Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mary Trimble Reviews Lucy Shook's Letters From Afghanistan

I don't know if you remember me blogging about my July 4th experience this year, manning the booth for SWAN. My job was to talk with people about this humanitarian outreach organization that gives microloans to poor women in Bolivia and sell books. One hundred per cent of the proceeds from Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan and a portion of each copy of Counting the Cost go to SWAN, so I was vigorously hawking them.

Next to my spot was a table of local authors selling their books. I got acquainted and was delighted when they dropped by my booth. One of them, Mary Trimble, bought Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan. A former Peace Corps volunteer, her heart is definitely in outreach to developing countries.

Mary and I found we had another common interest: writing about high desert and ranching. Her books Rosemount and McClellan's Bluff are about a young woman who lives on a ranch in the Northwest.

Mary has a great blog. I got permission to post her review of Letters here, but I hope you'll visit her blog to see what else she has written about. Today she has a great article about emergency preparedness kits.

Here is Mary's Trimble's posting about the book she bought at my booth on July 4:

Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan
, edited by Shook’s daughter Liz Adair and granddaughters Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, is an amazing chronicle of an American woman’s view of Afghanistan from 1965 to 1970.

Serving with the United States’ Agency for International Development, Lucy’s husband, Jim, works in agricultural development while Lucy oversees their life in an Islamic country she describes as "2,000 years behind the times."

Shook soon finds that running a home staffed with servants isn’t fully utilizing her capabilities and she takes on the responsibility of a Staff House, a respite for visitors. Along the way, she becomes involved in the lives of those who work for her. She endears herself to these hard-working people of grinding poverty, people who are capable of such love and dedication that she is often moved to tears.

In the course of business or pleasure, the Shooks travel throughout Afghanistan, taking the reader along on camel rides, desert markets, and the oddities of doing business in a third-world country.

Shook successfully manages both her home and the Staff House and becomes known as an expert hostess. Indeed, she frequently manages two or three events in a day, often honoring dignitaries with 150 or 200 guests in attendance.

During their tenure in Afghanistan, Lucy suffered a severely broken leg and several environmental illnesses; Jim recovered from a heart attack and also had sundry illnesses. But they forged on, bolstered by their strong Mormon faith, relying on the love for family, and gathering strength from letters from home.

Shook’s letters to her children reveal great compassion for life and for doing her very best with materials at hand, all with honesty and openness to her own short-comings. Her witty and loving approach to her fellow man endears her not only to those she served, but to her readers as well.

On a personal note, as a former Peace Corps volunteer (1979-1981, The Gambia, West Africa), I appreciated her involvement with the Afghanistan volunteers. Living at the other end of the spectrum, Peace Corps volunteers don’t usually have much in the way of luxuries such as air conditioning, a balanced diet, even opportunities to carry on a conversation in English. Being invited to the Staff House must have seemed like heaven on earth to those volunteers.

Afghanistan has now become a household name, yet I doubt if the people have changed that much since the Shooks lived among them. I highly recommend this book for a look at a country few of us understand; at a people fierce, yet loyal to a degree we seldom see in America. Books can be ordered through
http://www.lettersfromafghanistan.com/ Liz Adair’s website is http://www.lizadair.net/.

Thanks again to Mary Trimble for that review. Don't forgot to trip on over to Mary's blog and get acquainted wih her.

Follow this blog! Click on the 'follow' button on the left sidebar. Remember, I've promised to teach you how to make sopapillas, and I'm going to review Mary Trimble's book McClellan's Bluff soon. You won't want to miss that. Also, it's apple season, and over 30 years ago, an old canner taught me how to can apples for use in pies and apple crisps. It's a simple process, but one I've never read about in books. So...stay tuned!

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