Archive for the ‘Knox College’ Tag

The Confessions of Frances Godwin   Leave a comment


Our youngest son recently graduated from Knox College; I’d been vaguely aware of it years before because of Sixteen Pleasures, a book I enjoyed for its setting (Florence, Italy) and strong female narrator. This same son gave me an autographed copy of Hellenga’s most recent work, The Confessions of Frances Godwin, which had been languishing on my nightstand far too long.

The setting is mostly Galesburg, Ill., with Knox figuring prominently; other locales include Milwaukee, Rome and Verona. With Frances, Hellenga introduces another female narrator. I admit I’m intrigued by his ability to create such true female voices.

It’s 2006 and Frances has retired from a career as a high school Latin teacher. At first, the novel appears to be a vehicle for her to reflect on her past because she soon recounts how she met her husband, Paul, a Shakespeare scholar from whom she took classes (at Knox). She tells of their affair, their eventual marriage and life together in Galesburg. They have a daughter, Stella, who as a grown woman appears to make a series of bad choices when it comes to men.

The story is occasionally heavy handed. Consider, Frances’ name: Godwin. Several times, she converses with God, who, among other things, entreats her to go to confession. By this point it’s clear that she does have more than a few things to own up to.

Love and guilt are not unusual companions; for Frances, they’re a large part of who she is.

The Confessions of Frances Godwin
Four Bookmarks
Bloomsbury, 2014
305 pages

Coney Island on the Plains   Leave a comment


Galesburg, Ill., is not a place often, if at all, associated with Coney Island, yet it’s been the home to Coney Island hot dogs since 1921. It’s recognized as the town’s oldest restaurant, complete with a plaque from the local historical society. Of course, restaurant may be a slight exaggeration. It’s has more of a soda fountain aura, and, after all, we’re just talking about hog dogs here.


Nonetheless, the dogs – more than a dozen variations on the theme – are available along with a handful of sandwiches and several fountain treats like floats, shakes and sodas. The focus is on the namesake: a plump dog slathered with mustard, the house sauce and topped with diced onions. The sauce is ground beef mixed with red chile powder. It’s tasty and basic, just a few beans shy of a traditional chili dog.


The décor looks like something out of a 1950s museum: lots of white script on bright red on everything from a clock to a jukebox. It’s not all Coca-Cola, though, there’s plenty of clutter advertising Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and more. There’s a lot of kitsch, but the place wouldn’t work as well with any other design scheme.

Typically, I eat hot dogs at baseball games and am satisfied with that level of frequency. My son, a student at Knox College, just a few blocks from Coney Island suggested we check it out on our recent visit. I’m glad we did. I’m sure if I lived closer my hot dog consumption would dramatically increase.

Coney Island

Four Plates
77 S. Cherry St.
Galesburg, Ill.