Book Club Archives

A fairly comprehensive list of my reads. 

still reading:


The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
I picked this up at the grocery store before it won the Pulitzer. I love McCarthy. This is haunting, with the crafting of language he used in Pretty Horses Trilogy.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell : A Novel

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
An engaging tale of the last magicians in England, set in the early 1800s. Clarke writes in a steady voice and tone of the era. A Big book, but captivating.

The History of Love
Nicole Kraus

done read:

Citadel
by A.J. Cronin

The Book Club's September read, written in the 20s about a young doctor in a small mining town in Wales. 9/07

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
This one seems much darker and scarier than the others. A good speedy read--and it ends well. (8-07)

The Gravedigger's Daughter
by Joyce Carol Oates
Rebecca didn't have much of a chance to be a normal girl. Then she meets Niles Tignor, a strange character indeed. What happens to her son and her as life goes on...(8-07)

 

The Whole World Over
Julia Glass
A story told in several different viewpoints. (3/07)

The Mantle Ranch
by Queeda Mantle Walker

A beautiful book, if you ignore the grammatical errors throughout, about a real life family building and keeping a home in one of the most remote places and challenging terrains in Colorado. True Pioneer story. 12/06

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski tells of his long-ago days as a circus vet on a run-down, cut-rate big top during the depression. Really nice writing and story. 11/06

Specimen Days
by Michael Cunningham

Three short stories, past, present and future, with characters of the same names. Interesting, but with many layers of tongue-in-cheek references. summer 06

Skinner's Drift
by Lisa Fugard

Well-written story of a woman returning to her birthplace of a farm near Johannesburg, and retracing her past within the political and economic changes of her country. Psychological dysfunction within a bigger setting makes this interesting and haunting. summer 06

Rape: A Love Story
Joyce Carol Oates

Read this in one day. Oates' style makes this book intriguing and disturbing. 12/06

Digging to America
Digging to America
by Anne Tyler
The latest from my favorite author, this is about two families who are completely different, yet both adopt Korean daughters on the same day.

Blue Shoe
by Anne Lamott

You Remind Me of Me
David Chaon
I stumbled upon a brilliant surprise. Nice, crisp writing and intriguing mysterious links. An disturbed young man seeks out his brother, adopted out before he was born. I'm reading this with my ears.3/06

Augusta Locke : A Novel

Augusta Locke
by William Haywood Henderson
I am humbled by the fine language of the West. Gussie is a strong character, and her story a captivating one. 4/06

"Brokeback Mountain"
in Annie Proulx's
Close Range: Wyoming Stories

All I can say is: wow.


Colorado Motet
by Andrew Rooney
A collection of short (and long) stories set in Denver and Colorado. Rooney is amazing at making his characters as real as the next guy in the local pub. (8/05)
 

 

 

 

Infinite Jest
by David Foster Wallace
This took me three years to finish. Is Wallace the 21st Century Joyce? Incandanza family are athletic geniuses full of paranoia and other mental nuances. The Ennet house addicts, the wheel-chair revolutionists, and subsidized year dating--convoluted and--never will tell the end! (5/2005)

 

The Dogs of Babel
by Carolyn Parkhurst
A first novel. A murder mystery and talking dogs! Interesting and entertaining, but I did skip a few chapters to keep the pace. 2/06

Native
by William Haywood Henderson
Written in the 90's, this novel exemplifies setting as a character. It's about a young closeted gay cowboy and how his life takes a turn when two men come into it: a berdeche Indian and a handsome young ranch hand. 12/05


Until I Find You
by John Irving
A tattoo artist and her son, abandoned by the boy's father, search for the Music Man. They follow his trail via stories of tattooists who decorated him, the women who loved him, and the church organs he played. The story continues with the story of Jack's life, and his continued search for that missing "something." Excellent read, Irving again makes real people of his characters. 12/2005

The Mermaid Chair
Sue Monk Kidd

She's a great writer, stylistically like Sue Miller. Set on a small island off North Carolina, a women returns home to resolve life long problems. However, there is a bit too much unbelievable romance for my tastes. Toward the end, though, this changes. 1/2006

No Country for Old Men
by Cormac McCarthy
The latest by the author of All the Pretty Horses and very different. Set in a small Texas town in 1980, this is a shoot-em-up detective story, with a Texan type of Colombo for Sheriff. The writing style is stark and austere, something to be admired. 1/06

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
Rowling.
Definitely a transition novel in the series.(8/05)


Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro

The story line is intriguing, mysterious, and, though bizarre, believable. The prose is amazing, the arrangement intricate. This is one of those amazing reads that if I were to say too much it would spoil it. (June 05)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Saffron Foer
A young genius boy who lost his father in the September 11 tragedy seeks the lock a key fits into. Complex, full of humor and sadness. Good read. 6/05

The Breakdown Lane
Jacquelyn Mitchard
Reading this with my ears. If you ever want to hate a man.......(June 05)

The Final Solution
Michael Chabon

A weak and rather anti-climactic mystery. Chabon should stick to his stronger genre. (July 05)

Paisley Girl
(8/05)

Small Town Odds: A Novel
by jason headley

Great characters set in this tiny town. College aged students have to make difficult choices and pay the consequences of those choices. Good read. (4/05)

The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger (1/2005)

I read a lot. Once in a very seldom while I find a book that rises to the top of my reading interest. This book is there.
Niffenegger makes a few technical errors, to be sure, but the construction is fascinating, the characters are true, and the story is unique and captivating. Love this book, a love story between a time-traveler and his wife. The surrealism of this is conveyed very believably. (12/04)


Annie Proulx: Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2
A collection of stories about different people, but all affected by the Wyoming terrain and culture. 6/05


Mary McGarry Morris: The Lost Mother
This is a heartbreaker. No matter what, kids love their mothers. 6/05


Sue Miller: Lost in the Forest
secrets. that's what this is about. what to keep and what not to keep. (6-05)

The Darling
Russell Banks
a story of a former weatherman who runs to Africa, marries an African, has two boys. she flees Africa to return to America to buy a ranch and tell her story of a radical life in un-emotional talk.


Aloft
by Chang-rae Lee
A near-sixty widower reviews his life and looks at himself in a new way (we hope). The first person narrator describes his reflection in the eyes of his aging father, sick daughter, over-spending son, ex-girlfriend, and a few friends. Some deep soliloquies that jab and philosophize. I really enjoyed this book, though somebody had to die. It could have been several that went this way, part of the tension that kept me turning pages. (1/2005)

The Lover
by Marguerite Duras (6/2005)


Joyce Carol Oates: The Falls
An epic novel set at the foot of Niagra Falls, full of political history and family drama. Oates' main protagonist is a women you can't help but really dislike. Her family and the full circle of her husband's efforts. (6-05)

Power of the Dog
by Thomas Savage
Rich old ranchers in the 20's, dealing with issues of homosexuality. Set in Montana. (December 2004)

Eventide
by Kent Haruf
a return to Holt in the plains of Colorado. Beautiful plain prose about characters in a small town. I love this guy's style.(nov 2004)

Vernon God Little: A 21st Century Comedy in the Presence of Death
by D. B. C. Pierre  (2003 Booker Prize) (nov 2004)
A Columbine-type school shooting, an evil paparazzi, a neurotic mother, and more, all inflicted upon a pretty normal teen. Excellent read.

 
Whose Song
by Thomas Glave
Met Thomas in a writing workshop at Naropa and fell in love with his writing. Disturbing, but amazing. He invented the phrase "writing characters from the inside out." (SWP 04)

 

Naropa, Fall 04 reading list

Keith Abbott:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Confederate General from Big Sur, Richard Brautigan
Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
Magic of Blood, Dagoberto Gilb
Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill

Amateur Marriage
by Anne Tyler

She's done it again. The caliber of this one is above the last couple of books. Kind of depressing, but really honest. (summer 04)

Emigrants, WG Sebald
Drifting of Spirits, Gisele Pineau
My Son's Story, Nadine Gordimer
Blindness, Jose Saramago

Nobody's Fool
by Richard Russo
Every once in a rare while you pick up a book and it turns out to be, well, one of "those." I fell in love with Don Sullivan, Mrs. Peeples, and the whole gang, and was sad when the book ended. Russo is a master at developing characters, and in here you'll find many. One of "those" that you get lost in, and forget you're reading a book.(2/2004)

Ulysses
by James Joyce
watch for link to paper on "Oxen in the Sun" (fall 03)

Fingersmith
by Sarah Waters (fall03)

Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Cal, a hermaphrodite, narrates from his present residence in Berlin, but his story starts in the historical setting of Smyrna during the Turk attacks. It moves through Detroit in the 20s and the race riots of the sixties, into the present. The background is detailed and thorough, and Eugenides shows how the times are an intricate part of a character’s life. (summer 2003)

That Old Ace in the Hole
by Annie Proulx
A young Colorado man goes to Texas to scout sites for hog farms. Proulx's distaste for these institutions is made clear in this fast read. (summer 2003)

Oryx and Crake
by Joyce Carol Oates
A futuristic look at what genetic engineering can do, narrated by a sorry "Snowman." (summer 2003)

Naropa reading lists, Spring 04

Maltese Falcon (1-04)

Hammett, D.

C is for Corpse (12/04)

Grafton

Farewell My Lovely (2/04)

Chandler

The Long Goodbye (2/04)

Chandler

Rhino Ritz

Abbott

52 Pickup

Leonard, E

Riding the Rap (12/04)

Leonard, E

Cool for You  (2-04)

Eileen Myles

When We Were Orphans (1-04)

Kazuo Ishiguro

Circle K Cycles (12-03)

Karen Tei Yamashita

White Teeth

Zadie Smith

The Intuitionist

Colson Whitehead

Nowhere Man

Alexandar Hemon

 

Bel CAnto
Anne Patchet

This can be compared, philosophically at least, to Plague and Blindness in that ordinary people are put into an intense and odd situation--they who before were NOT, are now OTHER.  A group of hostages lives out months in a mansion, and unusual relationships develop, until, in the end, the identity of "bad guy" and "good guy" are confused. I enjoyed this book and think about it a lot in the aftermath of its finale.(3/02)

Life of Pi
by Yann Markel


Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories
by Samuel Delany
A resurrected collection of short sci-fi of the enth degree.

 

Harum Scarum
by Keith Abbott
Stories about a group of guys coming of age.

Woodcuts of Women
by Dagoberto Gilb

The Autobiography of My Mother
by Jamaica Kincaid

The narrator of this prose is an embittered and unanchored women whose life is defined by her mother's death at her birth. Beautiful prose of an unlikable character.

The Little Friend
by Donna Tartt

Set in the South, young Harriett decides to find her brother's killer. The death occurred when Harriett was a baby, but disrupted the whole family.
(Dec. 2002)

Summerland
by Michael Chabon

A different effort for Chabon, this is intended for a young audience, but has much to like as an adult. You can lost in Chabon's universe of four worlds, and the sasquatch, rat, and other strange creatures.
(Dec. 2002)

Anil's Ghost
by Michael Ondaatje (9/02)

Middle Age: A Romance
by Joyce Carol Oates
Though the plot revolves around Adam Berendt, he is not really a factor in the events and life changes that occur after his death. This story goes over several people's character arcs. (8/02)

On The Road
by Jack Kerouac
The audio tape read by Matt Dillon (6/02)

The Cadence of Grass
by Thomas McGuane
Wild, cold modern-day Montana and a dysfunctional family. What happens to daddy's money and business when he dies? The son-in-law, Paul, is a manipulating conniver who kills a man while driving drunk, the convinces his father-in-law that he was covering for the older man. Out of guilt, Dad leaves the business to Paul. But at the price of Paul's kidney. Some very weird stuff. (June 2002)

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
I really enjoyed this well-written novel of a motherless girl who finds a new family in a most unexpected place. When Lily busts her African-American nanny out of jail (Rosaleen spit tobacco on the feet of racists on her way to register to vote) the two run off to a place Lily knows by the label off a honey jar. She finds herself in her own mother's sanctuary. Issues of motherlessness, self-worth, racism, depression, and family are all touched on.
(5/02)

When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro
A spoiled aristocrat finally discovers the price his affluence cost.


Fall on Your Knees
by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Turn of the century through the Roaring Twenties, Nova Scotia to New York: a family tree that twists back in on itself. Three sisters, then a fourth sister/cousin, all very different. The pious one, the bad one, the innocent one. Haunting, a really captivating read. (March 2002)

Half a Life
by VS Naipaul
Willy transverses three continents in the search for his true self. Born in India to a recluse who marries a woman of lower caste in rebellion to his father, Willy marries a woman of African descent and travels with her to her home continent.  There is lot of talk about race and mixed heritage; this is a "sleeper" with depth that will be pondered for awhile. (March 2002)

The Body Artist
by Don Delilah
This short book opens on the last day of life for a film producer, who leaves behind a grieving widow. Lauren, in whose art she uses her body, sort of performance art with herself as the canvas, returns to the couple's austere and vacant summer rental where she discovers an autistic man living upstairs. She relives the last few months of her life with Rey through the photographic memory of this strange man. (February 2002)

Bee Season
by Myla Goldberg
This is about spelling bees and a "different" Jewish family.

Naropa's Reading list (Points of Departure) (Aug 2002-Nov 2002)

Gertrude Stein: Three Lives

James Baldwin: Nobody Knows My Name

Jack Kerouac: On The Road

Hubert Selby: Last Exit to Brooklyn

Amiri Baraka: The Dutchman and the Slave

Nathan McCall: Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America

John Rechy: City of Night

Kathy Acker: Empire of the Senses

Philip Caputo: A Rumor of War

Denise Chavez: Last of the Menu Girls

Last Exit to Brooklyn
by Hubert Selby
Now this is a crazy book.

The Last Time They Met
by Anita Shreve
a love story--at times sappy--but the reverse order adds a tension, and the last page is a real surprise. (July 2002)

 

The Snow Garden
by Christopher Rice
This is a mystery set on a college campus. Not my most favorite book, but it kept me reading. The author seems to be using the media to push his blatant homosexuality, which gives the story a different twist. (4/02)


For Rouenna

by Sigrid Nunez
A writer strikes up an odd relationship with a former nurse from the Viet Nam war. The nurse's life story and meaning all comes from her one year in Nam.(February 2002)

Peace Like a River
by Leif Enger
Set in the 60's, in the first person of an 11 year old, this tale weaves around the boy's big brother, an escape murderer.  There's a big sprinkling of miracles and religion, but it all works together. What little kid doesn't think his dad performs miracles?  Especially a single dad raising a family on a janitor's salary. (January 2002)

A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
Four people, three different castes, four different pasts find themselves together in a small apartment, fighting the same battles against culture, tradition, and the politics of a 1970's India. (January 2002)

Red Tent
by Anita Diamant

Though this stretches when it comes to matching up to the Genesis story of Jacob's daughter, it captures the times and culture.  Weak in spots. (February 2002)

The World Below
by Sue Miller
Another strong woman finds her priorities by visiting with her ancestral ghosts. (December 2001)

A Painted House
by John Grisham
(August 2001)

 The Corrections
by
Jonathan Franzen
National Book award winner, Franzen is "uncomfortable" to be chosen as an Oprah book.  In spite of that snobbishness, he has written a very good family drama.  This family is complex, with the grown children each displaying his or her own neurosis, and the parents denying their own craziness. (December 2001)

Being Dead (2001 National Book Critics Circle Awards)
by Jim Crace
Written in a very unique manner, with three separate timelines all interwoven to tell a story of death and life. Excellent literary work. (October 2001).

Empire Falls
by Richard Russo
What happens when a small town is the direct product of one family's money? Fourth generation Whiting still controls the fate of the townspeople, even though she is nearing 70, even though the textile mill that fed Empire Falls has long since fallen. And one family in particular is especially influenced, in ways that are just becoming realized by Miles, the protagonist. Many interweaving plots combine to make this a very readable novel. (Oct 2001)

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Truly what it claims to be.  Written as a memoir of a 22 year old who is suddenly orphaned when his parents die of cancer within five weeks of each other .  The work is a hodge podge of styles with an amazingly strong voice; the fast pace and rhythm is so real for a young man trying to get what he is owed by the world. Brilliant.

The Fourth Hand
by John Irving
The protagonist, Patrick Wallingford, is a good-lucking, womanizing news caster who loses a hand to a lion.  After losing a second left hand after a hand transplant, a special woman shows him his "fourth hand." (July 2001)

The Bonesetters Daughter
by Amy Tan
Ruth suddenly realized that her mother, Luling, is losing her memory, yet in the Ruth's drawer lies the manuscript written by Luling that tells all her memories.  Ruth has lost so much of the Chinese that she learned growing up that she must hire a translator.  And a tragic story of curses, pain, and lost loves unravels. (June 2001).

Never Change
by Elizabeth Berg
Sweet and easy to read, as is Berg's style.  A home-visit nurse 's latest charge is her former high school's football hero, who is now dying of a brain tumor.
 

The Tie That Binds
by Ken Haruf
Narrated by Sanders Roscoe, the self-sacrificing life of the 80 year old Edith unfolds.  The woman is hospitalized, yet under arrest for the murder of her brother. Is she guilty? This was a quick and captivating read,  Good stuff in the same desolate Eastern Colorado plains as Plainsong. (June 2001)

Harry Potter and
The Sorcerer's Stone (June 2001)
The Chamber of Secrets
(July 2001)
The Prisoner of Azkaban
(July 2001)
The Goblet of Fire (August 2001)

These may have had a spell cast on them to make them so can't-put-down readable.

The Blind Assassin (2000 Booker Prize)
 by Margaret Atwood
 
Narrated mostly by Iris Griffin, a 90 something widower, this tale unwinds about a motherless child traded into marriage for her father's profit.  This is alternated with a story of two lovers who meet in clandestine back alleys and tell another scifi story of their own.  
(June 2001)

On Writing : 
A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King
This is the audio book read by the author himself.  I love listening to his Maine accent.  King wrote this after his life threatening accident. He not only describes a bit of his life history, but he tells, in an instructional way, how he writes.  Inspiring. (April 2001)

Back When We Were Grownups
by Anne Tyler
Tyler's newest.  Many similarities between this and Celestial Navigation and Ladder of Years.  A woman tries to go back and live her "real" life that she thinks she was led away from. (May 2001) 

We Were the Mulvaneys
by Joyce Carol Oates
It's amazing how some people can never forgive, never give up.  A cheerleader, Christian girl is raped at her high school prom afterparty. The incident is used as the impetus for the family to fall apart.  Oates captures the characters very well.  You will recognize some. (May 2001).

The Bird Artist
by Howard Norman
After all, the protagonist's name is Vas. Set in

Smilla's Sense of Snow
by Peter Hoeg
Recommended by Brother Buck.  I read Hoeg's book The Woman and the Ape and was very affected by the tasteful boldness of this author. Smilla, independent and unconventional, tries to come to reconciliation of her Inuit/Danish bloodline by uncovering the mystery of a small, neglected Greenlander boy's death.  Not your usual mystery. Twisted, weird, gripping; the end is a surprise.(1/01)

Disobedience
by Jane Hamilton
The narrator, a 17 year old boy, narrates a cathartic year for his family.  His mother is having a
torrid affair; his sister, a re-enactor of the Civil War, is outgrowing her disguise as a boy; and he is discovering love.  Hamilton again is amazing in her ability to fully take on the persona of her narrator.

Tea
by Stacey D'Erasmo
After her mother's suicide, a young woman searches for her identity. As a teenager in the seventies, she discovers an underground theatre in Philly.  She starts experimenting with her own sexual desires.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
by Billie Letts
An intriguing set of characters in the crucible of an all-but-forgotten greasy spoon .

A Gesture Life
by Chang Rae Lee

This was a personal recommendation by Amazon.com.  An retired Asian shop owner, Doc Hata, lives a controlled orderly life in a New York City small community near New York.  His life seems exemplary, but he is still an outsider.  His memories include the horrors that come from the ennui of soldiers-in-waiting.  The depictions of the life of the "comfort women" makes me want to cry.

House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
One house, two cultures, many characters with different goals: a mixture to provide page-turning suspense.  If there was a common characteristic in all of the actors, besides the house, it would be GUILT.  This is a study in guilt-motivated actions and reactions. Dubus plays the reader; I would think about the possibilities of the next scene, and was never correct.  A sad book, a good read, a great writer. (summer 2000)

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
by Billie Letts
(11/00)

Drowning Ruth
by Christina Schwarz
Set in the early part of the century, when women didn't admit to sexual desires, a "situation" could be, in this case, life threatening.  The mystery of the sister's death unfolds in pieces through the tale.  Not bad for a first time author.

Interpreter of Maladies : Stories
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Stories set in modern times in America and Calcutta, all involving people from India.  Serious looks at the cultural differences. 

The Farming of Bones
The American Book Awards winner
by Edwidge Danticat
This is a sad story, set in 1937 Haiti when the Dominican Republic decided to stomp on the Haitian people for no other reason than that they were not them!   Another historical example of the disease of racism.

Open House
by Elizabeth Berg
As is Berg's style, this book is profound in its simplicity.  A woman finds herself divorced, unable to understand why or what to do with herself.  She learns to be alone accept herself--true power

.Underworld
by Don Delillo
Complex and multilayered, times and people are connected through a baseball. The study of waste disposal is an analogy that seeps into each layer.

Amy and Isabelle
by Elizabeth Strout
Uptight, prissy single Mom and her insecure 16 year old daughter share a secret that may tear them apart.  An Amazon.com recommendation.

Tomato Red
(Pen Center USA West Literary Awards)
by Daniel Woodrell
This is a sleeper.  At first I couldn't figure out the point, then after putting the book down and thinking about it (it stays in your head), I realized that pointlessness is the point.  Futility of poverty and being born on the wrong side of town puts a brother, sister, their prostitute mother, and a ne'er-do-well,   lonely young man together. 

Motherless Brooklyn
National Book Critics Circle Awards, 2000
by Jonathan Lethem
A Tourette's syndrome victim and private detective, Lionel tries to solve the mystery of his boss's murder.  From Japanese big business to Buddhist devotees, nobody seems to be who they really are, except Lionel, and he has enough trouble living inside his own skull.

White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
Samad and Archie, wartime buddies, grow together into middle age, marriage, and the crises therein contained.  Set in London, the cultural diversity is rich. I had a hard time finishing the book; though well-written, the entangled plot got a bit draggy and I felt like I was plodding through mud.

Ahab's Wife : Or, the Star-Gazer
by Sena Jeter Naslund
A literary work of ambitious breadth and depth.  Una, Ahab's wife, has her own story, peopled with historical characters and peppered with issues of abolition and women's rights.  Sometimes the allegorical devices and metaphors get in the way of the story, but Una deals with much, much more than Moby Dick.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier
Set in 1660s Holland, a young girl goes to work for the artist Vermeer. One author's speculation on who the Girl with a Pearl Earring really is.  A good insight into the morals, lifestyles, and customs of the era.

Back Roads
by Tawni O'Dell
Harley is forced into raising his three younger sisters when his mother is imprisoned for his father's death.  That's not the only trauma the kids have to deal with.  The dad beat each of them brutally since they were little kids.  Harley deals constantly with the demons in his head from blocked memories, his own tendency to rage violently, his sisters' craziness; and also his normal teenage hormones.  Very moving, sad; gives a inside look at the abused and traumatized child's mind.

Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier
I'm reading this classic because I was so impressed with King's Bag of Bones that I wanted to read what inspired this book.  I am enthralled and captivated by this young naive woman and wonder if she creates her own ghost.

Plainsong
by Kent Haruf
This was on the recommended list for me through Amazon.com.  And the impersonal computer profiler was right: I love this book! Set in the very small town of Holt, on the plains of eastern Colorado, several characters interact in their individual struggles.  This is solid, moving fiction, written crisply and directly, capturing the feeling of the small town and its wind and brown prairie-ness, and revealing the complexities of characters.  New families are formed from the ruins of old ones.   A favorite.

Blindness
by Jose Saragamo (1998 Nobel Prize Winner)
First, a driver is struck with a white blindness.  The disease spreads quickly and the government, of course, must intervene to prevent further disorder. The stricken are exiled to an abandoned mental hospital and go through forming their own society and government, starting with brutality. The book is written without benefit of white space and quotation marks, adding to the effect of blindness.  This reminds me of Camus' The Plague in its study of human reactions to epidemic.  SUPERB

Breath, Eyes, Memories
by Edwidge Danticat

An earlier Oprah bookA 12 year old girl raised by her aunt in Haiti returns to her mother in the big American city. Though the trauma she undergoes is not quite as bad as that of Possessing the Secret of Joy, there are similarities: a tradition passed on through the generations to protect a girl's "virtue," instead causes debilitating results, mentally and physically.  I left this book grateful for my white privileged upbringing.

Angle of Repose
by Wallace Stegner
A story within a story: an old, crippled man takes up residence in his grandparents' home and retraces the story of the artist grandmother and her pilgimage to the West. Passions not allowed in Victorian days ends in tragedy, but similar desires lead to similar fates in modern times. Wonderful depiction of California, Leadville, Colorado, iand Idaho in the 1800s.

Galapagos
by Kurt Vonnegut
The Nature Cruise of the Century goes awry, as narrated by a decapitated Viet Nam vet one million years in the future. 

The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
by Arundhati Roy
Thirteen days that start with The Sound of Music and end in multiple tragedy are visited in loops and spirals.  Two-egg twins become victimized by the Communist Party's impotent promises of equality when faced with the ancient cultural adversion to Untouchables. Very complex reading.  Reminds me of Salman Rushdie style in Satanic Verses.

Montana, 1948
by Larry Watson
A young boy's rite of passage involves the realization of racism, elitism, and abuse.

Paddy Clark, Ha Ha Ha
by Roddy Doyle
Written delightfully in the point of view of a ten-year-old Irish boy who watches his parents' marriage dissolve.

Krik? Krak!
by Edwidge Danticat
A collection of stories of suffering Haitians, despairing for peace and freedom.

Bag of Bones
by Stephen King
This is on cassette, read by the master himself.  My first King novel, and I am enthralled by this nasal Maine-accented voice telling his own tale.   Hauntings, love stories, allusions to great literature, and big spooky houses make for a very entertaining listen.

Mother of Pearl
by Melinda Haynes
Petal, Mississippi, 1956--the story starts out with a close look at a young black man and a white teenager.Black and white merge in tragedy, loss, and love.

White Oleander
by Janet Finch
Astrid is raised by an eccentric, white-haired poet mother in a bizarre way.  Though her mother's parenting (the term used loosely) Astrid develops a keen intelligence and artistic talent and a maturity beyond her years.  When her mother kills her own lover, Astrid is passed from foster home to foster home, experiencing a variety of horrors, pains, loves, and lesons.   Astrid's first person narrative is poetic, descriptive, strong.

The Testament
by John Grisham
The last will and testament of Troy Phelan is worth $11 billion and there are six heirs mad for it--and one heir who doesn't want it.  The real message here is the "love of money is the root of all evil"--at lest all unhappiness and discontent.  Attorney Nate O'Reilly's conversion to Christianity is juxtaposed over the scramble for riches, providing a sharp contrast echoed in the jungle vs. Washington DC.

Gap Creek
by Robert Morgan
Oprah's January, 2000 pick. Life in the late 1800s in the Appalachians can be really tough.  By the time Julie is 17 she is married, has lost a brother, father, and child, suffered fire, flood, poverty and sickness.  I guess this book is to show us what we should appreciate.

The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
This is a really weird, haunting book mixing Greek mythology with small town university quackiness and good old fashioned murder.  I read it a while ago, but it's one of those novels that keeps coming back at cha. (a favorite)

I Know this much is True
by Wally Lamb

A really big book, but captivating from cover to cover.  Narrated by a teacher-turned-housepainter whose identical twin is schizophrenic.  Believable setting and characters handle provocative subjects such as abuse, racism, mental illness (is it nature or nurture?), love, death (SIDS, suicide, homicide), loss, identity.  I really admire this writer; he has taken labored research and turned it into a work of art.   I may read this one twice. A favorite.

The Most Wanted
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
I read this with my ears with travelling.  A fourteen year old girl, good student, clean living, falls in love with a convict through their mail correspondence. She gets pregnant on a conjugal visit.  The point of view changes from the girl to the girl's lawyer.  The latter becomes intimately involved with the girl in a maternal kind of way.  The story really revolves around the love story of these two.  There are some glitches in the book, as there were in Deep End of the Ocean, that really stress the boundaries of suspended disbelief, but it was still a good read.

The Desperate Season
by Michael Blanchard
A psychological thriller that caught my attention on the rack of new books in the library.  I read it over the weekend, enjoying the suspense that Blanchard builds by fragmenting the novel in non-linear chapters.  A divorced couple are held hostage by their schizephrenic son.  Not really deep or complex, gratuitous violence, but fn to get lost in for a few hours.

Oprah's November, 1999 book
Vinegar Hill
by A. Manette Ansay
Set in 1972, a woman is trapped in her father-in-law's dysfunctional home.   Her husband is emotionally dead, with deep mental scars.  In her mother-in-law she sees a woman, though hateful and abusive, as trapped as she is.  The big family secret unfolds through the pages of the novel, and the realization of it gives the protagonist the strength to do what she has to do. 

October selection:
River Cross My Heart
by Breena Clarke
Oprah says:
"it's mainly about a 12-year-old girl. . .  Johnnie Mae,who's guilt-ridden over an accident that happened while she was responsible for watching out for her sister. And that accident haunts the whole family and the neighborhood as well.
It is a really powerful story in a very, very quiet kind of way. . .  set around 1920… 1925, in Georgetown in DC. . . . where families from the South had moved hoping to find a better life for themselves. And you'll have to find out for yourself if they really do."  I didn't find this a very deep or involving read.

Tara Road
by Maeve Binchy
A big book about all kinds of women in denial.

Angela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt
McCourt tells of an poverty stricken childhood in Ireland, with an alcoholic father and depressed mother, the loss of many children, and domineering Church regulations.  Even in these horrible conditions, boys can still find fun and humor in life: sad but it makes ya smile, too.

The Loop
by Nicholas Evans
For a formulaic novel, this was a driving, consuming read.  The author uses tricks in his foreshadowing that just surprises you every turn.  The story is about the conflict between saving wolves and saving cattle.....with a few other subplots woven intricately through: a couple love stories, vengence, rebirth.  An entertaining read.

A New York Times Editors' Choice, 1999
Preston Falls

by David Gates
Written in a "guy" voice, this reads like Doug Willis's inner thoughts.  Willis is fortyish, frustrated musician, going through a midlife crisis.   He tries to take a sabbatical from his family and job to stay at his Vermont camp and figure "it" out.  After temper tantrum gets him in trouble with the law, he finds him self in an even more compromising position with his crooked lawyer.   At first you can't sympathize with Willis, he's a real jerk sometimes, but the deeper he digs himself, the more you feel for him.

1999 National Book Award Winner
Charming Billy
by Alice McDermott
The first thing you learn about Billy is that he is dead, and of alcohol.   The story goes backwards from the funeral in spirals of time.  Set in New England with the Irish influence of McDermott very evident, the story unfolds little by little with complex relationships hinted at and personalities revealed layer by layer. A demonstration that alcoholism affects wide circles of people, not just the alcoholic.   Billy was charming, and broke the hearts of many people because of his disease.

The Pilot's Wife
by Anita Shreve
A very quick read because you literally can't put it down. sometimes you never know someone until he's dead.  Discovery after discovery unfolds until, in the end, you don't know how you feel, but you can definitely sympathize with this wife's ambivalence and confusion.

While I was Gone
by Sue Miller
A veterinarian married to a preacher has a dark past that returns to haunt her after a chance reunion with a former housemate.  She risks all to find a secret.  Miller writes with detail and precision. 

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day
by Pearl Cleage
Ava, a spirited, intelligent, HIV+ woman, returns to her small Upper Michigan hometown in route to a new life in "AIDS-friendly" San Francisco.   But she finds everything she is looking for, whether she knew it or not, at home.   The cast is full of damaged people repairing their lives.  Eddie (ex-con, now Buddhist Tai-Chi artist, a gentle, calm man) and Ava's sister Joyce (widowed, lost two children) recruit Ava on their quest to help some of their black brothers and sisters reclaim a culture's lost self-esteem.  Quick read.

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, 1999
and A New York Times Editors' Choice, 1999
The Love of a Good Woman
by Alice Munro
These short stories are complex beyond their length.   Eight stories, all with a unique female narrator, showing discontent and desire for change or fulfillment. Reminds me that not too long ago (a few decades) life was much different for women, more confining and restrictive, yet the female heart was no less content.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
by Melissa Banks
by Melissa Banks
First person narration by a witty young woman trying to figure out how to make life work for her.  Clever.

A New York Times Editors' Choice
Birds of America
by Lorrie Moore
A collection of short stories about women and men.  It's hard to find the words to sum up the collection because each story is different and developed and thoughtful.  The similarities are the soul-searching each protagonist does.   Buried in the midst of these is "Peed Onk" (short for pediatric oncology), a heart rending story that feels very autobiographical (I have no idea whether it is or not). Baby (18 months old?) is treated for cancer of the kidney.  Quite moving.  The whole book, separate stories and total, is a gratifying read.

Heartsongs
E. Annie Proulx  
E. Annie Proulx  
A collection of short stories with several common threads. (When you have a writer as complex, and stories so multilayered as Proulx, you can have several common threads in radically different stories.) These are all set in Vermont (Proulx's home state) and capture the salty, tough personality of Vermonters (forgive my stereotype). Gritty stuff.

Close Range
by E. Annie Proulx
Short stories with the feel of the stark and cold Wyoming country. Struggling to get through this.  Not as good as her other works, IMHO.

Memoirs of A Geisha
by Arthur Golden

This is a fascinating insight into the Geisha trade, Japanese culture, and a glimpse at the Eastern side of WW2.  Hard to believe it's fiction.  Very readable.

A Widow for One Year
by John Irving
Well, John Irving is at it again:  constructing elaborate and bizarre but believable to their core characters.  Here a 16 year old boy has an affair (is this a theme lately?) with a writer's wife while he chauffeurs his employer to the writer's many mistresses.  The four-year-old daughter of the troubled couple looks on at the strange events of one hot summer on the east coast.

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
and Little Altars Everywhere
by Rebecca Wells
A mother's girlhood friends help restore her relationship with her daughter.

The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink
An Oprah book. The reading of this book brought up many diverse questions of philosophical, ethical and moral considerations.  A love story, in part, but much more.  Is it wrong for an older woman to seduce a teenage boy?  What would I do if I found myself a member of the Nazis? Not so easy to answer as you might think.   Do you rat out a person if it will be for there own good, even if they don't want to be discovered?  What would it really be like to be illiterate?  And these are just some of the thought provoking ideas here.  Very readable.

Where the Heart Is
by Billie Letts
Fun, strange, pathetic.  Seventeen year old Novalee Nation, pregnant and abandoned, lives in a WalMart until she gives birth to her daughter.   The small town that discovers her adopts her as one of their own.
Lolita

by Vladimir Nobokov
Listened to this classic again.  The second time around, after getting over the pathetic perversion of HH, I can appreciate the subtle humor and genius of the author.

The Deptford Trilogy
by Robertson Davies
by Robertson Davies
Just finishing up Fifth Business, the first of this trilogy.  Davies familiar characters (bachelor professor, weird priests) in new clothes.  Dunstan Ramsey and friends from the small town of Deptford stir up saints, circuses, stocks, and magic.

Jewel
by Bret Lott
by Bret Lott
Narrated in first person in a colloquial voice, very effective. Jewell gives birth to her sixth child in 1944, and is told the child is "Mongoloid idiot."  Jewell takes her family to California for a new life for all.

Up-Island
by Anne Rivers Siddons
There is a love story here, or really a few love stories.  But there is depth and complexity and very real characters that are easy to know.  Molly Redwine's husband leaves her for a younger woman, then, in the midst of her reacting to this betrayal, her mother dies.   Molly leaves Atlanta to find her new self in Martha's Vineyard, among sick and dying people. 

The Best of Friends
by Joanna Trollope.
She would make Grammpa proud.  Well-written modern British family drama with complex layers, intricate details, and subtle metaphors.  I will read more of her books after this....The close friendship of a quarter century between a man and woman interlinks their two families. And when a change occurs in one household, a domino effect occurs that changes all aspects of both families in many ways. 

Midwives
by Chris Bohjalian
An Oprah recommendation.  A young woman recalls her teen years when her mother, the midwife, was tried for murder after the death of a patient and the cesarean delivery of the baby.  Mom and Dad are relics from the peace-seeking 60's, which doesn't sit well with the real doctors.  Did the midwife cause the death of this mother or not?   This novel is a combination of court room drama, family drama, and love stories.

Message in a Bottle
by Nicholas Sparks
Read with my ears.  Very sentimental and sweet love story.   This will probably be a good movie, but as a reading, it lacked real depth and complexity.

The Sunlight Dialogues
by John Gardner
by John Gardner
Read what my brother says about this; one of his all-time favorites.

Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn
This is a weird and funny and sad tale of a family of freaks in a circus.  Delusions of grandeur from being told freaks are superior leads to a self-mutilating cult.  Life lessons are told in an off-the-wall, yet believable, setting.

Rich Deceiver
by Gillian White
A working class British woman wins the lottery but decides not to tell her husband.  Instead, she covertly tries to change his life.  The results are surprising.  This book takes more twists and turns than any book I can remember.  You never know where she is going, or what will happen next.

The Wonder Boys
by Michael Chabon
I was swept away by The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and couldn't believe it wasn't autobiographical.  Now here is Chabon again writing in first person, a whole different character, in just as believable style.   This is a pathetically hilarious tale that reminds me of a combination of Moo and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Academia, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.........I couldn't put it down!!

The Short History of a Prince
by Jane Hamilton
The struggles of a young man with his brother's illness, his own sexual orientation, and trying to keep his memories intact.  The old family homestead is the key to his connections with his family, his loves, and himself.    Hamilton is an incredible writer whose voice and style change with each book. As in The Book of Ruth, that macabre story of a young, not-so-smart woman, and then in  A Map of the World, which is a book every teacher should read, and afterwards never be as comfortable, Prince is enthralling.

Distinguished Guest
by Sue Miller
The book buddy that read Mitchard's book with me recommended Sue Miller's books.   The first I read was The Good Mother, a story that wrenched me, cutting too close to home.  The protagonist a single mom who loves her daughter also loves "the perfect man."  What happens to this woman didn't happen to me, but could have, too easily.  Many tears stained this book, and I jumped right into her other novel, Family Pictures.   This is what would be labeled the new genre "family dramas," and tries to untangle the results of living with a mentally ill sibling/son.  Also very disturbing.  Read this one with my ears.  Lily must stay with her son until her retirement condo is ready.  She is a famous writer, early feminist, and civil rights advocate.  Her visit brings up a lot of old memories for son and mother.  Well written.

A Gracious Plenty
by Sheri Reynolds
Reynolds last book, Rapture of Canaan, was poignant, daring, and really good.  This one, which I read with my ears, is not as heavily "lesson" ridden.  A woman who was burned and scarred at an early age takes care of the cemetery and entertains her friends, who are all ghosts.  When she finally starts relating to flesh and blood people, she has to make a choice between two worlds.

The Power of One
Courtenay, Bryce.
I've read a lot of novels, and when a friend of mine lent me this one to read, I did not expect the impact this book would have on my life. Maybe you've seen the movie? Read the book anyway. A boy's story from his five-year-old installation into a boarding house to his young adulthood. Set in Africa, there are themes of apartheid, Nazism, real friendship, and what one person can do. It's so hard to sum up such magnitude.

A Patchwork Planet
by Anne Tyler
Her latest--and showing her same form.  Here we meet thirty-year-old Barnaby, the black sheep of his philanthropic family, who is trying to find his angel.  Quirky, real-as-life characters, slightly dysfunctional families--all here in Tyleresque style.  

Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman (BOT)

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (BOT)

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by PDJames (BOT)

Vanished by Mary McGarry Morris (BOT)

Black and Blue by Ann Quinlin (BOT)