Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Nevermore: Almost Famous Women, Whole Town's Talking, Tresspassing Across America, and More!

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started with The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  Elmwood Springs in Missouri is like most American small towns, except something strange is happening at Still Meadows, the local cemetery—which, of course, gets the whole town to talking.  Full of surprises and unexpected depth, The Whole Town’s Talking is both enjoyable and funny.  Our reader said she enjoyed Flagg’s latest novel immensely, saying it was well-written, accessible, and unexpectedly hilarious.  She highly recommended it to her fellow readers, especially if they’ve ever enjoyed the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

Next, Nevermore took a look at Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman.  In this collection of stories, Bergman takes a look at the lives of women who were very nearly famous.  Although a few of these women were celebrities, more still possessed famous relatives or did something so scandalous that their exploits were posthumously swept under the rug.  Bergman explores the lives of Butterfly McQueen, Allegra (Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter), Dolly (Oscar Wilde’s troubled niece), Beryl Marham (author of West with the Night) and many more.  Our reader was incredibly pleased with Almost Famous Women, calling it insightful and interesting.  She commended Bergman’s inclusion of photos and portraits, and she recommended it highly for its fascinating stories and interesting essays.

In Trespassing Across America:  One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike across the Heartland), Ken Ilgunas details his hike following the entire proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, traveling all the way from Alberta to Texas.  Beginning September 2012, Ilgunas hiked more than 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf Coast, walking almost exclusively across private property.  Described by the cover as “both a travel memoir and a reflection of climate change,” Trespassing Across America was an instant hit for our reader.  She said it was a fascinating book that was introspective and thoughtful and incredibly endearing.  Although she felt the book left a bit of an open ending, leaving readers to examine their own answers, she highly recommended Trespassing Across America for its political and social relevance, as well as its humor, wit, and consideration of the natural world.

One of our more popular discussions arose from Erik Vance’s book, Suggestible You:  The Curious Science of Your Brain’s Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal.  “This riveting narrative explores the world of placebos, hypnosis, false memories, and neurology to reveal the groundbreaking science of our suggestible minds,” reads the cover.  “Journalist Erik Vance explores the surprising ways our expectations and beliefs influence our bodily responses to pain, disease, and everyday events.”  Our reader said he was fascinated Vance’s book.  He pointed out that Suggestible You is not a narrative that opposes chemical medicine, rather it looks at the effects of placebos on the human mind and how both medicine and neurology (i.e. the mind) can work together to help heal the human body.  He found this book incredibly interesting and discussed several topics, including how medical science might be able to personalize medicine based on one’s level of suggestibility—or how a lack thereof can make a difference.

Next, Nevermore shared In the Name of the Family, a historical novel by Sarah Dunant.  In the Name of the Family draws from the high drama of Renaissance Italy, offering an insightful look into the power and prestige and politics of the House of Borgia.  It opens in 1502 with Rodrigo Borgia—otherwise known as Pope Alexander VI—and his political machinations, which include his daughter Lucrezia, his son Cesare, and a Florentine diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli.  Although our reader is a lover of history, she said she found Dunant’s novel a little disappointing, even pedestrian.  She sincerely wanted to enjoy In the Name of the Family, but, after 46 pages, she finally gave up and moved on to her next book.

Last, Nevermore rounded off their book club with a memoir:  My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.  Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and only the third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court and, in her memoir, she recounts her life from the Bronx housing project of her childhood to the federally appointed position of Supreme Court Justice.  Our reader said she absolutely loved reading My Beloved World, calling it lovely, well-written, insightful and “just so very good.”  It provided an intimate story of Sotomayor’s experiences, including her childhood in the Bronx, her fight to receive an education, her struggle with Type 1 Diabetes, and much more.  My Beloved World immediately passed on to the next reader, who couldn’t wait to read more about Sotomayor.

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