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Julie Matsen shared another stellar review for our Goodreads page in December.

Wilderness RunWilderness Run by Maria Hummel

The American Civil War is a favorite subject among historical fiction enthusiasts in the United States. The heartrending notion of brothers and countrymen pitted against each other lends itself to family drama, while the fight between states’ rights and human rights has been fodder for political commentary since the late nineteenth century. In her debut novel, Maria Hummel transcends the textbook accounts of the war, wrapping readers in both the viscera of the front lines and the heartbreak of the home front. Teenage cousins Laurence and Isabel “Bel” Lindsey are thrust into the war of ideals when they try to help a runaway slave escape to Canada. Laurence later enlists in the Union army, leaving his Vermont home for gray Potomac winters and deafening battlefields. Bel, who has been left behind, must unravel an uncomfortable family secret while keeping a few of her own under wraps. Maria Hummel is a gifted nonfiction writer, and her prose shines in “Wilderness Run.” Even the characters who have a purposeful vapidity were fleshed out beautifully, and the dynamic central cast of characters was even more so. The text has a way of sucking in readers; I wish had the joy of reading it all in one sitting, and reading it in a day sufficed.

You can read Hummel’s Waves in s[r] Issue 3.

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Enjoy this recent review on our Goodreads.com page from s[r] staff, Julie Matsen.

QuakertownQuakertown by Lee Martin

The unfortunately true story of an African American community’s upheaval in 1920s Texas focuses on the reactions of two quasi-fictional families, one white and one black, who are integral in the town’s shift toward further segregation and its fiery aftermath. Little Washington Jones, a talented gardener, has to adapt to changing attitudes towards people of color, making a life for himself in a white man’s world while trying to protect his daughter Camellia. Andrew Bell, a banker, tries to make life in nearby Denton more palatable for his fellow townspeople while taking care of his alcoholic wife Tibby and crippled son Kizer. When the demands become too great after a public shooting, both men have to choose between their families and the town they hold so dear. Their children must also live with the often-heartbreaking consequences of their own actions as well as those of their parents.

Though it may be billed as nonfiction, Lee Martin’s Quakertown reads as what it is–an engaging novel from a talented translator of the past.

You can read The Last Words of Boneheads and Fraidy Cats by Martin in s[r] Issue 8.

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Superstition Review staff member Abner Porzio submitted his review of Dorianne Laux’s Facts About the Moon for our Goodreads.com page in December.

FactsAboutTheMoonFacts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux

This is one of those books that can be read over and over again to reach the same or different understandings of how it feels to be alive. This fantastic collection of poems is one that has the potential to never cease to resonate with its readers. Readers can feel its charged energy. Without a doubt, this collection will continue again and again to be cherished. The body of shared experience can become part of the reader. Throughout Laux’s work, the question of purpose juxtaposes with desire. Human nature is made by Laux to be majestic, raw, visceral, and magical all at the same time. It’s rare if readers do not admire her title poem, “FACTS ABOUT THE MOON.”  Respect for Laux’s lines: “her eyes/ two craters, and then you can’t help it/ either, you know love when you see it,/ you can feel its lunar strength, its brutal pull,” this indefinable moment of realization is yet a written snapshot of the poet’s capability of capturing such emotional weight.

Yes, these poems are true to the characters and speaker on the page. For example, in Laux’s poem “THE IDEA OF HOUSEWORK,” she takes the banal activity of cleaning, of doing domestic chores and she renders this experience into the universal question of what’s the point. Laux’s poems become sort of facts of themselves, they can be seen as testaments of fully experienced realities.

Laux successfully poetizes exotic events worth preserving. The poem titled “MORNING SONG” shows the fresh glimpse of what a “sleep-repaired morning” entails, along with the subjective perception that is shown perfect for its causality, forged with aligned imagery: “that for each of use there is/ some small sound like an unseen bird or/ a red bike grinding along the gravel path/ that could wake us, and take us home.” Laux’s poems contain the most incredible imagery.

Some lines that I enjoyed:

“Why should the things of this world/ shine so? Tell me if you know.”

“This walk in the park is no/ walk in the park.”

“Even sinus infections and rusty rake tines sunk/ in rank earth near the shed.  Mushroom spores.”

“I never wondered. I read. Dark signs/ that crawled toward the edge of the page.”

Go on, he beseeches, Get going, but the lone elk/ stands her ground, their noses less than a yard apart./ One stubborn creature staring down another./ This is how I know the marriage will last.”

You can read Laux’s poem On The Edge in s[r] Issue 8.

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We hope you enjoy this recent book review from our Goodreads page. S[R]’s own Julie Matsen read My Life as a Boy: A Woman’s Story by Kim Chernin, and had this to say:

My Life as a BoyBoys, in a patriarchal society like the Western world, are conditioned to act a certain way in certain situations. As are girls, as are men, as are women. What happens when a person molts their gender to become something new?

With this concept in mind, we are introduced to Kim Chernin, a born woman who is becoming a born-again boy. To the chagrin of her longtime husband Max, Kim uses her budding relationship with Hadamar, a stunning woman, to facilitate her metamorphosis.

Women here seem to be damsels who go from distress to distress, from rescuer to rescuer. Boys, on the other hand, are impetuous rogues who can pursue whom they please without too much reprisal or reprimand. (Oddly, girls and men are almost never mentioned as personality types.) Boys and women are not simply genders to Chernin, but archetypes, colored bits of glass that shift in the kaleidoscope of what it means to be in love.

Eloquent and open, Chernin gives us a modern reversal on Orlando for American readers.

You can read Chernin’s My First Year in the Country in s[r]’s Issue 6.

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Recently, s[r] posted Julie Matsen’s review of Becoming a Doctor: From Student to Speciaist, Doctor-Wrtiers Share Their Experiences by Lee Gutkind.

Becoming A DoctorThe overwhelming importance of storytelling in the medical field is reflected in Becoming a Doctor, within which we see what goes into the formation of a doctor. Perhaps I should not phrase it like that: Lee Gutkind, the editor of this anthology, describes doctors not as extraordinary people, but as “ordinary people engaged in an extraordinary profession.”

The anthology begins with Sayantani DasGupta’s description of the almost maniacal intern who hoards everything she can, from pens to patients and from scented soaps to dreamless sleep. Danielle Ofri describes the chasm between the sheer beauty of her dance classes and the agony associated with her patients during her second year of residency at Bellevue. Average resident Chris Stookey describes the dubious distinction of being the first in his residency class to be successfully sued for medical malpractice. Seasoned pediatrician Perri Klass, who has a son in medical school, encourages her students to pay close attention to the remarkable privilege that is getting to know a patient. With Thomas C. Gibbs, we see the magic behind a doctor’s hands. “If not me, then who,” geriatric specialist Zaldy S. Tan asks, will care for patients like his aging grandmother, who are only going to get more numerous as Baby Boomers get older? William Carlos Williams, another “American physician who happened to write,” is resuscitated by Robert Coles, who was inspired to become a doctor by his experiences with Dr. Williams.

Some may see the formation of a doctor as we see the creation of their trademark white lab coats, as something that can be formulated and documented. X number of years are spent as an undergrad, Y number in graduate school, Z number in residency. But a doctor’s calling is an inherently human profession, and is thus so much more than the sum of the parts. It is made of more than the student loans, the (hopefully occasional) lawsuits, and the long hours. It is more than the cries of agonized patients, the helpless hand-wringing in the family room. Postmortem, a doctor’s actions can be dissected with all of the clarity of hindsight, and we must proceed with the understanding (as Marion Bishop puts it) that becoming a doctor is a matter of supporting someone in an all-too-human way.

You can read our interview with Lee Gutkind in Issue 1.

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Abner Porzio, s[r] staff, recently wrote this review of David Dodd Lee’s The Nervous Filaments.

The Nervous FilamentsLee’s explorative style caters unpredictability into a world of normative realities, while at the same time the expected, the mundane is brought out of this world by examining closer constructs of the firing obsessions transgressing inside the mind.

“You/ and the weather inside you” is one line that conducts this electrifying notion. Lee has created the collection its own spot in the realm of today’s poetry, for it’s nothing like anything else ever experienced literarily. “COLUMBIA RIVER,” my favorite poem in his collection has the line, “the world is what you can see while breathing,” the temporality constraint expressed in this line speaks inner volumes for what it means to be trapped in a body of subjectivity.

Lee’s poems captures everything and presents it in a minimal way. This collection is has uniqueness qualities, which opens this new conversation of maximal and minimal realism. Lee cohesively stacks imagery and language, offering new ways to look at structure. At times, there were moments when readings felt like looking at scenery pass through a rear view mirror.

“You stack your social/ skills on top/ multiplication tables in your daydreams.” Words dismantle, are strewn, arranged for their electrifying effects. The power of words and their weaknesses, disconnections, expose a resurgence of the poet’s abilities to control. Yet, these lines are anything but manipulative, they expose the essence of one’s power to create and deconstruct, at moments leaving nothing left but the white space, the drawing board to clutch:  “I believe in words. One by one/ they dismantle everything I have faith in.”

More lines that I enjoyed:

“my stitches keep exploding into bad ideas”

“And childhood/ the barking frog who used to live under my bed”

“my little friends/ philosophy and remoras”

“tell me what you think I was thinking/ and I’ll tell you rage is the outcome of/ most reveries in Nature…”

“The absolute opposite of zero/ isn’t poetry—”

You can check out poetry from David Dodd Lee in s[r]’s Issue 10.

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Lindsey Bosak, our Goodreads social networker this fall, shared this review recently on Superstition Review’s Goodreads page.

The LuckyThe Lucky by H. Lee Barnes

H. Lee Barnes’ The Lucky is the compelling story of a young boy coming of age in one of the most interesting and wild places on earth – the Las Vegas strip. Pete is thrust into the world of gambling, mob bosses, and all the backstabbing and chaos that goes along with it.

Barnes masterfully transitions from Pete’s life on the streets of Las Vegas, to his time in the endless fields of Montana, and finally to the days he spends on the war-torn battlefield of Vietnam. Along the way the reader gets to experience Pete’s triumphs and troubles, and watch him struggle to find himself and make his own way in the crazy time that was America during the ‘60s.

This tale touches on the fact that every person on earth is doing all that they can to survive and thrive in this world. Pete is not much different than most. He has made some bad decisions, but he has also made some good, and along the way he has discovered who he is, and what he wants out of life. Pete’s tale is a love story, not with a person, but with all of the places he has seen, and everything he has done. And while it can be argued that The Lucky is a tale of disappointment and heartbreak, and while the mood should be a turn off for the reader, Barnes skillfully weaves in humor and periods of lightheartedness to create a truly engaging story, that just cannot be put down.

We published H. Lee Barnes’ The Day Nixon Was Impeached in s[r] Issue 9.