Great Reads

Umrigar, Thrity. The Weight of Heaven

Each of us copes with loss in a different way. For Frank and Ellie Benton the sorrow is huge, occasioned by the death of their young son, Benny. As their marriage falters in the wake of the tragedy, Frank accepts a job offer in India, hoping that the change of scene will heal them. Once there the two face new challenges as Frank’s company deals with labor unrest, and Frank forms a strong but problematic attachment to Ramesh, his cook’s young son.

Soon Frank and Ellie have become surrogate parents to the boy, offering him everything from help with homework to weekend trips his parents could never afford. While Ellie is uneasy about Frank’s fierce attachment to the boy, she is also reluctant to deprive him of the joy the relationship brings. As Umrigar says, a happy family is but an “earlier heaven.”

As Frank seeks to recreate his earlier fatherhood through Ramesh, the villagers cope with losses of their own. Frank’s company, Herbal Solutions, has blocked their access to the medicinal trees many use to earn their living. And, through her work at a local clinic, Ellie becomes increasingly aware of the hardships these families face.

Umrigar deftly sketches in the characters’ past—their courtship and the tragedy that defines them as a couple—while exploring the personal and political ethics of their current situation. Umrigar’s characters are carefully developed, and they face fascinating moral dilemmas. The paths they take as they negotiate these obstacles keep the plot twisting and turning right up until the final, dark resolution. 

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Teen/Adult Summer Reading Week Four: Resident Evil

Sometimes it's hard to determine just who the zombies are. This week's challenge is to read a book about a disfunctional character or family.  As always, we're giving you some suggestions to get you started.

Keep your enemies close!


Bartok, Mira. The Memory Palace. (B B288)

Berg, Elizabeth. The Art of Mending. (F)

Cadwalladr, Carole. The Family Tree. (F)

Hopkins, Ellen. Burned. (F)

Karr, Mary. The Liars’ Club. (B K 183)

McMillan, Terry. A Day Late and a Dollar Short. (F)

Meyers, Randy Susan. The Murderer’s Daughters. (F)

Tropper, Jonathan. This Is Where I Leave You. (F)


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Russell, Karen. Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! is a somewhat shabby tourist attraction tucked into the depths of the Everglades. Run by the Bigtree clan, it features alligator wrestling and similar performances.  When Hilola Bigtree, the park’s star attraction, dies, it leaves both the park and her family unmoored.  The attraction is failing, and Chief Bigtree—never the strongest business man around—leaves on a trip to the mainland to drum up money to purchase a new breed of alligator for the park. This leaves the three Bigtree children, son Kiwi and daughters Osceola and Ava, alone on their island.  Kiwi, fancying himself smarter and more capable than his father the Chief, leaves as well, only to end up working a dehumanizing minimum-wage job at World of Darkness, a Hell-themed amusement park and Swamplandia’s mainland competitor. This leaves young Ava alone with her increasingly unstable older sister. Ossie has retreated into old-fashioned Victorian spiritualism and believes herself to be in love with the ghost of an Everglades dredgeman. When Ossie, too, vanishes…heading into the swamp to join her lover in the underworld…Ava takes it upon herself to rescue her from death.

Quirky and fanciful, yet always deeply grounded in believable emotion and realistic motivations, Russell’s imaginative first novel is difficult to categorize but impossible to put down. 

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Pickard, Nancy. The Scent of Rain and Lightning

With a western flavor, Pickard’s novel starts with the news that a locally infamous convicted killer has been released from prison. The orphan of his alleged victims, Jody, still lives in the town and has grown up in the shadow of her father’s murder and her mother’s disappearance.  Pickard takes us back to the time of the murder and as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that more than one person doubts that the truth has ever been told or that justice has been done.  Jody wants nothing more than retribution, and in her mind, it’s the lifetime incarceration of the man returning to town. Jody’s powerful family is behind her, but is it strong enough to withstand the truth?  With plot twists to keep you guessing, this highly recommended novel is a gripping tale of small-town mystery and revenge.  

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Teen/Adult Summer Reading Week Three: Shaun of the Dead

I'll be the first to admit that we sometimes get a little silly with our themes.  Still, we hope you have as much fun with them as we do.  This week's challenge is to read a book by an author named Shaun--however you choose to spell it.  As always, we've given you some choices to pick from.

Shaun, Shawn, or Sean?


Chercover, Sean. Big City, Bad Blood (MYS)

Connery, Sean. Being a Scot (941.1 C752)

Doolittle, Sean. Safer (F)

Greer, Andrew Sean. The Story of a Marriage (F)

Hutchinson, Shaun David. Deathday Letter (Browsing Teen)

Klomparens, Shawn. Jessica Z (F)

Shiflett, Shawn. Hidden Place (F)

Stewart, Sean. Galveston (F)


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