Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nevermore: Peter Robinson, Octavia Butler, Pam Jenoff, Ron Rash, and more!

Our first reader could barely wait to talk about the book she had just read:  When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson.  English Detective Superintendent Alan Banks is investigating an accusation of assault that happened decades ago.  The complaint has only been brought to light now, as the accused is a well-known figure.  At the same time, Detective Inspector Annie Banks’ case is that of a lifeless young woman, abandoned in death.  Beyond the threads of mystery, our reader was interested in how the Pakistani subculture within Great Britain is viewed.  She was so engrossed in the book that she felt very upset when she had to put down the book in order to get back to her obligations.

Another enthusiastic reader jumped right in with her latest read: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.   Originally published in 1979, Kindred is the story of Dana, a modern African American woman who is suddenly thrown back in time to a plantation where her ancestors lived and worked at the mercy of their white owners.  She has a mission in the past, to save the white son of the plantation owner.  Our reader was very interested in this classic fiction, but somewhat disturbed at the events endured in the historical time period by Dana.

Next up was Worlds Apart: Poverty and Politics in Rural America by Cynthia M. Duncan.  While our reader found it “awfully grim”, it was still important reading discussing case studies of three communities in New England, Appalachia, and the Mississippi Delta.  Duncan interviewed many individuals and tried to present all viewpoints available.  Our reader came away from the book with the idea that these depressed areas can transition out of poverty if they have the power that comes from available jobs and a sense of pride in their communities.

Nevermore leaned toward fiction this week, next discussing The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff.  In 1940’s Germany, sixteen year old Noa was shamed after giving birth to a Nazi soldier’s baby and forced to give up the child.  Living above a rail station, one day she sees a carload of Jewish babies being shipped to a concentration camp.  In grief and longing, Noa grabs one of the babies and runs.  Finding friendship and a job at a German circus, Noa discovers family and the strength within herself.

Another English mystery was discussed, The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth.  When a young Polish refugee is murdered, her employer—the former police investigator John Madden—feels that he must press the investigation.  In the midst of World War II, London is already tired from the contact sirens and bombings.  Yet Madden presses on.  Airth’s masterful style is evident in this volume.  Our reader said it was the best mystery she had read in a long time, and in fact called it “so vivid, like watching a movie.”

Back to the other side of the pond, The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry is a present day story mirroring the Salem Witch Trials, as Salem’s chief of police John Rafferty investigates a suspicious death, but then connects back to an old case from a few decades earlier when three young women had been killed.  Callie Cahill has a personal connection to that cold case—one of the women was her mother.  As Callie researches her family history and finds that an accused witch was one of her ancestors, the past comes back to haunt the present.  Our reader was engrossed in this centuries spanning tale.

Our next reader was interested in the “Southernisms” contained in One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash.  Despite having known most everyone in Seneca, South Carolina since childhood, Sheriff Will Alexander has a murder to investigate.  Rash is well known for his lyrical prose depicting Appalachian culture.  Our reader said that he found the characters to be people struggling with their value systems as they gave in to taking actions that they might not otherwise have done, if not in such a desperate situation.

Lastly, Nevermore discussed Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future by Rob Dunn.  Worldwide food production has never been more efficient, but the genetic diversity of food items has decreased significantly.  As crops are cloned for mass production, many different plants would be a risk for extinction in the case of a blight.  Once common varieties of bananas, chocolate, and more, have been eradicated and we are now accepting second best varieties.  Our reader was alarmed at the danger to crops, but felt that this was a very important book to read.

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