Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Jende and Neni Jonga, immigrants from Cameroon, pursue the American dream in New York City in 2007. Jende is fortunate to find a good job as chauffeur to Lehman Brothers executive Clark Edwards and his family. Neni is in college, their son Liomi is in elementary school, and they are happy together in their tiny Harlem apartment. Jende hears Clark’s phone calls in the limo, Neni spends time in the Hamptons helping Cindy Edwards with child care, and they both learn the family’s secrets. Neni is pregnant again, and Jende wants her to take time off from work and school, even though their legal status in the United States is uncertain. Then Lehman Brothers collapses, the Great Recession begins, and both families are in turmoil. Jende thinks that with their savings, they may be happier back in Cameroon, but Neni really wants to stay and get her degree. The Edwards, not as resilient as the Jonga family, are even unhappier. They are not as vividly drawn as the Jongas, and I didn’t care about their problems as much. I really enjoyed reading about life in Cameroon, and the Jongas’ interactions with their fellow immigrants. This debut novel is our September book discussion selection, and is also the latest book club selection by Oprah Winfrey. I look forward to hearing what everyone else thought about this compelling novel.
Brenda


The Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Rich New York socialites are befriended by writer Truman Capote in the 1950s. Truman is openly gay, so their husbands don’t mind having him around on their yachts and in their villas. Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Pamela Churchill Harriman, and Slim Keith freely confide in him; only C.Z. Guest doesn’t share her secrets. Twenty years later, Truman reveals their secrets in a fictionalized article for Esquire, with grave consequences. The author explores the lives and relationships of these glamorous women and the colorful writer, best known for his book In Cold Blood and a remarkable black and white ball. Gossipy, entertaining, yet often sad, this novel is a compelling read.
Brenda


Dinner with Edward

Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent

Isabel, an investigative reporter for the New York Post, is befriended by her colleague’s father, Edward. They both live on Roosevelt Island, in the East River. Edward was married to Paula for 69 years, and promised before her death to keep on living. Happily, he’s a gourmet cook, and Isabel starts visiting weekly for dinner and advice. Edward tells stories about his life, shares his poetry, and turns Isabel into a foodie. She has moved many times with her husband and daughter, and her marriage is unraveling. In later chapters, Edward is visibly aging, while Isabel might be falling in love again. This charming memoir reads like fiction. I only wish that it were longer and included recipes.
Brenda


Jackie’s Girl

Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon

In 1964, Kathy Smith leaves a miserable job to become Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant and substitute nanny. Kathy grew up in a large family in a three room cottage in rural Ireland, sharing a coat with her sister Briege. While money was short and the children started doing chores on the farm quite young, there was also time for fun and weekend dances. Her uncle Pat’s family sent hand-me-downs and food from New York, and bought tickets for Kathy and Briege to come to America, where Irish girls could easily find work. Kathy’s interview with “Madam” was basically meeting little John and watching his dog do tricks. Generous and very kind, Jackie Kennedy was also a demanding employer, wanting Kathy to help fill the lonely evenings after young Caroline and John were asleep, and often coming up with just one more errand at the end of the day. Well trained by the previous assistant, Kathy took care of Jackie’s wardrobe, especially packing and unpacking for her many trips, and spent lots of time with the family on Cape Cod, New Jersey, and elsewhere. Still a teenager, Kathy became lifelong friends with John, and was clearly devoted to the Kennedy family, mourning along with them when Bobby died. Full of humorous anecdotes, a wonderfully readable memoir of life with the Kennedys in good times and bad.

Brenda

 


New York 2140

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Years after melting Antarctic ice has raised sea levels by 50 feet, New York City is partly submerged, with canals and sky bridges taking the place of streets, turning the city into a Super Venice. Vlade, superintendent of the Met Life Tower condo building keeps busy checking for leaks, when he’s not retrieving residents’ boats from the multilevel boathouse. Charlotte is head of the building’s condo board, and is faced with an anonymous bid to buy the building. The many and varied residents dine together, partly fed by rooftop gardens. Young orphans Roberto and Stefan have a boat and keep getting in trouble as they explore the city, and are repeatedly rescued by financial trader Franklin. In turn, the boys rescue their friend Mr. Hexter and his precious maps from a collapsing building. Inspector Gen of the NYPD, cloud star Amelia Black, who tours the globe in her blimp, and two kidnapped coders known as Mutt and Jeff round out the varied cast of characters who at first have only the building in common. When Roberto and Stefan find sunken gold in the Bronx but need help retrieving the treasure, the residents come together to help the boys, and after a bad hurricane, use the gold to help crash and remake the city’s economic system. Quite a fun, if lengthy read, full of adventure, about a possible future city with appealing, memorable characters.

Brenda


My Name is Lucy Barton

lucy barton jacketMy 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.
Brenda


My Kitchen Year

reichl jacketMy Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

In October, 2009, Ruth, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, was shocked to learn that the publisher was ceasing publication of Gourmet, which debuted in 1941. Even though the December issue was at the printers, and three more issues were planned, no more magazines would be published. Amidst this turmoil, she still has to launch “Adventures with Ruth”, a 10-episode travel and food television show, and go on tour for the brand new Gourmet Today cookbook, which she had edited. In the year that followed, Ruth wrote copy for the Gourmet Cookie Book, and tried to reinvent herself; not easy at 61. With her husband Michael, she spent a very cold and snowy winter at their country house, and decided to sublet their NYC apartment. Used to dining out on an expense account as a food critic, Ruth now has the leisure to visit farmers’ markets and to cook seasonally. Photographs of upstate New York and many recipes add to the appeal of this gorgeous book. Laid up part of the year recovering from an injury, Ruth also begins her first novel, Delicious!, which the Tuesday evening book group is discussing on January 26 at 7:00 p.m. Next I plan to read Garlic and Sapphires, about her life as a food critic, often in disguise.

Wishing you an adventurous year of reading!

Brenda

If you’re looking for more memoirs, check out our book display called “A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels”. Here is the accompanying booklist:

A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels

028.8 San Sankovitch, Nina. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. 2011
028.9 Mil Miller, Andy. The Year of Reading Dangerously. 2014
158 Rub Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. 2009
158.1 Kir Kirshenbaum, Mira. The Gift of a Year. 2000
158.1 Kra Kravitz, Lee. Unfinished Business. 2015
277.3 She Shea, Suzanne Strempek. Sundays in America. 2008
278.95 Ros Roscher, Ellie. How Coffee Saved My Life. 2009
303.483 Bre Brende, Eric. Better Off. 2004
306.3 Bru Bruno, Dave. The 100 Thing Challenge. 2010
330.973 And Anderson, Maggie. Our Black Year. 2012
331.702 Aik Aiken, Sean. The One-Week Job Project. 2010
332.4 Wol Wolman, David. The End of Money. 2012
338.476 Cle Clemens, Paul. Punching Out. 2011
362.18 Kar Karam, J.A. Into the Breach. 2002
362.21 Vin Vincent, Norah. Voluntary Madness. 2008
365.43 Ker Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black. 2011
365.6 Smi Smith, Jeff. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison. 2015
371.1 Bro Brown, Dan. The Great Expectations School. 2007
371.1 Dan Danza, Tony. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. 2012
371.1 Foo Foote, Donna. Relentless Pursuit. 2008
382.60951 Bon Bongiorni, Sara. A Year Without “Made in China.” 2007
577.56 Hol Holmes, Hannah. Suburban Safari. 2005
595.78 Pyl Pyle, Robert Michael. Mariposa Road. 2010
598 Kau Kaufman, Kenn. Kingbird Highway. 1997
598.07 Obm Obmascik, Mark. The Big Year. 2004
598.159 Kro Kroodsma, Donald. Birdsong by the Seasons. 2009
599.773 Tha Thayer, Helen. Three Among the Wolves. 2004
610.92 Mcc McCarthy, Matt. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly. 2015
613.2 Jac Jacobs, A.J. Drop Dead Healthy. 2012
613.2 Law Lawson, Tracey. A Year in the Village of Eternity. 2011
616.83 Spe Spencer-Wendel, Susan. Until I Say Good-Bye. 2013
616.8526 Kuf Kuffel, Frances. Angry Fat Girls. 2010
616.8589 Ell Ellison, Katherine. Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention. 2010
630.092 Kim Kimball, Kristin. The Dirty Life. 2010
630.584 Cha Chaskey, Scott. This Common Ground. 2005
635 Lap Lapp, Laura. An Amish Garden. 2013
635.0484 Bro Brockman, Terra. The Seasons of Henry’s Farm. 2009
636.7 Kat Katz, Jon. A Dog Year. 2002
636.7 Mil Miles, Kathryn. Adventures with Ari. 2009
636.7527 Abr Abramson, Jill. The Puppy Diaries. 2011
640.73 Lev Levine, Judith. Not Buying It. 2006
641.013 Maj Majumdar, Simon. Eat My Globe. 2009
641.3 Gre Greenslate, Christopher. On a Dollar a Day. 2010
641.3 Kin Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. 2007
641.5 Erw Erway, Cathy. The Art of Eating In. 2010
641.5 Smi Smith, Alisa. Plenty. 2007
641.552 Mat Mather, Robin. The Feast Nearby. 2011
641.564 Rei Reichl, Ruth. My Kitchen Year. 2015
641.815 Ale Alexander, William. 52 Loaves. 2010
649.1 Wym Wyma, Kay Wills. Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. 2012
664.132 Why Whynott, Douglas. The Sugar Season. 2014
746.432 Mar Martini, Adrienne. Sweater Quest. 2010
788.9 Ree Rees, Jasper. A Devil to Play. 2008
791.43 Rub Rabin, Nathan. My Year of Flops. 2010
795.412 Hol Holden, Anthony. Bigger Deal. 2007
796.352 Fei Feinstein, John. Moment of Glory. 2010
796.357 Sha Shaugnessy, Dan. Senior Year. 2007
796.72 Bec Bechtel, Mark. He Crashed Me, So I Crashed Him Back. 2010
798.2 Hus Husher, Helen. Conversations With a Prince. 2003
798.4 Cho Chong, Kevin. My Year of the Racehorse. 2012
798.4 Smi Smiley, Jane. A Year at the Races. 2004
809 Beh Beha, Christopher. The Whole Five Feet. 2009
818.6 Lan Lancaster, Jen. The Tao of Martha. 2013
910.4 Gil Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love. 2006
956.70443 Ste Stewart, Rory. The Prince of the Marshes. 2006
974.7 Roa Roach, Margaret. And I Shall Have Some Peace There. 2011
BIO Han Hancock, Noelle. My Year with Eleanor. 2011
BIO Hel Heller, Peter. Kook. 2010
BIO Loh Loh, Sandra Tsing. The Madwoman in the Volvo. 2014
BIO Mah Mah, Ann. Mastering the Art of French Eating. 2013
BIO Okr Okrant, Robin. Living Oprah. 2008
BIO Oxe Oxenhandler, Noelle. The Wishing Year. 2008
BIO Per Perry, Michael. Coop. 2009
BIO Rhi Rhimes, Shonda. Year of Yes. 2015
BIO Wal Wallace, Danny. Friends Like These. 2009