Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Book Whisperer Recommends Sea Prayer


When I learned about Khaled Hosseini’s latest book, Sea Prayer, I requested it from the library. Kirkus, STARRED Review calls Sea Prayer “intensely moving…. Powerfully evocative of the plight in which displaced populations find themselves.”

Sea Prayer depicts a father’s hope for his son in the midst of horror and devastation.  Dan Williams’ illustrations beginning with the front cover showing a father holding his son’s hand as they walk in a grass toward the sea.

Hosseini dedicates the book “to the thousands of refugees who have perished at sea fleeing war and persecution.”  Hosseini, like so many across the world, saw the picture of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy on the beach in Turkey in September 2015. The image of the little boy caused Hosseini to write Sea Prayer for all those who flee persecution and seek refuge. See illustrations from the book, all by Dan Williams.

The father writes a letter to his son about the beauty of the past and the horror of the present and with hope for the future. The father writes “you are precious cargo, Marwan, the most precious there ever was. I pray the sea knows this. Inshallah.”

Sea Prayer is a book to be read again and again and to be shared with others.

Khaled Hosseini’s Web site:

Dan Williams illustrated Sea Prayer; read more about him and see other examples of his art at his site:

The Book Whisperer HIGHLY Recommends Sold on a Monday!


Through a book newsletter to which I subscribe, I received an opportunity to read the first three chapters of Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Those first three chapters immediately captured my interest and I purchased the e-book as soon as it became available. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down and finished it within the day.

McMorris saw a picture from 1948 of a pregnant woman standing on the steps of an apartment with her four children on the steps below. The mother has turned so that her face is hidden. A sign in front of the children reads: 4 Children For Sale; inquire within. The photo was taken in Chicago and first appeared in The Vidette-Messenger of Valparaiso, Indiana, 5 August 1948. Some controversy over the photo ensued with family members saying the photo was staged. However, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Chalifoux did eventually sell all four children and the baby Mrs. Chalifoux was carrying. Read the whole story by following this link:


Kristina McMorris reflected on the photo and began forming a story of her own which she set in 1931 during the Great Depression in Philadelphia. Sold on a Monday opens with Ellis Reed, a newspaper reporter for the Philadelphia Examiner in rural Laurel Township on an assignment to take pictures at a quilt show. Still in the countryside, Reed sees a ramshackle farm house with two tow-headed boys playing on the porch. However, the sign on the porch, 2 CHILDREN FOR SALE, catches his eye.

Reed snaps the picture, but not for the newspaper. He often photographs scenes he sees along with the photos he takes for the stories he must write. Reed is waiting for his big break in journalism to get away from the women’s news to which he has been assigned. Reed has no intention of writing a story about the boys or the sign, but he develops the photo along with his assignment photos in the newspaper darkroom and leaves it hanging to dry.

Most likely, nothing would have come of the photograph of the two boys except that Lily Palmer, secretary to the chief, goes into the developing room to retrieve photos for a story. Lily has seen Reed’s personal photographs before, but the picture of the two boys with the For-Sale sign so prominent in the picture catches at her heart. Impulsively, she takes the picture from the drying line and includes it with the ones she has come to find.

Lily’s action of giving the chief the picture of the two boys sets the story in motion. Neither Lily Palmer nor Ellis Reed know at this point how the photograph will push both of them into saving two other children. As readers may imagine, the chief is taken with the photo of the two boys and tells Reed to write a story about it.

Reed is reluctant because he did not intend to use the photo in the newspaper in the first place and he does not wish to exploit the family. Still, he needs a story to break out of the society news and into the news he has dreamed of writing. Reed persuades the chief that “this picture’s about more than one family…. After all, there’s folks hurting everywhere. The bigger story is why this stuff’s still happening. Other than the crash, that is.”

Surprisingly, the chief agrees that Reed can research the bigger story.  At first, Reed tries to tie problems to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. As Reed explains to Lily when she asks how the story is going, “look, a bunch of DC lawmakers — they swore up and down that tariff was going to be great for all Americans. Plumb out of solutions? Tax ‘em.” Lily realizes that angle is not going to make a good story.

Lily then asks Reed what the picture means to him. Both Reed and Lily have their own reasons for feeling strongly about the two boys. Lily’s question sparks a new take on the story, turning it into a much more personal angle. Reed tells Lily, “As I drove off, I just kept thinking about those boys. They didn’t ask for the bum score they’re getting, but somehow they’ll make do.”

Because of Lily’s question, Reed begins writing the story from the “smallest amount of hope.” The chief accepts the story and it is going to print when disaster strikes. The chief tells Reed that an accident in the printing has ruined the negative of the photo and the story itself. Reed has the story, so he can resubmit it, but the negative of the photo is ruined.

In a last-ditch effort to recreate the photo in time for the evening paper, Reed returns to Laurel Township where he finds the boys’ house abandoned.  He picks up the sign 2 Children For Sale and turns it over and over in his hands. His story is now useless without the photo.

Then he meets Ruby, eight-years-old, and her five-year-old brother Calvin who live next door to the abandoned house. Ruby is selling bunches of dandelions for a penny each. In a moment of desperation, Reed wonders if he can recreate the photo using Ruby and Calvin, so he asks Geraldine Dillard, their mother, if he can photograph the children on the porch behind the sign. Finally, she agrees when Reed gives her the last two dollars he has in his pocket.

Geraldine Dillard is clearly ill and at her wit’s end. Her husband has died of an infection, leaving her to find a way to feed and care for herself and her two children. Reed’s two dollars will make a few day’s difference for the family. Reed takes several photos of the children and then snaps one last picture with Geraldine turning to go back into the house, so the picture shows the three of them with Geraldine’s face turned away from the camera.

That becomes the picture the chief attaches to the story. Reed, Lily, and the chief are all surprised when the story becomes the talk of the city and other newspapers pick it up so it is run in a wide variety of cities. Reed is on his way to achieving the success he has dreamed of as a reporter.

In fact, money, clothing, and food for the family begin to pour into the office of the Philadelphia Examiner. Reed makes a number of midnight trips to leave the goods on the family’s porch.

Because of his success, Reed is offered a job in New York with the Tribune. The job will mean more prestige, greater stories, and more money. Reed regrets leaving Lily, but their relationship has been nothing more than friendship.

In New York, Reed struggles to find his place. He is mostly doing grunt work until he overhears some thugs talking in a bar one evening. One man says, “We bloody need to do somethin’…. We look like a bunch of dolts and killers, the lot of us. The boss is right. People see us as alley rats, and we’ll never get the respect we deserve.”

Ellis forms a plan as he listens to the talk from the next booth. Before he can change his mind, he tells the men, “I’ve got a proposal. A fairly easy way to solve your problem.” Reed proposes that the men do charitable work and he would write up the story. In exchange, Ellis “receives a solid tip about a congressman who had the gall to skim off veterans’ benefits.” The stories appear a week apart, so there is no connection between the two.

Other tips come Reed’s way, and he becomes well-known as a reporter. At this point, readers may well become dissatisfied with Reed and his behavior. He is drinking too much and acting like a swell.

Then a not-so-chance re-encounter with Lily who has brought more donations the Dillard family received in Philadelphia changes Reed’s life as well as Lily’s. Reed takes the donations to Laurel Township to the Dillards only to discover the house is empty. Reed finds Geraldine Dillard has sold Ruby and Calvin and has gone to a sanitorium for TB patients.

At this point, Lily and Ellis want to know where the children are and if they are safe, but, ultimately, they wish to reunite the mother and children if possible. Reed’s investigative skills become useful. Lily, herself an aspiring columnist, also seeks answers and is unwilling to give up. Lily and Ellis form an investigative pair regardless of the consequences. Both Lily and Ellis have their own reasons for wishing to find the children and reunite them with the mother.

Sold on a Monday becomes a breathless search for the children and their mother. In the search, Ellis, in particular, encounters dangerous criminals. However, Lily and Ellis both receive help from unlikely people.

After reading the first three chapters online, I was eager to read Sold on a Monday. The story certainly kept me reading so that I could discover the truth about the children. The story shows some unsavory sides to the adoption of orphans in the 1930s because instead of true adoption, the children are being sold, often as workers and treated poorly.

Kristina McMorris has created a memorable and remarkable story. McMorris has received a number of awards for her previous novels. I have no doubt that Sold on a Monday will also receive recognition.

Portland Today hosts interview Christina McMorris to learn about Sold on a Monday: Also, visit Kristina McMorris’ Web site:

The Book Whisperer Strikes Again!


Recently, though buried under books I was supposed to be reading, I also read The Death of Mrs. Westaway, a book for which I had waited weeks from the library. Naturally, it arrived just as I needed to read five other books. Still, I checked it out since I had been waiting such a long time for it to arrive. I read in snatches of time stolen from other books. Then when I decided to skip reading Carmelo by Sandra Cisneros, I freed up some much-needed time for The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware.

I read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware when it was first published. I have a copy of The Lying Game, Ware’s third novel, but I have not read it yet. Hearing so much about The Death of Mrs. Westaway propelled me into reading it before tackling The Lying Game. I have not read the first novel, In A Dark, Dark Wood. It was an NPR Best Book of the Year in 2015, so I will read it as well.

This review will contain no spoilers and that is a bit tricky since a great deal hinges on secrets being kept. The book is contemporary, but it feels as if it is set years ago. Harriet, Hal, Westaway, is a young adult living on her own since her mother’s untimely death from a hit and run accident. Hal barely earns enough to take care of herself. She tells fortunes in a booth on the boardwalk in Brighton.

Her mother had been a tarot reader and fortune teller, so Hal has taken over the tent in an effort to feed and house herself. Hal knows nothing of her father except that her mother says he was a sailor with whom she had a one-night stand. Her mother’s background and family are totally unknown to Hal.

Soon after her mother’s death, Hal receives a letter from an attorney telling her that she will receive a substantial inheritance from her grandmother, Mrs. Westaway. Hal wants to believe that is true, but she remains skeptical since she knows nothing of her mother’s family. She feels certain the letter has come to the wrong person, but she would like to believe she is entitled to an inheritance.

In a terrible pinch, Hal has borrowed money from a loan shark. She has already repaid the loan several times over, but loan sharks always extract much more than the original loan and fees. The shark has sent a thug to threaten and intimidate Hal. The problem is that she could not pay the loan even if she wanted to do so. She has very little money in her bank account, not even enough for the month’s rent. The inheritance would help her survive and pay off the loan shark.

Hal decides if anyone can fool the Westaway estate into believing that she, Hal, is a granddaughter, that she can do it. Taking her last bit of cash, she buys a train ticket to Cornwall in order to go to the funeral and meet the lawyer. Not only does Hal meet the lawyer, but she meets her three uncles and sees the old home where Mrs. Westaway lived and died: Trepassen House.

The picture below is not of Trepassen House, but it is what I imagined when reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway. This picture is actually of Cotehele House in Cornwall.


At Trepassen House, St. Piran, when the lawyer reads the will, the whole group is stunned. The uncles have nothing good to say about their mother. They claim she has written the will to spite them all.

As readers see Trepassen House through Hal’s eyes, they think of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. The once beautiful estate has fallen into disrepair. The grounds are still majestic if neglected, but the house itself clearly needs a great deal of work outside. When Hal goes into the house, she sees even more neglect. Many of the rooms are dust-covered. The housekeeper, Mrs. Warner, reminds readers of an evil witch; she is surly and uncommunicative.

The Washington Post compares The Death of Mrs. Westaway to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. That comparison is accurate because readers recognize that secrets have long-lived in the house. The Death of Mrs. Westaway will not disappoint. It keeps readers turning pages to discover the next bit of the story that will lead them to the end.

To learn more about Ruth Ware, check out her Web site: There, readers will learn about all of Ware’s books. Interested readers can join Ware’s book club so that they will “get access to a secret subscribers-only page that includes a free short story, advice for writers, insights into the writing process, and answers to your questions about the books (including spoiler-filled FAQs about what happened next!).

Ruth Ware is also on Facebook and Twitter.







The Book Whisperer Examines Last Train to Istanbul


Having spent my life as a student and teacher, I must confess that I went to two book clubs last week without having read the book for one, a deliberate choice, and not having finished for the second one. I chose not to read Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros because I started the book and did not like it. Obviously, if I had been reading for a class whether as a student or a teacher, I would have read the book anyway. Now, however, I give myself permission to read or not to read as I see fit. I have too many books on my list to waste time on books I do not like; I can at some point revisit the books I’ve rejected.

I was also reading Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin for a book club. I wanted very much to complete the story before the book club met, but I simply ran out of time. I was reading on my Kindle and got to 80% of the book, and an exciting part, I may add. I did finish the book after the meeting!

Ayse Kulin is a much- loved author born in Istanbul, Turkey. She has written a number of books, selling more than ten million copies world-wide. Last Train to Istanbul won the European Council Jewish Community Best Novel Award. It has been translated into twenty-three languages.

Last Train to Istanbul centers on the story of two sisters: Sabiha, the elder, and Selva, the younger. The story opens with Selva, a Muslim, falling in love with Rafael Alfandari, a Jewish man born and raised in Turkey. Sabiha has often pushed Selva into meetings with Rafael so she could pursue her own interests and not be burdened by her younger, beautiful sister. As a result, Sabiha blames herself when Selva and Rafael fall in love.

Both girls have been well-educated. Selva particularly loves debating with her father and feels on equal footing with him. When she argues that she must marry Rafael because the two cannot live apart, her father is angry and will not accept her argument. Rafael’s parents are equally appalled by the thought of their son marrying a Muslim.

Selva and Rafael do marry and flee to Paris where they think they can live happily even though they will be separated from their families. All may have gone well, but Hitler invaded France, so Selva and Rafael quickly move to Marseilles, hoping they will remain safe there.

Tarik, a Turkish government official, has worked with Macit, Sabiha’s husband in Ankara, but he has been transferred to an office in Paris. He will become an integral part of the story.

The tension increases as the Germans are also in Marseilles and Jews are being arrested. Meanwhile in Turkey, Sabiha suffers from depression, feeling she has signed her sister’s death warrant. She becomes distant from her husband and young daughter. She feels responsible for the estrangement between her parents and her sister. Macit, Sabiha’s husband, is a high-level minister in the Turkish government, working long hours. His absence also contributes to Sabiha’s depression.

Much of the story takes place in Marseilles where Selva works with the Turkish Embassy to get passports for Turkish Jews and others living in France to help them escape to Istanbul and therefore escape from the Nazis.

The story becomes tense when the passports are all forged and Turkish names assigned to those trying to escape. The group arranges for a train and in a daring move decides to take the train right through Berlin and then down to Istanbul.

The journey will not be easy, not in terms of comfort or security. The train must go through many checkpoints, any of which could mean disaster. The group consists of young adults, elderly people, and children. Kulin does a masterful job of conveying the dangers the people face as they make their way to Istanbul.

Readers learn of the individuals and become invested in their safety. The tension increases as the train makes its way into Berlin.

Kulin has created a riveting story with characters the readers come to know. I found myself at times holding my breath because of the tension. We read many stories about WWII. This one takes readers on a slightly different journey, starting in Ankara, moving to Paris and Marseilles, and then to Istanbul in pursuit of freedom and safety. Last Train to Istanbul is well worth reading.






The Book Whisperer Reviews the First in the Kopp Series


The Book Whisperer has been silent here, but that does not mean she has not been reading! The last post chronicled the September reading list for TOO many book clubs, as it turns out. In fact, I had to give up on Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, the South Broken Arrow Library book club choice. Since I have spent my life as a student and/or teacher, I find it hard to give up on a book, especially when I enjoy the discussions in a group. Still, that’s what happened with Caramelo. I did go to the discussion and confessed that I had not read the book. I did enjoy hearing what others had to say about Caramelo.

The focus of this review is Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart. I have owned a copy of Girl Waits With Gun for about two years. Why I waited so long to read it is a mystery to me now because I found it quite riveting and look forward to reading the other books in the series: Lady Kopp Makes Trouble, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, and Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.

Before writing Girl Waits With Gun, Stewart wrote nonfiction. The Drunken Botanist is “a historical tour of boozy plants.” She also wrote Wicked Plants which explores “evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard.”

Stewart was finishing research on her book The Drunken Botanist; she was looking for information about Henry Kaufman, a gin smuggler. In the research, she discovered an article about Henry Kaufman, a silk manufacturer. Stewart became captivated by the Kopp sisters and did further research into Kaufman and the Kopp sisters. In fact, the title of the book is taken from a headline of the day.


In Paterson, NJ, 1915, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp were riding in their horse-drawn buggy when a car driven by Henry Kaufman, an evil and powerful businessman, hit the buggy. The Kopp sisters were not badly injured nor was the horse, but the buggy was destroyed.

Below, Constance, Norman, and Fleurette:

Constance demanded that Kaufman pay for the repair of the buggy, asking for $50. At the scene of the accident, Kaufman acted as if he would pay for the buggy’s repair because a number of people had gathered to help the injured sisters. However, Kaufman, a sleazy drunk, had no intention of paying for the buggy’s repair.

Constance refuses to go quietly without the money for the buggy’s repair. Stewart takes up the story from that accident and uses the real-life events and adds a bit of fiction to enhance the story. The result is a thoroughly intriguing tale of three independent women who, in the end, take down a wealthy drunken, abusive businessman and his gang of ruffians.

The Kopp sisters live on a small farm; they have no running water or heat beyond wood stoves. They manage to get by with very little. Their mother has died and has left them a small legacy. Their older brother, Francis, is married and kindly invites the sisters to move into his home with his wife and two children who live in Paterson. The sisters quite politely decline his offer, preferring to make their own way.

The buggy/car accident propels the sisters into a dangerous situation since Henry Kaufman is an unscrupulous man who employs thugs to threaten and harass the Kopp sisters. In fact, Kaufman and his gang will stop at nothing to keep from paying the $50 for the buggy’s restoration. However, the refusal to pay comes from an even deeper feeling of privilege and entitlement since Kaufman has never had to work for anything. His father handed over the silk factory in Paterson, NJ, to his son in hopes that running the business would make Henry grow up and act responsibly. No such transformation takes place, though. Henry uses his position and money to drink and carouse, leaving the business to run without him most of the time.

Stewart adds a sub-plot to Girl Waits With Gun that is not part of the real story, but it adds a great deal to the action.  When Constance visits the silk factory to present Henry Kaufman with the bill for the buggy’s repair, she encounters Lucy, a young woman working at the factory. Constance learns that Lucy has given birth to Henry Kaufman’s son, but the young boy is now missing.

That missing child stays in Constance’s mind and she wants to find the child to reunite him with his mother. Readers will discover why Constance becomes so determined to find Lucy’s child.

As Kaufman increases his attacks on the Kopp sisters and their home, Constance turns to the sheriff for help. He is an intelligent, kindly man who truly wants to help the Kopps. He is also interested in stopping corruption in his city which means he is aware of Henry Kaufman and his gang.

The sheriff gives Constance and Norma guns so they can protect themselves. He also teaches them how to shoot the guns. The Kopp sisters become more and more familiar with the sheriff as Kaufman’s attacks escalate and become more dangerous. His gang throws bricks through the Kopps’ windows. They threaten to kidnap Fleurette, the youngest sister, and sell her into white slavery.

Obviously, the situation is becoming more and more dangerous, but the Kopp sisters refuse to be intimidated or to move from their home. Constance and the sheriff meet to discuss ways to combat the attacks. Constance is bright and offers effective suggestions to the sheriff. It is not a spoiler to say that in the end the sheriff offers Constance a job as deputy sheriff. Her role as deputy sheriff will continue in the books that follow.

Will good overcome evil? What will become of the Kopp sisters? Will Henry Kaufman be brought to justice? Read Girl Waits With Gun to discover the answers to all these questions and more. Girl Waits With Gun provides good entertainment about strong women who prevail in the face of all odds.

On her Web site,, Amy Stewart provides additional information about the real people in Girl Waits With Gun: She also provides additional information for book clubs such as discussion questions. Stewart will also arrange for Skype interviews with book clubs.

Not only does Amy Stewart write nonfiction and fiction, she is an artist as well. See examples of her art below.


The Book Whisperer is a Book Club Junkie


The Book Whisperer is an admitted book club junkie. Until this month, September 2018, I’ve managed to juggle my book clubs so that I could read all the books required without any trouble. For some reason, September has pushed me to the limit.


For the first book club meeting of September, I have re-read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, a perfectly delightful book. Cannon writes beautifully. The story takes place in 1976 with a back story to 1967. In 1976, England experienced a severe heat way for six weeks. Cannon uses that hot weather in her story so effectively that it becomes a character itself. I’ve already reviewed Cannon’s book several months ago.

Here is a sample of Cannon’s writing: “There was nowhere to escape the heat. It was there every day when we awoke, persistent, and hanging in the air like an unfinished argument. It leaked people’s days into pavements and patios and, no longer able to contain ourselves within brick and cement, we melted into the outside, bringing our lives with us too.” We Oklahomans are familiar with such heat, particularly before air conditioning was so prevalent and readily available.

Cannon’s narrator is Grace, an observant, precocious ten-year-old girl. Grace describes an argument between her parents: “My father sat in the corner, polishing his shoes on a piece of newspaper, while my mother orbited the cupboards.”

More evidence of Cannon’s ability to pull her readers into the story lies in the following passage in describing Walter Bishop, a man who lives in the neighborhood and who is hounded daily by his neighbors for his supposed sins: “Words came out of Walter Bishop’s mouth, but they were jumbled and twisted, and left in the wrong order. I watched the sweat seep over his forehead.”

When Aneesha and Amit Kapoor move into the close-knit, closed community, many neighbors are upset and wish to know where the Kapoors are from. They have moved from Birmingham, not India as many of the neighbors may think. Mr. Kapoor tells the neighbors he wishes to feel part of the community. Grace wonders “where this sense of community was. Perhaps it was waiting at the back of Sheila Dakin’s pantry or hidden in the loneliness of Eric Lamb’s shed. I wondered if it sat with May Roper on her crocheted settee, or had scratched itself into the paintwork of Walter Bishop’s rotten window. Or perhaps it was in all those places, but I had yet to find it.”


The next book club meets on Sep 13 and the book for that discussion is Murder, She Rode by Holly Menino. The story involves horses and competitions as Tink Elledge, horse-owner and rider, becomes an amateur sleuth. The story opens when a truck hauling a horse trailer catches fire. As luck would have it, Tink came upon the wreck soon after it happened.

The truck and trailer belong to her friend Win, a fellow horse owner, trainer, and rider. Sadly, Joe, Win’s loyal trainer, dies in the wreck. Patty McLauren, a helper, escapes the burning truck. Tink discovers the horse is badly injured and knows that it must be shot to put it out of its misery. She persuades one of the police officers on the scene to kill the horse out of mercy.

At first, everyone thinks the accident is just that, an unfortunate accident. Then other problems arise and suspicion grows. On top of the growing suspicion, Patty is missing. Win is accused of doping his horse for the three-day endurance race, but he is cleared. Then another death occurs. Clearly, someone is targeting Tink and her friends.

That’s two books completed; now, however, the reading becomes a bit trickier since I must complete Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart by Sep 19. I have started the book, but I will post a complete review after the discussion. Suffice it to say that I already love the book and wish I had read it months ago.

On Sep 20, I need to complete two books, one for an afternoon book club and another for an evening book club that has been on hiatus for the summer. The first is Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, a book I have not even begun as yet. The second is Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin. I have read about forty pages of the latter. Obviously, book reviews for the last three books will be posted after Sep 20.


Having finished two of the books for September and having two more underway, I am optimistic that I will achieve my goal of completing all the books for the September book clubs. The other problem is that I just picked up a long-awaited book from the library: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. It is a book in high demand, so I must read it too even though it is not for a book club. So it goes.

The Book Whisperer Reviews The Kindness Effect


The Kindness Effect is a book Jill Donovan never intended to write. Not just that book, Donovan never intended to write any book out of concern that readers might misjudge her reason for writing a book.

James D. Watts, Jr., Tulsa World reporter, interviewed Donovan 14 Feb 2018, In that interview, Donovan explains she did not want write “a book about the success she has achieved with Rustic Cuff which started out as something of a hobby, a way to work out some creative energy that had been building up in her for a while.”

Donovan, a successful attorney and law professor, has always challenged herself whether in her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast or studying a “formidable language…. I wanted to fluently speak a language nobody else in school was studying – Russian.” Donovan chooses unusual challenges for herself. For example, she spent a year learning to play the harmonica.

On a Southwest Airline flight one December, Donovan played the harmonica for an audience of delayed passengers. She recounts the story: “I found real joy in playing the harmonica for the passengers but not because there was a rationale to pursue a music career and join a band (but don’t count me out yet!). Nor was it because I gave a perfect concert to a perfect audience. The joy in my heart was imply because a little bit of magic happened that morning.”

Donovan goes on to say “that same kind of magic happens every December after I’ve spent the year developing a new skill.”  Every January, Donovan chooses another skill to tackle and accomplish.

At Rustic Cuff, Donovan reports, “It’s not about the cuff. It’s really about giving, of providing a venue to share one’s gifts. And I’m not talking about things. I mean whatever God-given gifts and talents you have. Those are gifts that are meant to be given away, to be shared with others.”

Perhaps the most important part of Donovan’s The Kindness Effect appears in chapter 20: “Don’t Compare Your Chapter I With Someone Else’s Chapter 20.” To illustrate this point, Donovan describes learning to play tennis as an adult and being placed on the lowest-level team. At that point, she realized that she was learning, not only from tennis, but about competition, about learning, and about living. She explains “instead of comparison, I would try to learn everything possible from successful people. I wanted to learn their mistakes and wins and to gather all the information available from the business owners who came before me.”

Donovan has succeeded in the challenges she has set for herself; she also encourages others, especially in giving back and in sharing kindness. In The Kindness Effect, Donovan inspires others to create their own stories and to share their kindnesses. In fact, The Kindness Effect itself is a book meant to be shared.

A friend invited me to attend her book club recently. During the meeting, she passed around The Kindness Effect, offering it to others to read. She also made another suggestion: that readers mark or comment on passages in the book before passing it along to another reader who would add comments. What an excellent way to encourage others and oneself.

Rustic Cuff,, offers colorful, thoughtful jewelry. Customers can join to receive the monthly surprise cuff. They can also create a special cuff for fundraising.