Readers Recommend, July 16, 2021


"Hey, Hillsdale, you would really like . . . "


Do you have a recommendation, a tip, a hint that you want to share with your Hillsdale neighbors? It could be a book, a recipe, a tv show or movie. Maybe a hike or a restaurant. The only requirement is that you like it and that you think the rest of us will like it, too (ok, two requirements). Recommendations to/from all ages welcome (best bedtime story recommendation, anyone?). Keep it positive and keep it to 350 words or fewer, but don't keep it to yourself.


Send your Reader Recommendation to the Hillsdale News so we can keep Hillsdale hopping with good ideas and good information.


--Valeurie Friedman


Recommended by Marilyn McFarlane:

The Elephant Whisperer

By Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence

St. Martin's Griffin, 2009


This true story is so compelling, I could not put the book down. It's filled with nail-biting suspense, tension, intrigue, sadness, and humor, along with some life lessons.


Lawrence Anthony was born in South Africa and lived in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi before settling in Zululand. He worked in insurance and real estate, but his real passion was for the African Bush and its people and wildlife, so eventually he bought the 5,000-acre Thula Thula game reserve. This began his career as a conservationist.


The reserve protected rhinos, crocodiles, snakes, cape buffalo and other animals, but had no elephants or plans for them. Then a conservation group asked Anthony to rescue a herd of nine who had escaped their enclosure and were about to be killed. He knew they were considered rogues, rampaging over the land, but reluctantly, he agreed to take them.

In the midst of tribal warfare among the Zulus, neighbors who opposed having elephants nearby, and death threats from dangerous poachers, Anthony and his mostly loyal crew sought to protect the herd and give them a home. With phenomenal, amazing patience, he gradually won the trust of the matriarch and another female, and that led to calming the rest. He became an “elephant whisperer.” The story of how he did this as he faced many challenges is both poignant and inspiring.

Recommended by Bill Gallagher:


A hike from Hillsdale to the Boones Ferry Bridge

Three miles, about two hours

a large tree house in the woods
The greatest tree house ever can be seen from Trail 6 through Marshall Park. Photo by Bill Gallagher.

The long-awaited Hillsdale to Lake Oswego urban trail remains a work in progress, but there’s a good preview available for anyone interested in hiking this section of the longer trail to check out the brand-new, $8.8 million Boones Ferry Bridge and the just-completed pedestrian trail that runs under it.


The sections in Marshall Park are never greener than they are in May. You’ll rarely cross paths with more than a few other hikers. There’s enough elevation gain to make you work up a bit of a sweat.


Once past Bertha and Barbur Boulevards you’ll encounter few cars and trucks. But be careful at Taylors Ferry Road. Unfortunately, some sections of this hike are not accessible for strollers and mobility devices.

A couple of intrepid hikers went off trail at the confluence of Tryon and Arnold Creeks. They were looking for the trail that will someday allow hikers to stay in Marshall Park all the way to the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The current trail takes you out of the park at SW 11th Ave. Photo by Bill Gallagher.

Whether the entire two-city trail is ever completed is up to the powers that be in Portland and Salem. If you follow the directions below, you can see for yourself why completing the connection to Lake Oswego has topped the wish list at SW Trails PDX for almost 25 years.


START: Mary Rieke Elementary School at SW Vermont and 13th. Follow the brown SW Trail signs for Trails 3 and 6 and you’re on your way.

  • Head south on SW 13th and take the first right at SW Chestnut.

  • Head west, cross SW Bertha and you’re at the entrance to Stevens Creek Nature Park.

  • Take the steps and the trail through this lush oasis and you’ll come to a stretch of Capitol Hill Rd that cries out for sidewalks and traffic calming. The good news is you’ll only have to walk a tenth of a mile westbound before you take a left and head south at the Trail 6 sign.

  • This stretch up and over SW 19th Ave takes you through unpaved alleyways that typify the crazy topography of our neighborhood. But it beats dodging cars on Capitol Hill Rd.

  • Stay on Trail 6 as it sends you up a 32-step staircase to the “Safeway corner” of SW Barbur and Capitol Hill Rd. Neighbors have been speculating about the future of this intersection for a decade. Will Barbur Rentals leave? Isn’t there supposed to be a high-rise apartment building where Vertical Diner now stands?

  • Cross Barbur at the only traffic light along this hike. Stay on SW 19th Ave as it crosses Interstate 5 and you’ll reach the one-mile point at Saint Clare’s Catholic Church.

  • After navigating improved and unimproved pavement segments you’ll come to SW Taylors Ferry and one of the shortest sidewalks you’ve ever seen. This is where you cross and where things get interesting. Be careful. There’s a blind curve and no marked crossing.

  • Once safely across Taylors Ferry, head east on the south shoulder (even though that means you’re walking with traffic).

  • Ignore the Trail 6 sign indicating a right turn onto SW 18th Ave, instead, keep walking to SW 17th, which is where a proper crosswalk will be built (fingers crossed) someday. On your right you will see a gate that says "Private Property– No Trespassing. "You can safely ignore the warnings. This property is owned by Portland Parks and Recreation. A new trail will be built here in the near future by SW Trails PDX volunteers. You can walk it now by following the little flags and neon streamers that mark the path down to the main trail through Marshall Park.

  • Here you’ll turn left onto the trail that runs along Tryon Creek. When you get to the playground, turn left, find the old stone bridge across the creek and head south. The trail soon crosses Maplecrest Ave, where traffic is usually light.

  • Once across Maplecrest you’ll reach a "Y" in the trail. This is the two-mile point from Hillsdale. To the left is where a new trail will be built to takes you to Tryon Creek State Natural Area without leaving Marshall Park. For now, take the trail to the right where you see a photocopy of a trail sign posted. There are lots of tree roots here so be careful. (At least it’s not muddy any longer.)

  • Shortly after the trail splits, be sure to look up long enough to see the greatest tree house ever. One can only wonder if it’s available for the occasional rental.

  • Stay on the trail until it takes you out of Marshall Park on SW 11th Ave. Head downhill for half a mile under a decent canopy until you get to SW Arnold Road. Here you’ll see where Arnold Creek empties through a culvert to join Tryon Creek. The new bridge was built so a much bigger culvert blocking Tryon Creek could be removed.

  • Take a left on SW Arnold. You’ll have to share the road with cars and there’s hardly any shoulder, so stay visible.

  • Up ahead you’ll see the brand-new stairway that leads down to the new pedestrian path at the confluence of Arnold and Tryon Creeks. The construction of this path and the bridge above not only make it easier and safer for humans to get to Tryon Creek Natural Area, fish will also now have an easier time getting under Boones Ferry Road.

  • To make this hike an even three miles, follow the new stairs on the east side of the bridge up to SW Boones Ferry. From there head south on the new paved shoulder to the second trailhead. There’s parking there so you can have someone meet you and head into the Scenic Area for some serious hiking and even make it all the way to Lake Oswego. Since the bridge opened on April 19, drivers no longer have to take a four mile detour for construction.

For more self-guided hikes see SWTrailsPDX.

Recommended by Cathy Petrecca:


The Solace of Leaving Early

By Haven Kimmel

Doubleday, 2002

I read. A lot. Mostly literary fiction, but I enjoy a story-like work of non-fiction, too, or a good mystery, or a book that can make me laugh. My favorite authors write prose that reaches toward poetry, and weave philosophy/religion into a gripping story. Think "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean, or "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. You’ve heard of those two novels and probably read them. Here’s one you haven’t, and should: "The Solace of Leaving Early" by Haven Kimmel.


In this intelligent, poignant novel, a young woman returns to her small Indiana town to nurse some psychic wounds; there, she finds souls much more damaged than hers. This novel looks at both blossoming and deteriorating relationships: parent to child, lover to lover, individual to God, counselor to counseled.


The author is younger than Maclean or Robinson when they wrote their masterworks, so she perhaps raises more questions than she answers, but she does so in ways that make one truly think about the questions. And she does so with language that stirs the heart and elevates the spirit. I am not a religious person, but who can’t be moved by language like this: “We might imagine that we are on a boat, and that the prow of the boat penetrating the water is the choice made, or the present thing, and that the wake following the boat is what is not chosen, the absent thing: tiny wave upon wave, a body growing wider and wider, finally dissolving into the universe in ways we cannot fully perceive. What is present is finite; what is absent is infinite.”


I grew up in Indiana, so I might be biased toward my fellow-Hoosier author, but I believe this novel speaks to anyone interested in the human condition, and how we’re all connected. I heartily recommend it to those who enjoy a literary examination of life, combined with a great story.


This novel has humor (“Happiness is a theory, and we in Indiana do not traffic in theories. We are an applied people.”), beauty (“Some fight against any measure of grace, and some decide to sit very still at the table and linger.”), incredible heartbreak, and a journey toward becoming better, more aware, more alive. You will want to linger at the table of this novel.


Recommended by Robert E. Hamilton:

Africa Memoir: 50 Years, 54 Countries, One American Life

By Mark G. Wentling

Open Books, 2020


Those interested in a much longer review of Africa Memoir will find it in the February 10 edition of the online magazine Peace Corps Worldwide.


Mark G. Wentling was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras (1967-69) and Togo (1970-73) and during five decades continued to work in Africa for United States Aid for International Development, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, and World Vision. He managed or consulted on dozens of aid projects within the continent and visited all 54 African countries.


“The central purpose of this book,” Wentling says in the foreword to this book, the first in a trilogy, “is to share my lifetime of firsthand experiences in Africa. I also attempt to communicate my views about the many facets of the challenges faced by each of Africa’s countries.” The countries are presented alphabetically: Algeria-Zimbabwe. Volume I ends with Liberia.


Wentling notes that Africa comprises more than 25% of the membership of the United Nations, a population of 1.2 billion people. Sub-Saharan Africa has “the world’s highest urbanization and population growth rate,” and 50% of the continent’s population is below the age of 19. By 2022, Africa will have more people than China or India. Geographically, Wentling reminds us, Africa is as large as the US, China, India, and Europe combined. About 2,000 ethnic groups reside within Africa’s coastal boundaries.


Wentling concisely describes the strategic, historical, and humanitarian interests of the US in Africa as well as the competition from other countries for Africa’s trade and natural resources. He is impressed with Botswana for its political stability and efficient use of its natural resources for national economic benefit, and praises other countries which have never experienced serious conflict or turmoil. He also criticizes countries whose leadership has brought economic turmoil, ethnic strife, low GDP, poor health, education, and transportation systems and presidents who refuse to leave office after 20 or more years of corrupt practices.

I do not recommend Africa Memoir as a guide book or history book.  Its strength is the description of everyday living and working conditions.  Mark Wentling is very fond of African peoples and communities, is married to an Ethiopian woman, and is realistic about the prospects of development projects and partnerships with African governments and non-government organizations.  I recommend the book for anyone considering a visit or extended stay in Africa as well as organizations contemplating partnerships and collaborations with African organizations, small or large.

Recommended by Marilyn McFarlane:

The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett

HarperCollins Publishing, 2019


Ann Patchett has written another bestseller, this one a Pulitzer Prize finalist. It's a compelling, rich story that kept me reading into the night. It's full of twists and turns and strong characters, most of them believable though they're in an offbeat modern fairy tale, complete with castle (a mansion outside Philadelphia), an evil stepmother, and a brother and sister who must rely on each other.


The story is told in first person by the younger brother, Danny, a technique that worked for me, though Danny seems clueless at times. But that's part of his growing independence and awareness of his own needs; and the main character is his sister Maeve, who has the best dialogue, on-target and often funny. Maeve is confident and determined to get back at the stepmother, which makes the ending all the more meaningful and at least partially redemptive. It includes the real mother, who deserted her family long ago to serve the poor in India, and the threads that come together in unexpected ways. (I'm trying not to reveal too much here and spoil the ending.)


Deep emotions and changed lives are involved, and although some of The Dutch House requires a stretch of the imagination, it draws you in and makes you care—no small feat for any author.


In a book club discussion, there was a wide range of reactions, but no one was indifferent. All this from one writer's vivid imagination and skill.

Read any good books lately? Let us know.