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The Mission House by Carys Davies

It was Tony’s description of it as “life-affirming” and “reticent and quiet and almost gentle” that took me to this book. All those things were true, but it was set in India, and in my experience of books set in India involve some pain. The story centers on Hilary Byrd, an Englishman who has been fired from his job in a library and always needed his sister to help...

Books to Read

The Dead Are Arising:  The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne. Stranger in the Shogun’s City:  A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley. The Color of Water:  A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride Fox and I:  An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven. July 6. The Mission House by Carys Davies. Tony described it as almost gentle and life-affirming...

The Old Jest by Jennifer Johnston

This is my fifth Jennifer Johnston book and, as usual, I was glad to have given it my attention. She is an amazing Irish author, almost unknown in this country. This one is set a few years after the end of World War I and focuses on Nancy Gulliver, who has just turned 18. Having been orphaned, she lives with her Aunt Mary and her grandfather who is moving into dementia. Bridey cooks and cleans...

The Dry by Jane Harper

Jane Harper’s first novel is a police procedural set in rural Australia a few hundred miles west of Melbourne in an area that had been beset by a drought of several years duration. The main character is Aaron Falk, returned to the town after 20 years absence for the funerals of his high school friend Luke, his wife, and son. Aaron and his father had moved to Melbourne when he was a teenager...

Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn

It is hard work to read a biography of a liar, a person who works to create myths about themselves. My previous experience of this was with Calamity Jane, that denizen of the Wild West who is buried near Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, S.D. When I read a short academic take on her life, I found it was an unsatisfying effort to separate facts and myth with no charm. This author, by contrast, is...

Here We Are by Graham Swift

I was excited to see that the author of Mothering Sunday (which I loved) and Last Orders, winner of the Booker prize, has recently written a new book. It more than met my high expectations and I am at the moment listening to it for the second time. The story begins with a vaudeville show at the end of a pier in Brighton in the mid-1950s, just before television puts an end to such entertainment...

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

While I was listening to this book, the announcement came that it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. What a good choice they made! The book centers on two stories that intersect. Thomas, a night watchman who succeeds in derailing an effort by a Senator in the early 1950s to abrogate the treaties with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, was based on her grandfather, Patrick Gorneau. The effort...

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

A memoir by the eminent scholar who wrote so impressively about the Hemings family of Monticello is not to be missed. The importance of Juneteenth made it especially appealing to me because a beloved professor I knew organized a Juneteenth celebration every year at our local community college. Gordon-Reed admits to having felt some resentment when celebrations of Juneteenth outside Texas began to...

Monogamy by Sue Miller

This is a close examination of an unusual marriage and those tangentially connected to it. It was billed as the story of a widow who learns that her husband had been unfaithful, so I was surprised to find that I was more than half way through before Annie made her discovery. Besides the chief couple, Graham and Annie, there are other fully active characters. Most important of these is Frieda...

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

I was thunderstruck by this wonderful book and have listened to it again. It was a finalist for the National Book Award. Philyaw brings you into the intimacies of the lives of these black women with just a few words and uses a variety of storytelling approaches to do so. Some are first person narratives. In “Eula” the narrator Caroletta tells of her long-time friendship with Eula...

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