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Book Review: Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser

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Each one of us has a genre of stories we find ourselves reading more than others. Yet, I’ve often heard people say “Boy, I’d like to read something different — something that will catch my interest but is really different.” If you are looking for a break from your preferred storyline — detective, drama, horror, romance, thriller, adventure, crime, religion — whatever it may be, I would suggest reading Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser.

This book is an extremely friendly tale that takes place in a remote northwestern town named Lumby. Here, relaxed townspeople never seem to take themselves too seriously. All appear to be happy, quaintly removed from the outside world. Lumby moves at its own pace. If you could couple Andy Griffith’s friendly town of Mayberry with Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, you might get a feel for Stealing Lumby.

The story line is not complicated. 1) A renowned artist who visited Lumby many years ago painted a spectacular landscape that detailed two weather worn barns. So realistic is The Barns of Lumby painting that it is highly esteemed among artists and critics. The painting is worth untold millions. But while on display in the American Museum of Art in New York as one of its treasured pieces, the world famous painting disappears.

2) As a result, media people swarm Lumby hoping to stir up a feature story by interviewing town residents and broadcasting pictures of the famous setting for The Barns of Lumby. Townsfolk consider reporters a nuisance and an interference that disturbs the quiet and subdued status quo.

3) To add to the mystery, one of the actual barns depicted in the painting vaporizes — the entire building vanishes from Lumby. Gone are the wood, roofing, nails, joists, beams — leaving just the gaping foundation in place. Naturally, townspeople are a bit distraught, but reporters consider this disappearance as incredible fodder for news reports.

How Gail Fraser’s quirky characters bring her tale to a believable conclusion is the magic behind Stealing Lumby. There are Mark and her husband Pam who import Tupelo trees for their farm because bees love its blossoms; the appetizing honey they create will be sold at a handsome profit, they think. Yet neither spouse researches whether Tupelo trees from Florida will grow in Lumby’s northern climate.

Pam and Mark also import several animals to “extend their collection of critters.” However, several chickens and goats escape upon delivery to roam the acreage in and around Lumby at will. One chicken is found roosting inside a rural mailbox where it disturbs no one.

There is elderly Jeremiah, one step away from blindness. He prefers to ride on his horse Isabella rather than ride in a buggy behind her because he can’t stand the horrendous smell of Isabella’s constant farting.

There is Brother Matthew who worries about a “hostile takeover” of his monastery’s famous rum sauce enterprise. Although business is expanding quickly, it may not be rapid enough to keep creditors at bay. He may be forced to sell out to “big business.”

There is ninety-year-old Charley, an extremely wealthy widow who loves books. She plans to add an additional wing to Lumby’s current library after a plumbing mishap blows out a section of the library’s wall.

To add to this mixture of people, there is an unfortunate moose which wanders about town. This huge beast has an open folding chair entangled in its antler rack; but no one in Lumby is brave enough to attempt removal nor is anyone particularly concerned.

Then, too, an artificial pelican appears around town dressed appropriately or inappropriately for any occasion. It reminds me of the plastic geese some people here in Pittsburgh dress for different holidays and special celebrations, and then expose them on their lawn for all to marvel over.

Stealing Lumby is one of several books by Gail Fraser about this remote town. If you are seeking something light to read, something different — a quick fun tale that will distract you from the perils of modern reality and help lower your stress level and blood pressure, this book is your delightful tonic.

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