A thriller, a nurse’s commitment, compassionate Catholics and AIDS and a Valentine – Twin Cities

It’s a mix today, with a new thriller and two very different fiction books involving medicine and another plague that wasn’t that long ago.

“Blood Up North” by Fredrick Soukup (Vine Leaves Press, $17.99)

A young woman living a hardscrabble life in a small northern Minnesota town faces ugliness in many forms, including her family, in St. Paulite Fredrick Soukup’s second novel, “Blood Up North” (after “Bliss”). It’s a dark and gripping character-driven story of old murder, parental cruelty, dysfunctional family and drug abuse.

The story is set in winter woods in Backus, Minn., which one critic referred to as a fictional town. But Minnesotans know there is a real Backus, near Brainerd.

Cassandra (Cass) Schmidt aches to get out of her town, where she is related to so many people and so much dark backstory. Cass cares for her paternal grandmother de ella, a tobacco-chewing, strident woman who knows how to use a gun. Her father of her, a violent career criminal, beat her of her and her brother of her, Jack, and she suspects he murdered their mother of her. Her uncle de ella, the town cop, is corrupt and her cousins ​​de ella think nothing of roughing up their grandmother de ella.

Jack, who is addicted to drugs, and Cass have always been best friends, and when Jack asks her to hide drug money he stole, she does so out of love. When she learns Jack has a price on his head from him and ruthless drug dealers are looking for him, she has to employ the very violence she hates.

Cass. who’s one tough woman, draws sympathy from readers through the author’s clear depiction of her de ella:

She wasn’t quite sure what Jack meant when he called her “the baddest one between all of us,” but she believed him. It wasn’t that she herself was cruel, but that she was unfazed by the cruelty of others and, no less, by that of circumstances. For her de ella the omen of doom that presided over their meager Northwoods existence was n’t so horrible. Because she, unlike so many in Backus, neither wished it away nor abused alcohol and drugs to hide from it, she felt ready — or as ready as she could have been — to confront it. Eager, even.

Soukup will discuss his novel at 5:30 pm Friday, Feb. 18, at Next Chapter Booksellers, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul. $5. Attendance will be capped at 50 people to allow for social distancing. Ticket required. Go to: nextchapterbooksellers.com/event/blood-north-fredrick-soukup.

“Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear” by Michael O’Loughlin (Broadleaf Books, $28.99)

Hidden mercy book coverWould you be surprised to learn that St. Vincent’s, a New York Catholic Hospital, was ground zero during the AIDS epidemic? The hospital contained the first and largest AIDS ward on the East Coast at the same time Cardinal John O’Connor was fighting against gay rights.

The story of nuns, priests and lay men and women who felt called by their faith to help men who were dying in the early days of this ugly disease is the one Chicago-based Michael O’Loughlin tells in this illuminating book that should be read by everyone, even those of us who are not Catholic nor touched by AIDS.

The book’s title comes from a letter to the author from Pope Francis, who wrote: “Instead of indifference, distancing and even condemnation, these people let themselves be moved by mercy.”

O’Loughlin’s book grew out of his podcast “Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church.” He is gay and Catholic and his personal journey is woven into the narrative. Why, I wondered, did Catholic gays and lesbians stay in a faith that rejected them? What did it do to their emotional and mental health?

He tells of people like Sister Carol Baltosiewich, a nun who moved to New York from a small Illinois town and visited gay bars, getting to know and understand the lives of the AIDS patients she was caring for. Father William Hart Nichols, a gay priest, saw himself in the many gay men dying from AIDS and came out publicly, believing gay priests had a unique role to play in the crisis. David Pais, a long-term HIV survivor and a Catholic, lost his partner to the disease and was one of the earliest volunteers at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

St. Vincent’s closed in 2010, and O’Loughlin points out that LGBT issues are still roiling the Catholic Church. But protest groups like ACT Up, which disrupted church masses, brought public attention to AIDS and O’Loughlin puts faces on the Catholics who helped them.

O’Loughlin will introduce his book at 1:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 20, at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 4537 Third Ave. S., Mpls, presented by Dignity Twin Cities (LGBTQ Catholics) and Clare House, which provides housing for HIV and AIDS individuals, and the Awareness Project. Register at: stjoan.com.

“The Naked City” by Caroline Bunker Rosdahl (Bunker Hills Media, $16.95)

nursing book coverCaroline Bunker Rosdahl’s clever publicist calls Rosdahl “the bestselling Minnesota author you’ve never heard of.” And she’s right.

Rosdahl is the author of “Textbook of Basic Nursing,” a bestseller now in its 11th edition, celebrating its 53rd anniversary. The book has been used to train nurses worldwide, spanning from the mid-20th century to the 21st.

“The Naked City,” written for the general reader, is anecdotal, easily-read paragraphs about the author’s experiences as a nurse in hospitals, public health, schools and mental health units, as well as being an educator. The book’s title comes from the author’s promise to give readers “a full frontal look behind the curtain.”

Along the way, Rosdahl compares her days in the field, beginning with receiving her student cap in 1958, to the new equipment and methods nurses use today. For instance, she was taught to pump an “iron lung,” in case the power went out, so the patients within the huge machines could continue to breathe. Today, those machines that kept patients alive are artifacts.

A 1960 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Rosdahl worked with doctors who were giants of research in heart and bariatric surgery, including C. Walton Lillehei, Owen Wangensteen, Richard Varco and Henry Buchwald.

And as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, she joined the University of Minnesota marching band.

Rosdahl’s most significant contribution to nursing education was introducing the use of behavioral objectives into her development of a Practical Nursing Program. Behavioral objectives are now incorporated into her basic nursing text book by her.

On a historical note, Rosdahl was born in Sauk Center, Minn., 84 years ago and met hometown author Sinclair Lewis when she was 10 years old. Her father, poet Frank Bunker, was a good friend of Lewis’ father, Edwin, the town doctor.

AND A VALENTINE FROM MAUD

valentine box book coverMinnesotan Maud Hart Lovelace is best known for her Betsy, Tacy books. but she did short ones too. “The Valentine Box,” illustrated by Ingrid Fetz, was first published in 1966 and has been reissued by Minnesota Heritage Publishing ($15) with a pretty, lacey, old-fashioned cover.

Written for kids just starting chapter books, it’s about Janice, who is new in town and afraid nobody will put anything in the classroom Valentine Box for her. She loses her purse with the valentines inside, but she and a boy friend find it and all ends well.

And for those of us with sweet memories of paper dolls, Minnesota Heritage also has a Betsy, Tacy & Friends 19th-century paper doll book, illustrated by Eileen Rudisill Miller. There are dress-up clothes, play clothes and other outfits for the girls and elegant evening wear for their parents.

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