Reading Group Books 2010
Annotation:Growing up “Congo,” a descendant of two Liberian dynasties, in a 22-room mansion at Sugar Beach near Monrovia, Helene’s family took in a “country” girl to keep her company. Violence exploded in Liberia in 1980, soldiers raped her mother and publicly executed her uncle, and the family fled Liberia for America, leaving Eunice, the country sister behind. A memoir of tragedy, forgiveness and a long journey home.
Annotation:Winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize in 2006 for socially responsible literature, city-bred new wife Laura struggles to adjust to an isolated life on a mudbound Mississippi delta cotton farm under the watchful eye of her misogynist, racist father-in-law. Friendships with black sharecroppers who live on the farm provoke emotions, creating a heart-rending story of deep, mindless prejudice.
Annotation:In 1959, Haruko marries the Crown Prince of Japan, becoming the first commoner to enter the mysterious and reclusive world of Japanese royalty, confronting the cruelty and suspicions of the court, until, three decades later, she helps arrange the marriage of her son, in a novel inspired by the real-life stories of the reigning empress and crown princess of Japan.
Annotation:This collection of twelve previously unpublished writings on war and peace is a fitting tribute to a literary legend and a profoundly humane humorist. Imbued with Vonnegut's trademark rueful humor and outraged moral sense, the pieces range from a letter written by Vonnegut to his family in 1945 informing them that he'd been taken prisoner by the Germans, to a painfully funny short story about three Army privates and their fantasies of the perfect first meal upon returning home from war.
Annotation:A story of loyalty as only a dog could tell it … Enzo, a Lab/terrier mix from a farm outside Seattle, becomes Denny’s sidekick as he pursues success on the professional racing circuit. In his narration, Enzo mourns not being able to speak, lacking opposable thumbs, and hopes to return in his next life as a man. This dog’s old soul speaks quite eloquently about what it means to be human with all its absurdity and wonder.
Annotation:January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club formed as a ruse as a way for people to get together without raising the suspicions of Guernsey’s Nazi occupiers. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.
Annotation:Chinese-American Henry Lee’s memories of childhood friend Keiko, a Japanese-American whose family was interned in camps during WWII, are reawakened when Japanese immigrant’s belongings are found in the basement of Seattle’s Panama Hotel. The story alternates between the 1940s and the mid-80s, evoking Seattle and the fear and bewilderment of growing up amidst cultural enmity.
Annotation:“Book after book has been written about being young … but there is not much on record about falling away,” writes esteemed memoirist Athill. Now in her 91st year, “entirely untamed about both old and new conventions” (Literary Review), and freed from any of the inhibitions that even she may have once had, Athill reflects candidly, and sometimes with great humor, on the condition of being old.
Annotation:A novel in stories unfolds in these thirteen linked tales and terse, dry, junior high-school teacher Olive Kitteridge is the thread that ties them all together. Publishers Weekly calls these stories of loneliness and longing “easy to read and impossible to forget.” Set against the backdrop of coastal Maine’s natural wonders, Olive reflects on the beauty of ordinary life—and the endurance it requires—with ruthless honesty.
Annotation:Reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food. Following the lives of eight very different students who gather in Lillian's Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class, tt soon becomes clear that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen.
Annotation:Volunteering to assist earthquake relief efforts in an impoverished Islamic country after the shattering death of his wife, successful cardiologist Charles Anderson encounters life-threatening hostilities when the refugees he expects do not appear and the area where he is stationed comes under fire. A haunting exploration of the tensions between poverty and wealth, the ethics of intervention, the deep cultural differences that divide the world, and the essential human similarities that unite it.
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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.