Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Heading Out to Wonderful" by Robert Goolrick

Treat yourself to the first few chapters of this new mystery from Robert Goolrick.  He evokes life in 1940s in a small Southern town with such detail that the reader will become immediately absorbed.  The story is based on a true story told to the author in the Greek Isles 25 years ago.

Craig Wilson, the USA Today columnist (who is also funny and right-on with his wry observations of daily life in his Wednesday columns) says of Robert Goolrick:  "Once a hard-partying New York ad executive who ended up on welfare and in Alcoholics Anonymous, he is now well known as the author of a highly praised, best-selling debut novel, A Reliable Wife, and the blistering tell-all family memoir, The End of the World as We Know It.".

Goodreads says Heading Out to Wonderful is " charged and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terribly wrong...".  This is a novel where the less said the better.  Open it up, linger on the first few chapters to appreciate the skilled rendering of days gone by and then dive into the mystery.  As the opening lines of the novel says:  The things is, all memory is fiction.  You have to remember that.

Front Cover

Friday, July 20, 2012

"The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love
For Intense Discussion!

Nine members (an almost perfect number for discussion) of Between The Lines Book Club discussed The History of Love, the second novel of Nicole Krauss, published in 2005 and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.  This is a serious novel, not to be recommended as a lighthearted summer read.  For someone wanting substance, depth and with compassion for sympathetic characters, this fits the bill.

The novel follows two main characters living in contemporary New York City.  Leo Gursky is an elderly, lonely Jewish man who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Polish woods.  Alma is a 15 year old girl struggling after the death of her father.  The descriptions of these two are heartbreakingly real and at times hilariously funny.  There are several "loves" in this novel, each making for intense discussion.  The "book within the book" most agreed was not as compelling as the rest of the novel.

Some members couldn't say if they liked or disliked the book although they were glad they read it.  Several loved the book and even wanted to reread it.  There are a few twists that are shocking and the ending is ambiguous.  Both the twists and the ending caused lots of back and forth discussion.  A second reading would be worthwhile because of the knowledge the reader would now have.  Leo, especially, would be viewed in an even more tragic light.

We discussed some of the comments from the Internet.  The author is married to another, more famous author, Jonathan Safran Foer.  He wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which none of us had read.  Some comments on the Internet are critical of Nicole Krauss because both her book and her husband's feature similar characters and some plot lines.  Also, they both use similar and uncommon literary techniques.  Members dismissed this criticism as we are reading for pleasure and discussion, not a critical analysis of literature.

As mentioned, this is a complex book for serious readers and is highly recommended especially for book clubs.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"In The Sanctuary of Outcasts" by Neil White

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
Thursdays with Maureen's latest book discussion was In The Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White.  11 members attended which is a rather large group for a summer meeting.  Most enjoyed the book and as sometimes happens with book club selections, even those that didn't particularly think Mr. White was the best writer were glad they read his memoir.

Neil White was a successful Southern journalist and publisher incarcerated for bank fraud in the early 1990s on a former plantation in Carville, Louisiana that also housed patients suffering from Hansen's disease.  Hansen's disease is the proper term for people suffering from the neurological disease of leprosy.  The story is about his journey from arrogance to a much more humble outlook.  You can imagine his distress in his first days in prison.  He had a privileged life with a fantastic job, nice family, prestige and everything that money can buy.  He tells his young children that he's going to camp.  There he meets some hardened prisoners and also leprosy patients housed there, some for over 50 years.  One of the first patients he meets holds out his hand for White to shake but the man has no fingers.  Eventually, he learns to accept the disfigured patients and the wisdom they impart to him. He says that it turned out to be a "wonderful, wonderful experience" and he doesn't think he would have had the same life changing experience if he'd been in a regular federal prison. In a poignant sentence towards the end, White thanks the judge that sentenced him to Carville.  

The book is a fascinating account of a group of very diverse individuals, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad.  Publishers Weekly says "Brisk, ironic and perceptive, White's introspective memoir puts a magnifying glass to a flawed life, revealing that all of life is to be savored and respected".  

For further information, the fiction book Moloka'i by Alan Brennert comes highly recommended.  There is also a documentary film entitled Triumph at Carville - Leprosy in America that takes you inside the daily workings of one of the most intriguing medical establishments in our country.  The DVD, An Uncommon Kindness, is about Father Damien, the priest that lived among lepers on Moloka'i and ultimately was infected and died of leprosy.  

Our library has a book bag with eight copies of In The Sanctuary of Outcasts that is available for checkout for book clubs.  There is much to discuss and learn in this memoir.  It would make an excellent selection for your next book club read.  Be sure to check it out!