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Gathering String Paperback – August 8, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mimi Johnson grew up on an Iowa farm and in the nearby town of Essex. She is a former columnist for the Journal Herald in Shawnee, Kan., and the Minot (N.D.) Daily News. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Omaha World-Herald and other newspapers. She was an English major at Creighton University, where she won the Creative Writing Award in 1996. This is her first novel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1477599983
  • ISBN-13: 978-1477599983
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,255,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Gathering String, by Mimi Johnson.
This debut novel comes at a time of great stress for journalists looking for new ways to perform old roles. All the old rules and many of the traditional techniques and assumptions are in flux, and much may be lost, and soon. Mimi Johnson's novel introduces us to Sam Waterman, a swashbuckling reporter familiar from TV depictions of the press; actually, most newsrooms have at least one. Sam works for a website, Politifix, but still resists changes to his profession as he hunts for another killer story. Jack Westphal, athlete turned editor of a small-town paper, embraces the future as the killer story develops in his own backyard, involving Swede Erickson, the governor of Iowa. Tess Benedict, Waterman's former love and Westphal's new one, complicates all the relationships. This is the kind of novel I love to read, the kind that engrosses you in the action while making you want to yell at the characters.
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Now this is a great yarn. Gathering String follows the intertwined lives of three journalists and an ambitious politician on a stage that grows from small town to national. Johnson has an ear for dialogue and an eye for authentic detail. She writes characters that you feel like you know, and puts them in a story that will keep you turning pages until you reach the end. I only wish it would've lasted longer. A great read.
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I liked this book. Most of it, anyway. Pretty good character development, and I liked the key characters (and disliked the bad guys). Figured out a lot of it, but the author never really answered a couple of questions that were brought up in the course of the story. Like, "Where was Carl?" and "Who is Swede's fixer?"

This book went into copious back-story detail -- read at times like a Harlequin Romance. Page after page after page of history. Entire articles reprinted. Minute detail about the house and fooling around. A road trip by a speed demon that lasted page after page ... all the details of the investigations and the machinations to get the story out. Definitely needs some trimming with a heavier hand.

Then, finally, the climax. And it just ends. Did Mimi get bored with her story? I mean, I hung in there through page after page of stuff not really essential for the story, eyes glazing over in parts of it just to get through it all, get through to the point of the entire book, but I never did get to find out the consequences -- the ending just blows. No satisfaction after sticking through all 360+ pages of it -- left with, "then what happened?" That last paragraph was like a slap in the face. You go through all the work and don't get any of the payoff.
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I spent 25 years in newsrooms and was involved enough in some of the technological and cultural changes Mimi Johnson describes to have appeared in textbooks about them, so believe me when I tell you that she gets that part painfully, exactly right.

But beyond that, this is a high-stakes political thriller with a love triangle among the three heroes, and it was the perfect read to start my grad-school semester break: plot, characterization and dialogue realistic enough to draw you in and keep you there without going down any thematic or plot rabbit holes. It ain't literary fiction, but that's OK: It's still the first book I stayed up past 2:30 a.m. to finish in a long, long time.

Brava, Mimi Johnson. (Full disclosure: Her husband, Steve Buttry, and I corresponded electronically from time to time during and shortly after my time in newspapers, which ended in early 2009. We've never met in IRL.)

(A technical note: This is the first novel I've read start to finish on the Kindle app for Android. I found quite a few typos, misplaced words and other things that adept copy editing should have caught. Also, a lot of paragraphs started without indentations. The publisher and/or Amazon should pay closer heed to this stuff.)
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Mimi's husband Steve and my wife and I had opportunity to get together over some great Kansas City BBQ a few weeks ago. During our time together he mentioned that Mimi was about to publish her first book and encouraged me to read it which, as a card carrying bibliophile, I was eager to do. "Gathering String" is a political novel that is centered around the Midwest and particularly around Iowa, from where the four of us graduated, oh so many years ago. There are some great character developments, especially Sam, whom I disliked before the end of the first page of his description. In addition there are many Iowa locations and descriptions that endeared this story to me, such as the Tall Corn Inn, Jay's Drug Store, the Iowa Governor who is running for President, Swede Erickson (Mimi is from Essex a small town with a large Swedish heritage), Farragut Admirals girls basketball team and so many other little insights that most won't recognize. With each new chapter I anticipated another mention of familiar spots that had been cleverly woven into the story, not unlike "easter eggs" that are often found in video games. It's paced well with flashbacks, foreshadowing, romance and intrigue. I have to admit it is not what I expected but by chapter eight I was fully drawn in and knew I was going to finish it. And to demonstrate that I am not totally biased, it needs to be stated that Mimi and I have never met. I can claim to be objective to at least that degree. Now the challenge is to re-read the novel again through the eyes of a non-Iowan and focus more on the characters and less on the settings. As a first novel "Gathering String" shows a depth of creativity with promise of greater things to come. It may not be Pulitzer material but Mimi more than deserves her husband to bring her to Kansas City for some BBQ and so we can meet.
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