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Book Discussions at the Library March 2010

February 22, 2010 by Reader's Connection

We still have four February book discussions coming our way:

Shobhan Bantwal’s The Sari Shop Widow will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, February 22nd at 7:00 p.m.

The Sari Shop Widow

Anjali poured her entire life into her family’s sari shop in suburban New Jersey after her husband’s sudden death. Now, several years later, the shop is in serious financial trouble, and her father must turn to his elder brother for help. When Anjali’s uncle arrives, he brings along his mysterious younger associate, Rishi, to evaluate the shop’s potential. The men decide to invest in expanding the shop, building on Anjali’s vision. After several weeks of working side-by-side, Anjali and Rishi begin to see each other as more than simply colleagues. Bantwal, author of The Dowry Bride (2007) and Forbidden Daughter (2008), writes for the first time about the Indian immigrant experience in the U.S. — Booklist





There will be a discussion of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help at the Pike Library on Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

The Help

What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel . . . set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing “about what disturbs you.” The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies–and mistrusts–enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. — Publishers Weekly

Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Thursday, February 25th at 6:00 p.m.

The Audacity of Hope

Reporters and politicians continually use the word authenticity to describe Mr. Obama, pointing to his ability to come across to voters as a regular person, not a prepackaged pol. And in these pages he often speaks to the reader as if he were an old friend from back in the day, salting policy recommendations with colorful asides about the absurdities of political life . . . This volume does not possess the searching candor of the author’s first book. But Mr. Obama strives in these pages to ground his policy thinking in simple common sense. — The New York Times, October 2006







The Franklin Road Library will host a discussion of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars on Thursday, February 25th at 6:30 p.m.

Wind, Sand and Stars“Saint Ex” was a pioneering pilot for Aéropostale in the 1920s, carrying mail over the deadly Sahara on the Toulouse-Dakar route, encountering cyclones, marauding Moors, and lonely nights: “So in the heart of the desert, on the naked rind of the planet, in an isolation like that of the beginnings of the world, we built a village of men. Sitting in the flickering light of the candles on this kerchief of sand, on this village square, we waited out the night.” Whatever his skills as a pilot—said to be extraordinary—as a writer he is effortlessly sublime . . . No writer before or since has distilled the sheer spirit of adventure so beautifully. True, in his excitement he can be righteous, almost irksome—like someone who’s just gotten religion. But that youthful excess is part of his charm. Philosophical yet gritty, sincere yet never earnest, utterly devoid of the postmodern cop-outs of cynicism, sarcasm, and spite, Saint-Exupéry’s prose is a lot like the bracing gusts of fresh air that greet him in his open cockpit. He shows us what it’s like to be subject—and king—of infinite space. — Outside Online


And now on to March.


Elisabeth Hyde’s novel In the Heart of the Canyon will be discussed at the Wayne Library on Monday, March 1st at 7:00 p.m.

In the Heart of the Canyon

Twelve travelers and three guides set off on a rafting trip down the Colorado River in this adventure from the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter. Each comes to the trip expecting a life-altering experience, but none is prepared for the events as they unfold, least of all JT Maroney, their veteran guide. It is JT’s 125th trip down the river, and he thinks he’s seen it all; but a dog, a couple in their seventies, two dysfunctional marriages, and an overweight teenager provide him with challenges that have nothing to do with white-water rafting. Each traveler leaves the trip with much more than he or she expected. VERDICT The reader is swept along with the characters through the strikingly beautiful canyon and the potentially deadly river. Great scenic description and fully believable characters make this adventure story well worth the ride. — Library Journal 



Kent Haruf’s Plainsong will be discussed at the Brightwood Library on Tuesday,  March 2nd at 6:00 p.m.


 In the same way that the plains define the American landscape, small-town life in the heartlands is a quintessentially American experience. Holt, Colo., a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf’s beautifully executed new novel. Alternating chapters focus on eight compassionately imagined characters whose lives undergo radical change during the course of one year . . . Walking a tightrope of restrained design, Haruf steers clear of sentimentality and melodrama while constructing a taut narrative in which revelations of character and rising emotional tensions are held in perfect balance. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family. In depicting the stalwart courage of decent, troubled people going on with their lives, Haruf’s quietly eloquent account illumines the possibilities of grace. — Publishers Weekly  


Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, March 2nd at 6:00 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  


The Warren Library will host a discussion of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on Thursday, March 4th at 10:30 a.m.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

 Alexie nimbly blends sharp wit with unapologetic emotion in his first foray into young-adult literature. Fourteen-year-old Junior is a cartoonist and bookworm with a violent but protective best friend Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior boldly transfers from a school on the Spokane reservation to one in a tiny white town 22 miles away. Despite his parents’ frequent lack of gas money (they’re a “poor-ass family”), racism at school and many crushing deaths at home, he manages the year. Rowdy rejects him, feeling betrayed, and their competing basketball teams take on mammoth symbolic proportions. The reservation’s poverty and desolate alcoholism offer early mortality and broken dreams, but Junior’s knowledge that he must leave is rooted in love and respect for his family and the Spokane tribe. He also realizes how many other tribes he has, from “the tribe of boys who really miss . . . their best friends” to “the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.” Junior’s keen cartoons sprinkle the pages as his fluid narration deftly mingles raw feeling with funny, sardonic insight. — Kirkus Reviews  


Spencer Quinn’s Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery will be discussed at the East 38th Street Library on Monday, March 8th at 6:00 p.m.

Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery

An exciting new mystery series debuts with this first Chet and Bernie novel. Chet the Jet is a dog who failed K-9 school (cats in the open country played a role in his demise), but now he is a dedicated PI and works with Bernie, owner of the Little Detective Agency. The story is told entirely from Chet s point of view, which will delight dog-loving mystery readers, but the book is also an excellent PI tale, dogs aside, as Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl whose developer dad may be up to no good. Chet may not understand things like maps (he doesn t need them, as he can sniff his way home), but he is a great sleuth who finds the girl and solves the case. The always upbeat Chet may well be one of the most appealing new detectives on the block, but conscientious, kind, and environmentally aware Bernie is a close runner-up. Excellent and fully fleshed primary and secondary characters, a consistently doggy view of the world, and a sprightly pace  make this a not-to-be-missed debut. — Booklist  


Practicing What You Preach by Vanessa Davis Griggs will be discussed at the Flanner House Library on Monday, March 8th at 6:30 p.m.

Practicing What You Preach

 Wedding planner Melissa Anderson agrees to a date with minister Marcus Peeples even though he didn’t make a great first impression when she met him. She decides to give him a chance, but Melissa can’t accept that Marcus is a divorced father. Divorce is against Melissa’s beliefs, and she is not sure she can date a man who already had a wife. VERDICT Griggs’s (“Blessed Trinity” trilogy) first entry in a new series is a smart novel that addresses an issue that many in the church shy away from–divorce–with frank realism. It also features an interesting romance, with characters who are refreshingly (for inspirational fiction) imperfect. — Library Journal 






College Avenue Library’s Sugarbook Book Club will be discussing Linda Howard’s Ice on Tuesday, March 9th at 6:00 p.m.


 As a brewing ice storm approaches, and despite the icy conditions that have always existed between him and Lolly Helton, combat veteran Gabriel McQueen makes the long haul to the middle of nowhere to find out whether she is safe and sound. Spotting strangers in Lolly’s home–one of them packing a weapon–Gabriel rescues Lolly from her captors … but when the escape is discovered, the heat–and the hunt–are on. — Catalog Note







La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith will be discussed on at the Irvington Library on Thursday, March 11th at 1:30 p.m.

La's Orchestra Saves the World

 McCall Smith, author of the wildly popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, makes his first foray into historical fiction in this delightful stand-alone novel. Lavender (“La”) is a divorcee in her thirties living alone in the English countryside at the outbreak of World War II. With little to occupy her time, La devotes herself to the war effort, first working as a “land girl” for a local egg farmer, until Felix, a Polish refugee airman, replaces her. Again at loose ends, she starts a morale-boosting effort that makes her famous–an amateur orchestra. Originally intended to perform only until the Battle of Britain was over, La’s orchestra sticks together until V-E day, becoming the highlight of off-duty hours for the local airmen as well as her fellow villagers. The story of La’s orchestra is intertwined with La’s growth as a woman and her realization that love may not be gone from her life forever. McCall Smith once again creates unforgettable characters and a story that will resonate with readers across generations. The WWII home front is hardly new territory for novelists, but McCall Smith manages to use the familiar backdrop to create a fresh and unforgettable story about the power of human kindness. — Booklist 


 Fountain Square Library will host a discussion of When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris on Thursday, March 11th at 1:30 p.m. Please call Fountain Square at 275-4390 to register.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Sedaris, king of the poignantly absurd, triumphs in this sixth essay collection. There is less focus here on the Sedaris clan as a whole, though the various members make memorable and often hilarious appearances. In “The Understudy,” the Sedaris siblings band together to battle the odious babysitter Mrs. Peacock, while in “Town and Country,” Sedaris and sister Amy discuss what their father would be most offended to find on his daughter’s coffee-table (hint: The Joy of Sex comes in a distant second). Leaving America behind, Sedaris also regales readers with his experiences around the globe, from sitting in a Parisian doctor’s office wearing only his underwear in “In the Waiting Room” to warding off birds in the French countryside with record albums in “Aerial.” In the collection’s longest essay, “The Smoking Section,” Sedaris recounts his three-month stay in Tokyo, where he successfully quits smoking and unsuccessfully attempts to learn Japanese. Sedaris records in “Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?” his more glaring mistakes in life, but he should be satisfied with the knowledge that this latest endeavor is anything but. — Publishers Weekly 

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success will be discussed at the Lawrence Library on Tuesday, March 16th at 10:15 a.m.Outliers

 Gladwell, author and journalist, sets out to provide an understanding of success using outliers, men and women with skills, talent, and drive who do things out of the ordinary. He contends that we must look beyond the merits of a successful individual to understand his culture, where he comes from, his friends and family, and the community values he inherits and shares. We learn that society s rules play a large role in who makes it and who does not. Success is a gift, and when opportunities are presented, some people have the strength and presence of mind to seize them, exhibiting qualities such as persistence and doggedness. Successful people are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy, and success ultimately is not exceptional or unattainable, nor does it depend upon innate ability. It is an attitude of willingness to try without regard for the sacrifice required. — Booklist 

The Pike Book Club will discuss Elizabeth Strout’s novel Olive Kitteridge on Tuesday, March 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

Olive Kitteridge

 Hell. We’re always alone. Born alone. Die alone, says Olive Kitteridge, redoubtable seventh-grade math teacher in Crosby, Maine. Anyone who gets in Olive’s way had better watch out, for she crashes unapologetically through life like an emotional storm trooper. She forces her husband, Henry, the town pharmacist, into tactical retreat; and she drives her beloved son, Christopher, across the country and into therapy. But appalling though Olive can be, Strout manages to make her deeply human and even sympathetic, as are all of the characters in this novel in stories. Covering a period of 30-odd years, most of the stories feature Olive as their focus, but in some she is bit player or even a footnote while other characters take center stage to sort through their own fears and insecurities. Though loneliness and loss haunt these pages, Strout also supplies gentle humor and a nourishing dose of hope. People are sustained by the rhythms of ordinary life and the natural wonders of coastal Maine, and even Olive is sometimes caught off guard by life’s baffling beauty. — Booklist 


The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Thursday, March 25th at 6:00 p.m.

The Hour I First Believed

 After releasing two well-regarded novels in the 1990s, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both of which were Oprah’s Book Club picks, Lamb disappeared from the fiction landscape, preferring to focus on his work teaching writing workshops at York Correctional Institute?until now. The Hour I First Believed follows a woman who moves from Colorado to Connecticut following the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. During a public reading in Connecticut, Lamb said he found the spark for the new novel, in New Orleans, where he prayed for inspiration in a French Quarter church. One week later, he had the first sentence of his book: “My mother was a convicted felon, a manic depressive, and Miss Rheingold of 1950.” Well, do you want to read more? — BookPage 




 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Thurday, March 25th at 6:30 p.m.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 In January 1946, London is beginning to recover from World War II, and Juliet Ashton is looking for a subject for her next book. She spent the war years writing a column for the Times until her own dear flat became a victim of a German bomb. While sifting through the rubble and reconstructing her life, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey, the British island occupied by the Germans . . . So begins a correspondence that draws Juliet into the community of Guernsey and the members of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Named to protect its members from arrest by the Germans, the society shares their unique love of literature and life with a newfound friend. Seeing this as the subject of her next book, Juliet sails to Guernsey–a voyage that will change her life . . . this is a warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining celebration of the power of the written word. – Library Journal 

A Thread of Truth by Marie Bostwick will be discussed at the Southport Library on Monday, March 29th at 7:00 p.m.

A Thread of TruthStitched into the heartwarming second installment of Bostwick’s contemporary New England quilters series (after 2008’s A Single Thread) is an unbreakable thread of friendship and faith. Following a pattern similar to her first (in which shop owner Evelyn Dixon fought breast cancer), Bostwick centers the action around a serious struggle: on the run from an abusive husband, Ivy Peterman and her children, Bethany and Bobby, find refuge in the New Bern, Conn., women’s shelter. There, Ivy meets philanthropist Abigail Burgess Wynne and through her lands a job at Evelyn’s shop, Cobbled Court Quilts . . . Bostwick switches effortlessly from Ivy’s poignant story to quilting circle updates, keeping fans in the loop and on their toes with a surprising bit of marriage news. — Publishers Weekly


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