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Note to Shelf: October 2021 Edition

Summer has once again flown by and cooler temperatures have arrived. We are fortunate to experience the changing of the seasons here in our area. Fall can be especially spectacular when Mother Nature provides us with her kaleidoscope of colors. Our own Connecticut Office of Tourism provides a week by week guide to finding fall foliage as well as some exquisite fall foliage drives to explore this autumn. Grab a pumpkin spiced latte and head out!

We invite you on Sunday, October 17th at 5:30 p.m. to attend the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Library. We’ll share the top highlights from the past year, stories of how we responded to community needs throughout COVID, and what’s on the horizon.

Here are some great books suggestions from our staff — and don’t forget to check out our new books in October as well as some spine-tingling reads to chill you to the bone.

Ann

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange tells the story of the four grown Brennan children and the impact secrets have had on their lives. Sunday, the only sister of the siblings, has abruptly left their family home to restart her life in California, claiming that she has gotten a dream writing job. Her brothers Denny, Jackie, and Shane are saddened that she is leaving but accept her decision. Sunday also leaves the love of her life, Kale, who reluctantly acquiesces to her departure.

Following a life changing incident a few years after her she leaves, Sunday returns to her family home with concerns about how life might have been changed while she was gone. It is at this point that the story of the Brennans truly begins. Her mother is no longer alive and her father has become a bit disoriented. Denny and Jackie are busy working the family pub and opening another larger pub in a nearby town. Shane, who has some emotional and learning disabilities, is doing well. Kale is now married with a three-year-old son. Unfortunately, the pubs are struggling financially, and Denny reaches out for financial help from someone, who unbeknownst to him, has a grudge against the family. This decision will open many family secrets that will cause anguish and heartache for the Brennan family as well as for Kale and his family. This is a character-driven novel that centers on this close knit family, so I did find it somewhat surprising that Kale or Sunday's family never inquired how she was doing after she left home. This is a pleasurable family saga with a bit of a twist at the end.

Babs

Not knowing anything about John Astor's second wife, I was curious to delve into The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe, and I was not disappointed!

Madeleine Force was only 18 years old when she became bride to the recently divorced John Jacob Astor IV, who was 29 years her senior. Most people said it would never work, but they were deliriously happy until their fateful voyage on the Titanic, which took John Astor's life.

Each chapter of this book includes a personal message from Madeleine to her newborn son who was born 4 months after his father's death. The pain of the Titanic's sinking, the lives lost, and the overwhelming grief Madeleine suffers made my heart ache. Portions of the book which recounted the riches and opulence of summer homes of the rich and famous were fascinating to read. The author’s writing was so fluid that I felt I was right there in the middle of the story. What a glamorous time to have lived! If you enjoy historical fiction, this one is for you!

Virginia

World War II historical fiction is not always my first genre choice, but The Riviera House by Natasha Lester transported me to Paris in 1939 with its lush details, rich characters, and engrossing plot of a young woman risking everything to protect priceless stolen art during the war. This story is told in two voices: the first, Éliane, is a young art student newly in love and working at The Louvre when the city of Paris falls to Germany. Éliane’s life is shattered. The man she loved is gone, her family is going hungry, and her only means of survival is to start working with the German army as an art cataloger. As time goes on, she can’t bear to see these national treasures get lost to the world, so she begins to smuggle information about the looted art to the French resistance. Her heroic actions result in great personal sacrifice, and as a reader, your heart breaks for her.

Fast forward to present day and we meet Remy, who has mysteriously inherited a house on the Riviera. As Remy digs deeper into the history of the house, discovers secrets of her own identity are tied to the life of Éliane. This book is simply wonderful. It has vivid characters and a fascinating plot that will keep people engaged from start to finish. This is a must read for people who enjoyed Kristen Harmel’s The Book of Lost Names and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

Sarah

In Elizabeth Strout’s novel My Name is Lucy Barton, an unexpected hospital stay becomes a stunning meditation on the diverse depths of human emotion. Lucy, the narrator, revisits her nine weeks in the hospital in the mid-1980s. She has complications after a simple surgery, and her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in years, comes to visit. Lucy’s mother stays with her for five days, and the two women grow reacquainted by engaging in idle gossip about the town where Lucy grew up. However, Lucy’s deeply introspective narrative is interspersed with memories about her childhood and what she experienced as she became the person she is now, and you’ll soon realize that behind this casual chatter, more serious matters are being left unsaid. This is not just a conversation between a mother and daughter; this is a conversation between Lucy and the reader about the power of one’s past and finding peace and acceptance in the present.

Though the book is slim and Strout’s writing may seem sparse, this is not a book to read in one sitting. Strout’s writing is warmhearted, and Lucy’s story evokes emotions that are universal. We need not share Lucy’s life experiences to understand deep suffering, great joy, and their role in helping us find our place in the world. My Name is Lucy Barton is a poignant reminder of the hard, yet beautiful, work of being human.

If you are touched by Lucy’s story like I was, you’ll be delighted to know Elizabeth Strout has a companion book, Oh, William!, that will be released on October 19th. This book is an extended glimpse into Lucy’s later life where she joins an old friend on a trip to Maine to help unravel a family secret. Again, Strout delivers a compelling exploration of the human heart. I personally recommend you put it on hold today!

Amanda D.

When deciding what movie or show to watch, I can get lost searching the many streaming services waiting for something that catches my interest. By the time I make my decision, it’s bedtime! To make better use of my time, I grab a Binge Box from the Library’s DVD collection and my problem is solved. A Binge Box is a collection of films based on a theme or leading actor. If I am in the mood for a Keanu Reeves marathon or would prefer an Academy Award winning film, Binge Box to the rescue!

To get into the Halloween spirit, I chose the theme: The Choice is a No Brainer. This collection includes 5 films: Dawn of the Dead, The Dead Don’t Die, Overlord, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland: Double Tap. I am usually not one for scary movies, but October is the perfect month for a little scare. This collection of zombie movies gives you the option to choose if you want to laugh and jump out of your seat every now and again or if you need to sleep with a night light for the remainder of the week. Please check out the collection next time you visit the Library. Unfortunately, Binge Boxes cannot be put on hold, so we look forward to seeing you soon! There are tons of options, but I hope your choice is a no brainer.

October Spotlight:

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