Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s book ‘Shortest Way Home’
was published by Liverright Publishing Co. of W.W. Norton in 2019. COURTESY PHOTO

Shortest Way Home
by Pete Buttigieg
Published by Liverright Publishing Co. of W.W. Norton 2019
Pages 333 Price $27.99

“Pete Buttigieg is the new guy on the block running  for president this year,” as Time Magazine stated in their May 13, 2019 issue. Reading his book, “Shortest Way Home,” you will find that he is a credit to his generation with stable views. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg is a serious political figure with good ideas for the nation. I was inspired to read his book because I saw him on a “Town Hall” program on CNN about two months ago and was impressed with his ideas. What impressed me was his stability and maturity. He seemed to be very young but answered questions from the students in the audience with responsibility, and without political jargon.

A question he was asked by a student on the Town Hall program was,”Should Trump be impeached?” (It is a question which seems to be on every news program currently.)

Buttigieg said, “No, Trump should not be impeached because it would be an exercise in futility. Even if he were impeached by the House, the Senate would reject it. The only way to get Trump out of office is to vote him out in 2020.”  His remarks are significant today because America is currently involved in the question of impeachment. It is a topic that seems to come and go, but is building again right now, almost in a form of mass hysteria. In a world of chaos Buttigeig seems to have his feet on the ground and is able to stand alone.

Born in 1982, Buttigieg is 37 years old. He is the first openly gay Democratic candidate running for president of the United States. As mayor of South Bend, he voted pro -choice. He is supportive of saving the environment and favors renewed commitment  by the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement. He is against the death penalty. He supports the safe and legal sale of marijuana. He considers himself a Democratic capitalist and is willing to work with labor unions and management together. He favors abolition of the Electoral College and believes that convicted felons should not be allowed to vote while still incarcerated. He is committed to supporting Israel but disagrees with Netanyahu about expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He is against Trump’s position on immigration. He believes the Supreme Court needs a structural reform to include 15 judges. He is against free tuition for colleges but supports initiatives to make colleges more affordable. He is in favor of Washington D.C. becoming a state and supports Puerto Rico statehood, if they want it. These issues define Buttigieg as a thinking candidate. As a student in high school he won an essay at the John f. Kennedy Library writing about Bernie Sanders in their Profiles of Courage contest in 2000.

“Shortest Way Home” introduces Buttigieg  to the public. He went to Harvard and was inspired by John F. Kennedy. He got a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford but was back in the U.S. in 2007. He became interested in serving his community and became  mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for two terms, doing remarkable things.

In the U.S. Navy Reserve, he got called up to serve in the Navy at Camp McCrady in 2013 and became an officer. The story of his experience becoming a navy officer is not as dramatic as seen in the film,“ An Officer and a Gentleman,” but he describes it with pathos, understatement and humor which defines Buttigieg. He is a gentleman, a leader and a survivor.

Buttigieg is a rugged individualist, extremely intelligent, with a quick sense of humor, knowledge of the law and constitution, and has down to earth, practical view points. This book is a memoir of his experiences from childhood in elementary public schools to colleges he attended and his experiences in the Navy.The most important part of the book is when he discusses experiences he has had as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg said that as president of the Indiana Urban Mayors Caucus, he found Mike Pence difficult. He had gone to  Governor Pence’s office with a group of mayors to talk to Pence about economic development and tax increment financing. Pence was only focused on his Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The language of the bill seemed innocent but interpreted federal laws giving corporations the same religious rights as people. It built on the theory of the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision on the Hobby Lobby case which became a legal precedent. The bill’s actual purpose was to discriminate against LGBT individuals. It allowed corporations to refuse to serve LGBT individuals if the corporation said it was against their religious beliefs. Horrified mayors from both parties denounced the bill.

Buttigieg’s encounters in the political scene of South Bend, Indiana has given him valuable experiences in leadership and understanding of people and their needs as well as motivations. He probably will not get the nomination for president at 37 but he will get name recognition and might make a great senator some day or a possible president in the future. Who knows? Buttigieg, an unknown, is cool and sharp, has an excellent background, and is stable. Stable these days goes a long way. I recommend the book highly.

***

The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake
Published by Flatiron Books 2019
Pages 486  Price $27.99

This haunting and beautiful novel opens a window on another culture found in Maine. It is about four generations of the Ogden Milton family who come from New York and who own a stockbroking firm. Every summer they sail from Rockland, Maine, around the islands of the beautiful Maine coast. In 1938, Ogden decides to buy an island in Maine for $1,500 for his wife, Kitty and future family. They bring their family as it grows to the island every summer. Eventually they are no longer referred to as the  ‘far away people’. They become known as the Miltons of Crockett Island.

The author relates that the island set them apart and marked them. In the living rooms of Manhattan, on the tennis courts of Long Island, people knew they owned an island in Maine. Ogden and Kitty belonged to a group of highly educated people. Ogden often went to the Harvard Club on his way home from his stockbroking firm to have a drink and read the paper. Having an island gave his family a chance to go back to nature together every summer. It became a family tradition.

The huge old house on the island had a porch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.The house needed a lot of repair but was sturdy like the rocks on the coast of Maine which have never changed over the years. The family had fun fixing up the house which became their symbol of strength and rugged individualism. They did not come alone to the island. They brought their children, the nanny, and hired a local cleaning lady who got their mail and opened up their house before they arrived every summer. She helped them unpack every year. Each year they packed with appropriate  summer clothes for Maine, sweaters, jackets, linen, food, etc., and also packed their guest book.

They started their own traditions and one of them was a guest book placed in the front room to be signed. They seemed to live in an isolated world within their own culture reflecting down to earth wealth, extensive education, and high social standing in New York as one of the first 400 families. They were so secure that they were not anti-anything, like anti-Semitic or anti-black etc. They really hadn’t met any Jewish people or black people in their world until their children went to college. They laughed at people who stereotyped others.They were so isolated from average America and political issues that Ogden thought Hitler would go away and did not want America to go into a war.

He hired a young Jewish economist who graduated from Harvard into his firm and felt open minded, but they never had him to social things in their home. Later his daughter marries a Jewish boy. They adjusted but it was a shock because it is one thing to have liberal ideas but another thing to live the values you believe in. They managed to do it as a family and learned from their children who they had once taught.

The story reveals what people were thinking and feeling in 1938-1939 beyond historical facts and extends for more than four decades.That is why novels are so important as an art form. They tell us what people were feeling rather than just what happened historically. You do have to like to read about dynasties and what happens in different generations in order to enjoy this book. I find reading what happens to different generations in a family is a fascinating theme, among many themes in the book.

The growth of the Milton family over many years and their experiences in their summer home, with guests who would arrive and sign their guest book, is the story of a family dynasty who lives through tragic events as well as triumphant events, but always manages to survive as a family and come back to their summer house on Crockett Island in Maine.

I loved the story for many reasons. The Miltons, with all their strengths and weaknesses, seemed real as they struggle to adjust to the turbulent times. They are like the rocks of Maine and their house on the island. They are solid. Unexpected events happen on every page. The Milton’s regain after each set back and are cool  and dignified under pressure. They are not perfect but their family loyalty pulls them through difficult times. There are some stereotypical figures in the book, which are broken down but are realistic, reflecting the time period. However, the writing style is warm, sensitive, and compassionate. The author’s understanding of the human condition is amazing.

Most of all the novel shows the growth of a great family who is not afraid of the unknown; sailing in a boat off of the coast of Maine, weathering World War II, navigating the stock market in New York, or surviving old age. If you love literature as an art form, you will love this book. I couldn’t put it down.

— Pat Davidson Reef is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She received her Masters Degree at the University of Southern Maine. She taught English and Art History at Catherine McAuley High for many years. She now teaches at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Classic Films. She recently wrote a children’s book,”Dahlov Ipcar Artist,” and is now writing another children’s book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.”

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