Category Archives: Life reflections

The Monday Book: SONGS FOR THE MISSING by Stewart O’Nan

I am a sucker for great characters. This story follows a family whose oldest daughter disappears. It sounds like a thriller.

What it really is, becomes a psychological study of grief and priorities in a working class family that has to slowly, VERY slowly, come to grips with uncertainty. Their bottom line? You don’t accept uncertainty. You break yourself into pieces to end it. And it still might not end.

The writing is tight and an odd juxtaposition of almost newspaper style and lyricism. I found myself pausing at times to enjoy his construction, which is saying something when the characters are so well done. Moments like this not-all-together-flattering opinion of the landscape. The sins of the Midwest: flatness, emptiness, a necessary acceptance of the familiar. Where is the romance in being buried alive? In growing old?

Dad won’t give up; he gets in the police’s way and follows up even the most ridiculous leads – because how do you evaluate ridiculous when you’re desperate?

Mom is coping quietly, at home, and drinking way too much and trying to protect her younger daughter–including protecting the child from her, the mom. She recognizes way too many things and keeps quiet about them as her husband leaves and returns, seeking leads. And as her younger daughter tries so hard to not become the adult in the family. Their relationship is fascinating.

And Lindsay, the 15-year-old accepts that part of her life has disappeared and part of it is on hold and anything she is going to have from here out is going to be a combination of fight and negotiation, with herself as much as with the world around her that really needs her to be the dutiful grieving little sister. Except, not too much grieving, because, hope. Her older sister may yet be found.

It’s a vibrant character study hidden inside a thriller plot. I thoroughly enjoyed Songs for the Missing.

1 Comment

Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, publishing, reading

What’s ‘Intilt’?

I was away from home so a day late as usual with the Wednesday guest post –

Now that we’ve both been vaccinated, as have many friends and neighbors, we can begin to look back on how we’ve handled the last year. A big part was in cooking with ingredients that Wendy had sourced very imaginatively – potatoes, onions, mushrooms that in some cases literally ‘fell off a truck’.

I enjoy cooking and am always interested in new recipes – for some reason I get regular e-mails from the New York Times Cooking page and I love reading their linked examples. But it is always just a vicarious pleasure. I never make any of them because they always involve an ingredient or a utensil I don’t have!

So I start from the opposite direction.

I do a Google search on the ingredients we have and the methods I’m familiar with. So I have recently searched for ‘potatoes, onions, carrots, peas and mushrooms’ and then choose something that uses a process I’m comfortable with. I discovered Lebanese seven spice mixture and love adding a teaspoonful to almost everything I make.

I had already searched for specialized foods I remembered from Scotland such as sausage rolls and steak bridies and they turned out to be easy to make.

Meanwhile Wendy has become a dab hand at canning as an alternative to freezing and that has opened up lots of possibilities too. So we have lots of jars of homemade spaghetti sauce, curry sauce, veggie soup and even ‘ready to go’ fries (Chips for my Scottish friends) which are par-boiled in the canning process and just need to go in our air-fryer with a squirt of oil. I often reference a story I think I first heard from my good friend from Aberdeen, Colin Stuart whenever she is making something. Queen Victoria and Albert sailed down Loch Ness and he visited the galley. He asked the chef what was in the soup. “There’s tatties intilt and carrots intilt and ingins intilt”. Well, my good man “tell me what’s ‘intilt’?’. “There’s tatties intilt and carrots intilt and ingins intilt” and so it went on round and round.

Finally, as the growing season has arrived, and after extending our vegetable garden, we will be hoping for our own carrots, onions, corn, tomatoes, peppers etc. through the coming year.

Some dishes we’ve become fond of – Dall with beans; Stovies; Bridies; Sausage Rolls; Vegetable Soup; Salmon Patties (Fish Cakes); various curries; Crock Pot Stews – – –

One thing I haven’t found over here is tripe, which my Mum used to make and I would love to have a go at!

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch