Review for Two: "Town of Watered-Down Whiskey" by Jim Geiwitz and "Beast in the Garden" by David Baron

  • Posted on: 12 May 2013
  • By: TedG

In a pair of unprecedented moves for our book group, we (a) met somewhere besides the Rivers, and (b) reviewed two books at the same meeting! Wow! A two-fer two-fer!

The change in venue came about because of a fundraiser event at the Rivers, so at the suggestion of Bev and the gracious hosting of Bill Brakken and his staff, we met at The Rookery. It was a nice change of pace––wonderful ambience, good food, and as usual, good conversation.

The review of two books was caused by a snowstorm in April that prevented everyone but Adrian making it to the Rivers on meeting night. Thus, at this meeting, Ron led the discussion about Jim Geiwitz’s Town of Watered-Down Whiskey, and Adrian led the group in discussing Beast in the Garden.

Ron has a personal affinity for The Town of Watered-Down Whiskey because Jim Geiwitz was Ron’s college roommate at St. Olaf. They started out studying chemistry together, which Ron continued while Jim moved on to psychology. He has since had a successful career in that field, writing a number of professional books on the subject. Town of Watered-Down Whiskey is Geiwitz’s first attempt at writing fiction.

The book, Ron explained, is a loose biography of Jim’s growing up in Minneota, Minnesota. At least some of the events in the book actually happened to Jim, though the story’s characters are fictional. Our group generally enjoyed the book, though all agreed it was sometimes difficult to know what character was speaking. Additionally, John noted that Rumplestiltskin keep popping up, either in the discussion between characters or in person. No one could figure out what that was supposed to mean. Though no one said they would read another of Geiwitz’s books (and Ron noted that Jim’s psychology books were not something the group would be interested in reading), The Town of Watered-Down Whiskey still ranked highly, scoring an average of 4.18 out of 5 for Readability (Adrian gave it a 3.75, giving the average its unique score) and 4.75 out of 5 for Interest.

Jim Baron’s Beast in the Garden was entirely different. “It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the Men’s group,” Ron said. In balanced fashion, John compared it to The Tiger––which our group read and discussed in May 2012––saying Beast in the Garden was “like The Tiger, but this story wasn’t as interesting.”

This is a true story of attacks made on people by mountain lions in Boulder, Colorado, in the early 1990s. The increased presence of cougars in the area was precipitated by a ban on deer hunting around the city, which resulted in a burgeoning deer population. The lions came to where the food was. Unfortunately, the lions habituated to the presence of people and dogs and came to see them as prey, same as the deer.

The book “was very relevant to our area and the issues we have with wolves,” one person noted. In the end, though, Irv was impressed with how the people dealt with the “cougar problem,” and we agreed that it probably would not have been how a similar “wolf problem” in Wisconsin might have been handled.

The story brought on some very interesting discussion, because Adrian was formerly the Wisconsin DNR’s main wolf biologist and is familiar with large predators of all kinds, including cougars, which have also been seen in Wisconsin in recent years. In fact, Adrian, who first read this book when it came out, did not notice until this recent reading that he is listed in the author’s acknowledgements. He doesn’t think he’s ever met David Baron, “but he must have been in touch with me to ask some questions when he was researching the book,” Adrian mused.

The comparison to John Vaillant’s The Tiger a year ago followed through to the scores for this book. On our 1-to-5 scale for both Interest and Readability, everyone gave it 5s in both categories. In yet a third unprecedented move, Ron gave it a 6 for Interest, bringing the average score up to 5.2. Everyone agreed they would also read another book by Baron.

Our next meeting will be back at the Rivers on June 20th to discuss David Treuer’s Rez Life.

Thanks to Bill Brakken and our wonderfully patient server, Jenny, for their hospitality at The Rookery.

 

Post-Script. Based on the discussion about the current state of cougars, both in this region (Minnesota, specifically) and in Boulder, where Beast in the Garden is set, Irv and Ted did some research after the meeting. First Irv...

I did a little research myself to try and find out if the city of Boulder was allowing a deer hunt in the city limits. I could not determine for sure if they do or do not but I did come across a couple of items I found interesting. First I found a report that stated that Boulder County was #1 in the state in incidence of CWD in the deer population (overcrowding?)   

Secondly I found the following link to FAQ about mountain lions in Boulder  http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&id=13141&Itemid=1410#AAAA

I found the answers interesting and #13 somewhat surprising – somewhat contrary to what I thought the book concluded. 

And Ted's look into the state of things in Minnesota...

Just to be sure there's some closure to last night's discussion about the status of cougars in MN, here's the MN DNR's cougar website: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/cougar/index.html

 

According to this website, "There is no evidence that Minnesota has a self-sustaining, breeding population."