Bookworm: ‘Every Cloak’ – You’ll love it beauty and its pain

‘Ready for Launch’ – When you need over-the-moon advice

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Every Cloak Rolled in Blood”

  • By James Lee Burke
  • c. 2022, Simon & Schuster
  • $27, 288 pages

A cemetery plot may feel like a lonely place. It’s quiet there, peaceful, solitary. Does it seem final, or is it the beginning of a new life in a Beyond you can’t yet know? Graveside or otherwise, they say we’re never alone, and that spirits are watching us. And in the new book “Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” by James Lee Burke, that’s not always a good thing.

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Eighty-five-year-old Aaron Holland Broussard knew death.

He’d seen it before, in Vietnam as a young man, on the rez near his Montana farm, when friends died, when his wife died. He wasn’t afraid of it anymore. But he refused to accept the fact that his daughter, Fannie Mae, was gone forever.

“Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” by James Lee Burke.

She was the kindest person he knew. An animal lover. She was just fifty-four when she died and every day since was another shard of anguish in Broussard’s heart. Every day, he looked for ways to bring her back somehow.

If this made him a target of local vandals, then there it was. His capacity to care was all but gone, but his heart wasn’t so hardened that he couldn’t give a couple of local boys a hand up. Life near the rez was tough; the opioid epidemic didn’t help and Broussard would do his part to help his neighbors despite that someone made it abundantly clear that he should mind his own business.

“Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” author James Lee Burke.

How could he do that, when the local state trooper, Ruby Spotted Horse, told him that she was hiding a portal to evil, locked in her basement?

Sometimes, Broussard saw Fannie Mae on the edge of his vision, visiting him in ways that only he could see. But he also started seeing opaque horrors of the past, murder of Native innocents, and small, malevolent children. Any of them might masquerade as his beloved daughter.

Then evil began visiting his home in the shape of real humans, and though Aaron Broussard didn’t want to live anymore, dying by his own hand was no longer an option...

Well, here’s a departure.

In his note to readers, author James Lee Burke explains why he wrote this novel, and you must read that before you set eyes on the first sentence of the story. It explains why “Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” is saturated with unbearable, fiery grief, the kind that makes your throat raw just from reading it. See that note and you’ll understand why metaphysical threads tie this whole novel together.

Before you go thinking, though, that it’s just some weird one-off in a horror vein, know that this book is still a mystery. It’s got the familiar Big Sky settings that Burke fans want, current-events-style issues, diverse characters, and murderous villains.

The difference is that those villains may be real, or they may not.

“Every Cloak Rolled in Blood” could be Burke’s best novel; surely, it will appeal to fans beyond the whodunit genre. Try it and you’ll love it beauty and its pain. You’ll love the shivers. You’ll love this plot.

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“Ready for Launch: An Astronaut’s Lessons for Success on Earth”

  • By Scott Kelly
  • c. 2022, Crown
  • $17.99, 119 pages

Liftoff is in three .... two ... one ...

And from that point, you’re off to your future. No matter what your situation or your age, when you start something new, there’s a kind of catapult that you feel, like a rock from a slingshot or like being propelled into a whole different world. And as in the new book “Ready for Launch” by astronaut Scott Kelly, that goes for your someday success, too.

If you had known Scott Kelly when he was a kid, you might’ve been surprised at what became of him. Though he was “fearless,” by his own admission, Kelly was a lousy student in school because he “couldn’t pay attention in class” and didn’t focus on anything a teacher said to him. Even when he started college and promised himself that he’d do better, his mind wandered in the classroom. It wasn’t until he was 18 and stopped by a bookstore “for gum or something” that he found his calling on the check-out counter: the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe gave him direction that he’d never had before.

“Ready for Launch: An Astronaut’s Lessons for Success on Earth” by Scott Kelly.

In his life and career, he says he’s learned a thing or two that can translate into success for others. The first is that “Change is scary...” but mastering it and learning to risk again is the only way to move forward. On that note, don’t fear failure; remember that it’s “only when you’re willing to risk failure are you aiming high enough.”

Don’t get “too comfortable when things aren’t perfect,” he says, and don’t stop making “small adjustments” on the path to success. Look for unusual places to learn how to be a leader, and seize them – but remember that there are different “styles” of leadership, and you’ll want to employ them all with empathy. Meetings are nice but crowdsourcing your decision “could be deadly.” Diversify your teams and learn how to tap into the experiences and viewpoints of everyone in the room. Own your mistakes. Insist that facts matter. Plan on doing the impossible. At first glance, “Ready for Launch” doesn’t look like enough.

It’s a skinny book, and small in surface area; there are a lot of pictures inside here, and short-short chapters that can probably be read in just a few minutes. In a way, it reads more like the transcript for a graduation speech or a board meeting: succinct, spare in words, and loaded with advice that’s useful, if not quite commonsensical.

But a glance isn’t going to tell you (here’s that word again) enough. You’ll be glad when you dig a little deeper because what makes these pages work is that author Scott Kelly uses his own stories to illuminate his advice and, because his early life wasn’t like you might surmise it to be, the tales become more impactful.

The size of “Ready for Launch” makes it handy to slip in a jacket pocket or purse, so you can browse the chapters as needed, and learn. When you need over-the-moon advice, this book is the one.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.