Monday, November 11, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, Next week is the Great Turkey Hunt – Saturday, November 23 at 3pm and the Great Turkey Himself will be making an appearance at Geohegan Park- also known ominously as Headless Park.  While waiting for the Hunt to begin, do you have a book I can read ? 
Fan of the Great Turkey Himself

Dear Fan of the Great Turkey Himself,  My friends and I recently discussed Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE. While many of us had read the book when it first came out in 1985, it was fascinating and horrifying to reread it in 2019.  Set in the near future in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the novel describes the life of one woman Offred (Of Fred- women no longer allowed to have their own names) and the world she lives in.  The President of the United States has been assassinated as have most Congressmen and Senators. A second Civil War rages and a theocratic government has come to power- the Republic of Gilead. Because of vast climatic and environmental disasters, the birthrate has plummeted. The few women who are still fertile are enslaved and forced to produce children. These “handmaids” are assigned to the male generals or commanders. Many aspects of a patriarchal society are explored.   When the possibility of escape arises, Offred realizes she must act, but is there anyone- man or woman- she can trust?  In the epilogue set one hundred years later, we come to see times have changed, but an underlying misogyny prevails.  A classic that can and should be reread….highly recommended!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I attended the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Progressive Dinner this weekend and had a really great time. Tina Marchese does an amazing job each year organizing this iconic event. At the dessert portion of the evening someone mentioned a novel his book club had just read. It was set in present-day Ireland and sounded very interesting but…I forgot the title. Any thoughts?  Very Satisfied Diner

Dear Very Satisfied…. A few weeks ago, I read Sally Rooney’s CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS with my book club.  Set in Dublin, this award-winning novel traces the lives and loves of Frances and Bobbi, two 21 year-old friends who were once lovers.  Frances is the daughter of struggling middle class parents, while Bobbie’s family is wealthy and indulgent.  Bobbi is beautiful and outspoken; Frances is brilliant and introspective. Both are ardent anti-capitalists and strong feminists.  In the opening pages, they meet Melissa – a successful thirtyish journalist and her handsome actor husband Nick.  The young women are quickly welcomed into their glamorous world. Melissa and Bobbi form a strong friendship, while Nick and Frances become lovers. It is Frances who plays the leading role, and we follow her increasingly complicated relationships with her abusive alcoholic father as well as Nick, Melissa, and finally Bobbi. Much of this is recounted in a series of email and text conversations.  In the end, we feel we know a great deal about these women, but do we really? Recommended!  

Monday, October 21, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I was so disappointed  “Starry, Starry Night” was cancelled because of rain, but I am looking forward to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s next iconic event: the Progressive Dinner on Saturday, November 2.  I’m looking for a book  that I might bring up during the evening's festivities. Recommendation?
 Progressive Dinner Devotee

Dear Progressive Dinner Devotee, I just finished reading CATCH AND KILL by Ronan Farrow and what a story he tells. It is a meticulously researched report that reads like a Grisham legal thriller or high-tech spy novel. It begins in 2017, when Farrow is given a routine investigative assignment about a story that had been whispered about for years - movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s reputation as a bullying predator protected by wealth, influence, and powerful friends. As Farrow goes deeper into the story, high end lawyers, a mysterious international security firm, and network news executives all begin a secret campaign of intimidation.  From London to New York and beyond, forces mobilize to prevent the story from going forward, but Farrow is unrelenting. The tangled web of personal and corporate corruption he uncovers is both shocking and frightening – that so many had so much hide.  A disturbing read but highly recommended!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I am looking forward to a favorite event of mine:  Sea Cliff Civic Association’s “Starry, Starry Night.” Local astronomers gather at Clifton Park to share their knowledge of the skies and the celestial musical group, The Milky Ways (Heidi Hunt and Joe Hughes) sing a series of star-studded selections.  Stellar sweet treats abound throughout the evening starting Sunday at 7pm.  While waiting for the fun to begin, I will have time for a good book.  Any recommendations? Sea Cliff Star Gazer

Dear Sea Cliff Star Gazer, Amy Waldman’s A DOOR IN THE EARTH is a book that will make you look at the world of international aid with new and cynical insight.  It is 2010 and Parveen Shams has recently graduated from Berkley. She was born in Afghanistan and moved to California as an infant with her parents.  After reading the bestselling book “Mother Afghanistan,” by an American physician, Gideon Crane, Parveen is inspired to return to her native land.  Crane had created a multimillion dollar foundation dedicated to the medical needs of the women in a small rural Afghan village. It was to honor a patient of his who had died there in childbirth.  Soon after arriving, Parveen realizes much of what Crane had written was self-serving and filled with lies. Tragically, the American military was basing strategic decisions on these falsehoods.  As one of the few people involved who speaks both English and Dari, she must decide whether to reveal the truth and endanger the lives of many or go along with Crane’s false narrative.  A difficult book to read, it is nevertheless an enlightening journey and highly recommended.   

Friday, October 11, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru,  The upcoming long weekend is a good time to relax, reflect, and- yes as always- read a good book!  A favorite author of mine-Jacqueline Woodson whose picture books, poetry, YA and adult novels have won much praise- has just come out with a new novel. I’m very excited and can’t wait to get my copy.  Have you read it and if so… your thoughts?  Autumn Reader

Dear Autumn Reader,  I too am a great fan of Jacqueline Woodson and her newest RED AT THE BONE  is truly wonderful. A quick read (about 200 pages), this novel is set largely in Brooklyn and spans over eighty years, tracing the impact place, class, gender, and race have on its characters.  The story opens at the sixteenth birthday party of Melody in her family’s brownstone.  Iris -her young mother- and she are quarrelling over music, but the reader quickly realizes their dispute has little to do with Prince lyrics.  Melody’s grandparents, who have raised her, shift back and forth in time as they recall all that has brought them to this moment, while Aubrey – Melody’s father- questions decisions made long ago.   But this is not a melancholy look at the past but instead a tribute to the enduring power of family and community. As the book’s epigraph quotes “One day chicken. Next day bone,” the lives of these characters are touched by discord, pain, kindness, disappointment, and joy.  A lyrical look at family life over generations and highly recommended!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, This coming weekend is a major iconic Sea Cliff event - Mini Mart ! This is its fiftieth anniversary so it will be particularly festive with many families staging reunions. My favorite spot is the Children’s Library where amazing “pre-owned” toys and children’s books sell for almost nothing - it is the ultimate in recycling. But, as always, I love to have a good book to read when things get quiet. I am yearning for a good mystery.  Any suggestions? 
Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven, A favorite author of mine, Kate Atkinson, just came out with her latest Jackson Brodie literary mystery:  BIG SKY.  Atkinson is famous for the wide variety of books she has written - all beautifully constructed and intellectually stimulating. There are five novels in her Brodie series and each can be read on its own. This latest, set in 2019, has references to Brexit, Harvey Weinstein, and cyber surveillance. Brodie is a former British police officer turned private investigator who is world weary with a young teenage son and an estranged daughter about to marry. In the novel’s opening pages we meet a pair of young Polish sisters who are embarking on an exciting, life-transforming journey to England. In subsequent chapters we meet a trio of businessmen, a series of troubled wives, and two dynamic detectives. Atkinson brings together the many stories these characters have to tell us – some sordid, some brutal, some tender and always fascinating. Highly recommended!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I am looking forward to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Back to School gift to the Village: Movie Madness, featuring the original “Aladdin.”  It will be at Roslyn Park on September 28, Friday night, starting at sunset around 6:45. Afterwards, I’ll have time for a short novel - interesting and unusual. Ideas?
  Movie Madness Goer

Dear Movie Madness Goer - I just finished a new novel by a favorite author and I loved it:  THE GRAMMARIANS by Cathleen Schine. The grammarians are Laurel and Daphne, identical red-haired twins who are obsessed with language - puns, derivations, definitions, rhymes – and their twinness.  Much to their parents’ confusion and consternation, the girls share a secret language. As we follow their lives through babyhood to middle age, we share in the sorrow and pain they experience as they are forced to create separate existences. Their family - parents, spouses, aunt, uncle, and cousin - all add to the depth and humor of the novel as they reflect on the mystery of twin-ship.  Especially poignant was their mother’s evolving relationship with them. For many years she felt the outsider and only when the girls become estranged does she begin to feel part of their lives. A very funny and complex story of love and language - highly recommended!