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Culture Watch

Branch In His Hand

by Sharon Charde

Published by The Backwaters Press, Omaha; Paperback, ©2008, 100 pp,


“…All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.”

                                    W.B. Yeats

Like a bright, shining Phoenix, reborn in the flames of its own funeral pyre, this new collection of Sharon Charde’s poems tells the tragic story of her son’s death and how it changed her life. Reading it has changed mine too. I have a new favorite poet.

My review copy arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon. I started to read it in bed, thinking it would help me to sleep. An hour or so later as I came to the last page, I was deeply moved by the power, honesty and beauty of this work, still wanting to read more.

This morning, not fully trusting my own enthusiasm (I’m known as the “token male” author on this Senior Women website) I asked my wife Christa — the mother of five and grandmother of eight — to take a look at the book and give me her own, authentic senior woman’s take on it. She agreed to open it and sample a couple of the poems. I went out to an appointment, and when I returned later, she told me that she, too, had been unable to put the book down until she had read every one of the poems. I challenge any reader to 'sample' this wonderful collection without wanting to read it right to the end.

While some of the poems first appeared in other publications, the five chapters in which Sharon Charde has now arranged them create a seamless whole for the reader. She tells us what her family was like before; what happened on May 8, 1987; how, over the following fifteen years, it transformed them all, especially her; and how she now comes to terms with life and death, both her son’s and her own.

To say much more than this would be pretentious on my part. Christa and I both loved this book, and we hope many others will also.

John Malone

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Hardcover; ©2008, 528 pp

I am not a great fan of mystery novels, but after reading this one, I can hardly wait to get my hands on the other two books in the series. After starting to write mysteries at night just for fun, Swedish journalist and activist Stieg Larsson planned to write ten novels in all. He was working on the fourth manuscript in the series when he was felled by a massive heart attack in 2004 at the age of fifty.

The book starts out as a classic “locked room” murder mystery, a formula made famous by Agatha Christie and others, except that the locked room is an island temporarily cut off from the Swedish mainland, and the murder in question occurred thirty-two years before the story begins. There are two main characters, a fiftyish male investigative journalist (modeled on the author) and his brilliant, twenty-something female research assistant (the girl with the dragon tattoo). This interesting duo also stars in the remaining books in the series.

In addition to being an excellent mystery novel that is hard to put down until the multiple surprises of the ending, the book also provides a somewhat jaundiced insider view of modern Swedish history, society and politics that dispels many of our conventional stereotypes. It contains a number of subplots, some of which deal with neo-Nazism, Sado-Masochism, dysfunctional families, white-collar crime and the abuse of women. (The original title in Swedish translates as Men Who Hate Women.)

Altogether a very good read that will be enjoyed by both women and men adult readers.

John Malone

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©2009 Julia Sneden, Joan L. Cannon and John Malone for

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