Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Nevermore: Democracy, James Baldwin, Owen Meany, Elizabeth Strout, Patricia Harmon, Anthony Doerr

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started out their conversation with a work of nonfiction titled How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.  Both Professors of Government at Harvard University, Levitsky and Ziblatt have long studied democracy and government in Latin America and Europe, respectively.  In their latest book, they take a long hard look at the breakdown of democracies across the world and give examples of how these governments have slowly slipped into authoritarianism—and how America can avoid the same fate.  Our reader shared How Democracies Die, saying it was an “interesting, insightful book.”  She noted it’s a bit on the short side, but it’s very easy to read and very enjoyable.  She recommended it highly to her fellow readers who enjoy a little side of politics with their history and government studies.

Next, Nevermore checked out Go Tell It on the Mountain, a compelling and emotionally charged novel by James Baldwin.  Semi-autobiographical, Go Tell It on the Mountain is a story featuring the life of John Grimes:  a young black man living in Harlem during the 1930s, who is merely trying to survive within the shadow of his violent, religiously fanatical stepfather.  Our reader stated Baldwin’s novel was “absolutely fantastic.”  After reading several of Baldwin’s other works, she picked up Go Tell It on the Mountain and she was thrilled by it.  “[It was] very good, very interesting,” she told her fellow Nevermore members.  “It is truly worth reading.”

Nevermore also checked out a couple of books from the library’s other book clubs:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.  In All the Light We Cannot See, which was read by the BPL Book Club, Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives in the seaside city of Saint-Malo and Werner Pfennig is a German soldier, a radio operator for the occupying Nazi force.  After an attack on the city, their paths cross in unexpected ways as they struggle to survive the carnage of World War II.  Our reader said she thought it was a good book, “but I didn’t like the way it was put together.”  She was enchanted by the story and she thought the characters were very well developed, but she wasn’t a fan of how time seemed to jump back and forth throughout the book.

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Wheelright becomes friends with a boy named Owen Meany.  Small, highly intelligent and possessing a “wrecked voice,” as the narrator states, Owen has an unusual story that John Wheelright feels compelled to recount—from the day Owen strikes a foul ball and kills John’s mother to the day he becomes “God’s instrument” in the most unexpected way.  Our reader has read John Irving’s novels in the past and she found A Prayer for Owen Meany to be an interesting addition to her list.  “It’s very moving,” she said, “but sort of tragic.”  She liked it overall, but she did admit to having some reservations.  She recommended it as a good novel, just perhaps not the best that Irvin has written.

Next, Nevermore stepped back into World War II with Once a Midwife by Patricia Harman.  In this novel, readers return to Hope River (a series by the same name) with Patience Hester, a trusted midwife who has helped her small town throughout the Great Depression.  But, with the United States poised on the precipice of joining a new war, Patience must find a way to support her family and fight for her husband who refused to return to war.  Our reader said she was quite pleased with Harman’s novel.  “It’s quite an evocative book,” she told Nevermore.  Moreover, it was interesting because it offered insight into the experience of rural, Appalachian towns and African Americans during World War II.  She continued, saying, “It’s a very neat little book.”  She highly recommended it to readers looking for something light and sweet to enjoy.

Last, Nevermore shared Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout, which features a series of interconnected stories and returns with one of her most beloved heroines, Lucy Barton from My Name is Lucy Barton.  Our reader, who enjoyed Olive Kitteridge, picked up Strout’s latest book and quickly fell in love with it.  She has been switching between reading the book and listening to the audiobook, which she said has enriched her experience.  Overall, she has found the book to be a wonderful recreation of the human experience and she highly recommended it to all of her fellow readers, especially those who have already enjoyed Strout’s previous works.

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