Amity & Sorrow, Peggy Riley

Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: April 16 2013

From the publisher:

A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she’s convinced will follow them wherever they go–her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can’t imagine what the world holds outside their father’s polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley’s abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, Amity & Sorrow is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.

Given the nature of the material, I was not expecting a light little tale of joy and contentment. The publisher’s description doesn’t really give you a sense of how extremely dark the first chapters of the book are, nor how awful the circumstances from which this family is trying to escape have been.

Amity and Sorrow are the names of the two daughters, the young girls Amaranth is trying to rescue from a particularly sordid religious cult involving emotional and sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of women and children, terror and bondage.

The first few chapters of the book are so grim I almost stopped reading because I was finding it more than a little stomach turning. I have trouble … a lot of trouble … dealing with pain and abuse of any living creature. But it’s worse dealing with children and animals. Amity and Sorrow are children and the degree to which they have both been horribly abused is never entirely laid out, but is certainly inferred with sufficient detail to make one feel that more detail would be over the top.

Just as I was about to close the book, it started to go in another direction, to a kind of redemption and restoration of light where there has previously been only darkness and fear.

It is very well written. For a first novel, it’s quite extraordinary. It would be exceptional even if it were the 20th novel, but what can only imagine what this author may produce in the future. The description is paralyzing in its ability to evoke raw emotion in the reader.

This is not a book for children. It’s also not a book for anyone who wants to keep his or her reading light. But, if you like to occasionally venture over to the dark side, visit the depths of depravity of which people are capable, try Amity & Sorrow. Although the theme of redemption is strong, the back story of despair, fear, and evil is equally strong … so make sure you’re ready for a trip into a nightmare.

It’s available in hardcopy, paperback and Kindle from Amazon and I’m sure from other vendors as well.

Nesting Swans

Back at the pond, the important business of nest-building continues. It’s family time on the water where hopefully, Mr. and Mrs. Mute-Swan will take care of business and fill their nest with cygnets. Their babies will become the new generation of swans on Whitins pond.

The war between the Canada geese and the mute swans is far from over, but life has its own imperatives.Time out for love. It’s the mating season.

Later, time enough to go attack those demon geese.

Those halcyon days of yore or whatever

Now that my high school reunion has passed and I’m no longer besieged by nostalgia from a half century ago, I feel safe in saying it. I haven’t any idea in what world my classmates were living, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same one I inhabited.

I understand that time can cast a gentler light, a rosy glow over events that took place in one’s youth … but there’s a difference between a rosy glow and a full revision.

For months, I have been bombarded by email from people with whom I attended high school. They are sure they remember me. They recall the fun stuff we did together. After giving it careful consideration, I have concluded they are deranged, on drugs, or senile. Whatever it is they think they remember, it didn’t happen.

Who are these people? Why do they keep talking about relationships that never existed? These people were not my friends. I remember them. They didn’t like me. They either ignored me, made fun of me, or conscientiously ostracized me. I belonged to no cliques, no fun groups. I wasn’t invited to parties. I was not popular.

I had a few friends, but these people who are so happily remembering me? They weren’t among the few people I counted as friends.

Did someone — me or them — slip through a wormhole into an alternate reality? That must be it.

High school was not a good time for me. Neither was junior high school or elementary school, for that matter. Even amongst the unpopular kids, I was unpopular. By the time I had survived junior high, I’d learned how to be invisible. Attending a really huge school helped. It was so big and over-crowded if you kept your head down, no one would notice you.

I was a klutzy kid with no athletic prowess, I avoided the humiliation of the athletically challenged by claiming I didn’t know how to swim. Every semester, I showed up at swimming class.

“You again?” said the coach. “Just keep out-of-the-way,” It was a win-win for me. I got an hour a day of private swim time alone in the deep end of the pool and completely avoided gym class. I believe I was technically on the swim team, but I never actually swam in an event. I was a bench warmer. That was fine. I liked the water, but I wasn’t going to win any medals.

All I had to do was get acceptable grades, not fail math courses after which I could go to college. I heard from other survivors that in college I might meet people who I’d like and might like me. That sounded too good to be true, but I had it on good authority. It turned out to be true so I guess making it through high school alive was worth it.

This was not the first time I’ve had to fend off a reunion. I dodged the 10th, 15th, 20th and 25th. I think there was a 40th too. But like a bad penny, it keeps coming back to haunt me. On the up side, we are now all so old, there is very little likelihood of any more such grand events.

I have repeatedly gone over this in my mind. I know with absolute certainty that high school wasn’t a fun time. It wasn’t only not fun for me. It wasn’t fun for most of us. We were young, hormonal, lost, unsure where we were going or how we would get there. Everyone felt ugly or deformed. Many of us had dreadful home lives that we hid from everyone else.

Yet now those years have become one long golden memory. At the reunion I did not attend, they actually got together to sing the school song. Never once in the years I attended did we ever actually sing the school song. It was a joke. We used to make fun of it because it was so dumb. Now, it’s a warm fuzzy memory. Bizarre.

My husband says this is typical of reunions. He says that when he went to his reunion — he actually attended one — people were reminiscing about the great times they had together, none of which he could remember nor could he recall the people claiming to have been there with him.

He says people need to pretend that they had a great time. It makes them feel better.

Not me. Even after fifty years I can’t think of a single reason to revisit a time and place I would just as soon have skipped in the first place. Oh, and to put this in perspective, our high school prom was cancelled due to no one but me and my date signing up for it. So exactly how terrific was the experience really?

Does pretending the past was perfect when it wasn’t even close make you feel better about your life? It doesn’t work for me. But maybe I’m the one with a problem. What do you think?

And now, a word from our sponsor:

Daily Prompt: Cringe-Worthy – Funny you should ask!

As long as I can remember, I have hated watching people make fools of themselves. I was probably no more than 6 when I found myself running from the room at one of many episodes of “Lucy” in which she does something humiliating.


Rather than finding it funny, I find myself identifying with the embarrassment. I can’t help but think how awful I would feel if it were me. Humiliation is a horrible feeling, often impossible to forget no matter how many years pass.

Humor that depends on embarrassing or making fun of people does not make me laugh. I love witty dialogue, literary allusion, puns. I love parody and all kinds of cleverness, but with the exception of villainous bad guys who more than deserve whatever they get, I never want to see anyone embarrassed. I hate cruelty, mental or physical and cannot watch it, even when I know it’s fake.

Not surprisingly, I was one of the kids who got teased and bullied. Way too sensitive. It’s 60 years later; I’m still too sensitive.

‘Oblivion’ is a beautiful yet flawed exercise in science-fiction filmmaking

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

The arrival of the spring marks the slow roll out of the big budget tent pole movies into multiplexes across the globe. Big budget sci-fi epics are really a dicey proposition even at the best of times as they tend to be populated with some of the pickier fans out there. “Oblivion” takes us to a point in the future, where the planet is ravaged after a cataclysmic war and the human race is doing whatever it can to survive.

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs. Jack’s mission is nearly complete and he and his partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) will get to join the remaining survivors in their new home. However when he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft, , he begins to question everything he knows.

A great vehicle for Cruise but it could have used some script work… Photo credit:

Co-writer and Director Joseph Kosinski certainly has an eye for the genre, as “Oblivion” is a stunning and bold looking film that doesn’t shy away from painting a big picture filled with sweeping yet barren landscapes and stunning cinematography, sadly the script could have probably used as much effort put into it as the visuals did. The narrative dragged in several parts with dialogue that ranged from clunky to downright laughable as the filmmakers were manufacturing much more melodrama then was actually necessary. It made it hard to generate a genuine connection with the characters, everything was insanely beautiful but much like the scorched earth that the characters were maintaining and protecting it was also incredibly sterile as Kosinski and company borrowed imagery from at least half a dozen of the more popular sci-films from the past 30 years. Stylish and wonderful, but not exactly ground breaking almost playing like a greatest hits from the genre that tries far too hard. Thankfully there are some still some familiar faces to keep us engaged as an audience.

Tom Cruise too often gets a bad rap for being a substandard actor, but to be perfectly honest when is the last time anybody has seen him perform in anything truly terrible? We simply haven’t since he works as the solid, brooding everyman kind of hero and holds his own in this character driven humanistic sci-fi drama. Andrea Riseborough is a consistently under rated actress how more than holds her own opposite Cruise and they have excellent on screen chemistry. Olga Kurylenko is a classic beauty in the Hollywood mold who will manage to always look at home in a genre or action movie setting. She is slowly but surely coming into her own as a leading lady and if she keeps her career trajectory moving in the right direction, there will be nothing but good things ahead. Melissa LeoMorgan Freeman, Zoe Bell and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau round out the ensemble but are all fairly wasted, adding little to nothing to the overall narrative.

“Oblivion” isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but with a weak script that leans on too much manufactured melodrama and a plethora of borrowed imagery it isn’t necessarily all that great either. Worth a look if you feel like getting roped into seeing in glorious and expansive IMAX as Joseph Kosinski is certainly a huge visual talent but he just hasn’t nailed down the storytelling aspect of filmmaking quite yet.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

There have been some pretty good sci fi movies recently. I’m grateful. It was a very long drought!

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War and Peace on Whitins Pond

And when the nest building and love-making are done, as the long spring afternoon stretches ahead, Mr. Mute-Swan stretches his wings and heads over to the other side of the pond to harass the Demon Geese who stole his nest. No matter that he has built a new nest and a very fine nest it is.

“Never forgive, never forget” is his motto.

Casually paddling cross the pond towards the old homestead.

Casually paddling cross the pond towards the old homestead.

“What ho! Incoming” cry Mr. and Mrs. Canada-Goose. “Prepare to repel Mute-Swan!”

Incoming, 12 o'clock!


In the assault, note that Mr. Mute-Swan does not actually attack Mr. and Mrs. Canada-Goose directly. Instead, he attacks the nest and its underpinnings. There’s no physical contact between the warring birds. It’s a war of principle, not annihilation.



Perhaps that is one of the differences between “creatures” and “humans.” We actually kill each other for far less worthy reasons than having had our nest stolen. Mostly, animals don’t unless, of course, they are hungry. Or it’s mating season and there’s a SHE to be won. Cherchez la femme, even if you are a bird.

The attack continues.



And again, from another angle … still, with no direct contact.

Take that demon geese!

Take that demon geese!

The geese don’t look all that upset. Perhaps the attack is part of the ritual? And everyone seems to know the rules of the game. They were probably born knowing.

Paddling like mad, the attack continues!

Paddling like mad, the attack continues!

It's not over, but that's all the time I've got for war today.

It’s not over, but that’s all the time I’ve got for war today.

“I think I hear my wife calling,” says Mr. Mute-Swan and he slowly circles the nesting geese one final time. “But I’ll be back. Don’t you think this is over.”

I shall return!

I shall return!

Awakenings: The All-American Diner

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

A classic of classics, like baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet…that’s the all-American diner! Often epitomized with an exterior of stainless steel, the diner is unique in its architecture. Then, of course, there is the interior: a casual atmosphere, a counter, stools and service area along a back wall.

The Rosebud Diner, (below), is a restored 1941 Worcester Lunch Car #773, as it appeared in 2012. Somerville, MA

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, is an example of Art Deco style and neon signage.

But, how did it all get started and by whom?

Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island,founded the first diner. It all started around 1858 with Scott supplementing his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket.

Newspaper night workers welcomed the services and by 1872, he had developed a very lucrative business. So much so, he quit his printing work and sold food at night from a horse-drawn covered express wagon parked outside the Providence Journal newspaper office. Walter Scott unknowingly inspired the birth of what would become one of America’s most recognized icons — the diner.

Empower the Present. Are diners still around today?

The interest in the American Diner continues today. Just ask Guy Fieri of Drive-ins, Diners and Dives! A significant number of vintage diners have been rescued from demolition and relocated to new sites in the United States and Europe. Manufacturers of diner structures are experiencing new orders or remodeling projects in a retro style.

Photo credit: Marilyn Armstrong, author of The 12-Foot Teepee. You can visit Marilyn at her blog, Serendipity, where you will be enlightened by her writing, nature, photography, history, arts, nostalgia, humor and so much more!

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Diners are uniquely American, our culture incarnate.

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

First of all, I would like to thank JR Barker, Children’s Author  from for this gracious nomination. Please check out her awesome blog.

The Very inspiring Blogger Award, the rules are as follows:

  • Display the award on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you
  • State 7 things about yourself
  • Nominate 15 bloggers

Looking for a little inspiration today? Visit these 15 very inspiring blogs! My nominations are…

Seven things about me…
My kitty’s name is “Midnight,” and she is a marvel!
My husband and soul-mate is a super-hero in my book!
I am passionate about nature and collect everything from birds’ nests to barnacle-encrusted seashells.
I love art and collect ‘art finds’ discovered at yard sales and thrift shops.
For me, the pleasure of gardening includes nurturing milkweed to…

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