Sunday, April 20, 2008

Great Reads

I've read some excellent books lately -- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Heaven Lake by John Dalton. The Book Thief is incredibly sad but oh so well-written. It's just beautiful.

But it's Heaven Lake (another gorgeous book that I was sad to have end) that I want to talk about, because I have an interesting story about how I came to read it.

A long time ago, when I still lived in St. Louis (my hometown!), I participated in a small writing workshop at the local YMCA. At the time, I had just become a stay-at-home mom after having my second daughter, and I took the workshop to get myself back into the creative writing mode. Writing was a lifelong love -- I still have journals I wrote in as a kid -- but I had pretty much abandoned it for a while once I started practicing law.

Fast forward a few years -- I was reading Publishers Weekly and saw a blurb about a book that sounded very familiar. I looked at the author's name, John Dalton, and recognized it as the name of my YMCA workshop leader. I knew it had to be the same person because I remembered him talking about the novel he was writing, and the PW blurb matched his description. I held on to the issue for months, intending to look him up and also to search out the novel once it was released, but life got in the way and it never happened.

Fast forward a few more years (to this past fall). I recently remodeled my home office and in the course of sorting through many of my old notes from various writing workshops I've taken over the years, I came across a folder from the YMCA workshop. It reminded me again to look John up, so I got online, contacted him, and ordered the book from Amazon. The book has been sitting on my nightstand for some time (I always have a 'line' of books waiting to be read) and I finally got the chance to delve into it over spring break.

Let me just say this: the year Heaven Lake was released (2004), John won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, and for good reason. I couldn't put it down, and I was sad when it ended because I enjoyed the reading of it so much. The writing is gorgeous, the plot and the characters are fresh and interesting, and it's chock full of issues (it's a great book club book). Here's the Amazon link with the summary, etc.