Book Review by Zinta Aistars
Paperback, 129 pages
Publisher: Main Street Rag Publishing, 2011
This is embarrassing. I'm about to confess to judging a book by its cover. And I knew better, I did! I knew the author, Loreen Niewenhuis, from her previous travelogue/memoir, A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I knew this author is a skilled writer … and yet, and yet, I let this book sit on my table for a very, very long time. Unread. Because of the cover. Let's face it, it looks like a travel guide to Atlanta.
I've been to Atlanta, and perhaps it was the circumstances surrounding me at the time, but I didn't particularly enjoy the trip. I'd look at this cover and feel not one degree above lukewarm, and I would end up picking another book to read. You know, with a more enticing cover.
Well, enough already about the unexciting cover. I finally did get past it to the first page. And from then on, gasp, I kept paging until the very end, completely enthralled.
The scene opens with Bruce the janitor. He is preparing to buff the floor. While doing so, he lights up a joint. Soon, he gets off work to pick up a street walker, Janine, pays her $50 to hold his hand, nothing more, just hold his hand. What Bruce really wants, aside from having his hand held, is to buy a puppy.
And off we go, one interesting character of another, as if disconnected, yet all dotting Atlanta and bringing it to life, like one light going on after another throughout the city, until it is all aglow with the shimmer of humanity.
An intricate weaving forms the fabric of Atlanta. Mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and people in passing, all expose their most vulnerable places to Niewenhuis's light—and to the reader. These are the residents of the city, different social and economic classes, races, backgrounds, and gradually their paths intersect, as they must.
Niewenhuis shapes her characters with such care and detail, that we do not doubt that they live. They do live. Long after the last page is turned, with only the regret at end that this is a novella instead of a novel.
Do me a favor. Just read. Suddenly you see the many lives living inside that city on the cover. These are lives that matter, if only because they live so true.
Loreen Niewenhuis is a scientist, adventurer and writer. She holds a MS degree from Wayne State University and a MFA from Spalding University. Her short fiction has appeared in many journals including The Antioch Review, Red Wheelbarrow, The Smoking Poet and Bellevue Literary Review. Her short story collection, Scar Tissue, was a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2009, she took on the challenge of walking all the way around Lake Michigan. A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach is the book about her adventure.