INCOGNITO by Gregory Murphy

Thirty-one year old William Dysart should be on top of the world. He is a successful attorney, lives in a beautiful home, and is married to Arabella, a stunner who turns heads wherever she goes. Gregory Murphy looks beneath the veneer of the Dysarts’ seemingly enviable life in Incognito. William is growing tired of doing the bidding of Phil Havering, the managing partner at his law firm. In addition, he has become disenchanted with his wife who, in spite of her great beauty, is insecure and demanding. After six years of marriage, the couple is childless, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that Arabella is a social-climbing, vain, and shallow individual who is more interested in material possessions and status than she is in her relationship with William. “It was rare now that their conversations did not end in a quarrel.”

September 17, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, NE & New York, New York City, Reading Guide

TRAIN DREAMS by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson won an O. Henry prize for this novella of the old American West in 2003. It originally appeared in the Paris Review but is now reissued and bound in hardback with an apt cover art—a painting by Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton called “The Race.” If you contemplate the painting for a while, you may feel the ghost of the book’s protagonist, Robert Grainier, as he, too, felt the ghosts and spirits of the dead.

August 30, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Reading Guide, US Northwest, Wild West, y Award Winning Author

THE LAST RIVER CHILD by Lori Ann Bloomfield

The setting is Walvern, a small village in rural Ontario, where everybody knows everybody else. Or they think they know them, for acquaintance can turn easily into gossip and suspicion. Peg Staynor, the heroine, becomes a victim of it, even as a child. For her curiously pale grey eyes and solitary manner play into local suspicions that she is a “river child,” the reincarnation of someone previously drowned, who will bring them bad luck. It is a barely credible device (and unfortunately not the only example of somewhat strained plotting), but it works well as a metaphor for a loneliness that gradually turns into independence and strength. For this is essentially a coming-of-age story with a sweet touch of romance, and Peg makes a heroine who is very easy to care about.

December 3, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Facing History, Family Matters

GENDARME by Mark T. Mustian

With the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian deportations only a few years away, author Mark Mustian has set himself a daunting task: to follow his character’s footsteps and to serve as his own gendarme, a guide in the wilderness. For the most part, he succeeds admirably.

As Mr. Mustian writes in the epilogue, “Genocide perhaps represents the ugliest of human deeds, the mass killing of often defenseless fellow beings…Saying it didn’t happen is a mere recipe for recurrence.”

September 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Reading Guide, Turkey, World Lit


The city of Lowell, Massachusetts, was once a thriving home to the textile industry. Just before World War I broke out, the city was at the peak of a huge economic boom. In just a couple of decades however, a slow reversal of fortunes took place. By the early 1920s work was moving south to the Carolinas and once the Depression took hold, the slide was pretty much irreversible.

Rock Harbor, the fictional New England town painted by Rebecca Chase in her new novel, feels a lot like Lowell or even New Bedford, both towns marked by severe downturns in manufacturing industries.

May 31, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Facing History, NE & New York


Leo Tolstoy famously opened Anna Karenina with the observation that, “All happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” He was 45 when he wrote that. Thirty-seven years later, at age 82, he would die at the remote Astapovo train station, not far from his home, after fleeing, in the middle of the night, his estranged wife of 48 years, abandoning his family, his wealth, and setting out to live the life of a wandering ascetic. Ironically, he fulfilled the observation that his family was, indeed, singularly unhappy.

April 25, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Russia, World Lit