Moloka’i was a bestseller and a favorite with book clubs, but I hadn’t read it until I heard about this forthcoming sequel. Daughter of Moloka’i is the compelling story of Ruth, an adopted Hawaiian-Japanese girl who grew up in Hawai’i and California, and was later sent to internment camps with her family during World War II. The daily life, joys, disappointments and hardships of the Watanabe family make for engaging reading. After Ruth is a mother herself, she receives an unexpected letter from her birth mother, Rachel, who lived in the leper settlement on Moloka’i. This poignant, family-centered, ultimately hopeful novel can be read before or after reading Moloka’i, and is a real pleasure for fans of character-driven historical fiction.
This is a splendid, moving novel about a young woman and the girls she mothers in southern England in the mid 20th century. Ellen Parr, born well-off, struggles when her father loses his money. Trying to cope in a run-down cottage with her impractical mother, Ellen finds unexpected kindness from her schoolmate Lucy’s family and a local handyman. Ten years later, recently married Ellen finds young Pamela asleep on a bus after Southampton is bombed in December, 1940. Although Ellen’s husband, a miller, doesn’t want to keep Pamela, they do. Eventually, they have to give Pamela back to her relatives in a heart-wrenching scene. Much later, schoolgirl Penny needs somewhere to stay after a flood and during school holidays. This first novel, while a tearjerker at times, is a compelling, satisfying, and ultimately heartwarming read.
A contemporary novel about a family with five boys in Madison, Wisconsin facing a challenge when young Claude wants to wear dresses and sparkly barrettes. Rosie, an emergency room physician and Penn, a writer, agree that Claude can dress however he wants on vacation. But when Claude says her name is Poppy and wants to start kindergarten in a dress, the family worries about the consequences. When they relocate to Seattle, Rosie and Penn don’t know how and when to share that Poppy used to be Claude. Eventually the secret is revealed, and Rosie takes her youngest child to a rural clinic in Thailand for a time-out. Charming, compassionate, messy, and thought-provoking, the Walsh-Adams family reminds me of Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks and Hilary McKay’s Casson family (Saffy’s Angel), although these large families have different challenges. The Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing Frankel’s book this spring.
The Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. on February 19 to discuss Rocket Men by Robert Kurson, the exciting real life adventure of the Apollo 8 mission. Here’s my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on February 26 to discuss Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. This debut historical novel is set in London during World War II, featuring a young journalist who answers letters that the advice columnist Mrs. Bird won’t touch. My review is here.
The Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 21 to discuss The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.
Copies of the books are available now at the Circulation Desk.
Three people are asked to be executors for the estate of a woman they never met. Young Benedict is a builder, Armand Gamache is the head of the Surêté, currently suspended, and Myrna is a psychologist who owns a bookstore in Three Pines, Québec. Bertha was a cleaning woman who called herself the Baroness, and may or may not have left millions to her three children. A blizzard strands Benedict in Three Pines, where there are several wonderful food-centered scenes. These scenes provide a relief of tension in a rather dark entry in this award-winning mystery series. Gamache is trying to trace a shipment of deadly opioids before it arrives on the streets of Montreal. He doesn’t share all his secrets with his assistants Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Isabelle Lacoste, who’s slowly recovering from injuries sustained in the previous book. The scene I found most riveting is a house collapsing with people inside. Some story lines from previous books are wrapped up here, while some new developments may take this series in an unexpected direction. Suggested for mystery readers who enjoy cunning plots with very well-developed characters. The first book in the series is Still Life.
Winter is a perfect time to read this first mystery set in the picturesque Luberon region of Provence, France. Middle-aged Brit Penny, recently divorced, buys an old stone house near a charming village, only to discover a body in the swimming pool. Helped by her exuberant friend Frankie and estate agent Clémence, forensic-trained Penny investigates the murder while restoring her house and getting involved in village life. Penny is excellent company, and the food and scenery descriptions are luscious. More books are planned, and will be very welcome. Visit the author’s website for photos of Penny’s Provence.
Maud Gage, daughter of a suffragette, is a student at Cornell College in the 1880s when she meets Frank Baum. This is the story of their marriage, raising sons and struggling to make ends meet in South Dakota and Chicago until Frank’s storytelling makes him a success with the publication of The Wizard of Oz. The tone is bittersweet, especially the scenes with Maud’s sister and niece in drought-stricken South Dakota. Later in life, Maud visits the M-G-M studio during the filming of the Wizard of Oz and encounters young Judy Garland while trying to keep the film true to Frank’s stories. The Baum’s family life is vividly described, especially the ways Frank tried to make Christmas magical for their sons. Though I would have enjoyed more about their life after Frank started publishing the Oz books, Finding Dorothy is an absorbing, engaging biographical novel.
Historical fantasy readers will enjoy this richly detailed novel. Vampire Marcus must stay away from his young fiancée Phoebe for 90 days after she becomes a vampire. In Paris, Phoebe’s struggle to adapt to her new strength, speed, and interests are often funny. While staying in the French countryside with his parent Matthew and Matthew’s wife Diana, Marcus relives his years as a boy and young man in the American Revolution, where he learns to be a medic. Matthew and Diana, a witch, have their hands full with twin toddlers Becca and Philip as their powers emerge. Becca has a tendency to bite and Philip has summoned a griffin named Apollo. This book is a good introduction to Harkness’ novels. Her All Souls trilogy begins with A Discovery of Witches. Francophiles may also enjoy Time’s Convert, as well as Outlander fans, with an intriguing blend of history, magic, and romance.