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Book Review: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner

The Lord works in mysterious ways; mothers do not.

Whatever my mother did between the hours of ten that night and seven the next morning worked.  I keep the piano, and on it, all the love and sweetness that can exist between a daughter and her mother plays out.

I’m a Carpenter Kid.

Regi Carpenter

Yes, the Carpenter kids are either going to… or coming from trouble… at least that is the impression I got when I read Regina (Regi) Carpenter’s book.

Her email arrived in the summer. “Would “TI Life” like to review my book. ”Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood.” -  “Of course,” I stated quickly.

Then summer took over, hot weather, lots of dinners and her book went into the background. In October, 2016, we published It’s a Miracle”, a Chapter by Regi Carpenter from her book.  Did you read it? I hope so, as she shared an account of her school days, which I found to be charming and at the same time poignant.

And now, in December, I began my review. I purposely did not read other reviews, nor the appendix material which includes an interview with the author.

I was familiar with Regi’s work, as back in February 2015, Regi shared a story with TI Life readers One Man’s Trash . It was about her growing up as part of the Carpenter family in Clayton, NY, with an underlying theme of poverty.

So for the actual book review I started at the beginning and, honestly, was enjoying it immensely.

What was there not to like? As an avid Thousand Islander, the descriptions of the St. Lawrence River are poetic. Those who grew up in Clayton, will recognize everything and everybody; for those who are just River people, we will recognize the street names and the region’s descriptions. And those who live far away will most likely relive their youth, in their small town, when memories come alive.

Each chapter was great fun to read. I laughed and even read segments out loud to my husband, The sequence from ”The Piano” was my very favourite - and as the young people say: LOL/ Lots of laughs.

But then I reached SNAP and appropriately my mood and the mood on the page changed dramatically. Not because I was not enjoying this serious part, but because I worked in a school, years ago, so when the Snap came, I shouted, “I knew this would happen.” How our Regi deals with this period in her life and how her family copes with great change followed by age-related illnesses, are certainly the most important chapters – they are the must-read ones. 

Strong life lessons are taught.  Many of us will relate to life and death situations, tied up with loving parents and strong family bonds. 

So how did I feel when I came to the end, you ask? That is simple, I knew it was meant to be, and besides I can go back and read those beginning chapters, often. I did and will continue to do so.

I am not keen to spoil a good book with too many details. Suffice to say, you will not be disappointed as this is a real-life story, taking place in a real-life town right here in the Thousand Islands.

About the Author:

You should know that Regi Carpenter has a distinguished career as a “storyteller” and much of her work is online. You may also be fortunate to see here perform as a solo performance artist, short story writer, and/or a performance coach.  She holds a BFA from Ithaca College where she taught storytelling for many years. Today she is living in Ashville, NC and is preparing to present her version of “Snap” to appreciative audiences.

Regi is also the recipient of several awards including the J.J. Reneaux Emerging Artist Award, a Leonard Bernstein Teaching Fellowship Award, the Parent's Choice Gold Award, the Parents' Guide to Children's Media Award and the Storytelling World Award.


After reading the book I had a telephone conversation with Regi, then she wrote, “The book's ultimate message is that family, like a great and moody River like ours has many facets but underneath all of them we find a constant and eternal current with which to guide us.”

Enjoy “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner”  - it is written by a good writer and storyteller; you’ll smile, remember your youth, your family and your community.

“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood

Available:   Amazon
Paperback  $16.95
Kindle $4.00

By Susan W. Smith, susansmith@thousandislandslife.com 

Editor, TI Life

Posted in: Book Review
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