By LAUREL M. HALL
It’s this time of year that all of us feel like we may have access to a bit of the luck o’ the Irish, or perhaps just their gift of gab. In honor of National Irish Heritage Month, get a glimpse of the green rolling hills and rugged shorelines with these books:
Patrick Taylor writes the sorts of characters that are endearing while simultaneously making you glad you don’t have to deal with their quirks and antics. When newly-minted doctor Barry Laverty gets the job as physician’s assistant in the tiny village of Ballybucklebo in “An Irish Country Doctor,” little does he imagine what he has in store, both in his new mentor, Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, and his patients. If you like the BBC series “Doc Martin” or “Vicar of Dibley,” you’re certain to enjoy Taylor’s “Irish Country” novels.
I’ve recommended Minnesota author Erin Hart’s mysteries before and am happy to tell you that the next novel in her Nora Gavin series, “The Book of Killowen,” has just been published. The action starts up a year after the end of “False Mermaid,” and Nora and archaeologist Cormac Maguire are again working together in the bogs of Ireland and come across an ancient “bog man” with a surprise underneath: The body of a man who has only been missing for a few months. While staying near the research site, other mysteries come to surface involving people lodging at the Killowen colony and the riddles of an ancient heretical text. I am eagerly awaiting my turn for what is sure to be another entertaining and chilling ride, with lots of atmosphere and the likeable protagonists of Nora and Cormac.
For a child’s insight into the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, I recommend the award-winning young adult novel “Bog Child” by Siobhan Dowd. Fergus is digging for peat for fuel with his uncle when they come across a body preserved in the bog. The life that Fergus imagines that this ancient child lived allows him to escape the uncertainty of life during civil war, a brother on hunger-strike in prison and the tensions at home between his worried parents. It’s so easy for us to forget how difficult life was (and in some ways, continues to be) in an English-speaking country so similar to our own in so many ways, but this book provides a challenging and moving perspective for us to consider.
If you’re looking for something much lighter, give the “Walsh Sisters” series by Marian Keyes a try. “Watermelon,” the first book in the series, features Claire, who is abandoned by her husband on the same day she gives birth to their daughter. She decides to return to her family home in Dublin and discovers that sometimes family can give you the support and confidence you didn’t even know you were missing. The second book, “Rachel’s Holiday,” earns Claire’s sister the family intervention she needs to get her life back on track.
If you’re thinking about making a trip across the pond, I can recommend no better guide than Rick Steves of PBS fame. His books are down-to-earth and packed full of insights on time to allow for towns and museums, travel options, and easy ways to save money while experiencing more of the culture you came to visit. I particularly enjoy reading the historical and cultural observations that you just don’t get in other guidebooks. The Brainerd Library has the “Rick Steves’ Ireland 2013” volume available to request, as well as many other books and DVDs by him.
The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library are holding the semi-annual book sale this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (March 21-23) in the library’s large meeting room. Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Get here early on Thursday for a prime spot in line!
Also this Saturday, March 23, is a free day trip to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum, including a maple sap demonstration, showing both traditional and contemporary methods for harvesting and processing maple sap for syrup. We will also spend time at the museum, which offers interactive exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the Band. Registration is required by calling 829-5574.
Actress Rhoda Jackson will help us celebrate National Poetry Month in April when she brings Emily Dickinson to life in full costume and character on April 2 at 5 p.m. at the library. On April 11, at 6 p.m. Native flute maker and player Jon Romer will weave into his performance the history and tradition of the Native American flute and its design. No registration is necessary for these performances, just come and enjoy!
On April 16 from 4-6 p.m., we are hosting Native American artist Pat Kruse, who will lead a workshop on birch bark art, and participants will not only learn the history of the art and aspects of birch bark crafting, but also make a folded birch bark cup to take home. Call 829-5574 to register.
The above free events are made possible with funding from Kitchigami Regional Library through the State of Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment funds to preserve arts and cultural heritage.
We are so excited to be partnering this year with the University of Minnesota Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners to bring you six different classes, the first of which is on April 9 at 4:30 p.m. “Age is No Excuse ... Get Out and Garden” will provide sensible tips for changes with passionate, lifelong gardeners could incorporate into their gardening activities as they age. The Master Gardeners will discuss exercise, safety issues, clothing, equipment, techniques, spaces, and downsizing. Call the library at 829-5574 to register for this class.
LAUREL M. HALL is the adult services coordinator for Brainerd Public Library.