Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Nevermore: Eskens, Alda, Vonnegut, Bradley, McDermott, Kasich

 Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore kicked off their meeting with The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens, a suspenseful mystery novel of murder.  Detective Max Rupert and attorney Boady Sanden are good friends, but when a case involving the murder of Jennavieve Pruitt is brought to their attention, Max and Boady are suddenly put on opposite sides of the case.  Max believes Jennavieve’s husband, Ben, committed the murder; Boady, who is representing Ben in court, believes he is innocent.   Together, they’ll clash over the facts of the case—and uncover the unsettling truth of Jennavieve’s murder.  As a fan of thrillers and mysteries, our reader picked up Eskens' novel with high hopes for a read full of intrigue and suspense.  The Heavens May Fall had an interesting conclusion and likable characters, but she thought it was “just okay.”  She noted that it wasn’t badly written and it had a rather interesting story; however, she decided it was rather formulaic—nothing too thrilling or too ground-breaking about it.

Next, Nevermore looked at Alan Alda’s memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.  Known for his starring roles on Broadway, The Aviator, and M*A*S*H, Alan Alda’s life was as turbulent and intriguing as any role he played on the stage and screen.  He begins his book with a single, memorable line:  “My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six”—and the rollercoaster adventures of his youth and young career merely continue from there.  Our reader said she immensely enjoyed reading Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.  Alda’s memoir was thoughtful and poignant yet humorous, offering both laughter and deeply emotional reflection on mental illness and familial relationships stretched to the limit.  Our reader highly recommended it to her fellow Nevermore members, saying it was worth reading for the title alone.

Remaining in the vein of humor, Nevermore checked out God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, a series of short stories—originally ninety-second radio interludes for WNYC, New York City’s public radio station—by Kurt Vonnegut.  In his collection, Vonnegut visits Dr. Kevorkian as a reporter for public radio and, with the good doctor’s assistance, visits the Afterlife to interview notable personages, such as William Shakespeare, John Brown, and Eugene Victor Debs.  Our reader enjoyed Vonnegut’s short story collection, calling it a humorous visit with one of his favorite authors.  He said it was a quick, easy read, all done within an afternoon, with Vonnegut displaying his usual wit and charm.

The next book was Jefferson’s Sons:  A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  After a visit from the author to the library, our reader picked up one of Bradley’s more recent novels and dived into the world of Sally Heming’s children.  According to the book jacket, “[Jefferson’s Sons] tells a darker piece of America’s history from an often unseen perspective—that of three of Jefferson’s slaves—including two of his own children.  As each child grows up and tells his story, the contradiction between slavery and freedom becomes starker…”  Our reader thought Bradley created a wonderfully descriptive and interesting book.  Although Jefferson’s Sons is geared toward a younger audience,  she noted that it was still enjoyable to read as an adult and it weaves a story through history—an unknown, undocumented portion of history—that makes sense.

Next, Nevermore revisited The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott.  A perennial favorite in previous meetings, Nevermore returned to the interweaving stories of Sally, her widowed mother, the nuns who attempt to guide them, and the vibrant neighborhood in which they live.  Our reader said McDermott’s novel was exquisite.  Beautifully written and lovingly crafted, The Ninth Hour was an expressive and thoughtful look at the impact of a suicide—and the depths of love and forgiveness.  Although she noted it was a bit depressing, our reader thought it was a wonderful novel and she highly recommended it to her fellow Nevermore members.  “I have found my new favorite author,” she told them.

Last, Nevermore shared Two Paths:  America Divided or United by former presidential candidate John Kasich.  Part memoir and part analysis of the 2016 presidential election, Kasich’s book is a reflection on his personal life and the country as a whole.  Our reader said Kasich’s examination of his personal life was an “interesting, but rather dull” part of the book; however, he noted Kasich’s analysis of the previous presidential election was much more promising and enlightening.  “I would recommended it if you’re interested in Kasich, it’ll give you much more information on [the man],” he commented, wrapping up our meeting for the week.

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