Leaves by Michael Baron

Leaves by Michael Baron has the makings of a family saga, with its large Gold family in Oldham, Ct.  Tyler, a budding nature photographer; Corrina, a controlling older sibling; Deborah, the resident foodie; Maxwell, who seems to have it all and leads the town’s Chamber of Commerce; and Maria, a young emptynester, must close a chapter in their lives and begin anew after deciding to sell the family business, the Sugar Maple Inn — a popular destination for “leaf-peepers.”  Baron alternates between characters throughout the novel, but the characters are dynamic enough and varied so they are easy to keep track of, even when the spouses and their individual family units are introduced.  Each of them is struggling with the close together loss of their parents, as well as the decision to sell the inn that is as much a part of the family as they are.  Each chapter signifies a day in their lives as they count down to the last Halloween bash they’ll ever throw for the residents of Oldham.

“The leaves were the reason that people came, whether it was for an overnight diversion or to settle for decades, rising generations of others who would remain nearby.”  (page 15)

Oldham is a place with many faces and facets from the ancestral families to the newcomers looking for a change or new adventure — particularly those that become small business owners.  Tyler and Maria were easy to connect with as their artistic sides have stagnated and need rejuvenation; Maxwell’s ambivalence about his place in town is easy to understand given the young age of his son and the adjustments he and his wife have made.  Meanwhile, Deborah is like many of us, comfortable in her current place and not quite ready to move on, and unsure of what direction to head in when change is inevitable.  Corrina is a tough nut to crack and hard to like with her domineering nature, but it’s easy to see why she wants to be in control — at least of her siblings and the last party at the inn — because her home life is not as picture perfect as it looks.

There are so many layers to Leaves, as the members navigate their new lives without the inn and their parents to anchor them, and the impact those changes have on their own relationships with one another.  Their moods and reactions change quickly, though the distance between them has been as gradual as the changing seasons.  However, while there are many depths to this novel, there also are moments where readers will want more, but the narrative suddenly changes to another sibling or situation.  Baron has established a foundation for a series of novels that are sure to come about the Gold family, and he’s crafted a family with strong bonds.  Even though each member is on the verge of breaking their family bonds for good, there are memories that creep in to pull them back to their roots and each other.  Baron’s novel is one that readers won’t want to end.  There is so much more in store for these characters and their relationships.

About the Author:

Michael Baron grew up in the New York area, has worked in retail and taught high school English.  Although he started writing nonfiction, he’s always loved fiction and love stories.  He has a deep passion for writing about relationships – family relationships, working relationships, friendships, and, of course, romantic relationships.  His wife and kids are the center of his life and his wife is the inspiration for all of his love stories.

Mailbox Monday #196

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Mailbox Monday blog.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Lost Art of Mixing and The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister for TLC Book Tour.

Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

2.  The Hopkins Touch by David Roll for review in January from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

David Roll shows how Harry Hopkins, an Iowa-born social worker who had been an integral part of the New Deal’s implementation, became the linchpin in FDR’s–and America’s–relationships with Churchill and Stalin, and spoke with an authority second only to the president’s. Gaunt, nearly spectral, and malnourished following an operation to remove part of his stomach, the newly widowed Hopkins accepted the president’s invitation to move into the White House in 1940 and remained Roosevelt’s closest advisor, speechwriter, sounding board, and friend nearly to the end. Between 1940 and 1945, with incomparable skill and indefatigable determination, Hopkins organized the Lend-Lease program and steered the president to prepare the public for war with Germany. He became FDR’s problem-solver and fixer, helping to smooth over crises, such as when the British refused to allow an invasion of Europe in 1943, enraging Stalin, who felt that the Soviet Union was carrying the military effort against the Nazis. Lacking an official title or a clear executive branch portfolio, Hopkins could take the political risks his boss could not, and proved crucial to maintaining personal relations among the Big Three. Beloved by some–such as Churchill, who believed that Hopkins “always went to the root of the matter”–and trusted by most–including the paranoid Stalin–there were nevertheless those who resented the influence of “the White House Rasputin.”

3.  Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan for review.

4.  Carnival by Jason Bredle for review.

Jason Bredle’s poems approach the world like a haunted cat approaches a glacier, curious and itchy with strangeness. In Carnival, he skates paratactically between states of being: levity, heart-holes, licks of darkness, lovesickness and werewolfishness. Bredle’s gift as a poet is to traverse and re-traverse one looking glass in ten different moods. When he goes through it, we are taken. -Melissa Broder

5. Leaves by Michael Baron for review with Providence Book Promotions in February.

Welcome to Oldham, CT, a small town rich in Colonial heritage while being utterly contemporary. Situated along the Connecticut River Valley, Oldham bursts with color every fall, as the leaves on its trees evolve into an unmatched palette of scarlet, orange, purple, yellow, and bronze. For more than three decades, the Gold family has been a central part of Oldham in the fall, its Sugar Maple Inn a destination for “leaf-peepers” from all over the country, and its annual Halloween party a stirring way to punctuate the town’s most active month.

But this year, more than just the leaves are changing. With the death of their parents, the Gold siblings, Maria, Maxwell, Deborah, Corrina, and Tyler, have decided to sell the Sugar Maple Inn, and this year’s Halloween party will be the last. As October begins, the Golds contend with the finality that faces them, and the implications it has for a family that has always been so close. For some, it means embracing new challenges and new love. For others, it means taking on unimagined roles. And for others, it means considering the inconceivable. Complicating it all is a series of “hauntings” that touch each of the Gold siblings, a series of benign interventions that will remain a mystery until October draws to a close.

What did you receive?