Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Nevermore: The Store, Bunkhouse, Conundrum, Nomadland, Wizard & Prophet, How to Stop TIme

Reported by Kristin

James Patterson publishes fast and furiously with a variety of co-writers, and is very popular with readers.  This week Nevermore kicked off with The Store by Patterson and Richard DiLallo.  When husband and wife Jacob and Megan Brandeis decide to seek new employment at a mega-store (think Amazon or Walmart warehouse) they have a secret plan to write an expose of the business.  The employer provides excellent benefits including housing, but the control exerted over the employees proves to be more than a bit unsettling.  Our reader found it to be an excellent novel with a dystopian twist.

Turning to non-fiction, another reader brought up The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland by Dan Barry.  A true story of intellectually disabled men who were exploited by the owners of a turkey processing plant from the mid-1970s until 2009, the book explains the horrible conditions in which the men were forced to work and live while being paid a pittance.  Our reader found it tragic that this sort of abuse can still happen today.

Our next reader told the group of Conundrum by Jan Morris, published in 1974, “From James to Jan—an extraordinary narrative of transsexualism.”  One of the first transgender autobiographies, Morris’ story is a revelation of her lifelong identification as female.  Our reader found it very interesting to learn of Morris’ feelings during her physical transition.  At age 91, Morris still lives in Wales with her wife, whom she has been with since 1949.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century by Jessica Bruder intrigued the group, focusing on a growing population of older people who have chosen to travel around the country working seasonal positions during their retirement years.  As some Americans have discovered that retirement or Social Security checks just don’t cover their monthly expenses, they have hit the road in motorhomes, vans, and travel trailers in search of income to make ends meet.  Our reader found the situations portrayed in the book very interesting, although sad that the current economy forces many people to make choices they otherwise would not have made.

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World by Charles C. Mann launched much discussion, as the argument between the need to conserve and the need to develop new technologies to expand food sources is laid out by two visionaries.  In the face of exploding world population, should humans attempt to cut back and live more simply, as Norman Borlaug believes, or should we work to develop new grains and make the same amount of land produce more food, as called for by William Vogt?  Nevermore members had plenty to say as they tackled issues such as world population, genetically modified foods, and nitrogen fertilizers.

Returning to the fiction side of things, our next reader enjoyed How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig.  The main character Tom Hazard seems to be a normal 41-year-old high school history teacher living in London.  However, he’s lived much longer than those few decades—he has a rare health condition that makes him unable to die.  A secret society exists to protect those with this disorder, helping them change their lives every eight years to hide their secret.  Although his situation makes it impossible for Tom to spend his life with one woman, he falls in love.  Our reader loved the book, and was particularly enthralled by the news that Benedict Cumberbatch has bought the movie rights and plans to star in the upcoming film.

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