Tag Archives: Nebraska

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (review and giveaway)

Word Lily review

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Dutton, April 14, 2011), 336 pages

Lincoln, thought by some to be a perpetual student, finally quit school (after several degrees) and moved back home. Now, he’s working at the newspaper, overseeing internet security and fixing printers when they need it. It’s not a great job; Lincoln’s working second shift, in a windowless office all alone. He can’t meet people, because he works when they’re awake. And he really doesn’t like snooping through private emails, but that’s what he’s paid to do.

Much of the book consists of email exchanges between two women, friends. Lincoln can’t bring himself to send them a warning, and he kind of feels like he’s become friends with them — even while feeling like a creep for reading their email.

In some ways, this is a coming of age novel. Although Lincoln’s not a teenager, when the book opens he doesn’t have a clear picture of who he is, and he’s lacking direction and motivation.

The Y2K scare and preparation aspect of the book (it’s set in 1999) is fun. I love the Omaha, Nebraska setting. I also loved being back in a newspaper office, talking about inky fingers, second shift, and copy-editing.

Overall, I found this book charming, and not entirely shallow. The book touches on themes of self-concept, esteem, ethics, fertility, and marriage.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Rainbow Rowell (Facebook @rainbowrowell), is a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Omaha with her family. She has a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Other reviews
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Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
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Thanks to the publisher, one of you can win a copy of Attachments! (U.S. or Canada only.) To enter, leave a comment on this post. (One entry per person.) I’ll accept entries through Monday, May 2, 2011.

ETA: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


When I heard the news Friday that Grandpa had died, I just had to write. I couldn’t not. We were in the car, en route to Nashville for Hutchmoot, and I cried and wrote. What I wrote, I shared at the funeral yesterday and am posting here also.

One might look at Grandpa’s life and declare it narrow. He lived on the same (small, by today’s standards) piece of land nearly all his life. Many of the things we may consider normal aspects of daily life he never experienced. But I will not define his life by what he lacked.

His love was huge. He kept up with the world’s happenings and could talk easily with anyone. He placed others before himself. Life didn’t end up exactly how he’d planned and dreamed. But still he saw the silver lining.

He served his country, but like most of his generation he didn’t talk much about the gruesome things he doubtless saw. He did like to share about the places he went, though. He saw the world in World War II.

Whether based in actual events or fictional, long or short, tall tales or more realistic. Serious or just for fun. He loved a good yarn.

He told stories. He read to us. He read books himself. He watched old movies and the news.

On Friday when I heard the news about Grandpa I was reminded about a beloved book character. I don’t know if you all know Mitford’s Uncle Billy from the books by Jan Karon, but he’s dear to me. I’ll just tell you a little about him:

Uncle Billy is always ready with a joke. He treats his telling of jokes like a job of sorts, placing all kinds of pressure on himself to find and deliver the best of jokes. Uncle Billy isn’t actually anyone’s uncle, but in a way the whole community leans on him. Besides his jokes, Billy is known for loving his wife fiercely. It’s perhaps what he’s not known for that’s the most extraordinary, though. He drew. Exquisite drawings that when they came to light lessened the financial burden tremendously. He caned chairs, he carved. And he did all this quietly, without presumption. With no expectation.

Uncle Billy reminds me of Grandpa. Life may not be easy, but he brings the smiles.

I heard a new story just a couple weeks ago, when Grandpa’s brother was visiting:

When he was young, and they’d had a dry year and thus didn’t have enough hay to feed the cows, they drove ’em, in trucks, to the Sandhills (by Purdum, he said) so they could graze. On the way home, they stopped at every place and had a bullfight. “Our bull was a good fighter,” he said. “It didn’t ever take long to win.”

He enjoyed stories both as a recipient and as a purveyor. More than either of those, though, I remember how he created stories — memories — for me. For us.

When I was little Grandpa took Luke and I out to a hill and handed us a gun. He’d previously set up cans across the way for us to aim at. When I hit a can with my first shot, he called me Annie Oakley.

He took us sledding. He made us toys. He played the squeezebox and sang. He let us into his story, showing us around the farm.

Grandpa loved the land. He delighted in his family. His life was large.

Nebraska poet on parade

As April is National Poetry Month, I’ve been seeing more than my usual share of poetry posts around the blogosphere. I’ve been especially tickled when I find one featuring the work of a Nebraska poet, in this case Ted Kooser.

Carrie at Books and Movies posted several Kooser poems, all taken from his Delights and Shadows:

And Beth Kephart wrote about meeting Kooser.

(Screenshot capture of video still on Kooser's website.)

Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. He won a Pulitzer for Delights and Shadows. He is a Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of twelve full-length collections of poetry. Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Kooser earned a bachelor’s at Iowa State University in 1962 and an master’s at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He lives on an acreage near the town of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife, Kathleen Rutledge, and their dogs, Alice and Howard.

This post is part of my Literary Road Trip through Nebraska.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (Vintage Classics, 1927), 304 pages

Father Jean Marie Latour is appointed the Apostolic Vicar of New Mexico in 1851. The land is harsh and unforgiving, the people splintered and fractured, American by law but Mexican and Native American by culture and belief. The story follows his life.

The writing is straightforward and lovely. The contemplative style I associate with Kathleen Norris, the quietness and slowness that reminds me of Anne Tyler. However, it does not have the melancholy I associate with Tyler’s work.

The setting really shines in this book. I was reminded of my brief time in New Mexico — both the vistas and the food.

The story is compelling, the characters real. I really enjoyed this book.

A couple quotes that stood out to me:

The truth was, Jacinto liked the Bishop’s way of meeting people; thought he had the right tone with Padre Gallegos, the right tone with Padre Jesus, and that he had good manners with the Indians. In his experience, white people, when they addressed Indians, always put on a false face. There were many kinds of false faces; Father Vaillant’s, for example, was kindly but too vehement. The Bishop put on none at all. He stood straight and turned to the Governor of Laguna, and his face underwent no change. Jacinto thought this remarkable.

— page 93-94, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather


‘It would be a shame to any man coming from a Seminary that is one of the architectural treasures of France, to make another ugly church on this continent where there are so many already.’

— page 242, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather; Bishop Latour speaking

This is my first exposure to Cather (that I remember, anyway). I’ve been meaning to read Cather for years now, and I’m glad I finally have. I’m looking forward to more. I visited Cather’s Nebraska hometown of Red Cloud last fall. Several of her books draw details of their setting from Red Cloud, but Death Comes for the Archbishop isn’t one of those, as far as I know.

About the author
Willa Cather (1873-1947) received a Pulitzer in 1923 for One of Ours; she authored 12 novels.

Other reviews
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This book is from my personal library.

This post, being a review of a book by a Nebraska author, is part of the Literary Road Trip.

This book is also on the Image Journal list, which I’m still, slowly, working my way through.

Of the list books I’ve read, this reminds me most of Robert Morgan’s The Truest Pleasure. In that it’s about day-to-day life, of normal people, but it doesn’t move too slowly, even though not too much actually happens.

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Literary Road Trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska, home of Willa Cather

literary road tripLast weekend I wanted to get out of town. And I knew I wanted to, sometime this fall, make the trip to visit the town known for being the home of Willa Cather, perhaps Nebraska’s most famous author. Many of Cather’s books are set in Red Cloud.

The small town (population 1,100) of Red Cloud, Nebraska wasn’t too far — 1.5 hours one way — so we jumped in the car, found sustenance for the journey, and headed south.

To my shame, I haven’t yet read any of Cather’s works (at least that I remember), but that didn’t stop me. Death Comes for the Archbishop has been sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting to be read, for well over a year now.

Brief overview
Before leaving home I’d printed information for a self-guided walking tour of the town’s Cather sites (I printed this from the chock-full, amazing, loaded, over-the-top informative Cather Foundation website).

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

We drove into town and stopped at the Red Cloud Opera House, which houses the Cather Foundation offices, along with its bookstore and an art gallery. I was tempted by some books and memorabilia, but I resisted.

We walked up and down main street (aka Webster) looking at the buildings listed in the walking tour guide. We saw Dr. Cook’s Drug Store, the State Bank Building, and more, but the building that really stood out was Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank:

From the walking tour info: "This building was erected in 1889 by Silas Garber, fourth governor of Nebraska and prototype of Captain Forrester in A Lost Lady. Restored by the Cather Foundation, the bank displays the original Colorado Sandstone frontage, along with native Red Cloud brick."

Once we realized that we’d explored all the listed buildings on Webster but had a long ways to go to complete the tour, we jumped in the car to explore the rest of town.

Among the sites we saw were: her childhood home,

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

the Harling House

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

and a Baptist church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

Once we were done looking at buildings, we drove south of town (within sight of the Kansas border) to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

A closer view of some of those grasses:

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

So that’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Have you taken any literary road trips lately?

National Alpaca Farm Day: Farm visit

On Saturday (September 26, 2009) my husband and I visited a local alpaca farm — it was having an open house in celebration of National Alpaca Farm Day.

It was fun seeing the cute animals, as well as chatting with the animals’ owners, Paul and Lisa Rogers, at Singing Meadows Alpaca Farm.

We forgot to take our camera, but here’s a photo of one cutie from the farm’s website:

alpaca Avalon_3

Wordy side note: I’ve noticed several places that have fiber animals calling their places farms. I’ve always thought that farms had mainly crops, and ranches had mainly animals. My cursory research this morning bears this out. So what’s the deal with all these fiber farms, alpaca farms?

A Literary Road Trip of Nebraska

literary road tripWay back in mid-August I signed on for the Literary Road Trip, hosted by GalleySmith. What is a Literary Road Trip, you ask? Well, “The Literary Road Trip is a project in which bloggers are volunteering to showcase local authors. This showcase can be anything you want to make of it — book reviews, author interviews, giveaways — as long as you’re working with an author local to you.”

Having moved to Nebraska in late July, I’m naturally excited about showcasing Nebraska authors, in part as a way for me to learn more about this state I’ve moved to. Disclosure: I’m not exactly new to Nebraska. I was born here, and over the course of my lifetime, I’ve lived in Nebraska for about five years total, spread out over three different locales and three different sojourns. I do have some roots in the state. Still, I didn’t live in Nebraska during my school years, so I don’t exactly have the local history down pat.

My early, tentative list of Nebraska authors is:
Willa Cather
Mari Sandoz
Bess Streeter Aldrich
Ted Kooser
Ladette Randolph
Timothy Schaffert

This is me putting the call out. Do you know of other Nebraska authors? (Are you a Nebraska author? Contact me, please!) Of the Nebraska authors I know of, what work(s) should I start with?

I’d also be interested in hearing about books set in Nebraska, particularly those in which the setting has a real presence.

I do plan to check out my local library.

In addition to book reviews and author interviews/guest posts, I also hope to include posts about touring the Nebraska homes of some of these authors — Cather’s home in Red Cloud isn’t too far from me, for example.

Ideas? Suggestions? Comments?