Monday, August 15, 2011
Mailbox Monday -- August 15th
Life in the Thumb. Below are the books I received this week:
1) My Long Trip Home by Mark Whitaker. Amazon Product Description. In a dramatic, moving work of historical reporting and personal discovery, Mark Whitaker, award-winning journalist, sets out to trace the story of what happened to his parents, a fascinating but star-crossed interracial couple, and arrives at a new understanding of the family dramas that shaped their lives—and his own.
His father, “Syl” Whitaker, was the charismatic grandson of slaves who grew up the child of black undertakers from Pittsburgh and went on to become a groundbreaking scholar of Africa. His mother, Jeanne Theis, was a shy World War II refugee from France whose father, a Huguenot pastor, helped hide thousands of Jews from the Nazis and Vichy police. They met in the mid-1950s, when he was a college student and she was his professor, and they carried on a secret romance for more than a year before marrying and having two boys. Eventually they split in a bitter divorce that was followed by decades of unhappiness as his mother coped with self-recrimination and depression while trying to raise her sons by herself, and his father spiraled into an alcoholic descent that destroyed his once meteoric career.
Based on extensive interviews and documentary research as well as his own personal recollections and insights, My Long Trip Home is a reporter’s search for the factual and emotional truth about a complicated and compelling family, a successful adult’s exploration of how he rose from a turbulent childhood to a groundbreaking career, and, ultimately, a son’s haunting meditation on the nature of love, loss, identity, and forgiveness.
2) In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Gedo. Amazon Product Description. When ten-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari’s small village in Afghanistan falls prey to Taliban rule in early 2000, his mother shepherds the boy across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there all alone to fend for himself. Thus begins Enaiat’s remarkable and often punishing five-year ordeal, which takes him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece before he seeks political asylum in Italy at the age of fifteen.
Along the way, Enaiat endures the crippling physical and emotional agony of dangerous border crossings, trekking across bitterly cold mountain pathways for days on end or being stuffed into the false bottom of a truck. But not everyone is as resourceful, resilient, or lucky as Enaiat, and there are many heart-wrenching casualties along the way.
Based on Enaiat’s close collaboration with Italian novelist Fabio Geda and expertly rendered in English by an award- winning translator, this novel reconstructs the young boy’s memories, perfectly preserving the childlike perspective and rhythms of an intimate oral history.
Told with humor and humanity, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat’s moving and engaging voice and lends urgency to an epic story of hope and survival.
3) The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff. Amazon Product Description. Pam Jenoff, whose first novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, was a Quill Award finalist, a Book Sense pick, and a finalist for the ALA Sophie Brody Award, joins the Doubleday list with a suspenseful story of love and betrayal set during the Holocaust.
An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.
The defendant, wealthy financier Roger Dykmans, mysteriously refuses to help in his own defense, revealing only that proof of his innocence lies within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. As the narrative moves from Philadelphia to Germany, Poland, and Italy, we are given glimpses of the lives that the anniversary clock has touched over the past century, and learn about the love affair that turned a brother into a traitor.
Rich in historical detail, Jenoff’s astonishing new work is a testament to true love under the worst of circumstances.
4) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Amazon Product Description. The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.