Two Very Different Books

I have just finished reading two very different books: Mark Bierman’s Vanished and Cheryl Oreglia’s Grow Damn It!


 Vanished takes place about a year after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The protagonists of this story are two Americans, Tyler Montgomery and his father-in-law John Webster.  Grieving the death of their wife and daughter respectively, they have come to the chaos and corruption of Haiti to help with the construction of an orphanage.

There they meet Mahalia, whose seven-year-old daughter, Chantale, has gone missing.

Ill equipped on many levels such as lack of medical training, the geography of the island and weak knowledge of Creole the Americans set out, through life and death situations, to find Chantale and return her to Mahalia.  

Mark Bierman shows us the reality of poverty-ridden Haiti. It is heartbreaking and tragic to read about the cruel abusive treatment of children who are sold as slaves or prostitutes for pedophile rings. Evil men in the business of child abuse as a commodity.

In their search for the seven-year-old child Mark Bierman takes us through the tunnels of a mining shaft where they believe are hidden abducted children. Normally, I am not drawn to reading adventure/thrillers but I was captivated by the suspenseful description and action in the tunnels of the mine shaft.

Other characters inhabit the novel, such as Eliana who was abducted as a young child and sold to a wealthy Dominican family until she was purchased by the evil Diego who was in the business of Child slavery.  

Vanished opened my mind to the extent of evil, greed, abuse, cruelty, torture and human trafficking that is pervasive in our society.

Underneath the strong plot of this novel is a novel about courage, strength, compassion and a deep relationship between Tyler and his step-father.

Too little attention has been placed on the plight of Haiti since the Earthquake. I congratulate Mark Bierman for tackling such a difficult subject.

If you enjoy thrillers and adventure stories, you’ll love this novel.

Check it out on Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, Barnes & Noble.

Unlike, Mark Bierman’s Vanished Cheryl Oreglia’s memoir Grow Damn It! is filled with lightness of spirit and many joyful moments

The collection of essays takes place during the pandemic and Cheryl Oreglia graciously invites us into her loving family; generously and unabashedly sharing with us the ups and downs of her daily life.

She writes about serious stuff, for sure, – her mother’s death, the sacredness of life, about retirement, middle age and even colonoscopies.

Through it all, her sense of humor shines:

I’ve been running at breaking speed for nearly half a century, trying to keep up with the Jones whom I barely know.

The book is written in a conversational style where she will throw in off the cuff phrases as: Don’t ask. Anyhoo. While her chapters begin with a reflective quote she also tosses in the middle of an essay an inspirational, keeping you on your toes kind of quote.

The writing is beautiful and I love how in her essay on retirement when asked what she will do she unapologetically says I am a writer.

Her writing gives hope to humanity, to kindness and doing the right thing. Something precious in our times. You only have to go through her chapter titles to know that you will be learning something encouraging. Take for example: Tough Times Don’t Last. Tough People Do… or her essay titled What Do I Really Want? – a very long list – reminded me of the simple things of life that I often take for granted.

It was inspiring to read that there are some good marriages out there. Not Cinderella perfect mind you. But solid, respectful and lasting. A marriage and family built on good moral values.

She is the kind of person I’d love to have as a neighbor.

Check it out on Amazon, Goodreads, , Barnes &Noble.

37 thoughts on “Two Very Different Books

      • Thank you, Carol. This was a great review! People sometimes ask why I wrote about this topic, and it comes down to two main reasons. First: My Dad really did travel to Haiti and was there after the 2010 earthquake. He saw the devastation first hand and it made me realize what a forgotten place it is.
        Second: I have worked for over 20 years (thankfully out now) as a Correctional Officer and some of the people I dealt with were not the nicest. It was a way for my mind to heal and cope with what I have experienced.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I felt that you had first hand experience in your writing. I see it as a mixture between fact and fiction where the facts are devastating.
        I hope, Mark, that your writing Vanished has healed you.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Mark,

        As I suspected Amazon refused my review of Vanished:

        Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. It appears your review had inappropriate content.

        While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines
        Amazon Community Guidelines

        from Carol Balawyder on April 28, 2023
        Thriller and Adventure in Haiti
        The novel takes place about a year after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
        The protagonists of this story are two Americans, Tyler Montgomery and his father-in-law John Webster. Grieving the death of their wife and daughter respectively, they have come to the chaos…

        I am pretty much done with posting reviews on Amazon as every one I post gets rejected.

        Still, my review for Vanished is on Goodreads (hopefully) on Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

        Sorry about that, Mark.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Carol, thank you for reading and reviewing my novel. I experienced the same thing with Amazon, for about two years. There was no rhyme or reason. Their “guidelines” are just a roadmap to confusion. I tried to contact someone to complain, but you can guess how far that got me. Then, all of a sudden, I was good to post them again. Whaaa??? I really appreciate the review, and GoodReads is an excellent place for reviews to be read. No worries. 🙂


  1. You’re right, Carol, that these are two different sorts of books. But both of them sound engaging. I haven’t read much fiction that takes place in Haiti, so that would be really interesting to me. And I think the more aware we are of some of what goes on in the world, the better able we are to right some wrongs, if that makes any sense.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great suggestions and yes, two very different subjects. I love the humor but sometimes I need something that enlightens me and makes me think. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Harris Faulkner had a story in her book, Faith Moves Mountains, about 19-year-old Britney Gengel who went to Haiti to volunteer her services. She wanted to stay and start an orphanage. She died in the 2010 earthquake and her parents built the orphanage. Vanished appears to be based on real life situations and will easily be a definite eye-opener for readers. Just the title of Oreglia’s Grow Damn It makes me want to read it! Thanks for the reviews, Carol.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Two excellent books, Carol. Mark’s “Vanished” reminds me how much we ordinary folks can do–beyond hashtags and yelling on social media #saveourgirls–if we set our minds to it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

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