Friday, February 27, 2009

Born With“Broken Heartstrings”

By Richard “Chip” Schrader
Book Review Editor
The line from page one of Wayne C. Perreault’s novel Broken Heartstrings: “In the tomblike silence inside, Father Madeiras padded slowly beneath the windows of the shadowed nave,” sets the tone for the rest of the novel that takes place in a small New England mill town that is haunted with the very ghosts you’d only expect from one of Faulkner’s equals.
An abusive priest, a brutal Greek patriarch, and a local doctor are the opening players in this skeleton laden small town. They make a pact to help pull off a scheme to cover up a scandal that would surely jar the town to its foundation, and be the end of their good friend.
In Broken Heartstrings, Perreault extends the gothic American milieu into Post-Vietnam New England. The narrator, Ashton, is a home coming Vietnam Vet facing a nation that shows disdain toward the war and the people who fought it, and he steps into his home to a defeated mother and combative father only to realize he wants that to be in his past.
Like any small town, everybody knows nearly everything about everyone. Perreault has a deep understanding of this dynamic as Ashton (Ash) finds himself out of favor with many women’s families for what his father might have done twenty years ago.
Then along comes Evangeline, the small town beauty all grown up and decked out in nylons and a dress suit working as a secretary where Ash grinds his days away as a laborer, and drinks through his debaucheries of the night life. But, he has met his match through an unusual courtship with this Greek woman of mythical beauty.
A major hitch in his designs emerge when he finds a Marine Veteran stands in the way already claiming this bombshell as his current fling, but Ash sees more than just a few evenings of fun as he falls in love with Evangeline. Even though he gets caught in a love triangle commonly found in fiction, the angle from which Perreault depicts it is unique, and the confrontation that ends the triangle is too original and funny to give away.
Marriage and children grace their lives and appear to create a familial union that shatters the preoccupation with Ash’s non-Greek heritage. But, the relationships is again tested with a loss that deeply wounds Evangeline, and Ash as he can only observe a woman who has fallen from his reach with grief. The pathos is played evenly within these pages and never glides into the melodramatic droning that tempts many authors.
Soon Ash finds that Evangeline too, has inherited an unforgivable family history, a well kept secret that gets exposed during a court case involving Evangeline’s family estate. The effect it has on the players of this drama unfolds before our very eyes and heightens the drama to tragedy. This piece of the saga consists of the final chapters of the novel, and brings the reader to realize that life itself is a series of trials.
The romance and the character of Ash are what Hemingway would have written if he had emerged from Vietnam and came from small town New England. The characters are tough, cool, and heartbroken and the marriage is stricken with loss and interfamilial conflict. All the while, Perreault has honed his own style while unmistakably being influenced by the twentieth century’s best writers in this treat of a novel.
Anybody looking for something more than the mass produced novels the mainstream publishers crank out should give Broken Heartstrings a read. It is provocative, funny, emotional, and tightly written without the sacrifice of detail. This book is a fine representative of the storytelling that our independent press has to offer, and proves how relevant the small press really is.
Photo caption: Cover of Wayne C. Perreault’s novel Broken Heartstrings. (Courtesy photo)

A Century of Heartfelt Home Care:
SMMC Visiting Nurses

Dottie Valentine isn’t one to mince words. She knows what she likes, dismisses what she doesn’t and has a delightful charm that is hard to resist. She is independent and prefers to stay that way. But at 90 years of age, it is challenging to live on her own. A variety of ailments related to her advanced age require professional attention. The key to ensuring Dottie’s independence, as it has been for thousands of individuals in southern Maine over the past 100 years, is SMMC Visiting Nurses.
Founded as the Kennebunk Public Health Association in 1909 in order to provide a public health nurse to the Town of Kennebunk, SMMC Visiting Nurses has evolved from a single person entity to a national award-winning 60-person organization that was named to the 2008 HomeCare Elite, a compilation of the most successful Medicare-certified home health care providers in the United States. This annual review identifies the top 25 percent of agencies, ranked by an analysis of performance measures in quality outcomes, quality improvement and financial performance.
“We’ve come a long way from that simple beginning on the second floor of the Pythian building in Kennebunk,” said Elaine Brady, RN, executive director of SMMC Visiting Nurses and an employee for 27 years. “The one constant, though, has been our continuous service in providing home visits and health promotion activities to the community. Our goal is simple: We want to ensure that our patients are able to function at their highest possible level of health while living independently.”
Registered nurses teach, supervise, coordinate referrals and provide skilled care in concert with physicians and other health care professionals, including physical, occupational and speech therapists, social workers and home health aides. SMMC Visiting Nurses also offers flu shot clinics, blood pressure screenings and support groups. But the key service remains the highly technical, acute restorative care, which often requires the temporary installation of equipment in the home.
One of the newer technologies in use is the Telehealth monitoring system that allows patients with chronic needs to have their vital signs monitored daily for close observation and compliance with the doctor’s orders. The monitor has a voice system that instructs patients and their families on how to take specific readings. Many patients say that it’s like having a nurse in the home 24 hours a day. A recent hospital study proved that patients on the Telehealth system have less readmission to the hospital than those without the system. This saves health care costs while enabling the elderly to remain at home.
“We service all of York County with the very best home care services,” noted Brady. “Our affiliation with Southern Maine Medical Center enables us to provide the highest level of coordinated care with electronic medical records that work in synch with the hospital’s system. Physicians can log on and receive reports from our nurses and therapists in the field that provide updates on the status of their patients living at home. With the aging of the population in Maine, the need for our services is growing every day.”
According to a community study initiated by SMMC Visiting Nurses, people 65 years and older will comprise 16 percent of the population in York County by 2012, a number that has increased over the past few years as retirees choose to move to the southern Maine coast to enjoy the advantages of the lifestyle here.
The growth in the aging population creates challenges for SMMC Visiting Nurses, which is celebrating its centennial year. “We receive funding from private donations and some municipalities,” said Brady, “but in challenging economic times towns and individuals are tightening spending. Yet the need continues to grow.”
For Dottie, who was born just a few years after SMMC Visiting Nurses was founded, the service represents more than independence. Nurse Barbara Ingraham has become a friend.
“The care she provides means a lot to me,” said Dottie, who has received cardiac, diet and ostomy care for several years. “She boosts my morale, gives me a confidence and makes my day every time she visits. I look forward to seeing her.”
Article submitted by Tim Dietz.
Photo caption: Barbara Ingraham, RN, CDE, CWCN, a diabetes educator and wound care specialist with SMMC Visiting Nurses, gets a warm greeting from Dottie Valentine of Kennebunk during one of the twice weekly visits provided by SMMC Visiting Nurses. (Jeff Stevenson photo)