Sunday, September 26, 2010
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.
Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
About Ape House:
Gruen enjoys minimal luck in trying to recapture the magic of her enormously successful Water for Elephants in this clumsy outing that begins with the bombing of the Great Ape Language Lab, a university research center dedicated to the study of the communicative behavior of bonobo apes. The blast, which terrorizes the apes and severely injures scientist Isabel Duncan, occurs one day after Philadelphia Inquirer reporter John Thigpen visits the lab and speaks to the bonobos, who answer his questions in sign language. After a series of personal setbacks, Thigpen pursues the story of the apes and the explosions for a Los Angeles tabloid, encountering green-haired vegan protesters and taking in a burned-out meth lab's guard dog. Meanwhile, as Isabel recovers from her injuries, the bonobos are sold and moved to New Mexico, where they become a media sensation as the stars of a reality TV show. Unfortunately, the best characters in this overwrought novel don't have the power of speech, and while Thigpen is mildly amusing, Isabel is mostly inert. In Elephants, Gruen used the human-animal connection to conjure bigger themes; this is essentially an overblown story about people and animals, with explosions added for effect.
From the author's website:
In a dreary seaside town in England, Annie loves Duncan—or thinks she does, because she always has. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t anymore. So Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.
She sparks an e-mail correspondence with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanesque singer-songwriter who stopped making music twenty-two years ago, and who is also Duncan’s greatest obsession. A surprising connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional, familial, and artistic ruin—his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the material he’s about to release to the world, an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet, titled Juliet, Naked. And he’s just been summoned across the Atlantic with Jackson to face his multitude of ex-wives and children (both just discovered and formerly neglected), in the same country where his intriguing new Internet friend resides.
What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Foden emerged as a formidable storyteller with The Last King of Scotland, and now he tackles WWII and the beaches at Normandy from an unforeseen perspective: that of Henry Meadows, a Cambridge-educated meteorologist tasked with befriending the reclusive meteorological genius and conscientious objector Wallace Ryman and learning the secrets of the mysterious Ryman number for the Allies, who hope to use it to forecast the perfect moment to launch the D-Day offensive. Questions of turbulence abound as Meadows carries out his scientific reconnaissance amid fascinatingly sketched characters like prescient scientists Brecher and Pyke, Ryman's scheming wife, and the enigmatic Ryman himself, but it is the meticulous fusion of science and military history that dazzles, coming off like an exhilarating fusion of Richard Powers and John le Carré. As the deadline mounts and Ryman takes matters into his own hands, the quickly accelerating plot threatens to overwhelm both the book's methodical pace and the occasionally glutted cast of characters—but, by then, Foden's point, that certainty and probability are values batted about like balloons in the atmosphere, has pierced its target.
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
Over the past twenty-five years, New Stories from the South has published the work of now well-known writers, including James Lee Burke, Andre Dubus, Barbara Kingsolver, John Sayles, Joshua Ferris, and Abraham Verghese and nurtured the talents of many others, including Larry Brown, Jill McCorkle, Brock Clarke, Lee Smith, and Daniel Wallace. This twenty-fifth volume reachs out beyond the South to one of the most acclaimed short story writers of our day. Guest editor Amy Hempel admits, -I-ve always had an affinity for writers from the South,- and in her choices, she-s identified the most inventive, heartbreaking, and chilling stories being written by Southerners all across the country. From the famous (Rick Bass, Wendell Berry, Elizabeth Spencer, Wells Tower, Padgett Powell, Dorothy Allison, Brad Watson) to the finest new talents, Amy Hempel has selected twenty-five of the best, most arresting stories of the past year. The 2010 collection is proof of the enduring vitality of the short form and the vigor of this ever-changing yet time-honored series.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
It is 1989, and all over Europe Communism is crumbling. Arvid Jansen, 37, is in the throes of a divorce. At the same time, his mother is diagnosed with cancer. Over a few intense autumn days, we follow Arvid as he struggles to find a new footing in his life, while all the established patterns around him are changing at a staggering speed. As he struggles to negotiate the present, he casts his mind back to the holidays on the beach with his brothers, to courtship, and to his early working life, when as a young Communist he abandoned his studies to work on a production line.
I Curse the River of Time is an honest, heartbreaking yet humorous portrayal of a complicated mother-son relationship told in Petterson’s precise and beautiful prose.
Monday, September 13, 2010
From the author's website:
A missing canister of a deadly virus. A lab technician bleeding from the eyes. Toni Gallo, the security director of a Scottish medical research firm, knows she has problems, but she has no idea of the nightmare to come.
As a Christmas Eve blizzard whips out of the north, several people converge on a remote family house. Stanley Oxenford, the research company’s director, has everything riding on the drug he is developing to fight the virus – but he isn’t the only one: His grown children, who have come to spend Christmas, have their eyes on the money it will bring.
Toni Gallo, forced to resign from the police department in disgrace, is betting her career on keeping the drug safe; a local television reporter, determined to move up, has sniffed the story, even if he has to bend the facts to tell it; and a violent trio of thugs is on its way to steal it for a client already waiting – though what the client really has in mind is something that will shock them all.
As the storm worsens, the emotional sparks – jealousies, distrust, sexual attraction, rivalries – crackle; desperate secrets are revealed; hidden traitors and unexpected heroes emerge...
Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges—the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.
Setting in motion the novel’s chain of life-altering passions and the wartime perfidy at its core is the arrival of the German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents—including a German U-boat’s sinking of the Nova Scotia–Newfoundland ferry Caribou, on which Aunt Constance Hillyer might or might not be traveling—lend intense narrative power to Norman’s uncannily layered story.
Wyatt’s account of the astonishing—not least to him— events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. It’s a confession that speaks profoundly of the mysteries of human character in wartime and is directed, with both despair and hope, to an audience of one.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she's been held for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for her son. But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's desperation—and she knows Room cannot contain either indefinitely... Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
About the book:
Patrick Hennessey is a graduate in his 20s. He reads Graham Greene, listens to early-90s house on his iPod and watches Vietnam movies. He has also, as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, fought in some of the most violent combat the British army has seen in a generation.
This is the story of how a modern soldier is made, from the testosterone-heavy breeding ground of Sandhurst to the nightmare of Iraq and Afghanistan. Showing war in all its terror, boredom and exhilaration, The Junior Officers' Reading Club is already being hailed as a modern classic.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
About The Wishing Trees:
Almost a year after the death of his wife, Kate, Ian finds a letter that will change his life. It contains Kate’s final wish—a plea for him to take their ten-year-old daughter, Mattie, on a trip across Asia, through all the countries they had planned to visit to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Along the way, Ian and Mattie leave paper “wishes” in ancient trees as symbols of their connection to Kate and their dreams for the future. The Wishing Trees is an affecting and sensitively rendered study of grief and loss.
Monday, September 6, 2010
About the book:
In Let’s Take the Long Walk Home, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gail Caldwell has written a powerful and moving memoir about her coming-of-age in mid-life, and her extraordinary friendship with the author of Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp—fellow writers, AA members, dog lovers, and observers of life.