Another Turn of the Page: Slaves and Orphans

“Great readers (are) those who know early that there is never going to be time to read all there is to read, but do their darnedest anyway.”
Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond

Of the 14 books discussed this time, about a third of them were about slaves or orphans. Are there just a lot of books out there about slaves and orphans or is my book group into bondage and homelessness? Nah! Just a coincidence but I am always amazed how themes pop up in this group of very different people most of whom never see each other until we get together for book group. In the list I will mark these particular titles with an asterisk.  Hey!! TOUCHDOWN!  Oh don’t mind me, I am typing and watching the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints. Talk about multi-tasking…..:)

1. The Good People by Hannah Kent (2016) 384p.* This is a tale of the lore and superstitions of Ireland in the 1800s, a place and time where fairies are seen in a different light. The book opens with the death of Nora’s husband Martin. Because of her daughter’s death and her son-in-law not wanting him, Nora is now left to be the sole caretaker of her grandson, a four year old that can neither talk nor walk and screams constantly at night.

2. Fallout by Sarah Paretsky (2017) 448p.   V.I. Warshawski #18   Private Eye Warshawski leaves Chicago to head to Kansas to find a missing actress and the documentarian hired to film her “origin story.”  The two have gone missing and the clannish locals don’t want to discuss it.

3. Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (1998) 505p.*  The author, a descendant of South Carolina slave masters, sets out to trace the lineage of the slaves who lived on his ancestors’ plantations. Through amazing detective work, Ball is able to locate and re-tell the story of many of his family’s slaves, some of whom were the offspring of master-slave sexual relations, and therefore distant relatives.

4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 305p.* Spanning centuries and continents, this novel follows two families, one from the slave trading Fante nation and another from the Asante warrior nation, in the British colony that is now Ghana. This novel has won the American Book Award for 2017, among other honors.

5. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011) 359p. This thriller is about a woman who has amnesia and cannot remember her memories from day to day. Determined to discover who she is, she begins keeping a journal before she goes to sleep, before she can forget again. The truth may be more than she can handle.

6. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) 288p.* A novel based on an historical truth. “Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. ” – Goodreads

7. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain (2003) 240p.* From the author of the bestseller The Paris Wife, this book is a powerful and haunting memoir of the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children.

8. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck (2015) 403p. This book of historical fiction  focuses on the relationship and marriage between the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his wife Sophia, who excelled at drawing and painting and was an artist in her own right. The book is told from Sophia’s point of view.

9. Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak (2017) 310p. This is the true love story that was fictionalized and written into Dr. Zhivago. The author is the granddaughter of Boris Pasternak’s sister Josephine and had considerable access to a lot of family members and archives.

10. The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley (2013) 484p. Nicola Marter is able to touch an object and get glimpses of those who have owned it before. A woman arrives one day at the gallery where Nicola works. She has a small wooden carving of a bird and claims it is an artifact called The Firebird, owned by the 18th century Empress Catherine of Russia. Nicola believes her. But in order to prove this, Nicola must ask for help from a friend and former lover, Rob McMorran, whose psychic gift is even stronger.


11. Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016) 264p. The author, a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, gives a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town. This book offers a broader look at the struggles of America’s white working class. (Touted as a book that explains the rise of Trump. Try to put your political leanings aside and read this with an open mind.)

12. The Bible by Inspired Authors (First printed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s) King James Version published in 1611. 1590p.* Sue, one of our members, said she didn’t have a book to report on this month because she is taking a 6 week course on The Bible, and that is all she’s been reading. I felt I should include it in our list, and it also has orphans and slaves.

13. The Store by James Patterson (2017) 259p. One of Patterson’s latest about a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had. Hmm, sounds a lot like Amazon.

14. The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello (2014) 358p. A bunch of gossipy suburban moms get together and start googling other moms to gossip about. Caroline, a mother of two, decides to beat them to it and googles herself. What she finds out shocks her.

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