The Bookworm: Advice from Eleanor Roosevelt; digging oneself into trouble

Terri Schlichenmeyer
"If You Ask Me"

“If You Ask Me: Essential Advice from Eleanor Roosevelt”
• by Eleanor Roosevelt, edited by Mary Jo Binker
• c.1946, 1974, 2018, Atria Books
• $25.00 / $34.00 Canada; 245 pages

What should you do?

When relationships break down, what then?  Or you lose your job and your bank account is depleted, your home is in foreclosure, you’re a victim of discrimination, what do you do? You ask yourself “What next?” and then you reach for help, and with the new book “If You Ask Me” by Eleanor Roosevelt, edited by Mary Jo Binker, the advice you get might be decades old.

Arguments on immigration, world issues, patriotism, and messy politics. Minority issues, equal pay, family problems, and Constitutional matters. Though these things may seem to be problems strictly of the modern age, from 1921 until 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of our 32nd president, also tackled these same topics in her books and magazine articles. In those forty-one years, she ultimately penned more than 600 pieces.

People from every walk of life consulted Mrs. Roosevelt for advice: politicians asked her and women sought her out. Men looked toward her wisdom and, says Binker, she had a particular affection for teenagers (and vice versa).  Though she wrote the words in this book generations ago, her advice is still relevant, even when contemporary viewpoints are taken into consideration.

“She genuinely cared about people and their problems,” says Binker, consulting editor for the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project and editor of this book.

Mrs. Roosevelt’s words were comforting, but she did not suffer fools.

In 1944, she wrote that she believed women should receive equal pay for doing “men’s jobs.” She was a big proponent of organized labor, as she stated later that same year, and she was famously, vociferously pro-racial equality and against anti-Semitism. Politically, Roosevelt used her experiences as First Lady to back up her beliefs on democracy, the office of President, eliminating the electoral college, and on dealing with political rifts within families. She hoped that national health-care would become a reality. She called for calm in times of trouble. She firmly favored birth control, and believed that the future would turn out alright.

The surprise inside “If You Ask Me” is twofold: in reading the words that editor Mary Jo Binker collected, one is reminded by their shiny relevance that everything old is new again. Seventy-five years have passed and the same old issues have returned like sharks to chum, giving readers a dreadful, treading-water feeling. So what’s changed?

In a word, us: in the other half of the surprise is a quaint, sweetly amusing look at a time when good girls weren’t “necking,” businesswomen in “taverns” was worrisome, and the First Lady believed that “rock ‘n’ roll” was a “fad [that] will probably pass,” and that parents “needn’t take it too seriously.” The amusement also comes from Roosevelt’s wit and her ladylike rebukes that could be delivered on razor blades.

Yes, she “cared about people”… but she could cut, too.

This book is obviously perfect for historians but anyone can enjoy what’s inside these mostly-still-applicable words. It’s easy to browse and fun, too, so read “If You Ask Me.” That’s what you should do.

"Triple Threat"

“Triple Threat”
• by Camryn King
• c.2018, Dafina
• $12.95 / $13.95 Canada; 320 pages

You dig, and you dig, and you dig.

Like a dog with a bone, you’re all in when presented with a tiny scrap of intriguing information. You don’t let go until you know everything there is to know about it, searching and uncovering and digging until, as in the new novel “Triple Threat” by Camryn King, you’ve dug yourself into trouble.

There had been absolutely no reason for Leigh to have killed herself.

Award-winning journalist Mallory Knight knew that about her best friend. Just days before her body was found, bruised and nude, Leigh had been happy and laughing with Mallory. There was just no way she was suicidal, and Mallory had tried to keep the police focused.

But it had been a year since the supposed-suicide-maybe-murder and now Leigh’s case was considered closed. In Mallory’s mind, though, nothing had been settled; even less so when Leigh’s mother gave her a duffel bag of mementos with a mystery inside.

Leigh had left a journal with what appeared to be coded words; some were senseless, but others led Mallory to a few shaky conclusions. Leigh was dating New York Navigators basketballer Christian Graham when she died, and his name was in the diary; to Mallory, that made him a suspect. And as it happened, her editor, Charlie, gave her an assignment to write about Christian’s charity organization. It was the perfect opportunity to find out more about the man Leigh seemed drawn to.

To her surprise, Mallory learned that Christian was a truly nice guy, but her investigator’s background nagged her to dig deeper. She knew that he strongly mentored a kid enrolled in his charity, and that he had a soft spot for the boy. Rumor was that the teen had been sick but Mallory also heard there was violence involved. There was something about the boy and Christian’s relationship with him that made her act rashly.

One ill-considered act, and Mallory’s entire life crashed.

And that was just fine. It gave her more time to figure out what happened to Leigh and whether Christian Graham was involved her death. Leigh once called Christian a “triple threat”: smart, handsome, and successful. But was he a killer, too?

In the beginning of “Triple Threat” and until about twenty pages in, the temptation to quit the book may be strong. It’s slower than chilled honey, which happens in small pockets throughout this novel.

When it heats up, though, it’s on fire. Author Camryn King tells a fine mystery that’ll keep you engaged and eager to solve, in part because there’s also a bit of romance inside and enough drama to satisfy. There are a couple of heart-pounders, too, and a character that does some really dumb things, which makes her seem more relatable.

While the ending of “Triple Threat” feels like it goes on forever, getting to that point will be fun if you have the patience. This book isn’t always snappy or snazzy but it’s a good enough whodunit and if you like romancy-mysteries, you’ll dig it.

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.