Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Time to Vote! March 31, 2013

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 4:40 pm

Thanks for getting your suggestions in so quickly. As usual we have some great titles to choose from. Here is the survey Monkey link and the book reviews. If you can vote by Wednesday 4/3 I can bring the winners to book club on Thursday.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NQ3DSLY

 

Atlantic by Simon Winchester

Benediction by Kent Haruf

Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

BRINGING MULLIGAN HOME The Other Side of the Good War by Dale Maharidge

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel 

Crooked letter, Crooked letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz

Flight Behavior: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

FOREST HOUSE A Year’s Journey into the Landscape of Love, Loss, and Starting Over
by Joelle Fraser

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

Lean in, Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandburg

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

 

Atlantic by Simon Winchester

“Variably genial, cautionary, lyrical, admonitory, terrifying, horrifying and inspiring…A lifetime of thought, travel, reading, imagination and memory inform this affecting account.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester tells the breathtaking saga of the Atlantic Ocean. A gifted storyteller and consummate historian, Winchester sets the great blue sea’s epic narrative against the backdrop of mankind’s intellectual evolution, telling not only the story of an ocean, but the story of civilization. Fans of Winchester’s Krakatoa, The Man Who Loved China, and The Professor and the Madman will love this masterful, penetrating, and resonant tale of humanity finding its way across the ocean of history.

Benediction by Kent Haruf

From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado.

When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors.

Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times.  Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benedictioncaptures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants.  

Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight 

In August in Rio Seco, California, the ground is too hard to bury a body. But Glorette Picard is dead, and across the canal, out in the orange groves, they’ll gather shovels and pickaxes and soak the dirt until they can lay her coffin down. First, someone needs to find her son Victor, who memorizes SAT words to avoid the guys selling rock, and someone needs to tell her uncle Enrique, who will be the one to hunt down her killer, and someone needs to brush out her perfect crown of hair and paint her cracked toenails. As the residents of this dry-creek town prepare to bury their own, it becomes clear that Glorette’s life and death are deeply entangled with the dark history of the city and the untouchable beauty that, finally, killed her. 

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

One day in 2009, twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. A wristband marked her as a “flight risk,” and her medical records—chronicling a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory at all—showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability. Only weeks earlier, Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper. Who was the stranger who had taken over her body? What was happening to her mind?

In this swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the brilliant, lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. A team of doctors would spend a month—and more than a million dollars—trying desperately to pin down a medical explanation for what had gone wrong. Meanwhile, as the days passed and her family, boyfriend, and friends helplessly stood watch by her bed, she began to move inexorably through psychosis into catatonia and, ultimately, toward death. Yet even as this period nearly tore her family apart, it offered an extraordinary testament to their faith in Susannah and their refusal to let her go.

BRINGING MULLIGAN HOME The Other Side of the Good War
by Dale Maharidge

The story of a distinguished journalist’s search for his father’s war.

Pulitzer Prize winner Maharidge’s (Journalism/Columbia Univ.;Homeland,
2011, etc.) father was a Marine sergeant who fought on Okinawa, where
he suffered brain damage in an explosion that killed one of the men in
his command, Herman Mulligan. Among the souvenirs the elder Maharidge
brought home was an omnipresent photograph of himself and Mulligan, as
well as sporadic explosive rages that terrified the author throughout
his childhood. Maharidge received no diagnosis or treatment for his
injury and refused to talk about the war to the end of his days. After
his death, the author, “a person obsessed with the past and what I
could not heal,” set out to discover the truth about his father’s
wartime experiences, learn who Mulligan was and, if possible, locate
his inexplicably unidentified gravesite. He conducted interviews with
almost 30 elderly members of his father’s company, and he presents 12
of them at length. He also traveled to Okinawa to visit the site of
his father’s injury and meet with civilian survivors of the battle in
an effort to lay his father’s demons to rest. The result is a moving
memoir of the war by someone who wasn’t there but who suffered from
wartime injuries just as surely as his father had. The veterans’
interviews are sensitively conducted, powerful and disturbing, graphic
descriptions of brutal and largely unnecessary combat with a
suicidally determined enemy, and frank accounts of atrocities
committed by both sides. Equally importantly, some also explore the
men’s difficulties in re-entering civilian life, placing in context
the elder Maharidge’s often unsuccessful struggles to live with his
experiences among people who could not imagine or understand them.

A powerful narrative of the dark side of American combat in the
Pacific theater and the persistence of resulting injuries decades
after the war ended.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel 

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

Crooked letter, Crooked letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

Edgar Award-winning author Tom Franklin returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades.

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

Like Rip Van Winkle returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Alone on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no voices, no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no news, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age.

Walking the streets like a revenant, he quickly makes three connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. One is with a young couple with whom, in a rash moment, he offers to swap homes. They will flee post-9/11 Manhattan for his country refuge, and he will return to city life. But from the time he meets them, Zuckerman also wants to swap his solitude for the erotic challenge of the young woman, Jamie, whose allure draws him back to all that he thought he had left behind: intimacy, the vibrant play of heart and body.

The second connection is with a figure from Zuckerman’s youth, Amy Bellette, companion and muse to Zuckerman’s first literary hero, E. I. Lonoff. The once irresistible Amy is now an old woman depleted by illness, guarding the memory of that grandly austere American writer who showed Nathan the solitary path to a writing vocation.

The third connection is with Lonoff’s would-be biographer, a young literary hound who will do and say nearly anything to get to Lonoff’s “great secret.” Suddenly involved, as he never wanted or intended to be involved again, with love, mourning, desire, and animosity, Zuckerman plays out an interior drama of vivid and poignant possibilities.

Haunted by Roth’s earlier work The Ghost Writer, Exit Ghost is an amazing leap into yet another phase in this great writer’s insatiable commitment to fiction.

Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti by Amy Wilentz 

The Rainy Season, Amy Wilentz’s award-winning 1989 portrait of Haiti after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was praised in the New York Times Book Review as “a remarkable account of a journalist’s transformation by her subject.” In her relationship with the country since then, Wilentz has witnessed more than one magical transformation. Now, with Farewell, Fred Voodoo, she gives us a vivid portrayal of the extraordinary people living in this stark place.

Wilentz traces the country’s history from its slave plantations through its turbulent revolutionary history, its kick-up-the-dirt guerrilla movements, its totalitarian dynasty that ruled for decades, and its long and always troubled relationship with the United States. Yet through a history of hardship shines Haiti’s creative culture—its African traditions, its French inheritance, and its uncanny resilience, a strength that is often confused with resignation.

Flight Behavior: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

The extraordinary New York Times bestselling author of The Lacuna (winner of the Orange Prize), The Poisonwood Bible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), andAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work. Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver’s riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver’s must thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.

FOREST HOUSE A Year’s Journey into the Landscape of Love, Loss, and Starting Over
by Joelle Fraser

When the author divorced her husband, the emotional fallout left her
devastated. Not only was she unprepared for how joint custody would
redefine her relationship to her young son Dylan, but she was also
unprepared for the wave of “crippling guilt of being the one who
left.” To maintain her privacy in the conservative California mountain
town where they lived and ensure Dylan had access to his father,
Fraser quietly moved into a tiny, one-bedroom house on the edge of a
nearby forest. In this lonely but beautiful setting, Fraser began to
examine her life. She thought about her Swedish great-grandmother, who
was forced to leave her six children behind and follow a fugitive
husband to America, where the two divorced. She eventually reunited
with some of her children, but for the rest of her life, she worked
“like a slave” in a land far from home. From this extraordinary woman,
Fraser came to understand that survival meant “setting a course” for
herself and making peace with her choices. She accepted the financial
challenges of being a single parent with a low-paying job and found
renewed joy in the companionship of her dog and cats. As she learned
to appreciate the natural world around her, Fraser came to value both
her freedom and the pain that had come along with it. Her injuries,
like those done to the great scarred trees around her, were actually a
testament to the hidden beauty of life itself—and to the choice to
either live in fear or “look for [the] gifts” in every experience, no
matter how painful.

A poignant study of gratitude for the simple life.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang is the thirty-year-old proprietor of Baohaus—the hot East Village hangout where foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food late into the night—and one of the food world’s brightest and most controversial young stars. But before he created the perfect home for himself in a small patch of downtown New York, Eddie wandered the American wilderness looking for a place to call his own.

Lean in, Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandburg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s talent has always defied definition: an actor who’s kept us riveted for over 25 years, a razor-sharp screenwriter, an acclaimed playwright. In this ingeniously funny collection of humorous riffs, those who thought Martin’s gifts were confined to the screen will discover what readers of “The New Yorker” magazine already know: that Martin is a master of the written word.

Hilariously funny and intelligent in their skewering of the topic at hand, the audiobook’s pieces, some of which first appeared in “The New Yorker,” feature Martin at his finest.

With a playwright’s ear for dialogue, a sense of irony only Steve Martin could muster, and a first-class comic ability to perfectly time the punch line, “Pure Drivel” will have listeners crying with laughter, and marveling at the fact that in addition to all of his many talents, Steve Martin is also a superb writer.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

AT THE HEIGHT OF WORLD WAR II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians–many of them young women from small towns across the South–were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war–when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed. 

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Starred Review. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

The Jazz Age revisited through the tumultuous and harrowing life of Zelda.

Fowler’s Zelda is all we would expect and more, for she’s daring and
unconventional yet profoundly and paradoxically rooted in Southern
gentility. (Her father, after all, was a judge in Montgomery, Ala.)
Once she meets the handsome Scott, however, her life takes off on an
arc of indulgence and decadence that still causes us to shake our
heads in wonder. The early years are sublime, for both Scott and Zelda
are high-spirited, passionate and deeply committed to each other.
There’s even a touching naïveté in the immoderation of their lives, a
childlike awe in their encountering the confection of Paris for the
first time. With the success of This Side of Paradise, Scott quickly
becomes lionized, and life becomes an endless series of parties.
Fowler reminds us of the astonishing social circle within which the
Fitzgeralds lived and moved and had their being—soirées with Picasso
and his mistress, with Cole Porter and his wife, with Gerald and Sara
Murphy, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and Jean
Cocteau. Scott’s friendship with Hemingway verges on a love affair—at
least it’s close enough to one to make Zelda jealous. We witness
Zelda’s increasing desperation to establish her own identity—rather
difficult when Scott “claims” some of her stories as his own. She also
studies ballet and gets an invitation to join a dance company in
Italy, but Scott won’t allow her to leave. He bullies her, and she
fights back. Ultimately, both of these tragic, pathetic and grand
characters are torn apart by their inability to love or leave each
other.

Fowler has given us a lovely, sad and compulsively readable book

Advertisements
 

April 4th, 2013 Midnight Assassin by Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf at Danda’s House (subing for Lori) March 27, 2013

Filed under: Books,Past Meetings — Susan @ 6:27 pm

midnightOn the night of December 1,1900, Iowa farmer John Hossack was attacked and killed while he slept at home beside his wife, Margaret. On April 11, 1901, after five days of testimony before an all-male jury, Margaret Hossack was found guilty of his murder and sentenced to life in prison. One year later, she was released on bail to await a retrial; jurors at this second trial could not reach a decision, and she was freed. She died August 25, 1916, leaving the mystery of her husband’s death unsolved.

 

February 21st, 2013-The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy at Ann’s House

Filed under: Past Meetings — Susan @ 6:22 pm

Cool Women in Attendance:

 

Menu:

 

Memorable Moments:

  • Blizzard!!
  • I missed this one so if someone could fill me in I’ll fill this in. Thanks!