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Who We Are
I approached this book warily, fearing it might ooze treacly
sentiment. No fear! The writers of these essays have captured the heart of the
mother-daughter bond in all its complexity. The relationships these authors
describe run the gamut: loving, distant, respectful, oppositional, tender,
regretful – and sometimes in combination. A perfect gift for your mother,
sister, aunt, close friend . . . or yourself.
This provocative, insightful, dizzyingly good book is unlike anything Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club) – or anyone else, for that matter – has ever written. Our narrator, Rosemary, looks back on a life both ordinary and extraordinary. For the first five years of her life her family participated in a most unusual psychological experiment; it has had a dramatic, life-long impact on each of them. Her sister is a member of a different species. Her brother vanished without a trace. Twice. Truly a must read, a must share, and a goldmine for discussion by book groups!
What do baseball and religion have in common? More than you’d think. N.Y.U. president Sexton has written a provocative and engaging series of essays that connect the two through explorations of faith, doubt, conversion, miracles, and more. Illuminated by his encyclopedic baseball knowledge, his insights into various faith traditions, and his ability to make long-ago games and players live again, the book will delight both fans and skeptics.
Rereading this brilliant book after 40 years, I found it even more impressive than the first time. It’s both an adventure yarn – encompassing an earthquake, a hurricane, children abducted by pirates, a murder, and various betrayals – and an incredibly insightful exploration of the mystery that is childhood, viewed from both children’s and adults’ perspectives. Truly breathtaking, both the plot and the depth and quality of the writing.
This wonderful middle-grade novel abounds in contrasts -- rich and poor, light and dark, realistic and fantastic – and is utterly gripping from page one. Set in Victorian London, it centers on three children. One is extravagantly privileged but has a morbid back story; two are impoverished orphans in the thrall of a puppeteer who exploits their youth and talents to ply his trade. Dickensian in tone but with supernatural elements, this beautifully written, heart-stoppingly suspenseful book is richly rewarding on many levels.
A 19-year-old misfit’s heedless act, seen by some as a hate crime, sets this remarkable novel in motion. The boy’s mother, who never left the small Maine town where she grew up, reaches out to the brothers who fled long ago: Jim, a high-powered, famous lawyer, and Bob, her twin, a Legal Aid attorney, both in New York City. The story explores long-avoided family tensions and the uneasy mix of Somali immigrants with Maine locals. Strout repeatedly leads readers in unexpected directions. The book teems with moral and ethical ambiguity; it’s enriched by Strout’s fine writing and keenly perceptive, always compassionate eye. Much fodder for book-group discussions here!
Trudi Kanter’s prose in Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered sparkles as she recounts her life as a hat designer in pre-war Vienna: the fashions, the social life, the trips to Paris. And we, too, are swept away by the charming, handsome man who becomes her husband. Interwoven throughout this moving love story is Hitler’s relentless march across the Europe Kanter loves, leaving fear, death, and destruction in his wake. The terrifying, agonizing process of getting herself, her husband, and her parents (all Jews) to safety is juxtaposed with her drive to succeed as a milliner and her deep, abiding love for her husband. Amazingly, she pulls it off – both surviving and telling the tale.
Why do the Yankees win so often? Sure, money may have something to do with it. But the real reason is juju, as practiced by Hart Seely and his pals. You can learn all about the rules -- both do's and don'ts -- from this hugely entertaining and sometimes deeply touching memoir. Seely's wit, energy, and passion erupt from every page. Reading The Juju Rules is like spending a perfect, sunlit day at Yankee Stadium, ice-cold brew in hand, next to your new best friend. And it's a double header. And they win both. In extra innings.
Allegory, fable, Holocaust saga, realistic fiction – somehow Ausubel combines these elements in an amazing novel that is much more than the sum of its genres. In 1939, when the horror of the impending Holocaust becomes undeniable, the residents of a remote Jewish village in Romania do just that: deny it. They declare the world newly made; the past and everything outside their community no longer exist. The novel’s narrator is 11 when the book begins, a young mother of two at its close. We see her improbable new world through the lens her extraordinary experiences and penetrating vision. This novel uses small details and quotidian moments to explore the essence of identity, family, community, and the nature and fluidity of reality.
Observing the past and present through the eyes of someone sliding into the depths of Alzheimer’s might not sound appealing. Here, it’s more than appealing: it’s impossible to put down. Dr. Jennifer White, a surgeon, is a “person of interest” in the death of her best friend. She has no memory of the incident. Or perhaps she does. A gripping mystery, an absorbing study of a family in crisis, and a wrenching look at a mind struggling to overcome its increasing limitations.
This is science journalism at its best, addressing history, medicine, family dynamics, and racism in a gripping, well-written book that one needn’t be a scientist to read. Without her knowledge or permission, Henrietta Lacks, a young black woman afflicted with a virulent form of cancer, provided tissue samples for research in 1951. The cells reproduced astronomically and contributed to all kinds of studies. The repercussions for science and for her family are astounding.
It’s a beautifully written later-life romance, but it’s a great deal more. Major Pettigrew, a 68-year-old widower, is deeply shaken by the death of his younger brother. He finds solace from a surprising source: Mrs. Ali, a widow who owns the shop where he buys his tea and who, it turns out, shares his love of literature. This touchingly told story delves sensitively into matters of race, culture, class, and family loyalty.
This book is a treasure for both the confirmed Jane-ite and the Austen neoophyte. Deresiewicz views each of Austen's novels through the prism of his own life - or is it the other way around? Austen's view of integrity, love, and family and social life inform his perceptions of his own growth and the choices he made as he elbowed and bumbled his way into adulthood. He sheds much light on why Austen's depth and clarity speak to all of us, at any time in our lives.
If this story were fiction, no one would believe it. Louis Zamperini, who’s still going strong in his 90’s, was an incorrigible child, an Olympic runner, and a World War II airman whose plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Zamperini survived 47 days on a raft with virtually no water or provisions, only to wind up in a series of Japanese POW camps - each more horrific than the one before. Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, brilliantly tells this breathtaking story of survival, heroism, and relentless determination.
Wow, can this guy write! These essays cover all manner of subjects and range from political to eccentric to hilarious to deeply moving. In one piece, Weingarten shares what happens when world-famous violinist Joshua Bell performs incognito in a subway station. A very short essay with Roger Maris at its center is a perfect jewel. Two essays about his father will elicit both chuckles and tears.