Thursday, December 30, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend would usually have been Mini Mart Sunday in Sea Cliff but – alas - not to be – a casualty of Covid concerns.  However, there are some smaller events planned such as the St Luke’s Fall Fair on Saturday.  Before heading over there, I will have time to get started on a good novel - not too long, maybe something about families.  Any suggestions?  Missing MiniMart

Dear Missing MiniMart, I just finished a book that came out last month - IMMEDIATE FAMILY by Ashley Nelson Levy I think you will find interesting.  The unnamed narrator has been asked to give the wedding toast for her brother and this 192-page book is in effect the toast - a long tribute and analysis of their sibling relationship.  The brother, Danny Larsen, is the only named character and this is not his original name. Born in Thailand twenty- five years ago, Boon-Nam Prasongsanti was adopted by the Larsens. Our narrator describes the years of anticipation as she and her parents plan for the child’s arrival.  He is not the infant they had expected but a three-year-old, malnourished, painfully shy, frightened child who is terrified in his new home.  The love that develops between the siblings is beautifully recounted but racism and bullying mar his early years and their repercussions are felt as he reaches adulthood.  The family adjusts and readjusts as we see the journey Danny and they have undertaken.  The book offers insight into family dynamics and the price everyone, especially Danny, must pay.  Recommended!

Saturday, December 18, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, as the year comes to an end, I was wondering if you had a list of your favorites for 2021?  It’s been a strange year and I wonder if I missed out on some good books. Do you have some you would particularly recommend?  Looking Back on 2021

 Dear Looking Back on 2021, Yes, I make up a list every year – it’s great fun to look back on all the books I have read and choose ten favorites.  My #1 choice by far was a work of non-fiction that reads like a novel: THE EMPIRE OF PAIN by Patrick Radden Keefe. Keefe was also the author SAY NOTHING our #1 choice for 2019.  The others are listed here in no particular order.

THE EMPIRE OF PAIN - Patrick Radden Keefe


A GOOD MOTHER - Lara Bazelton

THE DAMAGE - Caitlin Wahrer



TOWER OF BABEL- Michael Sears

INTIMACIES – Katie Kitamura

BEFORE THE EVER AFTER - Jacqueline Woodson


More information can be found about these books on

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, So much going on in Sea Cliff with the Children’s Library “Nutcracker”, the Scrooge Stroll, and the Holiday Lighting celebration at Clifton Park!  Everything was great fun, but now I need some down time with a good book - nothing deep- just a good story. Seeking Some Serenity

Dear Seeking Some Serenity, I recently finished a book you might enjoy but I’m not sure it makes for serene reading:  THE NEIGHBOR’S SECRET by L. Alison Heller.  This mystery novel uses an ongoing book club as its organizing principle. Every few chapters, we read a chatty message sent to the members of the club based in an affluent suburban community, and these messages are amusing and will be uncomfortably familiar to many book club members.  The novel introduces multiple characters - perhaps too many - with three of the women highlighted:  Lena - an older woman living alone and estranged from her daughter; Annie - a middle aged guidance counselor who is coping with a troubled teen age daughter; and Jen - a young mother dealing with the thought her son might be a dangerous sociopath.  Throughout the book, we fear the many secrets these women are hiding will somehow come together in an explosive finale and - of course - they do! In what seems to be tranquil but intellectually stimulating monthly discussions of the latest novels, we find a painful tale of lies and secrets bridging many generations.  A thought-provoking read and recommended! 


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We were with lots of friends and family for Thanksgiving – all in small groups - and everyone was looking for a good book to give as a gift this holiday season. Do you have any suggestions? Gift Seeker

Dear Gift Seeker, I just finished a great novel:  WAYWARD by Dana Spiotta. She has written four other novels in the last decade and all have been highly acclaimed with my favorite being her EAT THE DOCUMENT. This latest brings together many diverse topics: mother-daughter relations, aging, deteriorating marriage, the present political climate, the rewriting of history, and – yes - the  real estate market.  The book begins with Samantha falling in love with a decrepit house in a decrepit neighborhood of Syracuse, New York. Impulsively, she buys the house, leaves her husband and teenage daughter, and begins to rebuild the house and her life. Things quickly turn dark - in alternating chapters, Ally the teen daughter tells her side of the story, Samantha hers, and then a fictional historical character, Clara Loomis - a much revered local feminist whose legacy is coming under scrutiny. Throughout the book, we get powerful insights into Samantha’s struggles with her roles as mother, daughter, wife, and citizen of a world she finds more and more alien. With the decaying downtown Syracuse as the backdrop, we see Samantha’s story as having much larger implications than one woman confronting her mortality. Beautifully written and highly recommended!


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We had a great outdoor family party this weekend - weather was challenging but everyone had a fun time and, as always, when we gather together conversation turns to our latest book choices. One of the cousins talked about a mystery series by an Irish author and the rest of us were interested but now I’m not sure of the author. Thoughts?   A Bookish Family

Dear Bookish Family, My guess is it’s John Banville’s Benjamin Black mysteries - the latest came out just last month:  APRIL IN SPAIN.  John Banville is a renowned prize-winning Irish author who writes a mystery series under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.  His hero is Quirk, a 1950’s Dublin pathologist. His tortured past and present is the stuff of these literary mysteries. There are eight books in the series beginning with CHRISTINE FALLS. While each novel can stand alone, to see the complexity and evolution of Quirk, they should be read in order. The latest is set in Dublin and the Basque countryside with locations and characters exquisitely described. In the opening chapter we meet Terry Tice who liked “killing people.” In alternating chapters we are with the gloomy Quirk and his long suffering psychiatrist wife, Evelyn. While in some ways this is a simple mystery, Banville’s writing is so beautiful, it is hard not to reread many evocative passages even as we are eager to see how all the story lines come together. A wonderful read and highly recommended!


Friday, November 19, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru,  While  Halloween is over, I am still in the mood for some suspenseful tales. I would like a good psychological thriller set in   present time.  Any suggestions?  Craving Suspense

Dear Craving Suspense, I recently read a disturbing  literary thriller I think you will enjoy: MRS MARCH  by Virginia Feito. Mrs. March – we don’t learn her first name until the last page- is the wife of George, a famous author who has recently published his latest novel which has received universal praise from both critics and the public. She soon realizes he has based the novel’s protagonist on her- her mannerisms, her appearance, her gloves- and it is not a flattering portrait.  She  begins to think every friend and stranger she passes  has read the book and is aware of her shame. She neglects her young son,  abuses her housekeeper, and we watch in horror as she seems to lose all sense of reality.  When she suspects her husband of being a serial killer, we are quite sure she is delusional but there is always the thought…. perhaps there is some truth in her suspicions.   The lifestyle of this wealthy Upper Eastside Manhattanite is described in exquisite detail and we clearly sense the anger and purposelessness Mrs. March feels.  Neither she nor her husband are admirable characters, but the novel is a compelling read and recommended!

Saturday, November 6, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, This past weekend I met up with lots of friends and we all agreed we needed something great to read - something thought-provoking and with a strong story line. Any thoughts? Readers in Search of Meaning

Dear Readers in Search of Meaning, I spent this last weekend with a compelling book, filled with moments of deep insight. This shortlisted 2019 Booker Prize winner is 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak. It is the haunting tale of Leila - victim of a brutal murder in Istanbul, Turkey. Leila explains that for 10 minutes and 38 seconds after death, we are capable of conscious thought with heightened sensitivities and robust memories. The first half of the novel describes Leila’s thoughts as she moves from life to death and we count down the moments we share with her.  She remembers her early life in exquisite sensory detail - her young mother who was forced to give her up at birth, her mercurial father, an abusive uncle, a beloved autistic brother, and her young activist husband. In alternating chapters, we meet each of her five friends who play important roles in her life and death.  These friends like Leila live on the outskirts of Istanbul’s society where gender, violence, and religion combine to crush many. With her death complete, the second part of the book is more a caper but satisfying nevertheless.  A painful tale but well worth reading - highly recommend!

Saturday, October 30, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend we were at a fabulous family wedding. The bride and groom, Shannon and Nick, had a picture-perfect wedding day and… as so happens when our family gets together, the conversation turned to books.  Many of the cousins were excited about a new Booker Prize nominee that was a combination of family drama and sci fi.  Familiar with it?   Happy Wedding Guest 

Dear Happy Wedding Guest, The book you are searching for is Richard Powers’ BEWILDERMENT and a wonderful recommendation it is! Set in the near future, the story follows a father and son on an amazing journey. The father, Theo Byrne, is an astrobiologist recently widowed; the son is Robin, a third grader who is grieving his mother’s death. Robin is a sensitive, gifted artist and lover of nature, who has difficulty controlling his anger especially towards classmates.  When the school authorities suggest medication, Theo refuses and consults with a friend who suggests an experimental neurofeedback therapy. Robin’s parents had earlier been part of an experiment that mapped their emotions in great detail.  Soon we realize Robin is being linked to his mother’s brain patterns. The story line is interspersed with descriptions of planets throughout the galaxy where life may have existed in ways similar to ours – all with differing outcomes. What the outcome of life on planet Earth will be is the underlying theme of this novel.  A challenging but rewarding read - highly recommended!


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, Last week I was at the St. Luke’s Fall Fair - such fun with great treasures and a huge array of raffles prizes plus the Church’s iconic jams and jellies! While there, I overheard a group of people talking about a new novel their book club was reading - a criminal justice thriller by a famous politician. I couldn’t hear the title… any thoughts?  Fall Fair Goer

Dear Fall Fair Goer, Stacey Abrams, famed political strategist, is the author of WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS - a complex legal thriller with many medical and legal twists.  The narrator is Avery Keene, a recent graduate of a prestigious law school who has been hired to clerk for an elderly eccentric Supreme Court Justice, Howard Wynn.  Shortly into the book, Wynn is found unconscious – a victim of perhaps a stroke, heart attack, or attempted suicide. Much to everyone’s surprise (especially Avery’s), the Justice has left instructions that Avery is to be his legal guardian and has given her power of attorney. She soon realizes it is imperative that

the comatose Justice be protected from those within the government who are trying to overturn the power of the Court. Their plot centers on a biotech merger case that will have long term effects on this nation and countries around the world.  Will Avery and her cohorts be able to keep the Justice alive long enough and well enough to prevent this looming biogenetic catastrophe?  A very exciting, challenging thriller!


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, I see a long winter ahead and I would like nothing better than to find a compelling series to read - something meaningful, thoughtful, but also entertaining…and I do love a mystery!  Seeking a Series

 Dear Seeking a Series, Just this week I read a book in a series I have enjoyed greatly over the years. Daniel Silva’s THE ORDER is the 20th book in his Gabriel Allon series and while I had read most of his earlier books, this latest addition might be my favorite.  Allon is a brilliant art restorer and legendary spy who is now head of the Israeli spy organization, the Mossad, referred to as the Office in the series.  Throughout the books there are references to famous art masterpieces in museums, churches and private collections. Interwoven with these art references is the basic plot line of international intrigue and Allon’s job is to prevent catastrophic upheaval with as little mayhem as possible. In THE ORDER, the setting is the Vatican and the plot involves the suspicious death of a present-day, progressive pope.  A secret organization that has its roots in early 20th century Europe and steeped in anti-Semitism is plotting to have its candidate elected the next pope. Using large sums of money to bribe the electors, the group seems about to change the international power structure when Allon is called upon to right the situation.  The various characters - good and evil - are meticulously drawn and the vivid descriptions of Rome, Florence, and Venice alone are worth the read but the underlying mystery itself is completely enthralling.  A very satisfying, thought-provoking addition to the series…highly recommended!



Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend is the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Newcomers Party and I am very excited.  As a newcomer this year, I am very eager to meet up with people who have moved to the Village over the last year or so, but I am not good at making small talk.  I was thinking if I had a good book I could mention, it might make for an easier time.  Any thoughts?  Nervous Newcomer

Dear Nervous Newcomer, I think it is always a good idea to have a book in mind in any situation and I have a great one for you to quickly read in the next few days: A GOOD MOTHER by Lara Bazelon. This legal thriller opens in 2006 on an American airbase in Germany with a transcript of a frantic call from a woman who is being viciously attacked.  Her infant daughter is crying in the background and soon we realize she has killed her assailant. The next entry is three days later in a Los Angeles courtroom and the young mother is awaiting trial for first degree murder. The public defender is a very pregnant attorney with a reputation for unorthodox methods of representing her clients. The rest of the book shifts from the present to the back stories of both the attorney and client. Throughout, we are presented with the question of what makes a good mother. Their families, the public, the court, the press… all weigh in and in the end we too question what makes a good mother.  Highly recommended!

Monday, September 6, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru,  With Sea Cliff School open and Sea Cliff Beach closed, it really feels like Fall.  I need a good book to help me make the seasonal transition.  Do you have a  fast moving novel with a touch of mystery?  Falling into Fall

 Dear Falling into Fall, THE QUIET BOY by Ben Winters is a compelling read and a fascinating combination of genres.  At first glance it is a legal thriller but then we soon see it is a complex family drama, and then suddenly we realize we are in a deadly sci fi horror tale.  The novel begins in 2019 at a fast-food restaurant where we meet the salad man, depressed and unhappy with how his life is going. Next chapter brings us back to 2008 where his story begins. Jay Schenk is an “ambulance chaser”, a lawyer always in search of a lucrative accident or malpractice case. He is well liked and well connected so when his source tells him about a teenager – Wesley Keener - who after being operated on for a sports injury, is now in a zombie state - walking in circles, no speech, no recognition - he imagines the case of a lifetime. He easily convinces the family to hire him …and soon we are in 2019. His career is over, his son and he are estranged, his clients are facing a murder charge, and Wesley continues to stare, never seeing, walking endlessly, ever quiet - a story of parents and children, science and myth, good and evil. Recommended!

Sunday, August 29, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, With just a few weeks of summer remaining, I would love to find a book I can take with me to Sunset Serenade - one of my favorite events. Every Thursday from 6 to 8pm there is a concert at Clifton Park organized by the Sea Cliff Civic Association and chaired by Petrice Kaider. I love to get there early with a good book and wait for the music to begin.  Do you have something special to recommend? Fan of Sunset Serenades

 Dear Fan of Sunset Serenades, I too love these concerts and I have a wonderful book for you: INTIMACIES by Katie Kitamura.  The narrator is a young woman who has just moved to Amsterdam from New York City to work as a translator at the international court at the Hague. Her father has recently died and her mother has moved to Singapore.  She and almost everyone we meet are global citizens with little ties to anyone or anywhere. There is a strange sense of dread throughout.  Visiting a friend, she is witness to a vicious assault of an art dealer; later he re-appears and the mystery of his presence becomes more and more sinister. Her relationship with a married journalist is a constant throughout but chances for her happiness appear bleak.  When she is assigned as principal interpreter for an African warlord charged with horrendous crimes against his people, she begins to question her skills, safety, and sanity.  This is a fascinating story of communication missteps…highly recommended!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I am hoping you can help me.  My book group has been trying to restart and we are facing obstacle after obstacle - vacations, bad weather, fear of being inside, mosquitos - it just goes on and on.  I feel if we had a really good book, we could overcome all of these. Please suggest a winner! Desperate to Discuss

Dear Desperate to Discuss, I hear your desperation and I think I have the book you need: THE TURNOUT by Megan Abbott.  Abbott has written a number of books I have recommended, and they are always well received. Here we meet Marie and Dara - sisters who are passionately involved with ballet.  Orphaned at an early age, they inherited both their mother’s studio and her passion for dance. Marie, the empathetic sister, teaches the youngest students while Dara, practical and cynical, instructs the older boys and girls. Charles, Dara’s husband - a ballet dancer who has suffered many disabling, dance related injuries - is the business manager.  We are quickly swept up in the cruel, punishing world of ballet.  With the annual Nutcracker performance looming, a suspicious accident catapults all three into a bizarre universe that exposes the fragile ties that bind family and community. This is an alarming tale of power, feminism, and passion with many points for discussion - highly recommended!

 Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend I’m getting together with friends and they have asked me to choose a book we can discuss after dinner and before dessert.  I know they all like historical fiction and the 1950’s with its Cold War spycraft is a time they find fascinating. Suggestion?  Seeking Spy Stories

Dear Seeking Spy Stories, I recently read THE VIXEN by Francine Prose and I think your friends will find this fictional take on the aftermath of the Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s trial fascinating.  Simon Putnam is a recent Harvard graduate who is somewhat adrift as he searches for employment.  Through connections with a sinister uncle, he lands a job at a prestigious publishing house. His first assignment is to edit a fictionalized biography of the recently executed alleged spy Ethel Rosenberg. The writer has portrayed her as a sultry seductress who entrapped men in an effort to undermine the country’s nuclear defense force. Simon is appalled at the bad writing and the absurdity of the novel’s premise. He is loath to challenge his bosses, but he is hiding important information: his parents were friends of Ethel Rosenberg and he knows the real Ethel was far, far different then this portrayal of her.   He struggles between loyalty to family and truth… and his need for a job until he comes upon a startling solution.  This is a darkly comedic take on a very cruel time in American history.  Recommended!

Dear Great Book Guru, We just came back from an amazing vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, and now I am ready for a new book to suggest to the family for discussion.  Something that would appeal to the whole group would be ideal.  Any ideas? In Search of a Family Favorite

Dear In Search of a Family Favorite, I have just the book for you: THE FUGITIVITIES by Jesse McCarthy.  This novel travels around the world: Paris, Brooklyn, Brazil, and Montevideo.  We first meet Jonah Winters in Brooklyn as he is about to begin his teaching career in a “Teach America” sort of program.  He is eager as a young Black American to enrich the lives of his students and give back to his community, but he soon finds things are much more complicated than he anticipated.  Having spent much of his childhood in Paris, he is unnerved by the racism he finds in his native land. When he receives a small inheritance from an uncle, he sees a way out of his present despair. This money, combined with a chance encounter with a retired NBA player, change the course of Jonah’s life.  The older man had resolved many of the issues Jonah was confronting and his advice to travel the world to search out people and places challenges him in ways he never expected.  While some of the outcomes seem quixotic, the overall message rings true as our hero finds answers to life’s existential questions.  Recommended!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru,  My book group has not met in person since February 2020- lots of Zooms but we miss being together. We will be meeting on my porch in a few weeks and  I would like a spectacular book to start up our club. Any suggestions?  Starting Up

Dear Starting Up,  I just finished an amazing book that any book club would find a perfect choice for discussion: THE DAMAGE by Caitlin Wahrer.  This debut novel is told from the perspectives of four people over  alternating time settings: 2016 and 2019.  A brutal assault has taken place (2016) – Nick a twenty-year old college student is the victim. His much older brother Tony is intent on avenging this crime. Julia – Tony’s wife- is a former defense attorney who sees and knows how the judicial system works. John Rice is a retired police detective who investigated the crime and now (2019) as he approaches death wants to clear up “loose ends.”  What happened that night and what went on over the next three years is the mystery that Rice tries to unravel.  The psychological trauma each of these four people undergoes is dramatically told and the reader’s sympathies shift as more and more is revealed.  What society is owed versus what family loyalty demands is the recurring theme of this deeply engrossing psychological thriller. Highly recommended!


Sunday, July 4, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, We have had the most wonderful of summer  especially with all the  festivities marking Independence Day- from the Patriotic Bicycle Parade, the Reading of the Declaration of Independence,  to the ever sweet Happy Birthday USA party at the Children’s Library.  Now I have the time and desire for a good novel with maybe a little history thrown in.  Any ideas? Fan of the Fourth


Dear Fan of the Fourth, I just finished reading a compelling tale recommended by a favorite bookstore of mine: BOOKS ARE MAGIC in Brooklyn. The book is OUTLAWED by Anna North.  Set in a dystopian 1890’s Wild West where a mysterious illness has decimated the population, the novel traces the fate of Ada. When we first meet her, she is seventeen and recently married. From the beginning, it is clear that it is of the utmost importance to have children - many children - and not to is reason for banishment. When she does not become pregnant, she is sent away to a prison with other childless women.  The women she meets there form a bond of sisterhood, break out to find a new life for themselves., and find themselves outlawed by society.  The underlying feminist message of empowerment is folded into a fiercely engaging story that the reader will long remember. Recommended!

Friday, June 18, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I have heard that there are many celebrations planned this year for the holiday known as Juneteenth, and I’d like to learn more about it. Do you have a book you might recommend? Seeker of Knowledge

Dear Seeker of Knowledge, ON JUNETEENTH by Annette Gordon-Reed is the book for you! In a series of short essays, Gordon-Reed - a Pulitzer Prize winning historian - relates the story of June 19, 1865 - the day Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Texas, the state where she was born and her family had lived for generations. This slender volume (140 pages) is a history of the holiday but also a history of Texas from the 1500’s until the present time. The first celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866. These involved church-based communities in Texas, and the celebrations soon spread throughout the South. It is now observed throughout the nation with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, readings of African-American writers, street fairs, rodeos, historical reenactments, and family reunions. Gordon-Reed’s book enumerates all this but she also illuminates the role Texas has played in the struggle for racial equality.  There have been horrific missteps, but the author reveals a strong affection for her flawed home state.  A challenging but ultimately rewarding look into our nation’s history. Recommended!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I was checking my calendar and I see that next Wednesday, June 16th, is Bloomsday. I usually celebrate with friends reading excerpts of ULYSSES but this year I wanted to do something outdoors and a little more special. Any thoughts?  Bloomsday Celebrant

Dear Bloomsday Celebrant, I have a wonderful suggestion for you.  As most of our readers know, Bloomsday is celebrated every year to commemorate the day James Joyce’s ULYSSES takes place: June 16, 1904. Joyce spent most of his adult life in exile, but he wrote obsessively about one place and one place only: his birthplace - Dublin.  In ULYSSES, we follow three main characters through the day into the night - seeing and experiencing Dublin as they did. But ULYSSES is more than the portrait of one city on one day - it is also the study of the epic wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) - mocking the wanderings of the most unlikely of heroes: Leopold Bloom.  On Wednesday, June 16 at 7pm, the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff will lead a tour of Sea Cliff/Dublin stopping at parallel locations along the way. The tour will begin at the Metropolitan Bistro / Sea Cliff Water Tower (Martello Tower). This costumed, musically-accompanied excursion will take about an hour. Not necessary, but you might want to read ULYSSES AND US by Declan Kieberd or THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK by Kevin Birmingham. Happy James Joyce Jaunt and Happy Bloomsday!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, As May comes to a close, I am preparing for a strong summer of reading. I’d like to start with some non-fiction.  What do you think is the best piece of non-fiction you have read this year? Strolling into Summer

Dear Strolling into Summer,  I have no problem choosing this one:  EMPIRE OF PAIN by Patrick Radden Keefe, author of SAY NOTHING, another GBG pick. Keefe writes about the Sackler family and how their dynasty changed the world forever.  In exquisite detail, Keefe recounts their history from 1930’s Brooklyn, to Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in Queens, to palatial mansions here and abroad. Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond are the three brothers whose lives, wives, children, and grandchildren populate this book.  Known for their lavish gifts to the Metropolitan Museum (think Temple of Dendur), the Louvre, the Smithsonian and many, many other institutions, their most enduring legacy will undoubtedly be the addiction crisis that has spread throughout the world fueled by their revolutionary advertising techniques and corrupt practices. Many consider Richard- one of the second generation Sacklers- to be the most responsible for the carnage, but others feel the oldest of the three brothers- Arthur- bears the largest share of blame. It was he who masterminded the family drug empire through inventive advertising, a glamorous drug sales force, lavish gifts to physicians, a group of dedicated lawyers, and a myriad of lies.  His brothers and he became billionaires many times over as millions became addicted to their drugs.  Keefe’s book is an indictment of one family and a culture that allows the few to accrue so much.  Highly recommended!


Sunday, May 9, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend my family gathered for a fabulous Mother’s Day celebration on our front lawn.  Book recommendations were flying wildly and one novel sounded particularly interesting…but I can’t remember the title.  It was set in present-day Belfast and the main characters were two sisters. Any thoughts?  Baffled by Belfast

Dear Baffled by Belfast, NORTHERN SPY by Flynn Berry is the book for sure, and it is a great choice indeed! Our narrator is Tessa, a recently divorced, new mother who has just returned to work at the Belfast offices of the BBC.  She looks with horror and disbelief on the news screen as she sees her sister Marian take part in a holdup orchestrated by the IRA. While both are Catholic, neither woman has been involved in the political and religious conflict that has consumed Northern Ireland for decades. While peace has nominally been declared, violence breaks out sporadically and the citizenry lives in constant fear.  Soon Tessa is drawn into a world of internecine intrigue to protect her infant son and sister.  Approached by both the British police and IRA rebels, she soon realizes she can trust no one as informers are revealed to be counter spies and counter-counter spies.  The more likable and sincere her contacts are, the more likely they are to be lying.  In the end, she realizes she can trust no one and the reader is left to wonder if we can trust Tessa herself.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, Can Sea Cliff get any more beautiful?  The parks and gardens are ablaze with color and everyone seems in good spirits.  I am enjoying it so that I think I need a good, dark mystery to keep me grounded! Any thoughts?  Loving Spring in Sea Cliff

Dear Loving Spring in Sea Cliff, I just finished a very good Hitchcock-like mystery - EVERY VOW YOU BREAK by Peter Swanson. We meet Abigail a few weeks before her marriage to Bruce, a young wealthy tech entrepreneur. He is totally devoted to her and their courtship has opened up a world of opulence and ease that she finds dazzling but disturbing. Bruce arranges an elaborate bachelorette party on the West Coast and a rustic, tech free honeymoon in Maine.  All seems perfect but something is amiss, and Abigail can’t quite figure what it is. Throughout the novel there are colorful details of gourmet foods and wines, luxurious resorts and restaurants, loans and lies forgiven - all the makings of an adult fairytale - but something is not quite right. As the sense of foreboding increases, the reader is left to wonder can we trust the narrator – is this a nightmare or a dream come true? An exciting psychological thriller with many surprises - recommended!

Friday, April 23, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, Every year I look forward to the Long Island Reads event our local libraries host, and I especially enjoy John Canning’s witty observations.  Well… this year it was virtual and I missed it. However, I’m sure I can find a recording of it, but first - of course - I want to read the 2021 selection. Do you know what book was chosen this year?  Lover of Long Island Reads

Dear Lover of Long Island Reads, Always a great event and this year’s selection THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett made for a fascinating discussion!  The story weaves in and out of time starting in the 1950’s with the birth of identical twin girls, Stella and Desiree. When the girls are eight years old, their father is brutally murdered in a horrific, racially motivated attack in their small Southern hometown where skin color is very, very important…the lighter the skin, the more attractive the person is judged.  Finding life there very repressive, the girls run away when they turn sixteen. Stella decides to live as a white woman and ultimately vanishes.  Over the decades, their racial identities dictate the outcome of many life choices. They remain apart over the decades and it is only when their daughters meet that Stella and Desiree acknowledge all that separates and binds them together.  An illuminating story of the injustices that permeate American society - highly recommended!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, We were able to get together on our porch with family this weekend (everyone fully vaccinated) and – as you might have guessed - conversation quickly turned to books we had read recently.  Someone mentioned a new novel about tourism and its effects on communities.  It sounded interesting - are you familiar with it?  Loving My Family

Dear Loving My Family, Yes - BROTHER, SISTER, MOTHER, EXPLORER by Jamie Figueroa is an amazing first novel. Rafa and Rufina are brother and sister living in an unnamed Latin American country. Their mother Rosalinda has just died and these adult siblings are devastated at their loss - so much so that Rafa is planning suicide.  To prevent this, Rufina makes a bargain with him: if they don costumes and perform in the village square for the many visiting tourists, the money they earn will allow them to flee their country for a new life. We are with the pair for three days as they dance and sing for a disparate audience of men and women interested in taking selfies, ogling the couple, romanticizing about their “exotic” lives, seeing their obvious sadness and poverty as “part of the charm.”  A stolen wallet that yields only a few dollars, a shaming wife, convention goers who carelessly toss money at the siblings - all make us question what role we might play in this brittle, biting tale of cruel indifference to fellow humans. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 2, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I heard that a famous local mystery author has a new book coming out this week.  I love mysteries and especially those set in a familiar locale. Do you know anything about the book? Eagerly Awaiting

 Dear Eagerly Awaiting, Michael Sears’s newest book TOWER OF BABEL is being released April 6 and it is a wonderful read.  I loved Sears’s earlier mystery series featuring former Wall Street trader, forensic investigator Jason Stafford and his young autistic son, but I think this latest book is my favorite.  He introduces a new hero: Ted Malloy, a former partner in a prestigious Manhattan law firm.  Ted’s life has taken a sharp turn – disbarred, he works out of his small Queens apartment as a “Foreclosure Profiteer,” tracking down small real estate residuals, never much more than $50, 000 or so.  When his criminally inclined assistant, Richie Rubiano, comes up with a million-dollar

 deal, Malloy declines and three days later Richie is dead. Soon Malloy finds himself enmeshed in a dangerously complex world of New York City and Nassau County politicians, greedy developers, mobsters, and environmental activists. As in Sears’s earlier books, the characters and neighborhoods add much to the suspenseful unfolding of the plot.  Whether it be a Mets game at Citi Field with Malloy’s socialite ex-wife or a cheeseburger lunch at Gallagher’s Bar, or a chance encounter with a corrupt billionaire real estate developer, Sears presents it all in exquisite detail. Highly recommended!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru,  My mind is overwhelmed by my existence in the cyberworld of Twitter, Instagram, Face Book, Zoom, webinars, breakout rooms, etc.  It goes on and on… Sometimes I wonder which world is more real and where do I feel more at home: to be or not to be - internet or not? Any books of this on this topic?  In Search of Place

Dear In Search of Place, I just finished a new novel that faces this very issue: FAKE ACCOUNTS by Lauren Oyler.  Our narrator throughout is an unnamed young woman who in the opening pages has just scrolled through her boyfriend’s iPhone in search of - as she says - “a good story” only to discover he is an anonymous internet conspiracy theorist.  She is somewhat relieved and exhilarated to find this other side of him because she admits up until now she had found him rather boring. She soon finds herself enmeshed in a whole world of online fabrications and false existences.  She throws herself into this world, navigating dating apps, expat meetups, wait rooms, chat rooms - all the while creating and recreating her online self. Traveling between New York, D.C., and Berlin, she entertains and terrifies us with her cyber hijinks. Definitely a fascinating look into a world we are all about to experience…if we haven’t already!


Monday, March 15, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I have been reading lots of the novels you have suggested and have enjoyed them. Now I think I would like to read some non-fiction.  With St Patrick’s Day coming up, I am particularly interested in something with an Irish slant.  In Search of the Green

Dear In Search of the Green, I just read a fascinating story of a woman who figured prominently in modern Irish history, but is known by very few:  THE WOMAN WHO STOLE VERMEER by Anthony Amore.  Rose Dugdale was born into incredible wealth - daughter of a fabulously rich London magnate and an aristocratic mother whose family had been involved in the British slave trade.  Educated at exclusive finishing schools, Rose made her debut before Queen Elizabeth in 1958 with 1400 other young women only four of whom went on to college. Graduating from Oxford University with a doctorate in economics, she quickly became involved in political protests around the world, eventually turning her focus on Northern Ireland. In a burst of madcap moves, she led a terrorist helicopter attack on a British police station, and shortly after broke into her family home stealing silverware and jewelry to finance her political activities.  But it was her heist of nineteen Old Masters worth millions of dollars that brought her the most notoriety. One of these paintings was “Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” by Vermeer, among the world’s most revered and beloved artists. Despite imprisonment, she continued to fight for Irish freedom with a dedication that is both disturbing and inspiring. An amazing story and highly recommended!


Monday, March 1, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I just watched NOMADLAND this weekend and really enjoyed it.  I’m sure it will win all sorts of awards for its storyline and acting.  Do you have a book that deals with a similar theme - a woman facing life’s hardships here in America and showing great courage?  In Search of a Hero

Dear In Search of a Hero, I too loved the movie NOMADLAND and this weekend I read a book that reminded me very much of its heroine: ZORRIE  by Laird Hunt. When Zorrie’s parents die of diphtheria within weeks of one another, she goes to live with a bitter, unloving aunt. The young Zorrie is an enthusiastic student and hard worker but she is forced to leave school when she is fifteen.  With the aunt’s death, Zorrie is once again orphaned and leaves her beloved home in Indiana. In Chicago, she finds dear friends with whom she will remain close throughout her life. She also finds employment in a factory manufacturing radium faced clocks. Zorrie and her friends become known as the “ghost girls” because they glow from radium-induced radioactivity. Health problems will plague these young women for the rest of their lives. Working incredibly hard, she faces cruel obstacles all along the way.  Zorrie’s life story underscores the plight of so many in this land of great wealth and beauty.  Highly recommended!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, In the depths of winter, my thoughts turn to summer, sunny beach days and – yes - a good beach read.  I’m thinking of something quick, with colorful characters, a familiar setting, and fun to read. Any thoughts?   A Devoted Beach Book Reader

Dear Devoted Beach Book Reader, No need to wait for summer - a good beach read is a treasure any time of year and here’s one you might enjoy: COBBLE HILL by Cecily von Ziegesar.  Cobble Hill is a neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn and home to the four families highlighted in this novel. They include a former rock star and his wife who pretends to be gravely ill; a flirtatious school nurse and her struggling musician husband; a mysterious performance artist and her inventor husband; and a bestselling British author struggling with a bad case of writer’s block and his high-power executive wife who is about to lose her job.  We follow these four couples and their children through a tumultuous year marked by arson, infidelities, cyber mischief, and multiple romances - all set against a Brooklyn Brownstone backdrop. The lives of all these characters intersect in complicated and humorous ways. But in the end, we realize the most endearing and enduring character is the quirky, picturesque  neighborhood of Cobble Hill


Monday, February 15, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We have just had an interesting week of holidays: Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Mardi Gras. Yes… all in one week!  Now that the festivities are winding down, I am looking for a novel - one with a good story line, generations of characters, and a lovely setting.  Any ideas?   Happy Holiday Enthusiast

Dear Happy Holiday Enthusiast, A long time ago I read a book that I enjoyed immensely and meets all your criteria: FAMILY ALBUM by Penelope Lively. The story opens in the present time as a young couple drive up to Allersmeade - a lovely somewhat shabby Edwardian family home outside London. They are greeted by Alison and Charles - parents of six grown children, each with an interesting story. Always present, always in the background is the family au pair/housekeeper, Ingrid. The story line swings back from present to past and back again many times.  We are there when Alison and Charles meet and decide to marry. We are present at the many elegant family parties Alison orchestrates, and we are there when the secrets that color the family ‘s history are finally revealed.  Throughout, we have Allersmeade - and Alison’s dream of a perfect home for the perfect family – obviously, the recipe for the perfect nightmare.  This is a fast weekend read, but a story you will find hard to forget. Highly recommended!



Dear Great Book Guru, I was with friends at a virtual Super Bowl party last week and a few people jokingly brought up a book they had read. They told me it takes places almost totally at a Super Bowl party set some time in the future and it was very disturbing.  Do you know the book and - if so - would you recommend it?   Super Bowl Partygoer

Dear Super Bowl Partygoer, I finished Don DeLillo’s THE SILENCE just as the game was ending.  While not a football fan, I did enjoy the irony of my timing. This short novel (117 pages) tells the story of five people gathering in an Upper Westside apartment to watch Super Bowl LVI in 2022.  Jim and Tessa have flown in from Paris and just arrived at the party. The flight had been tumultuous with strange electrical and mechanical problems. Jim is bandaged and shaken from the chaotic landing.  Max - host of the party - is a heavy gambler and totally focused on the outcome of the game. His wife Diane is a retired physics professor with no interest in the game. The other guest is Martin - a young high school science teacher who is fixated on the writings of Albert Einstein.  Shortly into the game, the screen goes blank, and everyone soon realizes that this is not an ordinary outage. People crowd the streets as the world slowly becomes aware of some widespread calamity.  Our five characters remain eerily calm as they discuss what it means to be human. A highly unusual book with many questions and answers to ponder…. recommended!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I have decided to alternate fiction and non-fiction books for 2021.  We read your suggestion LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND for January so now we are looking for our February book.  Any thoughts?  February Book Searchers


Dear February Book Searchers, I just finished a rather controversial book:  WAR - How Conflict
Shaped Us, by Margaret MacMillan.  The author describes the many ways war has influenced human society, looking into how geography, politics, and ideology have impacted how and why we fight.  MacMillan asks the questions: when did the first war break out, are humans destined to wage war against each other, why is it warriors are almost always men, have there been peaceful cultures, are there any benefits to war?  The author insists that war is part of civilization, bringing death and destruction, but also educational advances, innovations in medicine, science, and technology.  In many ways this is a frightening book in that it sees strong warlike impulses as part of the human condition -from the games that young children play like “capture the flag” to video games such as the very popular “Call of Duty” to the many sporting events that mirror war with uniforms, awards, national anthems, and fierce partisan competition.  Crossing back and forth between centuries of wars, she paints a pessimistic portrait of humans engaging in a never-ending battle.  The final chapter hints that world peace is not unattainable but very unlikely.  A fascinating and ultimately tragic history of humankind’s greatest scourge - highly recommended!

Monday, January 18, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I am still finding it hard to concentrate during the pandemic.  Is there something short and relevant you could suggest?   Distracted Reader

Dear Distracted Reader, I just read a remarkable book - BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by Jacqueline Woodson. It is a 179-page novel in verse told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy. ZJ is the son of Zachariah Johnson, a legendary professional football player beloved by all because of his prowess, warmth, and intelligence. He had to retire in his early thirties because of brain damage caused by the brutal pummeling he received throughout his career.  When we meet him, he is a shattered man with trembling hands, uncontrollable rages, and severe memory loss. ZJ alternated stories of their past happiness - his pride in being the son of this strong, kind, wealthy, handsome hero - with tales of his father not remembering his name, sleeping for days on end and fighting invisible enemies. Woodson captures the boy’s bewilderment and despair as each encounter brings more pain. She skillfully combines the personal tragedy of this man and his family with the overarching story of the exploitation of Black athletes. She has done a remarkable job in capturing the short-lived glory of the Before and the everlasting pain of the Ever After. Written to appeal to a teen audience, this book is a perfect choice for adults also.  Highly recommended!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, 

Over the holidays, I heard from a lot of my friends about their favorite new books and many have mentioned one they found horrifyingly prescient. It is set close to home – on the East End of Long Island with characters that are eerily familiar. Do you know the book and - if so - would you recommend?   Books for the New Year

Dear Books for the New Year, I recently finished LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam - a truly terrifying tale.  Amanda and Clay leave Manhattan with their two teenage children, Archie and Rose, for a two-week vacation at a luxurious rental home in a secluded spot on the far reaches of Long Island. Their cell phones have notoriously poor service so there is little concern at first when they lose contact with friends back home. However, a late-night knock on the door reveals that the world as they knew it has come to an end.  The owners, George and Ruth, have fled New York City because a sudden blackout has swept the nation.  This affluent, sophisticated Black couple are viewed with suspicion and racial stereotyping, but each couple soon comes to realize their need for each other.   Loud sonic blasts fill the air and strange illnesses develop. With TV and internet down, it is impossible to know the nature of this disaster. Comparisons to the present pandemic are of course uppermost in readers’ minds.  A book you will not be able to put down - highly recommended!