A Few
Reviews for Harkening

Permission has been granted by these reviewers to reprint the reviews on your blog, Web site or other media. Please credit the reviewer, and--when the information is available--the original publishing journal.

Read a story from Harkening
See the Contents page of Harkening

Carolyn's first person essay, "Beating Time at Its Own Game."

Return to Carolyn's Literary Works page.


From Amazon's Reviews

"as evocative as music," November 24, 2002 (Copyright 2001)

 

Reviewer: Mary Ann Mitchell from Santa Monica, CA USA

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's, "Harkening," is as evocative as music. She uses words like an invocation, calling the past into the present so vividly that the memory is more alive and true in its re-visioning than it ever was in the living.

In her story, "Summerville," for example, she describes and recaptures each moment with an innocence that only a nine year old could know, but with the poetry and wisdom that no nine year old could ever articulate.

In, "Grandma's Slip," one of my favorites, she captures the reader in a moment so transparent and exquisite it's painful, as only love can be. The moment when a great-grandmother, a grandmother, and a grandson, for one instant, can see through their generational differences and touch that "soft" something that connects them, that connects us all. ""Beautiful," she said, her voice soft like the tissue that had whispered like water." And all three of them are lifted, in that moment, into that beauty, and the reader is lifted along with them.

The whole book is about what bridges those gaps that separate us from each other and our world. Those gaps of age, gender, religion, time and place. Carolyn Howard-Johnson weaves them all together with her words, as perfectly as Mom Bertie sews together her quilts. "Harkening" is an act of redemption, bringing the past into the present and making it whole.


Reviewed by Rolf Gompertz
UCLA Extension Instructor

HARKENING: A Collection of Stories Remembered
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Reviewed by Rolf Gompertz (Copyright 2001)
Author of  Abraham, The Dreamer/
An Erotic and Sacred Love Story
and retired NBC executive


What is harkening?  According to the dictionary, harkening means:  to listen attentively; to give heed.

It is what Carolyn Howard-Johnson has done.  She has harkened to the experiences of her life.  She has harkened to the individuals who have peopled her life.  She has harkened to her heart, mind, soul -- her inner voice.  And she wants us to harken, so that through her stories, we may recognize their truth and find our truth in our own stories.

Howard-Johnson has written a most extraordinary book.  "HARKENING:  A Collection of Stories Remembered" is neither fact nor fiction, but reality, HER reality.

"This book," she explains in her Introduction, "is made from my own memories and the harkenings of others.  I liken the process of recording them to a child who listens to adult conversation with nuances that she doesn't quite understand; she must fill out the meaning with her own experiences."

The author asks, "Isn't a writer's truth more truthful than fact?"  She calls her stories, "creative nonfiction."

Her stories resonate within our own hearts with their truth.  They speak to us, even before we read them, by their titles alone:  Legacy, Mama's Depression, The Message, Child's Play, Neighbors, Summerville, The Music Lesson, What Isn't Lavender, Milk Glass, Portrait of Sisters, Remembering Winter, Gunnison, Through a Window, Grandmother's Slip, Ski School, House of Neglect, A Different Generation.

Like each one of us, Howard-Johnson wants to know how she came to be who she is.  She looks to past and present relationships with various family members, going back generations; to encounters with friends and strangers; to moments with her husband, children and grandchildren.

The author travels back and forth in time and place - to Utah where she was born and raised, to the Los Angeles area, where she lives now, and to  other places that have figured in her life.

Though connected, each story also stands alone.  In each case, Howard-Johnson goes in search of the truth that lies at the heart of some person, some encounter, some experience.  She uncovers layer upon layer and plummets secrets,  until she arrives at some precious gem of truth.

Howard-Johnson is a remarkable writer and a fine story-teller  Her stories are as simple as her language - deceptively simple. Every word has been carefully chosen and every story is a polished gem.  Some books can be scanned, others can be devoured.  "Harkening" should be read word for word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter.  It should be read leisurely.  To do so is to rediscover the all but
forgotten pleasure of reading.

Howard-Johnson writes with eloquent journalistic clarity, economy and simplicity.   She knows how to capture the essence of things in a few telling sentences:

'LEGACY': 
"I must write this story because Mom-Bertie expects
it of me.  It is not really my story.  It is not really my
mother's either.  It is her mother's story.  And her mother
before that.  In a way, it belongs to us all, though it may not
even be entirely fact."

'THE MESSAGE':  "I learned about life and death in another
time, another place.  I remember it almost as vividly as if it
were yesterday."

'PORTRAIT OF SISTERS':  "A generation is the great divide.
There was almost twenty years between Bertie and Trisha.  Bertie
was married and gone from the house soon after the younger
sister was born.  So when Trisha found a Kraft-colored box while
helping the older one clean out closets, it was an opportunity
for closing the gap."

'REMEMBERING WINTER':  "Winters in Utah can be bitter."

'GUNNISON':  The Main Street of Gunnison is Highway 89.  It is
still marked "Main Street" on the street signs and "Highway 89"
on the map but it is really no longer a main street and
certainly no longer a highway."

'A DIFFERENT GENERATION':  "I once said that I never wanted to
live my mother's life.  Yet somehow I keep trying to do just
that."

Howard-Johnson has an uncanny eye and ear for tell-tale facts,
definitive feelings and penetrating remarks.  Like an artist,
selecting the right color, she finds the fitting word, the
striking image, the memorable phrase:

'CHILD'S PLAY': "The mountain dominated the view from my
window.  In the winter, I would peek out through the panes
crusted with sparkling white geometry against a sky the color of
newsreel battleships."

'THE MUSIC LESSON':  "The road to grandma's house wound like
unspooled thread along the base of Mount Olympus.  It followed
the feminine contours of the foothills, jumped a creek when
necessary, ran a route that traced the boundaries of old farms
and homesteads."

'REMEMBERING WINTER':  "The shirred wind sharpened my reaction,
left my eyes bare to forgotten memories…
"The children in the schoolyard looked like children from a
remote decade.  No color.  A black and white film.  The wind
blew their voices away from me."

'THROUGH A WINDOW':  "Thoughts move about, like the breeze in
the room."

'SKI SCHOOL':  "Her eyes were both filmy and bright like star
sapphires.  They looked as if they knew more now than when they
could see. Her body was like a snap bean, all the seeds and
organs of life evident under the skin."

What is most extraordinary about "HARKENING:  A Collection of Stories Remembered" is that the author shows us that the seemingly ordinary moments and events of our lives are anything but ordinary. She shows us that they contain kernels of deep meaning and profound truth -- if we allow them to speak to us, and if we will harken with courage, honesty and love.

"HARKENING:  A Collection of Stories Remembered," by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is a profoundly meaningful and enjoyable book written by a skilled, honest, extraordinary writer and story-teller.

--------
Rolf Gompertz is the author of eight books, including, "Abraham, The Dreamer/An Erotic and Sacred Love Story," a provocative, biblical novel about Abraham, his wife, Sarah, and "the other woman," Hagar.


Buy Links for Carolyn's Books

Great Fiction
Purchase THIS IS THE PLACE
and
HARKENING at Amazon in their new and used feature.
Both of these books are out of print. They are available only on Amazon's New and Used feature for about $1.

Great Poetry
Purchase TRACINGS (Finishing Line Press) at Amazon.
IMPERFECT ECHOES: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters,
lie and oppression with Small

Give the gift of poetry with a chapbook from Magdalena Ball's
and
My Celebration Series

CHERISHED PULSE: Unconventional Love Poetry
IMAGINING THE FUTURE: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions
SHE WORE EMERALD THEN: Reflections on Motherhood
BLOOMING RED: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
DEEPER INTO THE POND: Celebration of Femininity
SUBLIME PLANET: Celebrating Earth and the Universe
 

HowToDoItFrugally Series for Writers
Purchase THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER,
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GREAT FIRST-IMPRESSION BOOK PROPOSALS
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 "Careers that are not fed die as readily
as any living organism given no sustenance." 
~
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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Reading Suggestion Tip

Several of the stories in Harkening are set in Utah and explore the corrosive nature of intolerance. Readers may enjoy the lists of related  movies, plays and other literature I've put together on my tolerance page.


Carolyn's Awards

Awards for Carolyn's Books, Blogs and More

The New Book Review
Named to
Master's in English.org Online Universities'

101 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites
for
Sharing with Writers blog.

 


Best Book Award for The Frugal Book Promoter (2004) and The Frugal Editor (2008) and the Second Edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (2011).

 

Reader Views Literary Award for The Frugal Editor

New Generation Award for Marketing and Finalist for The Frugal Editor

Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award

Military Writers Award of Excellence for
Tracings, A Chapbook of Poetry.


A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotion wins author Military Writers Society of America's Author of the Month award for March, 2010

 

Gold Medal Award from Military Writers Society of America, 2010. MWSA also gave a nod to She Wore Emerald Then, a chapbook of poetry honoring mothers.

The Frugal Editor Named #! on Top Ten Editing Books list.

Finalist New Generation Book Awards 2012, The Frugal Book Promoter; Finalist 2010 The Frugal Editor;
Winner 2010 Marketing Campaign for the Frugal Editor


The Oxford Award
recognizes
the alumna who exemplifies the Delta Gamma precept of service to her community and who, through the years, devotes her talents to improve the quality of life around her.

The Frugal Book Promoter is runner-up in the how-to category for the Los Angeles Book Festival 2012 awards.

Glendale City Seal
Winner Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts
Glendale California's Arts and Culture Commission and the City of Glendale Library,
2013

And more than a dozen other awards for Carolyn's novel, short story collection and poetry. See the awards page on this site.


Published Works Almanac


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Proud to be Instrumental in Helping Other Poets

Poetry Mystique: A modern text edited by Suzanne Lummis with commentary from the editor.

Poems by selected students from Suzanne's many poetry classes.

 


Writing Tip

Passive construction has gotten a bad wrap. We obviously have it in the English language because it serves a purpose. There are times when passive can work for an author. An example of that is in an excerpt of This Is the Place where I wanted to slow down the prose, wanted to make readers feel as if they were stepping back to the 50 and even farther, to the 1800s. Find an example of how I used it in an excerpt from that novel. Learn about other ways writers  can use it to their advantage in my The Frugal Editor.

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