Monday, August 10, 2020

The Gulag P-Pa Diaries ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

THE GULAG P-PA DIARIES
A Bittersweet Memoir of Grandparenting
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Memoir / Christian / Humor / Grandparenting / Family
Publisher: CKN Christian Publishing
Date of Publication: April 22, 2020
Number of Pages: 268
Scroll down for the giveaway!



As new empty-nesters, Harriet and Preston next looked forward to becoming grandparents. Their journey to assuming the names of Mema and P-Pa, however, took a tragic and unexpected turn.

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HALL WAYS REVIEW: Before The Gulag P-Pa Diaries came on my radar, I’d read a couple of Preston Lewis’s westerns. Most recently, Rio Ruidoso, an outstanding serious historical western, and prior to that, The Fleecing of Fort Griffin, a hilarious western caper. There’s a reason this author has won so many awards.  The man knows how to write a western that’s not full of clich├ęs and tropes and knows how to entertain his readers, which is why I didn’t hesitate to pick up a copy of this nonfiction work. The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, Lewis’s combo grandparenting diary/memoir is the ultimate gift of love to his wife, children, and grandchildren.  

In the diary parts of The Gulag P-Pa Diaries, seven years of the Camp Mema/Gulag P-Pa are chronicled, with the entries pulled from Lewis’s Facebook posts he wrote during each. (As I write this review, this year’s Camp is just ending.) The book is full of laugh-out-loud moments with P-Pa (Lewis) cast as the fun guy, and the fall guy, while Mema works miracles that feed and clothe and nurture the horde of kids. Shenanigans are plentiful. Considerable planning goes into each Camp so that there are themes with structured, coordinated activities to support them. The Lewises take grandparenting to the next level. Oh, and there’s chaos. Utter, wonderful chaos as kids are kids -- and P-Pas are ornery P-Pas.

Five of the seven years, there were also full-blown movie productions with titles like, Escape from Gulag P-Pa, The Good, the Bad, and the Cutely, The Cookie Thief, Star Stars, and most recently, The Sound of Noise. Lewis is a playwright with three staged productions under his belt and wrote scripts and assigned roles to each of The Grands. Working with [grand]child actors was no walk in the park, and readers will be thoroughly amused at the requested script re-writes and uprisings.

“It’s a testament to P-Pa’s parenting skills that many of his most memorable parenting moments have the word “incident” at the end of them.”

Lewis’s approach in the writing about the camps is a self-deprecating one, and his antics are so zany that readers won’t be sure which really happened, and which were tongue-in-cheek. Naturally, the children also provide chuckles, like when two of the girls sweetly invite P-Pa to their tea party. After P-Pa gulps down the cup of tea the girls offered and gives it high praise, Miriam says, “It was poison.” Thankfully, just as P-Pa is spiraling into unconsciousness, Carys offers him a dose of “unpoison.” Whew.

There were only a few places where the book went a little off course and into politics, political correctness, and even the perplexities of gender identities. While these are all approached with humor and sarcasm, some may find it off-putting and/or insensitive.

“This beautiful moment, however, provided the greatest SHOCK of my life. Scott’s little brother was a girl!”

The Camp diary chapters alternate with memoir chapters, starting with Preston and Harriet’s courtship, and journeying through their having a family of their own. I laughed at young Preston’s confidence in knowing the gender of his second child, and his “bless her heart” attitude towards Harriet, who most certainly would be disappointed by having another son. (And surprise, they had a daughter. There is considerable pride that shines through in these chapters as Lewis shares the triumph of raising and launching your children successfully into the world. But also, there is considerable pain in these chapters as Lewis shares the grief over the death of his first grandchild, Benjamin. Those chapters where Lewis discusses the aftermath of Benjamin’s death leveled me – especially as I was just blessed with my first grandbaby a few months ago. My sadness lingered after those chapters, making it difficult to transition to the follow-up chapters of Camp silliness. I had to step away from the book a few times, but these chapters are so important to read, for so many reasons.

Preston Lewis and his wife have set the bar high for this Mimi to start planning how Grandad and I are going to make memories with our grandchildren (because given we have five children, SURELY there will be more than one). But also, Lewis reminds me of the importance of having a record of times with our children and grandchildren.

Thank you to the author and Lone Star Book Blog Tours for providing me a print ARC in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.  



Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster's Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series, The Memoirs of H.H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.
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GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
1ST PRIZE
Book signed by P-Pa (the author), Mema, and The Grands
2ND PRIZE
Book signed by the author
AUGUST 4-14, 2020
(US ONLY)




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8/4/20
Review
8/5/20
Author Interview
8/6/20
Notable Quotables
8/7/20
Review
8/8/20
Top Tips & Fails
8/9/20
Playlist
8/10/20
Review
8/11/20
Scrapbook Page
8/12/20
Review
8/13/20
Review


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4 comments:

  1. Nice review, Kristine. I like how you related this to your becoming a grandmother & how the book has made you think more about the role.

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    1. Thanks, Maryann! Now if only we can get this virus out of the way so I can start making memories with my grandbaby.

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  2. As always, Kristine, thanks for taking the time to review my book and for all you do for Texas Letters. Enjoy grandmotherhood.

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    1. As always is the case, the pleasure was all mine. And I will!

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