October 26, 2009 by Reader's Connection
Three October book discussions are still coming our way, beginning tonight at Southport.
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 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.
[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
And now on to November:
There will be three opportunities in November to discuss 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.
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 Beedes are a hard-luck family living in a small Texas town in the 1960s, operating a gas station on a month-to-month contract with a stingy white man. Billy, 16 years old, is pregnant by a coffin salesman, whom she later discovers is married. She gets it in her head to go to LaJunta, Arizona, where her mother, Willa Mae, is buried with jewelry expensive enough to get Billy out of trouble. Willa Mae was a wild woman and a hustler who cheated most folks, including her daughter and her lover, Dill Smiles, a mannish woman who prefers to live as a male. Billy’s uncle Teddy, a former minister who has lost his calling, and her aunt June, who lost a leg as a young woman, accompany Billy on her journey. Hot on their trail is Dill, whose truck Billy has “borrowed” for the trip. Pulitzer-winning playwright Parks offers a collection of exuberantly loony characters, longing for better lives and a means of realizing their meager dreams. Told from the perspective of each of the different characters, including the dead Willa Mae, this is a thoroughly riveting novel of love, family, and redemption. — Booklist
The first book in Blackstock”s Restoration series literally begins with a bang: airplanes fall out of the sky in the opening paragraphs, at which point the novel”s protagonists and readers become swept up in a stunning set of circumstances, the import of which slowly sink in as the novel briskly moves forward. Unlike the deluge of dramatic depictions of the end times, in which Christians disappear and the world reacts, this story focuses on a natural phenomenon–albeit one that most of the characters believe is a message from God–that profoundly alters human society. Blackstock”s main characters, the affluent Bannings, who live in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, initially react to this disaster by putting themselves first, for fear that any other strategy would endanger their lives. Soon, however, challenged by the Sermon on the Mount, they begin reaching out generously to neighbors. — Publishers Weekly
Harris [who died in July 2009] burst onto the literary scene in 1994 with “Invisible Life,” the story of Raymond Tyler, a young black man fighting to make sense of his love for his girlfriend and his attraction to his friend Kelvin . . . Black Americans–have been given a rare opportunity with this book to broaden their understanding of lifestyles like or unlike their own. Mr. Harris has stimulated a dialogue within the African-American community, desperately needed for so long, about the complicated issues of sexuality. — Southern Voice
Bauby wrote this memoir with the blink of an eye. After a stroke, in his 45th year, Bauby is first in a coma and then in a condition called locked-in syndrome, a paralysis that makes him feel as if his body is imprisoned in a diving bell. Within this bell, however, is movement: his “mind takes flight like a butterfly.” Transformed from editor in chief of French Elle to the likes, as he points out, of Dumas’ Noirtier de Villefort, he experiences each sensation in the present and in memory with great intensity, the smell of French fries, his daughter Celeste singing “Poor Little Rich Girl,” the recollections of shaving his father or of soaking in the tub, a Scotch and a good book in hand. He remembers, imagines, and dreams. He learns about his true nature and about others, who respond to his paralysis with anger, fear, or compassion. Bauby is eventually taught an alphabet which allows him to put into words this interior life by blinking his left eye, and this memoir–published in French as Scaphandre et le papillon two days before his death–testifies to the richness of human consciousness despite the body’s oppressive entrapment in the diving bell. — Choice
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. — Publisher’s note
Macomber returns to Seattle’s fictional Blossom Street . . . for a hopeful tale of four widows who meet at 38-year-old Anne Marie Roche’s bookstore. Separated from her husband after he refused to have a baby with her, Anne Marie felt certain they would reconcile–until he suddenly died. Lillie Higgins lost her husband in the same plane crash that claimed the husband of their daughter, Barbie Foster. Elise Beaumont entered widowhood after cancer claimed her husband. Together, the four make life-fulfillment wish lists. With Elise’s prodding, Anne Marie decides to fulfill one of her wishes–do good for someone else–and becomes a “lunch buddy” to an at-risk third grader. Anne Marie, meanwhile, must deal with the reappearance of her adult stepdaughter, Melissa, who always held her in disdain. Elise mainly serves as a catalyst for Anne Marie’s journey, but there is plenty of focus on Lillian and Barbie, who find purpose in unexpected and difficult relationships. — Publisher’s Weekly