Blog Book Tour | “The Belle of Two Arbors” by Paul Dimond feat. poetry by Martha Buhr Grimes

Posted Thursday, 1 June, 2017 by jorielov , , 3 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I have been hosting for Poetic Book Tours for a few years now, where I am finding myself encouraged to seek out collections of poetry or incredible fiction being published through Small Trade publishers and presses. I have an Indie spirit and mentality as a writer and I appreciate finding authors who are writing creative works through Indie resources as I find Indies have a special spirit about them. It is a joy to work with Poetic Book Tours for their resilience in seeking out voices in Literature which others might overlook and thereby, increasing my own awareness of these beautiful lyrical voices in the craft. I was thankful to be selected for the blog tour featuring a unique combination of historical fiction, poetry and a saga of one woman’s life lived through the story within ‘The Belle of Two Arbors’ as it sounded like such an original concept to be explored in Historical Fiction. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publicist of Paul Dimond in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I felt inspired to read this novel:

Through my literary wanderings hosting for Poetic Book Tours, I have come to expand my Contemporary Poetry readings whilst continuing to seek out Indie Fiction by writers who may or may not become widely known in the bookish community. I love finding the innovating voices who write inspiring novels but one thing I also like to seek out are the writers who bend genre to their own will. One of my favourite sub-niches of literature are the genre-benders – where there is a fusion of influences from more than one genre or thematic of story-telling being bridged into one singular story or the arc of a character’s journey told through a series.

What intrigued me about this release is how it’s a story which is not only told from narrative prose but through poetic insight into the character’s internal mind. Poetry is a personal release of emotion, vision and imagination. Purporting through a styled layout of lyrical insightfulness, poetry can transcend a wide field of emotional range. I was inspired to seek out this title if only to see how poetry and narrative scope could interlink to each other and expound upon the telling of a character’s journey.

Interestingly enough, I knew this story was set in Michigan, however, it wasn’t until I started reading the story I learnt where in Michigan the story takes place as I didn’t look up the specifics until I was already inside the chapters. I have known about Ann Arbor for most of my life, as it’s a progressively diverse city and has been on the forefront of political liberalism for years. It’s a University city but moreso than that, it’s a city which likes to stand on it’s own – curating it’s own mind about things and taking a stand against what goes against it’s core beliefs. In effect, it’s been a rockstar city for the state. However, the other half of the story is set further North, just before you get to Sault Ste. Marie, there is this little tucked away corner of the Michigan Coast where the Traverse Bay region resides. I know a great deal about this portion of the state even if I haven’t stepped foot on her shores. This is partially why as I read more of the story, it tugged at my heart knowing about all the recent changes happening up there and around the rest of the state as a whole. I hint about this a bit but as the focus is not about Environmental Science, Geology or the cause for concern over contaminated water basins – I opted to yield to focusing on the literary side of the book rather than the grief I have felt over the issues most at hand for Michigan’s residents.

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Blog Book Tour | “The Belle of Two Arbors” by Paul Dimond feat. poetry by Martha Buhr GrimesThe Belle of Two Arbors
by Paul Dimond
Source: Publicist via Poetic Book Tours

Born at the turn of the twentieth century in Glen Arbor, near the dunes of Northern Michigan, young Belle is the first child of a gruff stove works boss and a crippled mother who weaned Belle on the verse of Emily Dickenson. When a natural disaster results in her mother’s death and nearly takes the life of her younger brother Pip, Belle creates a fierce, almost ecstatic farewell song. Thus begins her journey to compose a perfect Goodbye to Mama.

At 21, Belle ventures south to Ann Arbor for university, with teenaged Pip in tow. There, she befriends Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden and finds that her poetry stands alongside theirs, and even with that of her hero, Dickinson. Her lyrics capture the sounds, sights, and rhythms of the changing seasons in the northern forests, amidst the rolling dunes by the shores of the Great Lake.

Despite the peace she finds, Belle also struggles in both homes. Up north, she battles her father who thinks a woman can’t run the family business; and clashes against developers who would scar the natural landscape. In Ann Arbor, she challenges the status quo of academic pedants and chauvinists.

Belle’s narrative brings these two places to life in their historic context: a growing Midwestern town driven by a public university, striving for greatness; and a rural peninsula seeking prosperity while preserving its natural heritage. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Boom, Belle’s story is hard to put down. Her voice and songs will be even harder to forget.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1943290215

Also by this author: Author Interview: Paul Dimond

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction


Published by Cedar Forge Press

on 4th April, 2017

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 696

Published By: Cedar Forge Press

Available Formats: Paperback

Read the article about the author via The Ann Arbor News

Converse via: #BelleOfTwoArbors

About Paul Dimond

Since birth Paul Dimond has shared his time between Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Glen Arbor amidst Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan.

Prior to researching and writing The Belle of Two Arbors, Paul Dimond served as the Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tried several major race case that divided the U.S. Supreme Court and served as the Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy. He has also practiced law, chaired a national real estate firm and continues to spend his time between the two Arbors. He is an alumni of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School.

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Definitively Belle:

After she lost her mother, Belle insisted on changing her name right then and there; an act of independence I was surprised her father allowed but in his grief, he seemed a bit more humble in my eyes. He was softer and almost kinder somehow in that moment of passage from when his daughter left girlhood and started to embark on being a woman. The name was inspired by her mother’s maiden name with an added vowel on the end; courtesy of her father, hoping to impart a feminine spin on the name and to change it from sounding too much like a surname.

Her birthday gift was a special notation on how to live one’s life: trust your own voice, own your writerly talent and embark forward on your own merits irregardless of the critics who seek to take you down a peg or carpartmentalise you into something your not. A book of poetry meant to illustrate to young Belle how her poetic voice differed from a popular poet by a teacher (admittedly, I strayed from the poets my own teachers tried to influence our appreciation of poetry upon as their voices fell flat to me) whilst recognising Belle would be best to focus more on Dickinson and her own muse than to try to allow others to pigeonhole her daughter into a catagory or versed style which went against her own talent. To me, this was the best gift a mother could impart on her daughter at any age but especially so, when this becomes the last gift to be given. This part of the story harkens back to how I was raised and encouraged to follow my own muse and inclinations.

Like me, Belle loved to swim; unlike me, she was an open water swimmer – braving the Great Lake whereas I only swam in controlled pools. Except of course for the one time, I found myself enjoying a freshwater spring where the fish liked to trail after me and the water was below 60F. There is nothing more invigorating than swimming – my favourite part of swimming though was below the surface where you get to see the world from a different perspective and stretch your lungs at the same time. I loved reading the passages of her swimming expeditions because it hinted back towards my own youth.

My Review of the belle of two arbors:

As we enter Belle’s life, we’re on the verge of her mother’s drastically sudden exit from her life as a horrible tragedy befalls her whilst mother, daughter and son are ice fishing near the family’s business. The water was churning ice into liquid and drowning everything in the ice shanty in such a strong force, there was hardly time for any of them to react. Belle’s mother acted as all Mums’ would and protected her children. Belle was growing up with the weight of life already placed on her shoulders as she was the sole provider for the caretaking of her disabled mother and of the raising of her kid brother, Pip. Her father was more bent on taking care of business affairs and did not endear me to being particularly paternal. If anything, he found reasons to be absent from his family moreso than being mindful of their needs.

They lived in the portion of Michigan where untamed wilderness and the wilds of the Great Lakes merged into a unique setting where the landmark Sleeping Bear Dunes are located on the Lower Peninsula in the northwest section of the state hugged quite close to Traverse City. Being a traveller, there are many parts of Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula which have inspired me to visit the state; however, due to environmental concerns, I chose not to visit a state which has enchanted me from afar. Michigan has an incredible natural landscape – the beauty and the scope of it’s topography is truly incredible if you take a look at the different ecosystems present in the state. However, on a personal note, being environmentally conscious it’s hard to overlook some of the choices the state has made in recent years to harm the sanctity of it’s natural environs and water table. Part of what appealed to me about reading this novel, is being able to ‘visit’ a state I am genuinely intrigued by without having to physically be there to experience it’s wonder.

Life picked up speed with Belle’s mama long since gone; she raised Pip as best she could, aware of his growing curiosity about life, the Cosmos, God and everything in-between. Her father pursued his business with a fierce vengeance, leaving little time for anything else. Again, his family was second to the growth of his business. Belle had a financial adviser but what she needed more was a chance to fly away from the family; to seek out her own lifepath and to see what she could carve out of life for herself. Belle stepped into the shoes of homemaker and mother, so young, she struggled to sort out what Belle wanted outside of that focus.

Belle didn’t have a father who would yield to acknowledging a woman’s right to own business or to be a spear-header of ideas therein; no, he was of the old adage only male heirs could inherit and run family businesses. Despite the fact, Belle controlled half of his business, he would not be convinced she was the rightful heir whilst hoping to inspire her brother Pip to step into his own right as his father’s successor.

As Belle embarked on her University career, she found gender bias is not limited to small townes in the North; no, there were plenty of ways women were being oppressed or omitted from being seen as equal to men. In Ann Arbor it was a question of swimming rights; the men had more opportunities to swim than the women; not only in the local community (courtesy of the YMCA; apparently back then it was not co-ed as it had been in my growing years) and not on University grounds. I appreciated the passage which highlighted Johnny Weissmuller as all swimmers know of his strength and power in how he approached the sport. It was interesting to see him in this spar against Belle’s boyfriend and another swimmer; where at different parts of the competition each of them out-shined each other.

Her upbringing being what it was she was given certain key advantages on her classmates; such as her residence and being in a position of influence to make things happen. She struck up a relationship with a lifeguard who fancied her first for her abilities in the water and secondly, for unconventional approach to life. She reminded me of my maternal great-grandmother; tall, full of strength, keenly proud but with a gentleness about her too. Both women were a force to reckon with but I wonder… if in her younger years if my great-grandmother would have been a bit like Belle. Seeking herself whilst seeking out the world.

Her heart found affection and solace in Rabbie (her affectionate nickname for her boyfriend) who understood Belle quite well. They were the opposite halves of a whole in regards to swimming which I think aided their buoyancy as a couple. She had a deep well of love pooling into her soul for him and she ached most to have a child by him even if they were going round things a bit backwards to convention! Laughs. Her brother Pip had taken up residence with her but as he was older now, he could pull his own weight whilst endeavouring to find his own wings to fly. He was still bent on Astronomy and seeking out the stars whilst inventing things faster than his mind could draw up the plans to create them all.

I must admit, I didn’t warm to Frost. This is interesting to mention because he plays such a strong role in the background of the novel. Of the four poets included, he did come through stronger both in mannerism, personality and presence. I felt hew as the most fleshed out of the four Dimond wanted to draw forward out of the backdrop of Belle’s life; even if I did not find his particular personality my cuppa tea. I was more caught up in how Belle was trying to wrestle out her writerly voice and her poetic style. She had her own unique vibe and approach to writing poetry but her Mum had been right: once you allow others to read your works, your self-confidence can shorten the joy by which you create them. She was starting to find everyone had their own opinion about how to approach poetry and how poems ought to be written. I ran into this myself whilst in school; the irony there is for every poet who followed the so-called rules, there were others who ‘re-wrote’ how poems could be spoken, written or interpreted. In literature and poetry, there really aren’t many rules – we, as writers and creators can re-invent the way in which words reside against the page.

One of the joys I had as a poet reading this novel is finding someone else had noticed some poems ‘sing’ their own ‘song’. I noticed this as a teenage poetess – how sometimes poems were more lyrical than they were intended; meaning, not all poems were meant to be idle and not all lyrics were poems either. There is a hidden balance between how poems transform themselves to the listener and to the writer who etches out their essence. The trick is finding out what rings true – for the poem and the poet.

Young Pip impressed me due to his scientific propensity for finding ways to use his innovative mind for the common good whilst encouraging his curiosity by seeking out answers to things only theories could explain during his lifetime. His character had a lot of charm to him in how his mind processed information and sought out the answers to life’s most curious questions. I especially liked how he tried to invent things which were only whispers on the wind at that point in time and would one day become bonefide mainstays of our lives. His approach to re-examine what worked best for the Earth and not in destruction of natural resources is what I felt championed his eclipse as a character from boy to man.

Historical events did not diminish the strength Belle had inside her to rally and to transition with the times; even the family business re-defined itself during the war era. Her friends remained steadfast throughout her life though her closest friends were the ones she knew the most and trusted even more; including David, her original crush. He went on to make his tribe stronger and to find ways to both conserve the natural resources around them and strengthen his tribe to live on their own whilst staying solvent financially. Despite all of this, the success and setbacks, the personal losses and the incredible living history Belle was observing as she charted her course – she still tried to remain faithful to herself. To her own endeavours – in both swimming and poetry.

Fly in the Ointment: Note on Content:

I do admit too, there were certain portions of the narrative which dragged a bit for me, almost as if part of the inertia of the opening bridge of the novel became a bit muddled before the half-way mark and thereafter intermittently til the end. Pacing can be critical when it comes to my beloved ‘chunksters’ (those wicked tomes of big volumed works of narrative art) – sometimes you can feel as if the pacing falls off it’s cantor of drawing you into it’s vortex. And, for me, this is what happened in different places of The Belle of Two Arbors.

There were periods where I felt it was sounding a bit more academic than narrative – meaning, it was going into different circles of transparency you’d expect but didn’t necessarily have to explore. There were passages where I just had a personal disinterest in reading and then, the pace resumed to the strength of where I had enjoyed it previously. Also, this is something that happens in traditional biographies which is why I don’t always opt to read them and am quite particular about the ones I do read: I enjoy the emotional connection to the stories I read. I never could understand the paced out facts and notations of a lived life because I wanted to dig into the heart of what made that person tick and the choices they made as they lived.

Some of my grievances with this novel made me question if it was half written as a traditional biography vs. written in the styled voice of a Biographical Historical Fiction. It’s the difference of breaking out of Non-Fiction into Fiction and how the two alter in tone, voice and delivery. I also felt sometimes the research superseded the fictional lives of the characters. And, although I usually enjoy reading letters and correspondences inside Historical Fiction, I didn’t feel the shifts between the letters and the narration were well placed all of the time. Again, for me there were issues in pacing and delivery inasmuch as my attention was thwarted when I felt everything was drawing away too much from the core focus of the story itself.

UPDATE: (week of featuring the author’s interview) In case anyone was curious – when I mentioned I found it hard to focus on certain sections of this story, I was referring to skipping through or glossing over portions of the text until I could re-align with the thread of what I was enjoying about Belle’s life story. However, as it will come out on the interview – I did completely miss one key moment of her life which is when she was diagnosed with Cancer. As you know, I shy away from stories about Cancer ever since I first realised quite recently (ie. last year) these stories have a negative effect on my bookish heart. (see also Review) If I had seen those sections, it would have shortened my reading of this novel quite quickly.

On the unique writing style of paul dimond:

The one confusing part about starting to read The Belle of Two Arbors, is where the fiction meets the persons who lived. I found the opening sequence of Belle’s life so vividly honest and realistic, coupled with the Publisher’s Note which serves as a Preface (in the ARC); I was left wondering where the line in the sand was drawn. I was surprised the Author’s Note which attempts to express a distinction between what is ‘fact’ and what is ‘fiction’ was anchoured in the back of the story; as personally, I think it was better served if it was placed in the beginning of the novel. I personally like to understand the foundation of how a story is set and arranged; if it’s based on real-life and serves as a Biographical Historical Fiction piece – I like to know upfront where those definitions lie and what distinctions are made between the invention of the author’s vision and the honest truths stemming out of real-life.

I read a lot of stories which fit into this niche of Historical Fiction but this was the first time where I felt the truth of Belle and of the novel’s heart was a bit more obscured from the sight of the reader. It’s simply a matter of how his vision is disclosed which lent it to be read two different ways; as I understood the four poets of whom are featured in the story are real as any of us are but I was left with a question mark hanging over my thoughts as I read the story if Belle’s own story was rooted in truth, even if fabled or embellished a bit from the honest account of her life. It took a bit of time, but I realised at long last, Belle’s story is the fable riding the waves of the poets’ lives.

One interesting thing to note is I believe Mr Dimond wanted the poets to be the primary focus (considering the research he invested into their lives) of the novel in regards to how this refers to being ‘biological historical fiction’ on their behalf; however, he put so much into the story of Belle, to me, she is the quintessential fixture of the novel and truly the heart of the novel’s focus. The poets to me became quite secondary to Belle, as if their purpose was to inspire her to follow her own path but not to overtake her importance as the focal point.

Equality in Lit:

I appreciated the inclusion of David, Belle’s good friend who is from the Ojibwe tribe. I have long since appreciated Native American culture, heritage and spirituality, which is why for me, this was a special treat indeed. As I enjoyed seeing this part of Michigan through his eyes – of learning some of the lore and legends surrounding the natural wonders special to the Ojibwe inasmuch as finding Belle was far ahead of her time by accepting everyone equally and for finding friendship can cross all barriers which stand between people.

on the poetic voice of ms grimes:

I truly was captured by how Ms Grimes was able to encapsulate Belle’s sensibility on life and of expressing her emotional candor into poems which bespoke of what resided most on her heart. She had a way of ebbing out Belle’s inner character and propensity for thinking deeply about what affected her most by the circumstances she experienced. I was jolly happy finding out there was going to be a collection of her poems concurrent to the ones published in this novel; as I had a feeling I’d enjoy seeing her poems standing strong on their own even without a narrative to guide them to the surface. She can in-tone so much about a person’s perspective within a few short stanzas of expression.

Cleverly too, she placed her poetic voice in-step with Dimond’s narrative to such a degree of clarity, it was hard to know what precipitated the poems: the story-line or the poem itself? What came first in other words – as she seemed to anticipate the rhythm of how Belle was being shaped and defined by Dimond; yet she held another piece of Belle’s intuition all on her own, too. Definitely a winning match between novelist and poet; re-defining the boundaries of literature and how poetry can walk alongside narrative voice to where each blends into a singular tone of a character’s journey.

reading habit:

In the recent past, I have been talking about my appreciation for #SlackerRadio and their stations for allowing me the flexible soundscapes to tuck inside the narratives I am reading. I turnt to them again, this time round to listen to the sounds of their Adult Chill station; where artists such as: Robert Plant with Alison Krauss; Adele, The Strumbellas, The Heydaze, Jenny Lewis, Grant-Lee Phillips,  Current Swell, Bill Fay, Rag n’ Bone Man, Matt Simons and Of Monsters and Men to name a few curated my readerly soundscape for this novel. There was such an Indie Music vibe about all of these selections it fit in beautifully with the backdrop of Belle’s life.

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Reader Interactive Question:

I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who picked up the same story to read.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

“I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen.” – self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Thursday, 1 June, 2017 by jorielov in 20th Century, ARC | Galley Copy, Astronomy, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Coming-Of Age, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Content Note, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Equality In Literature, Family Drama, Family Life, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Genre-bender, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Inheritance & Identity, Life Shift, Literary Fiction, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Native American Fiction, Poetic Book Tours, Poetry, Realistic Fiction, Single Mothers, Singletons & Commitment, Small Towne USA, Sports, Sustainability & Ecological Preservation, Swimming & Competition, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, the Forties, the Great Depression, the Nineteen Hundreds, the Thirties, The World Wars, Upper Mid-West America, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction, Women's Health, Women's Rights, World Religions

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3 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Belle of Two Arbors” by Paul Dimond feat. poetry by Martha Buhr Grimes

    • Hallo, Hallo Tori!

      I have an extensive interview coming up on 8th June featuring an in-depth overlook into this book! I think you’d like to hear what the author had to say about how he composed the novel and how he explains what inspired the characters to speak their own living truths in this unique Biographical HistFic. I don’t oft stumble across books where poetry is immersive and acts as a companion to narrative either – being a writer & poet, this is what drew my eye towards this title, as I like finding new ways to ‘bend how fiction can be explored’. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciated your earnest interest & your lovely comment! :)

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