Friday, September 8, 2023

Dear Great Book Guru,  My friends and I are planning on starting a monthly book club and we need direction.  Some want to stick to fiction, but others want to stick to non-fiction.  Can you help us resolve the problem before our club ends before it begins!  Lover of Books

Dear Lover of Books, I recently read a great novel that has many aspects of non-fiction woven throughout: THE HEAVEN AND EARTH GROCERY STORE by James McBride. McBride is a longtime favorite of mine and most of his novels do  have a historical background. His THE GOOD LORD BIRD is a fictionalized account of John Brown’s Raid, and his earlier COLOR OF WATER was a memoir.  This latest book opens in 1972, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania where a construction crew has just uncovered a skeleton with no identifying signs except a mezuza, a belt buckle, and a pendant.  The mezuza leads the investigators to question the town’s only remaining Jewish resident. But shortly after, Hurricane Agnes washes away all evidence so the case is dropped, and we are quickly brought back in time to the 1920’s where the story begins.  This a tale of Jewish, Black, and East European men and women living in an impoverished section of Pottstown, Chicken Hill, and the racist and anti-Semitic trials they endure. The title comes from the store run by Chona, wife of Moshe who owns a theater and dance hall. Her generosity and goodness to everyone is acknowledged by all and becomes a force that unites the community despite the many tensions that exist. This is an epic tale with many heroic figures and McBride masterfully brings them together for a dazzling conclusion.  Highly recommended!  


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