Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From Trinity to Trinity

I was approached by a library patron about the possibility of hosting a book discussion on a work that was translated by Eiko Otake and I was immediately intrigued.  Eiko will be visiting Alfred University and holding dance performances next month.  From Trinity to Trinity is by Kyoko Hayashi.  Hayashi is a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  This piece, translated by Eiko, is Hayashi's journey to the Trinity Site in New Mexico.  Trinity Site is where the atomic bomb was tested in July of 1945.

Hayashi's story is only about 50 pages, with an introduction of nearly equal length by Eiko.  This tiny book is powerful. While I was reading this book with the intention of being able to ask discussion questions (and have my own ideas to contribute), this book raised many questions and gives me plenty to think about.  It promises to encourage a great book discussion.

"I was deeply moved to see how after six decades, the horrible human experiences of the atomic bombing have brought about such beautiful and artful objects." Eiko Otake

We will be meeting Friday March 2, March 16 and March 23 at 12:00pm at the library.  We will discuss the book, learn about Eiko and dance from Chase Angier and on March 23, Eiko will meet with the group.

If you want more information on these discussion groups, please check our website at

Friday, February 23, 2018

Irish Girls About Town

This older book (2002) caught my eye as it came across the circulation desk as a return.  It's a series of short stories by Irish authors, including one of my favorites, Maeve Binchy, whose name is prominently displayed on the front cover.  OK, I know MB's stories can flirt with fluffiness, but I love her!!  She is a great story teller, really makes you care about her characters, plus you get to learn what it was like to live in Ireland (as a woman, mostly) in the 50s and also more recently.  Some of these short stories were pretty fine, a few not so memorable.  The editor should not have put two of them with similar plots right next to each other, but other than that I found I could not stop reading them.  What more can the devoted reader ask for?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Only Child

Some people have said that reading is an escape from reality.  And to some degree, I think that's true.  For a while you can immerse yourself in a different world, with different characters and a new setting.  Often, reading can be a comfort in hard times.

But sometimes our reading intersects with reality in profound ways.  I picked up Only Child by Rhiannon Navin just hours after the Parkland school shooting this past week. 

This book is told by Zach, a first grade student who survived a school shooting.  His brother, Andy did not.  Young Zach must confront huge emotions, and navigate a new way of life.  His parents handle the tragedy very differently, often leaving Zach to work through his own feelings alone. 

This book reminded me that after these tragedies that seem to happen all too often, there are real people left behind. There are communities and families that are broken, long after the media coverage ends. 

It is not an easy book to read, especially when the trying to "escape" the endless news coverage or our social media feeds filled with debates.  But it is relevant.  And I think it gives a voice to those families who are broken by these senseless shootings.  Regardless of politics, this book reminded me that we're all human.  And despite what politicians, lobbyists, or our conspiracy-believing friends on Facebook have to say, at the end of the day we all feel, and hurt, and grieve. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

There has been a lot of hype about this book.  Everyone seems to love it... including me!  I listened to it on audiobook, a format to which the book is especially suited.  There are many different voices, so once I got used to who was whom it was just like following a conversation in a very weird place with references that I didn't understand at first.  For example, when I heard "I was in my sick box..." I thought, "what's a sick box?" 

Saunders has created a whole different sort of world for us, one that is similar to our own but different enough to make it a puzzle for the reader/listener.  Once you figure out what's going on it all makes sense.  He includes a lot of historical fact also, so if you are interested in the American Civil War you would get a kick out of this book just for that aspect of it.  The book is unusual in that it IS loaded with factual content while also being incredibly creative.  I've never read anything like it.

As for the title... once you read or listen to this book, do you think "Lincoln" refers to the President, or his son, or both?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear's stories take place largely in Great Britain around the time of World War I.  Although her Maisie Dobbs series are murder mysteries, Care and Management gives the reader an idea of what it was like to be a young woman living in England right before and during that war.  At the heart of the story are newlyweds Tom and Kezia Brissenden.  Tom volunteers to fight in France while Kezia runs Tom's family farm in Kent.  The two exchange letters frequently and, trying not to worry each other, both leave out the bad parts of their lives while focusing on fun memories, stories, and food (through Kezia's increasingly exotic cooking).  I loved this book partly because it gave me a very strong sense of how hard it must have been for everyone during that war, both men and women and both sides of the trenches.  For example, I never thought of how thoroughly terrifying it must have been for the English living near the coast, expecting to be overrun by the German army any day.  And all the women from both sides who would never marry and have families because so many young men were killed...

The name Kezia, by the way, is from the Hebrew for cassia. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Audiobooks: Reading or Not?

Some people might claim that listening to an audiobook is not really reading a book.  I've listened to many audiobooks, and like their printed counterparts, there are some I love and some I don't.  And some I don't even finish.

Audiobooks are a great way to maximize commute times.  I drive about 20 minutes to work and audiobooks make those miles interesting.  They also give me a chance to listen to books I've been meaning to read, but haven't quite gotten around to.  (ie. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt).

But here are a few audiobooks that I've really enjoyed:

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin.  A fictionalized account from Charles Lindbergh's wife, Anne Morrow.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Girls by Kate Moore.  This is a heartbreaking look back at the uses of radium and their effects on the women employed in factories to use it.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian.  This is a book of suspense and mystery.  It will keep you driving (around the block just so you can finish the next chapter)!

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.  I didn't expect much when I started listening to this book, but it is a wonderful story.  (And full of recipes too!)

If you want to give audiobooks a try, or if you're looking for your next book, try one of these!