Tuesday, July 22, 7 pm at Boswell
June Melby, author of My Family and Other Hazards: A Memoir with opening reader Mel Miskimen,
When June Melby was ten years old, her parents decided on a whim to buy Tom Thumb mini golf course in the small Wisconsin town where they vacationed every summer. What followed was a 30 year love/hate relationship with the charming American pastime that robbed her of her summer freedom and turned out to be far more work than anyone in the family of five could have anticipated.
At the start of My Family and Other Hazards, award-winning poet, stand-up comedian, middle child, and former mini golf concession stand operator June Melby is now an adult living in Hollywood, having flown the Midwest long ago. However, when she hears her parents will be selling Tom Thumb, she is shocked by her own panicked reaction and flies back to Wisconsin before the sale goes through, wondering if she should stop it. As the clock ticks on her last summer at the course, Melby reflects on what it meant to her both as a child and an adult, the simpler era that it represents, and the particular growing pains of losing your childhood home.
"Growing up spending summers at the Tom Thumb Miniature golf course in Waupaca, you had to learn some special skills, like how to keep the greens clean, and how to get balls that were stuck in the hazards. You had to learn how to make a good snow cone and the secret to crowd-pleasing cotton candy—the grape may taste better but everyone wants the pink stuff. Over the course of 18 holes, June Melby tells the story of her family’s thirty year adventure, with each hazard representing some aspect of life, with the wishing well representing dreams and the rotating barrels the jumping off point for rules. My Family and Other Hazards is a funny and wise story, filled with all the emotions I associate with miniature golf-- anticipation, joy, frustration, nostalgia, and yes, a bit of regret too."--Daniel Goldin
Our opening reader for this event will be Mel Miskimen, author of the memoir Cop's Kid. She will be previewing from her forthcoming memoir, The Seamus Sessions: Dog Training for the Bereaved.
Wednesday, July 23, 7 pm at Boswell
Rebecca Rasmussen, author of the novels Evergreen and The Bird Sisters
We have built quite a following for Rebecca Rasmussen (photo credit Kristin Papac), having sold close to 50 copies of The Bird Sisters, with the late Next Chapter having likely sold many more. The new book is getting a similarly enthusiastic reception.
From Boswellian Jane Glaser: "Leaving the city life of her upbringing, Eveline Le May follows her heart, marrying German immigrant Emil Sturm, and moving to the Depression-era, remote Minnesota community of Evergreen. Though the environment is harsh, the young couple is optimistic and hopeful, especially as Eveline gives birth to a son, Hux. When Emil is called back to Germany to care for his dying father, Eveline decides to stay alone with Hux, confident that her new found sense of independence and perseverance will see her through the coming days. That trust is betrayed not only as world events in Germany delay Emil's return, but also, at the hand of a stranger, Eveline is forced to into making a choiceless choice that will effect not just her, but her daughter and granddaughter as well. In the strong tradition of Midwestern literature, Evergreen shares a place somewhere between Christina Baker-Kline and Willa Cather in this tale of trial and despair overcome by resiliency that ultimately triumphs in love and redemption."
Because the new book is set more in Minnesota than Wisconsin, we're likely to get a few less media hits on the new book, in lieu of publicity from the Gopher State. Aren't we so provincial, but you can say that about anywhere? Set a book in New York and you've definitely got way more shot at a review in The New York Times, right? So yes, here's a review in the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune from Jackie Thomas-Kennedy.
She begins: "Rebecca Rasmussen sets her second novel, Evergreen, in the North Woods of Minnesota. The town of Evergreen is a landscape of total isolation, occasionally described in violent tones — “great pines lay like injured soldiers, sap streaming from their bark like blood” — a site of assault and loneliness, but also of friendship and rescue. Rasmussen portrays several companionable marriages, but she seems most intrigued by alliances based on proximity, exploring the beauty — indeed, the necessity--of neighbors." Read the rest here.
Wednesday, July 23, 7 pm, at Outwords
James Magruder, author of the story collection Let Me See It
We're co-sponsoring Outwords Books' event with James Magruder (photo credit Miriam Berkley) on Wednesday. Let Me See it is a connected story collection that follows two gay cousins from their adolescence in the 1970s into the 1990s. The author wrote a novel called Sugarless, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and from his theater background (he teaches both creative writing and dramaturgy), he is noted for writing the book for the Broadway musical, The Triumph of Love.
A starred Publishers Weekly review raved about this collection: “In this witty, elegiac collection of linked stories, Magruder (Sugarless) traces the paths of two gay cousins, Tom Amelio and Elliott Biddler, as they grow up in the Midwest and eventually become wised-up, crisis-addled adults… this collection—especially its final, tragic entry—will leave readers moved”
Kevin Wilson, author of the beloved novel, The Family Fang, wrote: “There are few authors who write with as much sensitivity and tenderness as James Magruder; he has a way of finding something beautiful in the most heartbreaking moments . . . With sharp touches of humor, this is a marvel of a story.”
Thursday, July 24, 7 pm, at Boswell
Brian Benson, author of Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America.
Brian Benson has a fill-in-the-blank liberal-arts degree, a million vague life plans, and zero sense of direction. So he sets off on a grandly imagined, poorly planned Latin American backpacking trip, during which he meets and falls for Rachel, a self-possessed Oregonian living and working in western Guatemala. When Rachel mentions that she's always dreamed of bicycling across the U.S., Brian asks to come along for the ride.
Going Somewhere is Brian’s affecting, adventurous account of his and Rachel’s two-wheeled odyssey from northern Wisconsin to Somewhere West. The pair push off from the lush Northwoods, infatuated with the promise of adventure and each other, but as they progress into the bleak western plains, Brian and Rachel begin to discover the messy realities of life on the road. Mile by mile, they contend with merciless winds and vivid characters, broken bikes and bodies—and the looming question of what comes next.
Benson's book has definitely intrigued customers, as we've had very strong presales on this title, where the author does not seem to have strong ties (he's a Wisconsinite but not a Milwaukeean) and the book is not a national bestseller. We are currently the second best store on Above the Treeline, and #1 is likely his home store in the West region.
Next week! Sandra Ackerman at the Milwaukee Public Library for Milwaukee: Then and Now on Tuesday, July 29, 6 pm (note time), plus Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, at Boswell on Wednesday, July 30 and Edan Lepucki at Boswell for California on Friday, August 1, both at 7 pm.