by Dave Ferreira, blog editor
Our theme was “imagining another place and time”. Check out web reviews for more info:
Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
The depth of Barbara Kingsolver’s love affair with nature is reflected in all her work, but perhaps nowhere so beautifully as in this novel. Each and every character in this richly woven novel has their hopes, dreams and fears set firmly within the larger ‘web of life’ they are an indelible part of. Their love stories – and this is a novel of love stories like you have likely never heard them told before – are played out in the wild grace and profusion of nature in the forested mountains and small farming homesteads of southern Appalachia.
Each chapter deals with one of three main characters and are titled, Predators, Moth Love, and Old Chestnuts. Forty-something Deanna, the predator lover, has left her small town life in the Zebulon Valley and now lives alone as a forest caretaker. Lusa, the moth lover, is a new bride who suddenly finds herself saddled with a farm and a family of strangers. Garnett, the chestnut lover, is an embittered old man who pines away for companionship and the extinct American Chestnut tree. (Review excerpts by Amy Lenzo & Dana Schwartz)
Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Set largely in a Cape Breton coal mining community called New Waterford, ranging through four generations, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s dark, insightful and hilarious novel focuses on the Piper sisters and their troubled relationship with their father, James.
Moving from Cape Breton Island to the battlefields of World War I, to Harlem in New York’s Jazz Age and the Depression, the tense and enthralling story contains love, pain, death, joy, and triumph. The narrative is multi-faceted, richly layered, and shifts back and forth through time as it approaches the story from different angles, giving it a mythic quality that allows dark, half-buried secrets to be gracefully and chillingly revealed. (Review excerpts from Random House and New York Times)
The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason
The book is set on the Princeton campus during the weekend of Good Friday, 1999. The story involves four Princeton seniors, friends and roommates, getting ready for graduation: Tom, Paul, Charlie and Gil. Tom and Paul are trying to solve a mystery contained within an extremely rare, beautifully decorated and very curious book — the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This very real work was published as an incunabulum (a book printed before 1501) inVenice; it is a complex text written in a bizarrely modified Italian interspersed with material from other languages as well as its anonymous author’s own made-up words.
The novel charts the relationship between the four roommates and how obsession can be both a boon and a burden. It is a story about growing up as much as decoding the riddles of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The disciplines of Renaissance science, history, architecture, and art are drawn upon to solve a dark secret that has avoided human knowledge for centuries. (Review excerpt from Wikipedia)
One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
When an earthquake hits a city, nine men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds are trapped in a damaged Indian consulate building. Cameron, an African American Vietnam vet, takes charge, striving to keep them safe. To pass the time as they wait for rescue, college student Uma suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives.
Their tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and engrossing as Divakaruni illustrates the transcendent power of stories and the pilgrimage tradition. True, the nine, including an older couple, a young Muslim man, and a Chinese Indian grandmother and her granddaughter, are captives of a disaster, but they are also pilgrims of the spirit, seeking “one amazing thing” affirming that life, for all its pain, is miraculous. (Review excerpt from Donna Seaman)
The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill
Abducted as an 11-year-old from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea, Aminata Diallo is sent as a slave to South Carolina. Years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes”. This book, an actual document, provides a revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to resettle in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.
Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone — passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America — is a sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London. The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex. (Review excerpt from Amazon.com)
Galore, by Michael Crummey
Galore vividly imagines Newfoundland’s early permanent settlements, established around the beginning of the 19th century when English and Irish immigrants, among others, set up cod fisheries. These tiny coastal settlements endured in a diificult environment with scarce resources. Focusing on two communities –- Paradise Deep and the Gut – Crummey depicts multiple generations of two families divided by wealth, status, politics, and religion, yet inextricably bound by duty, shame, clandestine love, revenge, and the challenge of survival in the New World.
Supernatural elements are numerous in the story: folk remedies for strange afflictions, ancient pagan rituals, merwomen, a murderer’s ghost that haunts his wife, and mummers with uncanny insight all contribute to a portrait of a people caught between the living and the dead, the real and the phantasmagoric. The most dramatic example of the novel’s otherworldly aspect is the presence of the mysterious, mute Judah, a seemingly ageless man (he appears unchanged throughout the two-hundred-year span of the novel) delivered to the settlements in the belly of a whale. (Review excerpt from Quill & Quire)
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
This story offers wonderful well-rounded characters, a genuine sense of historic time and geographic place, some real inspiring stories of courage under hardship during World War II and a sweet if rather predictable love story. The book takes place in England during the mid 1940’s when the country was recovering from the effects of the long war years. The central character of the novel is Juliet, a thirty-something single Londoner who has had some success writing a humorous newspaper column and is now looking for a book subject.
Through chance and a mutual love of literature Juliet begins corresponding with a group of diverse people on the island of Guernsey who used books and the fellowship they found discussing them to help them get through the hideous occupation of their island by the Germans. The characters are all wonderful–you can’t help but wishing you’d known them yourself. Each member of the cast of this book has his or her own unique voice. Some of the stories told in this book are tragic; some are funny; but I guarantee that all of them will be touching. (Review excerpts from Amazon.com)