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!