Stray Dog Musings
The Writings of T P Graf
As the Daisies Bloom – A Novel –
PenCraft Awards, 2020 First Place, Cultural Fiction
August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler
Looking Out onto Our World
Roots, Branches and Buzz Saws
Release Date – Jan 10 2021
As the Daisies Bloom – A Novel
The generous spirit they share is a gift to any seeking greater understanding when you believe you have little in common. Yet it is through sharing that August discovers a deep reverence for Momma Daisy and Pappy Jemison, and for the legacy of love and mettle that defined their lives. August challenges our certitudes as, in his own life, he says, “I would rather have doubts and be wrong than to be certainly wrong.” Tyler and August bear witness to what might appear to be ordinary lives, yet which both see as nothing less than extraordinary.
Literary Titan – ☆☆☆☆☆
T. P Graf’s As The Daisies Bloom is as enchanting as it is charming. The story is intimately and poetically told. Like a well-written symphony, it has a rhythm and magnetism that is undeniable. It is especially hard not to fall in love with the main character, August.
While it is a work of fiction, this novel gives a heartfelt account of August’s life that is so touching, so authentic, and for lack of a better word so human. It is clear that this character was so thoroughly thought out, his experiences so beautifully brought to life.
Although the book starts with a chance encounter between August and a young family just freshly arrived in town, it ends in an interweaving of lives that we never see coming. The author also does well explaining the details of August’s life before this chance meeting and how the past has spilled into the present in interesting ways.
The fact that this book is written in August’s own voice, even with the accent and all, gives it an authenticity reminiscent of a memoir. What is more captivating though is that the author has managed to use this man’s seemingly simple life to draw attention to serious societal issues.
By easing us into topics like racism, sexism, faith, patriotism, and homophobia, he has personalized them, given them faces, invoking empathy and deep introspection. With neither insults nor judgment, he has made me think deeply about what it means to be human, to love, and to be loved.
Apart from the use of descriptive and almost poetic language, I also love that the author took his time to fully develop the characters in this book. Even though they are described as seen through August’s eyes, I could clearly picture each character. And not just physically, but who they are as a person.
It was clear what each one stood for and what was most important to them; something difficult to fit into 184 pages. Unexpectedly I found myself laughing with the characters and mourning with them, their struggles seeming so real to me somehow.
Reviewed By Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
As The Daisies Bloom: A Novel by T.P. Graf is a tale that explores the synchronicities of life and how there is always a power greater than ourselves guiding and directing us in the best direction, if only we take the time to listen and follow. Two totally disparate individuals find themselves and their families’ lives overlapping and intersecting across time. August Kibler is a retired white man of Swiss descent, set in his ways and in his daily routine now that his husband has passed. Living in the university town of Boone, North Carolina, August takes his daily breakfast at the Daisy Café, where a chance encounter with a young African-American Tyler Jemison and his two young sons will change August’s life forever. This sets both families on a path that seems to have been preordained and directed by Tyler’s wonderful late grandparents, who had raised him in Macon, Georgia; Momma (Daisy) and Pappy Jemison. When Tyler moves to Boone to work as the City Manager, he discovers that not only do he and August have much in common, they were destined to meet and be family for each other in this new town. Similarly, August discovers that the death of his beloved Miles does not mean the end of life for him and that he can learn so much about love, life, and family from this young trio, who come from such a different background to himself.
As The Daisies Bloom by T.P. Graf is one of those stories that just envelop you in the warmth and love of human kindness, goodness, and, most of all, family. The author goes to pains to say that this story is not a memoir, but he is right in his assertion that it certainly does read like one. What appealed to me the most was the overarching theme of the story; that you get back what you put into life and that there is indeed something greater than ourselves, guiding and directing us. The story reminds us that it doesn’t matter what your station in life might be – if you do what you do to the absolute best of your ability, the rewards, be they financial, emotional, or spiritual, will surely come. In some ways, Momma (Daisy) and Pappy read almost as stereotypical southern Black grandparents, and yet the author was skillfully able to give them the ability to rise above that and appear totally real. I particularly enjoyed the passages where Momma allowed her rage to come out and although she was bitterly angry at the government, over her son’s death, she still managed to deal with that anger in a suitable and respectful manner. The writer’s style is easy and flowing and draws the reader intimately into the lives of this unlikely partnership between the old man, his young friend, and the two boys. Few stories can raise a tear in this reader’s eyes, but this story definitely did in places along with many smiles. It was a beautiful telling of life’s trials and tribulations, always overcome by the love of family and of something greater than oneself. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can highly recommend it.
August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler
Voices of Context from Eden to Patmos
Was it a chance meeting in the Daisy Cafe that brought Tyler Jemison and his boys into August Kibler’s life, or was it the mysterious workings of Tyler’s grandmother, Momma Daisy? In this companion book to the novel As the Daisies Bloom, August shares with Tyler a life’s thoughts on what he would call his tiny systematic theology.
What might Eve say after millennia of being the first scapegoat? What might the first and last wives of the great king say to us if we read between the lines? How can we walk a bit with Joseph as he rides with Mary into Bethlehem? And what does Philip have to say to the black Eunuch, and to us about church membership?
Journey with the author as he imagines what we might have overlooked in the Bible stories that we teach our children. He shows how reimagining these people in voices for our time can bring to life each of these important guides, who could never have imagined how they would shape 2,000 years of Christianity, and how they can still transform us.
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler: Voices of Context from Eden to Patmos is a work of fiction based on Christian history and Bible stories, and was penned by author T. P. Graf. Written as a companion short novel to the book As the Daisies Bloom, this standalone story explores theology and Christianity from the perspective of the titular character, August. In a modern reimagining of key Bible stories that are so often told in historical senses, the author develops a new perspective on Christianity and the many gifts and wisdom that it can still offer us in the modern age. What results is a highly effective and updated take on Bible stories for the modern reader.
Author T. P. Graf has crafted a masterful work of modern literature that takes on some very complex topics but delivers them in a format that any reader can engage with and glean wisdom from. Whether you have read the original novel or not, this offshoot book offers its own setup and premise to get you into the flow, and the narrative skills of the author will have you engaged with the enigmatic August Kibler at once. In the spirit of reading between the lines and considering wider messages rather than specifics, we begin to see how relevant Christianity can be to us in current times if we learn how to re-engage with it through this intelligent perspective. Overall, I would highly recommend August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler as entertaining and essential reading for those curious about theology.
Literary Titan ☆☆☆☆
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to speak to someone from the bible or know their inner thoughts? August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler, takes you on that journey. Covering a plethora of different areas and people, including Isaac, Ben, Miriam, and Paul, this book explores the perspective of each person portrayed in the bible. T.P. Graf dives into stories that are less known and not as recognized as other stories in the bible.
The book’s premise is quite unique and the author has done a fantastic job incorporating his thoughts in his writing. There are many readers and people interested in the bible that would enjoy a book like this, and I found myself reading through it reasonably quickly. Graf’s writing style was something I enjoyed and I loved how the author constructed the book to feel like a book of poetry. This story is thought-provoking and evokes a positive emotional connotation.
The author also covers contemporary issues and topics that we still face today. The book offers fresh ideas that others might not have considered as well through stories like the eunuch. I found myself moving seamlessly from account to account without stopping. August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler is an absorbing Christian fiction novel that embraces classic literature to deliver a stimulating allegory of life.
Looking Out onto Our World
Explorations of Power, Dogma and a World Deserving Contemplation
Long abandoning the popular notions of optimism and pessimism, Looking Out onto Our World is a many-year journey, with plenty to despair, yet always with a mind toward hope, joy, and celebrating the many free gifts of creation. You are invited into musings that on one page delve into our complex complicity and on the next observe as a simple creature goes about its daily work. You are invited to examine where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed. It is a celebration of life and the grace that comes at the cost of each of us recognizing what we have done and what is still ours to do.
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
Looking Out Onto Our World: Explorations of Power, Dogma, and a World Deserving Contemplation is a work of non-fiction in the poetry, slice of life, and anthology sub-genres, and was penned by author T. P. Graf. This thoughtful and fascinating collection of poetic works takes us through many years of different experiences and perspectives. The intention of the collection is to make a realistic observation of life’s journey, but with an eye towards hope and celebration, and the author takes several different time periods and locations in which these complex notions are explored. What results is a collection full of emotive and intelligent wordplay.
Author T. P. Graf has crafted a wonderful array of verses and ideas which will certainly please poetic fans seeking introspective work which also expands out into wide-reaching themes and relatable points. I enjoyed the organization of the work, which takes us along on unexpected moments in life as well as some very uplifting spiritual moments found in somewhat unlikely places. A particular favorite was Grama which had some beautiful imagery and a heartfelt theme. The author expresses artistic freedom over the verse and word choice but also makes a concise effort to convey the point of each poem very well, and with the maximum emotional impact. Overall, I would highly recommend Looking Out Onto Our World: Explorations of Power, Dogma, and a World Deserving Contemplation for poetry fans everywhere as a great pick me up and talking point to share with others.
Literary Titan – ☆☆☆☆
Looking Out onto Our World is a compilation of largely introspective poems that takes us to T. P. Graf’s homeland along a spiritual journey across life’s most unexpected moments juxtaposed with more recent world events. T. P. Graf’s poems are alive with sensory experience, and refuse standard conventions of storytelling.
His verses are crowded and confident, bringing together sequences of characteristically long and winding poems, with shorter, punchier entries and brief narrative explanation. Each word in each verse is deliberate, as if arranged for maximum impact. There’s a heavy social critique to many of the poems, and a detached tone that describes “Predatory drones drone on night and day. Any vestige of dignity long removed. Eden obliterated by fire for profit.” Drifting from hidden wars to moral landscapes, nature becomes more psychological, symbolic in its resonances. And that sense is broadly on display in poem after poem.
Themes are revisited with similar language to explore a wide world of thought, but it’s hard to find the same sense of deep feeling in each. Though the book’s verse is not particularly complex, it is gripping and compelling, and will engage even the most reluctant poetry reader. The poems are accessible, relatable and without pretense, confronting their audience with what it means to look at our world, with all its agonizing complexity. The truths are surprising, but then, whose truths are they? The casualties’ of long wars on overseas soil, or our distant author’s? Is T. P. Graf true to his own voice and his own sense of what constitutes poetry, or do the verses transcend it?
Roots, Branches and Buzz Saws
More Stories of August Kibler
After August Kibler’s death, his executor and friend, Tyler Marvel-Jemison, finds a file on August’s computer that enlightens Tyler on August’s ancestral roots and earlier years before he, Johnny and Jimmy wandered into the old man’s life at the Daisy Cafe. In this collection, August expands on the people and places in his life beyond those introduced in As the Daisies Bloom. We sojourn with August from the rural Ohio township, to Indiana, down to Louisiana and finally to North Carolina. August peels back the hidden layers of a life lived in the shadows of abuse—facing his own regrets for how he might have been a better friend. He unwittingly exposes an unhealed wound from Miles’ childhood. He and Miles learn just how Maggie and Ethel from the Daisy Cafe are “joined at the hip.” We witness how time and circumstance shape lives and families and diverse friendships over a lifetime, and how the Hope Mennonite “creed” of Loving God, Loving Ourselves and Loving Others is all the creed we ever truly need.
Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award Reviewed By Tammy Ruggles
Roots, Branches & Buzz Saws: More Stories of August Kibler by TP Graf is an insightful novel about what shapes a life. This story centers on August Kibler, a man who dies. His friend Tyler Ethan Marvel-Jemison is also Kibler’s executor and discovers a file on his friend’s computer post-death that unlocks the life and times of the man. The Daisy Cafe is the place where August met his friends Tyler, Johnny, and Jimmy. We travel with Kibler as he makes his way from a country township in Ohio to Indiana, then to Louisiana, and on to North Carolina. The file reveals the ups and downs in his life, including abuse, regret, and hardship. The Hope Mennonite tenets of loving God, self, and others are also expressed in the lives and actions of the characters in this book. Some of the characters are a carryover from the book As The Daisies Bloom but there are new ones as well.
This book is a perfect example of how each life is valuable and is a story to tell. Any person’s life is worth documenting, even in a fictional way. Graf has crafted an interesting, entertaining, and sometimes touching account of how our lives are shaped, changed, harmed, or enriched by the people that we meet. The author shows that no one is an island and that we are the product of both nature and nurture. I liked so much about this book, but the premise itself is what is most intriguing, at least to me: An executor opens a file that reveals much more to his friend than meets the eye. It makes you wonder what you yourself would document in your own file, and how you may or may not have affected those you encounter. The characters in this book are realistic, with memorable personalities and unique situations and settings. You’ll come to appreciate August Kibler’s life, his love of trees, his thoughts on faith, and the nuances found. And, in a way, we appreciate the author too for reminding us that each life is important and impactful. Roots, Branches & Buzz Saws: More Stories of August Kibler by TP Graf is the perfect slice-of-life novel.