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Colorado Quarterly Magazine 

"Rewriting the Myths, Redefining the Realities"

 

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Book Reviews

Goodbye, Geraldine 

by Robert J. Morgan

Reviewed by Freddy Bosco

If the corporate feedlots where we take our families on holidays allowed such things, Robert J. Morgan would be at the center of the table, chewing the fat and regaling us with tales of his life and upbringing. He would hold us spellbound. He is a born folklorist, a natural storyteller who has been into the core of life and come away strong.

The Geraldine of the title is his mother’s mother, a tough grandmother who raised the author with principles and love. No matter how Morgan dreaded the example of his alcoholic Uncle Ned, he follows the genetic pattern into the hell of rage and despair that is reserved for those who suffer this addiction.

Are all families dysfunctional? While Morgan spends a bit of time in his work bemoaning the craziness of his family, all the imperfections of pattern and behavior that leave him yearning to leave the Great Lakes of his boyhood, we see that his beloved Geraldine—Gram—had the grit to keep the clan together.

For a man who writes as a passion on the side (he works as a management consultant having run a large company for 22 years), Morgan is impressive. His ease in relating the pain of life and celebrating its concomitant euphoria comes across with a smoothness that is rarely found in books of this type.

When I go to parties, I am afraid to tell people that I write because there is always someone who says, “We ought to get together. I’ll tell you the story of my life and you’ll write it. We’ll sell a million copies. “ Robert Morgan is one person who knows that his life, like so many lives, makes for a great story. What distinguishes him from so many would-be authors is his personal ambition. He has taken it on himself to relate his life and see to it that the story was told.

There are small problems with the telling, but none worth mentioning. I sat up one night with this book cradling in my lap and it was like holding a puppy. Warm and fascinating, Goodbye, Geraldine imparts comfort to the reader because the author grew up in a loving home. Not every home is such. The love of Morgan’s life gives the reader a glow. Only the story of the life of a noble man could achieve such a marvelous end. 

 

A Maiden's Grave

by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Homer Page

Jeffery Deaver is a best selling author, and persons with disabilities are at the center of his stories. His characters who have disabilities are strong forceful men and women. They dominate the action of his tales. There is no popular writer who presents a more positive and informed picture of persons with disabilities. For some reason he understands the disability community. He is neither sentimental nor naive about the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. He gets it right.

Deaver’s best known book is The Bone Collector. He introduces Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic super-star crime solver in this book. He has written several more novels that feature Rhyme. Deaver’s crime solvers rely on science, high technology, experience, and discipline. However, the irrational violence and highly developed combat skills are always present. His male heros are the practitioners of scientific crime fighting. The women are great shooters, drivers of fast cars, and purveyors of physical violence. Just as his women challenge the stereotypes, his characters with disabilities also turn the stereotypes on their heads. 

A Maiden’s Grave tells the story of three escaped convicts who take hostage eight deaf students and two teachers from a Kansas school for the deaf. One of the teachers is a young, deaf woman. A federal team, lead by a FBI agent, comes to the crime scene to negotiate the release of the hostages. Deaver demonstrates his knowledge of the issues surrounding deaf culture, American Sign Language, and mainstreaming. He understands the fear that a deaf person has of also becoming blind. He understands where a person with a disability experiences limitations. And he understands how a person does what needs to be done. 

Melanie, the young deaf teacher, is timid and repressed. Her father has dominated her, and she has not been allowed to live her own life, but that changes. Midst the terror and violence of the stand-off, she discovers her confidence and courage. She takes control of her life and clarifies her identity. In the end, she evens the score with the hostage takers.

Deaver shows great insight into his exploration of the subtle issues that arise when a person becomes deaf after they have developed speech. Melanie was the child of hearing parents. She loved music. She wanted to hear. Her parents wanted her to come back to the family farm. The deaf community judged her harshly for her lack of political correctness. She did not want to live at home, and she could not find herself fully in the deaf community. Deaver helps her to break through to a more complete identity, although in the end, there is ambiguity and uncertainty about her future. She pays a high price for her freedom, but it is real.

A Maiden’s Grave, made into a movie called “Dead Silence” starring James Garner, is a best seller written in crime novel tradition. It is a violent thriller. This may not be your cup of tea. However it addresses honestly and with more insight the deeper issues effecting the deaf community and persons with disabilities than does any other popular book of which I am aware. Deaver proves that persons with disabilities can be mainstream characters in successful contemporary fiction. Jeffery Deaver entertains and educates. He forces the able-bodied community and the disability community to think more clearly about what it means to have a disability in contemporary American society. 

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