Book Review: And the Blind Shall See (William D. Holland)

William D. Holland’s memoir And the Blind Shall See is a story that scans six decades. Throughout his first nine months, William was blind. He had passed through nine different foster homes, during which time he had experienced little by way of stimulation or love, causing him to suffer Failure to Thrive Syndrome. Finally, a couple adopted him and offered him all the love, security, and stimulation he needed, which resulted in him gaining his sight.

As can be the case with adopted children, there is often an underlying insecurity and propensity towards self-destructive behaviour, even when they are in receipt of much love and reassurance. William’s adoptive parents raised him to know right from wrong, have good manners, to care for his neighbour, help the underdog etc. Consequently, he grew up wanting to help other people, whether in his work or in a voluntary basis out in the community. But he was never able to shake off an underlying melancholy, which erupted into uncontrollable grief over the sudden death of his father. It was then that he turned to the bottle and started his courtship with that self-destructive demon, alcohol. What followed, was a battle that lasted several decades, destroying relationships, losing him jobs, until finally he managed to swear off drink permanently, with the support of his wonderful current wife.

What I loved the most about this book is that the author has made no attempt to paper over the cracks as he lays bare the devastation his addiction to the bottle reaped upon himself and those who cared about him. We read of a man who had regained his physical sight but was still in effect blind. He had been rejected at birth, which meant he could be rejected again, and again, and again. This fear drove him to the bottle. The bottle gave him false confidence and hoodwinked him into believing himself clever, witty, popular, desirable, when in fact it was having the reverse effect and destroying his relationships, his career as a teacher, and his mental health.

On a personal level, this book gave me an insight into something that had puzzled me for many years and enabled me to lay to rest one almighty ghost in my own life, which in turn has led to forgiveness. Although I understood why people might hit the bottle when they had nothing to live for, I could not understand why they would do so when they had everything to live for. Furthermore, the whole notion of high-functioning alcoholics baffled me further. Thanks to William’s testimony, I now know the answer to these questions. Alcoholism is an illness and needs treating as such, just as heart disease, or cancer are illnesses. Alcoholism reaps havoc not only on the sufferer but upon their families and loved ones.

If you want to get a real good look inside the head of an alcoholic, whether you are an alcoholic in denial or a victim of that alcoholic, or a therapist working with alcoholics, this is the book for you. Even if you are none of these things, this is a mightily moving and inspirational memoir, written by a wonderful human being. William D. Holland, you are officially a hero.

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A former teacher, former business owner, former fill-in-the-blanks with dozens of other jobs, William D Holland (Bill) can now be found in Olympia, Washington, writing, gardening, walking his dogs, and living a very simple life with his wife, Bev.

And the Blind Shall See (amazon.com & amazon.co.uk) is a radical departure from his normal fiction, which includes eight novels, mostly dealing with the eternal struggle of good vs evil.

To find out more about Bill, do check out his two blogs Artistry with Words and The Art of Living Simple.

Book Review: Taz — Tales of a Rascal Pooch by Michael J. Dibden

I’m so excited to share my review of this fabulous non-fiction book by debut author, Michael J. Dibden, especially after my involvement as a beta-reader during its pre-publication stage. Below is what I had to say on Amazon and on Goodreads, where I awarded it five stars.

Taz – Tales of a Rascal Pooch is a humorous biography, told from the alternating viewpoints of the rascal pooch and his owners who he refers to individually as “The Suit” and “Ms Noodle”, or both together as “the hoomans”.

The story has its sad moments where I fought back a tear or two (no spoilers here), but mostly it had me laughing out loud. Taz does his utmost to play his new hoomans, who, although experienced dog owners in the past, have never had to handle an uncouth Staffordshire Bull Terrier who makes it his mission to train them, rather than the other way around. As an ex-stud dog, he has sex on his mind and a habit of humping the air at the most inopportune moments. The same goes for his dispensing of foul odours. He swears a lot, too, so please don’t buy this book and then complain afterwards, when you’ve been warned. If Taz could talk, this is how he’d sound – in other words, it’s authentic characterisation.

It is a well-written book, which, although memoir, has the pacing, spot-on characterisation, sense of setting, and realistic dialogue to be found in some of the best humorous novels. I think the story would appeal best to dog-owners, although it is also possibly a story for those who enjoy true stories that demonstrate canine loyalty towards their owners — a dog’s ability to know when its owners need it to temper its excesses and transform itself into a caring and tender creature of vast understanding.

A highly recommended read.   

Taz — Tales of a Rascal Pooch is available both in paperback and kindle versions at Amazon (UK) & Amazon (US), and other Amazon sites worldwide.

Review: Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee

Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee
Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee by Cee Tee Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First selling point of this book is the author himself. Cee Tee Jackson is an ex-bank manager who runs a pet care/dog-walking business in the West of Scotland and sports a mohawk haircut.

Composed of a series of vignettes, the author shares true stories of his work with animals. The tales range from mildly amusing to hilarious, with the odd sadness thrown in. He has a personable and entertaining style of writing that would appeal to a wide age-range of readers.

Throughout the book, I was greatly impressed by the compassion and patience Cee Tee shows towards his charges, plus forgiveness towards animals with temperament issues. …I’m thinking he must have quite a lot of scars. For instance, he has a chapter titled “The Psychopaths” (a rabbit and a cat, to be precise).

My first job was as a kennel maid, which made this book of particular interest to me. I also used to keep rabbits that were all teeth and claws, and once tried offering a home to a rescue cat that was incurably homicidal (feeling great empathy with Cee Tee here).

Primarily, this is a book that dog owners will find incredibly entertaining. It’s clear that Cee Tee loves his work and hasn’t allowed redundancy (twice over) to tip him over into despondency. In fact I’m guessing, from some of his quips about the bank, that in hindsight he sees his new job as a liberation from an organisation he no longer respects.

However, it is obvious he respects animals and that he revels in his hours spent in the countryside rather than behind a desk in a stuffy office. He might end some days muddy, scratched, and smelling of damp dogs and rabbit wee but — what the hell? — the fellow is happy.

My only complaint about this book is that it is too short. Then again, the author does describe himself as “a bit of a short-arse, with a short attention span”.

View all my reviews

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This sharing of book reviews is a new thing for me, as I’ve only just stumbled upon this feature on Goodreads.

The author of Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee will be guest storytelling here in April. Meanwhile, you might like to visit Cee Tee’s blog

 

Guest Blogger, Jennifer B Graham, talks about the birth of her memoir

Jennifer B. Graham My memoir, An Immoral Proposal, started out as a novel. Its conception began in South Africa, as a forbidden, illegal love story played out against the backdrop of apartheid in 1974.

I approached my story as a novel because it was emotionally the safest mode to go. I felt I, the narrator, could be invisible. I thought all I needed was a vivid imagination and it would be like playing with the paper dolls I created as a child – over a hundred of them – each with its own personality and history. I’d breathe life into them and simply take off from there.

Trouble is, my story is not fantasy and facing the truth was simply too painful. So, in my re-ordered world, I set my family in a Pollyanna world with nice, clean characters.  But I wasn’t making any progress. It was like pushing a wheelbarrow of rocks uphill. The plot was garbled and the characters static and lifeless. Having no compass and not thinking clearly about what it is I really wanted to say, I was more focused on what I wanted to name the “baby”  – On the Other Side of the Fence.

I came to the realization my own story wasn’t one-dimensional but had multiple themes and working those out in a novel was a struggle. Along the way I changed the title to “Ham’s Daughter” but that still did nothing for the book. The whole project limped along in fits and starts leaving me highly frustrated and dejected.

Emotionally, I wrestled with sensitive subject matters in parts of my story, leaving me quite exhausted and depressed. Over the years, I kept putting the project on the back-burner while working through these emotions.  Just like you can’t force a butterfly from its chrysalis before it’s ready to hatch, you can’t rush the healing process.

I carried this ‘baby’ with me from country to country – England first, then Canada and the United States – all places I had lived. From the US, I took it to the ends of the earth – New Zealand!

In ‘The Land of the Long Cloud’, I made another last ditch effort to get this thing going. I asked a publisher friend to cast a critical eye over my novel. We spent a weekend at fabulous Hanmer Springs, a spa town near Christchurch.  Her response was, “Do you have a thick skin?”  She put it to me as diplomatically and gently as she could. It stank!  Looking back, I’m embarrassed to have even given her the material.

I refer to her as my literary mid-wife who told me the ‘baby’ was breech. She turned it around by suggesting that I tell my story as a memoir. “But I thought memoirs were for important public figures,” I replied. Anyway, I took her advice and once I began writing in this genre, the words simply began to flow as I tapped into my wellspring of memories and experiences.

Some were extremely painful and embarrassing to drudge up, but it forced me to confront my fears against which I had well insulated myself with layers of protective walls. Breaking them down was excruciatingly painful at times.

Three winters ago, I took my manuscript on vacation with me to the Dominican Republic where I made huge strides with it. It was there in the dreamy atmosphere of the Caribbean that the present title jumped off the page. After a twenty-five-year “pregnancy”, An Immoral Proposal was birthed on 9 November, 2013 and I’m pleased to say that, although the mother is going nuts with marketing minutia, the “baby” is growing quite well. tree pose Jennifer B. Graham is a self-proclaimed global nomad who began life in South Africa, left when she was 19 and since hasn’t looked back. She’s also lived in England, Canada, USA and New Zealand.

After earning her degree in communication/print journalism from the University of Mobile, Alabama, USA in 2001, she wrote freelance feature articles on topics such as food, health, travel and profiles for miscellaneous publications that include Destinations, Connections, The Press, The Citizen, The Fairhope Courier as well as Triond.com.

Jennifer is a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. An Immoral Proposal is her first book. She lives with her husband near Toronto, Canada. Her five grandchildren split between Wilmington, Delaware and Regina, Saskatchewan, keep her wandering.

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Sarah says: Thank you so much, Jennifer, for guest posting on my blog, and telling us about your fascinating and often painful journey on the way to writing your memoir. I’m sure that some of my blog’s followers who are working on their memoirs just now, will be greatly inspired by what you’ve achieved.

Wishing you all the best with your book and any future projects you have in mind.

Guest Blogger, Uncle Spike: Change of Career, Continent, and Citizenship

For many years I was an avid traveller of far-flung places – basically, anywhere warmer and drier than the UK was my motto. I always favoured those warmer climes, and my passport collected stamps of places like Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, all over mainland US and Hawaii, New Zealand, China, Africa (north, east, and west), India, and much of the Near- and Middle East, plus most of Europe.

Now, I was no rich bitch cruising around on papa’s cash; just an ordinary guy in search of adventure. From the age of 12-13 saw me hitchhike, cycle and train travel much of the UK, before escaping by channel ferry in the early 80s following a bereavement and a subsequent engagement that had gone a bit skewwhiff. And so off I toddled ‘to find myself’ – dunno if I can say I ever did, by the way, but that quest kept me on the road for some three years.

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I then returned to the southern shores of dear old Blighty, and eventually settled down, got hitched and found myself stuck deskbound in a semi-respectable job in a bank (after a hearty dose of BS tendered to pass the interview). For the next 15 years or so I worked my up the greasy corporate ladder, ending up in the spotty-faced world of mainframe programming and IT management, way up in Yorkshire. Flat cap, dog, motorbike, and a hilltop stone cottage built c.1750 was the order of the day…. BUT travelling was still central to my agenda. Using all my annual entitlement, plus time-off-in-the-loo, my wife and I mustered some 5-8 weeks away on yonder shores each year.

Many times we came to Turkey; not to the touristy bits, but sampling rural village life, with eventual plans to retire early in such a place – doing what hadn’t even been considered at that stage. This mixed-up lifestyle continued for over a decade, forever working 60-80 hour weeks in order to travel in our spare time.

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Then life’s meaning changed.

My wife was called upstairs rather early by the big man himself, and the work/holiday lifestyle, the job, the plans… well, they all seemed a bit daft really. So faced with a crossroads (my life, not that soap with Benny), I decided to jack it all in and do something; I emigrated to Turkey, became a fruit farmer, remarried, became a middle-aged pop, naturalised as a Türk and then wandered into blogging

My life all seemed quite ‘normal’; until I wrote it down J

To summarise; my life’s guide very much aligns with the words of a certain seagull. The image that follows is a scan of an old postcard that I have had close by me for 30 years…

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Thanks for your hospitality Sarah J

UNCLE SPIKE

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Sarah says: It’s my pleasure, Uncle Spike, and thank you so much for accepting my invitation to guest here.

As an avid follower of your most entertaining blog, Uncle Spike’s Adventures, it was great to learn more about the man behind the Turkish fruit farm!