Scoville Memorial Library - Saturday Book Club
September 2014 through June 2015
This group, open to all, meets at 4:00 in the Wardell Community Room, unless otherwise noted.
Transatlantic by Colum McCann
Leader: Anne Kremer & Claudia Cayne
British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, from Newfoundland to Ireland. McCann imagines a letter handed to Brown by a young photographer, written by her mother, Emily, a local reporter covering the flight, to be delivered upon their landing to a family in Cork. Years earlier, while on a speaking tour in Ireland with the mission to raise money for the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass forms a bond with young Isabel, the daughter of his host family in Cork. Lily, a young servant, emboldened by Douglass’ visit, sets out for America, in the hope of a better life. It is Lily and her offspring’s stories—set across different times and in many different places—that ultimately tie everything together, as McCann creates complex, vivid characters while expertly mixing fact and fancy to create this emotionally involving and eminently memorable novel.
12 Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Leader: Barbara Roth
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation's tumultuous journey.
Harvest by Jim Crace
Leader: Claudia Cayne
On the morning after harvest, the inhabitants of a remote English village awaken looking forward to a hard-earned day of rest and feasting at their landowner's table. But the sky is marred by two conspicuous columns of smoke, replacing pleasurable anticipation with alarm and suspicion. In effortless and tender prose, Jim Crace details the unraveling of a pastoral idyll in the wake of economic progress. His tale is timeless and unsettling, framed by a beautifully evoked world that will linger in your memory long after you finish reading.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.
Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson
Leader: Anne Kremer
Financier Anders Hill seems to have it all: he’s ensconced in a beautiful house in a wealthy Connecticut suburb, his children’s college tuition has finally been paid, and he can now retire, freed from the weight of a soul-sucking job. But what he seems to want most is to blow up his entire life. He divorces his wife, buys a condo, and decides to attend the annual Christmas party of his old neighbors, where, surrounded by his ex-wife’s close friends, he unravels in spectacularly hilarious fashion, fueled mostly by vitriol and partly by the PCP he’s smoked with his neighbors’ teenage son. By the time Anders realizes that he might have made an error in judgment, his ex-wife has taken up with an old boyfriend and his sons are entirely out of patience with dear old dad. How Anders forges his path to redemption, for both personal and professional sins, is not to be missed. With pitch-perfect prose and endearingly melancholy characters, Thompson offers up a heartbreaking vision of an ailing family and country.
Someone by Alice Mcdermott
In this deceptively simple tour de force, McDermott lays bare the keenly observed life of Marie Commeford, an ordinary woman whose compromised eyesight makes her both figuratively and literally unable to see the world for what it is. We follow Marie through the milestones of her life, shadowed by her elder brother, Gabe, who mysteriously leaves the priesthood for which everyone thought he was destined. The story of Marie's life unfolds in a nonlinear fashion: McDermott describes the loss of Marie's father, her first experience with intimacy, her first job (in a funeral parlor of all places), her marriage, the birth of a child. We come to feel for this unremarkable woman, whose vulnerability makes her all the more winning—and makes her worthy of our attention.
Claire of the Sealight by Edwidge Danticat
In interlocking stories moving back and forth in time, Danticat weaves a beautifully rendered portrait of longing in the small fishing town of Ville Rose in Haiti. Seven-year-old Claire Faustin’s mother died giving birth to her. Each year, her father, Nozias, feels the wrenching need to earn more money than poor Ville Rose can provide and to find someone to care for Claire. Gaelle Lavaud, a fabric shop owner, is a possible mother for the orphaned child, but she is haunted by her own tragic losses. Bernard, who longs to be a journalist and create a radio show that reflects the gang violence of his neighborhood, is caught in the violence himself. Max Junior returns from Miami on a surreptitious mission to visit the girl he impregnated and left years ago and to remember an unrequited love. Louise George, the raspy voice behind a gossipy radio program, is having an affair with Max Senior, head of the local school, and teaches the ethereally beautiful Claire. Their stories and their lives flow beautifully one into another, all rendered in the luminous prose for which Danticat is known.
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengetsu
Idealism, disillusionment, justice and love--these are the topics beautifully explored in this novel. A young African man called Isaac has come to the Midwestern United States, where he embarks on a relationship with Helen, a social worker, who, for all her heart and intelligence, has trouble understanding him. Part illusion, part product of the revolutionary past in his own country, Isaac purposely makes himself unknowable. Who is Isaac (nicknamed “Dickens” by some, for his love of the writer) now? And who was he as a student in Ethiopia? Do names and times even matter? Mengestu’s novel is about a young man coming to terms with his past and trying to determine his future. But it’s also a searing, universal story of emigration and identity.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Leader: Barbara Roth
As a girl in Indiana, Rosemary, Fowler’s breathtakingly droll 22-year-old narrator, felt that she and Fern were not only sisters but also twins. So she was devastated when Fern disappeared. Then her older brother, Lowell, also vanished. Enter tempestuous and sexy Harlow, a very dangerous friend who forces Rosemary to confront her past. We then learn that Rosemary’s father is a psychology professor, her mother a nonpracticing scientist, and Fern a chimpanzee. Fern, Rosemary, and Lowell all end up traumatized after they are abruptly separated. Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions—Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel.
We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo
In Bulawayo’s engaging novel, 10-year-old Darling describes, first, her life in Zimbabwe during its so-called Lost Decade and then her life as a teenager in present-day America. What is at once delightful and disturbing is the fact that young Darling and her friends are so resilient amidst chaos. Darling must cope with absentee parents gone to who-knows-where, seeking jobs and a better life; abusive adults; and murdering bands of self-appointed police in a country gone horribly wrong. Yet she evinces a sense of chauvinism regarding her corrupt homeland when she joins her aunt in America. There she discovers a country that has fallen into a different kind of chaos, primarily economic. She and her new family struggle while America fails to live up to her hopes. Ultimately what lingers is Bulawayo’s poignant insights into how a person decides what to embrace and what to surrender when adapting to a new culture in a new land.
Scoville Memorial Library
38 Main Street, Salisbury, CT