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!