Modern Lit: The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle, #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Naomi Cottle is a civilian investigator specializing in finding children who are missing and presumed by police to have been abducted. Like many PIs in this genre, she is dedicated to her work to the point of obsession, driven by her own personal demons. Naomi’s unique set of experience, insight, and motivation stems from her own childhood, when she made an escape from the clutches of a pedophile. Her current case centers on Madison, a little girl who disappeared 3 years ago into the wilds of Oregon when her family ventured out to find the perfect Christmas tree.
While most mysteries focus on procedural details, The Child Finder is quite different. Readers do follow Naomi’s search, but her reactions and thought processes are the focus. Interestingly, those of Madison and her abductor are also revealed in chapters describing how she tries to adapt to her strange, frightening new life. Her abductor is a trapper, a loner who has learned how to live under the radar, his point of view is also presented.
Though very dark, this is a novel about the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to survive terrible, incomprehensible circumstances. The writing is intelligent, controlled, and frequently luminous. As Naomi begins to recall more of her own horrific past, as the abductor recalls his own fearful childhood, and as Madison finds creative ways to sustain herself through her own fear, it becomes possible for the reader to develop a glimmer of understanding about how and why crimes such as this occur.
Not an easy read, but a worthwhile one.

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Christmas in Connecticut

This event for 2009 runs from 12/11 throughout the month of December.

I’m on staff at the Webb-Deane-Stevens museum in Wethersfield, CT. The museum is a small complex of three 18th century houses. The Webb House, built in 1752 by merchant/trader Joseph Webb, is the centerpiece, famous for 220 years as the place where George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau planned the campaign that ended the Revolutionary War. When I lead guided tours, I get to say, “George Washington slept here”, and mean it. He stayed for 5 days in 1781. Next door, the Silas Deane house, built in the late 1760’s, was the home of the controversial diplomat who accompanied Benjamin Franklin to Paris to solicit French military and financial assistance against the British. On the other side of Webb, the 1780’s Isaac Stevens house, which illustrates American life following the War for Independence, completes our little historic neighborhood.

This December, the WDS has teamed with the Wethersfield Historical Society, right across the street, to present a tour of historic Christmas decorations. The beginnings of the American Christmas that we celebrate today are represented in the Stevens House, while an elaborate Colonial Revival Christmas (early 20th century) is brought to life in the Webb House.

The Webb House has long been known as Hospitality House. The pineapple has long been known as a symbol of hospitality, and a fresh pineapple graces the newel post of the main staircase in the center of the building. Another pineapple crowns the top of a lemon topiary in the center hall.

Rochambeau and Washington did not know in advance that the they would clinch their victory at Yorktown, but that is what actually happened. Wallace Nutting, who restored this house in 1915, had a series of murals painted on the walls of this room to represent the conference that took place in this building and various scenes from the battle itself. Today we refer to it as the “Yorktown Parlor”. For the month of December, however, the Revolution takes a back seat to Christmas.

Electric tree lights came into common use during the 1920’s and 30’s. Gift giving became more widespread at this time. Typical wrappings consisted of white tissue paper and ribbon ties. During this time, manufacturers began producing patterned paper, usually floral prints. No Santas or Rudolphs yet.

Across the center hall is an elegant dessert buffet. Jordan Almond and rock candy topiaries, nut trees, cookies, candies, tiered cakes, plum pudding, port, creme de menthe……..Hostesses in this era prided themselves on the magnificence of their table.

Upstairs (or upchamber, as the Webb’s would have it) :

Remember making paper chains? Under the 7 foot tree is a collection of antique toys.

Blackfly Festival 2009 – you’re invited

The Sixth Annual Adamant Blackfly Festival & Parade
“Downtown” Adamant, VT
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mark your calendars, stock up on repellant, and start mixing up the paper mache: the date for the seventh annual Adamant Blackfly Festival has been set for Saturday, May 16th. The Blackfly Parade is expected to be one of the highlights of the day. The parade features eclectic costumes and impromptu music –including what promises to be an impressive demonstration of virtuoso kazoo playing. People of all ages are welcome to join the parade, which is especially popular with children and adults with an off-beat sense of humor. Craft materials will be available for people who want to create a parade costume. Past parades have variously been described as “campy”, “Felliniesque”, and “the Macy’s Day Parade of the Insect World.” Last year, contestants were invited to create an anthem suitable for use at future Blackfly Festivals.  The winning anthem will be played and sung at the 2009 affair.

For more pictures and info:”>website

Happy 200th, Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe, the king of the macabre and the Steven King of his day, was born on January 19, 1809, which makes Monday the bicentennial of his birth.  My husband and I are spending the coming weekend in New York City, and one of our stops will be at the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx,  for a performance by an actor portraying the author to commemorate his big day. I’ll let you know how it was.

Anyway, there are literally hundreds of Poe events planned throughout the US this year. The following article lists those being held in the 5 cities in which he lived.

Excerpted from York Daily Record

Ben Nuckolls, Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Pick a major East Coast city at random, and you’re likely to find a 200th birthday celebration for Edgar Allan Poe.

The peripatetic Poe — author of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and other poems and tales of the macabre — was born in Boston….  He was raised largely in Richmond, Va. As an adult, he migrated between Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.

Befitting his difficulty establishing roots, Poe will be feted at birthday parties in those five cities in January. Events will continue throughout the year — including new museum exhibits, performances and readings of Poe’s work, academic conferences and, in Baltimore, a re-enactment of his funeral that is sure to draw more mourners than the hasty burial itself.

The York Daily Record

It’s Fall! The Keene Pumpkin Festival

When our son was a student at Keene State College in southern New Hampshire, we learned about a very special Halloween event, the Keene Pumpkin Festival, held every October on the town’s quintessentially New England Main Street. Everyone is invited to carve and enter a jack-o-lantern, and all the entries are set up , on tiered shelves along both sides of the street and in other, very creative ways. This is an all day event, with music, costumes, food, fireworks, crafts, and competition. In 2003, the festival broke the Guinness World Record for the number of lit pumpkins in one place, with nearly 29,000. Last year, more than 80,000 people packing the sidewalks, a new attendance record.

The dazzling, family oriented festival for 2008 will take place Saturday, October 25. If you’d like to participate :

  • Bring a carved pumpkin and a 3-inch votive candle to Railroad Square in downtown Keene the day before the event between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and log it in at the Log-in Tent…or bring your creation the day of the festival and log it in at one of the seven Official Log-in Tents located at every intersection on Main Street.
  • To be counted for the official record, all jack-o-lanterns must be carved and entered at an official Log-In Station before 6 p.m. the day of the festival.
  • Once you log in, pick a place along Main Street to show off your creation!

Official Pumpkin Fest site:

Coventry Farmers Market at Hale Homestead

The annual summer farmers market in Coventry, CT has steadily grown in size and popularity, to the point where, last year, the organizers determined that a larger site was needed. Since the market is a project of the Coventry Historical Society, what could be more natural than to turn to Nathan Hale Homestead (a property of ? Yesterday, June 1, marked the opening day, and by all accounts and standards, it was a tremendous success. The market is held every Sunday from 11 AM to 2 PM.

Nathan Hale Homestead, 2299 South Street, Coventry, CT 06238 (a property of Connecticut Landmarks )

The weather could not have been nicer. Feels like summer! Not much produce available yet, but plenty of plants.

Every week the market has a changing theme, and for openers, today’s was wool.

pygora (pygmy angora) goat kids

Admiring the rock star of llamas, while scarfing down something really good

you could knit a very large sweater

or watch the brush and broom man