2003

 

The Emperor of Ocean Park

 

Stephen L. Carter

3.5 (out of 4 rating)

This is meant to be a mystery, but there is so much more to the book. The book gives us a look into the culture of the well to do African Americans from the early 60's, the politics of the nominations for the Supreme Court Justice, politics of a prestigious law school, along with the characters and relationships of family and friends, even chess. The mystery to be solved takes us through a variety of the above. Very well written and makes for a great discussion.

The Lovely Bones

 

Alice Sebold

2.6

You may find the first few pages disturbing, but it leads into the aftermath of what happens to a family, friends, and community after the murder of a 14 year old girl. Susie, who is raped and murdered, tells her story from her heaven as she watches what happens on earth after her death. The death of a child affects each family member differently, along with those of her friends. Susie also watches her murderer. We found it an interesting read although we had problems toward the end of the book. Ms. Sebold was raped herself and has written the book, "Lucky", which is the true story of her rape. She wrote the "Lovely Bones" first.

The House of the Seven Gables

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne

3.3

A classic is a classic for a reason. The language of the past is becoming lost. The descriptive, beautiful, subtle language needs to be absorbed by the reader. In this day, we are use to action instead of taking in each word as written. I found the best book to read was "A Norton Critical Edition", edited by Seymour L. Gross. The book includes background and sources, the author's own excerpts from his notebooks, along with essays and criticism. There are many footnotes throughout the book which gives much insight to the storyline. At time we found the narrative to be long but the language was so lovely it didn't matter .It is a book we agreed we would like to read over. I started and in the first chapter caught something that was mentioned much later in the book but would have been forgotten. We also borrowed the "Cliff Notes" for discussion. We were pretty pleased that we actually discussed many of the short essay questions before looking at them. We also once again realized the importance of book discussion. Some came in the door with a lower rating and after the discussion, the rating changed for the better.

Cane River

 

Lalita Tademy

2.7

Although this is a book of fiction, it is based on historical fact, research, documents, and genealogy. This story is that of the author's family biography. It is the story of four generations of women, being born into slavery in the the area of Cane River, Louisiana. What was fascinating about the book was that of the black woman slave being forced to have sexual relations with her master, give birth to his children, and then to see how the white slave owner provided or didn't for his child. There were free coloreds and slaves. You can also see how the Civil War changed the attitude towards them. The mixing of the races also changed the color of the skin. Some mulattos or quadroons could pass as white but were always treated as blacks. The one problem we all had with the book was the ending. It ended rather quickly. Whether the author wanted to wrap the book up or what we don't know. But with the most recent information available, it was left out. We had many questions in the end.

Life of Pi

 

Yann Martel

3.5

Even though this is a novel and a book of fiction, the foreword made me believe it was a true story. I am the gullible one of the group. The book begins with Pi, Piscine, as a young boy in Podicherry, India. His father is in charge of the zoo there, so Pi grows up living at the zoo. He also decides on his own to study different religions and joins three of them. As politics change in India, his father decides to move the family to Canada. They board a cargo ship along with some of the animals and the boat sinks. The rest of the book is Pi's story of his survival on a lifeboat. We loved the book, many wanting to read it again. My favorite chapter was 78. It is beautifully written. You could just read that chapter, since you do not have to know the story, to see the brilliance of the writing. The one true thing about the book is that there was once a real Richard Parker. If you want to know who he is you can e-mail me. This book was the winner of the 'Man Booker Prize'.

Stolen Lives

 

Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

1.6

Originally published"La Prisonniere", then translated and sold to twelve countries, this is the true story of the family of General Oufkir, and what became of them after the General's arrest and execution after his attempt to assassinate King Hassan II of Morocco. It is a memoir of Malika's life before imprisonment and then of her and her family for twenty years imprisoned. It is an amazing story, but lacked the depth and description we needed to feel moved. We found it was just very poorly written. Maybe a better writer could have pulled more from Malika. There was so much unjust to the situation and that of other prisoners that there was a real story here, it just wasn't written.

The Loop

 

Nicholas Evans

1.9

Evans, the author of "The Horse Whisperer", writes once again of Montana and nature, this time being the release of wolves to avoid extinction. The wolves come into cattle country and have to face the ranchers who hate them and the biologists who are trying to save them. It is quite apparent that Evans, an Englishman who generally writes documentaries and screenplays, is doing just that with this book. We instantly started deciding which actors were going to play the characters in the book. It was an easy, predictable read. Some scenes were out of context but might make sense in a movie.

Empire Falls

 

Richard Russo

3.3

"Empire Falls" won the Pulitzer in 2002. Empire Falls, Maine once supported the town with its logging and milling factories. Three generations later, the factories are empty and the town is dying. The original owners of the town, the 'Whiting' family still owns and runs the town by the manipulative widow Francine Whiting. The characters, whether major or minor, all contribute to this story. It is centered around Miles Roby who runs the Empire Grill and the effect the Whiting family had on him his entire life. Many characters come in and out of his restaurant along with his variety of family members. There are many storylines meshed within one another The author has a wonderful way of writing Miles as a child and then as an adult throughout which his development climaxes into true closure for Miles. The character development is so well written. It also gives us an insight as to what many towns are facing these days as factories lay empty, the towns are dying, people are leaving, and some cannot or do not want to leave. Highly recommended for all bookclubs or private reading. Another must read of Russo's is "Straightman."

You are not a Stranger Here

 

Adam Haslett

2.7

This book consists of nine short stories. As with short stories, some you would like to continue and not others. All the stories were well written yet the context at times were disturbing to read. In a way, the author mastered what he intended. The subjects varied from mental illness, sadness, homosexuality, family issues with possible reconciliation,and death. It actually was not an enjoyable read but as I said, well written.

The Hours

 

Michael Cunningham

3.7

The 1999 winner of the Pulitzer, Michael Cunningham writes an amazing novel of the lives of three women, in one day, in different time eras. The book revolves around Virginia Woolf and her writing the book "Mrs. Dalloway", Laura Brown, a housewife who is reading the book in 1942, and Clarissa, an editor, who her friend Richard refers to her as Mrs. Dalloway circa late 1990"s. We have the writer, the reader, and the editor We all agreed as to the many parallels and multi-layers these women shared. In the end, they have all come together in a shocking manner. The author seemed to write so simply yet the reader can visualize and feel what each character is going through. As I said, it was just amazing that he could in what actually is a small book, write so much. It is hard to explain. Cunningham said that Virginia Woolf was his muse and this was a tribute to her. He is much easier to read. Some books are best read twice because you find things you may have overlooked the first time around. Do so.