Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nevermore: Six Wakes, Lady Bird, It's All Relative, Man from the Train, Truevine, Unquiet Grave

Nevermore members read widely, and this week one reader read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, a science fiction murder mystery.  The Dormire is a sleeper ship, carrying thousands of colonists from a war-torn, atmosphere-wrecked, socially disintegrating Earth to a new start on the planet Artemis.  But when Maria Arena and her crewmates awaken, as clones of their original selves, finding blood floating through the air leads them to believe that their former selves have been murdered.  Our reader greatly enjoyed this book and said that he could really see someone making this novel into a movie.

Turning to American history, another reader enjoyed Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson by Jan Jarboe Russell.  This revealing biography of the First Lady shows how much she contributed to LBJ’s presidency in the midst of the Civil Rights movement.  Conversations with family members and political associates make this a well-rounded picture of President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson.  Our reader said that she enjoyed the book and that Lady Bird was a lovely person.

It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A. J. Jacobs was enjoyed by yet another reader, as the author has explored the DNA connectivity of the worldwide community.  After Jacobs received an email from an eighth cousin who had been able to connect 80,000 relatives, he began a globe spanning journey to explore the far flung branches of his family tree.  Our reader enjoyed the humor, as Jacobs told his own family stories within the scientific explanations of how we are all related.

Our next reader began to read The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James, but sadly could not finish it.  Although the book was praised by other critics, our reader found that it was simply murder after murder, bludgeon after bludgeon.  She stated emphatically:  “It has 461 pages of murder and not all of them were near the train tracks.”

Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy shocked another reader as it recounted the story of two albino African-American brothers who were stolen from their family in 1899 and forced to be part of a circus sideshow for almost thirty years.  George and Willie Muse were depicted as caricatures of themselves as they traveled the world with the circus, and eventually reunited with their mother.  Our reader said that it was an extremely well-researched book and that she learned a lot about Virginian society and race relations in the early 1900’s.

 Another novel was enjoyed by another reader, Abraham’s Well by Sharon Ewell Foster.  The story centers around the Trail of Tears, the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States and their forced march to what is now Oklahoma.  Foster’s characters are not just Native American, but Black Cherokee African Americans, whose bloodlines were also mixed with white slave owners.  The Cherokee removal is here told from the point of a young girl, Armentia, who experiences tragedy and loss as her family is forced from North Carolina to Oklahoma.

Finally, The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb told the story of Zona Heaster, married to Trout Shue in 1896 and dead a few short months later.  Zona appears in a waking dream to her mother Mary Jane, insisting that she was murdered, and Mary Jane has no choice but to pursue justice for her daughter.  Set in recently created West Virginia, the story jumps in time from the actual happenings to a recounting by an aging lawyer more than thirty years later.  Our reader said that everything McCrumb writes is wonderful, and she only wishes the author had included maps in this novel based on historical facts.

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