Category Archives: Literary

Mrs. Hemingway

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Title: Mrs. Hemingway

Author: Naomi Wood

Publisher: Penguin, May 2014

Summary/Review: Favorable comparisons with Paula McLain’s outstanding novel “The Paris Wife” are inevitable and deserved, and anyone who enjoyed “The Paris Wife” will no doubt love “Mrs. Hemingway.”  What makes Naomi Wood’s book such a treat is that the reader will get to know not just one but all four of Ernest Hemingway’s wives – Hadley, Pauline, Martha and finally, Mary.  And through the story of the wives and their relationships also comes a vivid portrayal of the tortured man they loved.  Wood’s writing flows with a deceptive ease; make no mistake that the pain and suffering the women experienced was real and not romanticized in these pages.   In fact this fictionalized account of the lives and times of these people feels as real as any well-researched biography; perhaps this comes from all of the research that the author did, visiting Hemingway’s homes and old haunts in Chicago, Paris, Antibes, Key West and Havana.  “Mrs. Hemingway” is beautiful, gripping and tragic – a worthwhile revisiting of what may be a familiar story.

Who will like this book?  Fans of historical, literary fiction, particularly those who love reading fictionalized biographies.  And anyone who likes to read about the lives of writers.

If you like this, try this;  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain; Z: a Novel of Zelda by Therese Ann Fowler; Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck.

 Recommended by:  Mary C, Branch Reference Librarian

If this looks like a book you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

 

 

All the Light we Cannot See

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Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Publisher: Scribner, May 2014

Summary/Review: It is 1934 and Marie-Laure is just 6 years old when she loses her sight. Her father, the principle locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, teaches her well how to adjust to her blindness. As she grows, Marie-Laure’s curiosity and intelligence blossom even as the threat of a world war looms. When Hitler and his army begin their attempt to dominate Europe, Monsieur LeBlanc must flee Paris with Marie-Laure ahead of the impending invasion.

It is 1934 and 8 year old Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are living in an orphanage in Germany. Their favorite pastime of building and fixing radios, and listening to broadcasts from all over Europe, becomes increasingly difficult as the Nazi party begins to censor what German citizens are allowed to listen to. Before they are completely cut off from the outside world, Werner and Jutta see and hear enough to be frightened of what their country and countrymen are becoming. As Werner gets closer to his 15th birthday and his obligatory job in the local mine, an opportunity arises that will change his life forever.

All the Light We Cannot See is the mesmerizing story of Marie-Laure and Werner and their struggle to survive in a world at war. On opposite sides but so very alike, both are thrust into situations that they cannot control and their palpable fear and frustration can be keenly felt. Doerr’s writing is nothing short of perfect. I was absolutely captivated by this novel and I now consider it one of my top 10 favorite novels of all time.

Who will like this?:  Someone looking for a historical novel on World War II. Someone who is not afraid to take an emotional journey through war – be prepared for characters that will stay with you.

If you like this, try this:  Book Thief by Marcus Zusak or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  If you enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s writing style, he has written other books, including “The Shell Collector” and “Memory Wall” (short stories) and “About Grace”, a novel.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If this looks like a book you’d like to read, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!

Canada

canada

Title: Canada

Author: Richard Ford

Publisher: Ecco , May 2012

Summary/Review:  Dell (the narrator) and Berner Parsons are ordinary fifteen year old twins living a somewhat isolated life with their parents in Montana circa 1956.  Their father has failed at a number of ventures in his life but has oddly always envisioned himself as a successful bank robber.   So being a little short on money, he decides to carry out a plan and takes their mother along as his accomplice.  They are undetected for a little while, but one day the police finally come and take the parents away to jail, leaving the brother and sister to fend for themselves.  Mrs. Parsons, fearing they would be caught had arranged for a friend to look after the kids, but by the time she shows up, Berner has left for California on her own.  So she drives Dell to Canada to be taken in by her brother.  The brother turns out to be not at all what he first appears to be and when the reasons he is in Canada become evident it provides a twist in the story. Amazingly, Dell never assigns blame or feels anger and continues to believe that both his parents, though misguided, did truly love him and his sister. What happens in this novel is very unpredictable and leaves you wanting to read more to see what finally happens.  There is some foreshadowing as Dell alludes to events which he has not yet related, but you don’t see how can occur until they unfold. The themes of crossing all sorts of boundaries and the force and effect of corrupt acts make this a thought provoking and absorbing read.

Who will like this book:  Someone who likes thought provoking fiction.

Recommended by:  Jan,  Administration

If you would like to see if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog [Link will open in a new window]

Schroder

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Title: Schroder

Author: By Amity Gaige

Publisher: Grand Central, 2013

Summary/Review: Erik Schroder is writing a letter to his estranged wife. It is an apology and an explanation as to why he felt compelled to kidnap their daughter. Writing from the correctional facility from which he awaits trial, Erik recounts his life and the choices he’s made that have brought him to this point.

Soon after fleeing East Germany with his father, a young Erik made his first mistake, the ramifications of which were not fully realized until several years later. This lie, his invention of a new name and life history on a summer camp application seemed harmless enough at the time. Out of desperation to leave his German roots and Boston home behind him, Erik Schroder becomes Eric Kennedy. It is as Eric Kennedy, not Erik Schroder that he attends summer camp, goes off to college, falls in love and gets married. It is as Eric Kennedy that he kidnaps his daughter, but it is as Erik Schroder that he now sits in jail.

This is a moving and thought provoking novel that will demand discussion, making it a great choice for book groups. The moral and ethical issues that arise, as well as who may be Erik’s most sympathetic victim, are all fodder for a lively conversation.

Who will like this?: Someone who’s looking for a book that will cause a lively discussion.

If you like this, try this: “My Abandonment” by Peter Rock touches on this subject, though in a very dark way. “Room” by Emma Donoghue shows an alternative viewpoint, of the kidnapped rather than the one kidnapping.

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if this book is available, or to place a hold on it! [Link will open in a new window]

The Dog Stars

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Title: The Dog Stars

Author: Peter Heller

Publisher: Knopf, August 2012

Summary/Review: After a pandemic kills 99% of the population, a survivor tries to find some hope for the future.

Hig, along with his dog Jasper and fellow survivor Bangley, is living on a fortified compound in Colorado after a flu pandemic. Their safety is precarious and hinges on Hig’s piloting his 1956 Cessna to scout their area from the air, and Bangley’s uninhibited penchant for killing intruders. Though Bangley seems content with their situation, Hig can’t forget a radio transmission he heard 3 years ago coming from Grand Junction, and the hope that came with it. Hig must decide between his commitment to Bangley and the search for a better existence.

Powerful and beautifully written, Heller’s debut novel not only illustrates the horror and isolation that come with the near-annihilation of mankind, but the new bonds that are forged and the humanism that remains.

Who will like this book: Someone who is sick of reading zombie-pocalypse books and is looking for something a little deeper and more focused on human psychology. Fans of dystopias who are looking for something new.

If you like this, try this: If you would like to read more books about the apocalypse that aren’t centered around zombies, try “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson (the movie remake stars Will Smith). “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (also made into a movie) is centered around global climate change. Both show the bonds humans form with either one another or the living things around them in hopes of survival. “The Pesthouse” by Jim Crace is more focused on the dark side of humanity and what people can do to out-survive one another- including slavery, thievery, and murder.

This is Peter Heller’s debut, so be on the lookout for more from this author- who is featured on Amazon and shares a picture of the real-life inspiration for Jasper!

Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator

If you would like to see if this book is available or place a hold, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog! [Link will open in a new window]

The Language of Trees

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TitleThe Language of Trees

Author:  Ilie Ruby

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, July 2010

Summary: Ilie Ruby’s debut novel opens with a canoeing accident in the waters of the Canandaigua Lake. The three small Ellis children have stolen a canoe and are making their way out to Squaw Island, a few miles away. When a storm springs up, the wind and waves prove to be too much for the children; only two will survive the storm. Twelve years later, the tragedy continues to haunt the residents of Canandaigua figuratively and literally.

Grant Shongo has returned to his family’s cabin on the lake. His wife Susanna left him a year ago and Grant has come back to heal. Back to the place his Seneca ancestors called The Chosen Spot, where the earth split open and his people emerged. Grant isn’t the only one who has been drawn back to Canandaigua. Echo, his first love, has returned from Boston, fearing that Joseph, the man who raised her, is in far worse health than he has let on.

The reunion of Grant and Echo is overshadowed by the disappearance of Melanie Ellis. Melanie has led a troubled life since that night twelve years ago, when she and her brother and sister were caught in the storm so far from shore. Now she is gone without a trace, leaving behind her boyfriend and young child. Some believe she is on yet another binge, but others are not convinced. Either way, her family is determined to find her. It is a perfect storm of sorts, these events that are unfolding. Events that will reveal secrets long kept hidden, a lifetime of secrets and mistakes “that catch up with a person in a span of a few hours”.

This is a great novel with endearing characters that will touch your heart. This is not a novel about regret; instead it is a story of accepting choices made and moving on without regret. It is a story that demonstrates that “not everything is meant to happen. Some things should stay as they are, just like that, full of possibility. It’s wanting them that gives you something to hope for, a reason to get up in the morning and put on a fancy dress”. I loved this novel and its message.

Who will like this book? Everyone, especially those who like literary fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Lonely Polygamist

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Title: The Lonely Polygamist

Author: Brady Udall

Publisher: W.W. Norton, May 2010

Summary: Golden Richards is in a bit of a pickle. With four wives, 28 children and a failing construction business, he doesn’t see how he can lead his struggling brood through the next few months, let alone into the glory of eternal life. Heartbroken over the loss of a beloved daughter, he finds himself drifting further away from the responsibilities of life at home, staying at his distant job site for longer and longer stretches of time. Each day seems to bring a new challenge that  tests Golden’s faith – the only work he can find is building a brothel in the Nevada desert and the unexpected temptation he finds there is surprising. Devastated and desolate, Golden teeters on the edge of the abyss, all the while knowing that if he fails he will drag his immense family with him.

Set in the 1980s, this funny, heart-wrenching story, told in the voices of Golden, questioning newest wife Trish, rambunctious young son Rusty (a boy nicknamed ‘The Family Terrorist’) and the Richards’ house itself will  delight the fans of Udall’s first book The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. It is a surprising, beautifully written story about reconciliation with your hopes, dreams, family, and place in the wider world.

Who will like this book?: This is a great book for all fans of family fiction, and serious literary readers. Anyone looking  for a long, engrossing book to savor this summer.

If you like this, try this: Udall’s debut, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Island Beneath the Sea

TitleIsland Beneath the Sea

Author:  Isabel Allende

Publisher: Harper, April 2010

Summary: Island Beneath the Sea follows a young woman named Zarité thrown into slavery in 18th century Haiti. Known by most as Tété, she is chosen to become housekeeper for Toulouse Valmorain, an unpredictable plantation entrepreneur and his wife, Eugenia, a woman slowly being dissolved into madness by the harsh living conditions and constant threat of political uprisings. The story follows Tété, who is likeable and sweet, but also conflicted and strong, as she struggles to become a free woman while desperately trying to keep her family intact and protect all those who have helped her.

Staying true to her roots, Allende creates an emotional story of romance, politics, and fantasy using an outstanding cast of characters. At times, the book can be a roller coaster- the defeats are particularly harsh and the accomplishments incredibly satisfying, reminding the reader that life is not always just. At approximately 500 pages, be prepared to devote at least a few weeks to the book. The characters -since their relationships are generally unconfirmed and many appear sporadically- take some time to get to know, but it is well worth the effort.

Who will like this book?  Those who like literature and character development- though not as tough as 100 Years of Solitude, a large number of characters come into play, and the book moves rather slowly at times (which is not a particularly bad thing!). Also, those who like reading about exotic places, history, and politics. Similar books would include Honolulu by Alan Brennert and Portrait in Sepia, also by Allende.

If you like this, try this: Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Recommended by:  LB, Circulation Assistant

Where the God of Love Hangs Out

Title: Where The God of Love Hangs Out

Author: Amy Bloom

Publisher: Random House, January 2010

Summary: Amy Bloom’s new collection of short stories will make you laugh, cry, cringe and gasp and it is possible that you will feel all these emotions in just one story. In this book there are two sets of stories that are intertwined and then there are four stand alone stories. One set of stories revolve around William, Isabel, Clare and Charles who are old friends until two of them start an affair. The other set of stories are about a mother and her stepson and what foolishly happens after the death of her husband! Bloom writes about life and love in a real way which is sometimes messy, sometimes raw and sometimes joyous. The characters are so memorable and each story will leave you satisfied but also hungering for more! Bloom explores the themes of love, aging and death with such grace and gusto that she will blow you away. At the core of every story is family in all their glory – good, bad and ugly. I could not put this book down and then it stayed with me long after the last page.

Who will like this book? Fans of Amy Bloom’s Away.

Recommended by: Claudia, Circulation

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

TitleThe Hummingbird’s Daughter

Author:  Luis Alberto Urrea

Publisher: Little, Brown, May 2005

Summary: Set in the late 1800’s- early 1900’s, the book follows Teresita, a young girl in Mexico who has been abandoned by her poverty-stricken farm hand mother and given to her abusive aunt who can not afford to feed another child. Huila, an “ancient” religious medicine woman at the age of fifty, takes the child under her wing when she realizes that Teresita has also been given the gift of supernatural healing. Teresita soon discovers her true calling to take away the people’s suffering, and soon her life spirals out of control as word spreads all the way into North America about her abilities to heal the sick and wounded, as well as her outspoken liberal political views against the government and organized religion, which do not sit well with the already collapsing Conservative government and Roman Catholic church. This story follows Teresita until the age of twenty as she desperately tries to escape her destiny of martyrdom.

Beautifully written and rich in detail, Urrea makes this a quick 500-page read. Impossible to put down, the story will stay with you long after you’ve finished- especially when you discover she is based on a real person related to Urrea. Disturbing, exciting, and beautiful all at the same time.

Who will like this book? Fans of magical realist authors (such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie) who are looking for a bit more realism than magic. If you enjoyed Into the Beautiful North, be prepared for a much darker, deeper and more mature look into human psychology, organized religion, and politics. It is NOT for those with weak stomachs.

Recommended By: LB, Circulation Assistant