Local authors Amy Laprade and Johnny Memphis are at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield today

Published: 11/4/2016 2:27:02 PM

These two books have little in common, except for local authors and local signings on the same day next week. Nevertheless, they make an interesting reading combination.

“So Nice to Finally Meet You” is the debut novel of Amy Laprade. A writing teacher and coach, Laprade has a master’s of fine arts degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Greenfield.

The narrator of her novel is Gina, a desperate 15-year-old girl in upstate New York in the 1980s. Gina lives in a trailer with her unhappy, alcoholic Aunt Elaine and Elaine’s boyfriend of the moment.

Gina has only one friend and feels isolated. At school, she is bullied and ridiculed. At home she is subject to Elaine’s mood swings and verbal abuse.

She decides to drop out of school and take off for New York City. There, she hopes to break into the music scene as a guitarist and perhaps find her mother. All she knows about this mysterious figure is the little Elaine has told her: Elaine’s twin sister, Ellen abandoned Gina to Elaine at birth.

Gina falls in with a group of artistic young people in the city. They give her food, clothing and shelter of a sort (an abandoned apartment in which several of them squat). She is leery of the drugs they give her and the sex they expect from her — but she accepts these constraints because she believes that her new friends love her.

Nevertheless, she telephones Elaine, who finally tries to step up and be the responsible guardian she should have been all along. Gina and the reader fear that Elaine’s change of heart may have come too late.

Laprade’s use of the first person draws the reader quickly and capably into Gina’s life and feelings of being trapped. Gently, the author leads the reader to conclude that Elaine, too, is trapped — and to root for both aunt and niece to find their way to healthier, happier lives.

Thirty years of great music

“Music in the Air” was published earlier this year in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Green River Festival.

Written by local radio personality and music connoisseur Johnny Memphis, it documents every year of the music festival by sharing a list of performers, photographs of artists and audience members and memories from people involved with organizing this once-a-year weekend.

My personal musical knowledge ends at about 1950, so I am unfamiliar with many of the names of performers and groups who have come to the festival.

Reading the book, however, I was drawn into the spirit of the event and now hope to attend a Green River concert.

Fans of music and of this festival, which draws thousands of people to Greenfield each year, will want to read this book. The book and the festival make wonderful ambassadors for our part of the world

Book readings

Amy Laprade will read from, and sign copies of, “So Nice to Finally Meet You” on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield.

Johnny Memphis will read from, and sign, “Music in the Air” on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., also at the World Eye.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling

Taffy.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.


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