Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at Amy Peters’  Farmers’ Market last Saturday morning in front of the Sea Cliff Library buying some wonderful produce when I overheard a conversation about a new book- set in Woodside, Queens- that was “hauntingly beautiful.” Any thoughts? Labor Day Lounger

Dear Labor Day Lounger,  Labor Day weekend might be the perfect time to read WE ARE NOT OURSELVES  by Matthew Thomas in that work so defines its characters’ lives.  We meet Eileen Tumulty Leary in 1951 who as a young fourth grader is caretaker to her immigrant parents.  Before this 600 page novel is over, Eileen has become her husband’s caretaker also, but under very different circumstances. In between we witness the changes that America undergoes from the Eisenhower to the Obama presidencies.    Eileen’s life embodies much of the American dream and yes, nightmare, as she copes with economic, spiritual, and cultural changes that gnaw away at many of her beliefs and dreams. While told mostly from her perspective, the book midway introduces the voice of her son Connell who tries to come to terms with his complicated feelings towards his mother and father while struggling to find meaning in his work.  Indeed- a Labor Day gem and highly, highly recommended!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, I feel I have to enjoy all those  Sea Cliff special summer moments: breakfasts and lunches at the beach, the Civic Association’s Thursday Sunset Serenades, Friday beach pavilion concerts….and, of course, reading a good book while looking out on the harbor. Do you have something to recommend?  Lover of Summer in Sea Cliff

Dear LOSISC, I share your love of summer in Sea Cliff, but remember a good book can bring you joy all seasons of the year!  Here’s a good one to start off the weekend:  Emma Healey’s ELIZABETH IS MISSING, a literary novel with two mysteries at its core.  Maud, the 82 year-old narrator/heroine, has just found a compact mirror that she hasn't seen in over seventy years in her friend Elizabeth’s garden. It belonged to her adored elder sister Sukey who has been missing all these years. The sweet, exquisite details Maud remembers of her early years in postwar England and the sadness that permeated the years after Sukey’s disappearance make for a good book,  but it is  Maud’s faulty memory- whether from Alzheimer’s or old-age dementia- that makes this book so unusual.  We are not sure if she has forgotten important clues or is she being purposely misled by those around her. The two missing persons in her life- her sister and her friend Elizabeth- come together in her mind and ours, as we try to understand what really happened long ago.  An unreliable narrator but a very rewarding read- highly recommended!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I feel summer is slipping through my fingers and there is so much I want to do before Labor Day and top on my list is reading a great book down on Sea Cliff Beach under one of those beautiful blue striped umbrellas. Any suggestions?   Anxious in August

Dear Anxious,  I will be joining you down at Sea Cliff Beach this Saturday from 5 to 10 pm listening to Crash the Beach- a fundraiser for Mutual Concerns and featuring many of Sea Cliff’s finest performers. Get there early and start reading a beautiful and disturbing classic ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT by Erich Maria Remarque.  With the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, there have been many books and articles published this year about the so called Great War but this short novel (258 pages) written in 1929 by a young German soldier  stands out as the most devastating account of the futility and brutality of war.  The book follows six German soldiers fighting on the western front .  The suffering- physical and emotional- that these young men endure and inflict is recounted in painstaking detail. Told by eighteen year-old Paul Baumer, the novel depicts how the lives of all those who fought were changed forever. He questions over and over the morality of killing other young men who are not his enemy, but rather the declared enemy of statesmen and politicians who rule far from the dangers of battle.  An astonishingly relevant book written over eighty years ago- highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,   Last weekend, I went to a really lovely exhibit of Sea Cliff landscapes sponsored by the Sea Cliff Arts Council at the Sea Cliff Library. Photos, oils, pastels, and watercolors were all represented and the unique beauty that is Sea Cliff was captured in each one of the entries. A local book group was there to support some of its members who were exhibiting and one of them mentioned a new book they planned on discussing- it was set in the 1940’s and featured two sisters’ adventures here and in Europe. Any thoughts?  Sea Cliff Landscape Lover

Dear Sea Cliff Landscape Lover,  I loved the exhibit too- Kathleen DiResta did a great job gathering the works of over twenty very talented local artists.  And, yes, I recently read Amy Bloom’s LUCKY US and enjoyed it immensely.  This is an unconventional story of luck- good and bad and the reader is never sure which is which. Tragedy, triumph, disaster, success- all intermingle.  Nothing is as it seems: forged college transcripts and birth certificates, betraying mothers and lovers, clever fortune tellers and makeup artists create a world where truth is completely elusive. The characters are funny, star-crossed plucky victims of fate.  Their improbable journey takes them from Ohio to Dresden, London, Hollywood, Brooklyn and Great Neck – with each stop along the way portrayed in rich, colorful detail.   A hard book to summarize and even harder to forget- highly recommended!