September 27, 2010 by Reader's Connection
Our last two September discussions take place tonight and tomorrow night at Southport & Pike.
As America commits fully to World War I, a lady horse whisperer likewise resolves to succeed.In November 1917, the war has stripped the farming communities of Oregon nearly bare of able-bodied men, so when tall, strong 19-year-old Martha Lessen drops by George Bliss’s farm asking for work as a horse-breaker, George is inclined to listen. If he’s astonished at her gentle, non-coercive methods, he hides it–but there’s no doubting that Martha works tirelessly and uncomplainingly, and that her techniques prove highly effective, even on supposedly intractable beasts. Soon nearby farms are asking for Martha’s services, so she rides a long daily circuit, ensuring that lessons learned stay learned. And though Martha confidently handles the few remaining male farm hands, she’s less sure-footed interacting with the farm women whose loves and troubles seem a world removed . . . Gloss offers an acutely observed, often lyrical portrayal that mirrors our own era and, title notwithstanding, has as much to say about people as about horses. — Kirkus Reviews
Three years after his wife’s accidental death, Trond Sander, 67, settles into an isolated cabin near Norway’s southeastern border with Sweden. It’s where he last saw his father at the end of summer 1948. Then 15 and full grown, Trond helped harvest the timber . . . He also suddenly lost his local best friend, Jon, when, after an early morning spent “stealing horses”–that is, taking an equine joyride–Jon inadvertently allowed a gun accident that killed one of his 10-year-old twin brothers and guiltily ran away to sea. When that summer was over, Trond went back to Oslo, but his father stayed with Jon’s mother, his lover since they met in the Resistance during World War II. . . . The novel’s incidents and lush but precise descriptions of forest and river, rain and snow, sunlight and night skies are on a par with those of Cather, Steinbeck, Berry, and Hemingway, and its emotional force and flavor are equivalent to what those authors can deliver, too. — Booklist
Now on to October!
When Catherine Land, who’s survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a “reliable wife,” she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she’s deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn’t die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect. This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close. — Publishers Weekly
After 30 years living abroad, polishing her reputation as a world-renowned actress, Josephine Evans returns home to Atlanta. Conflict in her theater company in Amsterdam and growing anti-American sentiments are driving her return. But the pull of her granddaughter Zora, distressed by her role in a local scandal, is just as compelling. Josephine has much unfinished business, recalling her distance from her son, Zora’s father, a man who eventually drank himself to death. She worries that Zora may be taking the same path to relieve her guilt and heartache. Upon returning to Atlanta’s West End community, Josephine runs across Abbie Browning, an old friend . . . Through Abbie, Josephine reconnects to West End Atlanta, and America, and relearns the meaning of family and community. Cleage revives some beloved characters . . . Fans of this best-selling author will love this latest work. — Booklist
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan will be discussed twice this month.
Central Library on Tuesday, October 5th at 6:00 p.m.
Irvington Library on Thursday, October 14th at 1:30 p.m.
In 1904, architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house for Edwin and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, respectable members of Oak Park, IL, society. Five years later, after a clandestine affair, Frank and Mamah scandalized that society by leaving their families to live together in Europe. Stunned by the furor, Mamah wanted to stay there, particularly after she met women’s rights advocate Ellen Key,who rejected conventional ideas of marriage and divorce. Eventually, Frank convinced her to return to Wisconsin, where he was building Taliesin as a home and retreat. Horan’s extensive research provides substantial underpinnings for this engrossing novel, and the focus on Mamah lets readers see her attraction to the creative, flamboyant architect but also her recognition of his arrogance. Mamah’s own drive to achieve something important is tinged with guilt over abandoning her children. Tentative steps toward reconciliation end in a shocking, violent conclusion that would seem melodramatic if it weren’t based on true events. — Library Journal
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, October 7th at 10:30 a.m.
Long, brisk, charming first novel about an 1875 treaty between Ulysses S. Grant and Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation . . . Little Wolf comes to Washington and suggests to President Grant that peace between the Whites and Cheyenne could be established if the Cheyenne were given white women as wives, and that the tribe would agree to raise the children from such unions. The thought of miscegenation naturally enough astounds Grant, but he sees a certain wisdom in trading 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses, and he secretly approves the Brides For Indians treaty. He recruits women from jails, penitentiaries, debtors’ prisons, and mental institutions offering full pardons or unconditional release. May Dodd, born to wealth in Chicago in 1850, had left home in her teens and become the mistress of her father’s grain-elevator foreman. Her outraged father had her kidnaped, imprisoning her in a monstrous lunatic asylum. When Grant’s offer arrives, she leaps at it and soon finds herself traveling west with hundreds of white and black would-be brides . . . An impressive historical, terse, convincing, and affecting. — Kirkus Reviews
Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World will be moving on to his own mystery series . . . No, I mean Vicki Myron’s book will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, October 11th at 6:00 p.m.
Her first thought upon hearing a strange sound coming from the book drop one frigid January morning was “this can’t be good.” In fact, for both the tiny kitten found shivering in the metal box’s corner and for Myron, director of the Spencer Public Library, the discovery was the best thing that ever happened to either of them, and to the tiny Iowa farming community beset by an unrelenting string of economic challenges. Filthy and frostbitten, the kitten was in dire need of massive doses of TLC; fortunately, the library staff, patrons, and townspeople had plenty to spare. The story of how a bedraggled orange fur ball became “Dewey Readmore Books,” an enchantingly irresistible library mascot capable of bringing international attention to a small midwestern town and melting the heart of even the most curmudgeonly visitor, is uplifting enough; but woven among the cute-cat anecdotes are Myron’s own inspirational stories of enduring welfare, the abuses of an alcoholic husband, breast cancer, and single motherhood. Myron’s beguiling, poignant, and tender tale of survival, loyalty, and love is an unforgettable study in the mysterious and wondrous ways animals, and libraries, enrich humanity. — Booklist
Comedian-actor Wayans makes his unlikely fiction debut with a morality tale about an embittered, sharp-tongued woman who, by novel’s end, gets readers rooting for her. Facing her 65th birthday, Alma is noisily unhappy with her life, her children, and, especially, her husband, Harold. When Harold dies of a heart attack, however, she’s so lonely and guilt-stricken that she turns to suicide. Luckily, her attempt is thwarted by a group of ladies belonging to the Red Hat Society, a (real-life) organization of women 50 years or more old, dedicated to living life to its fullest. Though the Red Hats, each with problems of her own, open their hearts to Alma, she remains a captive of her bitterness, turning the same fury she casts on her family at the society . . . Alma begins to reciprocate their friendship, gradually softens to the world, and finally realizes the value of other people . . . Wayan’s story is propelled by engaging characters and snappy dialogue that keep his hard-on-her-luck, harder-to-like protagonist in check. — Publishers Weekly
Live fast, fight hard, and if you have to die then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there’s a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she’s ever faced before. Shapeshifter Dev Peltier has stood guard at the front of Sanctuary for almost two hundred years, and in that time, he’s seen it all. Or so he thought. Now their enemies have discovered a new source of power–one that makes a mockery of anything faced to date. The war is on, and Dev and Sam are guarding ground zero. But in order to win, they will have to break the most cardinal of all rules and pray it doesn’t unravel the universe as we know it. — Author’s website
In the years following the sudden death of their seven-year-old son, Benny, Michigan residents Frank and Ellie Benton have witnessed the steady deterioration of their marriage. So when Frank s boss offers him a position overseeing a company factory in the rural Indian city of Girbaug, Ellie convinces her husband it s just the change they both need. From the start, Ellie, a therapist, basks in her new life, making friends with townspeople and volunteering her services at a nearby clinic. But Frank s work brings endless grief. His company, Herbal Solutions, has taken over land containing trees that locals have long harvested for their medicinal properties . . . Frank’s world brightens when he befriends Ramesh, the charming, inquisitive son of the Bentons housekeeper and cook. Ramesh soon becomes a surrogate for Benny in a relationship that simultaneously boosts Frank s spirits and breaks his heart . . . The Weight of Heaven is a bold, beautifully rendered tale of cultures that clash and coalesce. — Booklist
James L. Swanson’s Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, October 19th at 10:15 a.m.
Small wonder that Manhunt has been optioned as a major motion picture. In this fast-paced, hour-by-hour account of the 12 days following Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, Swanson allows the reader to ride along with the Union cavalry and federal agents through the streets of the nation’s capital and the wilds of Maryland and Virginia in pursuit of John Wilkes Booth, his coconspirators, and the host of rebel enablers who constituted a viable Confederate underground railroad. Swanson’s eye for detail and his excellent thumbnail sketches of the figures involved bring the chronicle alive. There was the simultaneous assassination attempt on Secretary of State William Seward, and Secretary of War Stanton’s pivotal role in keeping the nation together during the unrest, stoked by an irresponsible press, following Lincoln’s death. — Library Journal
In Barry’s captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Towner’s suspicions are taken with a grain of salt given her history of hallucinatory visions and self-harm. The mystery enmeshes local cop John Rafferty, who had left the pressures of big city police work for a quieter life in Salem and now finds himself falling for the enigmatic Towner as he mourns Eva and delves into the history of the eccentric Whitney clan. Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters’ inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated. — Publishers Weekly
You can join in a discussion of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else at the Franklin Road Library on Tuesday, October 26th at 6:30 p.m.
Gill, son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, explains how he was born into privilege, was “downsized” out of his high-powered advertising career, divorced by his wife after the woman with whom he was having an affair became pregnant, and learned that he had a slow-growing brain tumor–all of which ultimately led him to an entry-level job at Starbucks at the age of 64. And that’s just the first chapter. Gill’s inspirational memoir is a look back on his first year at Starbucks, learning the ropes as a barista. In each chapter, he faces a new challenge, from cleaning up to balancing the register to hosting coffee tastings . . . While telling his life story, he also hits all the appropriate business world notes, riffing on diversity, acceptance, and respect, and even manages to instill a desire for a cup of coffee in his reader. — Library Journal
The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, “defined heroism.” Alfred Lansing’s scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book — with over 200,000 copies sold — has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance’s fateful trip. To write their authoritative story, Lansing consulted with ten of the surviving members and gained access to diaries and personal accounts by eight others. — Publisher’s note
On Thursday, October 28th at 6:00 p.m. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia will be discussed at the Spades Park Library.
Realizing that her marriage was over and that her life needed serious therapy, she headed to Rome to eat and flirt and enjoy. Satiated on gelato, olive oil, and pasta, she moved on to an ashram in India to practice yoga and meditation before finally traveling to Bali, where she finds new love. Honest, funny, and endearing, Gilbert learns about herself and how she wishes to inhabit the world. — Library Journal