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!