Review: YOU BELONG TO US by Molly McCaffrey


My much admired professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Molly McCaffrey, launched her memoir, You Belong to Us, today. I preordered my copy and received it a few days ago and have been absolutely blown away by the emotional journey captured within its

Adopted at the age of 6 weeks, Molly grew up knowing she’d been adopted but loving the life she’d lived with her adoptive parents–her real parents.

In her late twenties, out of curiosity about who and where she came from, she hesitantly began the steps required to find her birth mother. Her memoir emotionally chronicles the fear, curiosity, confusion, guilt, and anger that guided her through finding and meeting her birth family.

Her experience was especially emotional because, not only did she find a birth mom, she also found out that, after putting her up for adoption, her birth mother and birth father reconciled, got married, and had four other children who were all Molly’s full-blooded siblings. Instead of finding one person, she found an entire family, most of whom never even knew she existed… some of whom would like to pretend she didn’t.

The book is a very emotional read that begs the question… How much does our biology affect who we become? And is it possible for one person to heal a thirty-year-old “wound” that the other person sees as a blessing?

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the human condition and both our abilities and inabilities to accept, adapt, and move on.

You Belong to Us can be purchased here or at Barnes and Noble.

Shadow Duty

Shadow Duty

The sun rises in the East—
Battalions of shadows
begin their duties at dawn.
Cooling, covering, creeping.

At noon, relief arrives
in the form of mirror replicas,
shielding the East.

As the sun begins to sink,
slowly sliding, slipping beneath
the horizon, the shadows grow.
Long, tall, far, and wide
until they’re all that’s left.

Baggage Claim

Baggage Claim

I’ve got baggage—
under-eye baggage,
vacation baggage,
fucked up childhood baggage.

It’s not even the expensive kind.
A broken zipper,
a frayed seam,
and don’t even get me started
on the duct-taped handles.

Once someone asked
where I was going
with all that baggage.
“Wherever I want,”
I said.

JOE by Larry Brown… Tugs at the Heart Strings

JoeJoe by Larry Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

JOE is a perfect example of Southern Literature at its finest. The story begins with a boy and his family. They’re tired, dirty, and without a home. The boys father is an abusive drunk who refuses to help his family survive, and his son steps in to help out by asking for a job from Joe Ransom. Joe has problems of his own. He’s a stubborn, stoic man who doesn’t feel that he deserves happiness. His only ambition is to never go back to prison, but there are people out there who’d send him back in a heartbeat. The relationship that forms between Joe and Gary, the boy, will tug at your heart. They balance each other out and provide exactly what the other is looking for, even though they don’t realize it. You will become emotionally attached to these characters, and Larry Brown did an amazing job of making that happen.

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NEVER COME BACK by David Bell… Couldn’t Put It Down!!

Never Come BackNever Come Back by David J. Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

NEVER COME BACK by David Bell is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I literally couldn’t put it down. The suspense is masterfully done, and the characters are so easy to fall in love with. But I quickly learned that not all of them could be trusted. When Elizabeth’s mother dies, she is devastated, and she finds herself responsible for taking care of her brother who has Down’s syndrome. While she struggles to keep up with her Master’s program at school, take care of her brother, and cope with the loss of her mother, she learns that the police suspect foul play in her mother’s death, and it wasn’t a robbery. What could a sixty-something woman who keeps to herself possibly have been involved in that would have gotten her killed? Could her sweet brother have done this in a fit of rage? Or was it the new person who suddenly shows up and destroys everything Elizabeth had thought to be true? By the end of the story, I felt Elizabeth’s shock and betrayal as strongly as I could only imagine she felt herself. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a great thriller and who doesn’t mind having uneasy thoughts like, “How do I know this isn’t true for me too?” Because the truth is, you may never really know…

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THE FORGOTTEN GIRL by David Bell… Amazing Read

The Forgotten GirlThe Forgotten Girl by David J. Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE FORGOTTEN GIRL by David Bell is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will leave you wondering what the people closest to you are really capable of. The story begins when Jason’s sister, Hayden, shows up after being gone for years and then immediately disappears again. As the events unravel, you realize that no one is who they seem and some secrets are better left hidden. The character development and pacing in this novel are so artfully accomplished that just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Bell surprises you with a crazy twist of an ending that will leave you speechless long after the last page is turned. I definitely recommend this novel, along with his other novels, CEMETERY GIRL and NEVER COME BACK, to anyone who loves a good mystery thriller and who isn’t afraid to lose a little sleep at night.

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Tiny holes hollowed out of the earth like graves,
and from these graves, life will rise.
Each damp cavity, carefully spaced–
two to four inches.
Soil, sweat, and strict scrutiny coalesce,
filling each earthen womb with precision and purpose.

The habits of the elements are closely observed.
The sun—it rises in the East, peaks at noon.
A heavy swath of shade sets about its duty at dawn,
shielding the west side of the barn until sometime after lunch.

The central garden takes its first drink of sunlight
while the morning moon still watches from the sky
and continues, bathing, until the moon returns
and only the most distant suns can be seen.

Each seedling must have room to grow, expand.
Never crowded, for they will wilt and die.
The should be fed water and sun and shade
until they’ve had their fill but never more.

They are God’s creations—living beings. Maybe
they silently cry for water when the soil is parched
and cracking, or call for bees to come feed from
their centers and spread their seed as they leave.

I do not know this for sure.
All I know is… If I were a flower,
I would be a wildflower, running along the highway
or spreading across a field. I would not follow rules.
Because only wildflowers sprout without worry
and bloom without permission.
Yes. I would be a wildflower.

Help!! Writing Struggles

There’s something I’ve begun to notice during my senior year in college. As an English major, specifically Creative Writing, my focus is on fiction. But…

I never have been, and I’m afraid I never will be a good poet. I was in need of an extra creative writing elective, so I enrolled in Intermediate Poetry Writing. It has been the toughest, most humbling, and frustrating experience I could have imagined.

Here I am, an editor of the University’s annual creative writing publication, and I can’t even write poetry. Luckily I can recognize and appreciate good poetry, but when it comes to creating it, it’s almost as if I’m too literal minded.

Has anyone else had this experience? Conquered it? Still struggle with it? I could use some feedback here. What are some strategies you use to get the juices flowing? How can I get past my overwhelming urge to put prose on paper??

Mirrors and Windows

Mirrors and Windows

When you look at me
with glitter and stars in your eyes,
what is it that you see?
Am I a mere reflection
of all that you are?
Strong, magical, yet insecure?
Or can you see through to me?
Where the insecurities overshadow everything else.
And the light and vibrancy hides away
in cobwebbed corners waiting for
their chance to shine?

How to Feel

In workshop today, the class critiqued my new short story, and the response was mostly positive. I got an A on the story, AND my professor wrote in my critique that the story reminded him of Dean Koontz’s writing. I could barely fit my head through the door of the classroom when it was over. 😀

To read an exerpt of the story, go here