Ah! November is here with its crisp air, foliage ablaze in rich hues, and mellowing days that have become shorter but are just as precious. As we savor walking in this cool air, hearing the crunch of leaves beneath our feet and enjoying the smell of smoke from fireplaces, we can breathe in the landscape of autumnal beauty. “Autumn is like a glorious woman rich in wisdom and beauty, joyous in her strength.”—Beth Harbaugh
This month we pay tribute to our veterans on November 11th. The Allied forces signed a ceasefire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France on November 11, 1918, bringing the war now known as World War I to a close. After World War II, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to the veterans of both wars. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation to change the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor each and every veteran for their service.
Of course, November also gets us excited for a favorite American holiday—Thanksgiving! While we may need to enjoy some of the traditional Thanksgiving rituals in a modified version this year, we know that we can still count our many blessings and we wish everyone a happy holiday!
Now let’s see what our folks are reading! And don't forget to check out all of the new releases out this month.
Sisters by Daisy Johnson is a perfect fall read. July and September are sisters born 10 months apart, whose personalities and inner lives are so intertwined they often blur. After a school bullying incident, their single mom decides to uproot the girls and move to an eerie, long-abandoned family cottage on the North York Moors. As their mother battles depression, secluding herself in a bedroom on the top floor, the sisters are left to fend for themselves. Johnson’s sophomore novel (her debut, Everything Under, was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize) is part Gothic mystery, part psychological drama. Ideal for readers who enjoy the atmospheric tension of Shirley Jackson’s novels (or viewers who devoured the Netflix adaptation of “The Haunting Hill House”) and the taut writing style of Gillian Flynn.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie offers us some levity during these unprecedented times. Afi Tekple, a young, impoverished Ghanaian seamstress, is about to embark on a fairy tale life, or so it seems. Afi has been convinced by her mother to marry a man she hardly knows, but everyone else knows who Elikem Ganyo is—a wealthy businessman whose mother has chosen Afi to be his bride. This is a blatant attempt to take him away from the long relationship he’s had with a Liberian woman whom Eli’s family intensely dislikes. “From the beginning, Afi’s reaction to the marriage cannot be described as anything other than troubled. ‘It wasn’t easy being the key to other people’s happiness, their victory, and their vindication,’ she says during the wedding—which Eli doesn’t even bother to show up for.”
This charming and provocative story follows Afi’s efforts to live up to the family’s expectations. To do this, she must entice Eli into her arms by using all of her modern feminine charms while carrying out her traditional wifely duties. Gradually, Afi becomes unwilling to accept her second class status, both as a wife and as a Ghanaian woman. With her growing independence, she begins to take control of her life in ways that have unforeseen consequences.
In a country that still has a strong patriarchal culture, including polygamy and arranged marriages, it was inspiring to read about the courageous journey this young woman was willing to take to become her own person. And lending validity to the story is the fact that the author, herself, is from a small town in Ghana. I found His Only Wife to be full of humor and heart and very hard to put down.
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees is set in 1946 and World War II has just ended. Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees its zone of occupation. Enter Edith Graham who applies for a job with the Commission. She is hired and also recruited by her cousin Leo, who is in the Secret Service.
Edith makes the perfect spy—single, plain-looking, speaks fluent German, and has a college degree in German. Her cousin Leo went to college with Count Kurt von Stavenow, one of Britain's most wanted criminals, and Leo wants Edith to find him. As a cover story, Edith goes to Germany to work as an Education Officer and help get the German schools up and running. Edith also writes for a popular magazine’s cooking column. She inserts crucial intelligence into the recipes she collects and then sends that information back to her Secret Service handlers in London.
The closer Edith gets to locating von Stavenow's whereabouts and the network of German civilians who still support him, the greater the danger. I found this book very disjointed in parts, but the ending brings everything together, and what an ending! I never saw it coming, which is what I love in a book!
Despite some suggestive bits—keeping in mind she is a stand-up comedian—it was a light and entertaining book. I found her honest and very relatable as she touches on some social issues, like problems facing working mothers, women vs. men in comedy, and being the child of immigrant parents. Her tone is fearless and bold as she pokes fun at her body, dating, pregnancy, sex, and her husband. She encourages her daughters to always take risks and to go outside one’s comfort zone while learning from mistakes. Her suggestions are heartfelt and well-grounded.
Even if you are not a fan of “laugh out loud” stand-up comedians, you will appreciate Wong’s candidness, her sensible advice, and funny stories!
Who doesn’t like to binge, whether it’s chocolate, junk food, or movies? The latest additions to the Darien Library film catalog are Binge Boxes. They are a collection of films contained in one case. A Binge Box may have between four to six films organized by theme. For example, you will find your favorite romantic comedies, Westerns, foreign flicks, travel, weddings, and even your ultimate leading men (like Tom Hanks) and women in one collection.
Personally, I am addicted to the Binge Box called Never Travel with Tom Hanks. “Cast Away,” “Captain Phillips,” “Apollo 13,” and “Sully.” How fantastic is that? Another favorite actor of mine is Julia Roberts. Her Binge Box holds six films: “Notting Hill,” “Erin Brockovich,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Hook,” “The Pelican Brief,” and “Conspiracy Theory.”
What’s not to like? You can be a couch potato all day or a night owl until dawn. Binge Boxes can be checked out for seven days. Please come see us, and we will help find the perfect one for you!
Local history fans will enjoy our virtual author event on Thursday, November 12th at 7 p.m. with Allegra di Bonaventura. She discusses her book, For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England. This intimate history of family and slavery through the lives of intertwined Connecticut families offers great insight into this time period. Register on our website for this wonderful event.
If you are a foodie, you won’t want to miss the virtual cookbook panel who will discuss Feeding the Family: A Culinary Conversation on Wednesday, November 18th at 7 p.m. Melissa Clark of The New Times (Dinner in French), Deb Perelman (The Smitten Kitchen), and Jacques Pepin (Quick and Simple), will be participating in this food extravaganza. We will be raffling off a copy of each of their new books, so join us to win! Register today for this delicious event!