Sunday, March 26, 2023

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at the annual Barbara Pym conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts on St Patrick’s Day weekend. While there was much talk of Pym, some the attendees spoke of an Irish writer who had just written a new book set in rural Ireland that was highly acclaimed.  Are you familiar with this book?    Lover of All Things Pym and Irish

Dear Lover of All Things Pym and Irish,  Donal Ryan’s latest novel THE QUEEN OF DIRT ISLAND is a wonderful book to read as March comes to an end - the month of the Irish!  It is the tale of three women and three generations living in a small rural village in Tipperary. Mary, the grandmother, is a spinner of fantastical yarns. Eileen is her bookmaker daughter-in-law and the widowed mother of Saoirse (meaning freedom in Irish).  Most of the novel is told from the perspective of Saoirse who we meet as a newborn and follow throughout her life to adulthood.  The travails of all three are met with bravery and laughter while the men in their lives seem only to add to their daily trials. Within each short chapter, there lie tales of betrayal and cruelty, but also tales of great love and  redemption.  When mother and daughter are confronted with the truth of Dirt Island, we see the enormous strength each possesses.  A truly remarkable book and highly recommended! 


Sunday, March 5, 2023

Dear Great Book Guru, Next Wednesday, March 15 at 8pm the Sea Cliff Civic Association will host its annual Meet the Candidates forum at St. Luke’s Parish / Community Center.  While it is an uncontested election, the forum gives residents an opportunity to hear candidates’ governmental philosophies and question them about ongoing Village issues. Before the event I’ll have time for a good book - perhaps a fast-moving mystery?  Fan of Village Politics

Dear Fan of Village Politics, I just finished a great book I’m sure you too will enjoy: I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU by Rebecca Makkai.  Mystery, psychological thriller, character study - this novel is all of these and more!  The narrator, Bodie Kane, is an academic at UCLA and, on a whim, agrees to teach a mini course on podcasting at Granby, the New Hampshire boarding school she attended.  Bodie is drawn back by her interest in a murder that took place there thirty years ago, when she was a senior. A young athletic trainer, Omar Evans, was found guilty of the crime and is serving a lengthy prison sentence.  Bodie suspects he has been falsely accused and works with her students to exonerate him using podcast techniques. Throughout, she addresses a person from her past who she feels is the likely murderer. Makkai intertwines real time stories of sexism, racism, bullying, and false confessions as we move back and forth starting in the 1990’s up until the present. Her accumulated facts are horrifying on many levels with the reader wondering if justice can ever prevail. This is a book whose powerful message will resonate with the reader for a very long time – highly recommended!