Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Claire of the Sea Light, by Edwidge Danticat
Book Discussion Date and Time: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 11:00 AM  (Please note that we are meeting on  a different day and at a different time this month)
Discussion Leader: Ellen Getreu

Claire Limye Lanme--Claire of the Sea Light--is an enchanting child born into love and tragedy in Ville Rose, Haiti.  Claire's mother died in childbirth, and on the girl's seventh birthday, her father, Nozias, decides to give her away to a local shopkeeper, who lost a child of her own, so that Claire can have a better life. Claire disappears, and  as Nozias and others look for her, we are brought deep into the intertwined lives of the people who live in this small seaside town.
















Tuesday, March 11, 2014

THE LOWLAND: A NOVEL, BY JHUMPA LAHIRI


Book Discussion Date and Time: Monday, April 7, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Discussion Leader: Candace Plotsker-Herman

Brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra pursue vastly different lives--Udayan in rebellion-torn Calcutta, Subhash in a quiet corner of America--until a shattering tragedy compels Subhash to return to India, where he endeavors to heal family wounds.


Lahiri’s (The Namesake) haunting second novel crosses generations, oceans, and the chasms that despair creates within families. Subhash and Udayan are brothers, 15 months apart, born in Calcutta in the years just before Indian independence and the country’s partition. As children, they are inseparable: Subhash is the elder, and the careful and reserved one; Udayan is more willful and wild. When Subhash moves to the U.S. for graduate school in the late 1960s, he has a hard time keeping track of Udayan’s involvement in the increasingly violent Communist uprising taking place throughout West Bengal. The only person who will eventually be able to tell Subhash, if not quite explain, what happened to his brother is Gauri, Udayan’s love-match wife, of whom the brothers’ parents do not approve. Forced by circumstances, Gauri and Subhash form their own relationship, one both intimate and distant, which will determine much of the rest of their adult lives. Lahiri’s skill is reflected not only in her restrained and lyric prose, but also in her moving forward chronological time while simultaneously unfolding memory, which does not fade in spite of the years. A formidable and beautiful book. (Publishers Weekly)

Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri's (The Interpreter of Maladies ) unparalleled ability to transform the smallest moments into whole lives pinnacles in this extraordinary story of two brothers—so close that one is "the other side" of the other—coming of age in the political tumult of 1960s India. They are separated as adults, with Subhash, the elder, choosing an academic career in the United States and the more daring Udayan remaining in Calcutta, committed to correcting the inequities of his country. Udayan's political participation will haunt four generations, from his parents, who renounce the future, to his wife and his brother, who attempt to protect it, to the daughter and granddaughter who will never know him. VERDICT Lahiri is remarkable, achieving multilayered meaning in an act as simple as "banging the edge of the lid three or four times with a spoon, to break the seal"; her second novel and fourth title is deservedly one of this year's most anticipated books. Banal words of praise simply won't do justice; perhaps what is needed is a three-word directive: just read it . (Library Journal)




Monday, February 10, 2014

DEAR LIFE:STORIES, BY ALICE MUNRO (WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE 2013)

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2014, AT 1:00 PM
BOOK DISCUSSION LEADER: ESTHER DAVIDSON

In story after story  in this brilliant collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human (Random House.)

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

BookList:
/* Starred Review */ Munro’s latest collection brings to mind the expression, “What is old is new again.” As curiously trite and hardly complimentary as that statement may sound, it is offered as unreserved praise for the continued wonderment provided by arguably the best short-story writer in English today. Some of these 14 stories present new directions in Munro’s exploration of her well-recognized universe (rural and small-town Ontario), while other stories track more familiar paths, with characters and familial situations reminiscent of previous stories. That said, the truth is that on whatever level of reader familiarity Munro is working, in every story she finds new ways to make the lives of ordinary people compelling. “Amundsen” has a setting that will pique the interest of avid Munro followers, yet it is delivered with a tone surprising and even disturbing. A young woman ventures to a remote area to assume teaching duties in a TB sanitarium, soon entering into a dismal relationship with the head doctor. But with Munro’s care in craftsmanship and her trademark limpid, resonant style, the reader accepts that the depressing aftereffect is Munro’s intention. “Haven” will come to be considered one of her masterpieces: a quick-to-maturation piece, a fond specialty of Munro’s, this one is about a teenage girl going to live with her aunt and uncle while her parents do missionary work. In quite dramatic fashion, she observes that what might appear as somone’s acceptance of another person’s quirks may actually be indifference. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A first printing of 100,000 copies supports Munro’s international popularity. -- Hooper, Brad (Reviewed 10-01-2012) (Booklist, vol 109, number 3, p31)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ Joan Didion once said “I didn’t want to see life reduced to a short story... I wanted to see life expanded to a novel.” Didion had her own purposes, but Munro readers know that the dichotomy between expansive novel and compressed short story doesn’t hold in her work. Munro (Too Much Happiness) can depict key moments without obscuring the reality of a life filled with countless other moments—told or untold. In her 13th collection, she continues charting the shifts in norms that occur as WWII ends, the horses kept for emergencies go out of use, small towns are less isolated, and then gradually or suddenly, nothing is quite the same. There are no clunkers here, and especially strong stories include “Train,” “To Reach Japan,” “Haven,” and “Corrie.” And for the first time, Munro writes about her childhood, in the collection’s final four pieces, which she describes as “not quite stories.... I believe they are the first and last—and the closest—things I have to say about my own life.” These feature the precision of her fiction with the added interest of revealing the development of Munro’s eye and her distance from her surroundings, both key, one suspects, in making her the writer she is. While many of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, they read differently here; not only has Munro made changes, but more importantly, read together, the stories accrete, deepen, and speak to each other. (Nov.) --Staff (Reviewed September 24, 2012) (Publishers Weekly, vol 259, issue 39, p)
Library Journal:
Every new collection from the incomparable Munro, winner of the Man Booker International Prize for her lifetime body of work, is cause for celebration. This new volume offers all the more reason to celebrate as it ends with four stories the author claims are the most autobiographical she has written. As she has moved through the decades, so have her characters, whose stories are mostly set in small-town Ontario in an earlier time or who are looking back from the present with some earned perspective. Two standouts among the riches: in "Train," a postwar drifter lands on the doorstep of an older woman who takes him in and allows him to live companionably with her for the next couple of decades. When she is suddenly taken ill, a revelation about her past brings up haunting memories of his own, causing him to abruptly abandon her. In "Dolly," the comfortable happiness of an older couple is shaken by the reappearance of a woman with whom the husband had a brief but intense wartime affair. In every story, there is a slow revelation that changes everything we thought we understood about the characters. VERDICT Read this collection and cherish it for dearlife.— Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., ON --Barbara Love (Reviewed November 1, 2012) (Library Journal, vol 137, issue 18, p65)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ A revelation, from the most accomplished and acclaimed of contemporary short story writers. It's no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada's Munro (Too Much Happiness, 2009, etc.) is rewarding and that the best are stunning. They leave the reader wondering how the writer manages to invoke the deepest, most difficult truths of human existence in the most plainspoken language. But the real bombshell, typically understated and matter-of-fact, comes before the last pieces, which the author has labeled "Finale" and written in explanation: "The final four works in this book are not quite stories. They form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact. I believe they are the first and last--and the closest--things I have to say about my own life." The "first" comes as a surprise, because her collection The View from Castle Rock (2006) was so commonly considered atypically autobiographical (albeit drawing more from family legacy than personal memory). And the "last"? When a writer in her early '80s declares that these are the last things she has to say about her life, they put both the life and the stories in fresh perspective. Almost all of them have an older character remembering her perspective from decades earlier, sometimes amused, more often baffled, at what happened and how things turned out. Most pivot on some sort of romantic involvement, but the partners are unknowable, opaque, often even to themselves. In "Train," a character remarks, "Now I have got a real understanding of it and it was nobody's fault. It was the fault of human sex in a tragic situation." In "Leaving Maverley," she writes of "the waste of time, the waste of life, by people all scrambling for excitement and paying no attention to anything that mattered." The author knows what matters, and the stories pay attention to it.(Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2012)



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ME BEFORE YOU, BY JOJO MOYES

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2014 AT 1:00 PM

DISCUSSION LEADER: EDNA RITZENBERG

Taking a job as an assistant to extreme sports enthusiast Will, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident, Louisa struggles with her employer's acerbic moods and learns of his shocking plans before demonstrating to him that life is still worth living.


BookList:
In The Last Letter from Your Lover (2011), Moyes presented a heavily plotted novel that spanned decades and featured parallel romances. Her newest work dials down the intricacy, and the result is a far more intimate novel. Moyes introduces us first to Will Traynor, a formerly high-flying, thrill-seeking executive now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. Twentysomething Louisa “Lou” Clark has been hired as his caretaker, despite a total lack of experience. As the prickly Will and plainspoken Lou gradually warm to each other, she learns that the six-month length of her contract coincides with the amount of time Will has agreed, for his parents’ sake, to postpone his planned assisted suicide, a subject Moyes treats evenhandedly. Armed with this information, Lou sets about creating adventures for Will, hoping to give him a reason to live. Simultaneously, Will encourages Lou to expand the expectations of what her life could be. All signs point to romance and a happy ending for the pair, but Moyes has something more heartbreakingly truthful in mind: Sometimes love isn’t enough. -- Wetli, Patty (Reviewed 11-15-2012) (Booklist, vol 109, number 6, p20)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ In Moyes’s (The Last Letter from Your Lover) disarmingly moving love story, Louisa Clark leads a routine existence: at 26, she’s dully content with her job at the cafe in her small English town and with Patrick, her boyfriend of six years. But when the cafe closes, a job caring for a recently paralyzed man offers Lou better pay and, despite her lack of experience, she’s hired. Lou’s charge, Will Traynor, suffered a spinal cord injury when hit by a motorcycle and his raw frustration with quadriplegia makes the job almost unbearable for Lou. Will is quick-witted and sardonic, a powerhouse of a man in his former life (motorcycles; sky diving; important career in global business). While the two engage in occasional banter, Lou at first stays on only for the sake of her family, who desperately needs the money. But when she discovers that Will intends to end his own life, Lou makes it her mission to persuade him that life is still worth living. In the process of planning “adventures” like trips to the horse track—some of which illuminate Lou’s own minor failings—Lou begins to understand the extent of Will’s isolation; meanwhile, Will introduces Lou to ideas outside of her small existence. The end result is a lovely novel, both nontraditional and enthralling. Agent: Sheila Crowley, Curtis Brown. (Dec.) --Staff (Reviewed October 8, 2012) (Publishers Weekly, vol 259, issue 41, p)
Kirkus:
A young woman finds herself while caring for an embittered quadriplegic in this second novel from British author Moyes (The Last Letter from Your Lover, 2011). Louisa has no apparent ambitions. At 26, she lives with her working-class family (portrayed with rollicking energy) in a small English town, carries on a ho-hum relationship with her dull boyfriend and works at a local cafe. Then, the cafe closes, and she must find a job fast to ease her family's financial stress. Enter Will Traynor, a former world traveler, ladies' man and business tycoon who's been a quadriplegic since a traffic accident two years ago. Will's magistrate mother hires Louisa at a relatively hefty salary to be Will's caregiver and keep him company for the next six months--easygoing Nathan gives him his medical care and physiotherapy--but really Will's mother wants Louisa to watch him so he doesn't try to hurt himself. Will, once handsome and powerful, is not only embittered, but in constant pain. He has some use of one hand but is dependent on others for his basic needs, and recovery is not possible. Louisa, who can't help speaking her mind and dresses thrift-store eccentric, thinks he hates her, but no surprise, Louisa's sprightly, no-nonsense charms win him over. He even cheers her up on occasion. When Louisa overhears Will's mother talking to his sister, she realizes that the Traynors have reluctantly agreed to let Will commit suicide at a facility in six months. Louisa decides to convince him to stay alive with a series of adventures. Meanwhile, Will, who senses something in her past has made Louisa fearful of adventure, is trying to broaden her experience through classical music and books. Their feelings for each other deepen. But Louisa is not Jane Eyre, and Will is not Mr. Rochester in a wheelchair, so don't expect an easy romantic ending. Despite some obviousness in the storyline, this is uplift fiction at its best, with fully drawn characters making difficult choices.(Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2012) 

















Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE BOOKMAN'S TALE: A NOVEL OF OBSESSION, BY CHARLIE LOVETT

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: Monday, January 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM

DISCUSSION LEADER:  Candace Plotsker-Herman

Antiquarian book enthusiast Peter Byerly discovers an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries that contains a Victorian portrait strongly resembling his late wife, a finding that sparks an obsessive search through the bard's historical period.




REVIEWS

Publishers Weekly:
Lovett’s debut is a century-spanning web of literary mystery that ensnares American Peter Byerly, a rare bookseller. Living abroad in the months after the death of his wife Amanda, Peter is mystified to discover a watercolor uncannily resembling her—especially since it’s from the Victorian era. Vowing to learn more about the obscure artist—“B.B.”—Peter stumbles into the argument about the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, which might contain a link to the mysterious painter. “The mystery of the watercolor’s origins felt deeply personal and Peter could already feel curiosity and grief melding into obsession.” Lovett’s novel skips in time to various periods in Peter’s life, and even before it, extending as far back as 1592 when Shakespeare and his cohorts haunted taverns, and to 1879 when folios of his plays became prized possessions. As Peter continues his sleuthing, he finds himself a potential suspect in a murder investigation and a “hundred-and-thirty-year-old scandal” with “the most valuable relic in the history of English literature” at its core. Although the discussion of the provenance of Shakespeare’s plays will appeal to bibliophiles, the frequent flashbacks to bygone days interrupt the narrative flow. In addition, the characters’ dialogue, while full of passion for letters, is wooden and uninspired. Agent: David Gernert, the Gernert Agency. (June) --Staff (Reviewed April 29, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 17, p)
Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Peter Byerly cut himself off from the world to recover from the loss of his wife, Amanda, who died nine months ago. An American antiquarian bookseller now living in England, Peter returns to work and discovers, in an 18th-century book about Shakespeare forgeries, a Victorian miniature portrait of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife. His research to identify the watercolor's origins uncovers what could be the holy grail of Shakespeare studies—a book annotated by the Bard at the time he was writing A Winter's Tale —and leads Peter on a dangerous quest to prove the book's authenticity. Interwoven throughout are flashbacks to Peter's early relationship with Amanda and chapters on the book's travels through many hands since 1592. VERDICT Drawing on debates about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays as well his own experience in the cutthroat world of antiquarian books, debut author Lovett has crafted a gripping literary mystery that is compulsively readable until the thrilling end. Recommended for fans of Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book , Shakespeare aficionados, and bibliophiles. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/12.]— Katie Lawrence, Chicago --Katie Lawrence (Reviewed April 15, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 17, p75)
Kirkus:
(The following is a combined review for THE BOOKMAN' S TALE)  A pleasurably escapist trans-Atlantic mystery is intricately layered with plots, murders, feuds, romances, forgeries--and antiquarian book dealing. Lovett's engagingly traditional debut offers flavors of notable British antecedents--Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward--while spinning tales in several different eras, all centered on the book that supposedly inspired Shakespeare's play A Winter's Tale. The novel's hero is insecure, grieving, widowed bookseller Peter Byerly, whose scholarship to Ridgefield University in North Carolina introduced him to his twin passions: his future wife, Amanda, and old books. Peter's wooing and winning of Amanda is one of the novel's three concurrent plot strands, the others (both set in the U.K.) being a here-and-now hunt and chase and a through-the-ages tracing of a volume of Pandosto, a play by Robert Greene which came to be annotated by Shakespeare and, if found and exposed in modern times, would answer an earth-shattering (to some) question of scholarship: Did Shakespeare really write his plays or not? Peter's discovery, in a bookshop, of a Victorian watercolor portrait seemingly of his dead wife sets this sizable ball rolling and leads through new female friendships, murder scenes and tombs to a pleasing-if-predictable country-house denouement. A cheerily old-fashioned entertainment.(Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2013)

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Faith: A Novel, by Jennifer Haigh

Book Discussion Date and Time: Monday, December 16, at 1:00 PM

Discussion Leader: Ellen Getreu

When her older brother Art--the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish--finds himself at the center of  scandal, Sheila McGann, estranged from her family for years, returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation....A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman's quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief.


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From the NovelistPlus database
BookList:
/* Starred Review */ Father Arthur Breen has devoted his entire career as a priest in Boston’s South Shore community to a life of quiet but determined faith, enthusiastically serving his parishioners while unobtrusively placating his superiors in the Catholic hierarchy. Only marginally involved with his own family—devout mother, alcoholic stepfather, go-getter half-brother, and contemplative half-sister—Breen takes an instant shine to eight-year-old Aidan, the emotionally fragile son of the rectory’s housekeeper, and makes tentative arrangements to help Aidan’s newly clean-and-sober mother, Kath, start a new life. So when a sex abuse scandal rocks the Boston archdiocese, everyone is shocked, though no one is exactly surprised, to learn that Kath has accused Father Breen of harming Aidan. Looking back on the tragedy, Breen’s sister Sheila chronicles the events leading up to and beyond the incident, revealing a family shattered by profound secrets. With an exquisite sense of drama and mystery, Haigh delivers a taut, well-crafted tale that potently but subtly explores myriad gray areas within essential issues of truth and trust, punishment and absolution. Indelibly rendered characters, suspenseful pacing, and fearless but sensitive handling of a controversial subject will make this a must-read for book discussion groups. -- Haggas, Carol (Reviewed 04-01-2011) (Booklist, vol 107, number 15, p24)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ Haigh (Mrs. Kimble) explores the intersections of public scandal and personal tragedy in her superb fourth novel. Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family. Arthur Breen became a priest when such a career path was considered a logical, honorable choice for an intelligent young Catholic man. Sophisticated and worldly in many ways, utterly childlike in others, Arthur is unprepared to cope with secular life when he's accused of abusing a young boy and is subsequently asked to leave his parish. Arthur's younger half-sister, Sheila, in a quasi-omniscient style, narrates the complicated, devastating history that shaped Arthur's life, both personally and spiritually. Although this all-too-plausible story offers a damning commentary on the Church's flaws and its leaders' hubris, Haigh is concerned less with religious faith than with the faith Arthur's family has—and loses, and in some cases regains—in one another. At its broadest, this is a frank and timely story of familial and institutional heredity; at its most personal, the novel is a devastating portrait of a priest who discovers that he's also a man. (May) --Staff (Reviewed February 21, 2011) (Publishers Weekly, vol 258, issue 08, p)
Library Journal:
The scandal regarding the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests continues on its ugly way, and Haigh (The Condition ) doesn't make it any easier for us: she's written a novel that questions the guilt of a priest so charged. When older half-brother Art is accused of abusing a boy whose wayward mother he's tried to help, Sheila McGann returns to the suffocating Irish American home and community in Boston she had fled. Art has been shunned by the family, particularly brother Mike, who has several children and a cold, judgmental wife. To Sheila's horror, Mike condemns Art out of hand, even as he gets uncomfortably involved with the woman who has brought the suit against him. Beyond Art's denial, Sheila herself can't get him to articulate what really happened. VERDICT Initially, the story is told more blandly than one would expect from the fine Haigh, and the idea crawls uncomfortably around the reader's mind that she's soft-soaping the issue. By the end, though, the narrative is emotionally involving and ethically concise, reminding us that things are not always as they seem and that we must consider carefully how we judge others. Most fiction readers will want. [See Prepub Alert, 11/15/10.]— Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal --Barbara Hoffert (Reviewed March 1, 2011) (Library Journal, vol 136, issue 4, p69)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ A non-sensationalized novel about an inherently sensational event—the abuse of an 8-year-old boy by a priest. Haigh hands over most of the narrative burden to Sheila McGann, half-sister of Art Breen, who for over 25 years has been a good man and a respected parish priest in the Boston area. Just before Easter, however, the diocese abruptly removes him from his duties and establishes him in an apartment until it completes an investigation into an allegation that he's abused Aidan, a boy he is obviously fond of and has become emotionally attached to. Aidan's mother is Kath, a drug- and man-addicted young woman whose credibility is problematic at best. (One logical suspicion is that Kevin, her egregiously addled boyfriend, might be putting her up to this accusation to secure easy money in light of recent scandals in the Church.) While Sheila has faith in Art's innocence, her other brother, Mike, is not so sure. Mike's situation is complicated by his marriage to Abby, a Lutheran who believes almost everything is wrong in the Catholic Church. Haigh moves seamlessly from Sheila's reminiscence of growing up Catholic in Boston (though she's since lost the faith) to a more neutral and objective third-person account of events that relentlessly unfold and seem to implicate Art. Haigh deals with complex moral issues in subtle ways, and her narrative is beautifully, sometimes achingly poignant.(Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2011)