BUSHNELL ON BOOKS: ‘Dear Maine’ and ‘Bad Medicine’

BUSHNELL ON BOOKS: ‘Dear Maine’ and ‘Bad Medicine’

DEAR MAINE: THE TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS OF MAINE’S 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRANTS by Morgan Rielly and Reza Jalali; Islandport Press, 2021; 192 pages, $19.95; ISBN 978-1-952143-19-9.

DEAR MAINE: THE TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS OF MAINE’S 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRANTS

Noted British writer John Berger (1926-2017) thoughtfully wrote: “Emigration, forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time.” And that is certainly true today in Maine.

“Dear Maine” reveals just how prophetic Berger’s words are, with the movement of people among continents and countries so common and dramatic. In recent years Maine has seen a rise in emigration from foreign lands, bringing vitality, hopes, dreams, imagination and energy.

This is a powerful collection of 20 essay-style profiles of immigrant men and women who’ve settled in Maine recently. The stories of their journeys reflect their fear, uncertainty and doubt, as most felt violence, war, poverty, political, religious and cultural persecution. The authors spent six years on this project, a notable effort to highlight immigrant sacrifices and contributions.

Rielly and Jalali selected 20 immigrants from 18 countries, telling their stories with both grace and fervor. For these men and women, their stories have happy endings in Maine. They and their families are safe, healthy, prosperous American citizens, and valuable contributors to their new home. Their journeys, however, were often terrifying nightmares of death, injury, illness, abuse, corruption and sacrifice. Several never saw their families again. The lucky ones were well-educated and spoke English, for others the transition to a new life has been difficult.

Two Somali women have been elected to city councils in Maine; one Iraqi man is a professional boxer; a Russian girl learned English watching The Simpsons on television with hilarious results. The essays also provide stunning insight into the oppressive, brutal and deadly conditions in their home countries. It’s no wonder people flee from countries like Syria, Bosnia, Rwanda, Russia and El Salvador.

Their stories and successes are positive examples of why “everyone should be given a chance.”

BAD MEDICINE: A MEDICAL THRILLER by Geoffrey M Cooper; Maine Authors Publishing, 2021; 249 pages, $15.95; ISBN 978-1-63381-248-2.

BAD MEDICINE: A MEDICAL THRILLER

About scientists, French biologist Jean Rostand (1894-1977) wrote: “Nothing leads the scientist so astray as a premature truth.” Either that or the scientist deliberately falsifies research data for some other purpose.

“Bad Medicine” is the latest medical thriller from Ogunquit author Geoffrey Cooper, featuring research scientist Dr. Brad Parker and his lover FBI agent Karen Richmond. This is Cooper’s third mystery involving these characters, following “Nondisclosure” and “Forever.” And this one is much better — more tightly wrapped, suspenseful, exciting and believeable. Cooper is a retired cancer researcher and academic administrator bringing solid professional credentials to his thriller writing. And this could easily be titled “Bad Pharma.”

Parker takes a temporary job as director of the Maine Translational Research Institute in York, a cancer research facility. There is trouble between two scientists competing for tenure — one is a hot-shot all-star, the other is hated by everyone: especially the pompous faculty. Parker has to sort it out, but he quickly smells a rat — accusations of research sabotage, threats, false data, and the apparent poisoning of patients in a clinical lung-cancer drug research trial.

Parker is in over his head, but fortunately Richmond’s FBI background brings clarity and focus to what become a murder investigation. He is smart, but she is a lot smarter, more devious and a lot more ruthless. He makes a bad decision that leads to blackmail, but she finally hits on the one clue that breaks the case open.

Cooper’s smart, timely plot reveals drug research scientists to be prickly, arrogant, smarmy, greedy egotists with high opinions and low morals — bad combinations when in bed with Big Pharma. Then toss in a cold-blooded hired assassin and the tenure fight takes on new importance. Plot twists and fast-paced action make this a fun yet scary story.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes at Harpswell.

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