"The kind of love that offers its life so easily, so stupidly, is always the love that is not returned."  Patchett

     Bel Canto by Patchett is a delightful read. Really it's a meditation on the place of love, art, and beauty in everyday life. It takes place in an un-named South American counrry where a group of terrorists take over the Vice-Presidential palace.  At the Vice-Presidential palace are many international figures who have come to celebrate the birthday of a Japanese businessman who may be interested in investing in a business in the small country. Among the guests is an opera singer whose mesmerizing voice provides cover for the terrorists to take over 
    Patchett makes each character interesting and explores the ways in which the disparate group becomes a community. The opera singer, Roxanne Coss, plays a large role in this community by singing and training one of the young terrorists to sing as well. Many of the members of the party become intimate with the terrorists and both groups are surprised by the humanity of the other.   
    Earlier this year, I read Lucy Grealey's Autobiography  of a face. Grealey and Patchett were friends and it's interesting to see how the themes of beauty and love play out in two very different works. I would recommend Bel Canto.

“Being for something is better than being against something”- Cecil Andrus as quoted by Chris Carlson (133).

This quote is an example of one of many political axioms that Cecil Andrus lived by and that Chris Carlson uses to support this book’s premise that Andrus was Idaho’s greatest governor.  Carlson was Andrus’s former press secretary and his respect for Andrus is apparent throughout the book. Although Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor: A Reminiscence contains many biographical details of Andrus’s life, but it primarily a recounting of Carlson’s experiences with Andrus. This leads to a very conversational style throughout the 256 pages of the book.
Andrus never planned on getting involved with politics but was dissatisfied with the quality of education at his daughter’s school in Northern Idaho. Once in politics, Andrus took to it like a duck to water spending 4 years as an Idaho Senator, 4 terms as Governor of Idaho, and 1 term as the Secretary of the Interior.  Numerous pictures provide visual documentation of many of the events and people that Carlson mentions. There are also several appendices that include Andrus’s election results and articles about him that appeared in major newspapers.

By recounting many personal stories and experiences, Carlson portrays Andrus as warm, intelligent, ethical, and not one to ever forget the name of a constituent. In 1974, Andrus won the election with 73% of the vote, quite the feat for a Democrat from Idaho.  Carlson reports that Andrus had a remarkable ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in a bi-partisan way and believed in judging issues on their merit and not on party lines. Now 80, Andrus still works about 20 hours a week at his Downtown Boise office. He enjoys time with his wife of 62 years, Carol, their three children, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

This book would be valuable for public and academic libraries as part of their collection of writings by and about Idaho’s politicians.   It could have used more editing, as there are slight grammatical errors that can be distracting. Carlson also includes a chapter on his political battles against physician assisted suicide. Although it’s a cause he believes in it doesn’t have anything to do with Andrus and detracts from the rest of the book. All in all, a great read.