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Woman at work!

Hi everyone. In preparing for the publication of the guidebook I co-authored, I’m doing some reorganizing here on the blog. So, for the next little while, things might look a little odder than you’re used to (heh), and some links might not work properly, and all that. I’ve got some link trades to arrange, and new content to add, and those “support” links to set up.

Much more coming soon. This is an exciting time. 🙂 Thanks to you all for being here.

Congrats, Ali!

Belatedly, congratulations to “Chemical Ali” Massoud, Strike the Root‘s Guest Editor of 2006!  Nice going, man.  😀

A tip o' me hat…

…to some new and welcomed members of the blogroll! In particular, Dare2BFree’s Restored Spirit, Sunni Maravillosa’s Sunni and the Conspirators (how did I miss listing you sooner???) and Gospazha’s Lunaya Pravda.

Also, David Gross’s The Picket Line, PintofStout’s Murphy’s Bye-Laws, and Joe Plummer’s Stop the Lie are now on the list. Great to have you all here under the Outlaw umbrella.

And a name change to announce: David and Cherie’s New Freedom Blog is now known as Freedom Port: Firefly.

I’ll be adding more in coming weeks, both blogs and site links of interest, that I’ve been collecting for a while now. Y’all come back now…

Lines in the sand

Well, I took a break from blogging and did indeed get more writing done on other projects. But that other writing has given birth to a lot of new questions and concepts that just need some working out. And a blog or journal is a good way for me to explore them.

The novel I’m writing a novel is about a unique version of an underground railroad in the days of Bleeding Kansas, just before the outbreak of the War Between the States (or whatever name you prefer). And I’m striving to understand the motivation of people who prefer (or at least accept) non-freedom, and what separates them from those who truly need to live in freedom.

The heroine of the story starts out naively assuming that every slave desires freedom, and the only reason they haven’t yet taken it is because they don’t see how. So she’s going to teach them. But in the process she learns that even most of the slaves don’t have the will to freedom – some do, of course, but many just want to get by and not make waves, or they’re stopped by fear that the unknown will be worse than present reality.

So what I’m dealing with here is the vast ability of humans to adapt to conditions, to find ways to get by under any system. Most humans, anyway.

Where and how and when do the lines in the sand get drawn? Do some people have no lines at all, or see no need for them? Do the lines more often only become evident in the heat of a situation that threatens to become intolerable, for instance when one’s children are about to be taken away?

What causes some people to draw lines beyond which they will not go? I think all of us who desire freedom have some depth of courage in us that knows it will make its stand someday, who knows how or when, but the courage is there and will prevail.

Does everyone have that courage in some way, when the right combination of chips are down? If not, what makes us different? What do they have that we lack?

The deeper I get into the planning and plotting of this novel, the more I realize how central questions such as these are to the heart of the story and its theme – which is “the unquenchable urge to live free.” This whole project is turning out to be much wider and more complex than I expected. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.

First, from Lynn Andrews’s book Crystal Woman, which I’m rereading:
“You see, you have a story that has come to live in you. Now you must tell that story…Stories need a voice. This story can see that you are a storyteller and it likes you.” –p. 23

And second, for some feisty inspiration – found on some website I visited “accidentally”:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” –Ephesians 6:12

Food for Outlaw thought, from an anonymously circulating email I recently received (thank you, Thunder!), no author or web link provided:

I have this really, really bad memory problem. It gets worse under stress. I also have this metaphysical dilemma thing.
I know the guy next door. I guess. Actually I don’t know him. I’ve called him Joe, but it wouldn’t be right for me to say to anyone official that his name is Joe, because I’ve never checked his ID, so I don’t really know, and even if I had checked his ID, I still wouldn’t _know_, would I? He’s always been a nice fellow, and I wouldn’t want to cause him undeserved harm by leaping to conclusions about him.

Does he have a wife? I don’t know. I may have seen a woman around his place, but I couldn’t leap to the conclusion that she is his wife. I might assume so out of courtesy to them, but I wouldn’t presume to tell someone official that he is Joe or that he has a wife, because I really don’t know. Most of what I _think_ I know, and which serves quite well for inviting each other to our barbeques and for borrowing small tools, is stuff I don’t actually _know_ and don’t care about one way or another. And that affects my memory when people ask questions about him.

Did I see those two young men snatch a purse from that lady over there? Yes. Can I describe them? Yes. Did I notice what they were wearing and in which direction they ran? Yes. Do I know anything about Joe? Nope. Does he have a wife? I have no idea. What does he do for a living? Gosh, I have no idea.

The law requires you to give up information you have when asked by a law enforcement officer investigating a crime. The law does not and cannot require you to notice things or to have a good memory. If your memory gets worse as the things being investigated stray farther and farther from common law crimes and into the realm of “bureaucrime” and thought crime, well, that’s just too fucking bad.

Heheheh. “I just can’t recall.” Remember how many times Slick Willie used that line? A Rhodes Scholar whose much-vaunted head for facts (and figures? ouch! bad, bad pun!) just didn’t seem to function in certain circumstances…uh huh…

For you Agitators, the message goes on to explore within-the-system options:

I’d make a really bad juror, too. It’s not a memory thing there, it’s more of a comprehension thing. I just have trouble seeing guilt if the law itself is bogus. Not guilty. What? Are you crazy? They had him dead to rights laundering money! Sorry, I just can’t believe the evidence. It just doesn’t add up for me. Explain why not! Sorry, I can’t. It just doesn’t work for me.

If more people had these problems, all the bureaucrimes and other victimless crimes would, sadly, be history overnight. The IRS would lose every single case that went to a jury, and within months the income tax would be repealed, a no-audit, no-go-to-jail sales tax (ed. note: don’t count on that, friend – see Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman’s in-depth debunking, The FairTax: A Trojan Horse for America?) would be in place, and most of the people working for the IRS would be looking for a new job. I would be very saddened by the rude reality of all that, but, hey, what the hell?

Will these problems that afflict me spread? You’d better hope your sorry ass they do! If they don’t, we’re all in for a very rough ride, and not 50 years from now, but tomorrow and next year. We’re already well down the slippery slope. Personally, though, I think we’re in for a shitstorm. That’s because people are basically unprepared for the degree of evil that has been refined and distilled in government. They’re still way too willing to spout off about things they don’t even know, to presume the worst, even of their friends and acquaintances, to play full rube right into the hands of truly evil people who have _their_ act down to a science.

If large scale genocide has been going on all through the last several years in Bosnia while people on this list have been consumed in flame wars and pseudo-propeller-head duels on a scale of delicacy of the medieval mace, how much more easily can and does largely bloodless subjugation take place all around us? If people can allow Ruby Ridges and Wacos to take place without congressional offices being _filled_ every day with outraged citizenry and recall petitions being launched for every politician who even hesitates in taking a firm stand, how can we think that the gradual sapping of our liberty will evoke a response until things first get very, very bad.

There is a peaceful solution available today. At one level you don’t have to have a good memory in all things to be a law-abiding and responsible citizen-unit. Just say “No, I don’t remember” about things that are none of your business. At another level, you don’t have to put up with bureaucrimes when you sit on a Grand Jury or a trial jury.

Just say “No.” Don’t argue; don’t convince; just say “No” across the board to bureaucrimes. It takes 51% of the voters to win an election. It only takes 5% of the jurors to kill a bad law.

Nothing else will work. Nothing else has ever worked. If this is not done now, we will all face terrible choices and tragedies within as few as ten years.

Well, we’re going to face all that anyway, most likely. And unfortunately, there isn’t always a jury involved in a situation that cries out for common sense and true justice.

But this part of the entry wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the amazing Fully Informed Jury Association and American Jury Institute, whose executive director is one fairylike TCFwit named Iloilo Jones.

Naked Emperors

Bill Murphy of LeMetropoleCafe.com, a gold investors’ site, quoted today on Kitco.com, comes right out and says there’s a “cabal” of PTB types concertedly keeping gold and silver prices down (link in post title):

What we saw today in the US financial markets, along with the accompanying news, strongly suggests the “S” is quietly hitting the fan. The Orwellians, The Gold Cartel, the Washingtonpower structure, and the bigwigs on Planet Wall Street are petrified by what they see on the horizon in the VERY near future. Surely, this is one of the reasons the Fed will be meeting with the largest 14 credit derivatives players on September 15…

What does all this mean?

The powers mentioned above are scared to death to let gold rise above their defense point because they fear it could set off derivatives neutron bombs in both the gold and credit markets. At the same time, the trade shorts are very nervous to remain that way for much longer. The gold fundamentals become more positive by the day. The bad guys are having trouble coming up with enough physical gold to meet demand and it is having an impact on how they operate.

No sense repeating what MIDAS has presented all week. Gold remains in explosive mode. What the cabal is doing can be compared to a kid trying to keep a rubber ball under water. It won’t work for any length of time. There is too much pressure for the price to rise, and to do so substantially…

Silver makes no sense. It probably is as good a value buy here, especially as to what other commodity related prices are doing, than at any time in history. My guess is that this is an engineered false breakdown that will not last long at all. Once silver takes out $6.85, it will streak for $8.

As a good reader here mentioned recently in a comment, silver in particular is very underpriced right now, and even more so in the past week or two. For this reason, it has a much greater upside potential – and it’s also wonderfully affordable. Check out this mind-blower: The Coming Silver Accident by Theodore Butler . Butler contends that “Silver has the largest short position that’s ever existed in anything.” He goes on to say:

While there is no way to determine when the silver shorts will spook and rush to cover, time is not on the shorts’ side. They must try, at some point, to buy back and cover the silver they can’t possibly deliver. It is not important to know in advance what the actual trigger for the silver accident will be. All you need know is that with the critical and long-term physical deficit in silver, the short selling charade must end. Since we can’t determine when, don’t focus on the timing, focus on the inevitability of a delivery crunch.

Hmm. I smell an Outlaw opportunity. Buy some fancy gold and silver threads at bargain prices now, realizing that all those emperors know they’re butt naked, and have got to admit it real soon or they’ll freeze to death. Then laugh all the way to the gulch.

Yes, I realize this could be a trap, what with the faint hints of confiscation talk going around recently. But even so, I think I’d rather be left holding (and, hopefully, safely caching) the shiny stuff than some linen-cotton scrip.

Underdog Railroad

Animal-lover Outlaws, here’s a story for you from the L.A. Times (link in post title). Link might require registration, but I got it off Yahoo! and didn’t need to register. If you’re asked to, try bugmenot.com.

Warning: This is a fascinating story with many levels of lessons in it. But it’s heartbreaking too, particularly at the end. Note that it’s also 5 pages long.

A friend explained to me the dangers of animal “collectors,” of which the woman who adopts Paddy seems to be one. These people are to innocent critters what shopaholics are to shoes. Only shoes don’t mind being cooped up in a dark closet all their lives except rarely when they get taken for a walk.

Seems there’s quite a Canine “Underground Railroad” movement out there, based over the Internet. Perfectly legal, in this case, so the term doesn’t exactly apply.

But as far as the operation goes…what a great way to practice for the bad times, do a good deed or a dozen, and make far-flung kindhearted contacts too. And…an innocent service project to help cover – er – riskier activities?

I love curmudgeonly wisdom. How about this one: Put your faith in God, and keep your powder dry. I ain’t much for putting everything on God’s shoulders – but I think the point of these gems is to be very selective of which human beings you put your faith in.

Who keeps faith with you, fellow Outlaws? Whom do you trust to do so? In what and whom can you – and do you – place reliance?

Last fall, Thunder and I made a trip to visit Bobaloo at his place called Serenity. We were meeting in person for the first time, and it turned out that we all hit it off like old pals right from the get go. The very next afternoon, though, he and Mrs. Bobaloo packed Bobaloo Junior into the pickup and headed to town for a Halloween party, shocking us by leaving their home wide open to us for the several hours they were gone. (Now, they also left their DVD set of Firefly in our grubby little hands, and we milked that one real good, never having seen the series.)

We couldn’t believe that these good folks would trust us strangers so readily in their lovely home. (Maybe it’s our city mentality.) And yet, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. We can’t live – especially we Outlaws can’t – without trusting at least some people and situations. It’s just in our best interests to choose them very wisely and commonsensically.

How else might we want or need to demonstrate this kind of trust? Maybe by inviting cyberfriends to visit and even to join our gulch. Or by walking around your town with your pistol on your hip, gladly watching other townsfolk doing the same. Even by picking up a freedom fugitive at a predetermined location, providing her with twenty bucks and a change of clothing, and delivering her to the next stop on the network, no questions asked. And when the time comes, Outlaws in business and “other” dealings will stand, or fall, by our reputations for integrity.

But there’s not much of a respect for trust in the world around us today. Cheating spouses (when I learned of my ex’s affair, I happened to see in the same week a poll wherein 43% of Americans believed that adultery wasn’t wrong at all!), ratfink neighbors, and fair-weather friends abound. So do unctuous taxing-and-spending, pork-grabbing politicians; corrupt corporate figureheads destroying long-promised pensions; and salespeople saying anything to close the deal, but long gone when things go wrong.

And how about the “full faith and credit” backing up the government’s linen-cotton scrip? Even Outlaws need money. But what will you do if your bank (assuming you still use one, as I do for the time being) goes under and you can’t get hold of the FDIC to get your money? Think you can sell your stock certificates and 401(k) fund shares door-to-door if you need to? Will you be able to get to your safe-deposit box? Can you count on the courts to rule for restitution if your business partner disappears with the goods overnight? Or is all that paper nothing more than…kindling?

Always err on the side of covering your ass – prepare for the other party not to make good. A cynical outlook? Perhaps, but it’s going to happen. We all take risks in trusting others. I trusted my ex-husband implicitly, and was devastated to learn later that he was an adulterer. I don’t know what I could have done differently to be forewarned in that case – even his best friend of 25 years couldn’t believe it. People do unaccountable things.

All I could do was to turn within myself – to use the strength and knowledge I already had – to get away and start over. It sounds odd, but I was devastated and relieved and excited all at the same time. I was glad to be able to act, and to act on my own terms. It was my life solely once again, and that was a bleak but exhilarating experience amid the emotional ruins. I had my own self – skills, separate assets, attitude, experience – to rely upon, and I realized that that was enough to get me by.

Self-reliance is so desirable among freedom lovers precisely because we know we can only control our own behavior and choices, and no one else’s. Work for yourself and get paid right away. Produce your own power, heat, light, and water so that they can’t be shut off by the control freaks. Grow some of your own food and keep your own pantry stocked. Keep out of debt and keep your official income low, so you can – even perhaps without Outlawry! – keep more of what you produce.

This is also why so many contrarian investors and freedom-loving folks are advising you now to buy precious metals.

Gold and silver are real. They’re not promissory notes. They don’t turn to lintballs in the laundry. They don’t stop at national barriers. They don’t suffer from inflation. They’ve been accepted as money for centuries, and with good reason. They’re always worth a nice tidy amount, no matter what any govocrat says.

The Mogambo Guru, aka Richard Daughty, has this to say in his most recent rant: “I received some more old German Reichmark money from a reader who sympathizes with me about the horror of money debasement. One bill is a million-Reichmark note. There was a time, just a few years earlier, when a mark was worth about a dollar. So a million marks was a big freaking potload of money. Then, in less than a decade, a million-mark note became, literally, worthless. And those stupid Americans, oops, I mean Germans, who had their wealth in money lost all their dollars, I mean, marks. This is the indelible lesson of what happens when you create excess money and credit. Just like the Germans, oops, I mean us Americans, are doing, and have been doing for half a freaking century! And then you wonder why I am armed to the freaking teeth, screaming in fear and panic, and define “warning shot” as “fusillade”!”

Historically, when economic times get tough, people turn to these hard currencies for stability. FDR’s administration knew the value and appeal of gold, and therefore outlawed private ownership of the yellow metal. Or, as The Mogambo puts it, “But, as the first of a long line of communist dullard Democrat bastards, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gutted this crucial provision of the Constitution. With a stroke of his pen, he eliminated the use of gold as money, and extorted compliance from a gutless Supreme Court when this corrupt, lawless act was naturally challenged in court by outraged Americans.”

Can it happen again? Of course; wouldn’t surprise me at all. Will Freedom Outlaws cringe and obey? I doubt it. We’re more likely to hang in there and trade the stuff amongst ourselves. And the added risk and scarcity will also add value to our metals.

Money, right now and for the foreseeable future in the U.S., is FRNs – hence the term “currency”. A “cash stash,” as I call mine, is a necessity for emergency preparation. Even when greenbacks become badly inflated, you’ll probably want some of ‘em on hand, because that’s what most people recognize and accept. The 7-Eleven or gas station won’t likely be equipped to take your precious metals – nor to make change for them. If you’re faced with a need to hit the road, FRNs are much easier to carry (and to conceal) than coins – and much easier to spend.

When the inflation troubles come, though, be ready to spend those FRNs on (more, since you’re already stocked up, yes?) hard goods that you can use or hold for later barter. Those FRNs are only as good as the gummint says they are today – and tomorrow it’ll be even less – so prices will rise again.

This means, though, that you’ve got to have the FRNs where you can readily get at them immediately. A bank, safe deposit box, or retirement account might not be the best answer.

If nothing else, gold and silver coins should hold their arbitrary face value against the specter of inflation, when paper becomes useful only for stuffing the cracks in your attic walls. A one-ounce U.S. gold coin (the Gold Eagle) is, by fiat that purports to be based on tradition (ha! you see through that lie, don’t you?), stamped “Fifty Dollars” – although the mere metal value of that ounce of gold runs right now about $437. And it’s really hard to imagine that higher value – or much more – not being observed when times get interesting.

As Freedom Outlaws, we don’t support the federal national government’s doings – but we might be willing to capitalize on the attitudes of our less-freedom-loving neighbors toward that government. Just as some Outlaws will stock up on booze and chocolate bars to sell to less-prepared neighbors, the tendency of most folks to put all their faith in the government is a fact of reality that can be of use to us.

If the world as we know it ends, your average Joe Clerk will still accept a coin stamped “United States of America” before he’ll even consider taking something called an Austrian Philharmonic. On the other hand, although many foreign coins are pricier than their U.S. counterparts, the South African Krugerrand is usually an exception, if you’re on a budget.

If you really need to, before TSHTF, you can sell back your bullion at the market price for metals, less a cut for the buying dealer. You’ll have to find such a dealer either locally or by mail and internet. Currently, if you were to buy a one-ounce Golden Eagle for the going rate of $456 on GoldmastersUSA.com, you could turn around and sell it back the same day for $442. Yes, you pay that $14 or so commission fee, plus any shipping, but you can get your FRNs if you need ‘em. Wait a while, and who knows, the gold price might be at $550 an ounce, and you can actually make a profit by selling that same coin at a higher FRN price than you paid.

Yes, one of these days, owning such bullion will alone probably make you an Outlaw (again). Heheheh. In for a penny, in for a pound (or a few ounces anyway). A few smart Jews in Nazi Germany had some excellent solutions to this threat – making their gold into buttons and tools (painted or chromed) that got past the jabbut theftpoints.

For now, we’re legally free to purchase and to own these goodies. That’s the most amazing thing to me – just to go buy real gold, that the government blithely stamps and sells very nearly at straight weight cost. They don’t see any point in keeping it back in reserve (which should scare hell out of any sensible person).

Outlaws, on the other hand, do. And let me tell you, it really is a thrill to run gold and silver coins through your hands!

But, most vitally, the fundamental issue is whom – and what – you can trust and count on. Yourself, your small carefully-chosen network – and hard reality. In this case, as Lucy was wont to say in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “that wonderful, wonderful sound of cold hard cash.”

And plenty of canned chili, and cool lead and brass, and barrels of water…oh, and dry gunpowder.

Out of the Gray Zone

Out of the Gray Zone – RebelFire 1.0
by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman

(Edited on August 9 at 1:07 PM: My sincere apologies to Aaron Zelman, co-author of this book. In writing the entry below, I failed to mention his name or to appreciate the strong influence his collaboration had on the book. I unfairly assumed – because I knew something of Claire Wolfe’s triumphs and challenges with the writing as it progressed – that she had been the prime mover on the project.

However, Mr. Zelman, the executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, is an outstanding friend of liberty and a powerful writer in his own right. So please, as you peruse this review, read “and Aaron” after each “Claire.”)

This isn’t going to be the normal review – just a haphazard flood of personal response to reading the book. Oh, and I purposely haven’t read anyone else’s reviews yet – first because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise of the plot, and since reading, because I wanted to be as authentic as possible. So I’m not going to say much about the events of the story. You’ll have to read the book to get the full experience. And, fellow Outlaws, you’ve just GOT to read it – and get all your young and not-so-young friends to do the same!

By the time I finished this book – all in a day of air travel – I knew my life was going to be different from now on. Yes, it’s a book directed to young people – as are some of my other all-time favorites. But its story and its themes are very mature: integrity, loyalty, decency, courage, striving. And it brings them to life in astonishing and moving ways.

When, for instance, Jeremy made excuses to himself about why he didn’t have to bother burying the dead man at the cabin (whose food and clothing Jeremy had appropriated), the shameful and lazy and avoidance-loving part of myself was revealed in a horrifying light. It’s so easy to make up reasons why not – but so wasteful – when that time and energy spent in self-justification could be put to so much better use in just DOING the thing. Especially when I know it’s right and needed.

The several scenes in which Jeremy sells out were so well orchestrated that they left me very wary of my own tendencies to take the easy path. And I began to wonder if the “Gray Zone” is more than simply the Godforsaken geographical location from which Jeremy hails.

The slang Claire has developed for the story – “sexy big,” “crazydictions,” “HaPiGoons” – is utterly believable, right on the mark, and also fun and sassy. And the book is so well written, so true and expressive, that it has that ability to change a worldview. It has something that opens your eyes and draws you into its world.

Action moves fast, and Claire isn’t squeamish about including gory, meaningful scenes that paint quite accurately the kinds of dangers (and unexpected help) that Outlaws can face. Jeremy comes from an environment where guns are not only illegal, they’re considered obsolete. So he’s got the same kind of unreasoning fear of them that so many Americans have nowadays. But then he’s plunged into many situations in which he has to become willing to rethink his fear.

One thing I’ve learned from Thunder, and now from Claire in a new way, is that music is so often about the need for freedom. In my younger days, mom made sure I avoided metal music, because it was bad (although acceptable for my younger brothers), so I falsely thought that metalheads at school were losers. Their t-shirts and hair frightened me. It was just a few years ago that I began to realize what good stuff I’d missed – Quiet Riot and Van Halen, to start with, for an utter fraidycat like me.

Then Thunder came along and began teaching me to listen to his own kind of thunder – Dream Theater and Rush and others. I began to understand something of the brash, fierce young spirits of musicians on the edge, pushing the edge, daring to rebel. Their melodies weren’t very pretty, their sound not serene. But their fire was evident, as was their urge to freedom, and I hadn’t appreciated that before.

Claire builds on that sense with her lyrics, and her treatment of Jeremy’s feeling for the music he loves. What Claire has done, with her lush, chewy writing, is to morph you back into the young adult you were, how it felt to feel all those yearnings you could never explain to others. Not just the desires to inhabit the mysteries of sex and drugs and romance, but the dark urge to break out into the bright space of freedom from others’ rule.

In another vein, though, I feel strongly that Rey is an unfinished symphony. It’s likely that his failure to reappear before the end of the book was a planned suspense item, so the reader will want to delve into RebelFire 2.0 when the time comes. But the theme of integrity is a strong one in the book, so to my mind, Rey should have delivered on his promise to see Jeremy again. Plus, he was far and away the most intriguing character in the book. I was quite disappointed not to meet him again.

There’s been some talk on The Claire Files about Cedra and Jeremy getting together romantically in a future volume. I personally don’t think the time is right for that. Cedra didn’t develop into enough of a believably human being in this first book. She’s too tough, too angry about past abuses, and too focused on survival, to have room for a guy in her life. As it stands, she’s more of a stereotype of balls-to-the-wall underground activism than an attractive young woman.

And Jeremy, although his progress is impressive, still seems to be the kind of late bloomer who’s got far to go in learning to care for another, or even to see why he should want to. He’s still the geek who entertains a few fantasies about sexy girls, but his own passion isn’t kindled yet. Perhaps a romantic tension could develop here slowly, as the two characters evolve – but for now, both of them remain unprepared to love, or even to want to be intimate in any sense.

But overall, I was left with an odd and unexpected feeling of haunting after I finished the book. I can’t even say why exactly. It was a journey, not just for Jeremy but for me the reader. It left me appreciating in a whole new and deeper way the gifts Claire has for making big issues personal and real. It was, too, a rare and energizing experience to see the nonfiction ideas Claire writes about, made real in a fast-moving and very believable story. Her gifts as a writer are not limited to nonfiction. With this, her first novel, she’s built something as utterly special as her wonderfully individual take on living free.