(Staff Favorites) Anita’s Picks
A LONG PETAL TO THE SEA
Not since The House Of The Spirits have I been so moved by Isabel Allende’s storytelling. This magnificent historical novel begins with the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. The reader follows army doctor Victor Dalmau, and his pregnant sister-in-law, Roser, as they flee the Fascist regime of General Franco. They rebuild their lives in Chile, only to have to face another dictatorship under Pinochet. But more than the atrocities of war and the difficulties of survival, this story is about hope, family and love. A masterpiece with a timely look at the immigrant experience.
A disturbing, yet beautifully written book by one of our country’s leading environmentalists. From climate change…to genetic engineering…to artificial intelligence…McKibben addresses a range of problems facing the world. This is a levelheaded, well-researched book about where we are headed and what steps might still be taken to avoid the demise of humanity. Very powerful, and deeply moving.
Karen Thompson Walker
This beautiful and haunting story captures the reader’s attention from the very beginning. In a small college town in Southern California, first one girl succumbs to a deep sleep from which she cannot be awakened. This sleeping sickness starts to rapidly spread throughout the college community and beyond. And the victims all exhibit extremely lively brain activity, indicating a heightened dream state. In fact, Walker magnificently explores the mysterious nature of dreams as opposed to “reality”. We witness how a variety of different people react to and cope with the terrifying situation. A fascinating and thought-provoking novel. I couldn’t put it down!
EDGAR AND LUCY
From the very first pages, young Edgar captures the reader’s heart. He is so fragile and so vulnerable. While his bond with his grandmother is strong and loving, his relationship to his mother, Lucy, is distant and complicated. And with a father long dead and gone due to curious, unspeakable circumstances, Grandmother Florence is Edgar’s lifeline. When she dies, he finds himself gravitating toward another pair of welcoming arms–those of the man in the green truck. A troublesome entanglement ensues, and lives are shattered and rebuilt. The story brutally, yet tenderly, examines the ties, and lies and secrets between parents, children, lovers and the lonely. This is an absolutely beautifully written and compelling novel.
The unnamed protagonist in this sparse but beautiful novel is secretly separated from her philandering husband, So when her husband goes missing in Greece, she is expected to track him down–like any loving wife would do. Add a domineering and opinionated mother-in-law, and the situation becomes even more complex. Her various emotions and inner dilemas surface, leaving her unsure of her role in this unfolding drama. Simple, deep and moving.
When Pavla is born a dwarf, she is initially despised by her elderly mother. But this beautiful child ultimately wins the hearts of her parents, who eventually take her to a quack doctor in their misguided attempts to “fix” their beloved daughter. What transpires is part fairy tale, part love story…a magical tale where things are not always as they appear to be, and the line between human and animal forms are fluid and metaphoric. An extraordinary novel!
HOW TO BE A HEROINE
As big girls it’s easy to recall the novels that moved us as little girls, and the heroines we tried to emulate. Samantha Ellis,and Iraqi-Jew growing u in London, revisits some of her favorite heroines, often to discover how her views have evolved or changed. Only as an adult can she recognize the moralizing in Little Women, and the strength of Melanie in Gone With the Wind. As she ties her new found wisdom to events in her own life, she realizes how many of her heroines were commended for being weak women, rather than strong and independent. Some heroines do, however, stand the test of time! It’s fun and interesting to think about the wonderful classics mentioned in this book, and remember the strong emotional ties we all have to books that we read as children and young adults.
GOLD FAME CITRUS
Claire Vaye Watkins
This intriguing novel takes place in the near future…a future in which California has become an arid desert totally devoid of water. The borders of the state have been blocked,and survivors like Luz and Ray must get by under devastating conditions. When they happen upon a mysterious child, the three become a family, as they attempt to cross the “dune sea.” But other colonies of survivors are rumored to exist at the foot of the dune. Watkins has written a moving and disturbing novels that gives the reader much food–if not water–for thought.
This beautifully written novel centers around a family drama that is both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Charles Marlow, a highschool teacher, struggles to connect with his current, “split-apart”family, as the trauma of his childhood also unfolds. There is a cast of extremely interesting characters in addition to the main protagonist: Cody (autistic son), Alison (divorced wife). Sister Giorgia (an Italian nun with dementia), and Dana (childhood friend). Kallos has created an exquisite story centered around alienation and letting go. And all this exists under the umbrella of handwriting…yes, you read correctly…handwriting. The flowing and graceful penmanship of the Palmer Method is a central theme in the book, and will make you yearn for the solace and beauty of this lost art. A wonderful book with a fascinating twist at the end.
THE SNOW CHILD
A beautifully told tale of an older couple trying to homestead in Alaska during the early 1900s. As the burdens of their lives weigh heavily upon them, they are suddenly transformed by the appearance of a little girl running through the snow-covered woods. How is this child surviving? Life in Alaska is magnificently depicted in this haunting and magical story.
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING
When sixteen-year-old Nao decides to take her own life, she first commits to telling the story of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Nao’s diary travels across the Pacific from tokyo, and is washed ashore on a remote Canadian island. The diary, along with some mysterious letters, are found by a novelist, Ruth, who gets swept up in Nao’s story. This exquisitely told tale ties together the past and the present, with intrigue, pathos and humor.
Another masterpiece by Jumpha Lahiri. She tells a powerful story involving two brothers, their families, their deep secrets, and–one of Lahiri’s favorite topics–the immigrant experience. This riveting novel has already been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. A brilliant novel by an extremely gifted writer.