Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Nevermore: Teasing Secrets from the Dead, Ona Judge, Keepers of the House, Woman in White, Bottle of Lies



Reported by Garry


Our first book this week was the intriguing and strangely touching Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America’s Most Infamous Crime Scenes by Emily Craig.  Craig started her career as a highly respected medical illustrator, but after one pivotal case, went back to college and became a forensic anthropologist, or “bone hunter.”  The author recounts her work on the infamous Davidian Branch siege, helping with identifying victims of the September 11 attack in New York, and many other cases in between, both high- and low-profile. Our reader found this memoir to be lively reading (no pun intended) and recommends it for a look at a lesser known, but very important facet of the legal profession.



Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar was the next book reviewed.  When George Washington moved to Philadelphia in 1890 to serve as president, he took his slaves with him and ensured he could keep them, despite Pennsylvania requiring that slaves be set free after 6 months of residency in the state.  Ona Judge was a twenty two year old slave of Washington’s who risked everything to escape to freedom in New England.  Washington mounted an immense manhunt focused on re-capturing what he considered to be his possession, but to no avail.  Legally, Judge remained a slave for the remainder of her life, but practically, she lived a free, but very hard, life.  Despite being legally in the right to reclaim (and even kidnap) Judge from New England, Washington was never successful in convincing Judge to return.  Our reader says that the author “filled in the blanks” in this very well researched book, allowing us an insight into the lives of Judge and Washington.  This book comes highly recommended to anyone who wants insight into the lives of African Americans, free or enslaved, during the late 18th century. 



The Pulitzer Prize winning The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau takes place in rural Alabama and follows the lives of the Howland family, who have lived on their land for seven generations.   William Howland is the last man with the Howland name to live in the house.  His wife died shortly after giving birth to a son, who also died a few months later.  Their only daughter, Abigail, marries an English professor, and has a daughter, also called Abigail, before being abandoned by her husband.  William is now left to care for his grand-daughter Abigail.  To help, he brings in Margaret, an African American woman, to help with the household and raising of Abigail, and secretly marries her.  The consequences of this illicit marriage come to a head years later and have a devastating effect not only on Abigail’s family, but the town that has grown up around the Howlands.  Our reader recommends this classic book, and says that even though it was initially published in 1964, it still resonates today with its themes of racism and disparity.



The classic mystery thriller novel, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins was reviewed next.  Written in 1859, this book is considered one of the first mystery novels, and defined what we now think of as the Victorian Gothic style of literature.   Young art teacher, Walter Hartright, is on his way to teach drawing to two young ladies in the north of England.  Before he leaves London, he is stopped by a distressed lady dressed all in white.  Police later inform Walter that the lady had escaped from a nearby insane asylum.  Arriving at the manor, he discovers not only that one of his students is a look-alike for the Lady in White, but that the mysterious young lady has a connection to the manor itself.  Intrigue and death follow in this gripping tale of money, identity theft and deception.  Our reader opined that this book is “Really, really good!” and highly recommends it.


The non-fiction look at the generic drug industry, Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban was described by our reader as rather complicated, but having one major story going through it – fraud.  One company and their shady practices are put under the microscope:  Ranbaxy, an Indian based company that manufactures the generic version of atorvastatin (brand name version is Lipitor).  This book exposes how Ranbaxy got their application to produce the generic drug approved, despite whistleblower accounts of malpractice and dangerous manufacturing processes that leave patients unwittingly consuming contaminated medications.  Our reader highly recommends this book to anyone who takes generic drugs, is considering taking generic drugs or is involved in health policy planning.


Also mentioned: 

Come Fly the World by Julia Cooke

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

Busses are A Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider by Charles Person with Richard Rooker

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Mudbound by Hillary Johnson

Murder at the Mission by Blaine Harden

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Messina

A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


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