Book Clubs and reviews…

October’s reading selection is American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to? 

September’s reading selection is The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial

“I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle. . . . It should be difficult to get lost forever”: These were the haunting last words legendary adventurer Roman Dial received from his son, before the 27-year old disappeared into the jungles of Costa Rica. This is Dial’s intensely gripping and deeply moving account of his two-year quest to unravel the mystery of his son’s fate.

In the predawn hours of July 10, 2014, twenty-seven-year-old Cody Roman Dial, the son of preeminent Alaskan scientist and National Geographic Explorer Roman Dial, walked alone into Corcovado National Park, an untracked rainforest along Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast that shelters miners, poachers, and drug smugglers. He carried a light backpack and machete. Before he left, he emailed his father: “I am not sure how long it will take me, but I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle and a day to walk out. I’ll be bounded by a trail to the west and the coast everywhere else, so it should be difficult to get lost forever.”

They were the last words Dial received from his son.

The Adventurer’s Son recreates the author’s two-year quest to learn the truth about his child’s disappearance. Immediately after Cody Roman’s planned departure date passed without a word from him, Dial set off for Costa Rica. As he trekked through the dense jungle, interviewing locals and searching for clues—the authorities suspected murder—the desperate father was forced to confront the deepest questions about his own life. Roman had raised his son to be fearless, to seek out adventure amid earth’s wildest places. Was he ultimately responsible for his son’s fate?

A harrowing story of drama, adventure, and a father’s love for his son, set in the most beautiful and dangerous reaches of the planet, The Adventurer’s Son is a mystery, the memoir of a father and his son, and an unforgettable story of love and profound loss. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/46041442-the-adventurer-s-son

August’s reading selection is A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making, from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day. (www.goodreads.com/book/show/55361205-a-promised-land)

July’s reading selection is The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Yang

In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

Beginning in the 1970s, as the Hmong were being massacred for their collaboration with the United States during the Vietnam War, Yang recounts the harrowing story of her family’s captivity, the daring rescue undertaken by her father and uncles, and their narrow escape into Thailand where Yang was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp.

When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America, and she evocatively captures the challenges of adapting to a new place and a new language. Through her words, the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by an entire community have finally found a voice.  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2541323.The_Latehomecomer#

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–-and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she meets boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gives him a second look: She is serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he is the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she is a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she feels inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice falls for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility.

As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry–-a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare. (review from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2807199-american-wife)

Read a biography! Not only are biographies informative, they’re entertaining. Here is a short list of biographies you can get through the library or Libby.

~ 𝙇𝙚𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙤 𝘿𝙖𝙑𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙞 by Walter Isaacson.
~ 𝘼 𝘽𝙚𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙛𝙪𝙡 𝙈𝙞𝙣𝙙 by Sylvia Nasar – John Nash an acclaimed mathematician who battled schizophrenia. Also a movie.
~ 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙢𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙡 𝙇𝙞𝙛𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙃𝙚𝙣𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙖 𝙇𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨 by Rebecca Skloot – A woman whose cells changed the trajectory of modern medicine. Also a movie.
~ 𝘼𝙡𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙃𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙩𝙤𝙣 by Ron Chernow. Also a major broadway musical.
~ 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙒𝙞𝙡𝙙 by John Krakauer – Christopher McCandless who traveled to Alaska and disappeared into the Denali wilderness in April 1992. Also a movie.
~ 𝘽𝙖𝙧𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙤𝙤𝙣 by Zora Neale Hurston. Based on Hurston’s interviews with the last remaining survivor of the Middle Passage slave trade, a man named Cudjo Lewis.
~ 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙇𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝘾𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙕 by David Grann. Percy Fawcett, the archaeologist who vanished in the Amazon. Also a movie.
~ 𝙈𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨 𝘽𝙚𝙮𝙤𝙣𝙙 𝙈𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨 by Tracy Kidder – Doctor Paul Farmer who worked for decades to eradicate infectious diseases around the globe.
~ 𝙍𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙧𝙮 by Kate Clifford Larson – Rosemary Kennedy’s life and life after lobotomy.
~ 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙒𝙤𝙤𝙙𝙨 by Michael Finkel – Christopher Knight who lived alone in the Maine woods for almost thirty years.
~ 𝙎𝙩𝙚𝙫𝙚 𝙅𝙤𝙗𝙨 by Walter Isaacson. Also a movie.
~ 𝙐𝙣𝙗𝙧𝙤𝙠𝙚𝙣 by Laura Hillenbrand. Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s US Army bomber crashed in the Pacific, leaving him and two other men afloat on a raft for forty-seven days and their subsequent capture by the Japanese Navy. Also a movie.