A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming

Dennis Rader of Wichita, Kansas, is a perfectly ordinary looking man, living with his wife and two children in a small ranch house, working reliably, going to church and rearing his nice family.  Dennis Rader is a serial killer known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) who terrified Wichita for thirty years, taunted the media, and killed eight adults and two children.  Dennis Rader is Kerri Rawson’s father.  Kerri’s innocence and that of her family ended on February 25, 2005, when Dennis Rader was arrested.

The secret life of a loved one.  Unimaginable, isn’t it?  Devastating, emotional ruin…..but Kerri tells her story with fairness for the father she loved while offering no possible explanation for or understanding of the killer she didn’t know existed.  How could she?  How could anyone?  Her father writes from prison, and she writes in return, initially – and then she turns away.  Fits and starts, years of on-again, off-again therapy, a PTSD diagnosis, a loving, insightful husband, supportive family, a growing strength in her faith, and, to some extent, the saving grace of humor, as in the chapter title “PTSD Blows Chunks”.  Ms. Rawson’s story is a difficult one to read.  How difficult must it have been for her to endure and to tell?

Shop your local indie bookstore for this wrenching memoir. Also available at Amazon.com

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Nelson Books / Thomas Nelson via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

The Wild Boy: A Memoir

Italian writer Paolo Cognetti grew up in the city, but until the age of twenty, spent summers in the Italian Alps, free to roam, a wild boy.  At thirty, Paolo suffers a rough patch and cannot write.  So he reads.  Thoreau’s Walden, Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, and Elisee Reclus, The History of a Mountain, and he decides to return to the Alps hoping to live an essential life and to find that wild boy again.  Renting a refurbished cabin at 6,000 feet above sea level, he spends three seasons there, “…where the last conifer trees gave way to summer pastures.”  Not dangerously isolated as was Chris McCandless of Krakauer’s book, Paolo has a couple neighbors across the way; there are summer cowherds who come and go; and he even gains a dog that didn’t make the cut as a herding dog.  While this book is neither as gripping and gritty as Into The Wild nor as introspective and philosophical as Walden, Cognetti is an excellent writer, and this is a beautiful book.  Did he find what he was looking for?  Did he even know what he was seeking after all?  Do any of us?  Get away for a while with Mr. Cognetti, and find something for yourself in his breathtaking Alps.

Currently scheduled to hit bookstores on July 2, 2019. The Wild Boy can be pre-ordered here from your local indie bookseller or click here to order from Amazon.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

A noted author of essays and criticism, Marin Sardy is the daughter and sister of schizophrenics, her mother and her brother Tom.  Although her mother was never officially diagnosed, doctors suggested that she did have some form of schizophrenia, and, to Marin, her mother was stolen by this “shapeless thief”.  The earlier parts of the book explore schizophrenia in a way that feels rather loosely connected, and indeed, portions of this book were previously published as essays:  personal experiences, effects on families, a possible link to creativity, David Bowie and Ms. Sardy’s own wardrobe choices.  However, as the book nears its central story, that of her brother Tom, its earlier disjointedness seems purposeful, a mimicking of the “episodic, fragmented, gaping” effect of schizophrenia itself.  Life to a schizophrenic is described as “a series of stills”.

Tom’s story is heartbreaking, and that is neither trite nor a cliche, no.  No other statement does justice.  Robbed of all hope and promise, homeless on the streets of Anchorage, in and out of our inadequate mental health care systems, loved helplessly by family and friends who shelter him when possible and search endlessly for resources, solutions, help of any kind.  Ultimately, Ms. Sardy relates a personal experience with a baby raven as a way to tell us that “…sometimes, ceremony is the only resolution we can have.”  A deeply moving and thought-provoking reading experience.  Available in May wherever books are sold, or click the following link to pre-order at Amazon.com: The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group / Pantheon via NetGalley.  I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds

Caroline Van Hemert, a biologist, and her husband Pat Farrell (artist, outdoorsman, builder) dream a simple dream, yet one so daunting in scope that few could dream it – a trek of 4,000 miles from Bellingham, Washington to a far, far speck in the Alaskan Arctic, Kotsube.  Ever been there?  Me, either.  Without snowmobiles, ATVs, sponsors.  No planes, no trains, no hitched rides.  After four months intense planning, they leave Bellingham in two rowboats built by Pat, traveling up the Inside Passage then across mountains, glaciers, rivers, delta, and tundra on foot, on skis, by canoes and pack rafts.

This challenge was undertaken, I felt, in the spirit of a quest, though perhaps not consciously so; and it is recounted here in all its harshness, dreamy beauty and overriding love of the wilderness.  In a stunning episode, we’re practically part of a migrating caribou herd, and the astounding migratory flights of birds weave in and out of the narrative as a counterpoint to the journey.  The lovely title is, in fact, a reference to migratory bird navigation.  So, readers, travel and grow with this intrepid young couple.  Well-worth anyone’s time.

Take the trip now at Amazon.com or shop your local indie bookstore.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Little, Brown and Company / Little, Brown Spark via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

My Young Life: A Memoir

Award-winning author Frederic Tuten recounts twenty or so years of his youth (early 1940’s to the 60’s) and does not spare himself.  Reared in the Bronx, he longs for his on-again, off-again father; and, like many (most?), he struggles with agonizing uncertainty while, at the same time, is sure he’s far superior to, well, just about everybody.  Seems he’s not going to be an artist after all, so he gets into and out of college by the skin of his teeth and now desperately wants to write, but you see, his work must be the best anyone has ever seen, must be because….hmm….well, it’s his.  Paralyzing, you know, and always gets in the way of headway.  He tells us, too, openly and in detail, that sex pretty much tops his needs list, and he is in love and lust through a variety of affairs, life consuming chunks.

Along the way, to his good fortune….and credit, Frederic meets so many who see his promise.  They nudge him along and/or back onto his bumpy, twisty path, and we are privileged to meet them as well.  But my favorite and, I think, the most influential character in this young man’s life is New York, the wondrous city itself.  Tuten’s writing is lean, quirky, and rings like a bell, so even though there were times when I wanted to give Fred a good shake and a talking-to, I was engrossed and pulling for him all the way.

Click here to order from Amazon or support your local indie bookstore by clicking here to order.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir

So much has been said and written about this wonderful memoir that I won’t even try to say more.  If you’ve missed it, you really should make a U-turn.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by  -Random House Publishing – Random House via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

Mallory Smith’s Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life

The “unfinished” life of Mallory Smith is told here through her journals and the thoughts and experiences of those who shared her journey.   Mallory has Cystic Fibrosis, a cruel and life-consuming lung disease with a grim prognosis, but this fierce young woman refuses to be about her illness.   In her writings, she thoughtfully considers her condition and its consequences as she embraces life, athleticism, scholarship, youth, and all those around her.  Ultimately she battles for and endures a lung transplant, her only hope.  Recommended, and available in March from Random House / Spiegel & Grau.

Available now at your local indie bookstore or from Amazon.com.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group – Random House / Spiegel & Grau via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.