The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 17, 2008

Book review: ‘Breaking Free’ a tale of love and loss

This round of reviews consists of titles I have read that caught my fancy. No theme this time, just a nice mix. Enjoy.

‘Breaking Free’

By Lauraine Snelling

Maggie Roberts received the maximum sentence in a drunk driving conviction that killed her 3-year-old son and the driver of the other car. A few months before her parole hearing, the prison partners with the Thoroughbred Heartland Foundation. The foundation takes retired racehorses and retrains them. Maggie is chosen as one of the participants.

Breaking Free is one of the first horses in the program. He is an abused horse that lashes out at anyone who tries to help. Maggie soon figures out that the horse’s violent reactions are to men. The behavior is an attempt to protect itself from the abuse bestowed on him by his former male trainers. Because of this behavior, Breaking Free may be put down if he can’t be controlled. Upon hearing this, the warden assigns Maggie as the horse’s sole trainer. With a lot of hard work, Maggie gets Breaking Free to follow commands and eventually teaches him to accept men.

At an open house showing off the work of the prisoners and the foundation, a young boy in a wheelchair takes a liking to Breaking Free. When his father, a local businessman, begins the adoption process, Maggie must come to terms with losing the horse and all the things that have kept her going during her sentence.

Snelling writes a compelling story of love, loss and forgiveness, particularly forgiving oneself.

‘The Adventures of Slim & Howdy’

By Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn with Bill Fitzhugh

I stumbled across this book while browsing the shelves one afternoon. I had no idea Brooks and Dunn, the most award-winning duo in country music, had written a book.

Slim and Howdy are two characters that first appeared in the liner notes of Brooks and Dunn CDs “to give listeners something to stare at while they listened to the music.” This full-length adventure explains how the two characters met and puts them on a short road trip through Texas, where they play a couple of honky-tonks (they each play their own music while the other watches the entrance), meet up with old friends, make new ones, foil a drug-smuggling plan and rescue a kidnapped friend.

Is this great literature? No. Is it a fun read? Absolutely. Brooks and Dunn fans will spot occasional references to their music and get to know a little more about the duo’s alter egos.

‘A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy’

By Sara Bongiorni

While picking up all the Christmas stuff in December 2004, Sara Bongiorni noticed how many of the gifts were from China. After thinking it over, she proposed to her husband a one-year moratorium on buying anything made in China. How hard could it be? They’ve already boycotted Wal-Mart, surely boycotting Chinese-made items would not be that much harder.

And so begins the New Year with checking labels, work-arounds and rules. Holidays and birthdays are very frustrating and result in one of the rules that states China-produced toys may enter the house if given as a gift. Family and friends will not be held to the “nothing made in China” rule, but any gifts they give during the year will be held to that standard. (Wes, their 4-year-old son, soon grows tired of giving Danish-made Legos to all his friends.)

This is a fascinating look at how one family rethinks all their purchases. Who would have thought you could no longer buy mandarin oranges or peppermint candy canes if you boycott China? Who knew China held the market on all holidays, including Independence Day? Toys? Primarily Chinese made. Clothing seems a little easier to find, but all labels must be checked. Electronics? Forget it. Even if the box says “Made in America” or some other country, many components are made in China.

It isn’t always a smooth and easy task and may require many phone calls to businesses and manufacturers and some extra time running from store to store, but it was truly a learning experience. At the end of the year, Sara and Kevin, her husband, ponder the next year. Will they continue the experiment, or welcome China back into their home?

Bongiorni writes with humor and honesty on their yearlong challenge to support countries other than China.

Susan Wray is the director of Joplin Public Library.