Our book for Monday, May 23, is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
The 1921 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, The Age of Innocence tells the story of a forthcoming society wedding, and the threat to the happy couple from the appearance in their midst of an exotic and beautiful femme fatale, a cousin of the bride. Newland Archer is a distinguished lawyer looking forward to his marriage to shy, lovely, sheltered May Welland. But when he meets Countess Ellen Olenska, scandalously separated from her European husband, a Polish count, he falls hopelessly in love and blights his marriage to May by failing to break off his relationship with the countess. Meanwhile, in a typical Wharton twist, Newland Archer’s bride may be timid, but she is determined to marry her fiance and uses all the power of New York society to bring him to heel. The Age of Innocence makes an ironic commentary on the cruelties and hypocrisies of Manhattan society in the years before, during and after the Great War.
Our book for Monday, April 25th is Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario.
Enrique is only 5 years old when his mother, Lourdes, leaves him and his sister, Belky, behind in Honduras so that she can go work in America. Lourdes promises only to stay until she can send for her children or return with enough money to support them, but each year setbacks prevent her from being with her children again. Enrique desperately misses his mother and believes that only she can understand and support him. After difficult stays with other relatives, Enrique sets out to find his mother. He is 16 years old when he makes the first of seven failed attempts to get through Mexico in the hopes of crossing the border into the United States. Along the way, he encounters gangs and bandits, but learns new survival skills that help him when he successfully crosses the border on his eighth try. Enrique is reunited with his mother in North Carolina, but the years apart have been tough. How Enrique envisions his mother and the reality he finds are very different.
An Epilogue recounts many interviews that the author conducted with Enrique, Lourdes and their family in Honduras since Enrique’s Journey was initially published in 2006. It reveals Enrique’s battle with drug addiction, his fractured relationship with his mother, and his struggles to be a husband and father in an environment that is often hostile to illegal immigrants. In many ways, Enrique is emblematic of many of his countrymen who came to the United States illegally.
Our book for March 28 is Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.
Circling the Sun brings to life, in this historical novel, a fearless and captivating woman–Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator. She is caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa . Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly. Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
Our book for February 22nd, 2016 is
The Fire Kimono by Laura Joh Rowland.
Set in 1700, Rowland’s outstanding 13th Sano Ichiro mystery (after 2007’s The Snow Empress) finds Sano, whom the shogun raised to the rank of chamberlain several books back, waging a fierce struggle with his chief rival, Lord Matsudaira. The stakes are raised at the outset when Matsudaira’s forces almost succeed in killing Sano’s wife and occasional sleuthing partner, Reiko. The chamberlain soon suspects that someone else may have been behind the attack, but soon he faces a more daunting task—proving his mother innocent of the murder of one of the shogun’s cousins, who vanished during the great fire that destroyed much of Edo and whose skeletal remains were just uncovered by chance. Sano must now question everything he thought he knew about his mother, with his own family facing execution should she be found guilty. Rowland has given her hero his greatest challenge yet in this suspenseful look at feudal Japan. (from Publisher’s Weekly)
Our book for January 25th, 2016 is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed. It rests, historically, during the occupation of France during WWII, but brief chapters told in alternating voices give the overall and long narrative a swift movement through time and events. We have two main characters, each one on opposite sides in the conflagration that is destroying Europe. Marie-Louise is a sightless girl who lived with her father in Paris before the occupation; he was a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. When German forces necessitate abandonment of the city, Marie-Louise’s father, taking with him the museum’s greatest treasure, removes himself and his daughter and eventually arrives at his uncle’s house in the coastal city of Saint-Malo. Young German soldier Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity there, and eventually, and inevitably, Marie-Louise’s and Werner’s paths cross. It is through their individual and intertwined tales that Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably re-creates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.(from Booklist)
Our book for Monday, November 30th is the Telling Room by Michael Paterniti.
In the picturesque village of Guzman, Spain, in a cave on the edge of town, there is a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” This is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets–usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine. It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a Spanish cheesemaker, as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio’s cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled, relocating his young family to Guzmaǹ in order to chase the truth about this fairy tale-like place. What he ultimately discovers is nothing like the idyllic fable he first imagined. Instead, he’s sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot.–(from the publisher)
Our book for October 26th is The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.
Over the years, bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys, ranging from the Vermont farmhouse inMidwives, where a homebirth goes tragically wrong on an icy winter’s night, to the precarious world of Poland and Germany at the close of World War II in Skeletons at the Feast. In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls, Bohjalian takes us to a time and place—Syria, 1915—that left haunting legacies for his Armenian heritage, making this his most personal novel to date.
A sweeping historical love story, The Sandcastle Girls introduces us to Elizabeth Endicott, an adventure-seeking graduate of Mount Holyoke College who travels to Syria just as the Great War has begun to spread across Europe. With only a crash course in nursing, Elizabeth has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the genocide. She soon befriends a striking Armenian engineer. He is young, but he has already lost his wife and infant daughter to Turkish brutality. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British army in Egypt, he and Elizabeth begin a daring correspondence, bridging their very different worlds with words of love and hope.
Interwoven with their tale is the story of Laura Petrosian, a contemporary novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations. (from the publisher)