The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman
If you’ve ever wondered what life is really like on a family farm, Terra Brockman’s book will give you a good idea. The Brockman family has farmed in central Illinois for most of the time since the 1880s. The fifth generation of Brockmans is growing up, helping on two of the extended family’s three sustainable farms. Terra lived in New York City and Japan for many years, but finally came back to write, and to work on brother Henry’s sustainable vegetable farm, among other pursuits. The days are long, but no one seems to work longer hours than Henry himself. His Japanese wife and three children, a longtime farmhand, a couple of apprentices and extended family plant, grow, harvest, and sell just about every vegetable imaginable. They use plastic hoop houses to extend the growing season, and Henry intensively tracks which varieties do best in which fields and what sells best. I enjoy shopping at farmer’s markets, and I wondered what happens to the leftover produce. Imperfect vegetables and fruit and leftovers go to feed the farmers, with much of it frozen for the winter. Although Henry’s detailed analysis of crops and sales probably doesn’t make for too many leftovers. I liked the arrangement of the book, starting with November, when garlic is planted by the thousands of cloves and moving through the months of the year until the end of harvest in late October. Terra won’t scare you away from farming or intensive gardening, but you will get a good sense of what it’s like to work in the intense cold or heat, and what the long hours feel like when you’re middle-aged. The children and animals on Henry’s farm provide some lighter moments, including Lucky Tom the turkey. More moving passages describe the declining health of Henry and Terra’s father and grandfather, and their father’s surgery and aftermath. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the farms at different seasons and times of day, learning about the politics of plastic bags and farmer’s markets, and especially the simple recipes and photos throughout the book.
This summer there will be twice as many book discussions as usual. The Third Tuesday Morning group will meet in July and August, while the Fourth Tuesday Evening Group will meet in June and July. The Crime Readers do not meet in the summer. The Woodridge Public Library will be undergoing renovations this fall, and alternate meeting locations will be needed. Each group will take a different month off this fall. Also, by attending a summer book discussion, Woodridge cardholders will get another entry for our summer reading program, Escape the Ordinary. These are the books being discussed this summer:
Mornings – Third Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m.
July 21 Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett
Reclusive writer Amy Gallup hasn’t written anything new in years, and teaches online writing classes. A bizarre newspaper interview right after a head injury makes her slightly famous, and helps jumpstart her career. Quirky, witty, and funny.
August 18 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A traveling troupe of musicians and Shakespearean actors perform in small towns on the coasts of Lakes Huron and Michigan fifteen years after a flu pandemic changed the world. A beautiful, complex, nonlinear novel that I’m looking forward to re-reading.
Evenings – Fourth Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.
June 23 You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt
During the Cold War, Sarah and her friend Jenny write letters to the Soviet premier asking for peace. Only Jenny’s letter is answered, and she becomes a celebrity. In 1995, Sarah travels to Moscow to find out what really happened to Jenny. A suspenseful, atmospheric, and character-driven first novel.
July 28 Some Luck by Jane Smiley This sweeping, homespun, multi-generational novel, first in a trilogy, is the story of an Iowa farm family from 1920 to 1953. Walter and Rosanna Langdon and their five children take turns narrating the chapters, describing the changes in the family and their nation.
On May 19 at 10:00 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, a novel about two women from Charleston, South Carolina whose lives are connected from the day Sarah Grimke turns eleven and is given Handful to be her slave.
On May 26 at 7:00 p.m., the Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing In The Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides, a real life adventure story about a polar expedition which began in 1879 when the USS Jeannette left San Franciso, heading for the Bering Sea.
The Crime Readers are meeting at Home Run Inn Pizza at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 to discuss Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xialong, a police procedural set in 1990s Shanghai, China. Optional dinner at 6:00 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all three titles are available at the Adult/Young Adult Reference Desk.
On Tuesday, April 21, the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussion Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson. This is a non-fiction book about the lives of archaeologists, with chapters set in the Caribbean, Peru, South Dakota, and at many other archaeological sites. Here is my earlier review. Please note: we are meeting in the library’s 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room, not at the Park District, and not in Group Study Room 2
On Tuesday, April 28, the Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, set in Calcutta, India and Rhode Island, moving from the 1960s to the present, focusing on two brothers and the scholarly woman they both love, and how they react very differently to political upheaval and the duties expected of them by their family. This group is also meeting in the 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room, not at the Park District.
The Crime Readers are meeting at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 to discuss The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. This award-winning police procedural is set in Sweden in 1968. Optional dinner is at 6:00 p.m. The group is co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all three titles are available now at the Adult/Young Adult Reference Desk.
On March 17 at 10:00 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland, the author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and The Luncheon of the Boating Party, former book discussion selections. Set in Paris and Provence in the late 1930s to the late 1940s, Parisian Lisette has a rough transition to life in Provence with her husband Andre and his grandfather Pascal. Andre is a frame maker, and Pascal has a collection of seven paintings by French artists. Ochre mined near Roussillon was used for pigments in the paintings. When the war begins, the paintings are hidden, and Lisette must adapt to life in Provence.
On March 24 at 7:00 p.m., the Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, one of the ReDiscover: Celebrating Home selections. The author lives in a large Victorian house in England, and uses the rooms of his own home as a jumping point to explore the general history of domesticity. Bryson is an entertaining writer who frequently digresses from the history of the house to explore related trivia, such as the meaning of room and board, how sugar consumption has changed, the invention of the mousetrap, the history of paint, and quite a lot about food and disease.
The Crime Readers are meeting at Home Run Inn Pizza at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 19 to discuss The Broken Shore by Peter Tample, set in rural southeastern Australia. Optional dinner at 6:00 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all three titles are available at the Adult/Young Adult Reference Desk.
Sign up online, by phone, or in person.
After 10 years, The Big Read has become ReDiscover, and the theme for 2015 is Celebrating Home. Instead of focusing on one book, the nine public libraries in Chicago’s southwestern suburbs are focusing on a theme, and reading and discussing a variety of books. The featured books include At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, Howard’s End by E. M. Forster, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai, and Home by Marilynne Robinson. There will be 44 different programs for adults, several book discussions, and programs for teens and kids during March and April. The Woodridge Public Library will be hosting six programs for adults, and we will be discussing At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. To learn more, visit the ReDiscover website, the library’s website, or visit the library to pick up a ReDiscover brochure and check out a featured book and other related titles. Book discussion sign up has begun; registration for all of the other programs begins on Monday, March 2. As we look forward to spring, it’s time to Celebrate Home. Enjoy!
On February 10* at 10:00 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais. After tragedy forces the Haji family to close their restaurant in Mumbai, India, they emigrate to London and later settle in a small village in eastern France. The family opens an Indian restaurant directly across the street from a Michelin-starred French restaurant, which enrages the owner, Madame Mallory. Surprisingly, she later offers to take young Hassan Haji as an apprentice in her kitchen.
On February 17* at 7:00 p.m., the Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Bookseller A.J. Fikry is cranky. He’s lonely, sales are down at his island bookstore, and a rare book goes missing. He doesn’t even enjoy reading new books. An unexpected delivery and an outgoing sale rep give him a new outlook on life. Here is my earlier review.
The Crime Readers are meeting at Home Run Inn Pizza at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 19 to discuss The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas, set in Paris. Optional dinner at 6:00 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all three titles are available at the Adult/Young Adult Reference Desk. Sign up online, by phone, or in person.
*Note different weeks. Both groups are meeting one week earlier than usual in January and February.