Reviews for Inside the Hatboxes ©
Dan Hays / Statesman Journal said:
This is a real surprise of a book. The premise is, one would think, unlikely, but it becomes very likely --- downright compelling, in fact --- in short order. If one were using the parlance of book reviewers, one could call this a "fast read," in that it is so interesting you won't want to stop reading. But, in fact, it is so well put together that you won't want to read it fast...you'll want to savor it.
cover, by the way!
Greg Lawrence, author of Dancing on my Grave and
Dance with Demons: Life of Jerome Robbins
K.P. Burke, author of Proof Through the Night: A B-29 Pilor Captive in Japan
RC Marlen's premise is fresh and her plot twists and turns
William R. Long (email@example.com), a professor of law and a writer,
April 14, 2006.
In her inaugural novel, Oregon writer RC Marlen has given us a wise, engaging and moving book. It is the story of how two families' lives and destinies become interwoven in a St. Louis neighborhood not far from where Marlen herself spent many of her years. The novel is wise because it makes the reader learn the lesson through reading that Marlen wants to teach about life: that you should never draw conclusions until all the facts are 'in.' Time after time I as a reader thought I 'knew' where the story was going, only to be pleasantly surprised, delighted and deeply touched by where the story actually went. The novel is engaging because Marlen is a master story-teller, weaving emotions and facts, small details and large themes, in a tightly-organized and quickly-flowing narrative. It is moving because the lives of the characters become interconnected in ways that we know connect our lives--through common loves and work, through tears and grief, through unexpected joys and numbing loss. What she does incomparably well, however, is tell a story. It opens with a young family traveling from LA to St. Louis so that the father, Tony, can take a job as a fire-fighter in his native St. Louis. His wife cradles their lifeless daughter, and they drive in silence. We have to listen to discover how their beloved child died, and we are captivated by the tale and saddened by the loss. Then, after arriving in St. Louis, they lodge at a motel, and Tony, unable to sleep, ventures out for a drive. Inexplicably for him (but explicably from the narrative that follows), he encounters a child 16-months old in the middle of the night who wants to accompany him. He allows her to clamber in his car, and he returns to the motel with the child. When his wife awakes, there is a beautiful little girl next to her. Thus begins a journey of discovery, joy, secrets and, ultimately, incomparable grief and suffering. Two families are joined in that act, the Scaglione's (Tony and Claire) and the Bartlett's (whose little girl is lost). If there is a message in all of this, and indeed there is, it is that our secrets consume us and ultimately lead to our downfall. I was led to consider the secrets I have kept from others, the secrets that have led to my own undoing in the past, and to resolve and make sure that those secrets are revealed to the right person, at the right time, in the not-too-distant future. Her narrative sparkles with the fast-paced narrative, and the characters really are portrayed in vivid and sympathetic ways. And, there is always the surprise or potential for surprise, luring us from one page to the next. This is a wonderful book that is well-worth the read.
Reviews for GRIST©
|5.0 out of 5 stars Review from an English Teacher,
September 5, 2012
By Carol Fleenor (Turner, Oregon) - (REAL NAME)
This review is about: GRIST: A Story of Life in Oregon Country, 1835-1854
RC Marlen has written an excellent story that captures the imagination from the first page. Based on actual events that include a violent native attack on fur trappers, Ms. Marlen reveals the medicine of the day, both from Native Americans and western medicine, as well as reveals some of the personalities of major historical characters of Oregon history including John McLoughlin, Jason Lee, and David and Mary Leslie.
Marlen's main characters are also historical and she doesn't sugarcoat them in idealistic sterotypes, but presents them as real people modern readers can relate. Margaret Jewett Smith is not always likable in her constant troubles in getting along with various people, but she is a character admirable in her love for the native people including the Metis or children of mixed races that were persecuted and used as slaves at that time. Margaret makes many mistakes, but her intentions are noble. The view of some of our heroes of Oregon like Jason Lee, the head of the Methodist Mission, also rings true. Margaret seems to especially be in conflict with the men of leadership of that day and her struggles as an independent woman reflect much of the times and attitudes of the early 1800's.
Marlen's use of specific, historical detail, her strong characters, her
riviting story-telling make this a most enjoyable read. I personally felt
that I learned much from her writing including an appreciation for my
native state, the native people that lived here first, and for the sheer
hard work that went into making a life in the Oregon territory. Marlen
weaves history into her story well. Her historical detail in revealing
something about the native Americans of that time including the bread
made out of camus lily roots was new information to me as well as the
custom of women being forced to kill their mixed-blood infants. I recommend
this book to my high school English students as well as recommend it to
the history classes. Well written, this book is a winner!
doyle Cook reviewed GRIST: A Story of Life in Oregon Country, 1835-1854
good book October 13, 2013Great book about a story in Oregon history made
where you can feel what the characters were going through and able to
look up where this took place in the state.
Kay F. Perepchuk "cocoakay" reviewed Inside the Hatboxes Forget
sleep September 18, 2011Inside the Hat Boxes is a book to be devoured
and enjoyed. The difficulty, while reading, will be remembering to eat,
sleep and talk to your husband. R.C. Marlen, an Oregon author, in this
her first novel had me questioning the comfortability of the of my deck
chair.A fictional mystery with many true life experiences. A story with
many twists and turns to the very end. Hold on to you hat! For me, it's
on to her other ...
Carol Fleenor reviewed GRIST: A Story of Life in Oregon Country, 1835-18542
of 2 people found the following helpful Review from an English Teacher
September 5, 2011RC Marlen has written an excellent story that captures
the imagination from the first page. Based on actual events that include
a violent native attack on fur trappers, Ms. Marlen reveals the medicine
of the day, both from Native Americans and western medicine, as well as
reveals some of the personalities of major historical characters of Oregon
history including John McLoughlin, Jason Lee, and David and Mary Leslie.
Heinz E. Zobel reviewed Tangled Threads Tangled Threads September 2, 2011Any mystery reader, along with readers who love nostalgia, will enjoy this book. The book takes you down Memory Lane with its references to soda fountains, streetcars, penny candy, etc. Because of the author's expertise in describing her characters, you can almost picture the people written about and, by the end of the book, feel as though you know them. Once you start reading "Tangled Threads" you won't want to put the book down.