Aurora author’s debut novel offers a little slice of paradise
What if you could leave your polar vortex for a tropical island paradise, where the scent of pineapple hangs in the air — indeed, where every incoming traveler receives a pineapple at the customs desk, whether he wants it or not? That is the Island of Oh, the setting of Left at the Mango Tree, an imaginative debut novel by Aurora author Stephanie Siciarz.
Siciarz baits her plot hook early, as her narrator announces, “My name is Almondine and I grew up in black and white.” She means this literally, as she goes on to describe a puzzlement: She is the only white person on the Island of Oh, except for Gustave, the general manager of the pineapple plantation.
Almondine resembles Gustave right down to the teardrop-shaped birthmark on her cheek. Almondine’s mother, Edda, swears she’s been faithful to her husband, who accepts her assurances without question. There’s talk on the island, of course.
Another mystery arises when two acres of pineapples disappear overnight. “Vanished. Evaporated.” The fellows at the hotel bar, Almondine’s de facto uncles, discuss it over pineapple cocktails, one citing a “black magic manifestation.” Edda’s father, Raoul, the customs agent, is determined to solve both mysteries, and will need math and broken glass to do it. Too bad he’ll miss the marimba contest.
Siciarz has a genuine affection for her offbeat characters, especially Raoul and his triad of associates, and the dreamy feeling of the Island of Oh is just what a frozen soul needs.
Left at the Mango Tree (287 pages, softcover) costs $13.99 from Pink Moon Press, the author’s imprint, and is available at online retailers. Stephanie Siciarz is an instructor in the language department at Kent State University, and has worked as a translator in Italy and for government agencies.
‘The Magnificent Monster’
Even at 12 pages, the list of names in the back of The Magnificent Monster seems a little short. Surely in 26 years as Cuyahoga Falls High School’s band director, Bob Feldbush taught thousands of students? But then the book would be several volumes.
Feldbush, who retired in 1985, tells the story of his Tiger band and of his own development as a musician, starting as a saxophone player getting band gigs before he was old enough to drive, and in a dance band at Canton McKinley High School. His education at Kent State University was interrupted by the Korean War and the Naval School of Music.
Feldbush was hired on the spot at Cuyahoga Falls, and describes his innovations in adding a jazz band and the marching program. There are interesting and eyebrow-raising anecdotes about the perils of traveling with dozens of teenagers, including “the trip from hell,” which started with a sick bus driver and continued with a motorcycle gang, a dog bite and Freon inhalation.
Feldbush mentions some of his students who went on to musical success, and his own post-retirement activities, like the Swing Machine jazz band.
The Magnificent Monster (150 pages, softcover) costs $19.99 from www.lulu.com.
A news release announcing Greater Akron: Inventive, Industrious, Inspired by former Akron deputy mayor Dave Lieberth explained that the promotional book was intended as a handout at international trade shows. It also would be a thoughtful gift for a newcomer to the city or a former resident who misses home in “America’s Largest Small Town.”
As the book is co-sponsored by the city of Akron and the Greater Akron Chamber, it’s clear there will be nothing negative here, but it’s a good overview, from Akron’s canal origins to its polymer renown. Sponsors are featured in the front, and almost 40 “Profiles in Excellence” of businesses and organizations in the back.
Its large format qualifies it as a coffee-table book, and it is a nice piece of work.
The art and layout are first-rate. It’s current enough that the former Akron Aeros are identified as the RubberDucks.
Greater Akron (188 pages, hardcover) costs $54 for members of the Summit County Historical Society, which benefits from its sale, $60 for nonmembers.
Barnes & Noble (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere) — Shaker Heights author Sam Thomas signs The Harlot’s Tale, second in his Midwife Mystery series, set during the English Civil War, and Shelley Costa signs You Cannoli Die Once, first in her Italian Restaurant comic mysteries, 2 p.m. today.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer signs his collection Blimp Pilot Terrorizes Akron: and Other Hot Air, 7 p.m. Wednesday; children’s author Lori Zoss, accompanied by her basset hound Fred, reads from and signs A Bed for Fred, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 1700 Snow Road) — Author and illustrator Keith Baker talks about and signs his alphabet book LMNO PEAS, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Portage Lakes branch, 4261 Manchester Road, New Franklin) — Author and motivational speaker Noah St. John talks about and signs The Book of Afformations, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.