Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea

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We should all be so smart and decisive as our canine companions.

The Dog Who Saved Me, a novel by Susan Wilson. St. Martin’s Press, $25.95. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, Amazon, and at Island libraries.

Dog books have been on publishers’ “must-have” lists for seven or eight years. They’ve been scrambling for titles. Even Danielle Steele’s publisher trotted out a forgettable pet memoir by the best-selling romance novelist a couple of years ago.

But now the best in the field are emerging in a genre popularized by James Herriot more than 40 years ago. Garth Stein, certainly Jon Katz, and the Island’s Susan Wilson have ascended to the top of the canine genre.

These authors can write, plus they know both the human condition and canine makeup, and they write passionately and authentically about the symbiosis between humans and dogs. These qualities are essential for success in a fictional genre in which the reader already knows a lot about the subject matter. We may not be experts in international espionage or crime-solving, but we sure know our dogs.

Last week Ms. Wilson published The Dog Who Saved Me, her ninth novel and fourth consecutive novel with a dog as a protagonist. One Good Dog, Ms. Wilson’s first canine novel, had several months on the New York Times bestseller list. Her second, The Dog Who Danced, received the Maxwell Medal for Fiction from the Dog Writer’s Association of America in 2012.

The Dog Who Saved Me is a terrific read that drops us immediately and deeply into a small rural Massachusetts town, immersed in the lives of the Harrison family, a dysfunctional group.

Cooper Harrison is a veteran Boston K-9 cop who lost his canine partner, and his mojo, after a suspect they had cornered detonated a bomb strapped to his body. In the aftermath, Cooper recovered from his physical wounds, but worsened his emotional ones with copious doses of whiskey, and in turn lost his marriage. He’s returned to his hometown of Harmony Farms at the urging of his high school buddy, now the police chief, to become the town’s reluctant animal control officer.

Cooper gets it together in Harmony Farms, despite a reunion with his hapless dad, the former town drunk; a wild older brother fresh out of prison; and a somewhat feral yellow Lab who’s been living in the woods after being shot by his hunter. Cooper is determined to seek justice for the dog and find out whodunit.

Ms. Wilson provides us a multilayered plot in which Cooper and the unnamed yellow dog heal each other, while Cooper’s cop nose smells that his recidivist brother has returned to the drug-selling business and is placing his father in danger.

You don’t have to have a dog, or even like them, to enjoy Ms. Wilson’s books. Her dogs are not preposterous characters. They are dogs who act within their abilities and personalities. The magic occurs as we read Ms. Wilson’s words and recognize that we love our dogs because they extend apparent and unconditional love to us.

Love has extraordinary healing qualities. Cooper also finds romantic love in this book, which helps him in his journey back to the world. His trip back is not without mind wrestling and a series of flashbacks to his childhood, replete with examples of failed parenting and a savage sibling. Cooper also learns in his return to his hometown that the family shame that drove him away from Harmony Farms has no power except the juice he provides. He concludes that in reality, most people forget, forgive, or weren’t paying attention in the first place.

Ms. Wilson allows Cooper to find his way on his own terms in this tale, including the telling of the bomb blast that took his canine partner’s life, an event that leaks from him throughout the book, detail by detail, as he is able to tell it.

For me, the appeal of Ms. Wilson’s books is the perspective she provides: the dog as a realistic witness of the human condition. Dogs pay attention and make quick, clear decisions on what they see and sense. Babies are like that too. They know what and who they like. And like dogs, they seem to know it right away.

We should all be so smart.

 

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The author’s latest is a guide for fiction writers and readers alike.

John Hough Jr.'s latest book is a how-to on writing dialogue. – Photo by Susan Safford

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue: A Fresh Look at an Essential Ingredient of the Craft. By John Hough Jr., Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., New York. 143 pages, softcover; $14.95. Available at Bunch of Grapes bookstore and at Amazon.com.

John Hough’s how-to book on writing dialogue is valuable to writers and to readers who’ve never written a lick, but have now been invited to look behind the scenes at the writing funhouse.

Going behind the scenes can be disappointing. For example, I have learned never to watch the addenda footage included with DVD movies. And I don’t want to know about the cams and pulleys that make the funhouse floor tilt and shake, for the same reason: The knowledge destroys the magic.

But Mr. Hough has magnified the magic for me in this book. He is a topflight, insightful writer, for one thing. He writes with specificity — this is a guide after all — but he also communicates a sense of his awe about his life’s work, delivered in an often whimsical, always conversational style that connects readers more closely to the requirement of good fiction: that the reader become willing to suspend disbelief.

Mr. Hough presents an accessible package of concrete tips and perspectives on the function of dialogue, delivered in 38 digestible bits under eight themes, for which writers will be grateful. As you probably know, he is the author of six novels, including Seen the Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Gettysburg, winner of the 2010 W.Y. Boyd Award for excellence in military fiction from the American Library Association, and of Little Bighorn (Arcade, 2014). Mr. Hough teaches creative writing at his West Tisbury home and in the Island’s Adult Community Education (ACE MV) program. For many years he taught dialogue at SEAK, Inc., fiction-writing conferences. SEAK (Skills, Education, Achievement, Knowledge) is the acronym for a national continuing-education organization devoted to developing skills, education, achievement, and knowledge.

Fiction_writers_guide_to_dialog.jpg

In The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue, we are led, through the discussion of specific topics, to the interactive role of literature in our lives. Here’s what I mean: One of Mr. Hough’s tidbits tells us why real-life dialogue doesn’t work in fiction. He uses a conversation from the Watergate tapes, between President Richard M. Nixon and H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, to illustrate. Their interchange is a virtually unintelligible mess. James Joyce would be confused. No one would read fictional dialogue written like that conversation.

Mr. Hough’s commentary on the conversation raised this thought with me: Do we love fictional dialogue in part because it represents how we wish we spoke in real life? Mr. Hough answers that question — and more — a few pages later. “In real life we talk around things, we speak idly, but all dialogue in fiction has to reveal something.” Mr. Hough says an accomplished dialogue writer is like a counterfeiter whose output is better than the real thing.

Mr. Hough had me when he repeatedly referenced dialogue from George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a novel about a smalltime Boston criminal, an epiphanic book for me. I was raised in Eddie’s neighborhood, knew those jamokes, and it had never occurred to me that anyone would find anything remotely interesting about that culture. That it could be written by a rich guy from the suburbs with such authenticity boggled my mind. Frankly, it pissed me off. Dear reader, you want to read dialogue that is terse, inelegant, and says the unsaid? Read The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

You will discover your own gems in Mr. Hough’s discourses on the use of dialogue to carry plot, and provide transitions, breaks, and clues to the story’s conclusion.

An added bonus for readers is that Mr. Hough has done a lot of legwork. Within the text, he offers illustrative dialogue written by Melville, Hemingway, Didion et al. At the conclusion of the book, he offers us a list of 41 authors and their books which include great dialogue, according to him.

Obviously I write, and I’ve read a handful of books on the art and process of writing. Most are a tad screedy, and focus on ways to connect with the Muse or how to resolve our inner angst. Mr. Hough has made a valuable pragmatic contribution to the process of writing and reading fiction.

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Atul Gawande explores how to make dying part of living.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Metropolitan Books division of Henry Holt and Co. 282 ppg hardcover, $26. Available on-Island at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven and at local libraries.

Being Mortal is an important read for us about an unsettling question: What is the cure for being old?

Author Atul Gawande tells us that there is no cure, but that the practice of humanitarianism is the best medicine. And he tells us why that is the case, delivering his message in a lively prose style not generally found in medical literature.

Being Mortal is Mr. Gawande’s fourth book. His previous books have been bestsellers and prize-winning works about the role of medicine in societies around the world. He is a surgeon in Boston, a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, teaches at Harvard Medical School, and operates two medically-based businesses, one a nonprofit.

Mr. Gawande’s accessible literary approach disarms and captivates. In the foreword to Being Mortal, the good doctor tells us that “the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise.” He posits that dying is part of living. What a friend of mine describes as “helping him when he was doing his dying” to describe her mate’s final journey mirrors Mr. Gawande’s perspective that we are — or ought to be — agents in our own dying process.

It is certain that we will all get to “do” dying, just as we raise children, have careers, or root for the Red Sox. The idea in this book is to make dying part of living.

Mr. Gawande has marshaled his personal experiences and training to cast a wide net over the subject of aging, in order to build a diagnosis of the current state of elderly affairs, beginning with an intriguing look at the role of elders and the changes in societal and family dynamics over the past century.

He describes the aging experience of his grandfather, a farmer in India who lived for 110 years, the final two decades in the bosom of a constant and attentive family in a culture where elders were revered for their wisdom and guidance in affairs great and small.

He notes that the elder as an important contributor was also the norm in European and American societies until well into the 20th century, in part because so few people lived long enough to become elderly. In 1900, the average lifespan of an American was 60 years. In 1800, the average lifespan was 50 years.

He notes that in the late 19th and early 20th century, U.S. marriages produced seven children on average, one of whom generally remained at home to care for elderly parents, a tradition called “Irish Social Security” in my urban community. That joke became dated in the second half of the past century, as families became smaller and children left not only the family home but also their country of origin, as Mr. Gawande’s father did.

Being Mortal includes the results of Mr. Gawande’s extensive social and medical research. For example, while the idea of elderly parents or one surviving spouse living alone can create uneasiness among families, he has found that living independently is not considered a burden by the elderly; they enjoy the freedom of independent living without family underfoot. Independent living is a goal for elders.

Mr. Gawande seems a fan of independent living, but notes that dependence is a reality for most of us at some point when the body wears out. He likens the body to a complex manufacturing plant equipped with backup systems in the event of function failure.

Human bodies, he notes, come with a variety of backups, including an extra lung, kidney, and gonad. But eventually, the machine wears down. Mr. Gawande places high value on quality of life, and makes no bones that nursing homes do not provide that value. He notes that safety and weight maintenance are nursing home priorities: “In almost none does anyone sit down with you and try to figure out what living a life really means to you under the circumstances, let alone help you make a home where that life becomes possible.”

Mr. Gawande believes that’s so because “we haven’t had the imagination for it.” Assisted-living facilities have proved an answer since they first opened in 1983 in Portland, Ore. This imaginative plan allowed residents to create a home and have freedom. Subsequent studies showed that resident health and functionality improved.

Mr. Gawande says, “A monumental transformation is occurring” but that while the old institutionalized version of aging and death is being rejected “… we’ve not yet established our new norm.”

“We are going through a societal learning curve, one person at a time. And that would include me, whether as a doctor or as simply a human being,” he writes.

On Thursday, March 26, at 3 pm, at the West Tisbury library Laura Murphy, R.N., will lead a discussion of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End by Mr. Gawande. Copies of the book will be available at the front desk. The event is free and open to the public.

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Collecting cash from from around the world has become a hobby.

Currency from around the world sits on the counter at Vineyard Electronics.

Vineyard Electronics is hardly the International Monetary Fund, but the electronics retail store and Radio Shack dealer located on State Road in Tisbury does display a small mound of currency from around the world in a collection that continues to grow. The free-form collection of paper notes and coins is on display in a pile at the checkout counter.

“It started last spring when we found a coin on the floor from a country we couldn’t identify,” Linda Sibley, store owner, told The Times one recent snowy day. “Someone had dropped it. We put it on the counter so people could look at it, and it just grew from there. A young guy came in a few weeks later and identified it as a Bulgarian stotinka.”

Linda Sibley, owner of Vineyard Electronics, has amassed an interesting collection of foreign cash.
Linda Sibley, owner of Vineyard Electronics, has amassed an interesting collection of foreign cash.

The collection had begun. “Then another guy came in from the Balkans who’d been carrying a coin in his pocket since he came to work on the Island, and he left that. The collection kind of snowballed from there,” she said. “An American who’d been in Iraq volunteered a dinar note, the first paper currency in the collection.”

There’s money from Mongolia, Macedonia, and Moldova, along with Aruba and Jamaica. There’s gelt from Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Sweden, Romania, and India; from Pakistan, Israel, Qatar, and Turkey. Tanzania and Zimbabwe are there, along with Brazil, Belarus, and the Dominican Republic.

In all, bills and coins from 33 countries, representing almost 20 percent of the world’s nations, sit on a counter in a country store on a small Island off the coast of Massachusetts. How is this possible?

Well, many Island residents roam the world for work, much as an earlier generation did on aboard whaling ships 200 years ago. Others have the means to satisfy travel interests and wanderlust. And the Island is a diverse place, thanks in large part to young seasonal workers who come here each summer.

A sense of world community seems to permeate the appeal of the money pile. “I think the young people from the Balkans really got this going. They will come in and see the pile and say, ‘Oh, I have money from my country,’ and leave a bill or coin,” Ms. Sibley said.

In America, we honor past presidents with a place on a bill. A study of the graphics on this rich variety of currency provides a snapshot of a diverse world and the cultural icons people in other countries hold dear.

Ms. Sibley does not describe herself as an expert, or even an experienced researcher on the subject of world currency, but she has Googled a lot, and she has heard many stories.

Her personal favorite involves a young worker from Macedonia who came in and identified his currency, the dinar. The bill includes the image of a Greek goddess from 200 B.C. and a beautiful mosaic featuring a peacock. “He said that the mosaic on the bill is still standing, in a village where, reputedly, Alexander the Great’s grandfather was born in the sixth century B.C.,” she said. “The guy’s gone back home, but he said he’d have a picture taken of him at the mosaic and bring it in when he comes back.”

Several themes emerge to the casual money browser. Natural life — in the form of parrots, peacocks, Mongolian ponies, and monkeys, for example — is in abundance. There is clear evidence that a lot of people worked hard to create arresting cultural art forms for these tiny canvases.

There are also images of national realpolitik. We are reminded of Russia’s drive to industrialize by a ruble featuring an image of a hydroelectric dam. An Iraqi dinar note is a chilling reminder of recent history. The bill displays a portrait of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former president, who looks decidedly more chipper on the note than in his final public appearances in 2006.

And there is a sense of space and joy in some currencies, particularly from tropical countries. Brett Rose, a tech guru at the store, took a liking to the Brazilian real. “Well, it’s got a great picture of a monkey on it, and I collect monkey images. So I bought a Brazilian note from a guy who comes into the store,” he said.

Added together, the monetary value of these currencies is probably less than $20 in U.S. currency. The value of the money is in learning about what other people in our world treasure.

On a January walk, Justin LaVigne made an interesting find: a bottle with a message dated Sept. 19, 1959.

Justin LaVigne of Edgartown was walking his Great Dane when he discovered the bottle with a note inside of it. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Justin LaVigne of Edgartown has discovered that the joys of beachcombing are many and varied, even in winter. His most recent find will help scientists to understand the vagaries of ocean currents.

“I look for things to motivate me to get outside. Luckily, I have dogs,” said Mr. LaVigne, who owns a seasonal landscaping business. His Great Dane and other family dogs require their exercise, and that gets Mr. LaVigne out of the house every day in winter, he told The Times recently.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve found on the beach, including a dead fisher cat, an animal that is not native to the Island — I have no idea how it got here,” he said.

Mr. LaVigne also finds a lot of messages in bottles. Apologies to Nicholas Sparks, but Mr. LaVigne reports that most of the waterborne communications he finds — two or three a year — are recent and not particularly interesting. On Jan. 20, Mr. LaVigne was walking along Long Point Beach in West Tisbury, along the Island’s south shore, when he spotted a bottle lying next to a clump of seagrass.

He picked up the corked bottle, and saw a faded but readable message through the clear glass. Despite instructions provided on how to break the bottle, Mr. LaVigne opted to uncork it.

The note inside the bottle, dated Sept. 19, 1959, told the finder it had been released at sea "as part of a large scale study of ocean currents." — Photo by Michael Cummo
The note inside the bottle, dated Sept. 19, 1959, told the finder it had been released at sea “as part of a large scale study of ocean currents.” — Photo by Michael Cummo

“I really had to work to open it,” he said. “I wanted to keep the bottle intact.” He decided to use a corkscrew and chopsticks rather than a hammer. His strategy was successful.

The message inside the bottle, dated Sept. 19, 1959, requested that the finder return the card inside to the “Coast and Geodetic Survey,” known now as part of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Woods Hole.

He contacted NEFSC, and found a welcome ear in Shelley Dawicki, NOAA public affairs specialist and an enthusiastic marine culture-keeper. Ms. Dawicki reported Mr. LaVigne’s find on the NEFSC web site.

It turns out the bottle was one of several flights of bottles released as part of an ocean-current analysis program, before the wizardry of digital electronics supplanted the natural methodology. And it may be the last one.

“We had another returned in 2013, but the identification markings indicate this may be the last in that flight,” Ms. Dawicki told The Times. “Several flights were released in that period, off Cape Cod Light; some, including this bottle, 60 miles from the Island. This is the oldest bottle of the group, and the oldest of this type found in the country.” Mr. LaVigne will keep the bottle he found at Long Point. If he changes his mind, Ms. Dawicki has promised a place of honor for the long-lost bottle in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Exhibit reserved for oceangoing artifacts.

This bottle has special meaning for Mr. LaVigne. “This bottle, for example, was probably buried for five or six decades at Long Point,” he said. “I reflect on that. My parents used to vacation, decades ago, on that spot in Long Point. They, and so many of my friends and acquaintances, probably walked over it countless times.”

Mr. LaVigne feels a strong sense of connection to the history of his finds. “It’s a very exciting feeling,” he said. “Sometimes I kick myself because I get so excited that I pick it up. I really should take a picture of it first, just as it was on the beach.

“I do get a sense of who made an arrowhead or put a bottle in the water,” he said.

His beach finds, including arrowheads, spear points and other Native American objects, bring the continuum of Island history to life for him.

“Some of the arrowheads and spear points are thousands of years old. We usually think of these things as being several hundred years old, but I’ve had some of them dated, and one arrowhead I found on Chappaquiddick is thought to be 11,000 years old, probably when Chappy was still connected with Nantucket,” he said in a reverential voice.

Not the first time

As unusual as Mr. LaVigne’s find was, it was not that unusual. On Dec. 22, 2013, Keith Moreis was walking on Long Point Reservation in West Tisbury when he found a glass bottle resting in the sand next to some seagrass, according to a NOAA press release. After brushing aside the sand, he was surprised to see that the bottle was intact.

Inside the bottle, a pink sheet printed with the words “Break This Bottle” caught his attention. He took the bottle home.

Not wanting to break the bottle, Mr. Moreis used a wire to pull out the pink sheet and a postcard with printing on both sides. One side of the postcard had an address; the other side had instructions to the finder and some stamped and handwritten information.

The postcard had both stamped and handwritten information on the top: U.S.C.&G.S. HYDROGRAPHER was stamped on the left corner, and Sep. 19, 1959, on the right corner, with the day handwritten. Exact details about its release could not be located, but Ms. Dawicki said it was remarkable that the bottle survived for close to 50 years.

Archive documents revealed that in September and October of 1959 the U.S.C.&G.S. ship Hydrographer conducted environmental studies in three areas off the New England coast: 16 miles northeast of Cape Cod Light, just south of Nomans Land, and 36 miles south of Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard.

As of Feb. 8, 1960, only two drift-bottle cards had been returned from the area 36 miles south of Gay Head (now known as Aquinnah), but nearly 60 percent from the area just south of Nomans Land. Approximately 5 percent of bottle-card returns came from the area 16 miles northeast of Cape Cod Light, now known as Highland Light, in Truro.

Records as of March 1960 indicate that four of the six bottles numbered 279B released south of Nomans Land were recovered within two months of their Sept. 19, 1959, release: one after 2 days, another after 4 days, and a third after 7 days. All three were found on Martha’s Vineyard. The fourth was found after 55 days on Nantucket.

The December 2013 bottle is one of the last two bottles released in that group. Like the others, it was recovered just miles away from where it began its journey, but in this case more than 54 years later.

“Finding the bottle was exciting,” said Mr. Moreis. “Learning more about it and its history has been a rewarding experience, to say the least. I never expected to find something like this, but then again, you never know what you will find on the beach.”

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Sally Bennett shares the odysseys of her young life.

Immigrant: A Memoir Across the Atlantic, by Sally Bennett. 181 pages, softcover. $15.95 from Prospecta Press, Westport, Conn. Available at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven and local libraries.

Immigrant seems a quiet little book, but it is not. Certainly not in the sense of being a placid read anyway, as it leaves the reader with crisp afterthoughts about the young girl who is its protagonist. And also because it quietly asks us: What if I were that little girl?

Island resident Sally Bennett has written a memoir, principally about her life as a child, shuttling to and fro across the gritty stage of pre- and postwar Europe and America, before and during World War II. The child version of Ms. Bennett had a big life in physical scope, but one that left her gasping for emotional peace, as she follows her mother’s wanderlust on multiple transcontinental odysseys.

Memoirs can be tricky reads. Public figures tend to self-aggrandize or to offer exculpatory works revising the not-so-terrific aspects of their lives. An accurate memoir — the story of one’s past life, truly remembered — requires a pitiless, objective eye, and a suppression of ego rarely found in people who choose to write about themselves. Ms. Bennett succeeds, putting her training and experience to good use in Immigrant, an honest memoir well worth your time.

Ms. Bennett has an M.A. in English Literature from Syracuse University and an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College. She has published numerous poems, short stories, and essays in magazines such as Poetry, Seneca Review, and Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, as well as in American Fiction (Birch Lane Press, 1990). Since 2002, she has lived year-round on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, Marshall Segall.

 

Ms. Bennett was born in Yorkshire in 1932 into a prospering manufacturing family with Victorian-influenced values.

Sylvia, her mother, was a reluctant bride, and asked for a divorce from Ms. Bennett’s father when the author was just 2 years old, to pursue a relationship with Jack Pratt, an American engineer. Ms. Bennett’s father was initially unwilling to end the union, but relented and arranged the divorce. When Sylvia and Mr. Pratt married, Ms. Bennett’s father sent flowers to the wedding and organized a stipend for the care of his daughter.

Ms. Bennett’s brother remained with his father as the Pratts emigrated to Spain, then to Portugal as the Spanish civil war heated up. Her sister Janine was born in Portugal. Mr. Pratt was employed by Ingersoll-Rand, and the family lived well. In 1940, Ms. Bennett, along with her mother and sister, was sent to New York to escape World War II, while Mr. Pratt remained behind and became a shadowy figure. This was related at least in part to his second job as a spy with the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor agency to the CIA.

From 1940, the family trekked through America, north and south, with stops in England and back in Portugal, before settling in reduced financial circumstances in Winchester, Va. There Ms. Bennett graduated from high school and began her own odyssey with Ronnie, her graduate student husband. The couple traversed North Carolina, Connecticut, Iowa, and Illinois. Their union produced two children before ending in divorce.

In recounting her travels and tales, Ms. Bennett blends a journalistic approach — detail that puts the reader in the scene — with a prose style that carries us through the chaos of change in her rootless young life, at a crossroads of time and place unlike any in history, really. This is a book about a child who was raised to regard herself as an immigrant.

Last week The Times spoke with Ms. Bennett about her book.

Q. Why did you write the book?

A. I had a compulsion to tell the story. I think I wrote it because I had been thinking about it and writing it for many years. I believe it’s worth telling for my family of origin, my children and relatives in England who would otherwise not get a complete picture of our lives.

Q. Does it represent an effort at self-understanding?

A. I think that’s true of most writing. We write things that are significant to us and to get perspective on what happened, what’s true. Also, as an immigrant, I’ve always felt like a stranger. No matter where I lived, something about being an immigrant always defined me. Now, that’s not necessarily a negative feeling, though as a kid I always had to relearn how to live where we were. I was good at it, but never felt at home, without thinking about it.

I think I learned to cope and adjust. I was good at modeling myself after others, but underneath that coping behavior was a degree of uncertainty and issues of self-trust and self-worth. There’s nothing like an unstable childhood to make you feel uncertain about yourself [chuckles].

Q. The book ends when you reach adulthood. Do you plan a sequel about your adult life?

A. I’ve never thought seriously of a sequel. A lot of people, including my husband, have asked me about it. A lot of this book is concerned with things that happened to me and my reaction to them. I wasn’t the agent [setting events in motion]. Another book would be very different; I would be [a] more active [participant].

Q. The reader does not sense that the author is self-pitying about little Sally’s childhood in Immigrant. I assume that was not the point?

A. You know, I’ve had three or four reading events about Immigrant, and I always found myself focusing and talking about being an immigrant, never feeling at home. I’m not sorry for myself. I really was fortunate. I got a lot of breaks along the way … and a bit of what we call luck.

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Sydney Davies shoots on at empty Scituate net. – Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo

It’s tournament time, and three Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) teams begin play this week in search of state titles. The girls basketball and hockey and boys varsity basketball teams have all qualified for the state tournament.

The fourth-seeded girls basketball team (16-4) takes on 13th seed Randolph in Division 3 play on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 4:30 pm at “Sancy” Pachico Gym in Oak Bluffs. The winner of that game meets either fifth seed Hanover or 12th seed Ursuline Academy.

The Division 3 boys varsity basketball team (13-4), co-champs of the Eastern Athletic Conference and fifth-ranked in the south district of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament, will play 12th-ranked Westport on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 4:30 pm at the Pachico Gym.

The winner of that game will play the winner of fourth seed Wareham against 13th seed Abington on Saturday, Feb. 28, at a site and time to be determined.

Entering tournament play, MassHoops.net, the go-to source for hoops statistics, has ranked the lady Vineyarders 10th in the state in Division 3, and the boys basketball team 11th in the state in Division 3.

The Vineyarder girls hockey team (12-5-2) is seeded 13th in Division Two tournament play. They will play 20th seed Fontbonne Academy (10-6-4) Wednesday at 4:30 pm. The winner advances to play fourth-seeded Methuen-Tewksbury at a site, date, and time to be determined.

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The boys are Eastern Athletic Conference co-champs and now move on to the state tournament following their win 59-41 over Bishop Stang Friday night.

Alex GordonBeck leaps and sinks a perfect sky hook against Bishop Stang defenders.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys varsity basketball team became co-champions of the Eastern Athletic Conference in their final regular season game following a 59-41 win over Bishop Stang on Friday night at “Sancy” Pachico Gym in Oak Bluffs.

Mac Sashin powers through Bishop Stang’s defense.
Mac Sashin powers through Bishop Stang’s defense.

The Vineyarders, who share the 2014-2015 crown with Bishop Feehan High School, finished the season at 13-7 and have qualified as a number five seed in division three state sectional tournament play set to begin early next week. Early round pairings and schedules are expected this weekend from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Assn. (MIAA), the event sponsor.

Senior co-captain Tim Roberts led the Vineyarders with 24 points. Senior Mac Sashin had 10 points and freshman point guard Cole Houston had 9 points. The well-balanced offensive performance included Ricardo Andrade with 8 points, senior captain Matt Stone with 4 points, and Alex Gordon-Beck and Chase Sylvia had 2 points each.

The Vineyard’s Tim Roberts jumps for a layup after a nice move towards the basket.
The Vineyard’s Tim Roberts jumps for a layup after a nice move towards the basket.

Bishop Stang finished the season at 12-8, and, under first-year coach Colby Santos has qualified for tournament play for the first time in five years

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Hunter Meader looks for a teammate up ice while skating toward South Shore’s goal. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The Ryan Mone and Eric MacLean Memorial Youth Hockey Tournaments produced well-played hockey and memorable moments of fellowship, community, and good sportsmanship at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena last weekend.

All three Island youth hockey teams advanced to Sunday’s final round of the three-day Ryan Mone (Squirts) and Eric MacLean (PeeWees) tournaments, but only the MV Squirts White team emerged with a victory, 1-0 over the South Shore Conquistadors, in the consolation game in the championship round.

The White team got a second-period goal from Matt Pouliot, and made it stand up behind 18 saves by goalie Jacob Sylvia to win the consolation game trophy.

Squirt Nick Rego shoots on the South Shore Conquistador goal during the consolation game of the Ryan Mone Tournament. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Squirt Nick Rego shoots on the South Shore Conquistador goal during the consolation game of the Ryan Mone Tournament. – Photo by Michael Cummo

MYV Squirts Purple team lost to a near technically-perfect Nantucket Nor’easters squad by a 6-1 tally in the tournament championship game. Nantucket scored three first-period goals, and added two goals in the second and one goal in the third to seal the deal. The Nor’easters allowed only two goals against them in the entire tournament, one by Charlie Lakis for the Purple in the second period in the championship game, to cut the deficit to 4-1 at the time.

The MV Mariners Team lost the Peewee Eric MacLean Memorial Tournament championship game by a 5-0 count to the South Shore Seahawks, who exploded for four second-period goals to snap a scoreless tie.

The North Shore Icehawks topped the Milton Snipers 7-5 in the Peewee consolation round.

The Ryan Mone and Eric Maclean tournaments are normally played on separate weekends, but were combined last weekend after the Squirts tournament was canceled by snow last month.

The Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena was a busy place from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, as eight teams played 16 games to determine the winners. The tournament also produced a host of stories related to community and sportsmanship.

Certainly the presence of Tricia Bergeron, now of Edgartown and formerly of Oak Bluffs, throughout the tournament’s frigid conditions was one of those stories. Ms. Bergeron is the mother of Eric MacLean, an 18-year-old Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School hockey player who died in a  March 2001 auto accident.

Ms. Bergeron did double duty, presenting team trophies to both the Peewee teams and to the Squirt teams competing in the Ryan Mone Memorial tourney, named for the son of Island residents Gayle and Bob Mone. Ryan Mone also died in an auto accident, on Jan. 1, 1998.

Will Brugiuere fights off a South Shore defender. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Will Brugiuere fights off a South Shore defender. – Photo by Michael Cummo

“Gayle and Bob always present the trophies, but they are traveling this weekend and asked me to fill in,” Ms. Bergeron said on Saturday. “I’m glad to do it, and to deliver the message that seat belts save lives. Neither of our sons were wearing seat belts when their accidents happened,” she said.

“If this tournament and that message reaches even one kid, it’s all worth it,” she said. Ms. Bergeron delivered her message loud and clear during the trophy presentations on Sunday.

A tournament Good Sport award would probably have gone to Riley Silvia, a Squirts White team goaltender who volunteered to play for the South Shore Conquistadors throughout the tournament. The Conquistadors’ lone goaltender broke an arm several days before the tournament.

Riley played well against all comers, including his own team, and was embraced by his new teammates and included in the Conquistadors’ Saturday-night dinner at Sharky’s Restaurant. While Riley’s play produced some conflicted moments for Island fans (“Boy, it’s hard to root for both teams at the same time,” laughed one fan), a cheery statement by a departing South Shore parent on Sunday summed it up. “Thanks, Riley! Without you, there would have been no tournament for us, buddy,” he said.

Both the boys and girls MVRHS hockey programs will benefit from the talent on display last weekend. They’ll have to wait awhile — these kids are only 10 to 13 years old — but their play, exemplified by the goaltending skills of MV Squirt White Jacob Sylvia, was often otherworldly. Jacob made more than 70 saves last weekend, including 36 against mighty Nantucket, to help propel the Squirts White team into the consolation game.

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Divine Alignment: How GodWink Moments Guide Your Journey, by SQuire Rushnell. 249 pages, $19.99 in hardcover from Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and online at Amazon.com.

SQuire Rushnell (no, that’s not a typo) is not your average guy.

For one thing, there’s the name. Mr. Rushnell capitalizes the first two letters of his first name. So he stands out on an Island where ginning up offbeat first names has become an art form.

And for our purposes today, there’s his background as a network television executive, an industry not particularly known as a breeding ground for spiritual thinkers. To be fair, Mr. Rushnell was not your average TV exec. He shepherded Good Morning America to the top, and contributed to the creation of Schoolhouse Rock, which shared 75 Emmys with The ABC Afterschool Specials and other children’s programs.

While TV programming generally searches for the lowest common denominator (OK, OK, not Downton Abbey), Mr. Rushnell has turned to writing about the highest common denominator (a.k.a. God) to great effect.

His literary epiphany was first discussed in his 2002 book When GOD Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life, about a term he coined that posits that those coincidences we all experience in life are not random. His belief is that they are part of a communication process between God, as we understand Him or Her, and us. He describes a “GodWink” as “an event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it could only have come from divine origin.”

Mr. Rushnell and his wife, comedian Louise DuArt, travel extensively from their Island home, providing inspirational talks and lectures on GodWinks and the plan behind them.

His most recent book on the them, Divine Alignment: How GodWink Moments Guide Your Journey, provides a manual for living in accordance with a divine plan in place for your life. Its nine chapters, or steps, if you will, focus on living harmoniously and well by virtue of connectedness to the “Navigator,” as Mr. Rushnell describes God. Mr. Rushnell describes these steps as “GPS” tools for living.

His thesis involves belief in prayer, God, the Bible, the existence of heaven and hell, and the general precept of the golden rule. He cites scientific studies that show people of faith live longer lives than people of no faith.

Mr. Rushnell’s approach to his subject matter has intrigued me for some time, because spirituality and religion are emotional wild cards in American society of the second millennium. Americans, polls show, enjoy the notion of spirituality a lot. But they also enjoy the notion of formal religion in far fewer numbers than past generations did. Ironically, he is writing from a base in New England, by far the least religious region of our country, despite its rock-ribbed founding religious beliefs. A GodWink, perhaps?

Mr. Rushnell’s approach, it says here, is the key to the success of his message. The term “GodWinks” is folksy, has a touch of humor, and makes the notion of God accessible even to the godless. It’s also right on target for a growing horde of believers in synchronicity.

Approachability really is a key to acceptance in these matters, and that may be evidence that, perhaps, we do get what we need.

Mr. Rushnell presents a self-effacing voice in his book, acting as a messenger. He reminds us frequently that he is a guy “who specializes in simplicity. It is my job to study what smart people say, then report it.”

Mr. Rushnell also knows that his audience is increasingly technocratic, holders of a pragmatic belief system that asks one question: Does it work?

The bottom line is that human beings are only capable of doing things that we believe are good for us. It’s how we’re wired. With a million books in print, Mr. Rushnell has figured out the wiring.