Tag Archives: Philip Beard

Book Review: Lost in the Garden by Philip Beard – I love this author!!!

Lost in the Gardenlost in the garden

By Philip Beard

230 pages

Lost in the Garden is a fictional biography written by Michael Benedict, self-proclaimed under achiever. Born into a wealthy family, he goes to law school then works the least possible billable hours to maintain his place in a law firm.

He is married with two daughters, both of whom he adores. Michael and his wife lost a third child and neither of them seem to be coping with the loss, but have settled into a comfortable routine as a family. The girls are in school, leaving more free time for Michael and his wife Kelly to rekindle the romance of their younger days.

Unfortunately, Michael decided he wants to become a pro golfer. Kelly scoffs at the idea because he just isn’t that great of a golfer despite spending most, if not all of his free time at the expensive country club he has grown up in. When Kelly tells him she is pregnant – an absolute surprise to both of them – the couple drifts further apart instead of becoming closer.

I wanted to slap Michael, tell him to put on his big boy boxers and stop whining. Beard is a master of making his characters, both lovable and downright annoying, come alive on the page. It takes a brave or crazy writer to make his main character unlikable. Most could not pull it off. That is not the case with Lost in the Garden. The fact that Michael made awful choices then rationalized them really worked in this book. Maybe men would be able to identify more with him as he hits his mid-life crisis, but women will still like this book. I loved it.

The subplots with his minor characters are just as compelling as the main story, sometimes taking it over for a chapter. The smooth transition back and forth between story lines makes Beard a master storyteller. He gets into the heads of all of his characters, no matter how big or small of a part they play overall. No one is glossed over, which ads a layer of depth not often found in a book that is so readable. I often thought about parts after I’d read them with “ah ha!” moments connecting why one character or the other acted the way they did.

Beard is one of my favorite new authors. He has written three stand alone novels, Dear Zoe is his first, Lost in the Garden is his second and Swing is his latest. They are all different subjects and characters, but all of them are deeply complicated, yet read like the latest best seller. I defy you to put one of his books aside without it calling you back to see what is going to happen next. I am honestly shocked that everyone who reads doesn’t have at least one of his books on their shelf. The only reason I don’t right now is I’ve loaned my copies out to friends, who then have loaned them out to friends….if you love a book or an author, share them!

In case you can’t decide which one to read first, here are the links to my reviews of his other novels:

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/book-review-dear-zoe-by-philip-beard-heart-breaking-but-beautiful-novel/

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/book-review-swing-by-phillip-beard-a-grand-slam-must-read/

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, books, Philip Beard, Writer & Book Reviewer

Book Review: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard – Heart-Breaking But Beautiful Novel

Dear ZoeDear Zoe

By Philip Beard

196 pages

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in U.S. history. Tess’ three-year-old sister Zoe died that day, just as countless others did. Many died in the terrorist attack, but others like Zoe died in other places where the magnitude of their death only devastated a family, not a nation. But each and every one are tragedies nonetheless.

In Dear Zoe, fifteen-year-old Tess begins to write a letter to the little sister who will never read it. She tells Zoe little things about her life that she may have told her when she got older. Like how they decided as a family to name her Zoe. She also tells her about how the family she left is coping with the hole left in their lives when Zoe died.

Tess is actually Zoe’s step-sister. Her mom and step-father married when Tess was young, after her mom divorced her real dad, who still plays a part in Tess’ life. He isn’t necessarily a bad person, but is more of a dreamer and sometimes a schemer who always finds a reason not to work.

David, Tess’ step-father, is a hard working family man who loves her. He didn’t really know much about being a father, but got better at it as the family grew with two more daughters, Emily and Zoe. Tess always thought of Em and Zoe as her sisters, never “half” or “step”, loving them both with her whole heart.

After Zoe’s accident the little family imploded. The only one that seemed to be “normal” was Em. The seven-year-old has always been wise beyond her years, but losing the little sister she adored and watching the rest of her fragile family float away from her was way too much for a first grader to handle.

This book is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. The underlying sadness of Zoe’s death mixed with the joy she brought to the family in her three short years is heart-breakingly beautiful. Now Tess has to grow up fast and could easily take the wrong path when it is practically dropped in her lap.

Em is the one that broke my heart. She was so lost without anyone to tell her life would be ok I wanted to bring her home to keep her safe until her family was well enough to do it themselves. Em made me cry more than once as she watched her family disengage from the life she knew and she was too small to get it back.

Beard is an extraordinary author. He creates characters that are so well developed they don’t just seem real; they ARE real to the reader. Tess grows up in the year it takes her to write this love letter to Zoe, and it is not without pain. We are swept along through her loss of innocence, hoping she will make it through this personal journey without too many scars.

This is Beard’s first book, and has since written two more, Lost in the Garden and Swing. I’ve read Swing and plan to order Lost in the Garden today. It is rare to find an author that can write in so many different voices and make all of them come to life. The stories he tells are rich and full, giving the reader enough details to pull you into the world he has created with his words without a hint of slowing the flow of the intricately beautiful plot.

I read a lot of books. Only a handful of authors amaze me. Philip Beard is one of them.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under 9/11, Book Review, coming of age, coping, debut novel, family, Philip Beard

Book Review: Swing by Philip Beard – A Grand Slam Must Read!

Swing    Swing

By Philip Beard

317 pages

Eleven- year-old Henry Graham has a lot to learn about life. What he knows for sure is his father moved out, his mom was unhappy and the 1971 Pirates are heading for a pennant race. What he doesn’t know is how long his father will be gone, how his family will cope with the hole left in their lives  or if his beloved Pirates will win or lose the series.

Determined not to lose everything that makes his live normal, Henry decides to skip school to go to a Pirates’ game alone.  He takes the tickets that his father left behind, hops a bus and meets John Kostka. John will affect Henry’s life for years to come.

John is a man with many problems of his own, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching out to a child who seems adrift. Henry’s mother tries her best to make things as normal for Henry and his sisters Sam and Ruthie after her husband “… had gone to start a new life with one of his students”.

Sam has grown from a promiscuous teen to a bitter adult. Ruthie is failing physically but has reconciled her past and enjoys her future, no matter what it brings. Henry has demons and is at a crossroad in his life that will either enable him to go forward or slip into his family history of past mistakes.

Now married with children, Henry is working as a professor like his father did many years ago.  His life is good, but not perfect. He is up for review and may lose his job and his wife Maggie battled breast cancer and is still fighting the demons it left behind. His children have issues that they may or may not grow out of, only time will tell.

At first, I thought Beard named his book Swing because it is about baseball. Then I thought it was because John has no legs and instead of walking, he swings his torso after putting his hands on the ground to move. Then I thought maybe Swing was named for the way life is going along and all of the sudden decisions pop up that make you go back and forth like a pendulum hoping to choose the right thing to do. Or maybe it is about how your life can Swing out of control in an instant and you can go with it or fight the force of nature. Swing is all of these and more.

Beard uses every word to drive the reader toward the crossroads in his character’s lives that everyone experiences in some shape or form. On the surface this book is one of a legless man becoming a father figure to a little boy who desperately needs one, but doesn’t realize it.  The impact on young Henry and his family is pivotal. Grown-up Henry has a less than perfect life, just like most of us, yet he has learned from John that life goes on even when you think you’ve lost everything. It will be different, but can be just as rich and full.

Subtle nuances woven in tell as much about the story as the main plot. Franny the dog is so real, I see her in my aging Labrador. I held my breath when she had trouble walking, praying that on the next page Franny would slowing rise and lumber home with Henry.

Swing is one of the most compelling novels I have ever read. Beard masterfully pulls the reader into the life of Henry, both as a child and man. The depth of his characters gave them life from the very first page.  I could not put this book down. I took it to work to read on lunch and break, putting my headphones in so people would think I was listening to music so they wouldn’t interrupt me. I cooked dinner with it in one hand and read late into the night.

I like a lot of books for a lot of different reasons. I loved Swing because it was so real I felt I knew Henry and his family by the end of the book. I rejoiced in their victories, felt pain in their sadness and identified with the fact that during your life bad things happen. It is how you cope that matters. Swing deals with heavy issues but is easy to read. After reading it, I realized all of the subtle nuances that affected the story that another author may not have used with the mastery of this one. This allows the reader to think about Swing long after finishing the book.

This is Beard’s third book, and I already have the other two in my queue to read. I suggest you visit your bookstore, download or go to your library to get Swing and read it right now – or at least this summer. Beard has a note at the end “In memory of both the service and daily bravery of Sgt. Kenneth Kocher”. Take time to search out Sgt. Kocher’s Facebook page, to read about the person the character of John is based upon.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under baseball, Book Review, family, Philip Beard, Pirates