Book review: ‘West Along the River 2’

By TINKY WEISBLATT

“West Along the River 2” by David Brule (Booklocker.com, 174 pages, $20)

I started reading “West Along the River 2” on a recent rainy morning. This book was an ideal companion for a quiet, drippy day in the country.

Subtitled “Stories from the Connecticut River Valley and Elsewhere,” this slim volume is the second collection of essays by David Brule of Millers Falls. The river in question is the Millers River, which runs by the property where Brule grew up and still lives.

His essays resemble a river themselves. They flow by the reader in a gentle, friendly manner.

Brule hasn’t always lived in our area. He has worked with the Peace Corps in North Africa and has studied in France. His time away seems to have made him appreciate his roots in Franklin County.

As a private citizen and as a writer for the Montague Reporter, he positions himself as an informed witness to the landscape and people about him. Some of his essays are journal entries about seasonal sights, sounds and feelings. Some are articles about happenings in his town. All are written with heart and humor.

Perhaps Brule’s greatest asset is his sense of history. He is familiar with his community’s past and its residents over the years, from Native American forebears to 20th-century high-school graduates attending reunions.

Although some of his essays depict travels overseas, the heart of his book is his own home. He introduces readers to its rooms and some of its furnishings as well as to the wildlife he views from his porch. He also conveys the ways in which the house itself changes the seasons and the river flow by.

Like most New Englanders, Brule has a special affection for winter: for the cold weather that helps us appreciate the warmer months to come and for the ways in which Christmas and its festivities tie us to each other.

He takes advantage of the rituals of the holiday season to remember long-gone friends and family members.

“Don’t mistake this kind of remembrance for nostalgia,” he writes. “It’s more an alertness, an awareness of the importance of those fading images of those who have gone before. I don’t try to go back to the old times. It’s more like those old timers are a part of my present time.”

His words and memories will inspire the reader to be more aware of intersections between past and present in everyday life — and to be as curious as the author about the flow of life’s river.

Reading Aug. 21

Brule will read from “West Along the River 2” on Thursday, Aug. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.

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