Sunday, August 28, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru,  I recently attended an incredible concert here in Sea Cliff. Jimmy Moore was scheduled to perform at Roslyn Park but weather forecasts were dire, so he moved the concert to his studio.  He was magnificent!   Afterwards, we stayed around chatting and someone mentioned a new book about a family of restaurateurs. It sounded interesting - any thoughts?  Music Maven

Dear Music Maven, I’m a big fan of Jimmy Moore’s music too and I think I know the book that was  mentioned: MARRYING THE KETCHUPS by Jennifer Close.  This is the story of three generations of Sullivans – a Chicago family whose lives center around JP Sullivan’s Bar and Restaurant. The story opens as the Cubs win the World Series, Donald Trump is elected president, and Bud - the family patriarch - dies unexpectedly. The reactions of the family to these events make for a great comic novel both tender and shocking. Each of the grandchildren has a story - starting with Gretchen, a lead singer in a band who wonders if she will ever really make it. Her grandfather’s death makes her reconsider many of her choices. Her older sister Jane begins to suspect her marriage is not as stable as she thought while their cousin Teddy - longstanding bartender - finds himself being stalked by a mysterious customer. Each of the family reacts to the changes that time and mortality bring in startlingly different and sometimes hilarious ways. This is a quick read with a subtle message – recommended!

 Dear Great Book Guru, Well September has arrived… and with it all the great Fall events that fill up the Sea Cliff calendar. Next week is the iconic Newcomers’ Welcoming Party hosted by the Sea Cliff Civic Association. Having moved to the Village a few months ago, I plan to attend. I’m wondering if you have a great book suggestion for me - I’d love to have something to talk about if things get a little quiet. Nervous Newcomer

Dear Nervous Newcomer, Never fear - the Newcomers Party is a delight and there will not be a single awkward moment! However, I do have a good book you might want to read just for pleasure: WE RUN THE TIDES by Vendela Vida. Part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, part travelogue, this book takes us on a fascinating journey back in time to another Sea Cliff (yes!) - a waterfront San Francisco community circa 1984. Pre-tech wealth, San Francisco is a bit shabby - enclaves of wealth and privilege, but also very much counter-culture. The novel’s narrator is Eulabee, a teenager whose artist/nurse parents bought their home as a fixer-upper but feel it necessary to send her to an exclusive girls’ school where she meets up with the very wealthy Maria Fabiola. The girls form a deep friendship based on a shared desire to defy authority and embrace danger.  When they find themselves enmeshed in a mystery even the adults can’t unravel, the girls question what is true, what is real and …most importantly, whether they can trust one another? Recommended!

Friday, August 19, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, The streets of Sea Cliff always grow a little quieter in August with people going off on vacation.  Where do they go when we all know Sea Cliff is the perfect vacation spot? Oh well… do you have a good novel for me to read during these lazy, hazy August days and nights? Summer Sea Cliff Sojourner

Dear Sea Cliff Summer Sojourner, Yes, it would be interesting to do a survey of our fellow citizens’ vacation whereabouts, but first I have a great book to recommend: THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan.  The story opens with Hannah Rokeby transferring to the University of Virginia from Maine where she lives with her mother Laura. Her goal is to join the university’s prestigious Innocence Project program which is currently trying to exonerate convicted killer Michael Dandridge. We soon realize Hannah’s object is to sabotage his chance to be freed. She quickly develops strong friendships with her fellow law students who are totally unaware of her subterfuge. As the group investigates other cases, Hannah begins to see patterns of guilt and -yes - innocence she had refused to acknowledge, while we begin to wonder if she has been a reliable narrator.  Who should be punished and who should be forgiven are questions that loom throughout this compelling book - highly recommended!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Dear Great Book Guru,  We Were in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens for a great birthday party with delicious treats and a fabulous pirate theme. Many of the partygoers were talking about a new book they had read recently.  It was about three sets of families that come together over the years for holidays, birthdays, vacations with varying outcomes.  Have you heard of it?  Brooklyn Birthday Party Fan

Dear Brooklyn Birthday Party Fan,  I just finished reading Eleanor Brown’s latest book ANY OTHER FAMILY . When their grandmother dies, Phoebe and her siblings are adopted by three sets of parents. The adults decide on a novel arrangement - they will form a super family so that the children will continue to see each other regularly. They will live near each other and be together for holidays - large and small - throughout the year.  We meet them as they begin on their first vacation together and we soon see the challenges that arise. The mothers have very different parenting styles and expectations.  Tabita is a perfectionist who enjoys controlling all aspects of this family adventure.  Ginger is an older single woman who prizes her privacy and has strong feelings about how she wants to raise her daughter.  Elizabeth finds coping with an infant overwhelmingly difficult but is reluctant to let the others know of her struggles.  The book is told in alternating chapters that allow each of the women to voice her thoughts to events in a Rashomon fashion, offering us a fascinating look into parenting and the myriad meanings of family.  A quick read and highly recommended!