Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nevermore: The Wonder, The Hamilton Affair, Midwife of Hope River, Mohawk, First Women

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue open this week’s Nevermore.  In Ireland in 1859, it’s claimed that Anna, the eleven year old daughter of a poor farmer, has lived for four months without eating, existing only on water and prayer. People are making pilgrimages to see her, sure that she is a living miracle.  To combat this wave of dangerous superstition (as the authorities see it) nurse Lib Wright is sent to assess the situation.  She arrives, filled English arrogance about the backwater Irish and with the certainty that someone is slipping food to the child, only to find herself deeply drawn to Anna. Our reader thought it was very well written and that it would make a good movie.  She also said it was very intense.

The next book was The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobb, a fictional version of the romance between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler. With the American Revolution as a backdrop and famous figures such as Washington and Jefferson as characters, Cobb makes history come alive.  Our reviewer was especially interested in the sections on Hamilton’s early life, but felt the whole book was very well done.

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman is set in West Virginia during the Great Depression, where midwife Patience Murphy helps mothers deliver their babies. Few are able to pay her and living conditions are harsh at best, but Patience has her reasons for wanting to be in such an isolated area. Our reader thought it was an excellent book, with its gritty but compassionate portrayal of mountain life. She also appreciated the flashbacks to Matewan and the Battle of Blair Mountain, which she felt added to the story.

Mohawk is a little town in New York State, a place whose best days would seem to have come and gone.  It’s populated by vivid characters, as one might expect from a Richard Russo novel.  Our reader said it was a sort of mystery but that you didn’t know it was going to be a mystery. She also said while Russo was a very good writer, he could be a bit confusing.

Finally, First Women by Kate Anderson Brower is a look at modern First Ladies, starting with Jackie Kennedy and ending with Michelle Obama.  The book isn’t chronological, but is instead divided by topics.  Brower, author of The Residence, takes readers behind the scenes and explores the heavy expectations laid upon the wives of the presidents.  Our reader enjoyed it very much.

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