The Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. on May 17 to discuss The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, a novel about Hispanic immigrants from eight different countries who live in an apartment building in Delaware. Arturo and Alma Riveras have recently moved from Mexico so that their teen daughter Maribel can get special schooling. Gradually they meet their neighbors, who all have different stories, including teenager Mayor Toro from Panama. Arturo works long days at a mushroom farm while Alma struggles to assimilate, hampered by her lack of English.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing The Wright Brothers by David McCullough at 7 p.m. on May 24. At 262 pages, this is one of historian McCullough’s shorter books. Once you can tell Orville and Wilbur apart, the reader will get swept up into their exploration of flight, including the contributions of their lesser known sibling, Katharine. Here is my earlier review.
The Crime Readers will be discussing Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, a crime novel about three connected cases, on Thursday, May 19 at 7 p.m., at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all of the books are available now at the Adult and Teen Services Reference Desk.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
A sweet, whimsical novel about 69-year-old widower Arthur Pepper, who lives near York, England. In the year since his wife Miriam died, he has survived only by clinging to routine, and his children are distant. Clearing out Miriam’s clothes, Arthur finds a charm bracelet, and impulsively calls the phone number on a bejeweled elephant charm. This starts him on a series of adventures to find out more about his wife, and to restart his own life. A real charmer, this is a good readalike for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders
A clever, satisfying mystery, the second to feature London book editor Samantha Clair. When Aidan, an old flame, asks Sam to lunch, she is shocked to learn that the gallery owner’s partner Frank has been found dead. Sam, along with her new boyfriend, DI Jake Field, begins investigating. Sam’s knowledge of the publishing world turns out to be both helpful and dangerous. The plotting is smart, the dialogue witty, and Sam can be very funny, especially when she kicks a snob at a dinner party or reacts after a bike accident. Sam’s older neighbor, her assistant Miranda, and her mother Helena, a solicitor, are all good company and do their bit to help Sam and Jake solve the mystery. I’m always happy to find a good new mystery author to recommend. My review of the first book, A Murder of Magpies, is here. There is a third book, but it’s just out in Great Britain, and will probably appear in the U.S. next spring.
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
Violet, fresh from Louisiana, rents a room in Audrey Duvall’s inherited Hollywood bungalow. The women are secretaries at Selznick Studios during the filming of Gone with the Wind in 1938. Audrey’s friend Bert works in the wardrobe department, and there’s a subplot about one of Scarlett’s hats. Audrey and Violet both have sad secrets in their past. Violet likes her job, and is not ambitious, but Audrey is determined to make it big as an actress. There’s a sort of love triangle, and eventually a secret baby, not unlike Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, but this is by far the better book. I could have done with fewer secrets as Audrey and Violet mature, but this is an enjoyable and well-researched look behind the scenes of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Beatrice Nash arrives in the southeastern English village of Rye to teach Latin. Her sponsors, Agatha and John Kent, are quite welcoming, and their nephews, poet Daniel and surgeon-in-training Hugh, help her secure the position when a last-minute male candidate appears. Much prejudice against class, race, and gender are evident in 1914 Rye, and Beatrice chafes under her late father’s restrictive trust, especially when asked to explain why she bought new underclothes. When Belgian refugees arrive in town, Beatrice agrees to share her half-cottage with lovely Celeste, a professor’s daughter. The professor lodges with the local celebrity, an American author. The war soon comes to the village, as Hugh, Daniel, and Beatrice’s best student, a half-gypsy boy, go off to enlist. Daniel’s lover has broken up with him, and Hugh hopes to marry his mentor’s daughter after the war. The villagers start up new committees and have a parade to help raise funds for the war effort. The book starts out bright and charming, and gains depth and some darkness along with the war. Some minor characters are a bit clichéd, but I really cared about the main characters. I found this to be a very absorbing read and while not fast paced, it was still hard to put down, as was the author’s first book, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the village, including those of Beatrice’s cottage, her classroom full of sweaty young boys, and the professor’s study.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I don’t know if a short review can do this book justice, but I’ll try. In less than 200 pages, in silences and in words never spoken, the author tells the story of a miserable childhood and the enduring, deep love of a mother and daughter. Lucy Barton, enduring a lengthy hospitalization for an infection after an appendectomy, is surprised and delighted when her mother arrives in her hospital room for a five-day visit. In the mid-1980s Lucy is married and living in Manhattan with her husband William and two young daughters. The AIDS crisis is just beginning. Lucy’s mother tells her stories about their neighbors in rural Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy grew up, the youngest of three children. Lucy is never so happy as when her mother is talking, but they must carefully talk around and never mention Lucy’s childhood. The family lived in a garage until a relative died, and Lucy vividly remembers being cold, dirty, and often hungry. Then there was her father, who apparently went into rages when he remembered World War II. Her brother and sister still live near their parents, but Lucy escaped, thanks to a college scholarship, and is now a published writer. Elizabeth Strout’s writing here is spare and tender, and very moving, and sure to be nominated for an award or two.
On April 19 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, by Ann Weisgarber, a historical novel about an African American family homesteading in the Badlands. Here’s my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will be meeting on April 26 at 7 p.m. to discuss The Bees by Laline Paull, a novel about a year in the life of a bee hive, narrated by worker bee Flora 717. My review is here.
The Crime Readers will be discussing Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout, a Nero Wolf mystery, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m. The Crime Readers is co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of all three titles are available at the Adult and Teen Services Reference Desk.