When the Kindle was introduced several years ago as a new and improved way to read books, Oprah Winfrey lavished so much praise on it that my wife became excited about buying one. But then she and I talked about how much we would rather read words on paper instead of a screen, and before long we had tired of the subject and moved on, without a Kindle.
A few years later when I was trying to think of a birthday gift for my wife, I remembered her one-time interest in a Kindle and bought her one. She seemed happy to receive it, but put it away in a drawer and never got around to downloading a book. That model of Kindle is now obsolete, superseded by a model with a brighter screen and a built-in light.
Once again, technology has passed us by. As I have mentioned here from time to time, my wife and I are not cutting-edge people. We spend a lot of time at computers, but prefer print. I find my way to anyplace I want to go with paper maps, not a GPS. My cellphone is not a smartphone, and although I imagine I will have to upgrade one of these days, I am in no hurry.
I do have an iPad, but I had never read a book on it until Sharlene Minshall, who writes our “Silver, Single, Solo” column, gave me no choice. She published her first novel as an electronic book and the only way I could read it was to download it from amazon.com.
I’m glad she made me. Reading a book on an iPad turned out to be a pleasure, made doubly so by Sharlene’s entertaining and engrossing novel, Winter in the Wilderness.
Sharlene has written six non-fiction books, but this is her first novel. All her earlier books have been based on her RV travels.
Sharlene said she started writing her novel in the late 1970s on a camping trip with her husband, family and friends. Over the years, she would occasionally pull out the manuscript, add a few pages and put it away again. She got really serious about finishing the book when she spent a summer at home instead of traveling.
It has taken her more than 30 years to complete the novel, and it’s probably good that she was in no hurry. The passing of time has allowed her to accumulate experiences that add to the novel’s richness.
From the beginning, Sharlene envisioned one of the central characters as a woman who had lost her husband after many years of marriage. As soon as she developed the concept of the novel, Sharlene read it to her husband, Jack, who had encouraged her to write. Sharlene said she couldn’t read those pages to him without crying because she has been married to Jack, the love of her life, for 20 years and she knew it would break her heart if she lost him. Unfortunately, that’s what happened a few years later. Jack developed flu-like symptoms that turned out to be a bacterial infection that damaged his heart, and he died at the age of 47.
There are several parallels in the novel to Sharlene’s life. Like Jami, the heroine in her book, Sharlene had two grown daughters when her husband died, and like Jami, she is an intrepid and resourceful woman.
Sharlene describes the origins of the novel this way: “The settings and storyline are from my imagination, a melding of people I’ve known and places I’ve traveled. I’m sure my daughters and close friends will recognize similarities to our family lives. The conflicts and the pain of losing a mate are very real.”
In her RV Life column, Sharlene has often written about traveling alone to isolated places. A key setting of the novel is a house in the Pacific Northwest wilderness that is so remote from civilization that its only access is by a dirt road that is impassable in winter. There is no phone service. Wind turbines and solar cells provide electricity. There is a wood stove for cooking and an indoor garden for food.
Sharlene said she modeled the house partly on a three-story log cabin she wrote about in RV Life nearly three years ago. That story was about a couple in Idaho whose home was 13 miles beyond the electric grid. They were “living green,” running all their appliances on solar power and a backup generator.
Winter in the Wilderness is an old-fashioned romance that should appeal to many RVers, though RVing itself makes only a minor appearance in the story. The two central characters are both in their 50s. Josh is a writer who has faced tragedy and moved to a remote house in the wilderness. Jami is the sole survivor of a plane crash who finds refuge at his home.
How these two people interact and recover from the blows that life has dealt them is at the core of this fast-paced novel.
If you have a device for reading books on a screen, this is an excellent novel to download. And if you don’t yet have an electronic reader, this is a good reason to get one.
Elsewhere in this issue, you will find brief reviews of other books of interest to RVers, and they, like Winter in the Wilderness, would make fine gifts this holiday season.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail email@example.com. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.