Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nevermore: Angel, Mermaid Chair, Red Families v. Blue Families, Poe Shadow, Monuments Men

The Nevermore Book Club had a lively meeting on February 28 with an intriguing mix of books being pitched!  Angel by Mary E. Kingsley is a coming of age story set in “a small Southern town.”  Thirteen year old Angel has always wondered why her father left when she was just a baby, but her emotionally distant mother refuses to discuss the subject and the rest of the family is not much more forthcoming, except for her Aunt Patsy who is in a mental institution.  Then the family receives the call that will change Angel’s life:  her father is coming home for Thanksgiving. Jud found the book to be well written, with believable characters.  While the book doesn’t specify the real setting, the author is from Kingsport and Jud recognized some places and people.  Mention was made that some publishers and reviewers seem to lump all “small Southern towns” into one stereotype, while there are some considerable regional differences.
Another club member mentioned that Stephen Hunter used this area as a setting for one of his novels, Night of Thunder. She had just read his latest thriller, Soft Target which has Ray Cruz facing terrorists who have taken over the largest shopping mall in America on Black Friday.
Red Families v. Blue Families by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone offers the premise that some areas of the country are redefining the meaning of “family values” based in part on new economic realities while other areas are resisting such changes.   The authors believe this trend is behind the current polarization in politics and offer suggestions as to how to relieve some of the conflict.
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd has it all:  romance, mystery, a great South Carolina island setting and interesting characters.  Jessie, a middle aged Southern housewife, returns to her childhood home after an incident involving her estranged mother.  While trying to mend their relationship, Jessie begins to question her own life, aided by a former attorney who is in the process of becoming a monk. Our reader wasn’t sure it would be his kind of book, but he recommends it to anyone who enjoys a good story.
In what would seem like a “ripped from the headlines” moment, right on the heels of an announcement that more of Hitler’s stolen paintings had been found there was a recommendation for the book The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel.  The men of the title were art historians, museum curators, and others with an interest in art who went in search of the looted art treasures in the waning days of World War II.  Hitler had commanded his men to seize paintings, sculpture, scrolls, any and all items of artistic and cultural importance.  It makes for a riveting read, even if you don’t remember all that much from art class.
Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl was also a top pick.  In this fascinating historical mystery, young lawyer Quentin Clark is troubled by the inconsistencies surrounding the death of his favorite author, Edgar Alan Poe.  Determined to follow through with his own investigation, Quentin seeks out the real man who was the model for Poe’s famed fictional detective to find the truth.  Pearl is known for his mysteries involving famous authors, and this book doesn’t disappoint.
Although it wasn’t discussed, another club member put in a plug for Burnt Mountain, ranking it among Anne Rivers Siddons’ best books—if not the best.

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