INTERVENTIONS
By Richard Russo
Down East Books, 2012
224 pages, $40
ISBN 978-1-60893-185-9
 
Famed French dramatist Moliere (1622-1673) once complained:  “I always write a good first line, but I have trouble in writing the others.”  Fortunately, Maine’s well known writer Richard Russo doesn’t have that problem.

INTERVENTIONS is Russo’s second book of short fiction following 2002’s THE WHORE’S CHILD AND OTHER STORIES.  This vastly overpriced book contains one novella and three short stories, one previously published in that first collection.  The artwork of four full color prints is provided by Russo’s artist daughter, Kate.

Russo may be best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, EMPIRE FALLS, but his short fiction is equally well-crafted and evocative.  He can still tell powerful stories about people, their lives, problems, fears and indecisions.

In the novella, “Intervention,” Ray the middle-aged realtor hasn’t sold a house in months.  He is drifting, seemingly tired of life, and having a cancerous tumor isn’t much help.  Russo’s portrayal of this conflicted man is gripping, and his vivid description of a disgusting Chinese food buffet would make anybody skip the spring rolls.

In “Horseman,” a female college English professor is haunted by a child’s poem, as she struggles with questions of her own worth as a writer, her fading marriage, and what to do about a smugly arrogant cheating student.

“High and Dry” is an interesting piece about Russo’s hometown, Gloversville, N.Y., a mill town where the craftsmen lost to the machines, with Russo telling of travels with his divorced mother, and the worst jobs he and his pals had as kids.  He admits, however, that he cannot go back to Gloversville because “I’ve written too many lies about the place.”

The previously published story, “The Whore’s Child,” is a stunningly tense drama, but it’s disappointing that Russo couldn’t crank out one more original piece to fill out this book.

 

THE MAINE GARDEN JOURNAL:  INSIDER SECRETS FROM MAINE PEOPLE WHO LOVE TO PUT THEIR HANDS IN THE DIRT
By Lisa Colburn
Fern Leaf Publishing Co., 2012
187 pages, $29
ISBN 978-0-9847103-0-0
 
Maine has always been a challenging place for gardeners who struggle with its climate and soil to produce the natural beauty of trees, flowers and shrubs.  Now, however, Orono gardener Lisa Colburn has produced a useful book that reveals gardeners’ secrets about what really grows well here and why.

THE MAINE GARDEN JOURNAL is a smart collaboration of more than 120 contributing gardeners’ tips for selecting the most popular, most hardy, and most successful plant material for a Maine garden, whether in Zone 3b to Zone 6a (Fort Kent to York Harbor).  Colburn, a skilled and imaginative gardener herself, explains:  “I love gardening so much, I swear I can smell the flowers right through the catalog pages.  I’ve been waiting to tell someone this stuff for years!”

Gardeners throughout Maine reveal what grows best, where, and why, as well as tips for pest and invasive plant control.  The book is organized and written so it’s “like talking with neighbors who have shared the secrets of their success.”

Supplemented with beautiful color photographs, Colburn covers trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, grasses, ferns, vines, bulbs, tropical plants, houseplants, vegetables and herbs, even providing Top 10 Lists of the most popular plants, plus some honorable mentions. She includes a helpful list of the Top 10 Books a gardener should own, as well as lists of garden centers, public gardens to visit, garden tours, gardening supply and mail-order companies, clubs and organizations, and governmental resource agencies.

Learn about “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick,” about the man who has 375 varieties of hosta, why the Norway Maple is not really your friend, why you should put Japanese Beetle traps in your neighbor’s yard (not your own), and why you really can grow tropical plants in Maine.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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