Two fall books for your side table – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm

I’m going to recommend two books for fall-fest reading. One is “Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler, and the other is “Long Haul, A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road” by Finn Murphy.
Anne Tyler has written 20 best sellers and received numerous writing awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. When a book of hers pops up in the “Recommended for You” section on my Kindle, I pay attention. “Vinegar Girl” is Anne Tyler at her best. Her use of dialogue to build characters, unique story-telling ability, and quality prose make her one of America’s top writers today.
“Refreshing” comes to mind when I think of the story line in “Vinegar Girl.” Without giving away the plot, the tale involves a thirtyish, boyfriendless, girl, I mean woman; her mad scientist father; and the mad-scientist father’s foreign lab assistant. The lab assistant’s immigration status is about to expire, so the father, believing he can’t complete his research without his irreplaceable lab assistant, schemes to marry off the lab assistant to his, shall we say, homely daughter. Intertwined in this hilarious, intriguing, extremely well-written story are familiar themes of immigration, marriage for love as compared to arranged marriages, and happiness versus obligation.
The foreign lab assistant points out to the daughter, “In my country they have proverb: ‘Beware against the sweet person, for sugar has no nutrition.’” The daughter responds with, “Well, in my country they say that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The foreign lab assistant comes back with, “But why you would want to catch flies, hah? Answer me that, vinegar girl.”
And so it goes. I’ll give “Vinegar Girl” the coveted Empty Nest Five-Star Award.
I heard Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air interview Finn Murphy, truck driver-author of “Long Haul, A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road.” Murphy is quite well spoken, obviously very bright, and surprisingly funny. I made a mental note that I might want to read this book, not that I’m interested in truck driving. Then one of my readers wrote me a letter. Yes, people still write letters and use snail mail. This reader highly recommended “Long Haul.” That did it. I pulled up “Long Haul” on my smart phone and couldn’t put it down.
What can a truck driver tell me? Well, gee, I learned that “Interstate highways have even numbers for east-west routes and odd numbers for north-south routes. The larger the odd number, the further east it is and the larger the even number the further north it is. I-5 goes up the West Coast, and I-95 goes up the East Coast.” “East-west I-10 (the Dime) goes from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles (Jayville to Shakeytown). I-90 goes from Boston to Seattle (Beantown to Needle City).” “Three-digit numbers indicate spur routes to the system. Odd-numbered three-digit routes do not reconnect to the main highway; even-numbered routes are circular and are usually beltways around cities. Using Washington, DC, as an example, I-495 goes around the city, and I-395 ends in the city.” “…your primary guide needs to be a map. You need to visualize the route in your mind….since they started using GPS, drivers get lost or confused three times more than when they used road maps.”
And that’s just information. The story-line is even more interesting. Keep your dictionary handy. Murphy is an articulate truck driver, as well as talented writer. I’ll give “Long Haul” another Empty Nest Five Stars.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5621 Articles
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