Monthly Archives: April 2009

Crazy for the Storm

Title: Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival

Author: Norman Ollestad

Publisher: Ecco Press. May 2009

Summary: I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. Granted, I am an extreme adventure reader junkie, but I was not expecting to be fascinated by the reckless yet charismatic parent of the author. The book opens with the 11-year old author “waking up” in a  plane that crashed in a blizzard twenty years ago. The chapters alternate between the how the young boy manages to survive the crash and how he got there – in large part due to his father. The writing is average but the stories of his childhood adventures with his daredevil father are not.

In one passage Ollestad describes his father’s ‘madness/passion’ :

“The cranium shelf rising off his forehead bumpy and uneven, the  cluster of diamonds in the blue of his eyes fragile cracked windows, and I  saw someone younger and full of grand ambitions and I thought about how he had wanted to be a professional basketball player. He looked at me as if into a mirror, studying me, like I was holding something that he admired, even desired.”

I was compelled to sit down for a long afternoon and just finish the tale.

Who will like this book?: If you enjoyed Krakauer’s tales, or are intrigued by the extreme adventures of the likes of Tori Murden McClure [who rowed across the Atlantic Ocean solo (and who is appearing at the Library on Mon. May 18 at 7 pm)] you will enjoy this book.

Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian

A Reliable Wife

Title:  A Reliable Wife

Author:  Robert Goolrick

Publisher:  Algonquin, March 2009

Summary: Robert Goolrick resurrects the Gothic romance!  This book is so dark, suspenseful, sensual, and scary that I’m not quite sure how to begin to explain it, accept to say that is absolutely fabulous. It’s 1907 Wisconsin, the dead of winter, and everything is dark, frozen, covered with snow.  Ralph Truitt stands on the platform of the train station, awaiting the arrival of his new wife-to-be under the watchful eyes of practically everyone who lives in his small rural town (that is everyone who hasn’t gone murderously insane.)  Catherine Land sits on the train, having answered Truitt’s ad in the newspaper, on her way to marry him.  She says goodbye to her past, literally throwing the remnants of it out the window of the private railway car he has sent for her (yes, he’s that rich).  We don’t know much, but we know that Catherine is definitely not who she’s pretending to be, and that’s only the beginning of all of the terrible secrets buried in this book.

Part DuMaurier, part Poe, part Bronte (and even a little bit part Stephen King), Goolrick has masterfully created a suspenseful tale that will leave you breathless, really.  He writes for all of the senses, and brings us to a world that is simply tragic and utterly beautiful.

Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference

When Skateboards Will Be Free

Title: When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood

Author: Said Sayrafiezadeh

Summary: In his debut memoir, Sayrafiezadeh describes his childhood in the Socialist Workers Party. Even after her husband leaves her to foment revolution in his native Iran, Said’s mom, Martha,  remains steadfast to him, and to the Party. Self-inflicted poverty is not only a constant, it is perceived as a guiding value - a way to identify with the struggle of the workers and a thumb to the eye of the bosses and their materialistic society. Martha tells young Said that he can have a skateboard after the revolution in an episode that supplies the title of the book.

While young Said hurtles through adulthood, attending SWP conferences, fearing for his father’s life in Iran, and taking a trip to Cuba to see the socialist dream in action, his mother’s psyche slowly unravels. This bracingly funny and shocking memoir is a revelation; a unique look into the world of people still waiting for the revolution to come from a powerful and promising new writer.

Who will like this book?: People who enjoy memoirs, particularly by people with interesting (and damaged) childhoods. Readers looking for insight into outsider and fringe politics.

If you like this, try this: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. For more on the politics, try Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Little Bee

Title:  Little Bee

Author:  Chris Cleave

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster, February 2009

Summary: Chris Cleave’s second novel is quite an accomplishment.  There are some beautiful moments, and some horrific moments throughout this complex story, told to us by two very different women who have been bound together by a violent event. The publishers of Little Bee are asking readers not to “spoil” the story by revealing too much of the plot.  While I don’t agree that this is altogether necessary (there’s no big secret revelation, really, a la The Double Bindby Chris Bohjalian), I’ll honor their wishes.

What I can tell you is that I found the voice of Little Bee and her story to be excellently portrayed and very moving.  When we first meet her she’s being released from a British immigration detention center after two years. We learn that she’s originally from a war-torn village in Africa, and has escaped almost certain death by stowing away on a ship to England.  She reaches out to Sarah and Andrew O’Rourke, a couple from London that Little Bee and her sister met one fateful day on a beach in Nigeria.  Sarah, our other narrator, takes Little Bee in even though her own life is in pieces after the suicide of her husband.  As the two women together try to imagine how they can possibly create new lives for themselves, we learn more about the awful truth that connects them and brings the story to its inevitable, heart-wrenching conclusion.

Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference

The Leisure Seeker

Title: The Leisure Seeker

Author:Michael Zadoorian

Publisher: William Morrow, January 2009

Summary: The Leisure Seeker isthe second book by Mr. Zadoorian. He wrote Second Hand,which was an ABA Booksense 76 selection, a Barnes & Noble Award Finalist, and the winner of the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award.

This book is a charming little read about an elderly couple who flee across country against the wishes of doctors and family members. It starts off a little roughly but soon the reader is engaged in the adventure of a couple married sixty years who are determined to visit Disneyland one last time. There are no real surprises along the way save for some nice words of sentimental wisdom. Nevertheless I did find myself rather moved. The end of the story has a twist but not altogether unexpected.

Recommended by: Karen, Deputy Town Librarian

The Survivor’s Club

Title: The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life

Author: Ben Sherwood

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, January 2009

Summary: Ben Sherwood, a fiction author (The Man Who Ate the 747) hits a home run with this piece of general non-fiction. He asks a very simple, engrossing question: Who survives when the unthinkable occurs? When you fall off a cruise ship in shark infested waters or your plane crashes and goes on fire? When a jar of acid is dropped on your head or a knitting needle gets lodged in your heart? When a mountain lion attacks or you contract a flesh-eating virus?  Why do some people survive (and thrive) when most others would succumb?

Sherwood spends equal time discussing the science of these scenarios with experts and talking with the unforgettable survivors themselves. It is a fast-paced read suitable for everybody, and is a book you will likely want to own. Or at least, take notes on!

Who will like this book?: It’s hard to think of who wouldn’t like this book – but it is especially good for fans of survival stories and people who like to be really, really prepared for everything.

If you like this, try this: Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens by Kathy Harrison. Brain Rules by John Medina.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Etta

Title: Etta

Author:  Gerald Kolpan

Publisher: Ballantine Books, March 2009

Summary: Who was Etta Place? Historians know her as an elusive and beautiful member of the outlaw gang “The Wild Bunch”. She is also known for her legendary romance with the Sundance Kid. Etta’s true identity and her fate after the Sundance Kid’s death remain a mystery. Gerald Kolpan has imagined and written a life story for this enigmatic woman. Though this is a work of fiction, it is clear the author extensively researched the era and included details about a number of things-from the Pinkerton Agency to railroad food. This clever debut novel will transport you back in time to the not-so-wild west and life on the run as a fugitive member of The Wild Bunch.

Who will like this book?  Fans of historical fiction.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator