Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Loving Day

By: Mat Johnson

Narrated by: J. D. Jackson

Mat Johnson (American novelist).

“Loving Day” is a rambling novel about discrimination. Mat Johnson’s main character, a son of a white father and black mother, inherits a dilapidated mansion from his father who dies during its renovation. The house has many doors. Johnson creatively assembles a variety of characters who figuratively knock on those doors to define and find a way to erase discrimination.

Johnson’s novel sets a table for understanding the many forms of discrimination hidden behind closed doors.

Every human has an ethnic and sexual identity whether recognized or not. Johnson’s story illustrates the inequality of the sexes while sidestepping any solution or answer for societal accommodation to ethnic difference. His host of characters range from transexual to sexual, from black to white, to mixed race, from married to divorced, from Jew to gentile. Each character might be classified as ethnic, but still a part of larger society that is burdened by inequality and discrimination.

Though Johnson’s primary focus is on discrimination, his many examples are a hot mess. There are too many to list in one review. There are many causes of discrimination. Children of unwed mothers are unerasable consequences of unsafe or forced conjugal relations. Children of un-wed mothers often become latch-key kids because their single parent has to work to pay rent and put food on the table. Some are sent to grandparents who may or may not be able to handle the responsibility of another person to feed, clothe, and educate. Homelessness is a consequence of many human causes, ranging from economies in crises to discrimination to medical or mental disability.

Schools created out of heart felt belief in eradication of inequality create an atmosphere of privilege that exacerbates discrimination.

A marker for discrimination is illustrated by the author’s character named “One Drop”. One Drop is a human label associated with birth of a child from parents with different ethnicities. One drop of blood or semen between a black person and a white person, in the eyes of some, makes that person Black. In Nazi Germany, a gentile who marries a Jew identifies their children as Jewish. A man or woman may have conjugal relationships with others while married and are judged untrustworthy as future monogamous partners.

Society organizes itself without understanding or constructively dealing with inequality engendered and perpetuated by poor judgement.

Genetic/Socio/ethnic differences are the thematic subject of Johnson’s story. Society judges human difference as good or bad. The author’s conclusion is that people are people. Society should accept people for what they are; until then, discrimination and unequal treatment will be like an unrenovated house that will either be moved from one place to another or destroyed.

I Am What I Am

Audio-book Review
 By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

We Cast a Shadow

By: Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Narrated by: Don Graham

Maurice Carlos Ruffin (Author, fiction writer, finalist for the PEN-Faulkner Award and others.)

Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s story is about understanding discrimination and where it stands in America today. Ruffin’s creativity as a writer of fiction is on display in “We Cast a Shadow”.

Though Ruffin’s imagination rambles too far at the end of his story, he offers a strong opinion about his generation’s view of 21st century America.

The book title and the author’s characters flood a listener with thoughts of history, worry, and hope. Ruffin writes a story about four generations of a fictional black family. He reaches back to the main character’s grandfather, his father, the main character (a successful lawyer practicing law), and his young son. Worry comes from how far social and economic equality must go to be real. Hope comes from believing America will get there.

Ruffin creates a family in a southern community. The father is a black lawyer struggling for partner in a successful southern white law firm. His wife works in a hospital.

They live a middle-class life in a white suburban community. The son has a birthmark on his face that is slightly darker than the rest of his skin. The birth mark turns darker when exposed to the sun. The father is obsessed with the birthmark and wishes to have it surgically removed to give his son a more even Mediterranean appearance. The boy’s red headed mother views her husband’s concern as an absurd obsession.

The father of the black lawyer in Ruffin’s story is raised in a lower-income black community in the south. His father is serving time in prison. His mother owns and runs a restaurant in which he worked while growing to manhood. His father is highly educated with a PhD received in his 21st year of life. His grandfather is described later in the story and reflects on the age of slavery that gives weight to the author’s perception of America’s generational change in discrimination.

The professional lawyer’s young life exposes him to good and bad influences in a low income, minority neighborhood. He possesses the intelligence of his father and expositive experience to become a successful lawyer. A part of his experience is to use drugs as a way of coping with life’s stress. He is deeply influenced by the loss of his father’s guidance because of an interminable prison sentence based on unequal treatment by the police.

Ruffin’s main character is the only black lawyer in the southern firm.

At an annual review of the firm’s lawyers, one person may be promoted to partner, while others may be fired. Ruffin’s main character is neither fired nor made partner but is taken under the wing of an ambitious white woman law partner who promotes him to a newly formed Diversity Division in the firm. The woman’s ambition is to become leading partner of the firm by increasing its revenue with a broader appeal to all ethnicities in the firm’s market. She recognizes the competence and potential of the rising black lawyer.

Ruffin somewhat comically sets this table but prepares one for a meal of many tastes. “We Cast a Shadow” reflects on what it means to be black in America and married to a white woman with a son who has a symbolic birthmark.

The “…Shadow” Ruffin casts is discrimination’s continuation in both black and white America. Discrimination is different today than when the lawyer’s grandfather lived. Through four generations, black perception of discrimination changes from a grandfather who says the way for black folks to get along is by making white America feel guilty for discrimination. In contrast, the lawyer’s father (serving an interminable prison sentence) raises his son to understand he is as smart and capable as any white person. However, due to circumstances of his era, his father is thrown in jail for talking back to the police while standing up for his rights as a citizen of the country. (Of course, this is a part of the unequal treatment that exists in today’s America.)

The jailed father’s son resents the absence of his father despite his father’s principled stand that led his father to jail. In spite of that resentment, the lawyer is shown to feel and exhibit both his grandfather’s and father’s influence.

The lawyer feels trapped by his profession and beholding to white people in the firm. He recognizes (just as his father taught him) he is as good as any lawyer in the firm and better than some.

The generational change between the grandfather, the father of a successful black lawyer, the father and his son show an evolution occurring in America. The lawyer’s son represents today’s generation that rejects his grandfather’s belief, accepts his innate ability and equality, and proffers hope for equal treatment in life that is not based on the color of one’s skin.

The irony of the lawyer’s belief is his obsession with his son’s birthmark. The birthmark is a reminder to the lawyer of unequal treatment in America. The lawyer is discriminating against his own son because of a birthmark that identifies him as something less than white.

In the end, a conclusion one draws from “We Cast a Shadow” is that every parent comes to a point of realizing Glory Gaynor’s truth—“I am what I am.”


I am what I am

I am my own special creation

So come take a look

Give me the hook or the ovation

It’s my world that I want to have a little pride in

My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in

Life’s not worth a damn till you can say

“I am what I am”

Every parent makes mistakes in raising their children. This father’s mistake is to obsess over a birth mark without recognizing what is most important, i.e., a parent must love a child, while allowing them to become who they choose to be.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

History of Wolves

By: Emily Fridlund

 Narrated by: Susan Bennett

Emily Fridlund (Author, Man Booker Prize shortlist for-History of Wolves)

Emily Fridlund’s “History of Wolves” cleverly reveals the fears of life for children, young adults, and parents. It is told from the perspective of an adult woman’s recollection of life in a Minnesota wilderness near Lake Superior. The nature of human beings is aligned with the nature of “…Wolves”.

Fridlund infers humans are sexual animals, congregate for purpose, live in extended families, and die alone—just like wolves.

Fridlund’s main character is raised in a two-parent family with a mother who pushes her daughter to be better than her parents through education and experience.

Fridlund’s fictional family appears to be living the life of the 1960s/70s flower children who wish to return to a simpler life in the wilderness.

The daughter works while in high school and becomes acquainted with neighbors across a lake she lives on in Minnesota. The daughter, a teenager, becomes a babysitter for the new family. The husband of this new family is frequently away from home.

A friendship develops between the daughter and the mother of a 3- or 4-year-old boy. The daughter agrees to babysit for $10 a day. A friendship between the new neighbor evolves into something more in the mind of the daughter. The “more” is characterized as erotic, at least from the daughter’s perspective.

Part of Fridlund’s story is about older men who groom younger women in high schools and universities.

The author’s beginning infers a level of “grooming” complicity from younger women, not for sex, but for personal identity. Fridlund’s inference is discomfiting. It suggests humanity is just another species of animal, something like a predatory wolf. Fridlund’s story is frightening because it infers predation in both sexes. There might be some truth in Fridlund’s view for a college student, but high school seems a step too far when her main character partially absolves a pedophile fired from the school she attends.

Some listeners may feel the distinction between high school and university students is prudish, but character seems much less formed in high school than the age of most college students. The experience difference between high school and college age students makes the author’s “wolf” categorization of human sexes unjustifiable.

There is more to the story than Fridlund’s perception of the predatory nature of humanity. Fridlund tells a story that addresses a fundamental conflict between religion and science.

An older university professor (the husband of the new family across the lake) marries one of his students. They have a child. The child is stricken with an illness. The professor is a Christian Scientist who eschews medical treatment. The professor is characterized as a highly intelligent astronomer who is writing a book on the origin of life. The child dies from his illness. Both the professor and his wife are taken to court for child neglect.

Fridlund goes on to explain her main character is raised by a family that believes in Mary Baker Eddy’s religion. This added information posits a broader view of the potential harm religion inflicts on society.

The daughter grows into adulthood. Her father dies and her mother’s well-being is diminished either by age, the deterioration of her house from a storm, or her belief in a religion that insists on the healing power of prayer.

There is also a whiff of guilt shown by the main character in the death of the baby-sitter boy. She realizes a warning could have been given by her to the authorities about the fragile medical condition of dying boy and their parent’s Christian Scientist’ beliefs.

The last chapters of Fridlund’s story are a flash back clarifying her “wolf” categorization of both sexes.

Fridlund’s writing is excellent and Susan Bennett’s narration is first rate. The quality of Fridlund’s story is enlightening to one who wishes to have a broader understanding of life. There are three categories of human beings in Fridlund’s book, tigers, wolves, and victims. The women in Fridlund’s book are tigers. The men are wolves. Society is the victim.


 Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough



By: Lauren Groff

Narrated by: Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff (Author, novelist)

“Florida” is a series of well written short stories. The binding theme of the author’s stories is her view of life. As Lauren Groff makes clear in her former book, “Fates and Furies”, there is little difference between the sexes. Women may give birth, but children are children who need care. The truth is men, more often than women, physically leave their children. Most women stay. Groff suggests it is not necessarily because women want to stay but they have fewer alternatives.

Once born, most children are loved and held close while some are abandoned physically and/or emotionally by their parents.

Groff infers women most often stay, but not because of a maternal instinct. A woman can choose to abandon their children just like men, but they may have grown to love their children. On the other hand, they may fear the social recrimination if they leave like fathers. Groff seems to infer women are as capable of leaving their children as men, but society treats the sexes unequally. In many ways, Groff wants equal treatment of men and women, but her observations are a harsh judgement of human beings.

Groff implies societal expectation is different for women than men.

The only area where Groff accepts difference between men and women is in physical strength.

Beyond strength differences, Groff’s stories show there are no differences between men and women. A woman is as likely to pursue sex as a man for the same purpose. Groff suggests there is no difference between men and women when it comes to desire for sex.

Groff tells a story of a violent storm that interrupts a single woman’s night out. Groff’s character is trolling a bar for a conjugal companion for the night. The violent storm leads to a dangerous interlude with a man that might as easily rape her as help her survive the storm. The man chooses to drink himself into a stupor and the woman survives the encounter without being raped.

Groff shows poverty is as crushing for women as men.

Both men and women can quit working or lose a job and devolve into homeless vagrants. Either can choose to become thieves, sexual consorts, or menial laborers to survive at the bottom of society.

Groff’s stories may appall some listeners, but she offers a point of view that strikes at the heart of sexual inequality.

Emotional human attachment is important in every story Groff writes. She is not suggesting either men or women are incapable of real love of each other and their children. She is arguing there are no intellectual, or emotional differences between the sexes.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The Association of Small Bombs

By: Karan Mahajan

 Narrated by: Neil Shah

Karan Mahajan (Indian American novelist.)

“The Association of Small Bombs” ticks slowly but makes a loud noise as its message becomes clear. Karan Mahajan explains something about India that is only marginally understood by most Americans. It is no surprise that terrorism comes from racial, religious, and ethnic difference, magnified by inequality. What is a surprise is India’s terrorist acts are local events, poorly prosecuted and soon forgotten by those not directly involved.

Mahajan’s story is about perpetrators of terrorism, who they are, where they come from, why, and how they become terrorists. The President of India is Hindu. An estimated 80 percent of India is Hindu with 13% Islamic, 2.3% Christian and other religions at less than 2% each.

(Mahatma) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948, Lawyer, Leader of India’s independence from British Rule.)

As most know, during the time of Mahatma Gandhi, there was a concerted effort to secularize India and keep two predominate religions in India, Hindu, and Islam. Gandhi fails and Pakistan becomes a separate Islamic state in 1947.

Modi, the current President of India, is said to believe–India’s Muslims must prove their Indianness to be citizens of the country.

Modi effectively dismantles Gandhi’s effort to secularize India. Like the stain of slavery in America, Modi pollutes India’s secularization at the expense of a restive Muslim population.

Mahajan’s story begins with a terrorist bomb explosion. The bomb is set by a Muslim terrorist that kills two Muslim boys and wounds a third.

The irony is that Muslims are killing Muslims to undermine a government that already discriminates against Muslims. “The Association of Small Bombs” is meant to destabilize the government regardless of who is being killed.

“The Association of Small Bombs” explains how one Muslim youth becomes a terrorist and how another, who is a victim of a bombing, is falsely accused and convicted for terrorism.

Mahajan explains how injustice is compounded by an inept prosecution system, biased against Muslims who are often victims of the bombings. India’ residents, whether Muslim or Hindu, are victimized in two ways. One, actual perpetrators are rarely caught, and two, victims are rarely compensated for their loss.

India-protest in Kolkata, India against Indian citizenship for Muslims.

Mahajan illustrates how inequality is an equal opportunity victimizer in India. The wider point of Mahajan’s story is that denial of equal opportunity for all races, religions, and ethnicities in any nation-state is a crime against humanity.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The Door

By: Magda Szabo

Narrated by: Sian Thomas

Magda Szabo (Hungarian novelist, 1917-2007, died at age 90)

“The Door” is a story of the human psyche, and religious belief. Every human has a locked door in their consciousness, behind which life’s meaning is hidden.

Often, neither individuals nor acquaintances have a key to that door. Magda Szabo creates characters searching for that key. To some listener/readers, her primary character has the key. Emerence Szeredas is Szabo’s primary character who, some may argue, has keys to other’s doors, as well as her own.

Emerence is a mysterious community caretaker. As Szabo tells her story, listeners find Emerence has lived an eventful life.

She realizes much of life is out of her control but believes that which is under one’s control should be controlled absolutely. Emerence lives in an apartment. Her front door is locked to outsiders–excerpt in a rare circumstance when a fugitive needs to be hidden from the world because of societal transgression. Emerence becomes a place of temporary refuge for societal transgressors in a hidden room in her house.

Emerence cracks the door of her life for a writer who is married and needs help with her household. The writer asks Emerence to become her housekeeper.

The slight opening to the writer of Emerence’s psyche ends in tragedy. Through many years of work and acquaintance with the writer, Emerence reveals personal information about her life. Emerence resists opening her locked door but counsels the writer on how she should live her life. Emerence becomes close to the writer and plans to leave the contents of the house to her when she dies.

Emerence has a stroke. She refuses help from anyone and refuses any food or medical assistance while recovering behind her closed door.

She refuses to allow anyone, including the writer, to come into her apartment. She quits eating and is near death. The apartment begins to stink of pet excrement and rotting food. The writer chooses to organize the community to break down Emerence’s door and force her into a hospital for care. Emerence threatens to kill anyone who tries to knock down her door. In great distress, Emerence wields an axe, inadvertently smashes the door to her apartment, and is unable to stop the community from taking her to the hospital.  

Now that Emerence’s door is broken, both metaphorically and physically, she blames the writer for invading her privacy and denying her the right to die as she chooses.

The writer interferes with Emerence’s fundamental right to control that which she can control. Emerence heatedly explains to the writer that her wish to die behind her door is her choice.

Emerence is saying she has always been in control of her life and if she wishes to die, it is her business, no one else’s.

Emerence is recovering in the hospital. She refuses to talk to the writer. The writer cannot grasp Emerence’s reasoning. The writer feels she saved Emerence’s life. What the writer did not understand is Emerence’s need to be in control of what she can control to give meaning to her life.

Despite Emerence’s physical deterioration, neglect of pets in her house, and the unhealthful condition of her surroundings, in her apartment she had control of her life. Survival in the hospital, the stinking condition of the house, and her physical disability became an embarrassment to Emerence. To Emerence, if she had died in the house, the embarrassment would mean nothing because she would be dead. With survival, Emerence’s locked door would be opened for all to see, a circumstance beyond her control.

Emerence is told by the hospital that she will not be released to return to her apartment. She is to be sent to a convalescent facility. She refuses with anger and physical reaction that ends her life on terms she chooses.

“The Door” appears in Hungary in 1987 and has been translated into French and English. It raises many questions about life, faith, and individual rights. In this age of “right to die”, Szabo’s story has particular relevance.


Audio-book Review

 By Chet Yarbrough


A Happy Death

By: Albert Camus

Narrated by: Jefferson Mays

Albert Camus (1913-1960, Author, philosopher, founder of Absurdist philosophy.)

Albert Camus’s short story is similar to Irvin Yalom’s book, “When Nietzsche Wept”. In “A Happy Death” Camus’ reveals the essence of an Absurdist’s view of life while Yalom reveals a Nihilist’s view of life. Yalom’s story is longer, more informative, and artistic but both stories clarify similarity and difference between an Absurdist’ and Nihilist’ view of life.

Camus tells a story of a man who chooses to commit suicide. Yalom tells a story of Nietzsche who bares life and has no intention of committing suicide. Camus’s character commits suicide because he achieved a purpose in life but could not find a comparable purpose in life to replace the one achieved.

In one sense, Yalom’s characterization of Nietzsche suggests Camus’s suicidal character is a “Superman” because he rejects all religious and moral principles. However, by choosing suicide, he is no longer a “Superman” to Nietzsche.

To Camus, he was never a “Superman”. He is an Absurdist who has simply lost his chosen purpose in life because of the randomness of worldly existence. Camus’s character chooses suicide because his chosen purpose in life is taken away from him. His legs are amputated because of a random event of life.

To Nietzsche, life is pointless because there is no meaning to life. To Camus, meaning in life is a human choice, even though, like Nietzsche, he believes there is no God, or moral absolutes.

The answer to life for Camus is not that humans are Superman or Superwoman because there is no God, but that any human man or woman can choose, or not choose, to have purpose in life.

Camus views the world as an absurd place where anything can happen but that does not mean one cannot choose a purpose in life.

Camus notes this character who chooses suicide is different in one other significant way. His chosen purpose in life is to acquire wealth to buy time. He gained wealth. The noted difference reminds one of Montaigne’s essays. Montaigne had the luxury of wealth which gave him time for contemplation.

Camus’s story about Absurdism only begins with the suicide. The person who plans his suicide has a gun to end his life but by someone he chooses. The choice made by the amputee is Camus’s main character, a person wandering through life with no purpose.

The amputee explains he lived a life that earned him two million dollars. It was earned with purpose, by any means necessary. His purpose in life is to become wealthy. He achieves that purpose, but now with no legs, he feels he can no longer pursue that purpose. The main character is given two million dollars to shoot the amputee and make it look like a suicide with a note written by the amputee.

With two million dollars, the main character travels through Europe while contemplating what the amputee has explained about life in an Absurdist world.

The main character realizes he must choose a purpose in life and ignore the truth of life’s randomness. His purpose in life is not entirely clear, but Camus’s point is that to live life in an Absurdist world, one must choose a purpose.

To Camus, in choosing a purpose, one may find peace, a sense of achievement, and possibly happiness. To Nietzsche, life is something to bare and when it’s over, it’s over. To Nietzsche, there is no purpose in life.

It seems Camus believes it is better to be an Absurdist than a Nihilist. That puts a fine point on the question of suicide. A Nihilist like Nietzsche, presumably, would call one who commits suicide a coward. An Absurdist like Camus would suggest suicide is an option.

Optimistically, Camus shows his main character chooses a way of life that might be considered Epicurean, if not hedonist. Money gave him time to choose a purpose in life. His main character nears death and appears at peace with himself.


Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough


When Nietzsche Wept

By: Irvin D. Yalom

Narrated by: Richard Powers

Irvin D. Yalom (Author, Doctor of Medicine, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University.)

“When Nietzsche Wept” was published in 1992. The author Irvin Yalom is now 91 which implies his book was written in his late 50s.

To those who have struggled with understanding Fredrich Nietzsche, Yalom offers brilliant insight to Nietzschean philosophy in a novel set in the formative years of Freudian psychology.

As a psychiatrist by training, Yalom offers insight to the psychology of the male psyche while telling the story of a friendship between Nietzsche and a physician named Josef Breuer.

Interest in philosophy is not essential for appreciating Yalom’s creative mind in “When Nietzsche Wept”. Yalom intersperses historical fact in an imaginative story. Dr. Joseph Breuer is friends with a younger Austrian neurologist named Sigmund Freud. Freud is just beginning to develop his theory of psychological therapy through dialog. Freud’s therapeutic idea is to reveal causes for psychiatric abnormality by talking through the physical and emotional circumstances that lead to psychological imbalance.

Freud’s therapeutic idea is to reveal causes for psychiatric abnormality by talking through the physical and emotional circumstances that lead to psychological imbalance. To Breuer, Freud carries his concept too far by implying a homunculus inside the brain.

What makes Yalom’s story compelling is the opinion given by the author of “talking theory’s” value in psychotherapy. At the same time, Yalom exposes male chauvinism and its harmful societal consequence.

Joseph Breuer (1842-1925, a noted physician in neurophysiology, used the -talking cure- with “Anna O” that laid the foundation of psychoanalysis developed by his protege, Sigmund Freud.)

Josef Breuer is 40 years old. He is married to a beautiful woman. They have children together while Breuer becomes a well-established and renown physician. However, Yalum suggests Breuer is experiencing a mid-life crisis. In his practice, Breuer becomes emotionally attached to a young, beautiful patient who comes to him for treatment of physical discomfort and pain from an unknown cause. When an attack occurs, the patient exhibits pain that is only relieved by physical contact from her attending physician. That physical contact becomes inordinately intimate.

Breuer finds the contact sexually stimulating while clearly understanding it is professionally unacceptable. With his association with Freud, Breuer experiments with talking therapy to ameliorate the patient’s symptoms. He finds the therapy helps but it distorts his objective understanding of patient-doctor relationship.

Breuer begins to believe the patient is becoming emotionally attached to him when she is simply acting out psychologically. In defense against his falsely based infatuation, he assigns the patient to another physician.

In an acting-out psychological way, similar to Breuer’s mistaken perception with his former patient, he is approached by a beautiful 21-year-old woman, a stranger. She asks him to take on a new patient named Fredrich Nietzsche. She explains Nietzsche may commit suicide based on her acquaintance and subsequent rejection of his proposal of marriage. In a sense, Breuer is seduced by his imagination of the beautiful young woman’s approach to him. In fact, the young woman is only acting in accordance with her own agenda.

A listener begins to realize this is a Nietzschean view of the world of human relationship. Every human being has their own agenda. People act in their own self-interest, not in other’s interests. Human self-absorption distorts truth. God is not only dead, but He also never lived. All there is, is one’s will. To Nietzsche, one either becomes a superman or nothing.

Breuer takes Nietzsche as a patient but only on terms acceptable to Nietzsche. Breuer concocts an idea of offering Nietzsche the opportunity to treat Breuer for his mid-life crises. In return, Breuer offers his ministration as a physician. The sessions are based on the undisclosed self-interests of both, rather than the truth of each’s acceptance. What happens is Breuer’s mid-life crises is cured and Nietzsche’s weeping self-realization becomes the story.

This is an over-simplification of a well-crafted novel that has much to say about male egoism, psychotherapy, and inequality of the sexes; not to mention the terrifying implication of Nietzschean philosophy. There is much to unpack in Yalom’s spectacular story.


Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough


Last Bus to Wisdom

By: Ivan Doig

Narrated by: David Aaron Baker

Ivan Clark Doig (Author, novelist 1939-2015, died at age 75.)

Ivan Doig died in 2015. His last novel, published in 2015, is “Last Bus to Wisdom”. Those of a certain age will remember what it was like to ride a Greyhound bus in the 1950s.

Doig offers a story about an eleven-year-old boy who is compelled by his grandmother’s illness to cross the mid-west alone on a Greyhound bus.

The boy’s name is Donal, aka Donny or Red Chief. His mother and father have died in an auto accident. As one might surmise from Donal’s nick name and his grandmother’s job, he is an imaginative boy with a lot of time on his own while his Gram works. Donal learns something about cowboys, Indians, rodeos, and ranching.

Donal lives with his grandmother who works as a cook on a Montana ranch.

The trip to Wisconsin is memorable for a confrontation with a suitcase thief, a missed bus, a kiss from a waitress, conversation with American Army recruits heading for Korea, a fight with fellow eleven-year-old’s, and Donal’s first meeting with his grandmother’s sister.

When Donal’s Gram falls ill, he is put on a bus to travel from Montana to Wisconsin to be with his grandmother’s sister.

Donal’s stay in Wisconsin is shortened by a falling out with his grandmother’s sister who decides to send him back to Montana with the prospect of being sent to an orphanage.

Donal is rescued by Dutch, the assumed husband of his grandmother’s sister. Dutch is not the husband but a survivor of a shipwrecked cargo vessel that took the life of the actual husband of the sister.

The story of Donal’s travels is a great entertainment but acquiring wisdom is another matter. “Last Bus to Wisdom” is a well-told tale to entertain rather than enlighten. Still, this is a great piece of writing illustrating the talent of a very good novelist.


Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough


The Persian Gamble

By: Joel C. Rosenberg

Narrated by: Various

Joel C. Rosenberg (Author of novels, political strategist.)

Two requirements of good fiction are suspension of disbelief and identification with its created characters. For this critic, “The Persian Gamble” does not make the cut. Joel Rosenberg is a popular novelist and his experience as a Middle East strategist for Israel suggests he knows something about counterintelligence. However, “The Persian Gamble” seems implausible and his main character is an odd evangelical that believes the gospel while condoning mayhem.

The writer is purported by some to believe the “end of times” is near because the bible suggests it will begin in the Middle East.

One who is skeptical of organized religion would suggest the bible is about the beginnings of religion, not an inviolable guide to life and humanity’s end. It is no surprise that the bible would suggest the end would come in the Middle East when its religions began in the Middle East.

Rosenberg’s story is in the idea of a political agreement between Iran, North Korea, and Russia to begin a nuclear war.

The Iranian, North Korean, and Russian leaders collude to obscure the origin of a first nuclear strike. At the very least, the implausibility of cooperation between Iran, North Korea and Russia makes the story unbelievable.

To an Iranian mullah, a nuclear strike would be deserved punishment for un-believers. To North Korea, it would demonstrate their power and influence in the world. To Russia it would offer an opportunity for hegemonic control of the world. Iran’s leader agrees to the conspiracy because he is near death and believes all un-believers should join him in death and depart from him to hell. North Korea agrees because their leader wants to punch above its weight. Russia agrees because they want to eliminate hegemonic rivals.

Rosenberg’s hero is Marcus Ryker. Ryker, as most novelist heroes, is unkillable.

He exhibits the ability to fly a jet when his only experience as a pilot is with a propeller-driven plane. The jet he confiscates is shot down while he puts a parachute on himself, grabs a wounded and unconscious CIA agent, and miraculously saves himself and the agent.

To thwart Russia’s plan, a close Russian relation of the President assassinates Russia’s President and Vice President. Ryker, without realizing the President and Vice President were going to be shot, helps the assassin escape. The problem is Russia’s plan is only modified, not stopped. A deal is struck to sell Russian nuclear war heads to Iran at a higher price and on an accelerated time frame. It is unclear what Russian leader is behind the revised plan because the originator of the plan, the assassinated Russian President, is dead.

The nuclear war heads are intercepted at sea by American forces and the transport vessel is sunk before delivery to Iran. Ryker is enlisted by the President of the United States to be a part of the interception. Ryker accepts the President’s enlistment in return for immunity for being an unsanctioned participant in the assassination of Russia’s leaders.

The lack of nation-state objectivity, and the Q-Anon flavor of Rosenberg’s imagination is off-putting. There is so much to know from books and so little time. This time was not well spent.