Reading Group Books 2009
Annotation:Set in present day West Virginia, this debut novel tells the story of a coal mining family living through the latest mining boom and dealing with the mountaintop removal and strip mining that is ruining what is left of their mountain life. As the mine turns the mountains to slag and wastewater, workers struggle with layoffs and children find adventure in the blasted moonscape craters. Pancake focuses on fifteen-year-old Bant and her mother, Lace, both curious and strong-willed, who ultimately come to discover that the very real threat of destruction looms as much in the landscape as it does at home.
Annotation:The intertwining story of three generations of German immigrants to the Midwest—their clashes with slaveholders, the Dakota uprising and its aftermath—is seen through the eyes of young Asa Senger, named for an uncle killed by an Indian friend. It is the unexpected appearance of Asa's aunt Hazel, institutionalized since shortly after the mass hangings of thirty-eight Dakota warriors in Mankato in 1862, that reveals to him that the past is as close as his own heartbeat.
Annotation:A former United States Marine, hired by the African Union to monitor the cease-fire agreement between the Government of Sudan and Darfurian rebel groups, offers an account of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Fired upon, taken hostage, a witness to villages destroyed and people killed, frustrated by his mission's limitations and the international community's reluctance to intervene, Steidle resigned and has since become an advocate for the world to step in and stop this genocide.
Annotation:Soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian aid group. Surrounded by people whose skills--as doctors, nurses, and therapists--seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus the idea for the Kabul Beauty School was born. Within that small haven, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts, ultimately giving her the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style.
Annotation:“I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.” So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.
Annotation:When Germany invaded Poland, bombers devastated Warsaw--and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into the empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants and refusing to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, even as Europe crumbled around her.
Annotation:A poignant novel set in 1967 captures the diverse viewpoints and private lives of one American family, the Espejos, as their lives are irrevocably transformed by the Vietnam War, from Rosario, the dying family matriarch, to Gustavo, the rebellious oldest son who is about to receive his draft notice, and his sister Xochil.
Annotation:Trond Sander is a 67-year-old man who has moved from the city to a remote, riverside cabin, only to have all the turbulence, grief, and overwhelming beauty of his youth come back to him when he recalls a horse stealing prank with his best friend that turned tragic and changed his life forever.
Annotation:On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, on which survival is daily struggle, eccentric Mr. Watts, the only white man left after the other teachers flee, spends his day reading to the local children from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations, capturing the imaginations of thirteen-year-old Matilda and her peers with the London adventures of a young orphan named Pip.
Annotation:It is 1960 when Thomas Deracotte and his pregnant wife, Helen, abandon a guaranteed future in upper-crust Connecticut and take off for the Idaho wilderness where they find the farm they bought sight unseen in shambles. Though Thomas discovers he can’t wield a hammer or an ax, there is a local boy, Manny—a sweet soul of eighteen without a family of his own—who agrees to manage the fields in exchange for room and board. But the sudden, frightening birth of Thomas and Helen’s daughter, Elise, changes something deep inside their marriage. And then, in the aftermath of a tragic accident to which only Manny bears witness, suspicion, anger, and regret come to haunt this shattered family.
A Shared List by WhatcomAdultLibrarians
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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.