Lost towns, discovered stories

My familiarity with New York Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt is mainly through her occasional book reviews in the Boston Sunday Globe. I never fail to be impressed and charmed by her short takes on books in the self-help genre, such as her reviews of this fantastic book about the weather, as well as this kicky tome about getting and staying on top of life’s everyday travails.

And her review in today’s Globe is no exception to the pattern of wanting to read everything she reviews and recommends. I’m particularly interested this time, however, because the setting of the novel in question is near my hometown of Barre, Mass.

Cascade,” according to Leavitt, “grapples with small town limitations vs. big city sparkle … against the eerie backdrop of 1930s Cascade, Mass., a town about to be flooded to make way for a reservoir.”

Historical information of about the Quabbin Reservoir is easy to come by, but I’ve always believed the nearly 75-year-old public works project contains a rich trove of material for historical fiction. Seeing one’s bucolic hometown wiped off the map to provide potable water to big-city dwellers more than 100 miles away is bound to stir up at least a modicum of conflict, to say the least. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken even the slightest step toward writing about the Quabbin and its effect on the residents of the forgotten towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott. But, luckily, Maryanne O’Hara has and, as usual, I have Caroline Leavitt to thank for the 411.

UPDATE, Aug. 20: Oof! I can’t believe I totally glossed over this novel by former Massachusetts Gov. (and not-quite-Ambassador to Mexico) William F. Weld! Thanks to former up-the-street neighbor Heidi (Bolger) Johnson for the heads up. (Her dad, Joe, is a genius with motorcycles and was easily the coolest guy in town, by the way.)


Minor leaguers give major help to kids

Writers need readers, and writers also need to be readers. That’s why I was charmed by this promotion by the Double-A Eastern League New Britain Rock Cats, my favorite non-Red Sox affiliate (though the Bowie Bay Sox are close on their heels).

At some point in their lives, lucky children realize that reading is its own reward, and the payoff is even greater today as it provides a perfect respite from what I call personal technology pollution, a/k/a “electronica.” But to get them started on that path, Reading Books In Summer awards school supplies to readers ages 5 to 15, as well as two tickets to a ballgame (today or tomorrow). The program is underwritten by the Rock Cats organization and Citizens Bank in partnership with the Connecticut Library Consortium.

It’s a simple promotion, but one that could change kids’ lives in an important way.