Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nevermore: Charming Billy, Manhattan Beach, Midnight Sun, Astrophysics, Coal Miners' Wives, Vonnegut

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore kicked off the week with Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. The 1998 fiction National Book Award Winner, this novel takes readers on a journey through Billy’s life, albeit beginning with the stories people are telling about him at his funeral.  Billy was a thoughtful and giving man, but tortured by his own alcoholism.  Our reader said that there was no better title for this book, as Billy certainly was charming.

A new bestselling novel, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan was enjoyed next.  Set in the 1930s and World War II, Anna Kerrigan becomes the first female diver to repair American war ships.  Anna is also devoted to her beautiful younger sister, who is an invalid due to injuries at birth.  The story is told from alternating points of view: Anna, her father Eddie, and night club owner Dexter Styles.  Their lives intertwine through the years, forever changing the lives of the Kerrigan family.

Another reader enjoyed Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo.  The author is well known for his Harry Hole novels, but this story features Jon Hansen, a drug dealer and hit man who has fled Oslo for a tiny village, and calls himself Ulf.  Wanting to avoid his bosses, Jon befriends a local who allows him to stay in her family hunting cabin.  Our reader said that this was a very fun book, and she particularly liked that there wasn’t as much violence as in a typical Nesbo book.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson keeps showing up periodically at Nevermore.  This reader enthused that Tyson included it “all” in here: black holes, dark matter, quarks, cosmic background noise, the Kelvin temperature scale, and so much more. Tyson has a reputation for being the best known figure we have today who makes science understandable.

Carol A. B. Giesen interviewed eighteen West Virginian women for the collection of stories that makes up Coal Miners’ Wives: Portraits of Endurance.  These women varied in age, from under twenty to over eighty, but all had moving stories of what it was like to be living under constant awareness of the dangers faced by their coal miner husbands.  The women shouldered much stress, but had no ability to change their lives.  Our reader found it a very grim story, but very important to read.

Wrapping up with what was termed a “really fun book,” God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut is a series of “interviews” of the dearly departed, as posed by a public radio reporter.  Originally broadcast as ninety second spots on a New York radio station, Vonnegut asks questions of such varied people as Adolf Hitler, Isaac Asimov, William Shakespeare and Eugene Debs.  The kicker is that in order to do these do these interviews, Vonnegut needed a round trip ticket (via Dr. Kevorkian) to and from the pearly gates in order to speak to those beyond the grave.

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