Fascism:  A Warning by Madeleine Albright x2

“Every age has its own Fascism”  Primo Levi   (the epigraph.)

I read this again for the All-nonfiction group discussion  It’s basically a little examination of some of the many faces “Fascism,”  which Albright deliberately never quite defines,  has worn from when  Mussolini used he term to today with the emphasis on the evaluation of Donald Trump.  She never labels him a fascist and I don’t believe she thinks he is – quite.  But this book is a look at some of today’s nationalist and repressive leaders as well as a bit of Albright’s own story.   A review of my first reading is at Fascism by Madeleine Albright:



Fascism:  A Warning
by Madeleine Albright
2018 / 289 pages (Kindle) 
read by Madeleine Albright 
rating  9 / history/politics – 

In my first reading I was most interested in Mussolini,  Hitler, Kim Jong-un, Putin and, of course, Trump as well as Albright’s general thoughts on it all.   In that first reading I didn’t quite understand the central chapters regarding several of today’s leaders,  so that’s what I was focused on in this reading.   The leaders I had to read more carefully about are Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Erdogan of Turkey,  and Orban of Hungary – not truly “fascist,”  but the ones who use more fascist tactics than most.

These are not all the nasty, nationalist and oppressive dictators of the world of course,  but along with a few other briefer examples plus Putin and Kim Jong-un,  Albright has included a fair sampling.

So reading about all these leaders one has to ask,  what are the common denominators,  how did they come to power (most were elected but on what issues)?    She gives several generalized statements,  but nothing which could be construed as a “definition of a fascist.”   This is not disappointing but rather, as I suppose she intended,  thought provoking.


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Flat Lake in Winter ~ by Joseph T. Klempner

Oh I did need something a bit lighter after  Bob Woodward’s Fear – (see my review).   This was highly recommended by a reader I follow at Audible and it is well worth it (I do enjoy a good legal crime novel.)  Be aware this is not a thriller nor much of a courtroom drama.  it’s simply a thought provoking legal crime story,  a good one.

The voice of the basic 3rd person narrator here might be a bit dry if it weren’t read by George Newbern who almost breathes a whole character into it and it works wonderfully well.   I’m going to have to look out for him.


Flat Lake in Winter
by Joseph T.  Klempner
2016/  (320 pages) 
read by George Newbern
rating:  A / legal crime

Jonathan Hamilton is a 28-year old man who lives with his elderly grandparents because he is mentally challenged and his own parents are deceased.  They live in an old mansion on the shores of Flat Lake in upstate New York.  The book opens with him finding them dead,  brutally knifed.  He’s then arrested and the case follows the investigation and trial.  It’s fiction but written almost as though it were true crime.

Matt Fielder is called in to defend Jonathan in what is almost guaranteed to be a death penalty outcome.  Fielder is all but convinced that Jonathan did it.  But what motive could the limited Jonathan have not really understanding more than what happens on any given day?

And as he looks into Jonathan’s background,  his schooling and family, there is a real twists what with a seriously dysfunctional family and their doings but there are more twists after that.

Matt is a bit of a character, too,  likable enough,  but with his own troubles including booze and women.  I found some of his antics rather humorous.

Of possible interest:


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Fear:  Trump in the White House ~ by Bob Woodward

Did you ever get the feeling that watching and reading the news in the media you only get the surface material?  This is the book which fills in the big blank spots,  especially when the events and issues change almost daily.  That’s what Woodward does best,  he is an investigative reporter with many years experience.  (I remember the Nixon era.)

First off,  Trump’s inexperience and ignorance coupled with his egoism certainly stand out from the way he organized and managed his campaign to selecting his Cabinet members,  and  all the way through to .   In some ways Trump is not always quite as bad as I thought,  in other ways he’s worse than I imagined.


Fear:  Trump in the White House
by Bob Woodward
2018 / 358 pages
read by Robert Petkoff – 12h 20m
(both read and listened)

I read some of the incidents Woodward reports on in Facts and Fears by James Clapper and in James Comey’s book,   A Higher Loyalty and both are quoted. (links to my reviews on this site)  But this book is different in that it follows  Trump since his campaign days though the early White House days with all its issues and staff problems.


This is from Vox but it certainly fits:

“It’s barely a stretch to say Fear reads as Rob Porter, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Lindsey Graham, and John Dowd’s account of the Trump administration. Woodward doesn’t explicitly identify any of these six people as his sources, but he provides pages and pages of their thoughts and motivations.”

Mostly this is an overview of incidents I followed as the years have gone by so it’s a good reminder and an actual putting-together of so many incidents one on top of the other.

Most of the incidents I knew and remembered but I’d somehow missed some things like the relationship between Lindsay Graham and Trump as well as most of the information/ policy ideas  about Afghanistan.  This book does not follow the issues, it follows Trump and the White House as they make decisions on these issues. –  ha!

But it’s more than a simple rehash,  much more.  It’s the background and fleshing out of many of  the events we saw and read about only briefly in the media. Woodward goes behind the headlines in reviewing and detailing the incidents or the lead-ups,  in a wider context and with many more points of view.   There is a lot of dialogue.

The other thing the book does,  and it really does this well, is it gives a wider context to many of the incidents and  details about quite a number of the things I knew a bit about including  the tax bill.  But there were other things I completely missed. The book focuses on foreign policy and the Afghanistan mess is very well covered from the perspective of the White House involvement. Trade issues are also examined with more depth than one ever reads about in the news.  This book is not about the issues themselves but rather about the personalities who were trying to deal with Trump dealing with the issues.

So Woodward’s book has comes with a slightly different perspective and a different organization for the material,  It’s more comprehensive re Trump and his presidency and the people around him  than anything I’ve read to date.  There’s really quite  a lot of behind-the-headlines information.

Woodward goes through the people and the incidents pretty quickly so I had to Google a few players,  like Andrew McCabe,  Rob Porter (what he did in the White House – I’d heard of his personal troubles),  Gary Cohn,  John Dowd, Peter Navarro, Stephen Miller and others who are apparently close to Trump but not heard about as often as others.

There is criticism of Obama (as there is in the other books I’ve read).

At times the narrative seems to jump around a lot, for instance,  in Chapter 22 it goes from Korea’s military potential to John Kelly worried about immigration.  And Bannon has a little something to say on most of the issues.   Jared is often involved but Ivanka has her finger in there, too,  along with Lindsay Graham and some others.  All the players are vying for Trump’s attention.

It ends too soon because it probably got to press about five months ago,  when John Dowd stopped representing Trump.  Much has happened since and more than that and I’m sure Trump has continued his tizzies.  I really want to find out how this ends!  (LOL)  But it’s a good way to be reminded of what all has happened,  to really catch up and to get the flavor of the circus playing out and an understanding of how seriously dangerous it is.

I think I’m going to make a page devoted to the current affairs books I’ve read in the last year or two.  I’m thinking the focus will be on politics, politicians, voters and some current foreign affairs rather than domestic issues because I’m not sure books like “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond should be included.

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In the Distance ~ by Hernan Diaz

I nominated this for reading at a small group because it looked really good to me and like something the others would enjoy.   I was not wrong.   It was one of the finalists (usually 3) for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction this year –  and I’ve already read the winner (Less by Andrew Sean Greer).


In the Distance
by Hernan Diaz
2017 / 240 pages
read by Peter Berkrot  9h 17m
rating:  9.2 /  historical fiction 
(Pulitzer Prize finalist)

A very tall man on an Alaska-bound schooner tells the real story of  “The Hawk,”  who is himself,  Håkan Söderström,  who immigrated to America as a young boy. This is the Introduction or Prologue.

As Hawk goes on to tell them,  he and his brother left their home in rural Sweden to to go America.  But the two get separated in Liverpool and Hawk ends up in San Francisco from where he tries to get to New York.  He knows no one and speaks no English and he encounters of variety of people and has a number of of adventures and gets in some real trouble for awhile as he tries to make his way East.  Basically he’s lost and sometimes hiding in the desert and plains for half a century,  the years between  the California Gold Rush of 1849 and the turn of the century.  The important things about Hawk are that  he’s very, very tall,  probably close to eight feet as well as being quite intelligent and resourceful.

It’s a wonder of a book – almost magical realism,  more dream-like in parts,  although, as the publisher at Cafe House Press says,  it could,  possibly,  have happened.

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The Vegetarian ~ by Han Kang x2

Reading this again for a group even though it is a disturbing novel – it’s also exceptionally good – if you can stand to read it.

The first time I appreciated it and I knew it was beautifully done,  but I was certain I hadn’t really understood it.   This time kind of cleared that up.    There are several reasons for me to read a book twice and one is because I think there was substantially more to it than I absorbed in the first reading.   That’s this time.


The Vegetarian
by Han Kang
translated by Debra Smith

2016/  194 pages
read by Janet Song, Stephen Park  5h 14m
rating:  9 / contemp fiction

Other times it’s just because a book I read awhile back is on a group schedule now.  I enjoyed it at the first time and I’ve already have  the book (because I buy them) so I read it again.  That’s this time, too.

Finally,  I think I sometimes read a book just to revisit an old friends but that reason does not apply this time. My first review is at: https://beckylindroos.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/27438/

The Vegetarian consists of a series of first person narratives each of which is basically a stand alone story dealing with the same subject.

Yeong-hye’s husband, a young businessman,  tells his part of the story first.  His wife, Yeong-hye,  is simply a young   homemaker.  They live in an apartment in modern day Seoul,  South Korea and are a supposedly fairly typical couple without children.  He thinks of his wife as really ordinary and that’s really all he wants,  conformity.

One day Yeong-hye decides not to eat meat anymore due to a horrible dream she has had.  At a dinner party with his boss that evening she puts her vegetarianism  into action.  Her husband is very embarrassed and angry.  Yeong-hye is not acting in a manner appropriate to the wife of an up-and-coming businessman so her husband is angry and confused.  Later,  Yeong-hye does the same thing at her parents’ house which results in her being hit by her father.  Being a vegetarian by choice is not something good. conforming, middle class people in Korea do.

Then her sister’s husband narrates the tale of his involvement with Yeong-hye.  He is an artist and takes video movies of the two of them in various stages of sex – except they have painted themselves with  flowers and he thinks of them as intertwining.  His wife, Yeong-hye’s sister, finds the video now both marriages are destroyed. Actually,  his treatment of Yeong-hye in the videos is more abuse of her,  especially considering her increasingly fragile state.

There is a third section which the sister, In-hye, narrates – I’ll not get into that as it would be spoiler territory but I will say it’s surprising.

This is a novel of inner and outer conflict,  about social conformity,  about  violence to self and others as well as from others in a paternalist society.  It’s also about mental illness and the treatment of victims.  There is a lot packed into 194 pages – ,


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The Coming Storm ~ by Michael Lewis

For awhile reading this I felt like I’d been tricked into buying it but that was okay because I was really enjoying it.  How did I think I was fooled? I thought I was buying a political book probably because Lewis has another book coming out (next month) called “The Fifth Risk,”  a political book,  and that’s on my wish list.  This book is a political, too,  but as it pertains to the National Weather Service, Accu-weather,  some associated groups and Trump and it’s very short,  perhaps a precursor to The Fifth Risk?


The Coming Storm
by Michael Lewis
2018 / 2h 27m
read by Michael Lewis 2h 27m
rating:  9.5 /  nonfiction – weather and technology

Another reason I was interested is that my late husband was a research meteorologist  for NOAA  and that’s what the Lewis’  book is about among a few other things related to data collection and use.  Actually, it’s a connecting factor in most of Lewis’ books.

Lewis is not negative about data at all,  with data we can navigate risk, see problems and make progress.  Weather prediction has become very good in the last decade or two,  there’s a cutting edge.  The US has always traded weather information with other countries and they’ve reciprocated without fanfare or hype.

Lewis goes into a few things the massive data collection of weather data can be used for.  And then he goes into the Trump administration’s pathetic staffing of its departments focusing on the Department of Commerce and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA – the Weather Service).   So with Trump,  today,  the issue is whether or not to privatize the information amassed by the National Weather Service which is paid for with tax dollars.

Barry Myers,  an attorney and the Chief Executive Officer of Accu-weather is still Trump’s unconfirmed nominee for the head of NOAA,  Myers is not a scientist at all,  but he is very rich and was a huge Trump donor,   What Myers is actually looking for is  not ways to improve NOAA,  he’s looking for ways to stop giving away their  information because his company is quite profitable.

Then Lewis goes a bit further  and looks at the distribution of wealth in the US and other more political stuff I expected – (And I’ll bet that will be in The Fifth Risk.)  With Accu-Weather the hype factor sometimes seems to become more important than the accuracy.

And think about it,  if only the people who pay private businesses for the information get tornado warnings then  or rain forecasts for their specific soil and plant growth?  This becomes about data,  statistics and probability.   Privatization may be what’s happening, but who do you trust?  It’s a coming storm.

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The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. ~ by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

What a wonderfully fun ride!  With all this political news and books,  I needed some good light fun,  but this is a long, “marshmallow”-like tome (New York Times metaphor) so be warned.  I think I’m more open to fantasy these days –  don’t know why – the escape of it maybe.

I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into – the Kindle and Audile samples were great but this is NOT Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem  (the best sci-fi I’ve read in a decade),   nor is it  The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray,   but the comparison is more apt.



The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
2017 /  754 pages (Kindle) 
read by a cast of 6 –  / 24h 27m
rating: 8 / sci-fi-time travel & great fun
(read and listened)

The story:  Dr Melisande Stokes is hired as a translator of ancient languages by the very odd but charming Tristan Lyons.   He has a well funded project underway, but it’s completelytop secret and confidential.   But Melisande is bright and figures out that the name of the project is D.O.D.O.  which she figures out to mean (shhhhh).

The job is to go back in time to when magic was real.  Yes.  Science and religion edged out the belief in magic, but due to Schrodinger’s Cat, there might be a way or a sense,  in which … well … it was real.  until photography came along.

So they have to find a witch who can use magic in the right circumstances, and they have to find a way to travel back in time.  And for awhile the task is to find a book and some seeds.  And that’s just for starters.

The story goes on for another 500+ pages made up of alternating strands,  some moderately fast-paced with limited thinking necessary but including  laugh-out-loud scenarios and dialogue. Interspersed are some fascinating snatches and accounts of science, medieval and ancient European/Byzantine cultures and US history up to 1851. I Googled some of the events and places and by golly –  some sources came up.  The historical research is excellent and detailed in surprising ways and it’s intricately woven into the main story.

So the D.O.D.O. group is looking for witches and has other tasks for some larger enterprise. Who they are working for and why is slowly revealed, but it seems mainly to gain control of the universe,  past and present through the use of magic – (aka as a kind of  quantum physics passed on through witches from the days prior to the  crusades until 1850.

As far as I know the scientific gobbledy-gook is fine because time travel is fantasy anyway.  I wouldn’t read this for any kind of literary value or for insights into human nature.  It’s mainly a very creative romp.

I can kind of tell that Stephenson wrote the seriously techie stuff like time travel in the first chapters and that Galland wrote the more historical descriptions and the romantic/sexy scenes,  but the D.O.D.O memos are a mix.  Everything works together too, because the format is a series of diary entries,  memos, emails,  transcripts and such what.




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Broken Ice ~ by Matt Goldman

Ahhh….  I had to do it –   I finished the first book in the series,  Gone to Dust,  and just went right on into the second.  It was that good  –  for me – at the moment.   This is a series of 2 so far …  we’ll hope because I will follow if there are more.

Broken Ice
by Matt Goldman
2018 /  336 pages
read by MacLeod Andrews 8h 22m
rating:  A-  / 336 pages

Nils Shapiro (Shap) is now actually working with Elegar   out of their joint office located in Minneapolis.

Although she’s from Warroad in far northern Minnesota, Linnea Engstrom has been reported missing because she never came home from a hockey game in St. Paul.
Then a classmate,  Haley Hausch, is reported missing and then dead.   It seems both girls were involved with guys on the hockey team.

To complicate matters, someone takes a shot at Shap –  with a bow and arrow.  And he gets a great “Nurse” thanks to his ex-wife.   Shap has romantic interests –  but he loves his rich ex.

This is no YA novel – unless we’re talking 16+ – because the parents are screwed up and the girls are a lot more involved in a lot more than kissing under the bleachers.  It gets fairly gritty.

It wasn’t quite as good as Gone to Dust , I think Broken Ice felt forced in some way – so I was a bit disappointed.    I’ll still look for further books in the series.

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Gone to Dust ~ by Matt Goldman

Nils Shapiro,  a private detective,  lives in Edina Minnesota where he sometimes helps the police with things which they can’t quite do.   This time it’s a murder victim whose body was left completely covered with –   vacuum cleaner dust.   Yes.

Nils Shapiro,  a private detective, is asked by his Edina Minnesota police chief friend to help with a strange murder victim.   Maggie Somerville, an apparently loving wife and mother,  was found dead in her home,  smothered in vacuum cleaner dust…Yes.



Gone to Dust
by Matt Goldman
2017 /  294 pages
read by McLeod Andrews
rating:   A / crime

Nils agrees to help,  off the record,  and so begins a good old who-done-it with plenty of contemporary elements in addition to old and new-fashioned twists.  There are several suspects in compromising situations – and Maggie had a private past as well as a difficult present herself.

This was a kind of joy to read on a slow 3-day weekend Sunday when there’s nothing going on and the blueberry muffins are in the oven.  Although there are no real shoot-outs or chase scenes and only two bodies,  besides, this is NOT a cozy even if there is a wee (very wee) bit of semi-romance going on.  I’d call it a gentle procedural maybe –  but not to gentle.

So …  yes,  I’ve got Book 2,  Broken Ice,  in the Wish List and it might come up fairly quickly.  🙂

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All For Nothing ~ by Walter Kempowski

I’ve been reading this book for a long time – there is no Audible available for it  so I have the Kindle  version and I went to bed each night meaning to get a bit more read.   And yes,  almost every night for weeks I would curl up with it,  become enchanted and promptly fallen asleep.

Ahhhh… it is so good I wanted to crawl into it and curl up to live there – and stop time.  It’s amazing what a good author can do –  because the setting is 1945 in northern East Prussia just as the Russians are about to march through en route to Berlin.   We,  the readers of the 21st century,  know what’s going to happen but the characters don’t although they certainly suspect that’s in the works.



All For Nothing
by Walter Kempowski
(translated by Althea Bell)
2003 / 352 pages
rating – 9.5 –  historical fiction

Various people come past on the roads in front of the Georgenhoff,  an old and now rundown family estate not too far from Koenigsberg which was then in East Prussia, Germany,  or Prussia and then Poland,  but is now a part of Russia.   They pass by alone or in groups,  walking or with some sort of vehicle.  A few stop in to see if they can get a bite of food.

The family who lives there,  Katherina von Globig and her husband Eberhard their son Peter and Auntie who had come from Silesia and never left.  They have two Ukrainian housekeepers and a Polish hired man.  Their home is a collection of  buildings as well as the manor and it is full of old things – art and furniture including a statue called “Crouching Woman”  (Rodin) which is mentioned several times.  Behind what remains of the estate  is a settlement of newer units for people of the town of Mitkau.  A Nazi named Drygalski is in charge and keeps it ship-shape.   Several other characters live in Mitkau – the priest,  Peter’s tutor,  the mayor –  these are all friends of a sort with the Globigs.

While Everhart is on business in Italy,  Katherina is asked by the village priest to make room for a strange man who needs a place to stay for the night.   And I won’t go further with the plot except to say that it gets very interesting with plenty of tension building and danger.  “Nothing was easy…”

The themes are brilliant – there’s love and family and others – but there’s a huge almost over-arching theme of denial.  And so the way the book is structured and written, much of the whole tone of it,   fits beautifully –

The writing is perfect – it creates a place of semi-solitude in which denial and fear are easy,   in which the characters are at ease.  It’s like a retreat.   But the reader knows there are bad times coming so there is a small undertone of tension.

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Less ~ by Andrew Sean Greer

This had been tempting me since it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction getting rave reviews … so … I got it.   I don’t keep an active TBR shelf – I keep wish lists at Amazon and Audible and I buy as I read,  unless there is an Audible sale.  It works for me.



by Andrew Sean Greer
2017 / 273 pages
read by Robert Pekoff  8h 17m
rating: 8   / contemp lit – Pulitzer Prize in fiction 2018

Okay,  the novel Less is generally about a middle-age man who happens to be gay.  His older lover of nine plus years has broken up with him to marry someone else so Less is really at loose ends – struggling with his age and the memories in addition to his career.  He’s an author  – a mediocre author whose books get sold,  but without any truly appreciable notice.  (His ex- is an acclaimed poet.)  He was once called a “spooner” by a reviewer  (it means homosexual).  And now he’s going to be 50 years old  –  time for a serious midlife crisis.

The book is clever overall,  and quite funny,  but what can you do with this set-up – a professional gay man getting over a love affair at the age of 50 –  or being stuck in your career at the same age.   It’s the writing which is clever and maybe a couple of the situations – like taking rubber bands when he travels because he exercises that way.

Less is obsessed with being young and sexy and sensuous – but now he’s also border-line old – not terribly attractive anymore –  and although he’s quite smart, he has no self-confidence at all.  Actually,  he’s full of self-pity, remorse and fears..  But off he goes to various literary functions throughout the world –    to New York and Mexico and then there’s Italy, Berlin,  Paris,  Morocco,  India, and,  finally,  Japan.

There’s no real plot,  his life at this point is a series of little adventures,  a picaresque if you will,  not too unlike Don Quixote except instead of chasing windmills,  Less is chasing satisfaction somehow,  or love and youth or fame –  something to give meaning to his life –  he’s grieving his lost love and his career.   The man has lessons to learn.

There’s a very personable, unnamed and mostly invisible narrator telling us where Less is and what he’s doing as well as what all goes through the poor man’s  mind as he globe-trots to various literary functions to get away from his ex- partner’s wedding and the pain of breakup at age 50.   He bemoans his fate without love and he meets other men and women and so on –

Great metaphors abound,  just floating around like the wafting aromas of  pot,  wine and perfume.  It’s nicely written with a warm and lovable self-depricating hero and a gentle skewering of the literary community.  It’s basically just a fun novel with some insights for living which apply to all – especially the ending.  (I’m not sure it deserved the Pulitzer but it’s good.)

Review at Kenyon Review:

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Faith Fox ~ by Jane Gardham

Oh I do enjoy Jane Gardam and have read several, not quite all, of her books –  God on the Rocks,  The Queen of the Tamborine, Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and Last Friends.  plus The People of Privilege Hill,  a short story collection (links to my onsite reviews).   Those books are all wonderful, so I was quite pleased when the Bookgroup List selected Faith Fox for their schedule.



Faith Fox
by Jane Gardham
1996  / 384 pages
read by Piers Gibbon
rating: 8 / 20th century lit – English comedy

The narrative opens in Surrey England,  just southwest of London,  with the death of  Holly Fox,  the mother of a newborn baby, who died giving birth.  Everyone is totally aghast and at a loss because  everyone loved Holly. The time setting is the early 1990s.

The quesion is –  who will care for Faith?

There are very few options –  Andrew,  the baby’s father is so busy training to be a hospital doctor so he can’t do it and he can’t find a suitable nanny (he tries).   There’s  Thomasina,  Holly’s widowed mother, but she is too grief stricken to even look at the baby.    Andrew’s parents are old and sickly and live in the northeastern part of England so they obviously can’t do it.  But Jack,  Andrew’s brother is a priest of sorts,  and lives near his parents but he has an assortment of people living at The Priors,  his compound.  There is Jack’s  devoted older housekeeper,   his “wife” and her 11-year old son plus, last but not least,  a group of Tibetans.  That said,  he rather wants Faith for his own reasons.   And there’s Pammie,  the childless, snobbish can-do friend of Thomasina and Holly who  steps in and/or gets called in, but has her own problems.

The plot goes from one little confusion to another and kind of drags a bit in the middle but the ending makes it all worth it.

The characters are finely individualized and wonderfully well developed creatures. The plot is a bit far fetched but amusing in an English comedy sort of way.  The writing is great – perfect for this kind of book.


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