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Book Discussions at the Library May 2013

April 26, 2013 by Reader's Connection

Franklin Road is discussing the middle volume of Conrad Richter’s trilogy. There’s art forgery at Irvington, a divorce for the ages at Spades Park, and . . . Hey, that other group at Spades Park is dealing with some really weird crap from Captain Ahab.

Thursday, May 2nd at 10:30 a.m., Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption will be discussed at the Warren Library. Library

Unbroken: A World War II Airman's Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionA second book by the author of Seabiscuit would get noticed, even if it weren’t the enthralling and often grim story of Louie Zamperini. An Olympic runner during the 1930s, he flew B-24s during WWII. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he endured a captivity harsh even by Japanese standards and was a physical and mental wreck at the end of the war. He was saved by the influence of Billy Graham, who inspired him to turn his life around, and afterward devoted himself to evangelical speeches and founding boys’ camps. Still alive at 93, Zamperini now works with those Japanese individuals and groups who accept responsibility for Japanese mistreatment of POWs and wish to see Japan and the U.S. reconciled. He submitted to 75 interviews with the author as well as contributing a large mass of personal records. Fortunately, the author’s skills are as polished as ever, and like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers. — Booklist


Moby Dick


The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park will continue to read and discuss Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

We will meet every Friday, May 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st from 10:00 until 11:30. You are not compelled to read aloud if you don’t want to. The refreshments are always enjoyable and sometimes life-changing.

The Spades Park Book Discussion, as opposed to us seafarers, will meet on May 22nd as noted below.




Conrad Richter’s The Fields, which is book 2 of his “Awakening Land Trilogy,” will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Monday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m.

The Fields

Conrad Richter’s trilogy of novels The Trees (1940), The Fields (1946), and The Town (1950) trace the transformation of Ohio from wilderness to farmland to the site of modern industrial civilization, all in the lifetime of one character. The Fields continues the saga of the Luckett family that began in The Trees. In The Fields, the oldest daughter, Sayward, has begun the long process of carving a small farm out of the forest. She bears eight children and weathers numerous challenges in this novel, which gives an excellent sense of what pioneer life was really like. The trilogy earned Richter immediate acclaim as a historical novelist. The Town won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1951, and The Trees was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection after it was published. Richter also received the 1947 Ohioan Library Medal for the first two volumes of the trilogy. — Chicago Distribution Center


The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King, a “nonfiction thriller” by James Patterson and Martin Dugard, will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m.

The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King

[The book] essentially divides into two alternating historical sections, with scenes shifting readily from 1492 B.C. (with the Tut lineage, life and death outlined) to the first decades of the 20th century, when excavator/Egyptologist par excellence Howard Carter finally discovered the young monarch’s elusive tomb. Patterson and Dugard exploit their own extensive research into the available historical facts, then extrapolate accordingly, coming to dramatic conclusions that fly in the face of some official speculations . . . With a simple storytelling style that proves accessible whether focusing on the factual or fanciful, the authors effectively portray the exotic ancient world, including colorful insights into Tut’s brief reign and the soap-opera-like events of his rise and fall, especially as involves his stepmother Nefertiti and his marriage to his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten. The Carter story evokes the atmosphere of an Indiana Jones movie. — BookPage


Central Library will host a discussion of Chris Bohjalian’s novel The Sandcastle Girls on Tuesday, May 7th at 6:00 p.m.

The Sandcastle Girls

Between April 1915 and April 1916, one and one-half million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire during WWI. Bohjalian uses this as the backdrop for his new novel. Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Aleppo, Syria, to bring aid to the Armenian deportees. While there, Elizabeth meets Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer working for the Germans and searching for his wife and child, though certain they are already dead. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall desperately in love. The story is told through the eyes of Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen’s great-granddaughter. After seeing an exhibit of photographs of the Armenian victims, she discovers letters and photos and begins to piece her great-grandparents’ story together. Soon “the slaughter you know next to nothing about” takes over her life, and she makes profound discoveries about her ancestors and herself. This is a powerful and moving story based on real events seldom discussed. It will leave you reeling. — Booklist


A History of God : The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, by Karen Armstrong, will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, May 9th at 1:30 p.m.

A History of God : The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

In an extraordinary survey, Armstrong traces the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from their inception to the present day, and shows how they were created and shaped by their historical surroundings–which, in turn, they helped form and alter. Although this approach is standard among religious scholars, Armstrong uses it to particular advantage in underscoring the historical correspondences among the three faiths- -for example, examining the messianic fervor that surrounded the career of the Sabbatai Zevi (the 12th-century rabbi who built up an enormous apocalyptic cult among diaspora Jews prior to his imprisonment and conversion to Islam) in light of the early Christian response to the crucifixion of Jesus or of Jeremiah’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem. It’s particularly in the mystical traditions, according to Armstrong, that the different faiths corroborate each other–in large part, she says, because the mystical apprehension of the divine is more abstract and therefore less dependent upon the traditional symbols by which most religions distinguish themselves . . .[Armstrong] manages against the odds to provide an account that’s thorough, intelligent, and highly readable. Magisterial and brilliant. — Kirkus Reviews


On Monday, May 13th, Sandra Chapman’s The Girl in the Yellow Scarf: One of Indiana’s Most Notorious Cold Case Murders Solved as a Town Tries to Leave Behind Its Past will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library at 6:00 p.m.

In 1968, a young black woman was brutally murdered on the streets of Martinsville, Indiana. Carol Jenkins’ stabbing death appeared racially motivated. For thirty years, there were no arrests. The case sat dormant until unsettled rumors, a family’s pursuit of justice, and a new State Police Cold Case unit all came together to confront the past. Investigative Reporter, Sandra Chapman was on the case too, uncovering startling new facts, and prompting a break in the murder mystery that eluded so many for decades. A child witness, a long-held secret and the admirable determination of the victim’s family all play into this suspenseful, dramatic true crime story. It’s skillfully recounted by the reporter who lived it – and often told through the eyes of a daughter who had to make a painful choice – between her own father and the lives impacted by the Martinsville Mystery forever. — Publisher’s note

The Flanner House Library will host a discussion of Kimberla Lawson Roby’s novel The Perfect Marriage on Monday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m.

The Perfect Marriage

Roby’s new novel proves that appearances can deceive because still waters run deep. Derrek, a top administrator at a local hospital, and Denise, the head nurse of a local nursing home, appear to be the perfect couple. They have it all: high-paying jobs, a nice home in a posh Chicago suburb, and a beautiful daughter, MacKenzie. But they are both deeply wounded by a long history of family secrets, leading the couple to seek escape in cocaine, pills, and crack. When their addictions spiral out of control, Derrek and Denise face losing their only child. VERDICT: Roby, a skilled storyteller, once again weaves together a compelling plot by placing ordinary, sympathetic characters in difficult situations. Roby’s many fans and readers who enjoy African American pop fiction will want this one. — Library Journal




The Romance Potluck book discussion at Eagle Library will occur on Wednesday, May 15th, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

This month’s theme will be “Nora   Roberts and Friends.”






B. A. Shapiro’s novel The Art Forger will be discussed at the Irvington Library on Thursday, May 16th at 1:30 p.m.

The Art ForgerThe catalyst for Shapiro’s classy and pleasurably suspenseful debut is the legendary art heist of 1990, in which 13 masterpieces were stolen from Boston’s strange and wonderful Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum. Claire, a superb but frustrated painter who, like art collector Gardner, has been the target of scandal, supports herself by creating high-quality reproductions of Degas paintings for an online art retailer. So when Boston’s most prominent and sexiest gallery owner brings one of the missing Gardner paintings, a Degas, to her studio and offers her a veritable deal with the devil, Claire cannot resist. But she detects the painting’s stunning secret and turns out to be as fine a sleuth as she is an artist. Shapiro dramatizes Claire’s creation of a perfect forgery in fascinating detail and performs some elegant fabrications of her own in the form of risqué letters allegedly written by Gardner. The result is an entrancingly visual, historically rich, deliciously witty, sensuous, and smart tale of authenticity versus fakery in which Shapiro artfully turns a clever caper into a provocative meditation on what we value most. — Booklist


Wish You Well by David Baldacci will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m.

Wish You Well

Baldacci triumphs with his best novel yet, an utterly captivating drama centered on the difficult adjustment to rural life faced by two children when their New York City existence shatters in an auto accident. That tragedy, which opens the book with a flourish, sees acclaimed but impecunious riter Jack Cardinal dead, his wife in a coma and their daughter, Lou, 12, and son, Oz, seven, forced to move to the southwestern Virginia farm of their aged great-grandmother, Louisa. Several questions propel the subsequent story with vigor. Will the siblings learn to accept, even to love, their new life? Will their mother regain consciousness? And in a development that takes the narrative into familiar Baldacci territory for a gripping legal showdown, will Louisa lose her land to industrial interests? . . . what the novel offers above all is bone-deep emotional truth, as its myriad characters . . . grapple not just with issues of life and death but with the sufferings and joys of daily existence in a setting detailed with finely attuned attention and a warm sense of wonder. This novel has a huge heart and millions of readers are going to love it. — Publishers Weekly


A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m.

A Lesson Before DyingA Lesson Before Dying is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson’s godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting–and defying–the expected. Ernest J. Gaines brings to this novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have unformed his previous, highly praised works of fiction. — Random House


Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, May 21st at 10:15 a.m.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe “first immortal human cells,” code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, “growing with mythological intensity.” Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta’s family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. — Booklist


Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, May 22nd at 6:00 p.m.

Wolf HallAs Henry VIII’s go-to man for his dirty work, Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) isn’t a likely candidate for a sympathetic portrait. He dirtied his hands too often. In the end, Henry dropped him just as he had Cromwell’s mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, who counseled the king before him. But as Mantel (Beyond Black) reminds us, Cromwell was a man of many parts, admirable in many respects though disturbing in others. Above all, he got things done and was deeply loyal to his masters, first Wolsey and then the king. Nor was Henry always bloated and egomaniacal: well into his forties, when in good spirits, the king shone brighter than all those around him. VERDICT Longlisted for the Booker Prize, this is in all respects a superior work of fiction, peopled with appealing characters living through a period of tense high drama: Henry’s abandonment of wife and church to marry Anne Boleyn. It should appeal to many readers, not just history buffs. And Mantel achieves this feat without violating the historical record! There will be few novels this year as good as this one. — Library Journal


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