Monday, February 24, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend I will be at Dinner & THE DEAD at the Metropolitan Bistro. I had tried to attend last month, but it was quickly sold out. Well, it sold out again, but I learned my lesson and got my tickets early on. I’ve read “The Dead” by James Joyce many times, so now I would like to read a contemporary Irish writer to get me in the spirit of things. Any recommendations? Interested in All Things Irish

Dear Interested…. I recently read Kevin Barry’s NIGHT BOAT TO TANGIER - a New York Times choice as one of the ten top books of 2019. Two longtime friends, Maurice and Charlie - aging Irish gangsters - spend the night in a seamy ferry terminal awaiting the arrival of young Dilly - the estranged daughter of Maurice. The men have shared much - a sordid drug operation spanning many years, a failed real estate scheme, and…. Cynthia, Maurice’s wife. The hollow grimness of their existence, their menacing overtures throughout the evening, and the futility of their mission are all couched in horrifying albeit beautiful prose. Is it love these men share or is it simply a painful history? As chapters alternate between the past and present - between Ireland and Spain - we come to see how their dreams unraveled.  Highly recommended!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, A few months ago, I read a fascinating book:  KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. Friends tell me that there is an even better, less well-known book about Native Americans that offers disturbing new insights into American history.  Are you familiar with this book?  In Quest of Knowledge

Dear In Quest of Knowledge, EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON by S.C. Gwynne is indeed not to be missed.  It details the history of the fiercest of the American Indian tribes: the Comanches. Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, mass slaughter of the buffalo, construction of the railroads, formation of the Texas Rangers, westward expansion, and-above all - the human penchant for cruelty are covered. Interwoven with these topics are the stories of a mother and son: Cynthia Ann Parker and Quanah, last and greatest of the Comanche chiefs.  As a nine year old, Cynthia was kidnapped by the Comanches on a raid of her family’s homestead on the Texas frontier.  Her family was brutally massacred. She lived with her captors, married a powerful Comanche chief, and gave birth to three children one of whom was Quanah. After twenty-four years, she was forcibly removed from the tribe. Her husband was killed, and her son Quanah was to search for her for decades. She tried many times to return but always failed. Quanah fought the Americans but was finally defeated.  In defeat, however, he remained a powerful and wealthy leader of his people.  The book chronicles the many acts of violence committed by both sides, leaving the reader to question the inherent evil of humanity.  Highly recommended!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I attended an Oscar Awards party last weekend and someone there suggested a mesmerizing novel about a group of airline passengers that would be perfect for my book club. Any thoughts? Lover of Both Movies and Books

Dear Lover of Both Movies and Books, I recently read a short novel I will be suggesting to my book club: DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano.  The story opens in Newark Airport as Edward - a twelve-year-old - boards a plane bound for California with his parents, older brother, and 187 other passengers. The plane crashes over Colorado and Edward is the only survivor. The book divides into alternating chapters as we follow the lives of Edward and some of these passengers.  Edward’s plight is the subject of intense scrutiny by a horrified public via social media and cable news. But for me, the book’s greatest achievement lies in the stories of the others as they live their last moments preparing for a future they think lies ahead. A young woman wonders if she and her awaiting boyfriend will marry, an elderly tycoon contemplates the latest medical treatment he is to undergo, Edward’s parents plan a menu for their newly vegan son….   Reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s “Bridge of San Luis Rey”, this is a beautifully told tale of the sweetness and fragility of life. Highly recommended!