When you discover that a novel you’re reading is based on actual events, it’s icing on the cake. It’s especially compelling when set in a time and at a place that tugs at you. I found this to be true of new release, The Second Mrs Hockaday, by Susan River.
Set during the Civil War in South Carolina, new 16 year old bride, Placidia Hockaday, is left to manage her husband’s farm and raise his infant son for two years while he’s away fighting for the Confederacy. She bears a child during his absence, the child dies suspiciously, and she refuses to explain the circumstances. Truth lies in her journal entry, discovered much later, and not before she’s arrested and tried. The brutal and unjust culture of the times gives the story its richness and sadness. Love and goodness gives it its power. -- Susan, Redbery Books Cable, Wisconsin
There’s wonderful historical fiction being written, and Min Jin Lee’s book, Pachinko, draws our imaginations to a part of the world that is often discussed but far less understood. It is a multi-generational story starting in the early 1900’s that centers on one, main Korean family living in Japan. Here we find deftly drawn characters that are determined to build lives and succeed in the face of personal tragedy, poverty, famine and bigotry. Lee writes with an elegant pragmatism, taking us into a culture where the sights, sounds and smells are transporting. Her themes are transcendent and so relevant to our times. I am very glad that I took the journey. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
My plan had been to save the advanced copy of Joe Hill’s Strange Weather for my vacation, which was only a few days after I received the book. Well, that didn’t happen! I had all but the last few pages read as I boarded the plane, and as I finished it, was actually a little sad that I would never read it for the first time again. “Loaded” is a timely story about gun violence that could play out in almost any American town. I found myself hoping against hope that it would all be ok in the end, but if you’ve read Joe Hill in the past, you know there’s no guarantee of that. “Snapshot” is a short, strange trip into the world of a man with a Polaroid-like camera who wreaks havoc on strangers’ lives and memories. “Aloft” plays on one of my biggest fears. I can’t go up more than a few steps on a ladder, and there is no way that I would voluntarily jump out of a plane like the main characters! Just reading it made my stomach hurt at first. The story unfolds in such a way, though, that I found myself losing my fear along with the main character and enjoyed the ride for the entire 96 pages. In “Rain,” a new threat to humanity is unveiled. In truth, I didn’t really need to add another nightmare scenario to the already potential threats to us all, but Hill’s imagination is, hopefully, simply that, and I won’t stay up nights worried about lethal rain. At least I hope I won’t. Short stories are a quick joyride through the author’s imagination, and these stories are exceptional, a little terrifying, and wholly entertaining. I think you’ll race through them as I did, and want to jump right back in at the beginning as soon as you turn the last page. -- Sarah, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
“In 1965, Ruth Malone, recently separated from her husband, wakes to find her children gone. Both are found dead and Ruth finds herself the prime suspect, tried and convicted by the court of public opinion because she is a single parent and rumors abound about her drinking and dating habits. Flint has created a compelling whodunit based on true events, and I was riveted from page one. This is a literary thriller that will have you parked in your reading chair until you turn the last page!” —Sarah, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Fact or fiction, who cares? All I know is that I really would’ve liked to have met Chabon’s grandparents and mother who live large in his latest book, Moonglow. Painful memories of war, grandfather’s obsession with rockets and space travel, grandmother’s mental fragility and beauty, and his tentative but resolute unraveling of the past with his mother. Moonglow takes each of these lives and makes them rich, funny and, well, plausible. Suspend all disbelief and jump on. You’re in for quite a ride. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Alice Hoffman, award winning author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers, once again brings us a story that is emotional, dramatic, and rich in highly believable, immensely likeable characters.
Shelby Richmond has survived a tragic accident but her best friend Helene is left in a permanent comatose state. How can Shelby go on? How can anyone love her after what she’s done? The people that Shelby meets through the years are not ready to give up on her, no matter how hard she tries to push them away. Each brings a new direction and sense of belonging to Shelby’s life. With the help of anonymous postcards that she regularly receives from a “guardian angel” who was at the scene of the accident, Shelby slowly begins to feel hopeful about her future.
This is not just a story about a teen trying to survive a tragedy. It’s about connections with the people you least expect in your life, finally depending on them again and more importantly, realizing that they can depend on you too. -- Maureen, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Feel like making a happy escape? Then join one disgraced mom fleeing suburban life, two kids and a rotting RV on this touching and funny road trip into the wilds of Alaska. The children are truly the heroes of this story, and for once we’re left feeling uplifted at the end of their adventure. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
News of the World is the post-Civil War story of the journey of a tough but elderly widower and the ten year old orphan and Kiowa captive he vows to return to her family.
Each word of Paulette Jiles’s writing is spare and concise with an achingly moving undertow. Of the many themes in this book, trust and honor among them, empathy rises to the top for me when thinking of innocent people, then and now, being ripped from their homes and thrust into cultures foreign to them without family, safety or hope. But there’s a silver lining in this story that may make you cry, as it did me. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
What an outrageous and riotous premise for a novel. The unborn son of cuckolded father floats in utero as he witnesses his self-centered mother and louse of an uncle carrying on their woozy affair and plotting the demise of unsuspecting dad. McEwan’s exquisite writing gives the story just the right touch of wry elegance. It’s just the best. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Conflict, conquest and capture have shaped nearly all world cultures since the beginning of time. Set in 18th-century Ghana, this book tells the story of two half sisters and their descendants. One is married off to an Englishman and lives in relative comfort, while the other is sold into the slave trade and shipped to America. Please don’t be put off, it’s a rich epic that reminds us that while there’s deep injustice in the world, there’s also love and great strength. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
To tell the truth, I had misgivings about reading this book. It is, after all, a true recounting of the cold blooded murder and disappearance of dozens of Osage tribal members in 1920’s Oklahoma. Murders that took place because of the oil riches discovered under their land, making them the wealthiest people per capita in the world. It was lust for this oil that drove New York magnates, greedy desperadoes, and even other family members to devise “one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.” It was only when the death toll rose to more than 24 that the newly formed FBI took over, “badly bungling” the initial investigation until J. Edgar Hoover assigned a new undercover team. So, no, this story didn’t sound like a romp in the park, and I wasn’t sure I was up for it.
But here’s what happened: One after another, Redbery customers came in raving about this book, even people who I thought might have more delicate sensibilities. On their recommendations I took the plunge and am very grateful to them because it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. For those of us who tend to lean toward fiction, it’s got all of the suspense and plot twists found in the best whodunit. And for non-fiction readers, it’s built on meticulous reporting and revelations that are important for every American to understand. It is the best kind of story telling, and it is our history, like it or not. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Meticulously researched and written with stunning fierceness, Barkskins is an important commentary on the annihilation of indigenous people and greed for the world’s forests spanning 300 years. Starting with the first paragraph, Proulx’s writing will knock you out. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
The compelling stories of three very different women living during WWII. Caroline is an unmarried socialite who works at the French embassy in NYC. Kasia is a typical teen-aged Polish girl who lives in Lublin, Poland. Herta is a young German doctor who seeks acknowledgment of her skills in spite of being a female. Told in alternating chapters, each woman's struggles captivate the reader by "hearing" their different strengths and coping skills needed to survive in the time period. Caroline and Herta were real women whose marks were left on many, as told in the epilogue. Fascinating read, high on my list of the many others written on this period in history. -- Marilyn, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
As uncomfortable as it is to revisit our nation’s deplorable slave past, The Underground Railroad puts a harsh light on the circumstances, but shines a warm, determined light on those who struggled to escape, as well as on the truly brave people who risked everything to help them. Beautiful and compelling, Colson Whitehead’s railroad suggests that we all could work to build something to help our fellow man. -- Susan, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Stevenson chronicles his work with his legal practice, the Equal Justice Initiative, in this beautiful memoir. His work involves defending those most in need, and his clients and their families are desperate. His work with Walter McMillian is the main part of the book, along with several other clients on death row. His work involves uncovering police corruption, lying witnesses, and a system that just doesn’t work. I thought at first this was just going to be an anti-death penalty book, but I soon discovered that it is, instead, the story of a man who is working to bring justice to all. The system he works within is not a balanced, fair system, but a system that is broken. Stevenson has made it his life’s work to help bring that system into balance. He is truly working for “justice for all,” not simply justice for the privileged few with the funds to afford expert legal advice to navigate the courts. He reveals the shortcomings of this country’s legal system in an eloquent, balanced voice and I was riveted from the first page. -- Sarah, Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin