Set in early-twentieth-century New York, this novel is about the first person in America identified as a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever. We know her as “Typhoid Mary.” Her real name is Mary Mallon. Mary emigrated from Ireland as a teenager and worked her way up the domestic ladder, through toil and talent, to cook for many wealthy New York families. Mary was initially unaware that she caused her employers and their children to become ill and die. However, when she is told that she is a carrier and sent to North Brother Island to be kept in isolation, she can no longer deny this fact. Or can she? This novel reads like a medical mystery, and it is fascinating both in terms of medical advances as well as medical ethics. It is also a psychological study of one woman who was unwilling to change her life, even if it meant saving others. I highly recommend this story.
Amidst all the Jane Austen and Downton Abbey mania, this artfully crafted novel about the servants living behind the scenes of the Pride and Prejudice Bennett household stands out. Passed over in the original telling, servants Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, Polly and mysterious newcomer James are given the spotlight and their seemingly simple lives unfold into a compelling emotional complexity.
While watching the Bennett sisters navigate their own love lives, Sarah tries to interpret her own feelings about James, the first man that has ever made her think about life beyond service. His unexplained past, however, weighs heavily on Sarah and the rest of the servants. With the well-known plot of Pride and Prejudice functioning only as a subtle backdrop, this novel and the great love story it weaves rivals that of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.
Alice Munro, the renowned Canadian writer of 14 short story collections, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, October 10, 2013. Some of her titles are:
Dear Life, Too Much Happiness, Runaway, The View from Castle Rock, The Love of a Good Woman, and Carried Away.
Read more about Alice Munro here.
Read about the other 2013 Nobel Prize winners here.
Check our catalog for more titles by Alice Munro...
Jamie Ford, author of the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, again writes about Seattle, but this time with Chinese American characters and set during the Great Depression and the 1920s. Twelve-year-old William Eng has lived in an orphanage for five years after his mother was deemed unable to care for him. William spends his days dreaming about his mother returning for him one day. That is, until the orphans are taken on a rare outing to a movie theater and William sees up on the screen a woman he believes to be his mother. Determined to find her, William escapes from the orphanage with his friend Charlotte and thus his adventures begin. Ford’s new novel is as wonderful as the first. You will be swept away to another time and place.
The Rathbone family made a vast fortune in whaling, exchanging barrel after barrel of sperm whale oil for gold. But by the 1850s when this story opens, the Rathbones’ almost preternatural understanding of the sea has been lost, the family’s dark vigor has paled, and the whales themselves are now nearly gone. Their big house is now nearly empty, containing only fifteen-year-old Mercy, her mother Verity and two silent uncles, and Mercy’s cousin Mordecai. Mercy’s father, also a whaler, has been gone for nearly ten years, having taken her twin brother along with him. Her brother, whom no one but Mercy will admit ever existed. When Mercy spies upon her mother and a mysterious man in a blue jacket one evening, she winds up fleeing Rathbone House with Mordecai and finds herself launched upon a nearly-epic odyssey around the waters off the coast of Connecticut in search of the truth about her family’s history, her father’s disappearance, and to Mercy’s mind the most important thing of all, her brother’s whereabouts.
The story of Mercy’s odyssey, which bears a strong resemblance to Homer’s Odyssey, is interspersed with stories from her family’s past as she begins to piece together the entire long, somewhat sordid tale of the Rathbones’ origins and downfall. A compelling story, with vivid, beatifully-constructed sentences and an almost mythic feel, this is a captivating novel.
Nora Fischer is a literature doctorate student whose life is going nowhere fast. Dumped by her long-time boyfriend and with her disseration stalled, she leaps at the chance to escape from it all and head out of town for a friend’s wedding. But when she decides to take a long walk up the side of a wooded mountain and discovers first an old cemetary and then the mansion of a glamorous, oddly generous woman, her life changes forever. The woman, and the house, are not what they seem. Faerie creatures of a sort, they begin enchanting Nora by degrees, layering spell after spell upon her to confuse her and draw her away from the human world so that she might make a compliant wife for the queen’s only son. Rescued at last by a human magician, Aruendiel, Nora has still not been returned to her own world, but to another, parallel, in which magic functions. Dismayed by this place’s, to Nora’s mind, backward ideas about a woman’s proper place, she refuses to abide by them and begins tutelage in magic herself under Aruendiel’s stern and uncompromising hand, all the while finding herself growing closer and closer to the moody, scarred magician despite his checkered past.
A light fantasy which plays gently with genre conventions and includes a pleasantly stubborn and intelligent heroine, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic should appeal to fans of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.
After a short break, Readers' Round Table is back! This past meeting, participants enjoyed a lively discussion, sharing their favorites and what they have been reading recently. Please join us for the next discussion on Tuesday, October 29th at 2pm in the Meeting Room. All are welcome!
Titles that were buzzed about:
Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
The Mask Carver’s Son by Alyson Richman
The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott
The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In One Person by John Irving
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Hanna and Walter: A Love Story by Julie Kohner
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Does literary talent run in families? It often seems so! There are not only quite a few famous author couples, but there are also famous authors who are the children of famous authors. Since they don't always use the same last name, it can be hard to pin down just who is related to whom, but if you're interested, we've compiled a little list for your perusal. It might be interesting to read their books in pairs and see if the style compares at all, or if they are completely different.
Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer
Paul Auster is married to Siri Hustvedt
Pat Conroy is married to Cassandra King
Geraldine Brooks is married to Tony Horwitz
Harold Pinter is marred to Antonia Fraser
Michael Chabon is married to Ayelet Waldman
Jesse Kellerman is the son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman (all three are mystery authors!)
Joe Hill is the son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King
Dave Eggers is married to Vendela Vida
Nick Harkaway is the son of John Le Carre
Susan Cheever is the daughter of John Cheever
A.S. Byatt is the sister of Margaret Drabble
Sophie Dahl is the daughter of Roald Dahl
Half-Japanese Yumi (Yummy) Fuller ran away from her home in rural Liberty Falls, Idaho, at the tender age of 14 after having an affair with her history teacher, Elliot Rhodes. She’s not been home in 25 years. But when her girlhood best friend, Cassie, manages to track Yummy down in Hawaii to tell her that her father Lloyd is slowly dying and her mother Momoko has Alzheimer’s, Yummy reluctantly returns home with her three children—from three different fathers—in tow. Her visit coincides with the arrival of a group of anti-biotech, anti-GMO activists calling themselves the Seeds of Resistance. The Seeds were drawn to Liberty Falls by Lloyd and Momoko’s thriving heirloom seed-selling business and seemingly compatible ideals about natural foods. The leader of the Seeds, a former nurse, begins taking better care of Lloyd than Yummy herself was able to, and the already huge gap between father and daughter only widens. And when Elliot Rhodes himself, now working for a GMO company’s PR firm, rolls back into Liberty Falls to keep an eye on the Seeds and their protests, any already tense situation can only become explosive.
A vibrantly told tale that manages to gracefully interweave all the complexities of love and family relationships with the complexities of the bio-tech and its implications for biodiversity, economics, and human health while doing justice to both, All Over Creation is both touching and thought-provoking.
Eleven-year-old Luz Castillo is a ward of the state. Her father has been arrested, her mother is missing, and her older sister Estrella lies in a hospital bed, probably dying. Luz, willful or damaged or both, refuses to speak to authorities and will not even engage with her mother’s sister on her rare visits to the facility. Instead, the child has begun keeping a secret diary addressed directly to God. Each entry is inspired by the imagery on a single card in the Loteria deck she has with her. Loteria is a Mexican game which is similar to bingo, but which uses vibrant pictures and rhymed riddles instead of numbers and letters. These images and riddles inspire Luz’s own vibrantly drawn diary entries, each a sketch in miniature of a family in the processes of complete dissolution or dysfunction. As she progresses through the deck, the full picture of just how and why Luz has come to this place emerges from out of the mosaic of individual parts.
Simultaneously vibrant and spare, engaging and heartbreaking, Loteria is a well-written and fascinatingly-structured tale of love, family, and, ultimately, the darkness that can lie at the heart of even seemingly happy families.