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Book Discussions at the Library October 2009

September 21, 2009 by Reader's Connection

BlameBefore we talk about October´s real-world book discussions, I have a question for you. Would anyone like to participate in an online discussion of Michele Huneven’s new novel Blame? This would be some time in the second half of October, or early in November. Huneven will be in town October 28th as a part of Butler’s Visiting Writers Series. I hope to attend that reading, though you can take part in our online discussion without attending the reading. Leave your answer here as a comment or email me at If you answer Yes, you are not committing yourself to participation. You’re only saying that the idea appeals to you. I hate to arrange a program in which no one is interested. Thanks.


Now, then: As of today, four September book discussions are still coming our way.


Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland will be discussed at the Pike Library on Tuesday September 22nd at 6:30 p.m.


Hans van den Broek, the Dutch-born narrator of O’Neill’s dense, intelligent novel, observes of his friend, Chuck Ramkissoon, a self-mythologizing entrepreneur-gangster, that “he never quite believed that people would sooner not have their understanding of the world blown up, even by Chuck Ramkissoon.” The image of one’s understanding of the world being blown up is poignant–this is Hans’s fate after 9/11. He and wife Rachel abandon their downtown loft, and, soon, Rachel leaves him behind at their temporary residence, the Chelsea Hotel, taking their son, Jake, back to London. Hans, an equities analyst, is at loose ends without Rachel, and in the two years he remains Rachel-less in New York City, he gets swept up by Chuck, a Trinidadian expatriate Hans meets at a cricket match. Chuck’s dream is to build a cricket stadium in Brooklyn; in the meantime, he operates as a factotum for a Russian gangster. The unlikely (and doomed from the novel’s outset) friendship rises and falls in tandem with Hans’s marriage, which falls and then, gradually, rises again. O’Neill offers an outsider’s view of New York bursting with wisdom, authenticity and a sobering jolt of realism. — Publishers Weekly



Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Thursday, September 24th at 6:30 p.m.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

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



Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mystery Finger Lickin´ Fifteen will be discussed at the West Indianapolis Library on Monday, September 28th at 5:00 p.m.

Finger Lickin´ Fifteen

When Lula inadvertently witnesses the beheading of culinary TV star Stanley Chipotle in a Trenton, N.J., alley, Stephanie’s on-again off-again boyfriend, cop Joe Morelli, reluctantly takes the case. Lula, with the help of Grandma Mazur, enters the same barbequing competition Chipotle was in town to promote, hoping to lure the murderers out of hiding. Meanwhile, Ranger has recruited Stephanie to help solve a series of break-ins at properties under the protection of Rangeman Security. The inevitable sparks fly between Stephanie and Ranger, with Morelli grumbling on the sidelines. Evanovich dishes up her usual mixture of shoot-’em-up action (numerous cars explode) and quirky characters (notably a neighborhood flasher with a devoted following) — Publishers Weekly





The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, September 28th at 7:00 p.m.

The Senator's Wife Meri, short for Meribeth, is going through some major changes: she just got married, moved to another state, and bought a new home. When she and her husband, Nathan, move into their New England townhouse, they learn that their neighbor, Delia Naughton, is the wife of the vaunted Sen. Tom Naughton. Delia is at the other end of the spectrum from Meri: her children are grown, and, for her, life is slowing down. Yet the two women hit it off and quickly become friends. Having their first child together teaches Meri and Nathan the nuances of married life; Meri, meanwhile, uncovers the mysteries of Delia and Tom’s relationship. An intervening tragedy then causes a savage rift between Meri and Delia. Miller (The Good Mother ) has written an extremely powerful novel of women, marriage, and friendship. The characters are fascinating, the story engrossing, and the novel incredibly readable. — Library Journal





On to October. According to poet W. S. Merwin, October is a month that has been to the mountain and become light there. I’ve used that quote before, though, so let’s have something newer and closer to home. After a wind storm in Indianapolis, last October, Neil McCauley wrote this poem.

When sorting laundry I always retreat
into my garden of violent films.
But last night I turned off “The Fugitive”
and listened to the windows.


Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, October 1st at 10:30 a.m.

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington’s best novel. [It is] a typical story of an American family and town–the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city. This novel no doubt was a permanent page in the social history of the United States, so admirably conceived and written was the tale of the Ambersons, their house, their fate and the growth of the community in which they were submerged in the end. — Van Wyck Brooks







Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel by Jamie Ford, will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, October 5th at 7:00 pm.m

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Fifth-grade scholarship students and best friends Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their Seattle elementary school in 1942. Henry is Chinese, Keiko is Japanese, and Pearl Harbor has made all Asians–even those who are American born–targets for abuse. Because Henry’s nationalistic father has a deep-seated hatred for Japan, Henry keeps his friendship with and eventual love for Keiko a secret. When Keiko’s family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho, Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry comes upon an old hotel where the belongings of dozens of displaced Japanese families have turned up in the basement, and his love for Keiko is reborn. In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history. — Library Journal



Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at at Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin will be discussed in the Goodrich-Houk Meeting Room at Central Library on Tuesday, October 6th at 6:00 p.m.

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson and coauthor David Oliver Relin recount Mortenson’s crossroad and what he did about it. After a near fatal attempt to climb Himalayan peak K2, Mortenson was nursed and sheltered by villagers in a remote area of Pakistan. Following his recovery, he promised to return and build the village its first school. That project has now grown to include more than 50 schools across Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a particular focus to bring educational opportunities to young girls. — Library Journal







The Irvington Library will host a discussion of Will Cuppy’s The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody on Thursday, October 8th at 1:30 p.m.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody

Humorist Will Cuppy was born in Auburn, Indiana in 1884. A satirical look at history, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody is probably his best-known work


“Across Indiana” segment on Will Cuppy, a production of WFYI in Indianapolis Requires Windows Media Player or equivalent.









Amy Bloom’s novel Away will be discussed at the Fountain Square Library on Thursday, October 8th at 1:30 p.m. Please call 275-4390 to register for this event.


When tragedy tore apart Lillian Leyb’s family in Russia, Lillian fled to New York in 1923. Lillian’s journey begins as she struggles to find her Cousin Frieda’s apartment after leaving the registry lines in Ellis Island. For several months in New York Lillian makes her own luck and does whatever she can to survive. When Lillian decides to find her luck elsewhere her journey takes her across the United States to Seattle and north to Alaska – surviving insurmountable odds. Amy Bloom has woven historical novel, love stories, adventure, and survival into a stunning portrayal of life in the 1920’s that includes people who are Jewish, Chinese, African American, gay, Native American and everyone in between. — Ellen Chapman, East 38th Street Library




Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley will be discussed on Monday, October 12th at 6:00 p.m. at the East 38th Street Library.

Fortunate Son

White Los Angeles heart surgeon Minas Nolan, a very recent widower, meets African-American flower-shop employee Branwyn Beerman when her son Thomas is born prematurely with a hole in his lung, and without a father in his life. Minas has a son, Eric, a week younger than Tommy, and the four, along with enigmatic Vietnamese nanny Ahn, soon form a loving mnage. Following Branwyn’s sudden death 50 pages later, Tommy, now six, is plunged into a hardscrabble life when his difficult father, Elton, claims him . . . Knowingly drawing on the genre constraints that drive his Easy Rawlins mysteries, Mosley puts Thomas through trial after trial, and Eric through a kind of chronic heartlessness. Both continually refer to the time they lived together, and each thinks of the other as a real brother. After more than 10 years of separation, they’re reunited, but that’s not the point: with the lightest, slyest of touches, Mosley shows how a certain kind of inarticulate, carnal, involuntary affection transcends just about anything. It’s not love, it’s fate, and it’s breathtaking. — Publishers Weekly



Masha Hamilton’s The Camel Bookmobile will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, October 20th at 10:15 a.m.

The Camel Bookmobile

New York City librarian Fiona Sweeney has taken an unusual assignment in Kenya–running a bookmobile service powered by camel and serving isolated, seminomadic villages like Mididima, where teenaged library customer Kanika lives with her grandmother, Neema. Taban, a young man severely scarred as a toddler by a hyena, is shunned by most of the community, but he and Kanika share a friendship and a sweet anticipation of Sweeney’s every visit. Matani, Mididima’s schoolmaster, is a champion of the service, but even he can’t do anything when several missing books threaten the village’s reputation and set off a chain of events that expose misguided motives, hidden agendas, illicit romance, and tragedy. This third novel from international journalist Hamilton presents a rare and balanced perspective on issues surrounding cultural intrusion and the very meaning and necessity of literacy, using rich and evocative prose that skillfully exposes the stark realities of poverty and charity in today’s Africa. — Library Journal

By way of following up on the Bouchercon World Mystery Conference (which will be held in Indianapolis October 15-18) the Eagle Library will host a double-barreled celebration of mysteries. Please call 275-4340 to register for these events.

On Tuesday, October 20th at 6:30 p.m.,  Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict will be discussed. (Connelly is Guest of Honor at this year’s Bouchercon.)

On Thursday, October 22nd at 6:30, lovers of hard-boiled mysteries are invited to discuss this passion, and they are encouraged to bring their own favorites. If you don’t have a favorite, take a copy of When the Sacred Ginmill Closes by Lawrence Block. That’s a favorite of mine, and I won’t be able to attend the discussion.

The Brass Verdict

Bestseller Connelly delivers one of his most intricate plots to date in his 20th book, a beautifully executed crime thriller. When L.A. lawyer Mickey Haller, last seen in The Lincoln Lawyer, inherits the practice and caseload of a fellow defense attorney, Jerry Vincent, who’s been murdered, the high-profile double-homicide case against famed Hollywood producer Walter Elliot, accused of shooting his wife and her alleged lover, takes top priority. As Haller scrambles to build a defense, he butts heads with LAPD Det. Harry Bosch, the stalwart hero of Connelly’s long-running series, who’s working Vincent’s murder. When Haller realizes that the Elliot affair is bigger than simply a jealous husband killing his cheating wife, he and Bosch grudgingly agree to work together to solve what could be the biggest case in both their careers. Bosch might have met his match in the wily Haller, and readers will delight in their sparring. — Publishers Weekly

Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Thursday, October 22nd at 6:00 p.m.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

In his masterful follow-up to The Kite Runner, {the author} takes readers back to Afghanistan, presenting events from that troubled country’s past–including the Soviet takeover and the rise of the Taliban–as they appear from the perspectives of two very different female characters. Mariam, the daughter of a cleaning woman and a businessman, was born out of wedlock. Married at the age of 15 to a man in his 40s, she experiences a loveless relationship. Laila, who lives with her accomplished, forward-thinking parents in Kabul, is favored by her father but spurned by her mother, who showers affection on her brothers. When Laila meets Tariq, a brave young man who was injured in an explosion, she falls in love for the first time. But the friction between the Communists and the mujahideen make day-to-day living in Kabul dangerous, and soon Tariq and his family move to Pakistan. After a horrifying series of events leads Laila to the home of Mariam and Rasheed, she must make a decision that will change her life forever. The two women develop a special relationship that could only arise in a country ruled by terror. Spanning 30 years of Afghanistan’s tumultuous history, this melancholy, beautifully conceived book reinforces Hosseini’s reputation as a first-class novelist. — BookPage

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, a novel by Debbie Fuller Thomas, will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, October 26th at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon

An unusual plotline and top-notch prose mark this talented novelist’s debut. When divorcée Marty Winslow’s adolescent daughter Ginger dies from Niemann-Pick, a debilitating hereditary disease, Marty discovers Ginger was not her biological daughter, but was switched at birth. Orphan Andie Lockhart is living with her beloved but ailing grandparents when the court gives temporary custody to Marty, her birth mother. Andie finds herself in a chaotic, financially strapped family that runs the Blue Moon drive-in movie theater. Thomas competently displays the heterogeneities of grief, from older sister Deja’s teen Goth rebellion to Marty’s endless baking, and the difficulty of revising what one has always assumed to be true. The mistake’s tragic cost to both families is shown throughout, but Thomas proffers redemption, albeit in tough, realistic doses. — Publishers Weekly


Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose will be discussed at the Pike Library on Tuesday, October 27th at 6:30 p.m.

Angle of Repose

Wallace Stegner’s uniquely American classic centers on Lyman Ward, a noted historian who relates a fictionalized biography of his pioneer grandparents at a time when he has become estranged from his own family. Through a combination of research, memory, and exaggeration, Ward voices ideas concerning the relationship between history and the present, art and life, parents and children, husbands and wives. Set in many parts of the West, Angle of Repose is a story of discovery–personal, historical, and geographical–that endures as Wallace Stegner’s masterwork: an illumination of yesterday’s reality that speaks to today’s. — Publisher’s note




The Franklin Road Library will host a discussion of Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project on Thursday, October 29th at 6:30 p.m.

Listening is an Act of Love[Editor Dave] Isay has devoted almost two decades of his life to various documentary studies, firmly believing that the soul of the nation is found in the stories of its everyday people, a belief that any reader of this oral history collection will come to support. The interviews in this book are excerpted from the more than 10,000 collected by StoryCorps, a singularly ambitious oral history project founded by Isay and colleagues in 2003. Since its humble beginnings in a rented recording studio in Manhattan’s Chinatown, StoryCorps has interviewed people from all walks of life, in all 50 states . . . In this gathering from their massive undertaking, we read the tales of survivors, trailblazers, bounty hunters, teachers, doctors, and bus drivers, to name a few. Some of their stories are excruciatingly tragic, revolving around events burned into our collective memory. Others are so sweetly personal that one might feel voyeuristic reading them. — Library Journal


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