Yes, it has been a rough week for us all.  Here is what we did in the dark.  This week we offer up to you some hilarious widows, shattered illusions, Sterno, facial deformities, a very happy family, Saigon, and what has to be one of the most twisted collection of photography ever assembled!

Let us begin!

Erin the Programming Diva spent her time learning more about a new friend. “You may remember Bob Spitz’s visit to the Library in September to discuss Dearie, his biography of Julia Child. It was on this evening that I met his wife, Becky Aikman, author of a forthcoming memoir, Saturday Night Widows . The book opens with a hilarious scene at a widows’ support group. (Yes, hilarious). One of the widows in the group questions Becky’s necessity in being there since she is a young widow with her “whole life ahead of her.” Becky gets understandably angry about this and the group leader recommends she not return to the group. Becky decides to form her own widow support group made up of a bunch of ladies who don’t want to be sad anymore but instead want to smile and hang out with other ladies who understand. I took comfort in this book during my powerless Sandy days and am still trying to decide which of the widows is my favorite.”  This one is on order and will be in the catalog soon!

John spent time with an old friend who apparently has some new tricks! “I'm reading The Casual Vacancy and enjoying it very much.  If you're thinking about reading it in order to rekindle some of that Harry Potter magic, however, you'll be disappointed.  It's definitely an adult novel with adult themes and content.  I'm sure there are some Potter fans out there who have typecast J. K. Rowling as a naive, mild-mannered, proper Englishwoman who would be shocked by things like drugs and sex.  If that's you, and you don't want that illusion shattered, then don't read this book.  If you want an uncensored look at small-town English politics and what happens when class boundaries are blurred, what rural poverty looks like and its very real effects on children, teenagers, and adults, then this is an excellent book.  Rowling really has achieved something remarkable in the Casual Vacancy--she has redefined herself as a novelist and I will gladly read anything else she writes.  The Potter series will always stand alone as one of the greatest fantasy series of all time and I'm thrilled that Rowling has more to say.”

Abby I am sure is not alone in her summation of this week! “Sandy hasn't made it easy to focus on reading since she has kept my children home from school and reduced me to reading the label on a can of Sterno, but I was happy to devote some time to the latest issue of Vanity Fair.  Daniel Craig is on the cover and per Dame Judy Dench, he has ‘Wonderful blue eyes.  Sensational blue eyes.’  There were articles about other stuff too.”

Barbara M. has stepped away from Paris and Nazis!  It would seem that Sandy did more than rearrange the coastline! “I am actually reading a children’s book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio about a ten year old boy, Auggie Pullman, with severe facial deformities, who after being home schooled is entering middle school for the first time. The first part of the book is from Auggie’s perspective, how he deals with rejection and various reactions to his appearance, and then continues from the perspective of family and friends. The author writes with such authority that you can feel Auggie’s pain and acceptance of who he is. It is a powerful book for everyone, especially middle schoolers, to read – for everyone is a little different and everyone has an anomaly whether seen or not.” 

Ann who can still stay positive in spite of the fact she has no power, a tree through her roof, and a lung condition that is totally overstaying its welcome enjoyed a read we are all pretty excited about!  And please remember. Ann just can’t help herself. That is just how she is.  “I read the very well written first novel Indiscretion by Charles Dubow.  It is the story of a ‘very happy’ family, Harry, Maddy and their young son Johnny.  They are the couple that other couples aspire to be like until Harry makes a huge mistake.  A close friend of the family, Walter, tells the story of the unraveling of this family. The characters are well developed and you will not want to put this novel down until you discover what happened to these people.”

Sandy slowed Jeanne down a bit and she only has one offering for us this week. “I am reading The Headmaster’s Wager, a novel by Vincent Lam. Headmaster Percival Chen or Chen Pie Sou runs a highly respected English language academy in Saigon in the 60s. Even though Chen has run his academy for many years in Vietnam, he is very proud of his Chinese heritage and expects obedience from his son, Dai Jai, who has his own modern ideas and defies his father. When Dai Jai’s classroom antics are discovered by the ‘quiet police,’ he is arrested. Headmaster Chen fears for his son’s life and begins a frantic search by bribing crooked officials and seeking help from his ex-wife’s American contacts. Lam’s account combines historical fiction, political intrigue and family drama to create a gripping novel during a war-torn era.”

I was reduced to looking at pictures.  Literally. Talking Pictures:  Images and Messages Rescued From the Past by Ransom Riggs was my Sandy companion.  In the introduction, Riggs states flat out, “I have an unusual hobby:  I collect pictures of people I don’t know.”  This rather demented collection of photos with handwritten captions is divided into seven sections:  Clowning Around, Love and Marriage, Times of Trouble, Life During Wartime, Janet Lee, Hide This Please, and Unsolved Mysteries.   Of course I felt a special kinship to the Times of Trouble section.  A personal favorite was a picture probably circa 1920 of a mother with her two young daughters.  What was written on the back? “Not much good.  Just to show we’re alive.”  Yeah.  I think that about sums up this week. Oh and by the way?  They are way better groomed than the majority of us are so while things may not have been great for those three at least they had clean running water.

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