Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nevermore: Islam, The Risen, Iris Grace, Wanderers, Lost Woman, Hillbilly Elegy

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore discussed The Islamic Enlightenment:  The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times by Christopher de Bellaigue.  Described on the jacket as “a revelatory and game-changing narrative that rewrites everything we thought we knew about the modern history of the Islamic world,” The Islamic Enlightenment is a thoughtful and absorbing work on the political, social, and cultural history of the Middle East.  De Bellaigue examines the great enlightenment of the Islamic world through the adoption of modern medicine, female empowerment, and the development of democracy and the subsequent backlash to modernization.  Our reader said he found The Islamic Enlightenment to be interesting.  He thought de Bellaigue’s arguments were found and his work contained a great deal of information.  Although it’s not hard to read, it’s a rather long book; however, he noted it’s a great book for showing the divisions and complexities of Islam.

Next, Nevermore shared Iris Grace:  How Thula the Cat Saved a Little Girl and Her Family by Arabella Carter-Johnson.  Iris Grace has autism:  she struggles with communication, avoiding social interaction and rarely smiling, never connecting with those around her—until she meets Thula, a Maine Coon kitten named for the Zulu word “peace.”  Arabella Carter-Johnson, Iris Grace’s mother, captures photographs of her daughter and Thula, telling their amazing story of connection and friendship.  Our reader absolutely loved Iris Grace, saying it was ideal for a Mother’s Day gift with its beautiful photographs and Iris Grace’s amazing illustrations.  It’s heart-warming and incredibly moving, offering an absorbing, intimate and insightful glimpse into a family dealing with one remarkable child’s autism.

Nevermore also checked out the latest novel from Ron Rash, The Risen.  Eugene and Bill were close as boys, but, during the summer of 1969, they were driven apart by a girl—Ligeia, a free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach—and a terrible secret.  Now, decades later, Bill is a famous surgeon in their community, while Eugene is an inveterate alcoholic.  When a reminder of the past resurfaces, Eugene is plunged back into that fateful summer and the secrets that could forever destroy his family.  Our reader said she didn’t like The Risen at the beginning of the book, but, as she continued into further chapters, she found herself more entranced by the story.  “It’s a very good book,” she told her fellow readers.  “It’s definitely worth reading.”

The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel followed next, continuing the story of Louise Rick, head of the Special Search Agency.  In this most recent installment of her series, Louise Rick is called onto a strange case.  A Danish woman is found murdered in England, except she went missing more than eighteen years ago—and she was reported missing by none other than Eik, Louise’s colleague and lover.  Caught in the middle of her most controversial case yet, Louise must solve the mystery before a killer gets away with murder.  Our reader found she didn’t enjoy Blaedel’s latest book.  It was interesting and had an unexpected twist for an ending; however, she didn’t think it was that great.  Mostly, she found it confusing.

Nevermore decided to take a detour into space travel—or, more accurately, simulated space travel—with The Wanderers, a new novel by Meg Howrey.  Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov are going to be the first humans placed on Mars—if they can survive seventeen months in the most realistic simulation Prime Space, one of the top aerospace companies in the business, has ever created.  But being trapped in a small space of their simulation is just as dangerous as being caught in the endless void of outer space as they struggle to navigate their quarters and each other.  Our reader said she found The Wanderers to be odd.  Fascinating, but odd.  It’s an intriguing psychological examination of the human mind when put into an increasingly stressful situation, and she thought it took an interesting direction with the story.  “[And] it kept me reading to the end,” she noted.

Last, Nevermore revisited a recent favorite:  Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  Hillbilly Elegy is an insightful, searing memoir that dives into the struggles and triumphs of an Appalachian transplant family in Ohio.  Vance, who recounts his personal and family history, also delves deep into the culture and heritage of Appalachian families.  He examines drug abuse, poverty, education, and other social issues, taking a long hard look at the Appalachia he loves—and the Appalachia he sees slowly deteriorating.  Our reader absolutely loved reading Vance’s memoir.  Our reader admitted she was initially hesitant to begin reading Hillbilly Elegy—anything with “hillbilly” in the title automatically put her on guard, she said—and she worried how the author would portray Appalachia.  Vance, however, doesn’t berate or condemn.  He offers an honest, intimate portrayal of his family and his culture; he treats his history with compassion and views his heritage with affection, even the worst parts.  His memoir is carefully crafted, thoughtful, and incredibly honest, and our reader enjoyed every minute.

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