Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, What a fun Sea Cliff Thanksgiving weekend just passed and so many exciting things coming up: the Holiday House Tour and Crafts Sale on Saturday, Dec 3 and then the Tree Lighting on the Village Green the next day at 5pm! While I always try to have a good book waiting for me at home or on my Kindle, when will I find time to read? Perhaps you have something good that I can get into quickly? Holiday Reveler

Dear Holiday Reveler, Perfect timing- my dear friend and fellow literary enthusiast Tina Marchese just stopped by bearing culinary treats from Martha's Vineyard and a wonderful book recommendation: MRS. KIMBLE by Jennifer Haigh. You might remember another Haigh novel many of us loved : FAITH. While the topic and format is strikingly different, this too is a real winner . It is told from the perspective of Charlie, son of the first Mrs. Kimble, a troubled coed from the 1950's . As the novel and time go on, we meet Joan, a wealthy journalist, and finally Dinah, the youngest and last of the Ken Kimble's wives. Through the lives of each of these women, we get a glimpse of the changing religious, social and political mores of the country .We are well into the novel before we meet Ken and then we only know him through the women he marries and his son . While Ken is an interesting character- charismatic, devious, selfish , duplicitous -another tale of "smart women, foolish choices" it is the wives' stories that are most compelling. .A really enjoyable and thought-provoking read !

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, There has been much talk of pre or faux Thanksgivings around Sea Cliff and beyond : the D'Amicos, the DiPietros, and the Halliday-Ambroses all began their celebrations this past weekend and great times were had by all! Now we have the actual Thanksgiving coming up and I would love a short but meaningful book to read this holiday weekend. Any suggestions? Turkey Troubadour

Dear Turkey Troubadour, I so love Thanksgiving with its variety of celebrations , and you are certainly to be commended for your desire to find some good reading material despite a hectic holiday schedule. I would recommend Ruth Reichl's NOT BECOMING MY MOTHER AND OTHER THINGS SHE TAUGHT ME ALONG THE WAY. Reichl was the food critic for the New York Times for many years and has written many books; most recently, she has concentrated on memoirs of her personal and professional life. In Reichl's earlier works she playfully recounted stories of her mother's less than stellar food adventures which she referred to as Mim's tales. Well, after her mother's death, Reichl began to regret her flippant dismissal of Mim and her life . After finding a trove of letters written by her over a sixty year period, Reich takes a far different, more admiring view of her mother. The lesson we all can learn from this book is that things are seldom as they seem and people's lives are far more complicated than any of us might guess. Talking about complicated- all you followers of the quiz show JEOPARDY, gather round your TVs at 7pm, Thursday, Dec.1- Gillian DiPietro will be appearing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, While enjoying a delightful evening at the Civic Association's annual Progressive Dinner, I was surprised to hear one of the partygoers say that this would be the Great Book Guru's 100th posting. Is it true and, if so, do you have a recommendation to celebrate this milestone? Keeping Count

Dear Keeping Count, Yes, indeed: began on Thanksgiving morning 2009 and here we are 100 books later. Dan DiPietro receives the award for Most Faithful Fan, having read more than 90 of my recommendations and is working on the remaining entries with great zest. Thanks, Dan, for your literary insights and enthusiastic support! My suggestion for the week is BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson. This was an emotionally exhausting read- it took me about two hours but my heart was beating wildly and my fingers furiously flipping pages: truly a page-turner. Christine wakes up each morning with no memory of what has gone on the day before, the month before, or the last ten years. She has slight glimmers of past events but these are very elusive and confused. Her husband Ben lovingly cares for her and each day recounts his version of their life together. When a young researcher takes an interest in her case and suggests she keep a journal, fear trumps frustration in Christine's life. Can one be truly human without memory- is the question we ask ourselves throughout this book, and the answer is very disturbing. Recommended!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend I will be attending my first Progressive Dinner here in Sea Cliff. I would like to bring "something to the table" in the form of a good book to discuss- something many people will have read. Any recommendations? Novice Diner

Dear Novice, How I love the Civic Association's annual Progressive Dinner and I am truly impressed that you would wish to discuss a book at dinner! Many people have read and enjoyed CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese. Since I was traveling and wanted to read it on my Kindle, I used the Sea Cliff Library's new service: Overdrive. So easy to use, completely free, and done from home! Check at the library's website for details. But back to the book- while I enjoyed learning about Ethiopia, its history, its geography, and the politics of medicine here and abroad, I was disappointed in the novel itself. It is a fictionalized autobiography of Marion Stone, who with his twin brother Shiva, is born in 1950's Ethiopia. When their beautiful Indian mother dies and their surgeon father Thomas Stone flees Africa in despair, they are adopted by a loving couple who share with the boys their fascination with medicine and surgery. The book is filled with details of diseases, cures, and surgical interventions while the revolution that toppled the Ethiopian government forms the ongoing backdrop for the story. The brothers end up in America where coincidence after coincidence brings the story to a neat, perhaps too neat, conclusion. A flawed work but excellent for a good dinner discussion!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I meet every week at B. Brown's for breakfast and a delicious breakfast it is! Well, last week someone mentioned a new book by the author Joan Didion that she said was very, very sad but very worth reading. Have you heard of it and would you recommend it -remembering that November is probably one of the darkest months of the year? Melancholy Reader

Dear Melancholy, My friends and I too have a weekly breakfast at B's and the discussions range from favorite books, to local politics, to the latest real estate deals. I'm sure before the month is over we will discuss Didion's memoir BLUE LIGHTS. The author writes about her daughter Quintana: her childhood, her adolescence, her early adulthood, and finally her much too early death. She looks back and in painful detail questions the many choices she made as a parent and wonders how she could have done things differently. Six years ago Didion wrote another memoir -THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING- which recounted the death of her husband author John Gregory Dunne and the year of mourning that followed. This newest book too is stark in its description of her grief, but there is a beauty, almost poetic, in her quest for forgiveness- forgiveness for being, in the end, only human. A hard read but worthwhile!