Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nevermore: Mingo County, Ebola, The Reader, Almost Sisters, Catching the Wind

Reported by Kristin

Our first reader took on a social history of a poor Appalachian community:  They’ll Cut Off Your Project: A Mingo County Chronicle by Huey Perry.  When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in the 1960’s, Perry was a young history teacher recruited to the Mingo County Economic Opportunity Commission project in southern West Virginia.  Our reader was intrigued by the local history, although wondered at how much infighting happened over the allocation of resources.

The same reader turned next to Inferno: A Doctor’s Ebola Story by Steven Hatch, MD.  When the Liberian ebola epidemic began in 2014, Hatch knew that he had to go help.  After he arrived, it took him a while to figure out how to help in the middle of such desperation.  More of a memoir, Hatch writes about many of the people he met and treated in Liberia.  When he returned to the United States, he found that the ebola epidemic was a political football and people were quarantined over the fear of transmitting the disease.

Our next reader was inspired by The Reader by Bernhard Schlink to ask the question: “How do you take the past and go forward, when the history was so horrible?”  In postwar Germany, fifteen year old Michael falls into an affair with an older woman.  When he goes to university, he is assigned to watch a Nazi war criminal trial, where to finds to his horror that his lover Hanna is being tried.  Readers discussed Germany’s past, as well as the Confederate experience of the southern United States, and how they both affect the present.

Next was The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson, a favorite author of our reader.  Leah Birch Briggs is a graphic novel artist who is blindsided by a call home to Alabama to help Birchie, her grandmother who has suddenly shown signs of dementia—unfortunately in full view of half the town in church one Sunday morning.  As Leah attempts handle her own changing circumstances as well as care for her grandmother, old bones and racial differences in the Deep South emerge in a way that will change her life and the lives of her family forever.

Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson was another postwar novel enjoyed by a reader.  Daniel Knight and his younger sister Brigitte escaped when their parents were arrested by Gestapo agents, but were then separated from each other when they reached safety in England.  Seventy years later, Daniel hopes to reunite with his sister.  Our reader found this to be an interesting book, but said that in the end everything was tied up in such a neat package that it didn’t seem very realistic.

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