Friday, October 19, 2012

Double Time on the Oregon Trail

Title: Double Time on the Oregon Trail
Author: Dixie Dawn Miller Goode
Available on: Amazon and other sites (including Kindle)
Author's blog: Back to my Oregon Trail Novel (the photographs in this post are gorgeous)
Author's page on: GoodReads

Summary of the book as available on GoodReads:

The past and present meet on the Oregon Trail when two girls travel the same trail with the same lap desk 152 years apart.
Kenyon is traveling in 2002 from Pittsburgh to Salem, OR. Her mother is pregnant and staying behind to close escrow on the house and then flying west to join the family. Kenyon; her 5 year old sister, Melissa and her father are in a Dodge Caravan, with a trailer hitch. Her Grandfather has given her a plain, black polished ebony wooden lap desk lined with a scented wood that still smells faintly of cedar. The box is filled with thick, creamy paper, envelopes, a calling card, a hand mirror, pens and pencils and a small Swiss army knife, postage and an electronic address book. Her Grandfather is not moving with them but plans have been made for him to fly out in December for a visit. Kenyon strongly resents being expected to entertain Melissa at the motels in the evenings. Her father has decided to take the long way and show his girls some of the wonders of this country and Melissa is excited but Kenyon is determined to not have any fun.
Traveling in 1850, Della, age 15, has already traveled from Northern Illinois to St. Louis, then a week by steamboat on the Missouri river. She stopped in Independence, MO to prepare for the journey and meet with the wagon train. She left behind her 60 year old grandmother who feels too old to attempt the trip, but who gave her a gift of a wooden lap desk. The desk is filled with paper, a small mirror, wooden handled pens with steel nibs, a metal letter opener, hair pins and a small sewing kit. Her younger brother, Orville, her father, and her pregnant mother are traveling with her. She has been asked to teach the younger children around the campfire in the evenings.
What happens when they open the desk to see the other girl's journal?

My views:

I did not know of the historical importance of the Oregon Trail till I read this book. After all, US history is not something that we in India have learnt in school. Stories about pioneers and new discoveries have always enthralled me and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Here, Kenyon is heading for Oregon with her father and kid sister Melissa. Her father's biggest worry is keeping them entertained on this trip. With Kenyon is a gift from her grandfather, a wooden lap desk, made of cedar. He found it in a garage sale and thoughtfully also provided Kenyon with a journal in which to pen her journey and other relevant stuff - including a calling card. He will remain in touch with Kenyon always and this makes her more amenable to the idea of moving away from her friends into a new home in Oregon.

Likewise, Della is part of the historic Oregon trail. She, her kid sister, her pregnant mother and her father are part of a caravan which is painfully marching ahead along this trail. Her father's worry is providing for his family's safety. Della's precious possession is her journal which she stores in a cedar lap desk given to her by her grandmother who has not undertaken this journey. Between helping the other women wash clothes, prepare meals, looking after her kid brother - Orville and scores of other children whom she teachers and her mother, Della steals time to pen her thoughts.

There is time travel involved. But it is the contents of this cedar lap desk that travel across time. So Kenyon is amazed to see Della's journal one day on sliding open her lap desk and Della is equally shocked not just to see Kenyon's journal but also stranger things like a calling card.

Periodically, the girls find each other's belongings and they learn to communicate via notes sent through the lap desk or jotted down in their own journal, hoping the other girl will read it.

Kenyon is able to warn Della to avoid cholera by boiling water and suggests that her family periodically washes their hands. She saves Della's mother's life by insisting that mercury - which then was used as a medicine is now rat poison. One fine day, Della snaps and doesn't want to communicate with Kenyon anymore. She realises that Kenyon is a native Indian - native Indians are ferocious and often a threat to travelling pioneers.

However, it is the native Indian's who manage to help the new born baby, as an Indian nursing mother not only feeds him but also nurses Della's mother back to health.

Even as the girls lived 150 years apart, they learn a lot from each other and also from the journey. They learn the meaning of true acceptance.

It is a beautiful book and I enjoyed reading it. School children will have a lot to learn from it and will love the story. While the book is based on American history, it teaches a lot more and any school kid anywhere in the world will enjoy this book.

"I had something fun happen with this book, I had one copy that I gave a local 5th grade teacher. I thought that would be the end of it, but he decided he liked the research in it and he's going to teach it to his class so he ordered 36 copies as a class set," says Dixie.


1) What inspired you to write this book?

When I was a child, we lived close to Yellowstone Park in a town My Great Grandparents had moved to, helping Buffalo Bill Cody found the new settlement of Cody in the Northwest corner of Wyoming. My Great Grandmother was raised among the Sioux until she married a white stage driver and her father disowned her and she never saw her mother again until the funeral for her father. Sound familiar? So my Grandfather, and one of four boys, was a rancher and a trapper and bought and sold scrap metal and furs and antlers. My family was very much a part of the move west, work hard and make the high desert land give you enough to get by on. And My Grandfather married a girl born in 1908 in Illinois and raised in the Farmland during the depression and World Wars. Her sister answered an ad in a newspaper looking for a bride for one of the four brothers born to my great grandparents. The sister came to Wyoming, and hated the brother she had come to meet, but loved his brother, and when they got married, my grandmother came to the wedding and ended up staying and marrying the original brother. So the two sisters married two brothers and the two families lived in log cabins near each other on the Greybull River in Meeteetse, Wyoming. As a child I begged for stories of their early days and my Great Grandmother lived to be 98 and loved to tell stories as much as I do.

Then when I grew up and moved to the Pacific Redwoods, we would drive across the country with our two boys to visit family and as we drove and explored, I would read books and tell stories to keep the boys from realizing how many hours they had to spend strapped into seat belts. So much that happens in this book is my research blended with the real events of my family and my own imagination.

2) Who is your favourite character in this book?

Really? You want me to choose. Ouch.

Ok, I guess the one who pulls my heart strings the most is honestly Orville, a minor character, but after raising two boys I love the defiance and freedom and curiosity and enthusiasm and sense of adventure of boys his age, and the incident with the cactus is based in a large part on a tumble my grandfather took. I Think maybe you wanted me to choose between the girls but I'm not sure I could.

3)For whom do you think life is more challenging, Kenyon or Della? And why?

I think the challenges of the two eras are very different but so are the expectations. The things Della does as a matter of course, haul water, cook over a fire, be expected to wash laundry by hand in a river are not so much challenges to her as routines, but to Kenyon they would be unbelievably difficult. Della has to face the terror of going through what she sees as enemy territory where real, deadly battles happen but she always has a circle of support until her Mom gets sick and they are alone. Her sense of her community and her place in it are a lot stronger I think because the whole wagon train forms a moving city.

Kenyon on the other hand, has much more leisure time, but that also gives her more time to worry and pout and feel depressed and sorry for herself. Her physical life is easier but she feels much more alone.

4)If you could travel back in time, would you like to be a pioneer?

I have often thought of that question as a child, I really loved Laura Ingalls Wilder and wanted to be her. I had an old fashioned dress and sunbonnet and china doll and loved to play pioneer. A friend of the family had built a museum "Old Trail Town" with old pioneer log cabins that he re-located to a stretch of the Oregon trail, with wagon wheel ruts still visible, and I would play there. But No, I would not have survived if I were in that time. My Grandmother's sister died at 18 of a burst appendix and I had one at 26 which I survived, but only barely. Then an emergency pregnancy would have killed me again. I love the adventure but I am only here thanks to modern Medicine. I can still camp and cook over a fire and hike in the hills and then come home to the comforts of my life.

Source of the photographs: Author's blog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Title of the book: 31
Author: Upendra Namburi
Genre: Corporate Thriller
Book Trailer: Click here
Available on: Flipkart and other stores

Gist of the book, as available on Blogadda:

What can happen in a month? Plenty, as Ravi Shastry, a middle-level executive in ‘Imperial Bank’ is to find out. Here he is, riding high in the last quarter of a tough yearfor a large multinational, with every prospect of a coveted promotion. Ravi runs a tight ship and delivers results, his team looks up to him, his wife loves him, and his hard-driving boss respects his choices and even hints that he is headed for bigger and better things.

March looks like it’s going to be the merriest month of the year….

But within a week, the bank’s Brazil operations are shut down, the US subsidiary is in a mess and soon the global reconstructing wave pounds the Indian ops- Ravi and his team. His wife is also under professional and personal pressure; a former girlfriend and now rival, a manipulative HR manager and others are turning hostile; even Internal Audit is after him.

31 gives you a ring side view of the 31 most combative days in Ravi’s dramatically altered life. It is not only ambition and ethics that are thwarting him, but an enemy whom he sees every day, but does not recognise.

In this corporate thriller, Upendra Namburi gets us to live and breathe the travails of his primary character. Because what happens to Ravi Shastry could happen to any of us.

My views:

India’s financial year ends on March 31, so March is a busy and crucial month for those running the rat race in the corporate world. It was no different for Ravi Shastry, the protagonist of the book ’31’, who is the regional head of an international bank – Imperial Bank.

The book captures cleverly how international business is linked, the ripple effect a meltdown in operations in one country (Brazil in this case) can have on the operations in another country, which geographically is so remotely located. And yes, the author Upendra Namburi has depicted office politics in a very interesting manner. Sometimes it is not what you do, but who you know that counts!

As they say, troubles come altogether and one can never know what tomorrow will bring. So while March 1, was a bright day in Ravi’s life, it soon fell apart both on the professional and personal front. The bank has to tighten its belt and that means cost cutting and retrenchment even in India. Another division – personal loans and credit cards is lagging behind, but as the head of this department is in the running for a top slot, his team cannot be laid off entirely and has absorbed in other departments. Ravi has to put his own team members on the black list to save the jobs of some of these guys. To add to his woes, someone is clearly causing trouble for Ravi, implicating him in a credit card fraud…. The internal auditors’ guns are trained on him. The to be CEO doesn't like him, his boss also aiming for the same top slot just isn’t there for him, he ends up having a one night stand with fellow colleague and competitor and his wife is fighting her own battles both on the work front and personal front. Top bosses arrive from overseas and add to the craziness, all guns are drawn and heads begin to roll. Of course, Ravi begins to job hunt, but that is another crazy story altogether.

Ravi is dreaming of a huge bonus one day and a trip to Disneyland with his wife and two kids. Almost the very next day, he is fighting on all fronts, to keep his job. He is also trying to salvage his marriage. The intense dizzying (and I mean this in a good way) pace continues page after page, each chapter denoting a particular day – right till the countdown! Interspersed within the pages are the famous tweets by an Insider, who knows much more about what will happen next, than the bosses care to tell.

I really liked the style in which the book was written, feelings of anxiety, depression, helplessness, guilt, portrayed by not just the lead but all characters in this book were well captured. Twitter messages by an Insider added to the excitement of the plot.

Does, Ravi win the rat-race? Does his marriage survive? To know the answer, you do need to read this book. It is an excellent, contemporary thriller of life in the corporate world and how things can suddenly change.

Biodata of the author:

A banking and finance professional by day, an engineer & MBA by background and from a peppy part of Mumbai, by accident, Upendra is married and has a son. He lives in Gurgaon, but remains a Mumbaikar at heart.

Upendra was first bitten by the writing bug when he was invited to write for one of India’s leading finance dailies Mint. It soon turned into a love affair that turned him into an avid blogger and finally made him take the plunge into the unchartered waters of the Novel. Upendra now takes complex and dry ideas like loans, foreclosures, investments etc. and turns them into nail-biting thrillers which make those dull and dreary numbers come alive. But, he really hasnt shifted his focus as such for he still thinks of his books as numbers: 31, 60, 8 and so on.31 is his first in the NUMBERS series.

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