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A Few Good Books: May 2016

by Emily M | May 09, 2016
Looking for a book recommendation? Look no further!  Here are a few good books I’ve enjoyed recently:

gatesofevangelineThe Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

Charlie Cates is a writer for an upscale, New York-based women’s magazine, a divorcee, and, most recently, a bereaved mother whose only son has died of a brain aneurysm.  Just a few months after her son’s death, Charlie begins having visions of dead children.  When an old boss offers her a job writing a “cold case” book about a young boy who vanished from his wealthy family’s historic plantation home in Louisiana decades earlier, Charlie becomes convinced that the missing boy is the one she spoke with in her latest vision.  She quits her job and heads to Louisiana, ostensibly to research the book, but in reality she hopes to discover what really happened to the boy.  Charlie’s grief over the loss of her own son drives her need to solve the decades old mystery and, once in Louisiana, she soon finds a kindred spirit to aid in her investigation.

A fast-paced murder mystery with a side of romance and cast of eccentric characters, The Gates of Evangeline is an engaging read.  The reader may find that he or she is unraveling the mystery faster than Charlie (I know I did), but for me this didn’t take away from the pleasure of the story. 


motherlandMotherland by Maria Hummel

Motherland takes place in Germany in 1944 and 1945.  Most novels with this setting address the plight of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, or the realities of battle during World War II, or the heroics of resisters.  In any case, it’s clear who the good guys are (the Allied countries), who the victims are (Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities, political dissenters, and anyone else sent to a concentration camp), and who the bad guys are (the Germans).  Motherland spins this accepted notion on its head, as it explores the lives of one German family at the end of World War II.

Liesl and Frank have been married just over a month when Frank is drafted into the German army in 1944.  A doctor, he is assigned to a hospital away from the front lines, where he performs plastic surgeries to repair the facial injuries of German soldiers.  Liesl is left at home to care for her three young stepsons.  As American forces move closer and closer to their city, Liesl is aware of the looming danger – of being bombed, of starving if food supplies are cut off, of her husband being  killed or taken captive by American forces, but the biggest danger may lie closer to home.  Ani, Liesl’s middle stepson, is sick, and his symptoms make him appear to have a mental deficiency, prompting the doctor to threaten to send him to an institution for people with disabilities, where he is likely to be euthanized.  As Liesl struggles to use whatever influences she can to keep Ani safe at home, Frank struggles to escape a reassignment that may require he use his medical skills for evil rather than good. 

Motherland prompts the reader to ponder these questions: How much did the average German citizen know about the atrocities of the Nazi regime?  Why didn’t the German people do more to stop these atrocities?  And perhaps the most challenging question of all: how difficult was it for the average German to avoid being a perpetrator without becoming a victim?

dispatchesfromplutoDispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant

Richard Grant was born and raised in the UK, traveled the world as a journalist, and had most recently lived in New York City when, on a whim, he purchased an old plantation home on six acres in the Mississippi Delta, specifically in Holmes County, the poorest county in the country.  A self-identified card-carrying liberal, Grant writes about his experiences making a home in a place where conservatism runs deep, poverty is extreme, and race relations are, for lack of a better term, a mess. 

Grant is obviously researching material for Dispatches from Pluto as he describes visiting the local penitentiary, shadowing a local politician at election time, and exploring the local schools.  Many of his experiences, however, are the type that happen naturally when one moves, as he meets neighbors, makes friends, and learns the local culture.  Grant is refreshingly honest about his own prejudices while also exposing those of the Delta natives.  As a reader, you understand early on that Grant’s experiences are not what he may have been expecting, when Grant’s girlfriend (who moved to the Delta with him), comments in response to their new neighbors’ extreme generosity, “I thought Republicans were supposed to be stingy and mean-spirited.  No liberal has ever given me the keys to their car, or a whole bunch of furniture.”  Overall, Grant’s ability to hone in on the most important details, and describe people and places in his refreshingly straightforward way provides readers with an opportunity to vicariously experience the people, places, attitudes, and ideas of the Mississippi Delta, while simultaneously grappling with tough questions raised by Grant concerning race and poverty in this country. 

EmilyLong before becoming a librarian, Emily was an avid library patron. She enjoys reading fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and classic children’s literature. Her favorite book is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


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