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Tales-Italy edited by Anne Calcagno
Keith and Sue's pick of the
month is "Travelers' Tales--Italy," with true short stories
of experiences in Italy. Edited by Anne Calcagno, this book
is a veritable treasure trove of reckonings and accountings;
yarns spun and tales told by visitors to a country rich in
art, religion, food, and culture. Some of the storytellers
are there for the first time, others just can't stay away.
All are in awe.
by Mary Lawson
Our friend Sarah's pick of
the month is "Crow Lake," a novel by Mary Lawson. This novel
so quietly assured, so emotionally pitch perfect, you know
from the opening page that this is the real thing -a literary
experience in which to lose yourself. The story, narrated
by 26-year old Kate Morrison, is set in Crow Lake, an isolated
rural community where time has stood still. The story begins
with Kate thinking back on those days that shaped her adult
life: when both parents were killed in a car accident. In
this beautifully written first novel, the descriptions of
the difficulties that the Morison's face are real, painful,
humorous, and agonizing, and the characters and the setting
are well defined and easily visualized. This is not a fast-paced
story, but it is hard to put down.
by Michael Cunningham
Sue's pick of the month is "The
Hours" by Michael Cunningham. In this novel, we are subjected
to the marriage of fiction and historical appreciation at
its finest. Cunningham brilliantly paints a picture of one
day in the lives of three different women in three different
era's. First is Virginia Woolf, famous and eccentric writer,
plagued by her past and a mind she can't control. Then there
is the present day Clarissa Vaughan, who creeps into the
visions created by Virginia's mental weakness and helps shape
the famous literary character, Clarissa Dalloway. Caught
up in the middle of this weaving tale is Laura Brown, a 1950's
housewife battling her own conflicts and reading Woolf's "Mrs.
Dalloway." Cunningham constructs this story so smoothly that
it's hard to put down and in a style that is comforting because
it blends together new and abstract ideas with familiar detail
and images of everyday objects.
Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Sue's pick of the month
is "Let's Not Go to the Dogs Tonight," by Alexandra Fuller.
A classic is born in this tender, intensely moving, and even
delightful journey through a white African girl's childhood
during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-1979). With a unique
and subtle sensitivity to racial issues, Fuller describes
her parents' racism and the wartime relationships between
blacks and whites through a child's watchful eyes. The farm
is taken away for "land redistribution," and the family constantly
sets up house in hostile, desolate environments as they move
from Rhodesia to Zambia to Malawi and back to Zambia. This
work captures the tone of a very young person caught up in
her own small world as she witnesses a far larger historical
event. It's a real page-turner.
by Ian McEwan
Sue's pick of the month is "Atonement," by
Ian McEwan. It's an engaging story and so finely written
that the reading is both effortless and seductive. Set during
the seemingly idyllic summer of 1935 at the country estate
of the Tallis family, a single event moves Briony Tallis,
a precocious 13-year-old with an overactive imagination.
Briony takes steps that will alter the entire household's
lives forever. "Atonement" takes the reader from a manor
house in England to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941; from
London's World War II military hospitals to a reunion of
the Tallis clan in 1999.
the Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis
Michele's (a friend of ours
who owns a hip and groovy bookstore called Treehouse Books
in Holland) pick of the month is "Book of the Dead Birds" by
Gayle Brandeis. "This book caught me on the first page and
didn't let me go." Interweaving the past and the present,
the narrator tells the story of her Korean mothers horrific
past while trying to find her own path in life. The unusual
title refers to a book her mother keeps about her daughter's
uncanny ability to kill every pet bird she attempts to care
for. The daughter's quest for independence and identification
with her mother leads her to the Salton Sea, where an ecological
nightmare has occurred.
of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
Mindy, one of our bookworm
friends, recommends The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka.
Original and beautifully written reflections fill Trenka's
memoir, a brave exploration of her identity as a Korean adoptee
and pensive young woman trying to negotiate between two mothers
and two lives. She traces her life from young, eager-to-please
child to questioning adolescent. Finally, she brings readers
with her to Korea, where she is reunited with her birth mother
and homeland. Unlike some first-time writers, Trenka is unafraid
with her prose and rarely falls into clich�s, which is especially
admirable given the subject matter. Her journey, from the
conservative roots of rural Minnesota to her cramped homeland
of Korea, is winding, but it ends at an important place for
both reader and writer: transformation. A truly enjoyable
fall season read.
Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
This month's book has been
picked by Sue and Michele and is The Other Boleyn Girl by
Philippa Gregory. Though many might view this as yet another
sympathetic retelling of Anne Boleyn's rise and fall, one
could not be more mistaken. Gregory, a noted historical novelist,
tells the story instead through the eyes of Mary Boleyn,
Anne's sister. She uses the perspective of this other Boleyn
girl to reveal the rivalries and intrigues swirling through
England and the court of King Henry VIII. It's a wonderful
retelling of the rise and fall of the Boleyn faction through
the eyes of an unexpected heroine. This book is another great
addition for your winter season.
Reads by Great Writers
We got our voracious readers
together (Sue, Michele, and Mindy) and asked them to come
up with a list of Great Winter Reads, i.e., books to keep
your interest on a snowy winter day or to keep you up past
1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Intrigue and menace mingle in one of the
finest mysteries ever written. An amazing tale with enigma piled on secrets
stacked on riddles.
2. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Rollicking entertainment, Owen Meany
is a meditation on literature, history, and God. It's roomy, intelligent, exhilarating,
and darkly comic.
3. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. The author paints colorful portraits
of his neighbors, the Proven�aux grocers and butchers and farmers who amuse,
confuse, and befuddle him at every turn. It's part memoir, part homeowner's
manual, part travelogue, and all charming fun.
4. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. It is what a beautifully written, haunting
mystery should be and is told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl. It's
a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence, and
5. Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames. This is a wise, funny, and intensely true
book. It's not maudlin and does not dwell on the medical side as much as it
focuses on the spiritual side (not religious) of discerning life's meaning.
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