Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The View From the Grass Roots by Gregory J. Rummo

Millennial Mind Publishing, 1589821017, $22.00

Picture Erma Bombeck and George Will having a child who grew up, moved to New Jersey, and got a dog named Chewbacca. This is probably the best way one could describe Gregory J. Rummo.

Readers in the New Jersey area will know Rummo from his many years as a regular contributor to regional newspapers, where his work tackles a variety of topics, personal and political. The Amy Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting Christian-influenced journalism in secular newspapers and magazines, has seen fit to bestow a number of awards on Rummo's work. Some of these pieces are featured in The View From the Grass Roots, a collection of ten-plus years of opinions on the Clinton administration, profiles in courage, and timely observations of the country and government in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The book's title, Rummo explains in the introduction, is meant to emphasize Rummo's position as a writer. He does not proclaim to be an expert on the topics about which he writes, but rather he calls shots as he sees them -- as an ordinary husband, father, Christian, and American citizen observing life. To call Rummo "ordinary" would be a misnomer, however. A perfunctory glance at the contents of View presents the reader with a look into a life both blessed and challenged, a life appreciative of God's creations - everything from the rough beauty of rural New Jersey to the child growing in a mother's womb. Rummo's style is common sense and easy on the eye; a column on the logistics of coaching his son's soccer team may illicit a few chuckles while at the same time warm a reader's heart as Rummo explains how his son refuses to let his deafness become an obstacle while playing. His thoughts on past and present Presidential administrations may, depending on one's political leanings, leave a reader nodding in agreement or shaking his head.

Whatever your view on religion, the government, and life in general, it is well worth the time to see these things from Rummo's point of View.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

More Than a Garden by Dorothy Compton

Awe-Struck E-Books, 1587492814, price TBA

Love at first sight is possible even in one's golden years, as is the case with Oklahoma nursery owner Kevin Wilkerson. From the moment he sets eyes on willowy Lenora Deakins as she chases her granddaughter around his shop, he is smitten. Soon he is making up excuses to visit her newly acquired home, and delivering gardening supplies at no extra cost. Lenora is initially put off by Kevin's bravado, believing at first Kevin sees her as a poor, helpless widow who can't afford the labor and supplies he offers. Much to Kevin's delight, Lenora's suspicions eventually fade and a relationship blooms. Kevin's steadfast faith in God propels him to persue the lovely Lenora, whose ability to interpret Scripture into a spiritual dance ignites a longing in him more powerful than a Midwestern storm.

No garden is without its problems, however, and in More Than a Garden Lenora and Kevin find a pest that threatens not the tranquility of Lenora's backyard but the security of her family. Thinking the widow has come into money, a seedy day laborer executes a ransom scheme that tests the boundaries of Lenora's relationship with Kevin. Through his devotion to her and God does Lenora come to find the strength to resolve the crisis.

Garden is one in a line of romances published under Awe-Struck's "Silver Linings" imprint. At first I was under the impression that "Silver Linings" alluded to stories of over-50 protagonists; I have learned this imprint serves to promote the publisher's line of inspirational romances. Regardless of the connotation of the imprint's name, More Than a Garden is a fine addition. Author Compton crafts a sweet, playful courtship story fringed with an edgy, heart-rendering conflict. Kevin and Lenora come across as genuine people who prove that passion is not necessarily reserved for the younger set.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Listening With My Heart by Heather Whitestone

Doubleday, 0385488998, $10.00

Note: this is a reprint of an older review, written in 1998.

Having Heather Whitestone as our first hearing impaired Miss America, one would think, should have been true inspiration for this nation's legion of children with disabilities. Whitestone's memoir, Listening With My Heart, shares these triumphs, but reveals also the stark realities this tiara holds. Anyone who thinks this title nothing more than non-stop glamour and make-up will be pleasantly surprised to learn of the more intense layers underneath.

Despite the joys and benefits of being America's sweetheart, and despite the impact Whitestone left following her year-long reign, there was an equal amount of heartache and frustration, and while reading Listening I found that just because one cannot hear the activity around her, it doesn't make the pain less hurtful. In Listening, Whitestone details her duties and the ensuing exhaustion, all the while keeping a cheerful front so as not to disappoint anyone in her path.

Her positive disposition, as felt throughout Listening, is credited to Whitestone's solid faith in God. Whitestone's love of God carries her throughout her career and is strongly felt in this memoir; she peppers each chapter with encouraging quotes from many known people and from the Bible. For all the uphill struggles she tackled (including living her Christian beliefs in a society that does not necessarily embrace the same values), Whitestone's enthusiasm is contagious, and her life-in-progress an inspiration.