Sunday, February 27, 2022

Dear Great Book Guru, This past weekend, at breakfast with friends, we all agreed we were looking for a good suspenseful book that we could read in a day and then get back together to discuss.  Any recommendation?  Breakfast Banterers

Dear Breakfast Banterers, I was back and forth to Brooklyn on the LIRR this weekend and read just the book you are looking for: MOUTH TO MOUTH by Antoine Wilson.  This short novel (192 pages) opens in a JFK airport ticket booth as our narrator learns his flight has been delayed.   Over the loudspeaker he hears the name Jeff Wood being called. A Jeff Wood had been a casual acquaintance twenty years before at UCLA but what were the chances it was the same person? So begins a mystery thriller where chance plays a pivotal role. Jeff invites our narrator to join him in the first-class lounge where he tells him a story that he has supposedly never shared with anyone. Years before - shortly after graduation - Jeff was housesitting near the ocean when he saw a man drowning. After bringing him to shore and giving him CPR, the man began breathing on his own. Afterwards, Jeff became obsessed with finding out more about this man he had saved and - more importantly - was he worthy of having been saved.  He learns he is a very wealthy art collector and soon stealthy infiltrates his life. Throughout, the reliability of both the narrator and Jeff is in doubt with the truth constantly shifting until the final terrifying sentence. Highly recommended!  


Sunday, February 20, 2022


Dear Great Book Guru, I was at a wonderful Birthday/Anniversary party this past Presidential weekend at the Metropolitan Bistro – the food was delicious and the hosts and guests fascinating. There was talk about a new book that touched on the pandemic but was more about the hero’s quest to know herself.  Sound familiar?  Presidential Partygoer

Dear Presidential Partygoer,The book is JOAN IS OKAY by Weike Wang.  Joan is, at thirty-six years of age, a very skilled physician at a prestigious New York City hospital.  Her parents had moved from China so her brother Fang and she could attend schools in America. When both children finished their educations in elite universities, the parents returned to China to live out their lives in the comfort and security of their native land.  When the father dies, the mother returns to America for a visit but is soon caught up in the politics and restrictions of the pandemic as flights are cancelled and lives placed on hold.  Joan is comfortable in her circumscribed life at the hospital where she excels and finds her brother’s lavish lifestyle off-putting and her mother’s demands irritating. When a new neighbor attempts to draw her into his social orb, she recoils. Everyone around her seems to see her shortcomings while Joan herself sees herself as “okay.”   When the pandemic calls her back to work after a forced bereavement leave, she realizes that she is indeed more than okay - she’s just about perfect!  A short novel and highly recommended….

Sunday, February 13, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, Last weekend, we had friends over for a Valentine’s celebration and one of the guests mentioned a book that is part of the Together We Read program - unlimited quantities available online with your local library card. She didn’t know the name of the book being discussed this month.  Are you familiar with it?  Post Valentine Reader

Dear Post Valentine Reader, Together We Read is a great program and the name of the book chosen is FIVE WOUNDS by Kirstin Valdez Quade.  It’s a beautifully told story of four generations of the Padilla family living in a small village near Espanola, New Mexico. Their story is told in alternating chapters by three family members: Amadeo, an unemployed thirty-three year old man about to become a grandfather; Yolanda, his mother who is the family breadwinner working for a local legislator; and Angel, her pregnant granddaughter, who has just moved in with them.  The five wounds refer to a religious ritual in which a local man is chosen to portray Christ in a procession through the village at Easter time.  When the story opens, Amadeo has just discovered he has been chosen, and he immediately sees this as a sign that he should change his ways. At the same time his mother is diagnosed with a terminal illness and a difficult life becomes infinitely more difficult. Throughout, decisions are made that seem only to add chaos to already tumultuous lives, but as our affection for the characters grows,  we realize that redemption is always possible. Highly recommended!

Sunday, February 6, 2022


Dear Great Book Guru,  I am looking for a book to throw myself into for this Valentine weekend.  I love courtroom dramas, but I would also like a story about family.  Any thoughts? Weekend Reader

Dear Weekend Reader, I just finished a short novel you could easily read over the weekend. THE FINAL CASE by David Guterson is about a father and son and is set within the justice system.  The unnamed narrator is a renowned writer who has stopped writing. It is not so much a case of writer’s block but more a case of world weariness so when his elderly attorney father, Royal, crashes his car and need a ride to his office and courthouse, our narrator is more than willing to help. He soon finds himself enmeshed in his father’s latest pro bono defense of a woman accused of murdering her young, adopted daughter. We learn of the child’s early life in war-torn Ethiopia, her time in an orphanage there, and her hopes for a “good life” in America.  She is adopted into a large family with a very strict code of behavior and sadistic punishments abounding. When the child dies, the court assigns Royal to represent the adoptive mother. The trial uncovers few surprises and we come to realize this novel is not so much about the crime but more about Royal’s respect for the law and his ability to see past human faults. By the end, our narrator sees his father as a truly heroic figure.  This is, at times, a hard book to read but ultimately worthwhile- recommended.