Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Review by Cranky Cuss (From Open Salon)
WHat I Learned From My Hoosier Friend Amy
I am proud to call Amy McVay Abbott, aka Bernadine Spitzsnogle, my friend. I am happy whenever one of her emails appears in my inbox because, besides displaying her sly wit and pithy observational skills, it will likely include an act of generosity. After all, Amy is passing on to me her lessons learned in self-publishing, in case I ever decide to publish a book despite popular demand.

I knew I would enjoy her first book, The Luxury of Daydreams, and I did. There’s the chapter on the birth of her child (“Childbirth itself is a gruesome affair where the guest of honor is woefully indifferent to the hostess”), a child she now describes as “the young man who lives in our basement three months a year.” (Been there, done that.) There’s her embarrassing adventure as an unprepared Bingo caller (“Cut out the jokes, and move on, girlie-girl”), as well as the embarrassment of a father who remembers all your mistakes (“Do you remember my daughter and how much ice cream she ate at Guernsey Field Day?”).

What I didn’t expect was how much her book made me think. No, it’s not a collection of opinion pieces. Rather, the book is a series of reminiscences about growing up and living in the heart of the Heartland in Indiana. When a good writer evokes her life vividly, as Amy has, it’s only natural for the reader to compare hers to his own life.

Amy is several years younger than I am, but she and I both grew up in smaller sized towns in the early 1960s. Her prose reminds me of a time when I could ride my bicycle all over town without fear and without wearing armor like Sir Lancelot. It reminds me of a time when kids ran out to play with the neighbors’ kids and parents didn’t have to obsess about their whereabouts, because neighbors watched out for each other. It reminds me of a time when generations lived in the same town, and daughters married in the same churches their mothers did. It also reminds me of a time, however, when those churches usually inspired compassion, not condemnation. It reminds me of a time when small towns provided sufficient jobs for its residents.

That life seems to be fading away. When I was a kid, I used to play touch football on our street, a street that is now overrun by parked cars and hulking SUVs. The neighborhood kids and I used to play pick-up baseball games in summers on the high school field, a field now fenced in and accessible only for approved, organized activities. Today I don't even know the names of many of my neighbors.

The big difference between our lives is revealed in a chapter entitled “Sweatshirt Weather,” in which Amy writes, “Harvest is in full swing in October, if not finished. Beans and corn are picked; winter wheat is planted.” In the town where I grew up, the only place you’ll find beans and corn is in the produce section of the supermarket. There are no farmers here. My town is a bedroom community for Manhattan commuters; it’s the home of Don Draper in Mad Men.

I find myself jealous of Amy’s ties to the land and the seasons. I wonder if our disconnection from them is a contributing factor to why so many of us feel adrift in our lives.

Our ancestors worked to live. They had no time for angst. They tilled the soil to prevent starvation; they built homes to provide shelter; they knitted clothes to keep warm. Now it takes so few people to create our basic needs of life that many of us engage in careers that may be considered inessential.

I’ve always wondered what Thomas Jefferson would think were he to somehow appear in 21st-century America. If he saw everyone walking around with their attention drawn to the electronic devices in their hands, would he admire our technological advances or be alarmed at our isolation from our neighbor? If he saw young men being paid millions of dollars to play a game, and other men paid hundreds of thousands just to comment on those games, or people becoming rich and famous merely for allowing reality-TV cameras in their homes, would he applaud our independence from the struggle to survive or would he be dismayed at our eager embrace of so much shallowness?

Though I’ve been a lifelong suburbanite, I felt the pull of rural living for one week each summer when my family would pack into our car and drive seven hours north to spend a week with my Aunt Mildred in Vermont. Mildred and her husband John owned 120 acres of land outside the state capitol of Montpelier, up a long hill on a dirt road. From her front porch, you couldn’t see another house, and a passing car was an event. The land across the dirt road, part of her property, was wild, the grass often too tall to walk in. The appearance of a deer at the dining room window was a common occurrence.

There was enough land in front of the house for me and my brothers to play wiffle ball daily. The front porch of the house was the right field fence, while the wooden deer at the other end of the driveway served as the left field fence. It felt strange and exotic at night to turn on my transistor radio and hear Red Sox, not Yankee, games. (Mildred’s daughter Alice, bless her heart, spent the last month of her life driving around Florida watching spring training.)

Amy’s chapter on working as a carhop at a restaurant that featured root beer floats reminded me that, when we were in Vermont, we’d occasionally spend an evening at the A & W root beer stand. I Googled it; it’s no longer there.

I never visited Mildred’s home again once I left for college. She died two decades ago, predeceased by her husband, and Alice soon followed. The property was sold.

A few years ago, we were vacationing in another part of Vermont with the kids, and I decided to take a drive past Mildred’s house. I didn’t need directions to find my way, and soon enough I was on that long, hilly road, still gloriously unpaved. All of the old landmarks were still there, and for a moment, I started to feel like that 14-year-old kid anxious to grab his wiffle ball bat.

As we neared Mildred’s old house, however, my heart sank. Every inch of her property had been developed. The wild land across the dirt road now consisted of manicured lawns and long driveways leading to brand, spanking-new McMansions. I couldn’t even see Mildred’s old house to see if it had been remodeled; the old home plate of my wiffle ball field was now part of a line of trees along the road that hid the house from view.

I’m sure the families that owned the new homes were thrilled. The neighborhood was green, safe and secure, a nice place to raise a family. But I was thoroughly disheartened by how rapidly “progress” had buried any trace of Mildred’s existence, as if the half-century she had spent on that quiet land had never happened.

In Amy Abbott’s world, the past still has value and community is real, not virtual. The Luxury of Daydreams brought these memories, good and bad, rushing back to me. Her direct declarative sentences gave her pieces an added punch. I wish we had more Amys in our world, but I also wish we had more of her world in our world.

Review from Bloom, Bake, and Create
Book Review: The Luxury of Daydreams
Aug 4th, 2011 by lyndah

Recently, Amy Abbott, one of my friends, gave me this autographed copy of her first book, “The Luxury of Daydreams.”

It’s kind of a sticky situation when you receive a book from a friend. What if I don’t like it? What do I tell her?
Well, there was no problem with that. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book! In these 30 essays Amy takes us from her experiences growing up in a small Midwest town to dealing with difficult adult struggles including raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, handling a midlife job loss, loving her aging parents, and dealing with an empty nest. With all of these stories, she weaves in her wonderful humor, raw honesty, and undying hope.
What I love about this book is even though it’s about Amy and her family, I can relate to these stories. Although I didn’t grow up in a small town or have some of her experiences, when I read this, it brings back my own memories.
Calling bingo at the local senior center for cranky seniors who didn’t appreciate her jokes brought back memories and laughs about my sixth grade volunteering gig where I led the rosary for the nursing home residents.
In “The Trip to Rowena” Amy shares watching her mother with dementia slip into the past, and her father at his wife’s side providing 24-hour care. Amy writes about the small things her mom can’t do anymore – things that she misses. Her experiences remind us to appreciate those small things.
Her “Blue Bowl’ essay reinforces that these are not just things – they connect us to those loved ones.
This is a fast and easy read. It’s a book to pick up when you want to laugh or want to feel hopeful again. After reading this you may want to get out your pen and paper and write some of your memories. Or maybe you’ll look at some of those little things or actions a bit differently.
This is definitely not Amy’s last book. I know she has much more to share and teach through her insights. This book published by WestBow Press can be purchased here. Check out what others are saying about this book on her book website. You can also follow her on her blog here.


Bamy's new book "Submit Abuse" if you feel this post is inappropriate. Explain why below if you wish.
Yay, I beat Cranky! While he was up in Manhattan hobnobbing with Open Salon's New York stars I stayed home in Old Virginny composing a review for the book we've all been waiting to see reviewed. "Bamy," for those of you who have been reading nothing but political nightmare scenarios here the past year or so, is a compressed combo of Amy Abbott's real name and her OS nom de plume, Bernadine Spitznogel.
Her book - the first of what we hope will be a slew of sequels and perhaps a teleplay, screenplay or, what the heck, Broadway musical - hit the online retailers several weeks ago. Cranky and I got our copies about the same time. Come to think of it, he got his a day ahead of me. We both proclaimed loudly we would be the first to review The Luxury of Daydreams. Well, I beat Cranky, but we were both beaten to the ground and stomped into the mud by Vanessa Seijo and Alysa Salzberg, whose beautiful, lyrically discerning reviews dazzled me into a stupor on the Amazon.com page for Bamy's book when I opened it to do my own, which now appears above theirs haha. A hollow laff, for sure, but, for those who've been waiting to see who won the smackdown 'tween me and the Crankster, here's my Amazon entry:
I lost sleep reading The Luxury of Daydreams. I do most of my recreational reading at night, in bed, to supplant whatever frets and fusses of the day might be lingering to obstruct an easy slide into raveled sleeve of care-knitting sleep. My readings also occasionally inspire my subconscious mind with ideas for pillow dreams. The Luxury of Daydreams did the latter, sparking, and mingling with mine, memories of Christmas mornings, personal embarrassments, family gatherings, sibling wars, old friends, loss, dreams within dreams, small town magic and a moment that stole the joy from Three Dog Night in a mostly friendlier time less complicated and politically portentous, it seemed, than the present.
Perhaps Amy's stories resonated so deeply within me because I grew up in a small Midwestern town, too, and so many of the people and experiences she describes could, and do, reside in my memory, albeit with different names.

I have only two bones to pick with Amy as I read her spellbinding stories, hoping they would ease me into my own dreamland. First, her writing is so artful and fascinating I had a tough time returning the book to my nightstand and putting out the light. Second, hackles pricked up on my neck at her mention of her hometown as "America's best small town," because my hometown is the best - or at least it was back then. I was tempted to snarl and hurl her book across the bedroom, but then it occurred to me that in our memories the towns in which Amy and I grew up - hers in Indiana, mine in Wisconsin - were virtually the same.
If you wish to read the most revealing and comprehensive story in this collection first, I suggest "Letter to my Seventeen-Year-Old Self." Read this before the others, this flash review of her coming-of-age through the eyes of her older, wiser accomplished self and you will catch an indelible glimpse of Amy as a fun-loving sister, a mischievous daughter and a warm, generous, happy-hearted friend.
Clicking on book cover will transport you magically to the Amazon page where you can read the reviews, read some of the book, for free, and then, of course, buy the book. Do it. Now!

Monday, July 18, 2011
LC Neal is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fictionique, a literary ezine catering to fiction writers, essayists, artists and poets. She is also a fiction writer herself, with one novel nearly completed and a second in its infancy. She occasionally wanders off course and reviews music, books and television. She has a deep and lifelong attachment to historical research, which simply refuses to resolve itself into any sort of profitable enterprise.

Coming from a long line of terminally skeptical smart asses, when someone hands me a book entitled The Luxury of Daydreams and follows it up with “it’s kind of spiritual,” my first response is: I should not be reading this book. Much less reviewing it. I have a reputation to maintain.

I fully expected to struggle mightily with arriving at what to say about this collection of deeply personal essays, and surprised myself by struggling, all right - struggling to figure out why the emotion evoked by this book was so comforting. That feeling drove me crazy for a couple of days, until my much reduced memory banks finally sputtered and spat out the thing I had been reaching for.

I was homesick.

Because there is heartbreak and struggle and loss and tragedy in McVay Abbott’s world and throughout her family’s history. But it’s offset, by far more generous doses of what the lucky among us associate with home: comfort, humor, family, tradition, love and hope.
About hope: unable to live in a world without it, the author does what we all should and finds it, in the smallest and largest ways. McVay Abbott's essay on the subject is one of my favorites....as she puts it, members of her family are Cubs fans, for heaven’s sake. What’s more hopeful than that?

The circumstances described in her tales are not exclusive to her by any means, but McVay Abbott’s way of balancing the good and the bad is unique. She finds room to laugh when many wouldn’t, and time to cry without an ounce of self-pity when she must, and always, always keeps her eye on her particular prize: her husband, her son, her family, her friends, her faith. She is firmly rooted in the same soil her ancestors were, and her obvious admiration for what it took her predecessors to build the foundation that her family rests on is woven through everything she writes.

The best thing of all about The Luxury of Daydreams is its structure. It’s a small book, but big enough to hold a piece of all of us, contained therein. You’ll recognize yourself....and your best friend. Probably a family member or two. But mostly you’ll recognize Amy McVay Abbott, as that sister who cracks you up at the most formal occasions, that friend who flies to your defense whether you need it or not, the woman who calls bingo for a bunch of cranky seniors who don’t get her jokes.

She’s the person who keeps all those separate pieces of humanity that make a family close to each other, and to her own heart.

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Review by Vanessa Seijo

Vanessa Seijo is a writer/teacher living in Puerto Rico. She is currently working on an YA adventure series.
She is the author of Nicolás, la abuela Margot y el hechicero, Ediciones SM 2010, Puerto Rico.
She publishes regularly at Fictionique and OpenSalon.

Journalist Amy McVay Abbott’s debut book, The Luxury of Daydreams, WestBow Press 2011, is a fantastic collection of essays, reflections of a life well-lived with the promise of more to come.
The Luxury of Daydreams is an aptly titled book that will speak to all of us. It touches upon the very fabric of our lives, what we believe and what we think we believe, our families, our loves, our losses. It is the kind of book that reminds you that it is never too late to set out to do what you intended to do; but, it also helps you honor the sacrifices made along the way, accepting life as less than perfect, still wonderful in its very essence. It reminds you of what is important.
The first chapter is a brilliant choice. Those first pages still the mind and prepare the reader for a soulful adventure. McVay Abbott is an engaged writer, both with her beliefs and with her readers.
There are essays that are true snapshots of a time gone by, slices of delightful Americana as well as faithful portraits of difficult times; all survived with hard work, faith, and optimism. McVay Abbott’s description of autumn brings a lovely ache of something sorely missed. There are turns of phrase that will make you laugh out loud even as the very words quietly show you a truth so profound you will find your eyes have traitorously filled with silent tears. Words that reflect life’s mysteries, as simple as they are deep.
The essays on growing up and friendship are sweet and poignant, but not rosy colored. They are brutally honest while still being gorgeously composed. This is a writer who is not afraid to question herself.
Through it all, McVay Abbott’s delightful comedic sense will delight you. There are the amusing stories of motherhood. The bingo story will rightly have you in stitches. You will fall in love with a wild grandmother who carries reptiles in a picnic basket. And in this book you will finally find out just who the "Mayor of Dorkytown" really is.
The Luxury of Daydreams is the kind of book that becomes a conversation between author and reader. You will find yourself stopping mid-sentence and saying out loud “Amy, about that bit, you know it reminds me” and realize you are, sadly, not in front of the writer sharing a cup of coffee under a shaded tree in your patio. But you will wish, more than once, that she were there right next to you.
For this book is a journey of self discovery in which you might also learn a lot about yourself.
Whether you are a believer or not, this is one book not to be missed.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Review by Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg, Paris-based founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beguile, an English-language literary e-zine, has written a review of my book The Luxury of Daydreams:
Early in this series of essays and meditations on life, family, faith, the Midwest, and so much more, author Amy McVay Abbott receives a quilt and an old blue bowl that once belonged to her great-grandmother.
You could say Abbott’s book is like these heirlooms: lovely, cozy, and a real connection with the past. With humor, humility, and hard-won wisdom, the author reflects on a number of different subjects, from childhood memories, to raising her own child, from falling in love, to slowly losing a parent to dementia, from faith, to personal flaws.
Connecting all of these thoughts and more is a strong tie to the past and to past generations. As a person, Abbott may not always know where life is going to take her, but the idea of where she comes from is ever-present, and seems to give her strength, just as this book will bring joy, laughter, reflection, and comfort to many readers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review by Kentucky author/musician

Kentucky musician Kit Duncan is the author of six books including "Dandelions in Paradise."
A good author brings you into the moment. Amy McVay Abbott does this with texture, style, humor, heart.
Reading "The Luxury of Daydreams", I can smell the surf of a Florida beach, and heaven help me, dairy cow patties. I strain to hear the sound of a young man’s car pulling into the driveway, a mother yelling, “Sheppie, Sheppie, Sheppie Doodle Doo, time for dinner,” the chatter of race talkers at a family gathering, the explosions of a July Fourth long ago, and of one not so long ago.
I can taste butter-cream icing, soft serve ice cream, root beer floats, and even a TaB float! I see a Christmas tree with decorations dangling about lying precariously in a dark ditch, and the contrasting faces of two young men sharing a ride to Burkies Drive In – one with a somber look of confusion at frivolity and the other with the gleam of an imp in his eye.
I think with only the slightest nudge I can actually feel keys on my finger tips – an old Royal portable, if I’m not mistaken. And plastic ones attached to a maple spinet piano.

Ms. Abbott's characters are not caricatures. They are breathing flesh and blood, and they have embedded themselves into my very soul. Women and men long gone from sight are reborn again and again in the author’s masterful telling of their tales.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review by Indiana Author

Noted Indiana author Jaleen Bultman-Deardurff has written an early review of the book, "The Luxury of Daydreams," available online and in select retail outlets in August 2011.

Bultman-Deardurff holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing and is the author of two novels, "The Music Teacher" and "Creager Farms: Sequel to The Music Teacher." She has been published in the national magazine "Today's Caregiver," and in the "New York Times" best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul." http://www.amazon.com/Music-Teacher-JaLeen-Bultman-Deardurff/dp/1424122570

"Amy McVay Abbott captures the spirit of small town Midwestern living in her tales of growing up in Indiana. Her tongue-in-cheek approach to embarrassing stories told by her father are priceless. Her love for the simple things such as a blue bowl used by her great-grandmother prompted the author to blend stories passed down from her ancestors with dreams she holds for the future."

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