Dory L.'s blog

Reading with Patrick

Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?

In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education.

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone

Did you ever dream of being in a tsunami? As a college freshman I did, repeatedly over a course of a couple of months. Luckily, I lived in the mountains then, a few hundred miles from the sea.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an English journalist, who spent over a decade in Japan, did six years of research for this excellent book. In one chapter, he recounts Teruo Konno’s experience being swept and tossed for hours in the great tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Konno’s tale reads like a thriller.

As a city employee, Teruo opened the doors to evacuees at a city hall branch office next to the Kitakami River, fifteen feet above sea level and inland from the ocean. Everyone in the building survived the severe shaking, but the building lost power. No one knew that officials had revised the tsunami warning to 120 feet.

The Dry

If you've followed the news reports about Day Zero in Cape Town, South Africa, you might understand what happens to people who live in a place with little or no water. In Dry, a fast-paced thriller set in Kiewarra, Australia, everyone goes crazy when lack of access to water threatens their livelihood.

It's the second year of massive drought: thirsty blowflies enter people’s eyes and stick to open wounds; farmers struggle to find any water in their wells, many shooting their starving livestock. Friendship between neighbors turns to distrust and paranoia, and fences no longer only mark property lines—they serve as dire warnings not to enter. Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to this dried-up part of Australia after reports that a farmer has gone berserk and killed his wife and son, then himself. Only one-year-old Charlotte has survived the killings—could that be because she can't talk?

The Boys in the Boat

Even if you seldom follow sports, this story of the 1936 Olympic rowers will excite you and touch your heart. Eight young men—most tall and scraggly, nearly all from poor, working-class backgrounds—beat the elite British, the powerhouse Germans, and the determined Italians to win gold as Nazi hysteria took over Berlin. But even though we know who wins the 1936 Olympics from the beginning, Brown ups the ante with dramatic descriptions of the racing with a filmmaker’s eye for visual details, practical rowing crew experience, and extensive interviews and research.

The book brims with history: personal, cultural and factual. It begins with the author’s neighbor, Judy, inviting the author to meet her father, Joe Rantz, one of the Olympic winners who, with only a few months to live, is in hospice. Over many interviews, he shares his story, but insists that Brown also write about all the men on his crew who, working as one, bring home the gold against impossible odds.

The Women in the Castle

War, it is said, tears families apart and brings strangers together. In this compelling WWII novel, two German widows of Nazi-resisters and a third woman, a refugee from the East, move in together, along with their children. They help each other with child-rearing and preparing meals, despite the privations of rationing. Most importantly, they give each other deep emotional support, as good families do.

The novel opens on a grand harvest party in a castle, ramshackle and falling apart, near a small town in Bavaria. Marianne, the main character, plays host for its ailing owner, Countess von Lingenfels, her husband Albrecht's aunt. Marianne brings to hosting the skills of someone who has an eye for beauty and taste—and particularly the complicated dynamics of relationships between people. She greets, cajoles, and introduces strangers with the flair and manners of a great lady.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

On November 17, author Jamie Ford speaks at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington for the NEA Big Read and the library’s biennial Power of Words program. Tickets are free, and can be picked up at the Main Library (at the Friends of the Library Bookstore or the Friends office) or ordered online.

As he often does, Jamie Ford writes about the clashing and melding of different cultures in his three historical novels: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Songs of Willow Frost, and Love and Other Consolation Prizes.  

Stay with Me

With economy of language and a taut emotional underlying, Ayobami Adebayo tells the parallel tales of a young couple’s marriage, alongside Nigeria’s struggle for independence.

Told alternately by Yejide and her husband, Akin, the book opens late in the story to a woman packing her bags. She's done this many, many times before, but something—whether deep feelings or fear—has always stopped her from making the trip to her southwestern Nigerian hometown of Ilesa, once the site of a magical kingdom.

Love, Africa

This memoir by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will make you feel as though you have boarded a jet and begun a new life.

Jeffrey Gettleman, nineteen-year old college student, wanders his way into East Africa, does community service work, and falls in love with the landscapes, people, swirl of languages, and colorful clothing there. In fact, he eventually decides he must come back to live in the region, not just visit.

Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World

Say you've just finished your graduate degree in writing from Boston College, and a rich donor provides you with funds to travel anywhere in the world. Where do you pick? Tahiti, Paris, Buenos Aires? For British citizen Nell Stevens, it's none of the above. Instead, she chooses the remote Falklands Islands, where South America meets Antarctica—in June, which is winter there.

In Stanley, the Falklands' capital, Nell researches the archives for her first novel, and also meets some of the less-than-friendly Falklanders there. After a few weeks, Nell hops a plane for even more remote Bleaker Island, about which a writer friend quips, “Oh, you’re writing Bleaker House.”

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Dory L.'s blog