YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Book Quote:

“If a woman chooses the wrong person, he was always going to be the wrong person: that was all.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (MAR 18, 2014)

Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel of domestic angst, You Should Have Known, is the story of Grace Reinhart Sachs. She is a therapist who, for fifteen years, has specialized in helping couples mend or sever their relationships as painlessly as possible. In addition, Grace’s publicist has arranged interviews and television appearances to stimulate interest in Grace’s forthcoming work of non-fiction. It cautions women to be on the lookout for warning signs that should give them pause before they invest time, energy, and emotional resources in a serious relationship. Her message is that when women fall in love, they are sometimes dazzled by what they perceive as instant chemistry. Consequently, they may not pay close attention to their partners’ flaws; only when it is too late do they realize that should have been more circumspect. Read the rest of this post »

March 18, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, New York City

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter

Book Quote:

After she disappeared inside the hotel, Pasquale entertained the unwieldy thought that he’d somehow summoned her, that after years of living in this place, after months of grief and loneliness and waiting for Americans, he’d created this woman from old bits of cinema and books, from the lost artifacts and ruins of his dreams, from his epic, enduring solitude.

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn  (MAR 16, 2014)

After looking up various images of the 1963 movie Cleopatra, the film that critically bombed but was lit up by the scandal of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I saw a coastline of Italy that looked exactly like the cover of this book. It is a most felicitous cover that captures the mood and time that this novel begins, in 1962. A parochial innkeeper, Pasquali Tursi, lives in a rocky coastline village called Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame), a place the size of a thumb between two mountains, and referred to as “the whore’s crack.”

One day, Pasquali is stunned by the vision of a young, striking, blonde American actress, Dee Moray and baffled as to why she is staying at his inn. Read the rest of this post »

March 16, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Facing History, italy, Literary, US Northwest, World Lit

AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Quote:

And she had ignored, too, the cement in her soul. Her blog was doing well, with thousands of unique visitors each month, and she was earning good speaking fees, and she had a fellowship at Princeton and a relationship with Blaine—“ You are the absolute love of my life,” he’d written in her last birthday card— and yet there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, a bleakness and borderlessness. It brought with it amorphous longings, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (MAR 15, 2014)

Americanah is a wonderful epic saga of love, hair, blogs, racism in America, and life in Nigeria. It takes place over a period of about 15 years and is primarily about a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu and her first love, Obinze. The meaning of the word Americanah is a person who returns to Nigeria after spending time abroad.

The main part of the story takes place in a hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey. Ifemelu is on a fellowship at Princeton and the nearest place to get weaves is in Trenton. As she is getting her hair done she goes back in time and the reader gets filled in with her life story. Read the rest of this post »

March 15, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Theme driven, Unique Narrative, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

ALL OUR NAMES by Dinaw Mengestu

Book Quote:

“I had thirteen names. Each name was from a different generation, beginning with Father and going back from him. I was the first one in our village to have thirteen names. Our family was considered blessed to have such a history.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn  (MAR 13, 2014)

Mengestu’s third book—another about the immigrant experience—is his most accomplished and soulful, in my opinion. He returns again to the pain of exile and the quest for identity, as well as the need for a foreigner from a poor and developing country to reinvent himself. In addition, he alternates the landscape of post-colonial Uganda with the racially tense Midwest of the 1970s, and demonstrates that the feeling of exile can also exist in an American living in her own hometown. The cultural contrast of both countries, with a narrative that alternates back and forth, intensifies the sense of tenuous hope mixed with shattered illusions.

“I gave up all the names my parents gave me,” says the young African man, who moves to Kampala in order to be around literary university students. Read the rest of this post »

March 13, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

REDEMPTION MOUNTAIN by Gerry FitzGerald

Book Quote:

There’s a lot of heartache in these mountains, that’s what my grandma Alice always says.

Book Review:

Review by Jana L. Perskie (MAR 12, 2014)

The setting for Redemption Mountain is located in Red Bone, West Virginia, in the Appalachian region of the Southern United States. Ranked by median income, it is the poorest state in the union except for Mississippi. The major resource in West Virginia’s economy is coal and the state is a top coal-producer in this country, second only to Wyoming.

From the beginning, in 1863, the state of West Virginia mined coal. While it has been blessed with a vast assortment of natural resources, coal is found in 53 of 55 counties, it is a mixed blessing. The downside of this blessing is about the the environment, the land, the people who mine it, and the unfortunate miners’ families who watch their loved ones leave for work never to see them again. Read the rest of this post »

March 12, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, Theme driven, US South

BOY, SNOW, BIRD by Helen Oyemi

Book Quote:

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them and believed them to be trustworthy. I’d hide myself away inside them, setting two mirrors up to face each other so that when I stood between them I was infinitely reflected in either direction. Many, many me’s. When I stood on tiptoe, we all stood on tiptoe, trying to see the first of us, and the last. The effect was dizzying, a vast pulse, not quite alive, more like the working of an automaton. I felt the reflection at my shoulder like a touch. I was on the most familiar terms with her, same as any other junior dope too lonely to be selective about the company she keeps.”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (MAR 10, 2014)

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.” So begins the dazzingly imaginative and enigmatically-named new novel from Helen Oyeyemi.

But what happens when mirrors are not trustworthy? When Boy is really a girl? When a beautiful pale-skinned youngster actually shares the bloodline of the blackest of black individuals? When beauty is not truth and when truth is not beauty? When a mother or a grandmother is not a safe haven but something else entirely?

Helen Oyeyemi explores questions like these in her own imitable way, mixing a dose of fantasy with a dollop of reality. Her writing gifts, carefully honed in her startlingly good prior novel, Mr. Fox, are on display again here as she merges the real with the fantastical to create a canvas all her own. Read the rest of this post »

March 10, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Allegory/Fable, Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary