Reported by Lauren
Our first member was in the middle of reading Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times by Scott Pelley. It’s obvious from his writing that Pelley is a true investigative journalist—he writes facts, not opinions. Each chapter relates either the author’s encounter with an important figure or his experience of a monumental historical event. Our reader avoided the chapter on former Chair of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, but was really moved by the chapter on the Fire Department of New York after the events of September 11, 2001. Pelley asks what defines America, and how do we as Americans define ourselves? Our reader highly recommends this book.
Our next reader shared her review of In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Awdish. Awdish is a doctor from Detroit who specializes in intensive care. After enduring a medical tragedy of her own, she realizes just how poorly doctors communicate and interact with ICU patients and their loved ones. She creates an entire curriculum outlining the ways this problem can be solved and travels the country training medical experts on how to practice empathy and create emotional connections with their patients. Our reviewer said there is a lot of medical terminology, “a lot of gross medical stuff,” but if that doesn’t bother you, you will love this book.
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich was shared with our group next. Several members had read this novel already, and loved how Erdrich richly portrays Native American culture in all of her books. Shadow Tag is about a toxic marriage between an alcoholic wife and an artist husband who paints said wife in sadistic and irreverent ways. His paintings of her have made them rich, but she hates him and the paintings. When she discovers he has been reading her secret diary, she starts using her diary entries to insult and manipulate him. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, our reader said, “the ending made it better, even though I didn’t want it to end that way.”
Throwing it back to 1904, our next reader reviewed The Sea-Wolf by Jack London. She had read it many years ago, but came across a copy at a book sale and picked it up. The Sea-Wolf is about a literary critic named Humphrey who is rescued by another boat after his ferry sinks. The captain of the rescue boat, Wolf Larsen, is a hardened and brutal man who basically forces Humphrey to join his ship’s crew. While sailing on the new schooner, the crew encounter another shipwreck, rescuing a beautiful young woman from the waves. It is love at first sight for both Humphrey and Captain Larsen, and various adventures ensue. Our reader said the novel was a little fantastical, but she thoroughly enjoyed it.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan was our next share. It got rave reviews, and President Barack Obama named it one his favorite books of the year. The main character, a young slaved named George Washington Black, or Wash for short, is chosen as a personal assistant of sorts to the brother of his owner, a Barbados sugar plantation owner. Wash is apprehensive at first, but his life changes drastically for the better. His new master takes him under his wing and fully educates him. But when the brother/Wash’s master dies, a ransom is placed on Wash so he is forced to flee. Our reader loved this novel, and highly recommended everyone read it. Its portrayal of slave-life is brutally honest, and Wash’s adventures are both entertaining and enlightening.
Gone Dollywood: Dolly Parton’s Mountain Dream by Graham Hoppe was the last book we discussed. Our reader was pleasantly surprised that this book isn’t a biography, but instead discusses Southern and Appalachian culture, and the economic and cultural effects Parton and her businesses have had on the east Tennessee region. Dolly counters the typical Appalachian stigma, while embracing the Appalachian culture and making everyone who visits feel right at home. Our reader appreciated the shorter length and the factual writing style—she thinks everyone from this area should read it.