March 15, 2008
By Tom Rivers
LE ROY – Leatha Taber has read all six “A Tale for Three Counties” books since the community reading project started in 2003.
The latest book was “difficult,” showing a fictional small town’s effort to prevent a killer flu from ravaging a mining town. Taber didn’t expect the grim topic to be such a page-turner. But the book proved griping — and terrifying.
“This wasn’t a fun piece of fiction,” said Taber of Albion, a retired Department of Social Services worker. “This was difficult because the flu worries people. A lot of people are getting the flu right now.”
Taber was among six winners of the Tale book review contest who enjoyed lunch and discussion Friday with the book’s author Thomas Mullen.
Taber and Kathy Gleason of Holley both were essay winners. They are regulars in the Swan Library book club, which meets monthly. The group read The Last Town on Earth and discussed it last month.
This time the book group has the added perk of meeting the author in person. Mullen today wraps up a three-day visit to the area, leading discussions about the book.
Linda Daviau of Batavia also has read all six Tale books. The repeat essay winner teaches third grade at Elba. Her students were thrilled she won the chance to have lunch with Mullen at the D & R Depot.
“You need to practice what you preach when encouraging children to read,” she said. “It’s not just something we shove down their throats. I want them to see it’s something you enjoy forever.”
Daviau said the book informed her about World War I and the influenza outbreak in 1918 that wiped out communities throughout the country. She was impressed Mullen, 33, could write such a weighty book – with the widespread death and complex emotions and relationships – in his late 20s.
The book was an eye-opener to a time in American history that gets little attention, said Joyce Thompson-Hovey, a fifth-grade teacher in Attica.
“This was a time period I didn’t know much about,” Thompson-Hovey said. “It’s kind of forgotten period.”
The book is critically acclaimed and Mullen said the rights have been purchased to produce a movie. He is thrilled with the public response.
He benefited from the book’s timing during heightened awareness about Bird Flu and other contagious killer viruses. When he wrote the book, mass outbreaks weren’t in the news. But when it was published, SARS, Bird Flu and other potential plagues were worrying government officials.
“The book became timely by accident,” he said.
He just finished a draft of his second novel, a story set in the Great Depression about bank robbers in the Midwest. After their father died, two brothers rob banks while the other brother stays home to support their mother. That’s all Mullen would divulge about his next tale.
The essay contest winners included Ann Burlingham, owner of Burlingham Books in Perry, and Meghan DeGolyer-Hauser of Perry, the only five-time winner of the contest.
DeGolyer-Hauser, co-owner of Table Rock dairy farm in Castile, said the contest is a “great incentive to meet the author.” She peppered him with questions about the writing process.
Mullen also discussed the book Friday evening at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina. He will lead a final discussion today at 2 p.m. at the Perry Elementary-Middle School auditorium.
This is his first time as the featured author in a community reading project.
“Anything that gets people to read is good,” he said.
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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation