Goodreads Book Giveaway
by Rachel Bukey
Giveaway ends April 12, 2022.
I’m back on the road after a long hiatus here in the Pacific Northwest. And I’m excited that my literary travels are taking me to Virginia – the tenth state to enter the union. Specifically, I’m going to Charlottesville to visit the oldest bookstore in Virginia. The New Dominion Bookshop opened in 1924 and is now located in the historic downtown mall. The online photos intrigued me and, when I learned that the shop was hosting the twenty-fifth annual Festival of the Book on the very weekend I found them, I wished I could transport myself there and take part in what appears to be a bibliophile’s dream. Instead, I had to be content with leaving a voicemail and getting a call back from a bookseller, Sarah, the next day. They were very busy.
Had I been able to physically travel to Charlottesville, I would have attended the workshop that weekend on Southern Literary Fiction, which included two native Virginia authors: Talley English and Krysten Lewis. Instead, Sarah suggested I read Krysten Lewis’s latest novel, Half of What You Hear, set in the fictitious town of Greyhill, Virginia. I guess I’ll have to content myself with learning about contemporary life in small-town Virginia that way. Moving on to Virginia historical fiction, I could read William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, but there’s some controversy around that book now and maybe Edward Jones’s, The Known World is a better pick. Also, Barbara Kingsolver has lived in Virginia for some time and her novel, Prodigal Summer might also be a good choice. And what about Annie Dillard’s, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, a kind of modern-day Walden experience? Looks like I have many good choices. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back at the New Dominion Bookshop website, I learned that a long-time owner of the shop, Carol Troxell, loved gardening and planted a rose garden behind the bookstore. Apparently, the once unsightly alley has now become a favorite stop on historic Charlottesville tours. I can see from the photos that the roses are gorgeous – especially the climbers that grow over the arched French trellises connecting two old brick buildings. A profusion of red, pink and yellow roses cascade over the trellises and bloom every May. Their perfume must be heavenly.
I also like the way that New Dominion supports its literary community. Every Thursday night, students in the University of Virginia’s MFA program read from their work – one poet and one prose writer each time. On the last Friday of each month, other young writers and poets read from their work. The UVA Charlottesville Book Club also meets regularly at New Dominion. And the shop hosts a number of author readings, book-signings and launches each month. I’m especially intrigued by this service that New Dominion offers: Dedicated to creating a personalized experience for our customers in-store and out, we’ll collaborate on curating the perfect library completely tailored to you.
I also found this gem, written by a former bookstore employee who went on to have a career in publishing:
Our most famous customer was William Faulkner, who came to Charlottesville because his daughter Jill lived out in the county. He was the writer-in-residence at the University in 1957 and 1958. A conspicuous figure around town, he wore a deerstalker hat and a dashing caped tweed coat and always clutched a pipe. When Faulkner came into the New Dominion, he only spoke with C.C. (That’s the original owner, Christopher Columbus Wells.)
Mostly, what I like about this bookstore is how it feels in the pictures – warm and inviting and stacked floor to ceiling with books. Stay tuned for my reviews.
In the middle of the night the wind picked up, we heard rain on the old transom windows and the temperature dropped over twenty degrees. Phew. Linda sent us off in the morning with a fabulous breakfast of Eggs Benedict her way–two poached eggs over maple bacon on a croissant and covered in hollandaise sauce. Definitely one of the best on the road breakfasts I’ve had. With a three-hour drive ahead of us, we plugged in my I-phone and listened to a mix of upbeat rock and roll music—maybe a little reluctant to leave the vibe at Made Inn Vermont.
This was one of the most beautiful driving days, though the hills of Vermont and into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. With the increased altitude, we saw more color in the hills—splashes of gold and red at every turn. On one two-lane highway, the road work slowed us down long enough to see and stop at a maple syrup farm.
The proprietor at Goodrich Maple Farm was offering free tours but in the Fall there’s not much going on here. Their busy time is in the Spring when things start to thaw and the trees are tapped for their tasty sap. We learned that this part of Vermont has a fifth season called “Mudding” between Winter and Spring when the snow melts and the dirt roads turn to slippery mud on top of the frost still thick underground. He told us that there are more school days cancelled in Mudding than in Winter when the snow falls relentlessly. You can clear the snow from the streets but there’s nothing you can do about that slippery mud but wait. Proudly, he said, this place has been known to record the coldest temperatures in the country—as low as forty below zero. Brrrr.
After tasting three different strengths of syrup, we left with the amber style, not too light and not too dark. Just right. We bought some maple sugar for toast back at home and also some maple candies that we ate right then. Biting into them made my teeth hurt.
Down the road and just a few miles before the renowned Cancamangus Highway, we stopped at a local cafe where we ordered their homemade cockaleekie soup (chicken with local vegetables-who knew?) and half a chicken salad on freshly baked bread. Yum.
The highway was definitely beautiful but I’m not sure it was any more spectacular than the rest of our route through Vermont and into New Hampshire. We arrived in North Conway, New Hampshire with enough time to take a quick rest before exploring the town in search of another great New England dinner.
With the whole day to explore Vermont’s capitol and Lake Champlain, and the forecast for more record-breaking temps, we head straight for the water to hike along the lake. The trail was leafy in spots and beachy in others and we especially enjoyed the prevailing breeze off the water. It felt so good to stretch our legs after clocking so many hours in the car that we spent more time hiking than we’d originally planned. According to my Fitbit, we walked a total of nine miles this day, though not all during our morning sojourn. After our hike, we found a local coop for picnic sandwiches and opted to eat in the air-conditioned cafe since it was hot away from the lake, again pushing ninety degrees.
Linda and our guidebook recommend the Shelburne Museum just a few miles up the road for an afternoon excursion.
To call this forty-five acre property a museum seems misleading. It’s more like many museums spread out across the rolling hillside. There are thirty-nine buildings, twenty-five of which have been moved to the site, along with an old steamship, The Ticonderoga, which is dry docked on the lawn. The buildings are filled with a mind-boggling variety of art, Americana and collections. The guidebook tells me that its founder and brainchild was Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) who inherited a large collection of French Impressionist paintings from her mother and then got interested in collecting collections. Part of Webb’s inherited fine art collection is housed here on site in a Greek Revival building. This collection is extensive and includes paintings by Monet, Manet, Courbet and Mary Cassatt. Also notable is that the interior of this building is an exact reproduction of Webb’s Manhattan apartment which her children built as a memorial to their mother after her death. Weird, right?
One building housed the museum’s extensive permanent quilt collection along with a special show of Amish quilts. They were gorgeous—detailed and colorful. My favorite was a predominantly yellow quilt made by a ninety-one year old woman as a wedding gift for her granddaughter.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the Ticonderoga. In this heat, I wished I’d been on the water instead of on the lawn and that the ship’s the dining room, all period china and crystal, had been serving cold beverages. We made due with cold bottled water from the gift shop after taking in the Sweet Tooth exhibit—paintings and sculpture, photographic art and video installations all on the subject of dessert. My favorite was this one featuring twinkies.
With only two hours to spend in this amazing place, we experienced only a small sampling of everything offered. That said, we saw some fabulous impressionist paintings, western art and all kinds of beautiful pieces.
Museum docents waved us out when they closed the doors at 5:00 and we headed straight for the local ice cream shop for happy hour craving something sweet after drooling over the desserts depicted in so many delicious formats.
If you go, plan to spend at least half a day here, or maybe two, to do it justice.
After a great night in Lenox including an amazing dinner of duck breast in salted caramel sauce (right?) at the Alta Bistro and a comfy bed at the Birchwood Inn, we take a brief sojourn to the Norman Rockwell Museum. I’m not expecting much but the setting is gorgeous (miles of rolling hills) and there’s a special exhibit of Andy Warhol with Norman Rockwell. The juxtaposition of these two artists surprises me. They are contemporaries after all and more than once chose the same subjects: Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe to name just two. There’s also an exhibit of Andy Warhol’s nephew whose illustrations are playful and amusing—several show his family visits to his famous uncle in New York.
But on this trip, the road’s the thing so we hop back into the car for the main event: driving north into Vermont. Our destination for the next two days is Burlington— Vermont’s capitol, it’s largest city and home to the University of Vermont. The drive is again quite beautiful, rolling hills, leaves starting to turn from green to gold and red. It’s still hot and the air conditioning is still on high for this trip. We cross the border into Vermont and I’m struck by the welcoming roadside rest area. There’s green grass and Adirondack chairs and pots of geraniums still in bloom. I feel welcomed.
We arrive in Burlington and pull into the long driveway of an old Victorian house perched high on the hill up from Lake Champlain and several blocks from the center of town. This is Made Inn Vermont, the B & B where we have a booked a room for two nights. Our hostess greets us in the driveway with hands on hips and a huge smile like we’re her long lost friends. She doesn’t look like your average B & B proprietor. She’s dressed in a tight plunging black top over black pants, her black hair touches her shoulders and her red lipstick accentuates her clear pale skin. She is still beautiful and knows it. Her name is Linda and she’s excited to give us the tour of her old Victorian house. It really is something else—a kind of retro sixties throw back kind of place. There are old rock and roll posters, lots of vinyl records in the common areas and we hear Billy Joel’s upbeat piano plinking from the speakers. Old guitars line the hallways and fill the nooks. Linda shows us the hot tub in the back off the kitchen while offering to make us margaritas, pour us an ice cold local beer or glass of wine while her guy takes our bags up the stairs to our room. As it’s still ninety degrees in the shade, I go for the margarita and my husband takes a beer.
The room is ridiculous and fun, all done up in black and white with red heart-shaped balloons on either side of the bed. The opposite wall is one huge blackboard filled with graffiti. Linda flips a switch and the platform of the bed lights up like a lava lamp. The desk looks like any other hotel desk until Linda opens the top to reveal the turntable. My husband is already flipping through the vinyl records in here while Linda gives us the rest of the information we need: breakfast between nine and ten, cupola up the stairs with great views of the lake and the bathroom across the hall is ours alone. She gives us the keys and leaves us alone to take a deep breath and consider whether we’ve just booked the best place ever, or whether we’ll regret this in the morning. But the bed is comfortable and the margarita is delicious and the room is coolly air-conditioned. It’s a good place.
Later, we walk down the hill to a wide pedestrian mall filled with white lights hanging in the trees and restaurants on either side, all with outdoor seating. We find an Italian place and have pizza and cold Pinot Grigio with a Caesar salad. We are happy tourists.
Here I am in the Northeast for a little Autumn road trip—what the locals call “leaf peeping.” We’re starting out in Boston and then taking a loop route across Massachusetts to Lenox, up to Burlington, Vermont, over to North Conway and the White Mountains in New Hampshire and then back to Boston for some good food and museums and quality family time. Late September proves to be a little early for the primo Fall colors and the Northeast is suffering from record heat which means I’m happy to be in an air conditioned car for the few hours we’re driving each day. That said, I’m loving this part of the world. It’s beautiful!
Our first stop out of Boston and off the beaten path is The Book Mill, a great used bookstore near Montague, Massachusetts. The old mill here has been transformed into a bookstore, an art store and a music store. There is also a cafe with seating along the river. It’s a record-breaking eighty-nine degrees when we arrive so we find a shady spot away from the river instead and are happy to sit and sip something cold. The local beers offered make my mouth water but we have more driving to do so we opt for the lemonade instead, along with a brie and apple Panini. While I wait for my sandwich to be prepared, I browse the book shop and see several books that I love featured on one shelf. I feel at home. I’m disappointed to leave without a new book and also pleased with my restraint. Lugging my bag up three flights of stairs in our Jamaica Plain, Boston Air BnB taught me something about packing light which I’m hoping to remember next time.
Our next stop and where we’ll spend the night is Lenox—famous for the Tanglewood Music Festival. In the summer the streets are jammed with tourists and the inns are crowded. In late September though, it is quiet and peaceful. Our first stop is The Mount, Edith Wharton’s summer home. I love poking around famous authors’ homes to see how they lived and maybe hear a story or two about how they wrote. I’m not disappointed. We take a guided tour of the house and I love how light-filled and open it feels. There are a lot of fabulous French touches—large Palladian windows and with brass knobs imported from France, high ceilings and light colors. I’m reminded by our guide that Wharton did not have a very happy marriage. Her husband suffered from mental illness(probably bi-polar disease) which meant that he did not treat her well. Wharton had one long-time close male friend whom she described as “the love of her life” and whose letters she destroyed after his death. I’m hoping that was happy. She also had a passionate affair with a man who turned out to be a notorious philanderer. But enough about that. What about her writing?
According to our guide, Edith Wharton got up around eight in the morning and spent three hours or so writing on a lap desk in her bed. Instead of piling pages up on her pillow or nightstand, Wharton let each page float to the floor so the ink would dry. Once she finished writing and while she got dressed and had breakfast, her secretary collected the pages from the floor and typed them up. Nice, right? I doubt that this technique will work for me. Alas. No secretary. And I find it necessary to get dressed before heading to my writing desk. Writing in bed would be weird. I can’t imagine getting anything done.
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the view out Edith Wharton’s bedroom window for inspiration. Maybe I’ll print it for inspiration after I get home. The other tidbit that I learned was that even though the Whartons sent their sons to Yale, Edith was self-taught because, as a girl, formal schooling was not necessary. Sad. She did, apparently, have full access to her father’s extensive library.