet the real Candace Simar as she reveals herself in a story or two about her own life experiences. There is a bit of a follow-up (maybe you could call it a semi-sequel) to one of her later books, SHELTERBELTS, in which we meet one of the characters of that book as he struggles to maintain his farm.

As for the poems, they are often paired with one of the stories – and the pairing reinforces both the story and the poem. You’ll find this especially true in the memoir section of the book.

Yes, there are sections; four of them. Each section is set off by a page with a short paragraph or two from the author, where she offers an introduction of sorts to each section. This lends yet another angle of getting to know the author in a personal way.

The tone throughout the book, like the first paragraph mentions, is a grand taste of Candace Simar’s writing. The vocabulary is accessible to all, the style is warm. The storytelling offers a spectrum of emotions from sadness to some truly happy and joyous pronouncements.

Candace Simar’s DEAR HOMEFOLKS would be a solid addition to the bookcase at home.

 

BOOK REVIEW: SHELTERBELTS by Candace Simar

book-coverSHELTERBELTS
By Candace Simar
267 pages
Published by North Star Press

My taste in reading favors people; real people. I’m not much for murder mysteries or romances. Give me ordinary folks who live ordinary lives but yet have their own stories to tell.

You can’t get much more ordinary than a community of farmers in a nondescript Minnesota township. Yet, that’s what Candace Simar gives us in this novel. Her ordinary people become folks we all know from our own lives; the blabbermouth gossip lady, the simple village idiot, the old maid to be, the mothers and fathers who have hopes for their kids, the kids who might dash those hopes . . . and let us not forget the community built around the businesses in those townships, from the farm supply dealers, across the street to the merchants, and down the road to the ramshackle Lutheran church which serves as the social and spiritual center for the people in this book.

Candace Simar’s writing style is warm and neighborly. Taking from her pool of wonderful words, she gives us descriptions that finds us saying to ourselves, “Hey, I know someone just like that!” There’s Tia the spinster to be, who could just as well be your own cousin Barbie. There’s Harvey, the struggling farmer who never gives up, even though his son Eddie is a simpleton – just like the guy down the road from your house. You’ve all met someone like Tillie – she’s the one who knows everything about everyone in the town and for sure will you can bet she will tell you everything about everyone in the town, often in one breath.

Your mind sees and feels each character – their clothing, their posture, their ethics . . . and you have felt their emotional disappointments, their victories, their hopes and dreams. You know what it’s like to not be properly dressed for certain social occasions. You know what it’s like to observe an awkward moment at a public gathering – or even have been the center of one of those awkward moments. All of this is here, made clear by the hand of Candace Simar in SHELTERBELTS.

The novel takes place at the very end of World War II. The boys that have left the farms to serve Uncle Sam haven’t quite returned yet; well okay, one does. Those in the township go through their lives, doing mundane chores, observing the weather and all conditions that concern farming, planning on money coming in from crops and egg sales. The radio is a big source of news. A few farms have been innovative enough to allow their houses to be wired for electricity, who some find uppity, while others become jealous.

But at the top of it all, the theme of community commands the reader’s attention. The mechanics of the social interplay become a stage of action for Simar’s writing – and she generates hearfelt actions out of that mechanical world. Through her characters, she reminds us that the community is out there, so full of support and hurt, all at the same time . . . and not letting us forget that our own community, flawed as it may be, is still so very near and dear to us.

There is a list of emotions that appear here – elation, disappointment, jealousy, spiritual glory, the joys of simple life – Simar paints all of them with a clarity and realism that draws deeply upon our own wells of emotion.

I just wish the book didn’t end so quickly – I wanted to know more about the characters and where they were headed. I wanted to read more about the improvement in their lives as the effects of World War II faded. Perhaps there will be a SHELTERBELTS II.

There are several books about community that I read over and over again, year after year – Steinbeck’s EAST OF EDEN, Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and Hassler’s GRAND OPENING, come to mind. I’m adding Simar’s SHELTERBELTS to that list.

*I have had the pleasure of meeting Candace Simar, a writer living in central Minnesota. Other books she has written include ABERCROMBIE TRAIL, BLOOMING PRAIRIE and FARM GIRLS. I must also add that she is a fine SCRABBLE player, having bested me more often than not in the online version of that game of words.

Week 33

Just when you think we’d be relieved of duty with the end of the music festival, why not just throw back your head and give a big laugh?  It was a busy week…

Wilma’s week was committed to wrapping up the financial stuff and other matters.  Lots of phone calls, lots of this and that.  I spent some time as well, including returning a car and then riding with Scott (the Festival artistic director) allowing me to pump some ideas into him for next year … How about someone doing a video documentary?  How about pieces of music such as the MISSISSIPPI SUITE?  How about movie music while a scene plays on a screen?

But now, let’s just hit the week and see what happens….

Monday afternoon was spent in the meeting room at Lord of Life Church as a member of GREAT DECISIONS, a current events discussion group.  This month’s topic: Humanitarian efforts by governments – we discussed whether or not the USA could successfully help the people of Syria and Egypt.  Our conclusion was that this is such a complicated matter that we just can’t possibly know what to do, but w should continue to try to understand and work on such issues.

Tuesday found me a chance to rub elbows with the writing world – I took a 2 hour class from Candace Simar (a published author from the area here – http://candacesimar.com/) on how to get published.  I find myself quite drawn to that possibility – and she talked about the steps to get such a project done.  Without going into great detail, it is a good deal of work.  I have a preliminary goal for now – since I have no plays in the works, I can focus on writing and see if I can approach publishing with any seriousness.

08 21 preserve 10

Wednesday couldn’t come any faster for me – new friend Craig Friday (he and I were on stage last fall in ANNE FRANK) invited me to a round of golf at THE PRESERVE, a high-end golf course up near Pequot Lakes.  You know the kind: 80 bucks a round, electric golf carts with GPS and distance to the green rangefinders … It was a misty day (a precursor to the fun heat we’re now experiencing) as I arrived there.  The guy at the front desk was a former student – always fun to have that happen.  Craig arrived, and due to his employment at the company that owns the course, we got on for quite a good deal less than that regular rate… and off we went.  Suffice it to say that I didn’t really care how I did (which was badly) … but it was such a treat to play on such a quality course at least once.  I sure hope I get to do it again… we ended with lunch and promised we’d do it again soon.

I got back to town in time to join some friends for some social time at a local eating establishment … and it was there that I filled in the crew on the death of a man who we all knew (Leroy – who I wrote about in the previous blog entry) … His death was a shock for all – and he will be missed.

Thursday – oh how I love our stained glass project at church!  I helped artist Doug Fliss and fellow church member Curt N. install 3 larger panels in our windows.  Doug and I did five earlier this year – and with these three in, we have 3 left to go, which will arrive at the end of September or so…. It is lovely to see and very interesting to learn the process.  Doug’s website is http://www.departuredesigns.com/

With the incoming heat, we moved out to the lake today, cat and all.  Ella has been very good – she used to be very nervous about being in the much smaller trailer we have out there – but this time she’s been a good girl.  Wilma has hit the beach a great deal over the days, and I’ve kept busy with writing and a photography project I’ve been invited to do.  That’ll be coming up later and you’ll hear about it here.

08 23 costumes Queen Lauren 0208 23 costumes Krista S08 23 costume HULK08 23 costume cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s Ruth Gmeinder and her costumes.  Wilma dropped off letters to the Minneapolis TV stations, telling them about the music festival, especially about the opera and Ruthie’s costumes.  Wilma got a call from Jason Davis on KSTP – and he came up Friday to do a story about Ruth’s costumes.  A good two dozen of us showed up to model those costumes .. and what a sight it must have been to see Venetians Royalty, Barbarians, Gatsby people and cartoon characters out in the yard of a resort…. It was fun, it was interesting – and we’ll see what Jason Davis does with it on his report – date to be announced.

Saturday found me fatigued… it seems like every 6 weeks or so, I just crash… I am lethargic and have no zip at all for about a day.  I will be mentioning this to my doctor at my annual physical (coming soon — need to make an appointment…) but it may have to do with the side effects of atenolol, my blood pressure medication…..

Outside – and through Sunday as well – it is hot HOT HOT…. Church was good .. with our usual visit to the bagel shop, sitting around with our friends from church … and then some beach time and a turkey roast on the grill, with some corn on the cob.  The heat is due to continue for the whole week, so I suspect we’ll be staying at the lake for several more days there … all because we have no AC at home, and here we have a good pile of it.