Reading Group Books 2011
Annotation:Part rollicking road trip with commercial beekeeper, John Miller, part lament for the tireless honey bee who has been pushed to the edge by deadly Colony Collapse Disorder. Author Trevor Corson calls this a “rollicking, buzzing, and touching meditation on mortality....You’ll never think of bees, their keepers, or the fruits (and nuts) of their labors the same way again.”
Annotation:Hugo-winner Simmons’ story centers on Paha Sapa, a 10-year-old Sioux warrior who can see both the past and the future by touching people. Jumping from the vantage point of different events in Paha Sapa’s life - from watching General Custer die at the Battle of Little Bighorn to his role as a stonemason in the making of Mount Rushmore - this historical novel with a supernatural slant explores Manifest Destiny and harsh treatment of native populations by our country’s early settlers.
Annotation:In late 1970s rural Mississippi, two boys bridge their race and culture gap to become friends. Then a girl disappears and one of them was the last to see her alive. The crime is never solved, but the townspeople remain wary and suspicious and 20 years later when another girl disappears, the estranged friends are brought together again by the crime investigation. At once a mystery/thriller, a story about friendship, and an elegiac novel about growing up in a small town.
Annotation:Durrow creates a memorable protagonist in Rachel, the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. Rachel hasn’t given her racial identity much thought while living in Germany, but when tragedy takes her to her paternal grandmother’s home in a decidedly black Portland, OR neighborhood, she must figure out how to live in a world that demands she is either black or white.
Annotation:Claire leaves her medical career after complications from a pregnancy and soon after, her biochemist husband, Addison, lands a fortune with a biotech startup that catapults them into upper class society. Their life there is brief, however, and as their finances crumble, Claire goes back to work in a struggling public health clinic where she befriends Miguela, a bright Nicaraguan immigrant who affects the family in unexpected ways. Set in Seattle & Eastern WA.
Annotation:Forced by her father to marry a man three times her age, young Nujood Ali was sent away from her parents and beloved sisters and made to live with her husband and his family in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There she suffered daily from physical and emotional abuse until courageously fleeing to a courthouse in the capitol where a renowned lawyer took her case and fought for her to be awarded a divorce. Shocking and inspiring, at 188 pages, this makes a good, quick read for book groups with busy members.
Annotation:Hoping to outpace her grief in the wake of her father’s suicide, Marina, a recent college graduate, has come to the small, rural Japanese town of Shika to teach English for a year. But in Japan, as she soon discovers, you can never really throw away your past... or anything else, for that matter. Quirky characters, cultural absurdities, and healing from grief make this novel an engaging read with ample opportunities for discussion.
Annotation:The fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan and a well-to-do British couple are inextricably woven together after a brutal encounter on a beach in Nigeria where the couple are vacationing. Little Bee (the name the orphan chooses to call herself) is an unforgettable voice, fabulously rendered by Anne Flosnik on the audio recording. Themes for discussion include immigration, political unrest, shame, survivorship, class and stereotypes.
Annotation:Abandoning the Manhattan corporate ladder in their late 20s, these three women embark on a somewhat improvisational trip around the world that takes them to Peru, Kenya, Vietnam, Australia and more than a few places between. Thoughtful insights about the transformations rendered by their travels make for an inspiring and entertaining memoir.
Annotation:Soli vividly describes the streets and people of Vietnam-era Saigon as well as the psychologically damaging dangers of life in the field and on the front lines where death can be a single step away. Following the stories of three war photographers - charismatic Sam Darrow, his Vietnamese assistant Linh, and Helen, who is drawn to war’s dangers as to an opiate - Soli hauntingly explores this dark period in our history and the deep scars it left on those who lived through it.
Annotation:Bess Gray is ecstatic when at 35-years-old she meets and falls in love with Rory, a charming Irish musician. When asking her to marry him, Rory confesses that he has been married eight times before, prompting Bess to take a cross-country journey to seek out and question the previous wives before making her decision. A nuanced and insightful novel about relationships and the complicated, risky nature of love.
Annotation:Swamplandia! is a shabby tourist attraction deep in the Everglades, owned by the Bigtree clan of alligator wrestlers. Once a mecca for tourists, Swamplandia! faces competition from the rival theme park, World of Darkness, as well as losses and defections by family members in the cast. Survival hinges on resourceful but terrified 13-year-old Ada, left to manage not only the business of 98 gators but her own vast and swampy grief. This debut novel by Russell has garnered immense praise for its inventiveness and will draw you into the magic world of the imperiled Everglades swamp ecosystem.
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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.