Parable of Weeds–Jeff VandeZande (eBook)

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Ian’s recent promotion has allowed him to move himself and his son to WhisperWood, a gated community that is nearly raising his son while he travels for work.  Life is on auto-pilot, which is a comfortable place following the death of his wife from cancer.  

Ian works for an analytics firm assessing big data to predict major life events, like divorce, and market to those about to enter those new phases of life.  He’s a key pitch person to customers, but he communicates with his boss through a screen in his palm.  Music is piped into his neighborhood based on his past choices.  Life is tidy.

Until the woman seated next to him on the plane touches his sleeve and strikes up a conversation.  Persists in conversation.  When she asks him to tell her about his work, he hears what he does through her ears and everything changes.  When she leaves behind a locket, he is not satisfied with depositing it at lost and found, but instead takes it home, resolved to find her and return the locket with the picture of a little girl inside.  

Once home he finds that his son, who has fended for himself while Ian’s been away at work, is happy fending for himself now that Ian is home.  A trip to the walled back yard reveals a chink in the masonry that provides a peep through to the woods on the other side and a man, for whom Ian feels empathy and to whom he throws a bagel.  When his boss wants him to fly off again on business and miss the small time he had planned at home with his son, Ian goes off the grid, fails to recharge his palm, and goes in search of the owner of the locket. 

Parable of Weeds takes the reader on a dystopic journey to a world that draws us in by holding up a mirror to our own foibles and then leads us down the chilling path on which we are treading.  Society has decided to separate the wheat and the weeds, but lost the message that guides the sorting.   At only seven chapters, Parable of Weeds is a quick read that I did not want to put down and at only $1.99, is a great read for an unbelievable price.

Finished 8/4/13

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American Poet-Jeff VandeZande

Maybe it’s because my husband and our oldest son have such a complicated relationship, as do my brothers and my father—-hell, maybe all father-son relationships are complicated.  Ask the great Russians.

Whatever it is, I love Jeff VandeZande‘s work, much of which explores in some way father-son relationships.  This might be due to hints in the “About the Author” of a complex relationship with his own father, which relates that Jeff started writing poetry as a form of rebellion against his father, who wrote fiction.

I’ve been reading VandeZande’s work for several years now and anxiously await each new volume.  American Poet is the best so far.  VandeZande takes us into the interior life of a University of Michigan graduate facing the rough Michigan economy that is particularly rough for someone who chose to major in poetry.

Denver Hoptner’s mother is dead of cancer and his father, a working-class man part of the Boomer generation, is still grieving.  Without her modulating influence, the two men move around each other uneasily in the quiet house.
The one unifying sound is the Tigers playing on the radio.

Denver wanders around his hometown, Saginaw, on foot and runs into the Theodore Roetke house.  He doesn’t even know how to pronounce his name, but he is drawn to the figure of a poet who came from Saginaw and did something great.  The city’s neglect of his childhood home, however, drags Denver down like his own misfortunes.  Until he decides to do something about it.  An open mic night.  Crashing an insurance company convention.  Climbing on the roof and screaming to the world to pay attention.

Along the way Denver encourages the poetry in others even as his own poetic voice refuses to speak.  Heywood, the young African-American man whose brother was gunned down in the street and whose mother labors at the local hospital to make ends meet.  Vance, his short-term boss at the hotel, who writes poems while he’s at deer camp each fall.  And Heather, his ex-girlfriend whose success in the academic world of poetry he so bitterly envies, but whose poetry eventually restores him.

American Poet is a love poem for fathers, for following your passion, and for your hometown, no matter its warts.

Read it.

Finished 4/15/12