Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This little epistolary novel tells the story of an author who travels to Guernsey to meet the member of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It was entertaining, but not quite as "delightful" as other readers suggested. I did enjoy the history lesson about the German occupation of Guernsey in the 1940s.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Currently Recommending - The End by Salvatore Scibona

The End by Salvatore Scibona is an introspective stroll through the “old neighborhood”. I predict this novel will quickly be featured by independent bookstores, added to university reading lists, discussed by book clubs, and eventually join the canon of great literature articulating the American Dream. It may well be the next Pulitzer Prize winner. Of course, I am totally biased, since Scibona is a former student of mine. He was a high school prodigy and a college wordsmith. Since his time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his energy has been channeled into crafting the characters – a 93 year old widow, Mrs. Marini, the baker Rocco LaGrassa and the other residents of Elephant Park. The End is a character driven examination of the growing tensions in Little Italy – the Cleveland neighborhood of Scibona’s grandparents’. In fact, the neighborhood itself is a character, bucking under the pressures of racial tensions and the unwelcome evolution of tradition taking place in immigrant communities all over America in the mid 1950s. Clevelanders will hear the strains of the paper-rags man hawking in the streets and smell the bakery sweets prepared for the annual Feast of the Assumption, the culminating event of the novel. Universally, readers will empathize with the haunting sense of loss propelling each character to his or her inevitable end. I celebrate Salvatore Scibona’s talent and recommend placing The End at the top of your summer reading list.

website for The End

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed

This clever little novel was full of literary references. The protagonist is an antiques dealer who believes she owns Elizabeth Barrett Browning's chamber pot and has that authenticity confirmed on Antiques Road Show.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

It isn't the new Where the Heart Is but it is pretty close. The story follows teenage Lutie and her aptly named brother, Fate, who begin their journey in Las Vegas where they believe they will find the father who abandoned them. They end in Oklahoma, taken in by a circus family that welcomes them into their crazy family circle. The book reads a bit like Letts opened the police blotter in any given city and incorporated all of deviants she found there - thugs, drug dealers, rapists, pornographers, homeless shelter regulars, as well as those kind folks who always look out for the good will of the innocents. It was a mindless read for a hot August night.