Book Talk: Emily Dickinson turns sleuth in Amanda Flower novel

Emily Dickinson turns detective in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” the first step into historical fiction for Tallmadge author Amanda Flower.

The story is told by Willa Noble, who applies for a job at the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts, on a miserable January day in 1855. At 20, she’s already been working for eight years, recently at a boardinghouse. The housekeeper is not impressed with her, but Emily Dickinson stops Willa from leaving and tells her she’s hired.

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It’s a demanding job, as the Dickinsons are fastidious employers, but Willa counts herself lucky: She even has her own room, which is even luckier when her reckless younger brother Henry climbs in the window bursting with news of his new job at the village livery. He also tells her he has found a way to make a lot of money quickly but won’t tell her how.

Two days later, Henry is dead, killed by a horse that trampled him in a stall at the livery. Willa, knowing of Henry’s proficiency with horses, is doubtful that it was an accident, and Emily, who has encouraged Willa to use her first name, declares that they will investigate.

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Together, the women visit the stables and Willa does some eavesdropping in town. Though Dickinson had a reputation for reclusive behavior, Flower notes that she and her sister visited their father, U.S. Rep. Edward Dickinson, in Washington, D.C., in 1855, and she uses this trip as a plot device to take Willa along to shadow a suspect. There are other nice points of historical accuracy, but some jarring anachronisms as well.

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” (336 pages, softcover) costs $17 from Berkley. The second book in the series, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” also named for a Dickinson poem, is scheduled for September 2023; the prolific Flower has two more books on the calendar for December and another for January, each in a continuing series.

Amanda Flower will sign “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lakewood Public Library, 5425 Detroit Ave.

‘The More You Give’

The passage of wisdom and tradition is the message in “The More You Give,” a stunning storybook by Wooster author Marcy Campbell.

A boy lives with his grandmother, and they are happy together. Together they plant acorns and watch the oak seedlings grow as the boy grows. The boy learns of grief and joy and one day plants acorns with his daughter, and the cycle continues.

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Very young children who have not yet experienced a birth or death in their family may need to have the narrative explained, as these are not made obvious but instead included in the flow of events, as natural as picking strawberries, as boundless as time. This breathtaking, large-format book is recommended for ages 4-8.

“The More You Give” (48 pages, hardcover) costs $18.99 from Knopf. Marcy Campbell also is the author of the exceptional “Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse.” The inclusive illustrations are by Swiss artist Francesca Sanna.

‘Elijah Goes to Cleveland’

“Elijah Goes to Cleveland” is a storybook by Mark Darden. Elijah, who appears to be about 10, is eager to get to Cleveland to see his grandparents, and his father, who is driving, says it’s “just one more hour” away.

Elijah is even more excited when he sees a TV commercial about his favorite band, which will be appearing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and that free tickets were available by finding the band members at Cleveland sites. Elijah’s accommodating grandparents are happy to help, so off they go.

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Checking the band’s website for clues, the trio head to Public Square, the West Side Market, Karamu House and the Cleveland Zoo, each time arriving just a little too late. A final clue comes just in time.

The last page explains all the landmarks and their significance. “Elijah Goes to Cleveland” (32 pages, hardcover) costs $17.99 from Buckeye Muscle Media and is recommended for ages 4-9.

The illustrations are by California artist Ahn Bui. Mark Darden also is the author of “It’s Game Time Folks! Quest for 30,” a record of his attempt to visit every Major League Baseball park in one year.

Events

Canton Palace Theatre (605 Market Ave. N.): Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson joins the Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Series from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, talking about her book “Cook, Eat, Repeat.” Register at starklibrary.org.

Cuyahoga County Public Library: Scottish author Ewan Morrison talks about his novel “How to Survive Everything” in a Zoom event from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org.

Hower House (60 Fir Hill): Ronald Koltnow discusses his book “Barberton Fried Chicken,” including samples and a house tour, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Admission $8; reservations suggested. Call 330-972-6909.

Hudson Library & Historical Society: Biographer Andrew Morton (“Diana: Her True Story”) talks about “The Queen: Her Life” in a Zoom session at 7 p.m. Monday. Register at hudsonlibrary.org.

Kent State University Bookstore (1075 Risman Drive): Tom Batiuk signs “The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 12: 2005-2007,” noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Mentor Public Library (8215 Mentor Ave.): Dan Rager, author of “The Maple Leaf Route: Geauga County” gives a presentation about the railway, with photos and maps, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Register at mentorpl.org.

John R. Buchtel Community Learning Center (1040 Copley Road): Akron native and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove presents the Bernard I. Rosen Memorial Lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday. Free, but reservations are required; go to ritadoveakron.eventbrite.com.

Music Box Supper Club (1148 Main Ave., Cleveland): David Spero, author (with K. Adrian Zonneville) of “A Life in the Wings: My Sixty Year Love Affair with Rock and Roll: A Memoir,” joins the Cleveland Stories Dinner Parties Series, 7 p.m. Thursday. Dinner is $20; the lecture is free. Go to musicboxcle.com.

Loganberry Books: Timothy Caulfield joins the virtual Peculiar Book Club, talking about “Your Day, Your Way: The Fact and Fiction Behind Your Daily Decisions,” 7 p.m. Thursday. Register at loganberrybooks.com.

St. Sebastian Parish Church (476 Mull Ave.): Dawn Eden Goldstein discusses “Father Ed: The Story of Bill W’s Spiritual Sponsor,” a biography of Father Edward Dowling, who provided guidance to the co-founder (with Akron’s Dr. Bob Smith) of Alcoholics Anonymous, 7 p.m. Friday.

Visible Voice Books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): Cleveland State University alumnus Richard Koloda signs “Holy Ghost: The Life and Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler,” about the Cleveland native saxophonist, 7 p.m. Friday.

Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Poland branch, 311 S. Main St.): A local author event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Email information about books of local interest, and event notices at least two weeks in advance to BeaconBookTalk@gmail.com and bjnews@thebeaconjournal.com. Barbara McInture tweets at @BarbaraMcI.

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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Amanda Flower writes mystery about Emily Dickinson