Out of the Mailbag Comes Songs & Stories: Great Christmas Gifts

Out of the Mailbag, Comes Songs & Stories: The Bolivian Incident
Hollis Whitaker Trilogy Book 2
By C.B. Shanahan @2022 Encircle Publications 274 pages ISBN-13: 978-1-64599-397-1
Review by John O’Brien, Jr.

Continuing the story from Book 1, Hollis Whitaker, The Bolivian Incident finds young Hollis, having survived the many attempts at elimination by a mysterious, probably government, probably rogue, agency, finding others, past and present, that know and even share his secret. Both new and old, they shed light on many of the strange people and things happening to Hollis in his struggle to stay alive. Some fight with him; some try to destroy him.

It is not necessary to have read Hollis Whitaker to understand The Bolivian Incident, but Book 1 is a great read too.

I was immediately drawn into this second book of the Hollis Whitaker Trilogy too … thirty pages, 100 pages, were gone in a seeming blink. My favorite characters from Book 1 were back, and a few other memorable characters enter the story. Seemingly innocuous, they are instrumental in the fight to stay alive, and the understanding of the threats and wonders confronting the young boy on the run. Harrowing escapes and harrowing powers send the story in unexpected directions for both Hollis and those who wish to seize those powers for their own nefarious, and deadly, intentions.

The Bolivian Incident is a Top Shelf Selection, and highly recommended.

The Hollis Trilogy series concludes with Book 3, due in 2023. CB Shanahan has earned many awards as a journalist and spent twenty-two years on the road as a folksinger, where I first met him and swapped stories and music.
Crazy smart with a wicked, subtle sense of humor, he has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in Philosophy. He is a member of Mensa. Born in Ireland, CB now lives in New Hampshire with his partner Libby, plays music in his spare time, and loves to travel.

Visit, @cb_shanahan on Twitter, and find CB Shanahan on Facebook and

I Knew You Were There

A Stolen Child’s Search for Her Irish Mother
By Marie O’Leary Wydra and Megan Wydra McKercher @2022 175 pages. ISBN 978-1-5445-3035-2
Review by John O’Brien, Jr.

I Knew You Were There is the true story of Marie O’Leary Wydra, separated as a baby from her mother, in the orphan and wayward mothers type home that is now finally getting a lot of attention and recrimination, with significant repercussions for those who exacted and enabled so much hate and damage on young pregnant mothers in Ireland, and their children, at the hands of those charged with their care, mostly nuns and staff, for generations, with the acceptance and cover up of the Catholic Church.

The story is very different from those I have previously read, of the Magdalene Laundries and similar. The story centers not on the day-to-day abuse, unmarked infant graves, and other horrors, but around adult Marie’s search for her real mother. The beginning, the time adopted by a brutal, damaged new “mother” and the carnage each inflicted is told, but the spirit of Marie, a lifelong nurse in career and in practice outside of her career, comes through throughout.

In one glance, she took in my sadness: “How are you?”

“I don’t think it’s going to be long,” I tearfully told her. “I wish I could be there. I feel so guilty.”
With that, she grabbed my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Marie, you weren’t meant to be there now. You were there when she needed you. You brought her peace.”

As she spoke those words, the feeling of lead in my chest disappeared. It felt as if my mother was talking through her, telling me, “It’s okay. I’m okay.” I felt, once again, as if I’d been touched by an angel. My mother and I both went on to live fulfilling lives, but we never let go of the longing for each other. That all the angels in my life conspired to bring us together remains the single greatest blessing of my life.

You too have guardian angels that you might find in a cab or a coffee shop or anywhere else. So if you’re living a tortured existence, as I was, please don’t ever give up. I hope that the story of my life illustrates for you what I learned: no matter how improbable it may seem, you can overcome your past—by seeing good in the people around you, by deciding you are not a victim, and by choosing to be better and do better than the people tormenting you.

In the end, Marie found fulfillment, peace, and her mother. The stories of how she got there; the stories of the grand reunion with her mother and previously unknown relatives; many blessings and the pure love of family offer hope and inspiration for anyone struggling with isolation, loss, loneliness for family and a sense of belonging deeper than the span of one lifetime, complete I Knew You Were There.

I Knew You Were There is a Top Shelf Selection, highly recommended for the truth in the story; the different perspective in which the story is told, and perhaps, never been told; and the inspiration it offers to those undergoing their own searches for peace, inspiration, and someday, closure.

Megan and Marie

In this search, and the book, Marie is accompanied, and gently nudged, by her daughter, Megan Wydra McKercher, herself an active advocate and vocation committed owner of living with love. Megan founded Heart & Home, a residential care facility.

Marie and Megan donate a portion of the proceeds from I Knew You Were There to Providence House, Inc., a Cleveland, Ohio-based organization that fights child abuse and supports family preservation. If you also would like to support this worthy cause, please contact or 1-216-651-5982.

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