Zen Inspiration Rescues Memoirist Wanda Hennig

Binge eating and sensual pleasures, apocalypse and government spies, a way of life and taking chances are the prevalent themes of this month’s books.


Reading the Sweet Oak by Jan Stites (2015, Lake Union Publishing, $14.95, 365 pp.)

Oaklander Jan Stites has a second novel, this one set on a snaking Missouri river where great white herons glide to gravel bars and smooth river rocks form eddies. Almost-80 Ruby, a fading force of nature, and her granddaughter, Tulsa, 28, are faced with losing their canoe rental business to a condescending bubblegum-chewing neighbor. The cautious but strong-as-an-oak Tulsa joins Ruby’s book club of avid romance book fans and is thrown for a loop by the resulting friendships and insights into love she gains. Peopled by other characters with authentic-sounding Ozark names like Pearl and Rupert, the book visits small-town rural America with a tale for the heart.


Cravings, A Zen-Inspired Memoir About Sensual Pleasures, Freedom from Dark Places, and Living and Eating with Abandon by Wanda Hennig (2015, Say Yes Press, $14.95, 131 pp.)

In this memoir, Durban-born Wanda Hennig, a onetime Oaklander and contributor to this magazine who is again South Africa-based, shares her inner turmoil: deep depression, binge eating, and severe social anxiety. Pick up the paperback to be instantly transported from Paris and Pocatello to Cape Town and San Francisco. Hennig leaves behind boyfriends, a dog, and even a daughter on her journey to find herself. Ultimately, she does with a lot of Zen meditation fueling her sensual spin halfway around the world in an everyday existence filled with sexuality that drive her ever-present “Wanda-lust.”


Gaia by Morton Chalfy (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, $14.99, 372 pp.)

Science fiction meets intrigue in this futuristic novel that one reviewer characterized as “Hippie speculative fantasy.” It features Harrison Barnes, an urban studies professor; his grandson, Lucas; a religion known as “Gaia;” and Maeve, a Gaian high priestess in training. Global warming has taken its toll, with wastelands and life as we know it very different. Government spies, robots, embedded chips embedded, and a life-altering hard drive device figure prominently in the plot, as do community sub-sects like Vegans and Buffalo Hunters. Alamedans may recognize Chalfy’s byline from the “Amblin’ Alameda” blog he wrote for The Alamedan.

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