Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  First, the Halloween Party and Parade Friday at 1pm on the front lawn of the Children’s Library  and then the next day- the Pet and Puppet Parade  at 11am organized by Karen Kessler- what an exciting weekend here in Sea Cliff!  Will I have time to read -please something short but, of course, meaningful?  Lover of Pets, Puppets and Parties

Dear Pets, Puppets, and Party Lover,  I have a  beautifully written,  very disturbing  200 page book that I highly recommend: THE CHILDREN ACT  by Ian McEwan.  Fiona is a highly respected English Family Court judge who deals with troubling cases of parental rights. Her own life is comfortable, but she is beginning to rethink past decisions and life choices. Her latest case involves a young man with leukemia whose treatment requires blood transfusions. He and his parents are devout Jehovah Witnesses so transfusions are out of the question.   Because he is a few months short of his eighteenth birthday, the court can supersede his wishes and it does. The transfusions take place, he recovers, his parents are secretly jubilant, and all is well…..or so it seems. When he becomes estranged from both his religion and his parents, he reaches out to Fiona as a beacon of beauty and wisdom. While she tries to maintain a professional distance, she finds it more and more difficult as her affection grows. Yeats’s “ I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears” becomes the youth’s refrain, and Fiona, while neither young nor foolish, is indeed full of tears by the end of the novel.   Thought- provoking and highly recommended!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend I attended an amazing Fred Stroppel production THE BLIND TRUTH- the story of the life and music of Vinny St. Marten.  During the intermission, we were marveling at  Vinny’s incredible story - when someone mentioned a book  about a young writer  who took the stories of Russian émigrés, picking and choosing details to create new life stories.    It sounded interesting…are you familiar with it?     Fan of THE  BLIND TRUTH

Dear Fan of THE BLIND TRUTH,  What a great show and I just heard it will be performed again  in November.    Daniel DiPietro recommended A REPLACEMENT LIFE by Boris Fishman last month and I enjoyed it immensely. It is the slyly humorous and moving story of young Slava Gelman, an undervalued junior editor for a New York magazine who is convinced by his grandfather to write a restitution request for World War II reparations from the German government. Huge problem-  the old man has no basis for the claim, so Slava must use details from his decreased grandmother’s horrific wartime experiences. Soon he finds himself writing dozens of these life stories for neighbors and friends. The lines between truth and fiction cross while Slava struggles to reconcile loyalty to family,  aversion to fraud, fear of deportation, and a growing  pride in his writing.    Colorful characters and love interests abound but the novel’s greatest attraction for me lay in its portrayal of South Brooklyn’s Soviet émigré community.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am very excited… I just moved to Sea Cliff this summer and I will be attending the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Party for Newcomers this Sunday. I would like to have a book to talk about if there are any awkward moments at the event. Any suggestions?  Newcomer to Sea Cliff

Dear Newcomer to Sea Cliff, The Newcomers’ Party is a wonderful tradition and-  don’t worry- I promise  there will be no time for awkward moments! But I will recommend a book that just about everyone I know has read or is reading: BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty.  While on the surface a breezy look at life in a seaside community, this novel offers a stinging attack on many of the petty concerns of upper middle class parents. Throughout, a Greek chorus of these parents offers insights both true and false. Playground bullying, birthday party politics, kindergarten art projects, nutrition fanatics, and finally a murder- feature in this cynical look at suburban school life.  But at its core is the issue of violence against women; so while there is a cozy domestic feel to the book and one may smile and smirk at the antics of its characters, this is a serious look into our society where lies big and little entrap so many. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at Metro Bistro after Mini Mart with Kathy Calzonetti and Maris Geist when our conversation turned to Time- where it goes, what does it mean, how fast and slow it moves. As we were talking, someone at a nearby table mentioned a novel by an Irish writer that touched on just these questions. Are you familiar with it?  Tricked by Time

Dear Tricked by Time,  I loved the book TIME PRESENT AND  TIME PAST  by Deirdre Madden and it does, indeed touch on “timely” topics.  Fintan Buckley is a happy man- a successful Dublin  attorney with a loving extended family - who suddenly questions his understanding of time – what does past mean- can we see the future while living in the present - does time change everything or nothing?  In what seems on the surface to be a cozy domestic tale, we are presented with questions that defy explanation .  While Madden gives us many colorful details about Fintan, his wife Colette, mother Joan, sister Martina and his three children, we soon realize these people who all love one another, know very little about each other.  Memories of the past have been corrupted by time and premonitions of the  future are limiting their pleasures of the present. Set in 2007, the characters are burdened by Ireland’s past Troubles and we the readers by our knowledge of what lies ahead for the doomed Celtic Tiger. This is a short, beautifully written novel that has at its core the most difficult of questions. Highly recommended!