BOOK REVIEW: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
by Susan Gregg Gilmore

It’s the early 1970s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia, has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. The daughter of Ringgold’s third-generation Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a little stubborn, and dying to escape her small-town life. As a series of extraordinary events alter her perspective and sweeping changes come to Ringgold itself Catherine Grace begins to wonder if her place in the world may actually be, against all odds, right where she began.

This book felt like comfort food – good narrative, interesting characters, classic coming-of-age story. That Dairy Queen and Dilly Bars served as touchstones for the main character – and for the reader – was a sweet addition. When all else fails, or seems to fail, there are places we can go to remind us of home and family and love. Comfort, indeed. My favorite character was Eddie Franklin, behind-the-counter guru serving up unexpected wisdom…with a twist and some chocolate dip. — Jen Payne

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortalists


The Immortalists
by Chloe Benjamin

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

While a bit predictable, the premise of this book is interesting, and you are certainly set-up for a good story from the very early pages. It wanders off a few times, puts you in some compromising positions with the characters, and trips on itself here and there, but overall it offered a new take on an old question and several distinct answers. — Jen Payne


Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe
by Dawn Tripp

A novel about the life of American master painter Georgia O’Keeffe, her love story with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and her quest to come of age as a woman. In this novel of a couple, and of passion, betrayal, and art, Georgia comes alive as never before. By the writer whose work Edna O’Brien called “shimmering, audacious.”

Georgia O’Keeffe is a young woman, painting and teaching art in Texas, when she travels to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz, the married gallery owner of 291, modern art promoter, and photographer. Their instantaneous attraction and powerful hunger for each other draw her into his world of art, sex, and passion, and she becomes his mistress and his muse. As their relationship develops, so does Georgia’s place in the art world, but she becomes trapped in her role as the subject of Stieglitz’s infamous nude photographs of her; the critics cannot envision her as her own being. As her own artistic fervor begins to push the boundaries of her life, we see Georgia transform into the powerfully independent woman she is known as today.

The vibrant cover of this novel and its promise to bring O’Keeffe’s quest to become an independent artist vividly to life drew me in, and I was excited to open to the first page. But for some reason, my initial excitement turned slowly to ennui, flipping page by page as if I’d lost something. The story of O’Keeffe is fascinating, but I guess I just expected more than Stieglitz, Stieglitz, Stieglitz. A good-enough read which, if nothing else, leaves me wanting to read more about the artist and her creative efforts. — Jen Payne

Find Evidence of Flossing and Explore Our Divine Connection with Nature

Every day, we are reminded of our direct effect on the world around us—the Pacific island of garbage twice the size of Texas, the billions of plastic water bottles thrown out each year, the millions of sea birds and marine mammals killed by our collective debris. But there is a great disconnect: we hear about the problems, we can understand the implications for us and for Earth, but we still consume and discard flagrantly. Our daily habits, our conveniences, our latest and greatest products defy any regard for our legacy on this magnificent planet.

Naturalist and poet Jen Payne responds to this conundrum with a heartfelt and heady collection of writing in Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Mary Oliver, she helps us explore how our human condition can be healed by rediscovering our divine connection with nature.

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Professor Peter Raymond says “The collection of writings and photographs powerfully remind us of our role as stewards and the positive impact we can make on the world around us.”

This curious, full-color book includes 75 poems that are underscored by an absurd and heartbreaking assortment of original and vintage photographs, including a series of discarded dental flossers that prompted the title of the book.

No matter your faith or following, Evidence of Flossing speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It is, as National Public Radio contributor David Berner writes, “an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world…God, nature, and ourselves.”

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind follows on the heels of Payne’s 2014 well-received book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness and continues a dialogue about our innate and spiritual connection with nature.

Jen Payne lives and works in Connecticut. She is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, and a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association. Her writing has been featured in several art installations and published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

For more information or to order books, please visit the Three Chairs Publishing website, Books may also be purchase through online and independent booksellers.

Jen Payne is available for book readings, book signings, or small discussion groups featuring poems from Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, essays from LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, or a combination of both. Please contact us for more information or to schedule an event today!

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind.
Purchase a signed copy today!