Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nevermore: Silence, Waking Lions, A Criminal Defense, Girl in Disguise, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Nora Ephron

The fun of the Nevermore Book Club is that you never know what books will be discussed. Unlike many book groups, the Nevermore members bring in whatever interesting books they’ve read in the past week.  Fiction, non-fiction, classics, best sellers—they all turn up at Nevermore.

The first book up this week was Silence by Shusaku Endo, a novel about two 17th century Jesuits who travel to Japan to visit the Church there.  They find that the Christians have been undergoing horrific torture and cruelties to force them to renounce their faith. What does a priest do under these circumstances?  Our reader found this classic Japanese novel to be thought-provoking and moving, if a bit difficult to read. It’s not just the descriptions of the physical brutality; the spiritual anguish is just as traumatic. 

Waking Lions is another novel that wrestles with questions of morality. As Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s novel begins, an exhausted neurosurgeon is driving down a road late at night, he hits and kills an illegal African immigrant. He flees the scene but soon is confronted by his victim’s wife who has found the doctor’s wallet at the scene.  She employs an unusual form of blackmail:  she will keep silent if he will provide medical treatment to some of her fellow illegal immigrants.  Complications multiply rapidly:  the doctor’s wife is the police officer investigating the hit and run death. Our first reader enjoyed the book; it’s a thriller but also examines the uneasy relationships between different ethnic groups in Israel.  The second reader was less impressed, saying the book was “a downer.”

Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder writes about Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard educated infectious disease specialist who has spent decades helping people in Haiti.  Farmer, who is an anthropologist in addition to being a medical doctor, is an inspirational figure in Mountains Beyond Mountains.  This compelling book makes an eloquent plea for health care for the poor of all nations. 

On a lighter note, our reader praised I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron’s collection of essays about aging, parenting, and other topics.  Ephron’s sense of humor shines through almost every page, and readers—especially those of a certain age--will find themselves nodding in agreement with her observations. 

A Criminal Defense is a debut thriller by William L. Myers, Jr. The protagonist is lawyer and former District Attorney Mick McFarland who finds himself in a complex situation.  A friend and fellow attorney stands accused of murdering a journalist—a young woman who had recently contacted McFarland for legal help.  The prosecuting attorney is a former colleague and rival of McFarland’s.  Our reader thought the book was thoughtful and well-written, examining some questions of ethics along with a good story.

Finally, Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister had been praised earlier by some Nevermore readers as a wonderful historical novel about the first female Pinkerton agent. Our latest reader said she didn’t find it appealing, which just proves once again that not every book is for every reader.

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