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Note to Shelf: May 2021 Edition

Just as rain, air, and sunlight are the essential ingredients that feed spectacular May blooms, for so many of us, it is art, literature, and community that feed our souls. That is why we are so happy to welcome you back to Darien Library this spring. On May 17, we’ll be back to our full operating hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday). In addition, you’ll no longer be limited to 30-minute Library visits, our book return system will be available 24/7, and—perhaps best of all for all our voracious readers—you’ll once again be able to place unlimited holds!

While we continue our steady transition back to more normal Library services, we remain committed to prioritizing the health and safety of all of our visitors and staff members. For that reason, several COVID-related safety measures will remain in place, such as masking for the full duration of your Library visit, maintaining social distance from others, and observing good hygiene practices. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and PPE will continue to be made available throughout the Library. Holds pick-up in the Community Room will also continue for the next several months. Our programs and special events will continue to happen virtually—though keep an eye out for an array of outdoor events this summer for children, teens, and adults of all ages.

In the meantime, we invite you to visit us at the Library, browse our collections and displays of the latest Staff Picks, ask for a reading recommendation, and say hello to your friendly neighborhood librarian. See you soon!

Let’s check out some great new books for this spring, and join your fellow readers to explore our latest book staff reviews.

Diane

Every once in a while, a great design book comes out with sprawling pictures of gardens and houses splashed with color that just make you want drop everything you’re doing. Summer to Summer: Houses by the Sea by Jennifer Ash Rudick is one such book! You will want to put on your gardening gloves and go dig in the soil, and while you’re at it, renovate and redecorate the house.

Of course, most of us don’t do this. Too busy just living. Jennifer Ash Rudick teams up with photographer Tria Giovan who brings us elegantly crafted designs that you’ll want to integrate into your homes. The book is in a large format, with many double-paged, exquisite photographs of stunning views. There is very little text, so it makes for nice, light reading.

The gardens and views are colorful and striking. They have been cultivated and shaped either by nature or generations of dedicated gardeners. The houses are equally stunning, from rustic to sleek modern filled with eclectic furniture, architectural hardware, lighting fixtures, and artwork. And what would a beach house be without a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed?

Pat T.

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain finds Anna Hart, an accomplished missing person detective who is tenacious, yet emotionally vulnerable. When she flees her personal life, leaving behind her husband and baby son, she escapes to her safe haven, Mendocino, California. This is where the loving foster couple who raised her while helping her heal from early years of neglect and abuse. Upon her arrival, she reconnects with a friend who is now the town sheriff and is pulled into a local missing person case about a 15-year-old girl, Cameron Curtis, who disappeared from her home the previous day. Like Anna, Cameron was adopted and dealing with issues beyond the normal teen angst. At the same time, there are two other similar cases within a few hundred miles of abducted young girls; one case is the real-life kidnapping of Polly Klaas. We come to know the back-story of Anna Hart in bits and pieces, sort of like missing pieces of a puzzle.

This latest novel is a departure from McLain’s previous novels about Ernest Hemingway’s wives, The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin, yet connected to her personal past of growing up in foster care. She sheds light on the very delicate subject of abuse and trauma and the often-disturbing parallels between the victim and the predator. This novel is a propulsive thriller that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it! Did you miss seeing Paula McLain discuss this book with us recently? Watch the recording now.

Marianne

How do you like your history? Are you a “nothing but the facts” kind of reader or do you like a little imagination thrown in? Me, I’m the latter type and so I was excited to read Leonora in the Morning Light by Michaela Carter. This well-researched, fictional account follows the life of Leonora Carrington, one of the few women artists of the surrealist period. Who were the surrealists? What did they stand for and why did the Nazis consider them degenerate? All was revealed in this coming-of-age story of Leonora, who left her privileged, stifling life to follow her artistic passion.

In 1937 London, Leonora meets and falls in love with the already famous but married surrealist artist, Max Ernst, 25 years her senior. The couple instantly bonds, he divorces, and they ultimately move to San Martin d’Ardeche in France where they pursue their art and enjoy an idyllic surrealist’s life. But WWII is on the horizon. Max, who is German, is declared an undesirable foreigner and sent to a work camp in France. And when he escapes it is here that their story digresses as each tries to flee from the approaching Nazis.

Michaela Carter’s poetic roots are evident in the almost dreamlike way she has managed to tell the intriguing story of an artistic movement, star-crossed love, and the horror of war in one engrossing novel. I couldn’t put it down.

Kristen O.

In the introduction to Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall writes, “It’s not going to be a comfortable read, but it is going to be an opportunity to learn for those who are willing to do the hard work.” Kendall discusses a wide range of issues and identities that are often overlooked by mainstream feminism, such as poverty, healthcare, and access to education. Drawing on her experiences as a Black woman, she shows readers the nuances of societal power structures and how they affect the ways women engage—or don’t engage— with feminism. The writing is thoughtful and accessible, highlighting the ways a movement meant to achieve equality has failed to include those who need it most. It is a stark but necessary contrast to the uplifting, empowered woman narrative that dominates popular culture, and those who choose to engage with the material will find the experience meaningful and eye-opening.

Eden

The Beauty in Breaking is an autobiography by Dr. Michele Harper, a Philadelphia emergency room physician. This book follows Harper through her career at multiple hospitals in the New England area and chronicles her experience being a woman of color in the field of medicine. The Beauty in Breaking is a fantastic read for biography lovers as we get an insight into both her career and unfortunately complicated family and personal life without being too overbearing. The language in this book is what really sold me on it. It's written almost like a novel, and even felt like one at times! This book is both a quick read and one that leaves you with a few things to think about. From discussions about the hospital system to the moral battle of disconnecting from toxic family members, this book was one of my number one reads for the year.

May Spotlight:

There is a lot of things happening this month. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Join us in celebrating Darien Library's 127th anniversary on 1894 Day! On Wednesday, May 26th, we will launch our Third Annual Day of Giving. Stop by the Library courtyard from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or donate online any time that day. There will be exclusive giveaways for every donor on May 26th! Don’t miss your chance!

  • Interior designer Charlotte Moss and textile guru Lisa Fine would love you to join their conversation on Thursday, June 3rd.

  • As our Library continues to advance the causes of equity, diversity, and inclusion in our collections, events, and outreach, let’s celebrate Asian American Pacific Islanders Heritage Month by enjoying these wonderful authors.

  • Did you know that May 12th is International Nurses Day? Let’s honor this esteemed group of professionals whose sacrifices and compassion is unwavering.

  • Dust off your red, white, and blue to join the community in this year’s Darien Memorial Day Parade.

  • We are hosting a special event on May 20th featuring Chris Bojilian who will be discussing his new book, The Hour of the Witch.

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