Laughter is the Best Medicine: Book Review of Jack Hinson’s “Laughter Was God’s Idea: Stories About Healing Humor”

I didn’t expect the absolute wonderful way this book was written! The objective of this book was to convince the reader to let loose a bit and laugh some more. It gave the pros and cons of dealing with tense and difficult situations with humour, using both bible quotes and scientific evidence to back up the amazing side effects of laughing. Not only that, there was a delightful and pleasant structure to the cutely parceled and packaged short stories…The jokes and laughter brought a smile to my face, and the stories were sweet…     – Mawa Mahima

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It is believed that humor is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. It was His intention from the beginning to provide us with a mechanism to address the tension of existence. He knew His children, living under pressure in a world of demands and deadlines, would need a way to release, so He created something called laughter. Laughter reduces muscle tension, exercises our lungs, and strengthens our immune system. Laughter is still the best medicine.
Readers of Jack Hinson’s work Laughter Was God’s Idea will gain insight and courage to accept the gift of laughter as a means to enjoy life and make the world a better place. Through excessive doses of laughter every day, and by sharing this extraordinary gift with others, it is Hinson’s intention to bring to light the healing power of humor.

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Jack Hinson is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. He holds degrees from Mars Hill College, Wake Forest University and Southeastern Seminary. He became Board Certified with the Association of Professional Chaplains upon completion of studies at Dorothea Dix Hospital, NC Baptist School of Pastoral Care and the Patrick B. Harris Hospital. He served as pastor for seventeen years before becoming the first full time chaplain at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, North Carolina, where he shared his humor and reassuring comfort with patients and families on a daily basis. He is an early pioneer recognizing the positive influence of humor in healthcare and medicine. Academic medical centers and scientific studies have confirmed Jack’s long held belief that there is therapeutic benefit to humor and laughter.

Available where eBooks are sold.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey” by David Joy

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Published by: Bright Mountain Books

Available at: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and Omni Lit

Coming Soon to Sony, Google Books, and Gardners!

Review by Ken Ford-Powell

“Fishing is not a hobby; it is who we are.”

I’m not a fisherman; chances are I won’t ever be. But, last year, I wrote my soon-to-be-published novel The Pukur and I needed advice on the subject. One of the major character’s hobby is fly fishing. I knew nothing about the subject at the time but spent a very pleasant afternoon with a friend, who was a fanatical fly fishing hobbyist, learning all about this strange and obsessive world.

I jumped at the chance then to review David Joy’s book, Growing Gills. I figured it would give me insight into the fisherman’s mind which wouldn’t hurt while my novel is in the last stages of editing. There’s always room for a little more research.

I wasn’t disappointed.

David Joy, a self-confessed ichthyologist, was obsessed with fish from a very early age. By the age of five he knew how to hold a rod, set the hook, prepare the reel and so on. By eleven he was raiding his teenage sister’s ten-gallon aquarium to use for his own fish. Though this first and last foray into keeping live fish proved disastrous (for his traumatised sister at least) it reinforced Joy’s desire to be in the fish world rather than the human one.

This is not to imply that Joy didn’t enjoy eating fish too. “I was born into a school of cannibalistic fish,” he tells us – with characteristic bluntness – when describing the cartoonesque image of mealtimes with his family.

We spent so many hours casting to bream and eating their fried bodies that we all started resembling the fish we caught.”

It’s a vivid picture.

Although Joy writes obsessively about fish, in many ways his book is more about the people connected to his life on the rivers making his book accessible even for non-enthusiasts like me. His descriptions of those close to him are a pleasure to read and often most tender. His affection for his granny is obvious:

“…all I could focus on as a twelve-year-old were her hands. Hands that had picked cotton, cleaned fish, mixed cobblers, and held young’uns now exposed brittle bones and fragile skin as delicate as tissue paper. The story of her life was spelled out across her palms, each line a narrative of her eighty years.”

He never strays far from a reference to aquatic life, however, describing her with “blue veins peeping through the skin of her hands like the forks of an azure river, even her blood mimicking water.”

Occasionally, Joy’s language is a little clumsy and there are some minor, mildly irritating punctuation errors which spoil the flow. But then is he’s describing the world of a fisherman and not the finer points of Plato – though, with a degree in Literature, I am sure he could do that just as well and he certainly quotes from many a fine writer along the way.

Nevertheless, the minor flaws are quite forgivable and part of the charm of the author’s storytelling technique. Reading Growing Gills is like chatting with the fly fisherman himself – rambling, a little ad hoc and, occasionally, a little lacking in direction, but eminently enjoyable. Don’t wait for a punchline or a climax to the book – just enjoy it for what it is: A fisherman’s tales of love and devotion to the waters.

On the whole, he actually writes with artistic skill and certainly sucks the reader into his world of  ‘stocked brookies’, ‘bows’ and the importance of cork grips; and especially what those corks really mean for this fisherman.

In his vivid and generous descriptions of other fishermen, like his hash-stoned but expert fly-making friend Zac, you can’t help but admire these artists, or as Joy puts it “Piscatorial Picassos”. Even a non-fisherman such as I am can appreciate – and even be mildly jealous of – the great care and skill with which these unusual folk chase their fish.

Joy gives a great deal of detail about the technique of fishing – this is a world of ‘Woolly Worms’, ‘Parachutes Adams’ and ‘Pheasant Tails’ – yet he never bores, never gets lost in the details. Like a skilful story-teller who knows when to give the reader setting and when to get on with driving the story onwards, so Joy keeps the momentum going by mixing up moments of  technical knowledge with the tales themselves.

Sometimes, he even offers philosophical moments contemplating the nature of life as taught to him by the rivers in his life:

“I’ve spent years reading the words of the great philosophers, from Plato to Nietzsche. Though their prose left me awed, their thoughts never taught me as much about life as time spent knee-deep in the water with a fly hung in the hemlocks. Just as soon as my ego grows and head swells, there always seems to be a tree limb to knock me down a peg.”

Elsewhere, he says:

The wild was nothing more than exactly what it was. Everything was true. Really, there is no greater truth on earth than the reality of the natural world. Humans should dare to be so honest.”

My favourite section of the book describes this adoration for nature best. Joy’s description of night-fishing is captivating. I could imagine being there under a full moon, on the river bank with beer in hand and fish that I’d caught stacked up ready to prepare for a rich and tasty breakfast perhaps. I wanted to be where he was and I felt jealous of the author as he described the coolness of the night; the beauty, mystery and serenity of nature in the dark. I could almost smell the water and taste the fish as I read his words.

Joy has interesting quirks. He won’t kill a trout, for instance. All other fish he will happily catch, kill and cook but not the trout. For Joy, trout are “higher on the totem than others”. Furthermore, Joy describes how he kisses the ‘slimy flesh’ of many of the fish he catches – right on the nose. That’s not for me, no matter how beautiful they look, but still, I admire his devotion.

It is much later – in fact, near the end of the book – when we find out it is a tradition of Joy’s harking back to his childhood, watching Jimmy Houston kiss every bass he hooked on TV. For the author, this is not just about catching fish; his whole life is wrapped up in even the simplest activities. I believe that if you permanently removed the author from his beloved rivers he would gasp for breath as if he was a fish himself.

Of course, no fisherman’s tales could be complete without the ‘one that got away’ and David Joy certainly has more than one. He warms us up early on with the tale of ‘the ugliest fish in the sea’ (named Spike, naturally) but later tells of the one that didn’t so much ‘get away’ as ‘never came near’!  After hours of trying to catch the attention of a ‘monster brown’ to no avail, the author had to concede defeat. In Joy’ words: “Anthropomorphizing or not, that fish was smart”. Another tale is about what he calls the ‘grass eater’ a fish that caused Joy to resort to “monosyllabic cursing…more crushing than finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real…”. Even as a non-fisherman, I feel his pain.

Still, Joy is philosophical about these defeats – even welcoming them:

 “In many ways the fish that get away are more satisfying than the twenty-inch trout that occasionally take the fly…These are the fish that grow twelve inches by the time the story is told, the fish that lead to tales of Volkswagen-size catfish swimming below a dam, the fish that rip drag, break rods, shatter egos, and never look back. These fish are the reason that I trim my line, tie on a new hook, and cast again.”

I feel certain that any fly fisherman will empathise with this kind of thinking – more than I can. In fact, even though this book is the fishing memoirs of an American fly fisherman, I would recommend it for any man or woman who enjoys the world of chasing, catching and eating fish. Growing Gills is an ideal bedtime companion for any obsessive ichthyologist or for someone who just enjoys getting the rod out from time to time.

For me, I enjoy fish best when they are on the plate and ready to eat. That’s as near as I want to get to these aquatic delights. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed David Joy’s stories in Growing Gills and I envied him for the harmony he has known with nature.

If you are looking for a gift for that fish fanatic in your family – for the times when they’re in the house and not out on the river – Growing Gills is the perfect choice.

 

Ken Ford-Powell is a British freelance writer living with his family in Bangladesh. His novel ‘The Pukur’ has just been accepted for publication and he has celebrated by drinking vast quantities of tea. You can follow him at his blog: https://kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com/ 

Review of Marti Healy’s ‘The Secret Child’

ImageThe Secret Child by Marti Healy
Review by Sinead F.

The Secret Child, coming in at 196 pages, should not be dismissed as lacking in content. This was another one of those books where I had never heard of the author or the book beforehand, so it was a little bit of a risk but I am so glad I took a chance on it!

Set in South Carolina in 1855, The Secret Child follows the escapades of Marika, a young girl who is a member of the Irish Travelling Community. The book opens with Marika and her brother’s journey to another clan within the community, as Marika has been promised in marriage to the clan’s leader. However, things soon go awry as her brother falls ill and is taken in by some villagers near to where Marika’s new clan resides. Marika then makes the decision to abandon her arranged marriage, at least temporarily, and takes refuge in a nearby forest. She soon finds herself drawn into a mystical world, which she had previously only heard of in stories.

With regards to the story as a whole, I enjoyed it. Oddly enough, the simplistic story didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. The reason this book still stands up as a whole is a result of the beautiful, lyrical descriptions that are peppered throughout every chapter. Something as simple as winter changing to spring was imagined as a symphony of growth and color that really drew you into the setting of the book and added a feeling of magic to otherwise ordinary happenings.

Despite how much I loved the descriptions in this book, they never took over. I remember when reading Homer’s Odyssey, another book with wonderful descriptions, there would be pages and pages of descriptions of one particular setting or key object before anything would actually happen, which turned it from a thing of beauty to tedium. The Secret Child manages to avoid this pitfall and uses the descriptions to either draw you in at the start of a chapter or enhance the events within the chapter.

An interesting aspect of The Secret Child is, naturally, Marika’s Irish heritage. At times throughout the book, Marika slips into speaking Gaeilge [in Irish], which I felt was a particularly nice touch. However, understanding Irish is not necessary anyway as all her phrases are translated on the page!

Due to the setting of The Secret Child, it is impossible for the story to be told without reference to slavery or the upcoming civil war. Again, these themes do not take over the story, but they are present throughout. Marika struggles to understand the motivations of slave owners, as her clan did not partake in slavery so she had never experienced it before. The book briefly touches on the cruelty of some slave owners, as well as some of the laws regarding slavery. This stood as a good contrast to the magical world Marika inhabited, as it brought a stark view of reality to the forefront.

In general, I really enjoyed reading The Secret Child. It’s a great book for immersing yourself into another world. The Secret Child shows you a world that exists just out of reach, and then drags you right into the middle of it. All in all, a beautiful read.