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Book Bag

WHITE DOG FELL FROM THE SKY

By Eleanor Morse

Viking Press

www.eleanormorse.com

Eleanor Morse, who lives in Maine and spent her college years at Yale University and Vermont College, also lived in Botswana for several years in the 1970s, and she’s used that experience to shape her latest novel, a tale of love, loyalty and cruelty set during the apartheid era in South Africa.

As “White Dog Fell From the Sky” opens, a black medical student, Isaac Muthethe, has just escaped from South Africa to Botswana in 1976. He was forced to flee after he witnessed white members of the South African Defense Force murder a friend of his. A lean white dog appears at Isaac’s side and soon becomes his constant companion. Isaac then meets an old friend, Amen, who now works with a South African resistance movement.

Amen takes his old friend in, and Isaac finds a job as a gardener for Alice, a white American woman who lives in town with her husband, Lawrence, and works for a government land office. Alice and Isaac — who still has White Dog at his side — form a growing friendship. But Alice, angered and despairing over her husband’s infidelity and their failing marriage, leaves Isaac in charge of her home and takes off on a trip into the bush, where she meets and falls in love with an older man, Ian.

When she returns home, Alice finds only a dehydrated and malnourished White Dog in her driveway; Isaac, she learns, has been taken by South African police who crossed the border to search for him. Now it will be Alice’s turn to search for Isaac, while Isaac must find a way to save himself and his family from the violence and racism of South Africa.

In addition to spinning an elemental love story, Morse also builds a remarkable contrast between the rugged beauty of Africa and the horrors of apartheid. Publisher’s Weekly writes, “Morse’s unflinching portrayals of extremes of loyalty and cruelty make for an especially memorable novel.”

Morse will read from and sign copies of “White Dog Fell From the Sky” Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Broadside Bookshop in Northampton.

THE OPEN PILLOW

By David Rowinski

Ted E Beans/Inknbeans Press

Amherst writer and house painter David Rowinski, who has also lived in Africa and Europe, placed third in Hampshire Life’s short fiction contest two years ago, and he’s now penned his first book — a tale that he hopes will show children that there’s a purpose for everyone.

“The Open Pillow,” which is colorfully illustrated by Dea Lenihan, is the story of a tiny pillow in a flower bed — a strange place, it would seem, for a pillow, especially one that’s barely big enough for an ant’s head. And ants, of course, don’t even use pillows

But this is no ordinary pillow: It might be in a strange place and “of miniscule size,” but it also has “enormous dreams.” Pillow can grow — when it looks up from its perch in a flower bed and sees morning glories unfolding themselves, it doubles in size, then doubles again and again and again, making itself an appropriate fit for progressively bigger creatures, from a snail to a mole to a rabbit.

Yet none of these critters seems interested in resting its head on Pillow, and some don’t even notice it. Pillow is beginning to wonder if all this expansion is worth it when a boy named Adam comes upon the scene and says, “A flower bed is the wrong bed for a pillow” — and takes Pillow home to use on his own bed.

Rowinski will be at Booklink in Northampton on Sunday at 1 p.m. to read from and sign copies of “The Open Pillow,” which is available in local bookstores and online at sites such as Amazon.com.

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