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GYPSY MOTH SUMMER: A Novel ~Julia Fierro

Monday, June 26th, 2017

GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is being praised as the must read of the summer of 2017.  I have seen lots of promotional material for the book and was looking forward to having an opportunity to read and review this book as presented by TLC Book Tours . The Huffington Post was truly wrapping lots of energy around this highly anticipated book.

I jumped right into the read and it compelled me to stick with the book from cover to cover.  I just knew that somehow this story was not going to end well, and then again maybe I was hoping that it was not going to end well for the people on Avalon Island – the wealthy and the poor.  The story is a tragedy.

I knew many of these character types and I lived through this period of time with great awareness and a budding interest in ecological studies.  I was beginning to understand pollution and how cycles of problems exist and I lived through several Tent Caterpillar infestations and could hear the squish, crackle of walking on the creatures under my feet and know the sticky goo that stuck to everything; really creepy was the critters falling onto your hair and body.

I need to back up here and outline the story of the island people and their sordid, limited view of the world.  Many characters were introduced and before and after each chapter there was information about the Gypsy Moth’s life cycle and years of infestation.  How they marked the world in a very disgusting and filthy pattern.  Because the island was experiencing an infestation throughout the story, which paralleled the slimy behaviors of the community, I did not enjoy the read as much as I thought I would.

About THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER:

“The summer the Gypsy Moths descended, an even more toxic pest was spreading its way through the people of Avalon. East Avalon is the upper crust, built with generations of military engineers who had exchanged their Navy whites and blues for suits and offices, while West Avalon families hailed from generations of factory workers.

In the summer of 1992, Maddie LaRosa tries to figure out how to survive high school and its queen bee, Bitsy, and worries about maintaining her East Avalon persona and picture-perfect family life. Meanwhile, Leslie Day Marshall, daughter of Avalon Island’s most established wasp-y monarch, has just moved back home with her husband, Jules, who is black, and their kids. Their move from a one bedroom apartment in “the City” to “The Castle” isn’t as big as the change from the melting pot of New York City to the homogeneity of East Avalon. Jules and Leslie’s presence triggers tensions, romances, and unusual alliances that simmer all summer and lead to violence that leaves the community atomized forever.

Diving deep into research on gypsy moths, Fierro was inspired by her own childhood on Long Island, and the tensions that exist in a community where there are two economically different sides of town. Also included in her acute observations are the political tensions of 1992 during a different Clinton campaign and the rise in cancer rates due to the community’s water pollution. Grounded in real events, Fierro’s writes an intense and engrossing story that will stick with you long after the tragic ending.”    (From the promotional materials)

The teenagers in the story were the same unhappy, drunken, drugging, sniffing, nasty behavior laden kids I knew back then and tried to stay away.  They felt so entitled and are still acting entitled as they move into the Medicare years.  They still deny climate problems and toxic waste sites.  They feel they can just purchase their way out of everything.  Fierro wrote about them with brilliance and they were awful in the story as they were in person.  The sad thing is that they have been trying to lead the world now and be the leaders because they are “rich” and they are just as awful to encounter today as they were.  I still attempt to stay away but they keep trying to damage health care, public schools, and destroy social programs – they want to make money from schools and prisons and they truly do not care about human beings.

The story is very bright and capable and does keenly capture a segment of our community and wrap them in Moth slime tying them up smartly in a bow.  It was my pleasure to finish reading the book and be done with it.  GYPSY MOTH SUMMER left me wondering how to help people change and want to live by kindness.  There was no attempt to illuminate the future in GYPSY MOTH SUMMER.

“Fierro doesn’t just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world.” – Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

About the Author:

“JULIA FIERRO is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel CUTTING TEETH, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”).

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FURTHER OUT THAN YOU THOUGHT: A Novel ~Michaela Carter

Monday, August 18th, 2014

“As if wisdom could arrive cleanly as mail, or the newspaper on one’s doorstep.  As if wisdom didn’t come from getting dirt under one’s nails.” (Page 11)
“ __ how small she wished she could become.  So she could hide from even herself” (page 77)
“If things weren’t hard, something was wrong.” (page189)
“After all, she was the one with the key.” (page226)

FURTHER OUT THAN YOU THOUGHT is a fictional story about a week in 1992 in Los Angeles.  After receiving the early uncorrected proof copy from TLC online book tours for review, I immediately read the cover and was thrilled to be reading a work by such an amazing poet and writer – Michaela Carter.  Several of her poems have been included in our poetry study group over the years.


The cover said, “Combining poetry and sensuality with an edgy urban sensibility Further Out Than You Thought is a celebration of life and a haunting story of love, friendship, and one woman’s quest for redemption.”

Gwen is a doctoral candidate in poetry, working as a nude dancer in a strip club in L.A.  She is our confused and sorting heroine of the story.  She also pays the way for the others to live and rationalize their lives.  Valiant is an older lounge singer who is suffering in the last days of AIDS, who is smoking himself and possible drinking himself to death while living in Gwen’s apartment building.  Len is Gwen’s boyfriend and a musician who attempts to sell his CDs on the street corner dressed in a revolutionary period costume.  I would have to say that cockroaches are high up on the character list along with dirty dishes, disorder, and dysfunctional actions.  Nothing resolves until the Rodney King Riots began and the whole city was shut down to control looting; the city was permeated with smoke from the burning fires.  Everyone was stuck at home, with no view or running out of distractions.

Almost every chapter of FURTHER OUT THAN YOU THOUGHT had a theme song and shared lyrics and poetry.  When I had finished the book, I went back and noted the metaphor or concept these words entered into the theme of the story. It was not a very fruitful exercise and I was left with tons of metaphors that seemed to overwhelm the story. Red, red, red, water, water, water, smoke, smoke, smoke, drinking, drinking, drinking, drugs, drugs, drugs, dance, dance, dance, dark, dark, dark; the list is even longer and  I personally found it exhausting to read and attempt to figure out.  Too much poetry?

The backstories of the three friends were well done and kept the story moving forward for me.  I so felt a sense of release when the trio decided to head to Tijuana to escape the riots and curfews and the ocean air allowed for clarity of thought to arise.  I was happy dancing when Gwen found the Grandmotherly Mexican Psychic and she believed the reading of the cards.  Whew! It was relief for the reader also.

Several days after finishing this book, I went for a walk to think about Robin William’s death and review all that I know about suicide, pain and healing.  It struck me that the erotic parts of Further Out Than You Thought are all based on the American addiction to violence and how it permeates our lives and is so common it is out of the awareness. Violence is common as dirt.  In this story, it is the riptide and strong undercurrent in the search for meaning and happiness.  The strawberries are blood red and release juicy, sweet joy.

“Michaela Carter is an award-winning poet and writer.  She studied theater at UCLA and holds a MFA in creative writing, and her poetry has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, won the Poetry Society of American Los Angeles New Poets Contest, and appeared in numerous journals.  Recently she cofounded the Peregrine Book Company, an independent bookstore in Prescott, Arizona, where she works as a book buyer and story-teller. She lives in Prescott with her partner and two inscrutable children and teaches creative writing at Yavapai College.  This is her first novel.”

Michaela Carter Online
Michaela Carter Facebook
Michaela Carter Peregrine Book Company 

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