A surprisingly winning long-distance love story.


Encountering God


The story of a Christian relationship, revealed in a series of letters.

Johnson’s account of his parents’ courtship and marriage opens by characterizing it as “a look into the life of two western farming communities in the late 1930s as seen through the eyes of two evangelical Swedish-Lutherans,” which might strike many readers as unpromising material for a gripping story. But through judicious quotations from his parents’ letters, couched in his own contextualization and observations, Johnson manages to create a quietly captivating picture of two deeply religious people gradually learning about each other. Walter was a farmer in Colorado, and Margaret was choral director and English teacher in North Dakota, and the initial spark of chemistry between them when they met at a church outing prompted the correspondence. Letter writing didn’t come easily to Walter, who confessed up front, “I do not know how to start one, I have trouble finishing them and I do not know what to put in between.” Margaret comes across as a more forceful character from the start, and their letters are full of topical references (as when Walter talks about freedom: “Our nation fought the revolutionary war to gain religious and political freedom. We fought to free the slaves from their bondage. Theodore Roosevelt fought to free us from the bondage of great trusts being organized at that time”) as well as abundant quotations from Scripture. The biblical quotations never feel forced or browbeating; rather, they convey a remarkably delicate impression of two strong-willed and very different personalities, growing steadily in affection for each other. Johnson smoothly fleshes out this epistolary skeleton with his own theological observations. These interjections (such as, “Helplessness and hopelessness naturally follow when we focus on the failures of others and concentrate on causes that we can do nothing about”) could easily have felt like interruptions, but Johnson makes them work, and the result is a moving glimpse into a very different time and place.

A surprisingly winning long-distance love story.

Pub Date: June 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941733-33-2

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Living Parables, Incorporated

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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