Monday, December 15, 2014

FEVER: A NOVEL, BY MARY BETH KEANE

Book Discussion Date and Time:

Monday, January 12, 2015, at 3:00 PM. (Please note that we are meeting at a later time this month.)

The story of Mary Mallon, known as "Typhoid Mary," who came to New York in 1883 and cooked for the wealthy families of Manhattan.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

THE CIRCLE: A NOVEL, BY DAVE EGGERS

Book Discussion schedule: Two sessions: (evening) Wednesday, December 10, 2014, at 7:00 P.M., and (afternoon) Monday, December 15, 2014, at 1:00 P.M.

Set in an undefined future time, The Circle is the story of Mae Holland, a young woman hired to work for the world’s most powerful internet company.... Mae can’t believe her luck, —even as her life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. (McSweeney's)

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Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ The latest offering from McSweeney's founder Eggers (A Hologram for the King) is a stunning work of terrifying plausibility, a cautionary tale of subversive power in the digital age suavely packaged as a Silicon Valley social satire. Set in the near future, it examines the inner workings of the Circle, an internet company that is both spiritual and literal successor to Facebook, Google, Twitter and more, as seen through the eyes of Mae Holland, a new hire who starts in customer service. As Mae is absorbed into the Circle's increasingly demanding multi- and social media experience, she plays an ever more pivotal role in the company's plans, which include preventing child abductions through microchips, reducing crime through omnipresent surveillance, and eliminating political corruption through transparency courtesy of personal cameras. Soon, she's not alone in asking what it will mean to "complete the Circle" as its ultimate goal comes into view; even her closest friends and family suspect the Circle is going too far in its desire to make the world a better, safer, more honest place. Eggers presents a Swiftian scenario so absurd in its logic and compelling in its motives that the worst thing possible will be for people to miss the joke. The plot moves at a casual, yet inexorable pace, sneaking up on the reader before delivering its warnings of the future, a worthy and entertaining read despite its slow burn. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Oct.) --Staff (Reviewed September 16, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 37, p)
Kirkus:
A massive feel-good technology firm takes an increasingly totalitarian shape in this cautionary tale from Eggers (A Hologram for the King, 2012, etc.). Twenty-four-year-old Mae feels like the luckiest person alive when she arrives to work at the Circle, a California company that's effectively a merger of Google, Facebook, Twitter and every other major social media tool. Though her job is customer-service drudgework, she's seduced by the massive campus and the new technologies that the "Circlers" are working on. Those typically involve increased opportunities for surveillance, like the minicameras the company wants to plant everywhere, or sophisticated data-mining tools that measure every aspect of human experience. (The number of screens at Mae's workstation comically proliferate as new monitoring methods emerge.) But who is Mae to complain when the tools reduce crime, politicians allow their every move to be recorded, and the campus cares for her every need, even providing health care for her ailing father? The novel reads breezily, but it's a polemic that's thick with flaws. Eggers has to intentionally make Mae a dim bulb in order for readers to suspend disbelief about the Circle's rapid expansion--the concept of privacy rights are hardly invoked until more than halfway through. And once they are invoked, the novel's tone is punishingly heavy-handed, particularly in the case of an ex of Mae's who wants to live off the grid and warns her of the dehumanizing consequences of the Circle's demand for transparency in all things. (Lest that point not be clear, a subplot involves a translucent shark that's terrifyingly omnivorous.) Eggers thoughtfully captured the alienation new technologies create in his previous novel, A Hologram for the King, but this lecture in novel form is flat-footed and simplistic. Though Eggers strives for a portentous, Orwellian tone, this book mostly feels scolding, a Kurt Vonnegut novel rewritten by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.(Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2013)

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

FLORA: A NOVEL, BY GAIL GODWIN

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

Isolated in a decaying family home while her father performs secret work at the end of World War II, 10-year-old Helen, grieving the losses of her mother and grandmother, bonds with her sensitive young aunt while desperately clinging to the ghosts and stories of her childhood. (NovelistPlus)


BookList:
/* Starred Review */ Godwin, celebrated for her literary finesse, presents a classic southern tale galvanic with decorous yet stabbing sarcasm and jolting tragedy. Helen, a writer, looks back to the fateful summer of 1945, when she was a precocious, motherless 10-year-old trying to make sense of a complicated and unjust world. Young Helen lives on a hill in North Carolina in an old, rambling, haunted house that was once a sanatorium for folks she calls the Recoverers. Raised by her immaculately turned-out, tart-tongued, and stoic grandmother, whom she worships, Helen is bereft after Nonie’s sudden death. Worse yet, her father is summoned to work on the secret military project at Oak Ridge. He recruits a 22-year-old Alabaman cousin to stay in his place. Sweet, emotional, and seemingly guileless Flora is no match for feverishly imaginative, scheming, and condescending Helen. When a polio outbreak keeps them at home, and a war veteran begins delivering their groceries, tension builds. Godwin’s under-your-skin characters are perfectly realized, and the held-breath plot is consummately choreographed. But the wonder of this incisive novel of the endless repercussions of loss and remorse at the dawn of the atomic age is how subtly Godwin laces it with exquisite insights into secret family traumas, unspoken sexuality, class and racial divides, and the fallout of war while unveiling the incubating mind of a future writer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Godwin is always in demand, and with early accolades for this tour de force from the likes of John Irving, requests will multiply. -- Seaman, Donna (Reviewed 02-15-2013) (Booklist, vol 109, number 12, p25)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ Narrator Helen Anstruther, “going on eleven,” is the relentlessly charismatic and wry star of this stirring and wondrous novel from Godwin (Unfinished Desires). In the summer of 1945, in the mountains of North Carolina, Helen is trying to make sense of the world since her beloved grandmother’s death. When her father leaves to do “secret work for World War II” in neighboring Tennessee, this becomes much more challenging, and Helen, motherless for years, is left in the care of 22-year-old Flora, a delicate and, Helen might say, hopelessly effusive relative. Helen has grown up in a rambling old house that once served as a home for convalescent tubercular or inebriate “Recoverers” under the care of Helen’s physician grandfather. For a precocious girl who has lost everyone who’s ever loved and known her, the house becomes a mesmerizing and steadfast companion. Though Flora initially appears to Helen as little more than a country bumpkin, their time together profoundly transforms them both. Godwin’s thoughtful portrayal of their boredom, desires, and the eventual heartbreak of their summer underscores the impossible position of children, who are powerless against the world and yet inherit responsibility for its agonies. Agent: Moses Cardona, John Hawkins & Associates. (May) --Staff (Reviewed February 11, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 06, p)
Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Ten-year-old Helen is a precocious, imaginative child who must spend the summer with her guardian, Flora, while her father is in Oak Ridge, TN, during the last months of World War II. Helen is a "haunted little girl" who lost her mother at age three and whose grandmother, who raised her, has just died. She and her late mother's cousin, 22-year-old Flora, are isolated in Helen's family house on a mountaintop, quarantined from the polio that threatens their community. Helen is resentful of her caretaker, Flora, who cries easily and appears to Helen to be unsophisticated. But Flora is singled-minded in her attempts to do right by Helen. The aftermath of that formative summer will steer the course of Helen's life and haunt her forever. VERDICT A superbly crafted, stunning novel by three-time National Book Award award finalist Godwin (A Mother and Two Daughters ), this is an unforgettable, heartbreaking tale of disappointment, love, and tragedy. Highly recommended.— Lisa Block, Atlanta --Lisa Block (Reviewed May 1, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 8, p73)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ Godwin (Unfinished Desires, 2009, etc.) examines the intricate bonds of family and the enduring scars inflicted by loss. In the summer of 1945, 10-year-old Helen Anstruther has just lost Nonie, the grandmother who raised her after her mother, Lisbeth, died when she was 3. Helen's father, the discontented, hard-drinking principal of the local high school in Mountain City, N.C., needs someone to stay with her while he does "more secret work for World War II" in Oak Ridge, Tenn. So he asks her mother's 22-year-old cousin, Flora, and, when one of Helen's best friends comes down with polio, insists that the pair remain at home to avoid the risk of infection. It's a bad idea: Weepy, unbuttoned Flora seems like a dumb hick to snobbish little Helen, who at first makes a thoroughly unappealing narrator. But as Godwin skillfully peels back layers of family history to suggest the secrets kept by both Nonie and Lisbeth (some are revealed; some are not), we see that Helen is mean because she's terrified. She's already lost her mother and grandmother, she's afraid her polio-stricken friend will die, and another close friend is about to move away--after delivering some home truths about how "you think you're better than other people." Helen got this trait from Nonie and both her parents, we realize, as Flora's comments gradually reveal how cruel Lisbeth was in her eagerness to leave behind her impoverished background. As usual with Godwin, the protagonists are surrounded by secondary characters just as fully and sensitively drawn, particularly Finn, the returned soldier whose attentions to Flora spark Helen's jealousy and prompt the novel's climax. Not all mistakes are reparable, we are reminded, but we learn what lessons we can and life goes on. Unsparing yet compassionate; a fine addition to Godwin's long list of first-rate fiction bringing 19th-century richness of detail and characterization to the ambiguities of modern life.(Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2013) 

 

THE DINNER: A NOVEL, BY HERMAN KOCH

Book Discussion date and time: Thursday,  October 23, 2014, at 1:00 PM.

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Meeting at an Amsterdam restaurant for dinner, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons' act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and revealed the extent to which each family will go to protect those they love.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, BY ANTHONY DOERR

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2014 AT 1:00 PM
"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work"--. (novelistplus) 
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Reviews

BookList:
/* Starred Review */ A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed. It rests, historically, during the occupation of France during WWII, but brief chapters told in alternating voices give the overall—and long— narrative a swift movement through time and events. We have two main characters, each one on opposite sides in the conflagration that is destroying Europe. Marie-Louise is a sightless girl who lived with her father in Paris before the occupation; he was a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. When German forces necessitate abandonment of the city, Marie-Louise’s father, taking with him the museum’s greatest treasure, removes himself and his daughter and eventually arrives at his uncle’s house in the coastal city of Saint-Malo. Young German soldier Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity there, and eventually, and inevitably, Marie-Louise’s and Werner’s paths cross. It is through their individual and intertwined tales that Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably re-creates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.High-Demand Backstory: A multipronged marketing campaign will make the author’s many fans aware of his newest book, and extensive review coverage is bound to enlist many new fans. -- Hooper, Brad (Reviewed 04-15-2014) (Booklist, vol 110, number 16, p23)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ In 1944, the U.S. Air Force bombed the Nazi-occupied French coastal town of St. Malo. Doerr (Memory Wall ) starts his story just before the bombing, then goes back to 1934 to describe two childhoods: those of Werner and Marie-Laure. We meet Werner as a tow-headed German orphan whose math skills earn him a place in an elite Nazi training school—saving him from a life in the mines, but forcing him to continually choose between opportunity and morality. Marie-Laure is blind and grows up in Paris, where her father is a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, until the fall of Paris forces them to St. Malo, the home of Marie-Laure’s eccentric great-uncle, who, along with his longtime housekeeper, joins the Resistance. Doerr throws in a possibly cursed sapphire and the Nazi gemologist searching for it, and weaves in radio, German propaganda, coded partisan messages, scientific facts, and Jules Verne. Eventually, the bombs fall, and the characters’ paths converge, before diverging in the long aftermath that is the rest of the 20th century. If a book’s success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize–winner Doerr’s novel triumphs on both counts. Along the way, he convinces readers that new stories can still be told about this well-trod period, and that war—despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices—cannot negate the pleasures of the world. (May) --Staff (Reviewed February 17, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 07, p)
Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Shifting among multiple viewpoints but focusing mostly on blind French teenager Marie-Laure and Werner, a brilliant German soldier just a few years older than she, this novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece. The main protagonists are brave, sensitive, and intellectually curious, and in another time they might have been a couple. But they are on opposite sides of the horrors of World War II, and their fates ultimately collide in connection with the radio—a means of resistance for the Allies and just one more avenue of annihilation for the Nazis. Set mostly in the final year of the war but moving back to the 1930s and forward to the present, the novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending. Marie-Laure and Werner both suffer crushing losses and struggle to survive with dignity amid Hitler's swath of cruelty and destruction. VERDICT Doerr (The Shell Collector ) has received multiple honors for his fiction, including four O. Henry Prizes and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award. His latest is highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje's similarly haunting The English Patient .— Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC --Evelyn Beck (Reviewed February 1, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 2, p62)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect. In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She's taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure's father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children's House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he's put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she's broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure's father's having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major. Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.(Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2014)



Thursday, August 14, 2014

SWEET TOOTH, BY IAN McEWAN

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME:  MONDAY SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 AT 1:00 PM.


Cambridge student Serena Frome's beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for M15. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England's legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named "Sweet Tooth." Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves the stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one. (Random House)



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014 LONGLIST ANNOUNCED

LONDON — Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris were among four American novelists who made it onto the 13-strong longlist of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, which for the first time is open to all novels originally written in English and published in Britain.  http://nyti.ms/1luyBOZ


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE, BY ADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: TUESDAY, AUGUST12, 2014 AT 11:00 AM



Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani was born in Enugu, Nigeria. She earned her very first income from winning a writing competition at the age of thirteen. As a teenager, she secretly dreamed of becoming a CIA or KGB spy. She ended up studying Psychology at the University of Ibadan instead. She lives in Abuja, Nigeria. I Do Not Come to You by Chance is her first novel. (Hyperion)

A deeply moving debut novel set amid the perilous world of Nigerian email scams, I Do Not Come to You by Chance tells the story of one young man and the family who loves him.
Being the opera of the family, Kingsley Ibe is entitled to certain privileges?a piece of meat in his egusi soup, a party to celebrate his graduation from university. As first son, he has responsibilities, too. But times are bad in Nigeria, and life is hard. Unable to find work, Kingsley cannot take on the duty of training his younger siblings, nor can he provide his parents with financial peace in their retirement. And then there is Ola. Dear, sweet Ola, the sugar in Kingsley?s tea. It does not seem to matter that he loves her deeply; he cannot afford her bride price.
It hasn?t always been like this. For much of his young life, Kingsley believed that education was everything, that through wisdom, all things were possible. Now he worries that without a ?long-leg??someone who knows someone who can help him?his degrees will do nothing but adorn the walls of his parents? low-rent house. And when a tragedy befalls his family, Kingsley learns the hardest lesson of all: education may be the language of success in Nigeria, but it?s money that does the talking.
Unconditional family support may be the way in Nigeria, but when Kingsley turns to his Uncle Boniface for help, he learns that charity may come with strings attached. Boniface?aka Cash Daddy?is an exuberant character who suffers from elephantiasis of the pocket. He?s also rumored to run a successful empire of email scams. But he can help. With Cash Daddy?s intervention, Kingsley and his family can be as safe as a tortoise in its shell. It?s up to Kingsley now to reconcile his passion for knowledge with his hunger for money, and to fully assume his role of first son. But can he do it without being drawn into this outlandish mileu? (Hyperion)





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Looking Back at Nadine Gordimer's Life and Work


Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer who died on Sunday at 90, said “I am what I suppose would be called a natural writer. I did not make any decision to become one. I did not, at the beginning, expect to earn a living by being read. I wrote as a child out of the joy of apprehending life through my senses — the look and scent and feel of things; and soon out of the emotions that puzzled me or raged within me and which took form, found some enlightenment, solace and delight, shaped in the written word.” (John Williams, New York Times) http://nyti.ms/1rbXWnW

Remembering Nadine Gordimer, a Lioness of Literary Activism

At 90 years of age, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer died Sunday, leaving behind a global legacy of both art and activism. “By the time she won the Nobel Prize in 1991, at age 68,” her obituary in The Mail and Guardian (South Africa) recalls, she had “10 novels, nearly 20 collections of stories or essays and innumerable pieces of journalism to her name.” (Jake Flanigin, New York Times)http://nyti.ms/1nsNHnU


Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Wave of African Writers With an Internationalist Bent

Black literary writers with African roots (though some grew up elsewhere), mostly young cosmopolitans who write in English, are making a splash in the book world. Read this article for some excellent reading suggestions:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/arts/new-wave-of-african-writers-with-an-internationalist-bent.html?ref=books

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WILD: FROM LOST TO FIND ON THE PACIFIC COAST TRAIL, BY CHERYL STRAYED

 

Book Discussion date and time: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 11:00 AM. 

The inspiring memoir of a young woman who, reeling from personal catastrophe, set out alone to hike over a thousand miles from the Mohave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. (An Oprah's Book Club pick.)

Reviews

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Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ In the summer of 1995, at age 26 and feeling at the end of her rope emotionally, Strayed resolved to hike solo the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. In this detailed, in-the-moment re-enactment, she delineates the travails and triumphs of those three grueling months. Living in Minneapolis, on the verge of divorcing her husband, Strayed was still reeling from the sudden death four years before of her mother from cancer; the ensuing years formed an erratic, confused time “like a crackling Fourth of July sparkler.” Hiking the trail helped decide what direction her life would take, even though she had never seriously hiked or carried a pack before. Starting from Mojave, Calif., hauling a pack she called the Monster because it was so huge and heavy, she had to perform a dead lift to stand, and then could barely make a mile an hour. Eventually she began to experience “a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun,” meeting the few other hikers along the way, all male; jettisoning some of the weight from her pack and burning books she had read; and encountering all manner of creature and acts of nature from rock slides to snow. Her account forms a charming, intrepid trial by fire, as she emerges from the ordeal bruised but not beaten, changed, a lone survivor. Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency. (Mar.) --Staff (Reviewed January 2, 2012) (Publishers Weekly, vol 259, issue 01, p)
Library Journal:
Strayed delves into memoir after her fiction debut, Torch . She here recounts her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 1995 after her mother's death and her own subsequent divorce. Designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968 but not completed until 1993, the PCT runs from Mexico to Canada, and Strayed hiked sections of it two summers after it was officially declared finished. She takes readers with her on the trail, and the transformation she experiences on its course is significant: she goes from feeling out of her element with a too-big backpack and too-small boots to finding a sense of home in the wilderness and with the allies she meets along the way. Readers will appreciate her vivid descriptions of the natural wonders near the PCT, particularly Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Sierras—what John Muir proclaimed the "Range of Light." VERDICT This book is less about the PCT and more about Strayed's own personal journey, which makes the story's scope a bit unclear. However, fans of her novel will likely enjoy this new book. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/11.]— Karen McCoy, Northern Arizona Univ. Lib., Flagstaff --Karen McCoy (Reviewed February 15, 2012) (Library Journal, vol 137, issue 03, p119)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ Unsentimental memoir of the author's three-month solo hike from California to Washington along the Pacific Crest Trail. Following the death of her mother, Strayed's (Torch, 2006) life quickly disintegrated. Family ties melted away; she divorced her husband and slipped into drug use. For the next four years life was a series of disappointments. "I was crying over all of it," she writes, "over the sick mire I'd made of my life since my mother died; over the stupid existence that had become my own. I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly." While waiting in line at an outdoors store, Strayed read the back cover of a book about the Pacific Crest Trail. Initially, the idea of hiking the trail became a vague apparition, then a goal. Woefully underprepared for the wilderness, out of shape and carrying a ridiculously overweight pack, the author set out from the small California town of Mojave, toward a bridge ("the Bridge of the Gods") crossing the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. Strayed's writing admirably conveys the rigors and rewards of long-distance hiking. Along the way she suffered aches, pains, loneliness, blistered, bloody feet and persistent hunger. Yet the author also discovered a newfound sense of awe; for her, hiking the PCT was "powerful and fundamental" and "truly hard and glorious." Strayed was stunned by how the trail both shattered and sheltered her. Most of the hikers she met along the way were helpful, and she also encountered instances of trail magic, "the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail." A candid, inspiring narrative of the author's brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self.(Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2012)



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY: A NOVEL, BY RACHEL JOYCE


Book Discussion Date and Time: Monday, June 23, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Discussion Leader: Edna Ritzenberg 
Harold Fry, recently retired, lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated with almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in twenty years.  Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person, and he sets off on foot, determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospital in Berwick-upon-Tweed, because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessy will live.




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
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)