Book Club 2016
St Agnes Stand by Thomas Eidson (Western/Fiction) February
1858 Nat Swanson, A bullet in his leg and bone weary, flees across the New Mexico desert from a vengeful posse. in a dry riverbed, Nat spots two overturned wagons surrounded by Apaches. In a dry river bed Nat spots that looks like a lone survivor. Should he ride on and save himself, or stay and try to save the stranded woman. St Agnes, huddled between the wagons with her fellow nuns and orphans in their care, somehow knows that God will answer her prayers and send them a savior. As death shadows the dusty arroyo, the forsaken canyon becomes a place of destiny and fate.
A book about two teenagers who fall in love. But more than that, it's about feeling lost — because of bullying, because of abuse, because of race — and feeling loved. It captures the pure, visceral thrill of a high school swoon, but it never forgets that those feelings are real and important. Rowell's willingness to portray real ugliness and real pain means that when Eleanor and Park are daring to hope for something wonderful for themselves, the stakes feel enormous. It's called a young adult book, and indeed, it's a fine thing to give a sensitive kid. But there's nothing unsophisticated or less than serious about this empathetic, beautifully rendered novel.
Poets Month April
Bring in Poets that you love, poems that have inspired you, try something new and share it with the book club.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Historical Fiction) May
Forced into an overcrowded lifeboat after a mysterious explosion on their trans-Atlantic ocean liner, newly widowed Grace Winter battles the elements and the other survivors, and remembers her husband, Henry, who set his own safety aside to ensure Grace's.
The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli Taraghi (Short Stories) June
I have met the pomegranate lady, and you may have as well. If you've ever made a disarmingly intimate connection with a stranger while traveling, you've had the experience. Connections and dislocations drive the characters in these stories: dislocations of place -- exiles who end up in Paris, but never really leave Iran behind, and dislocations of time -- elites who preserve a bubble of the "old," secular, drinking, partying Iran -- upon which modern, revolutionary Iran intrudes, with tragic-comedic results. Constantly moving between cultures is not easy on these individuals -- but perhaps because of that, it reveals so much raw humanity, both cruelty and compassion.
The Farm By Tom Rob Smith (Mystery Thriller) July
British author Tom Rob Smith is a thriller writer, but of the literary, fiercely smart variety. Here, he found inspiration in real life — his life. In 2009, Smith received a startling phone call from his father in Sweden, where his parents had retired to a small, remote farm. His father said he had put his wife, Smith's mother, in a psychiatric hospital. Smith's mother called soon after, saying that his father was lying and was involved in a criminal conspiracy. She would fly back to London to tell her son everything. Which parent to believe? He had no cause to doubt either, and his mother had never shown any sign of mental illness before. From this beginning, Smith spins a novel of doubt and secrets set in a bleak yet beautiful Swedish landscape.
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Journal style Fiction) August
If you're a fan of intelligent, complex and gorgeously written fiction (the sort that Iris Murdoch wrote), you won't want to miss this tale of artist Harriet Burden, who — tired of having her work ignored or belittled by critics — asks three men to show her pieces as their own. Written as a collection of texts from and interviews of a wide cast of characters, including critics, family members and Harriet herself (we read her journals), this novel offers much food for thought and sentence after sentence that you'll want to savor.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Debut Novel) September
The lives of the Shepherd family -- two parents and nine children, each drawn with tenderness and complexity. Hattie and August move to Philadelphia from Georgia in 1923, during the Great Migration of African-Americans. The characters face gritty realities, but the author crafts their stories with pitch-perfect authority and grace. Her language manages to be both luminously metaphorical and down to earth.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Fiction Family Matters/Society) October
A compact, propulsive morality tale about a professional in crisis mode. Fifty-nine-year-old Fiona Maye, a family High Court judge, struggles simultaneously with her husband's determination to swing for a last passionate fling with a much younger woman, and a gnarly case involving the right of a remarkable, not-quite-18-year-old Jehovah's Witness to refuse a lifesaving blood transfusion on religious grounds. Rational Fiona, upset by her marital rift, is unmoored by an onslaught of bewildering emotions. The Children Act raises intriguing questions about both religious and romantic devotion, legality versus morality, and where professional responsibilities end and personal ones begin.
H Is For Hawk By Helen MacDonald (NonFiction) November
An experienced falconer grieving the sudden death of her father recounts how she endeavored to train a dangerous goshawk predator as part of her personal recovery.
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder (Philosophical Fiction) December
One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, with one question on each: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” From that irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through those letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while receiving letters addressed to another girl. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up? To unravel this riddle, Sophie must use the philosophy she is learning—but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.