Monday, December 21, 2009


Dear Great Book Guru, I have just finished my last exam after my first semester in law school and I have three weeks to read whatever I want. Do you have something to get me started on my reading marathon? Legal Lizzie

Dear Legal, I hope your exams went well and yes, I have a wonderful book for you- MR. IVES' CHRISTMAS by Oscar Hijuelos. When we first meet Mr. Ives it is 1954, he is a successful New York businessman in a loving marriage with two adored children. He is deeply religious and, as Charles Dickens would say "a man who knew how to keep Christmas." Shortly into the book tragedy befalls Ives with the murder of his seventeen- year- old son on Christmas morning. The rest of the book deals with Ives's struggle to find spiritual peace after this devastating loss. While this might seem like a strange choice for holiday reading, there is something wonderfully comforting and uplifting about this book. Perhaps it is Ives's gradual transformation from a hollow grieving man to a gloriously forgiving redemptive figure. In some ways this can be seen as a contemporary version of THE CHRISTMAS CAROL, except, of course, Ives, unlike Scrooge, was always a good man . In this novel we also see New York City undergo a similar transformation from the gritty 50's to the present. You will find yourself thinking over and over about Mr. Ives and his journey .

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Dear Great Book Guru- I am looking for something to read over the holidays. What would you recommend? Mistletoe Mary
Dear Mistletoe, I am so glad you asked! I just read an amazing play by Frederick Stroppel-Christmas Spirit. This play is very, very funny and very, very sad. It reminds me of Wilder's Our Town, but better! The characters are well developed and oh so familiar. The premise is that Julia, a 72 year-old woman, is visited by a spirit who predicts her death will occur on the following day- Christmas. Her efforts to avoid this fate are filled with brutal, touching humor as she tries to make amends with her family while showing the spirit the joys of a "genuine family Christmas." The ending is startling and poignant. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great Book Guru III

Dear Great Book Guru, What is your Books and Bagels group discussing this week? Curious

Dear Curious, Our latest selection is Being Mrs. Alcott by Nancy Geary. I heard Geary speak many years ago at a Mystery Writers Brunch in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. She was young, first time writer and very nervous but strangely compelling. I bought her book Misfortune and liked it very much. It was set in the Hamptons and had an odd assortment of characters with puzzling family connections. I'll write in more detail about this book in a future column. Back to Being Mrs. Alcott.... This is her latest and is not in the mystery genre. It is a disturbing look at a woman marrying in the 1960's and living through and up to the present time. Her acquiescence to father, brother, sons, and husband is painful almost to the point of disbelief, but her voice rings true. Any book that traces a life from early optimism to its tragic unfolding is heartbreaking and this one certainly is. While one can certainly question her choices, her basic goodness is apparent throughout, making it all the more difficult to read. Highly recommended!