This has been a delightful summer of unexpected reading choices and good discussions with friends. I cannot think of a better way to spend an evening than talking about a book you have all read and then sharing ideas for the next read! If you are not already part of a Book Group, start one! Here are some suggestions to get you started.
#1. “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd is the book I have chosen for what I call my Book Club I. This month our challenge is to read or reread a book with a strong female protagonist. This amazing first novel by Kidd has at least three main characters who form a strange triangle of powerful women. Called another Carson McCullers because Monk’s southern gothic voice is a familiar echo of McCullers; I especially see the truth of that comparison in McCullers “The Member of the Wedding.” Another motherless girl whose African-American housekeeper is her best friend and substitute mother. But it is Lily, Berenece ,and Mary that I will chose to present to my fellow readers. Such a journey! So much for the reader to learn about bees, about the pain of adolescence, and the ugliness and triumph surrounding the Civil Rights movement of the early 60’s. You will meet some of the most unusual characters in modern fiction.
“The tale of one motherless daughter’s discovery of what family means — and of the strange and wondrous places we find that love. “ ~ The Washington Post
Grade – A
#2. “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan selected by Book Club II is an absolute hoot! Who knew that there are more billionaires in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong than anywhere else in the world! About 300 more than the 500 plus in the United States. These folks have been amassing incredible wealth and are Big Guns in Money Institutions and Tech Businesses. Seems spending this money is a national sport! Kwan swears the opulence of the over-decorated homes, the $250,000 garages holding the most extravagant autos (several per family), the battle to be the best dressed–private jets taking women on regular shopping trips to Paris and New York–haute couture seems like a deadly game. And talk about jewelry! 300 carat engagement rings, designer pieces set with stunning gems, and priceless antique pieces are part of the gluttony of spending that takes place. The only other real interest the Singaporeans seem to have is debating where to get the best Epicurean delights. The book does have a plot and a sweet love story with two very likable characters, and they are not the only “characters” in this novel recently turned into what sounds like a great film. An all Asian cast, the first in 27 years, not since Joy Luck Club. Should be a fun evening and I am sure the opulence of Singapore will be unveiled like never before.
“There’s rich, there’s filthy rich, and then there’s crazy rich.” ~ People Magazine
Grade – B
#3. “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng is one a very strange novel set in fictitious Shaker Heights. Reminded me of Steppford Village meets PTC. All the haves and one poor little have not. I want you to judge this for yourself. Took me awhile to get into this book chosen by Book Club II. Guess who starts the fire?
“Everybody was talking about it in Shaker Heights that summer. How Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had gone around the bend and finally burned the house down.” ~ Page One.
Grade – B
#4. “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver was my choice for Book Club I. It has been on my All Times Favorites List ever since I first read it 17 years ago. Three strands, three very separate but parallel strands run through this magnificent, lush, seductive novel. It will pull you into the lives of these folk up on the Tennessee ridge, each story as poignant as the next. One tragic, one lonely, one sparkles with wit. All delicious in the description of the verdant valley and heavily wooded hills. You will meet and learn to love coyotes too!
“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate, pulling predator to prey.” ~ Kingsolver
Grade – A+
Add to this summer’s list “Bettyville” (Grade – C), a three hanky story of a man who must come to grips with his own needs and those of his aging mother. “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” (A-), A lady pirate kidnaps a famous chef after slaying the Lord of the Manor and now demands gourmet food in the galley! “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” ( A), a perfectly delicious British story that especially touched this aging heart, and the beautiful, terrifying tale of a young blind girl in France during WWII. “All the Light We Cannot See” (A+), plus the nonfiction 2001 “The Tipping Point” (C+), a study in the psychological and sociological ways humans can start a phenomenon…or a plague. Scary!