May 2010 Reviews

Keep an eye out for these books in the upcoming months

Sunset Park Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780805092868
Availability: Special Order
Published: Henry Holt & Company - November 9th, 2010

Auster’s new book tells the story of Miles Heller who works with a clean-up crew in Florida, clearing out houses left by those who were bankrupt and foreclosed.  Heller took pictures in each house, memorializing them with his camera.  Then he met Pilar, a 16-year-old high school girl, reading the same book (The Great Gatsby) that he was reading.  They become involved, although Pilar’s older sister needs bribes to persuade her that the relationship is okay.  Then the sister turns on Heller, and he has to move to New York City.  He’s been invited to be an occupant of a deserted house, a squatter.  Auster explores a world most of us do not know.  The characters are memorable, and his novel reminds us that there are stories behind the homeless. 


A Fierce Radiance Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780061252518
Availability: Special Order
Published: Harper - June 1st, 2010

If you like novels set in academe, you’ll like this one.  Or if you just like the idea of second chances.  Joy Harkness embarks from Columbia University in New York City to Amherst College in her late 40s, more than ready to leave the city.  However, her quiet, mostly solitary life in New York City shifts to serious community connections in her new small town. She leaves behind esoteric research and plunges into a special program designed to be student-centered, led by a well-known scholar and feminist.  She gets to know the man who rehabs her Victorian house, her office-mate, and others who need her.  No, she didn’t seek them out, but they found her.  Yes, there are lots of complications.  It’s a great summer read.


Rich Boy Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780446563185
Availability: Special Order
Published: Twelve - August 1st, 2010

Pomerantz has taken on the tale of a generation in these pages of her first novel.  Robert is the first born in the Vishniak family, raised in Oxford Circle in Philadelphia, a working class neighborhood.  However, he is raised to go to college and become successful.  It’s not a straight line to the upper class by any means. His college days are confusing, and his professional life hard won, years after his graduation. The editor comments that the novel presents complicated people, and that it does.  Pomerantz takes on the Viet Nam War, and she even includes the stock market boom and bust.  The effect of the historical on Robert increases its depth.  I’ll be looking for Pomerantz’ next book.


Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9781400067381
Availability: Special Order
Published: Random House - August 10th, 2010

If you’ve had a close woman friend or a dog you really loved, this is the book for you.  It is a “memoir of a friendship,” as it says in the subtitle, and it is a memorable book.  Caldwell reminds me a little of Molly Ivins, a Texas woman, but, unlike Molly, one who moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Her close friend, Caroline, and she were both recovering alcoholics, both writers, and both devoted dog owners.  Her writing is vivid, moving, and definitely true to life.


Displaced Persons Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780061881909
Availability: Special Order
Published: William Morrow - August 1st, 2010

Schwarz tells the story of two Polish Jewish refugees who eventually escape to America.  Pavel and Fela meet accidentally in a refugee camp, but they form a bond, along with the teen-aged boy, Chaim who had helped Fela escape earlier. Pavel and Fela do not sort through their difficulties and the pain of leaving all that they knew, but they simply try to survive in Queens, N. Y.  It illuminated for me the difficulties other refugees experience—yes, it is wonderful to escape, but there are the memories, the search for acceptance, and even the search for language.  It is a moving book.


Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780307273444
Availability: Special Order
Published: Knopf - March 16th, 2010

If you have dim recollections of hearing that Twain turned nasty in his latter years, you can have those rumors confirmed in detail in this biography of Isabel Van Kleek Lyon who was that woman in the title.  The family conflicts with his daughters, as well as his conflicts with her make this book a bumpy ride.  Isabel herself is interesting.  Both she and Twain had fathers who were not successful, and they bonded on other grounds as well.  She was not perfect either, but it’s a painful story of Twain’s last ten years as well as Lyons’ relationship to him.


The Doctor and the Diva Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780670021888
Availability: Special Order
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - July 22nd, 2010

McDonnell explores many interesting themes in this novel from career vs. family to medical ethics.  The novel begins in the early 1900s in Boston, and Erika and her husband want a baby.  They’ve tried everything, they think, but they hear of Dr. Ravell who works miracles.  To complicate matters, Erika is a budding opera singer with a lot of talent who should go to Italy to study to be successful.  The most difficult decisions come with the child.  Ravell moves to South America, and Peter and Erika follow.  McDonnell describes the atmosphere of each location so vividly I could picture it in detail.  She explores contemporary problems in an earlier setting, but the problems are still with us.


The Season of Second Chances Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780805090819
Availability: Special Order
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - March 30th, 2010

If you like novels set in academe, you’ll like this one.  Or if you just like the idea of second chances.  Joy Harkness embarks from Columbia University in New York City to Amherst College in her late 40s, more than ready to leave the city.  However, her quiet, mostly solitary life in New York City shifts to serious community connections in her new small town. She leaves behind esoteric research and plunges into a special program designed to be student-centered, led by a well-known scholar and feminist.  She gets to know the man who rehabs her Victorian house, her office-mate, and others who need her.  No, she didn’t seek them out, but they found her.  Yes, there are lots of complications.  It’s a great summer read.