Books in Brief

By Linda Sargent

“A Heartbeat Away”

A Heartbeat Awayby Michael Palmer, St. Martin’s Press ($15.90)


President James Allaire is about to give his second State of the Union address, and as he walks toward the front of the room, shaking hands and greeting well wishers, his adrenaline is high. The evening turns disastrous when a deadly virus is released in the Capitol during the speech. The president immediately locks down the building with 700 government officials inside to prevent the spread of the contagious virus.

Nine months previously, Dr. Griffin Rhodes had been working and overseeing the development of the virus for the United States to help combat terrorism. When five canisters of the virus are stolen from the lab, Rhodes is labeled a terrorist and thrown in jail without a trial. As a domestic terrorist group takes credit for the act, President Allaire arranges for Dr. Rhodes to be transferred from the prison to his old laboratory to find a cure for the virus.

As people begin to die within the Capitol, it becomes a race against time for a cure while battling the people who are aligned against the president.

This story itself will keep you interested, although the book has a few problems with the many twists and turns of the narrative.


“Midwife of the Blue Ridge”

Midwife of the Blue Ridgeby Christine Blevins, Penguin Group USA ($14.00)


Maggie grew up learning the art of midwifery from her mother in Scotland. When she becomes the only survivor of an attack on her village, she is considered cursed and unfit for marriage. Because of her thick black hair, she is soon branded with the name “Black Maggie.”

Despite the sinister connotation of her nickname, Maggie has a gift for medicine and is the only person in her region capable of bringing the art of midwifery to the women of her community. But she longs for more.

When the opportunity arises for her to take a ship to the “colonies” as an indentured servant, she jumps at the chance. Her sense of adventure soon dissipates, however, when she discovers the new world is full of its own challenges.

Faced with a hostile community, Maggie must prove herself all over again with her medicinal talents. She soon earns the respect of many of the men and women in the village, but life is hard. She is tied to her master for five years, and although he is kind and she helps take care of his children and his wife, who is expecting again, she is not used to the hard labor of the frontier.

Living under the threat of Indian raids, treating men with deep gashes from tools and knives, and delivering babies when needed, Maggie soon finds life on the frontier as rewarding as she thought it could be.



“Dreams of Joy”

Dreams of Joyby Lisa See, Random House Publishing Group, ($15.93)


Following in the footsteps of Shanghai Girls, Lisa See continues the story of the relationship between the two sisters, Pearl and May. The novel takes off after Joy finds out that the man whom she thought was her father really wasn’t; that May is her true mother, and that Pearl, whom she thought was her mother, is really her aunt. Reeling from the deception that has been kept from her, Joy flees to Shanghai in 1957 with a romanticized perception of the country to find her birth father, a renowned Chinese artist.

Arriving in Shanghai, she enters the New Society of Red China ambivalent to the dangers in the Communist regime. She finds her father in time to accompany him to the country, where he has been ordered to teach art classes to members of a commune. Joy perceives it as an exciting adventure and is soon helping in the fields, taking care of children, participating in the art classes, and doing whatever is necessary for the good of the people.

Pearl is devastated to find out that Joy has gone to find her father, and she is determined to bring her daughter home. She finds employment as a “paper gatherer” on the streets, and after several months, Pearl is reunited with her daughter. She is dismayed that Joy has fallen in love with a young man in the commune, and at Joy’s attitude that life is perfect in China.

A wedding is soon arranged. After her wedding, Joy seems to be unhappy, and things soon spin out of control – crops fail, food in the commune is scarce, and Joy now has a daughter to protect. When her husband’s family decides to kill her child, reality hits and they must escape.

Lisa See has written a quality novel that is hard to put down.



“I’ll Walk  Alone”

I'll Walk Aloneby Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster ($15.49)


Alexandra “Zan” Moreland and her husband were busy career people. When Zan is called to a meeting at short notice, she begs her babysitter to watch their 3-year-old son at the last minute. While in the park, the babysitter falls asleep on a blanket while Matthew sleeps in his stroller beside her. Upon awakening, the babysitter discovers that Matthew has been kidnapped from his stroller.

The tragedy destroys Zan’s marriage; after working through her grief, Zan, an accomplished interior decorator, makes the decision to leave her employer and begin her own business. She is successful in presenting new ideas to clients, and is soon in competition with her former employer.

Her business is on the road to success when strange things begin happening. First, her assistant notices charges to her business credit card for items that were not ordered. When Zan tries to straighten things out, she discovers items of a personal nature have also been charged. It is clearly a case of identity theft.

Zan has submitted a proposal for an apartment complex being built by a successful architect. Before she knows whether she has the job or not, boxes of accessories and rolls of carpet begin arriving at her place of business. Much to her dismay, she cannot return the items. Suddenly, a video surfaces showing her taking her son out of the stroller in the park three years ago. The police become interested in her as a suspect in her own son’s kidnapping, her ex-husband is beginning to accuse her and Zan is starting to second-guess her sanity.

This book is definitely worth the price.

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