ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN/ A MEMOIR GORDON HASTINGS

This is a personal Memoir by the editor of Gordon’s Good Reads. Rocky Road To Dublin is now available at Amazon. 

A young boy grows up during period of innocence in the womb of a small Massachusetts town. His bucolic world implodes with the tragic death of his mother opening the pathway to an incredible story of trust and love between a father and son.

This extraordinary dad was neither a captain of industry or master of the universe. He was an unassuming man of modest means and little formal education. He proudly carried his lunch pail every day and dedicated his hard labor and his life to his family. He met the challenge of a family tragedy armed only with his native intelligence, honesty, loyalty and love. He was victorious even in his own death.

The Hastings’s were a typical small town rural nuclear household, mother, father and three children. The father teaches life lessons by his own example. He is intuitive in recognizing his son’s anxieties and panic attacks. Everyday chores become adventures that lay the groundwork for an abiding trust that they will soon rely upon heavily. The 1940s and 1950s in this small neighborly New England community are a time warp but the lessons learned there resonate.

The predictable routine of a secure childhood is dashed by the unexpected sudden death of the boy’s mother when he was eleven. Dad, a factory worker, overnight at age fifty-two is catapulted into becoming a single parent of three children all under sixteen. He must keep his family together knowing that his youngest is the most fragile of all.

Father and son create a life filled with simple yet great truths about dealing with life’s travails. They bring out the best in one-another as a dad dedicates himself to giving his son confidence and encouragement. He gently nudges his boy away from the confines of a small town and into a future of which he once dreamed for himself.

Then it becomes the son’s turn, as he must cope with the tragedy of the father’s untimely illness and death. The wonderful memories of their life together nourished their final hours.

 

 

 

 

LINCOLN IN THE BARDO/ GEORGE SAUNDERS

LINCOLN In The Bardo by George Saunders has been widely acclaimed. His unique approach to writing a novel certainly distinguishes this work.

The Bardo allows for the inclusion of multiple themes, characters and certainly Lincoln and son Willie. Frankly the book did not work for me although I am clearly an exception.  Others call it a “Masterpiece,” “Profound, funny, vital,” “A twenty-first-century Twain.”  I tried, I wanted to get there but couldn’t.

That said, who am I to critique Saunders. Give it a go, and see what you think.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS/MAYA ANGELOU

I came to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings only recently.

I consider myself fortunate that my tardiness did not preclude this Memoir of Maya Angelou’s adolescence. The openness of the beautifully written narrative is welcoming to the reader. The vivid details of a black child growing up in Arkansas under her grandmother’s loving care is all-encompassing.

Don’t wait. You will thank me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE AGE OF EISENHOWER/WILLIAM HITCHCOCK

I chose THE AGE OF EISENHOWER, a discussion of his presidential years 1952-1960, primarily because of the timeliness of  the comparison of leadership and policy with the present administration. Historian William Hitchcock has  accomplished  a scholarly milestone with this objective retrospective of the nostalgic 1950s and Ike himself.

The  triumphs and failings of the Eisenhower presidential years  are expertly chronicled. However, it is Hitchcock’s insight into Eisenhower’s  presidential leadership style, personality  and his transformation from the military leader of the free world to the presidency, that is most compelling.

We think of the 1950s of a period of peace and prosperity which was true. It was also a decade of international and domestic turmoil including the beginning of the Cold War.The decade also produced the arms race, the missile gap, the U-2 disaster, the Suez Canal crisis and the Castro takeover of Cuba. The Eisenhower years gave us the beginnings of the battle over desegregation of public schools, Little Rock, McCarthyism, Nixon and the creation of the CIA and NASA. How Ike handled and sometimes mishandled these critical developments is given microscopic analysis.

THE AGE OF EISENHOWER is for lovers of  American History. This biography of Eisenhower’s presidency is deserving of its high praise.

LINCOLN AND CHURCHILL/ STATESMEN AT WAR

Historian Lewis Lehrman compares the  leadership of  Winston  Churchill and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and World War II.  LINCOLN & CHURCHILL STATESMEN AT WAR delves heavily into  comparisons of their respective personalities, management of subordinates, personal habits and military expertise.

Much of  Lehrman’s subject has been well documented by a plethora of historians and the reader will find that the emphasis of this book clearly lies with Churchill. He does draw a very insightful polemic  comparison between Churchill  as wartime Prime Minister and  Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.  A clear commonality is that both men weaponized  language as a decisive element in their ultimate victories.

Don’t look for descriptions of battles.  This book is about the grand strategy of war and how individual personality and persona influences outcomes.

 

GREATER GOTHAM/WALLACE/EXCEEDS ALL EXPECTATIONS

Mike Wallace’s sequel to GOTHAM  is another enormous undertaking for both the author and the reader.  GREATER GOTHAM A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY FROM 1898 TO 1919 epic and heroic.  Having completed both volumes ( search GOTHAM at gordonsgoodreads.com) I heartily recommend this new work.

Wallace advances a deep understanding of the evolution of the economic, political and social fabric of New York City as the five New York Burroughs became one. It is a fascinating look at the multi-cultural and political conflicts that impacted the growth of the city.  Wallace leaves out no aspect of city life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Media, music, art, race, gender, gentrification, Tammany, titans, aristocrats, prostitutes, swells and hacks. Irish, Jews, Chinese, Greeks, Italians and the unlikely alliances  among them that drove the city politic during this period of enormous growth for the manufacturing, financial and cultural capitol of  America.

I look upon Wallace’s work as earning a Master’s Degree in the History of New York.  At 1052 pages, not including the bibliography and index, this is not an airplane read but rather for comfortable surroundings in which to be astonished, inhaling and contemplating the complexities of the great City of New York.

Wallace is already at work on the next volume of GOTHAM which will focus of the 1920s,30s and 40s. I can’t wait.

ORIGIN/ DAN BROWN/INCREDIBLE IMAGERY/SUSPENSE/ SCIENCE

” Where did we come from and where are we going.”  The ultimate mystery?  Creation versus evolution? God versus science? What is waiting for us?  Big questions, but not for a Dan Brown novel.

Brown’s latest suspense thriller, Origin,  couples Robert Langdon with a wonderful cast to bring forth this suspense filled story in all its glory.  Set in Spain, the  novel couples the story line with incredible imagery. Brown states : ” All art, architecture, locations, science and religious organizations in this novel are real.”  It adds greatly, to drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the story.

Edmund Kirsch, an eccentric billionaire and futurist, claims to have found the answer to life’s ultimate questions.  The story conflicts Christians with atheists, adds a good dose of the Spanish Monarchy and even romance.  Of course, the ending will surprise.

There is not a lot more that needs to be said about a Dan Brown novel. I highly recommend the book. Quite possibly  the story warrants a screenplay. You never seem to tire of Langdon and you will find yourself with a new outlook regarding artificial intelligence.  Prescient? I think so.