Summer Reading: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

41IZch3WE5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’m not going to make you read until the end of the review to find out that I loved this book. I loved it. I read Colin McCann’s Let the Great World Spin a few years ago and fell beautifully in love with his writing and storytelling. In Let the Great World Spin he uses the infamous tightrope walk executed by Philippe Petit in New York 1974 where literally the city holds its collective breath as they watch Petit dance between the World Trade towers. True story. He uses this historic event to weave together an incredible  tale that connects a number of people who all witnessed this event. What emerges is a portrait of America post Vietnam.

In TransAtlantic he does it again but this time he celebrates the connection between Ireland, America and Canada in a book that spans four generations. This time the historic event on which the remainder of the story turns is the first transatlantic flight by WW1 vets Alcock and Brown who are vying to win 10,000 pounds for being the first to carry mail from the New world to the Old by aircraft.

In each chapter McCann introduces a new piece of the puzzle, and a character who plays a bit part in the previous chapter sweeps forward and takes centre stage. It sounds simple but it’s masterful. What emerges is a portrait of a generation of 4  women, Lily, Emily, Lottie and Hannah which spans from the mid 1800’s to 1998. Each of these women interact with known historic male figures – the African American slave Frederick Douglass, (he travels to Ireland in 1845 to advocate for the abolishment of slavery), the aviators, and Senator George Mitchell, who brokered a peace deal for Ireland in 1998.

The interactions with these men provides the historic framework on which the novel rests and through it we travel through time, from Ireland in the 1840’s through to the Civil War where Lily Duggan escapes to work as a nurse.  The reader weaves through history and place  through the emotional lives and history of Lily Duggan and her daughter and granddaughters.

For those of you wanting more rave reviews Lawrence Hill wrote this for the National Post – a great writer writing a review of another great writer’s book.


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Summer Reads – 2014 – February by Lisa Moore


I had Lisa Moore’s February (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize) on my shelf for some time and I just picked it up quite randomly and I’m thrilled that I did.

Unknown-2The story is about a woman Helen, who loses her husband Cal, on a rig that sunk off the coast of Newfoundland on Valentine’s Day 1982, leaving her pregnant with 4 young children to raise. The story is essentially about grief and how it takes more than a lifetime to recover from the loss of love, real, honest, sexy, beautiful, heart wrenching love. You feel the shock of Helen’s loss even years after his death because she lives in him and with him in a real but unsentimental way. The beauty in this book, though, is in the writing.  

There are a few scenes I love in particular. The pages that describe their wedding reception and hasty retreat to the local hotel reminds me of the wedding scene in the Deer Hunter. It felt real, honest and solid, its deceptive simplicity belying the complexity of two people bringing their lives together and all the nuances and feelings that knit the emotional fabric together.

Here is a sample, “…all of that was in the mirror on their wedding night, and – POW -Cal glanced at it, and the mirror speed with cracks that ran all the way to the elaborate curlicue mahogany frame, and it all fell to the carpet, fifty or so jagged pieces. Or the mirror buckled, or it bucked or it curled like a wave and splashed onto the carpet and froze there into hard jagged pieces. It happen so fast that Cal walked over the glass in his baste feet before he knew what he was doing, and he was not cut. It was not that the breaking mirror brought them bad luck. Helen didn’t believe that. But all the bad luck to come was in Cal’ s glance, and when he looked at the mirror the bad luck busted out.”

The second scene is when Helen reveals how she found out about Cal’s death but I’ll leave that for you to read to find out but I think I held my breath through all of those aching pages. The sadness goes beyond the mere fact of Cal’s death but the beauty of the language that delivers the story. Wow, the entire novel is sprinkled with magical language and sometimes surreal scenes. So thumbs up, give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.


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Greg Gubitz from Big Life Foundation interviewed on Canada AM – explains in a nutshell why poaching is increasing

This is a must see:


And an ACTION: 

Please, please sign and share this petition Only Elephants Should Wear Ivory


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The thing about elephants is…..

once you start advocating on their behalf it’s hard to stop. How do you say ” I can’t do this, it’s too hard” .So I don’t. Here forthwith is the cutest and youngest baby elephant ever rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  Watch amazing video of this baby at the end of this post.10498091_10152615433154889_1125201735462908517_o

via @DSWT Little Ndotto’s progress

Last week our teams were called to the Ndoto Mountains to rescue the tiniest baby elephant we have ever cared for.

Rescued by helicopter, this tiny bundle was delivered to the Nairobi Nursery wrapped in a blanket, his ears still petal pink. Our elephant keepers looked on in disbelief as this tiny package was unwrapped.

We named him Ndotto after his home, a beautiful and remote mountain range in northern Kenya.

Ndotto has not yet been placed on the fostering program, but we wanted to share a short film to show how he is doing a week down the line.

We thank all those people involved in saving Ndotto and the kindhearted Samburu community who went to such lengths to keep him safe.

Watch this amazing video:

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Poem of the Week: For a Traveler by Jessica Greenbaum via Alison McGhee

For a Traveler
- Jessica Greenbaum

I only have a moment so let me tell you the shortest story,
about arriving at a long loved place, the house of friends in Maine,
their lawn of wildflowers, their grandfather clock and candid
portraits, their gabled attic rooms, and woodstove in the kitchen,
all accessories of the genuine summer years before, when I was
their son’s girlfriend and tied an apron behind my neck, beneath
my braids, and took from their garden the harvest for a dinner
I would make alone and serve at their big table with the gladness
of the found, and loved. The eggplant shone like polished wood,
the tomatoes smelled like their furred collars, the dozen zucchini
lined up on the counter like placid troops with the onions, their
minions, and I even remember the garlic, each clove from its airmail
envelope brought to the cutting board, ready for my instruction.
And in this very slight story, a decade later, I came by myself,
having been dropped by the airport cab, and waited for the family
to arrive home from work. I walked into the lawn, waist-high
in the swaying, purple lupines, the subject of June’s afternoon light
as I had never been addressed — a displaced young woman with
cropped hair, no place to which I wished to return, and no one
to gather me in his arms. That day the lupines received me,
and I was in love with them, because they were all I had left,
and in that same manner I have loved much of the world since then,
and who is to say there is more of a reason, or more to love?

A big thank you to Alison McGhee for curating these gems.
​For more information on Jessica Greenbaum, please click here:

My blog:

My Facebook page:!/pages/Alison-McGhee/119862491361265?ref=ts

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Rhinos and Elephants Infographic – thanks Anitra Paris:)

Please share and join the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos!elephant_infographic_updated

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On World Elephant Day, our No.1 Reason to love elephants: they protect the vulnerable


When threatened, an elephant herd will form a circle, enclosing the most vulnerable – the elderly, the sick, the young – on the inside.

As we celebrate our love for elephants today, it’s important to recognise this is a species under serious threat.

We’re doing all we can to protect the vulnerable – orphaned, injured and threatened by poaching and you can help too.

Find out more at

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