Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nevermore: No One Ever Asked, A God in Ruins, Queen Victoria, This Narrow Space, How Democracies Die, The Brightest Sun

Reported by Kristin

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert began this week’s book club discussion.  As a wealthy school district is forced to open their doors to students from a neighboring poorer district, racial issues bloom.  A young black woman is hired at the more affluent (and formerly primarily white) school, her narration providing the perspective of the black community.  Another white woman whose desire for a child leads her to an interracial adoption adds yet another view of the situation.  The PTA chairwoman who has worked so hard for her “perfect” school is disturbed by the potential trouble which might come with these less privileged students.  Our reader found this new book very socially relevant.

Another fiction entry came from Leon Uris:  A God in Ruins.  Known as a master storyteller, Uris tells the tale of Quinn Patrick O’Connell, a man in the running for the 2008 presidency.  Published in 1999, this book examines how personal history can affect political candidates who are so often in a very bright spotlight.  Our reader found this a very interesting story which spanned the years between World War II and the early years of the twenty-first century.

 Switching gears to non-fiction British royalty, another book club member read Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages that Shaped Europe by Deborah Cadbury.  A timely book as we approach Prince Harry’s 2018 wedding, Cadbury examines how Queen Victoria manipulated her children, grandchildren, and other world leaders during her reign from 1837 to 1901.  Our reader explained that the writing is very well researched and easy to read if you keep track of the family tree (whereupon she whipped out a very detailed sketch of the lineages!)

A very moving book, This Narrow Space: A Pediatric Oncologist, His Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Patients, and a Hospital in Jerusalem by Elisha Waldman captured the next reader’s attention.  American Dr. Waldman lived and worked in Jerusalem from 2007 to 2014, learning to navigate the cultural complexities in that part of the world while working to save some of the most vulnerable children with cancer.  Our reader was impressed by the compassion shown by the doctor in this embattled area.

Returning to the United States, our next reader laid out the theories proposed by two Harvard professors in How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.  With more than twenty years studying changes in world politics, the authors’ conclusion is that modern democracies most often die as a result of internal corruption and rot, rather than by military force.  Levitsky and Ziblatt foresee three possible futures for the United States in this time of polarized public opinion.  Our reader appreciated the theories laid out, but was disappointed by the lack of footnotes which would have provided more detailed support in each section.

Finally in fiction, The Brightest Sun by Adrienne Benson begins with Leona, an American anthropologist studying the Maasai people in Kenya.  When Leona unexpectedly becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl, she chooses to place the child with an African woman who desires a child.  The striking landscape as well as the complex characters make this debut novel a pleasurable read.

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