“A Time to Wander,” a collaborative novel by NF Johnson and Chera Thompson, begins with a pair of lovers who meet at a Kent State bar on May 1, 1970. A student demonstration on Main Street is erupting, with tear gas and billy clubs, and police come in to shut down the bar and enforce a curfew. Kris, an amiable student who deals a little weed and works in the psych lab, grabs Lena, who has a cut on her forehead from a flying beer bottle. He steers down an alley to a friend’s apartment.

They make love that night and fall into a relationship, though the inevitability of Lena’s plans to study abroad the following year, and Kris’ aversion to commitment, keep them from truly bonding. The horror of May 4 takes up a chapter, and then back to class.

Lena worries about Kris seeing other girls, with reason; he needs to think of something special to let her know he cares, so he devises a hitchhiking trip to Minnesota during winter break. The story shows the attitude of the '70s as the two encounter a wide variety of characters on the road, from helpful to creepy to noble to unhinged. People have different reactions when they hear the words “Kent State.”

Kris’ Aunt Ella welcomes them to her home filled with macramé and teaches Lena how to meditate.

Forty years later, both married, Kris and Lena talk about attending their class reunion.

“A Time to Wander” (364 pages, softcover) costs $15.99 from online retailers.

Both authors attended Kent State University. NF Johnson and Chera Thompson will launch their book at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Last Exit Books, 124 E. Main St., Kent, and sign Saturday at a booth at the Kent Heritage Festival in downtown Kent

 

Opioids in Ohio

 

The diversity of the contributors to “Not Far from Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio” is evidence of how deeply the opioid epidemic has permeated into the fabric of the state. Fifty-three essays, edited by Daniel Skinner and Berkeley Franz, include submissions by doctors, nurses, recovering addicts, parents of recovering addicts and those who lost their lives to addiction, prison inmates and the mayor of Dayton.

Several essays are the collective efforts of family members affected by addiction. One, “Remaking a Family,” follows a man’s story with a conversation between him and his son, and then with his wife. Another, “An Individual’s Addiction, a Family’s Loss,” begins with a man’s progress from entering federal prison to becoming sober and helping fellow inmates and continues with his sister’s timeline of their relationship.

All contributors acknowledge the crisis; some offer hope. One nurse, now retired, plainly states that “neither I nor any of my coworkers want to take care of these patients” and “Taking opioids to stay buzzed all day is a choice.” Some have a distinct perspective, like those who specialize in caring for victims of human trafficking, babies born with addiction or LGBTQ+ people.

Daniel Skinner is Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Berkeley Franz is Assistant Professor of Community-Based Health, both at Ohio University. “Not Far from Me” (312 pages, softcover) costs $14.95 from Trillium Books, an imprint of Ohio State University Press.

 

Events

 

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Tallmadge branch, 90 Community Road): Jordan Durbin talks about her first book “The Prodigal Fox: A Bedtime Parable,” 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive): Strongsville High School graduate Erin Sievers discusses her debut novel “Broken Lights Can’t Shine,” about an abused girl kidnapped by a well-meaning man, 7 to 8 p.m. Monday. Register at 440-238-5530.

Market Garden Brewery (1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland): The Brews + Prose seventh anniversary reading features Cleveland native Mary Norris, author of “Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen,” and Pushcart Prize-winning poet Maggie Smith (“Good Bones”), 7 p.m. Tuesday. A pre-party will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., across the street at McNulty’s Bier Markt, 1948 W. 25th St.; the $25 ticket includes a drink ticket and hors d’oeuvres.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma branch, 6996 Powers Blvd.): Akron author Alan Hlad talks about his historical novel “The Long Flight Home,” featured in the June 23 Book Talk column, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Buy tickets at brewsandprose.com.

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): The annual Author Alley book fair, in tandem with the Larchmere Festival, usually brings about 50 authors to the alley beside the bookstore, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

 

Send information about books of local interest to Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.