Reading Group Books 2013
Annotation:What do we really know about even those closest to us? When Julia’s father suddenly disappears without a trace, beginning with a discovered love letter, she follows clues to a small town in Burma. There, with the help of a mysterious storyteller named U Ba, she learns of another life led by her father prior to his move to the U.S. Each day, U Ba tells Julia incredible tales of her father’s youth—of his childhood blindness, his education at a monastery, and, most of all, about his passionate relationship with a local girl. A mix of romance, magic, heartache and inspiration written in a lush, poetic voice.
Annotation:When Schwalbe’s mother Mary Anne is diagnosed with a rare and always fatal form of pancreatic cancer, he finds himself struggling for ways to have meaningful conversation in the interminable waiting rooms. One day, he asks the question “what are you reading?” and it unlocks the door to wide-ranging and deeply personal conversations on many topics. Their “book club” continues over the next two years of Mary Anne’s life, providing the vehicle for them to become close through a shared love of reading and the power of books to comfort, astonish, teach, and inspire.
Annotation:Though published as a teen book, this title showed up on lots of “best of” adult lists, including Time Magazine’s #1 fiction book of 2012. With smart dialogue and sharply-defined characters, Green makes us fall in love with young lovers Hazel and Augustus, who are pushed into maturity beyond their years by the fact that both are living with cancer diagnoses. Green deftly transcends sentimentality, showing us what it means to live with cancer as well as how to live “forever within the numbered days.”
Annotation:A remarkable debut novel set in author Wiley Cash’s much-loved North Carolina homeland and populated by its people, culture, and the evangelical religious faith in which he was raised. The story revolves around the horror of a young autistic boy being smothered during a church healing service and the different responses to the event from the novel’s three narrators: the younger brother who secretly witnesses the death; Adelaide Lyle, the church matriarch; and Clem Barefield, the local sheriff who must sift through his own tragedies to solve the mystery.
Annotation:Yes, this is a gripping and ultimately tragic pageturner about a climb gone awry that takes place right in our backyard on Mt. Rainier. However, that alone does not maketh a compelling book group read. The fact that Davidson takes his experience, probes the psychic injuries, and turns the loss into something of wider value, capable of inspiring people facing other sorts of loss and suffering, makes this a transcendent and inspiring read.
Annotation:Set at the turn of the twentieth century in the apricot and apple growing country around Wenatchee, WA, Coplin’s debut explores the notion that family, like grafted fruit trees, can be based, not just on blood relationships, but inspired by tragedy, goodness and fate. In the case of solitary homesteader/orchardist William Talmadge, family comes in the form of two teenage girls who are fleeing the brothel whose owner enslaved them. Hungry and skittish, they slowly come under Talmadge’s care with the help of Miss Caroline Middey, the no-nonsense neighbor, herbalist and midwife who becomes a mother figure for the girls and a helpmate and confidant to the lonely Talmadge.
Annotation:If you are not an introvert (about one third of people are), you likely live or work with one and the revelations and research in Quiet will provide plenty of aha moments for discussion. Beyond personal reflection, Cain asks the larger question: what do we lose as a society by undervaluing the contributions from this minority group? What other hidden costs are there in our culture that celebrates extroversion? The inclusion of many personal narratives make this read more like story than science.
Annotation:Debut novelist Ivey borrows from a Russian fairy tale when her hardscrabble homesteaders Jack and Mabel, distraught at being childless and worn down by the demands of backcountry Alaska in the 1920s, shape a child out of snow one evening. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. Magical and full of wonder, but also as harshly real as the cold wild beauty of an Alaskan winter.
Annotation:Abel Truman is a lonely and damaged soul whose Civil War wounds - both physical and spiritual - lead him on a pilgrimage to Washington State where he lives with his dog for companionship in a driftwood shack. But the war is not yet done with him, and he must make one more journey to hold onto his humanity. Weller’s descriptions of Civil War frontlines are unnervingly real and his portrayal of what human beings are capable of alternates between horror and splendor, giving readers plenty of food for thought.
Annotation:An acclaimed debut about the war in Iraq written with an intensity and exactitude that could from someone who lived it. Powers, an Iraq veteran, writes with a poet’s precision about the experience of young men going to war. When 21-year-old Bartle and teenager Murphy meet in boot camp on the eve of their deployment to Iraq, Bartle takes the young private under his wing as they move through the bloody conflict that "rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer." The novel also offers many insights into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home.
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Titles suggested by staff and patrons for lively book group discussions. WCLS purchases multiple copies of each to provide quantities that can accomodate most book group sizes.
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