Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nevermore: Uncommon Type, Stolen Life, Bedlam Stacks, Book of Joy, Family Next Door, 9th Hour

This week’s Nevermore opened with Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories by Tom Hanks.  Our reader quite enjoyed the book, noting that it was nice to know Hanks as more than an actor.  He found the stories to be a mixture of humorous and poignant. He was also impressed by the array of typewriters owned by the author, photos of which headed each chapter.

Jaycee Dugard was only eleven years old when she was kidnapped.  She was held captive for eighteen years, during which time she gave birth to two daughters. In her memoir, A Stolen Life, Dugard described how she was able to cope with her captivity and abuse, and of the challenges that awaited her after she finally found freedom.  Our reader said that while the writing wasn’t polished, it was very touching. 

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley begins in 1859 England, when a man is challenged to go to Peru to collect cuttings of plants to bring back for the manufacture of quinine. Merrick Treymane was an employee of the East India Company before an injury compelled his early retirement, and he’s not anxious to go where so many expeditions have failed before. On the other hand, he’s finding the situation at home to be almost unendurable, so against his better judgment he sets out.  Our reader was quite taken with this historical fantasy, especially the ending which she found to be moving.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama may practice different religions but they found a great deal of common ground in their views on suffering, faith, compassion, and happiness.  In 2015, the two spent several days together discussing these topics, resulting in The Book of Joy.  There are no revolutionary ideas here, according to our reviewer, but they do describe techniques for developing joy in your own life. 

In The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth, a seemingly idyllic neighborhood is disturbed when the mysterious Isabelle moves in.  The residents are intrigued by this lone single woman amid all the families.   The reader soon learns that the families have dark secrets of their own, and that the young woman’s choice to move there was no whim.  Alternating viewpoints, suspense, and well developed characters made this book a page turner.

Finally, Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour tells the story of three generations of an Irish American family.  Annie is pregnant with her first child when she becomes a widow.  She and the child are taken in by the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor.  From there, the story focuses on Annie, her daughter Sally, and several of the nuns.  Our reader was impressed at how the nuns remained such strong individual presences in an institution which encourages conformity, and praised the beautiful writing.

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