August 24, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Two of the books being discussed in September involve book discussion groups. There’s a fictional book talk featuring a group of Minnesota housewives, and a nonfiction book talk with a son and his dying mother.
Patty, a Westchester County high-school basketball star, should have been a golden girl. Instead, her ambitious parents betray her, doing her grievous psychic harm. Hardworking Minnesotan Walter wants to be Patty’s hero, and she tries to be a stellar wife and a supermom to Joey and Jessica, their alarmingly self-possessed children, but all goes poisonously wrong. Patty longs for Richard, Walter’s savagely sexy musician friend. Walter’s environmental convictions turn perverse once he gets involved in a diabolical scheme that ties protection of the imperiled cerulean warbler to mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia. Richard is traumatized by both obscurity and fame. Joey runs amok in his erotic attachment to the intense girl-next-door and in a corrupt entrepreneurial venture connected to the U.S. invasion of Iraq . . . Passionately imagined, psychologically exacting, and shrewdly satirical, Franzen’s spiraling epic exposes the toxic ironies embedded in American middle-class life and reveals just how destructive our muddled notions of entitlement and freedom are and how obliviously we squander life and love. — Booklist
Here’s a link to the historical event “Catcher in the Rye Is Published” on the History Channel’s website.
We will meet every Friday, September 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th from 10:00 until 11:30. Anyone who wants to read aloud usually gets a chance.
Johnson’s novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native, from its orphanages and its fishing boats to the kitchens of its high-ranking commanders. While oppressive propaganda echoes throughout, the tone never slides into caricature; if anything, the story unfolds with astounding empathy for those living in constant fear of imprisonment–or worse–but who manage to maintain their humanity against all odds. The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. — Publishers Weekly
Schwalbe chronicles his book-related conversations with his mother after she was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer . . . While they waited together through interminable doctor visits, hospital stays and chemotherapy sessions, they discussed what they had been reading. This became the beginning of the “End of Your Life Book Club.” As Schwalbe points out, the name was appropriate not just because his mother was dying, but because any book could be your last. Books provided an avenue for the author and his mother to explore important topics that made them uneasy. As his mother told him, “That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.” They discussed books not as a sick or healthy person but as “a mother and a son entering new worlds together.” Their reading list was diverse and cut across genres, generations and borders. Some of the books included The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, The Book of Common Prayer and The Etiquette of Illness, and the authors included Dennis Lehane, E.M. Forster and Thomas Pynchon. Schwalbe, who served as the editor in chief of Hyperion Books, introduces each of the authors with the insight of a veteran editor, highlighting their styles and strengths. Each chapter holds a subtle message fleshed out through their readings and discussions, and themes include gratitude, loneliness, feminism, faith, communication, trust and grief. In a heartfelt tribute to his mother, Schwalbe illustrates the power of the written word to expand our knowledge of ourselves and others. — Kirkus Reviews
Branching out from her popular Victorian London sleuthing team, Inspector Thomas Pitt and his wife Charlotte, Perry introduces another exemplary “Peeler” (as in Bobby Peele, the first “bobby”), detective William Monk, in this period mystery with a pronounced and satisfying psychological dimension. After an accident in his carriage, Monk wakes up with no memory; ashamed to admit it, he bluffs his way through recovery and returns to work, where he is assigned a particularly tricky investigation of a young nobleman’s brutal murder. While tracking the last affairs of Major Jocelin Grey, Monk traces his own history and dislikes what he turns up on both fronts. Uncovering unpleasant secrets within Grey’s aristocratic family, he also finds his gradually revealed former self to have been ambitious, cold and perhaps cruel. Integral to Perry’s rich, unpredictable plot is the Crimean War, graphically described by Hester Latterly, a forthright young woman of the middle class who nursed there with Florence Nightingale. While Monk’s unwillingness to face directly the questions of his past is often a stumbling block, forbearing readers will be amply rewarded by Perry’s resolutions of both mysteries. — Publishers Weekly
When he discovers that Kea, his best friend Jacquon’s girlfriend and the woman he loves, is actually his sister, Derrick is devastated and seeks comfort in a manipulating woman named Trinity until he convinces Kea to retake the DNA test, but Jacquon will do anything to stop her from taking it. — Publisher’s note
Timothy Egan´s The Worst Hard Time : The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, September 12th at 1:30 p.m.
Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America’s great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of “black blizzards” that were like a biblical plague: “Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains” in what became known as the Dust Bowl. But the plague was man-made, as Egan shows: the plains weren’t suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster–the Depression–and natural disaster–eight years of drought–resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains: hardy Americans and immigrants desperate for a piece of land to call their own and lured by the lies of promoters who said the ground was arable. Egan’s interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering . . . With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan’s powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers’ minds. — Publishers Weekly
The Stonecutter’s Aria is a novel in the unique format of an opera program narrated in first-person perspective, based on the true stories of an Italian marble carver and opera tenor during the beginning of the twentieth century. Aristide, the protagonist, immigrated to America where his skills in gothic architecture led him to carve some of this nation’s most distinguished landmarks, including the National Archives, Duke University, and the University of Chicago. Over a century later, his spirit reaches out to help his troubled great granddaughter. A vigorous and attention- catching narrative about an artist’s passion, adventures, regrets, and remembrance. — Midwest Book Review
In her best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle, Walls chronicled her painfully enlightening childhood. She now loops back to tell the even more gripping tale of her maternal grandmother, the formidable horse-training, poker-playing rancher and teacher Lily Casey Smith. Because she patched the story together from reminiscences, used her imagination to fill in the gaps, and decided to have Lily narrate so we could all experience her sharp-shooter’s directness, Walls wisely calls this a novel. Fact, fiction, either way, every tall-tale episode in Lily’s rough-and-tumble life is hugely entertaining and provocative . . . Flash floods, tornadoes, blizzards, drought, con men, bigots, scum, and fools, unflappable Lily courageously faces them all. And why not? She was the smartest and toughest in her otherwise inept West Texas family. As she travels across the plains–winning rodeos, selling moonshine, marrying her soul mate, raising two kids, running a ranch, and teaching in remote one-room schoolhouses–Lily, proud, uncompromising, pistol-packing, and whip-smart, finds a lesson in every setback and showdown. Walls does her grandmother proud in this historically revealing and triumphant novel of a fearless, progressive woman who will not be corralled. — Booklist
I believe that Huckleberry Finn is one of the great masterpieces of the world, that it is the full equal of Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe . . . I believe that it will be read by human beings of all ages, not as a solemn duty but for the honest love of it, and over and over again, long after every book written in America betwen the years 1800 and 1860, with perhaps three exceptions, has disappeared entirely save as a classroom fossil. I believe that Mark Twain had a clearer vision of life, that he came nearer to its elementals and was less deceived by its false appearances, than any other American who has ever presumed to manufacture generalizations, not excepting Emerson. I believe that, admitting all his defects, he wrote better English, in the sense of cleaner, straighter, vivider, saner English, than either Irving or Hawthorne . . . I believe that he was the true father of our national literature, the first genuinely American artist of the royal blood. — H. L. Mencken
On Wednesday, September 18th, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., the Romance Potluck book discussion group at the Eagle Library will focus on “Love in the Paranormal.”
Be ready to discuss novels in which love involves werewolves, vampires, levitating gigolos.
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, September 22nd from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The theme this month will be “Where Did The Rabbit Come From?: Variations on Magic.”
Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for this wonderfully original novel, which recounts the remarkable life of Pi Patel. The son of a zookeeper, Pi is raised in Pondicherry, India, with a deep understanding of the natural world and a curiosity about religion that leads him from Hinduism to Christianity to Islam and beyond. When his father decides to move the family to Canada, they set off on a freighter, animals in tow. But a shipwreck leaves Pi drifting in the Pacific on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger for company. Floating in the shark-filled water for 227 days, Pi somehow survives, battling starvation, the elements and his own worst fears and befriending the tiger. Martel skillfully blends Pi’s adventures of the mind and spirit with an unforgettable physical journey, making this a magical coming-of-age narrative. — BookPage
Forced outdoors by cabin fever during a spring snowstorm, five suburban women plunge into a spontaneous evening snowball fight. When they come inside later to warm up, a remarkable set of friendships is launched, one that will span 30 years and three tumultuous decades of social change . . . Lorna Landvik sets her fifth novel in her native small-town Minnesota, where she meticulously chronicles the activities of the Freesia Court Book Club and the lives of its five members: Faith, Audrey, Merit, Slip and Kari (as in car, not care). The book club is not-so-lovingly renamed Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Merit’s husband, who is jealous of her friendship with the other women. From the spring of 1968 through the fall of 1998, the book club members read selections as eclectic as the women themselves . . . Living through the era of the Vietnam war, the protest movement and women’s liberation, the five friends take on such problems as domestic violence, infidelity, homophobia and empty nests, bolstered by the restorative powers of friendship. — BookPage