Puck Beck lives with his parents, grandmother and eight siblings in an overcrowded house on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron.
In “North Hill,” an insightful novel by University of Akron alumnus William Zink, Puck sleeps on a thin mattress in the attic with four of his five brothers, while a sixth sleeps in a Volkswagen bus. broken down in the driveway, just to get some air and privacy.
Set possibly in 1967 (Puck’s sisters listen to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), the episodic novel is in Puck’s voice as his family struggles to make do with the income from his father’s auto garage. Breakfast is oatmeal with powdered milk, sometimes accompanied by celery. The boys work tirelessly to maintain the house and help the elderly neighbours.
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Puck has a complicated relationship with two girls. On one side live the Del Rosas, whose voluptuous daughter Teresa stokes the libido of every North Hill boy. On the other side lives Buzzy, whose real name is Sandy. She doesn’t look like Teresa and has a deeply troubled home life, but Puck is drawn to her penetrating intellect.
Puck’s father uses a wheelchair because of the effects of polio, and each night one of his oldest sons carries him upstairs to bed. He is in agony from burns and third-degree fractures. Puck also suffers; he prays for his father’s legs to heal and tries to negotiate with Jesus. His prayers are unanswered; his father’s partner cleans up the accounts and leaves town. Now there’s also oatmeal for dinner.
The book is rich in time and place detail as the boys cross the viaduct and picnic in the gorge. A group of hippies show up at a family farm and talk about “vibrant, cosmic truths” in San Francisco. Brother Tommy goes to Vietnam.
“North Hill” is the twelfth book by William Zink; “Ohio River Dialogues” was a finalist for the 2008 Ohioana Book Award in Fiction.
“North Hill” (296 pages, softcover) costs $15 from Sugar Loaf Press. William Zink will sign “North Hill” from 4-7 p.m. Saturday at Trust Books, 1884 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls.
‘Moon of blood’
While readers wait for the 14th book of Linda CastilloThe series about a small town in Holmes County, “Blood Moon”, an online story, will satisfy.
It takes place on a single warm night, with fog “as thick as peanut butter”. An Amish farmer is returning home when his horse is startled by a noise coming from the side of the road. The farmer is ejected from his buggy and, in the darkness, sees a figure rushing towards him. It makes terrifying noises and attacks the man.
Burkholder is awakened and called to the scene. The farmer describes the animal as a bear, but Burkholder is skeptical and there are no bear tracks to be found. Within hours there are two more sightings, and one of the witnesses brings up the “Spuk Butzeman”, the haunted scarecrow, a figure in Amish folklore who guards the fields by day and turns into a wild animal at night. Another witness simply describes “a monster”.
As no one is seriously injured, there is ample opportunity for jokes and puns about the identity of the mysterious beast and to further the relationship between Burkholder and her fiancé, the Bureau of Ohio Investigations, John Tomasetti.
“Blood Moon” costs $1.99 for the Kindle (2,713 KB) and Nook (5 MB). Linda Castillo grew up in Darke County and now lives in Texas. “The Hidden One,” her next full-length Painters Mill novel, will be out in July, and she’ll be making several local appearances.
“Skunk’s Spa Day”
Skunk are the common characters in three rhyming storybooks by Akron resident Michelle Fremon.
In “Skunk’s Spa Day”, Madeline tells her cat that it’s time to go to the grooming salon, but the contrary cat has other ideas. She lures Stanley the skunk with cheese and while he’s busy, paints on his skunk stripe. But the joke is on her – Stanley is having a great time at the pet spa, coming back refreshed, smelling great and with a new toy.
“Scotty Skunk’s Secret” is that he and his family are homeless, which his friend Stanley learns when he and his mother serve lunch at the soup kitchen. Stanley’s family and their neighbors are helpful and welcoming.
Madeline returns in “The Skunk That Lives Down the Street”, as she encounters various outdoor animals while walking her dog. At first she is disgusted, but then she realizes that everyone has something to contribute.
“Spa,” “Secret” (each 32 pages), and “Street” (37 pages) retail for $10.99 in softcover at online retailers. The books are illustrated by Micaela Stefano.
Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): Colby Smith signs his horror novel “The Ironic Skeletons,” 1 p.m. Sunday; Michelle Herman signs her novel “Close-Up”, Sunday at 2 p.m. Dan Chaon signs his formidable and darkly funny novel “Sleep Walk”, presented in the Book Talk of May 22, Friday at 7 p.m.
Cuyahoga County Public Library: Jack E. Davis talks about “The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird,” during a Zoom event from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday. From 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, Patrick Girondi talks about his memoirs “Vol du Rondone: Dropping out of school VS Big Pharma: The fight to save my son’s life; 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Mark Kurlansky discusses his memoir “The Importance of Not Being Ernest: My Life with the Uninvited Hemingway.” Sign up at cuyahogalibrary.org.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Ellet Branch, 2470 E. Market St.): Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp talk about their teen fantasy series “Doon,” 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at akronlibrary.org.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Bay Village Branch, 27400 Wolf Road): Bette Lou Higgins talks about “Cleveland’s Lost Restaurants,” Wednesday, 2-3 p.m. Sign up at cuyahogalibrary.org.
Visible voice books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): Poet Pauletta Hansel reads excerpts from her work, including “Heartbreak Tree,” with Lucas County Poet Laureate Jonie McIntire (“Semidomesticated”) and John Burroughs, Ohio’s 2019-2021 Beat Poet Laureate (“You Can’t Trust Him to Stay”), 7 p.m. Thursday. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Andrew Farkas debuts “The Great Indoorsman.”
Bookstore of the learned owl (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Anthony Miano signs his Trojan War set “The Changing of the Gods,” Saturday, 1-3 p.m.
Reed Memorial Library (167 E. Main St., Ravenna): Jay Brakenrich, author of the Civil War novel “Greenbriar”, Janet Fox, author of the Portage County “Desperate Horse Wives” trilogy, and Sandy Engle, whose “Nature’s Miracles ” is an environmental-themed novel, talk and sign their work from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Register at reedlibrary.libnet.info/home.
Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library (Coventry Village Branch, 1925 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Dan Chaon signs “Sleep Walk,” 2-3 p.m. Saturday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Chagrin Falls Branch, 100 E. Orange St.): Trisha K. Campbell, author of “Eight Was Enough: A God-led Adventure with Adopted and Special-Beeds Kids,” presents “Parenting: The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Amour”, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Sign up at cuyahogalibrary.org.
B Side Liquor Lounge (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights): Poets Jeanne Bryner, Paulette Hansel and Jeremy Jusek read their works, 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday.
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