Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Nevermore: When Stars Rain Down, Anatomy of an Illness, Living Nations Living Words, Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba


Reported by Garry


We had a smaller group this week than last, but it was still energetic and had a wide variety of books discussed. 



Our first book reviewed was When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown.  “Unreal! I almost wanted to hide under the bed in parts!” exclaimed our reader.  Set in 1936 in the fictional town of Parsons, Georgia, this historical novel follows Opal Pruitt, a young black woman.   Opal and her grandmother, Birdie, are housekeepers for a local white widow, Miss Peggy.  When the Ku Klux Klan descends on their small, tightknit Southern town, everyone’s lives are changed.  Our reader says that this is a wonderful book that is powerfully written, and puts you right in the middle of the action.  The book is written as a series of diary entries, so the reader “sees” the action through Opal’s eyes.


The next book review is Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient:  Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins.   Written in 1979, this book is the memoir of the time that Cousins suffered a crippling, painful bout of what is now called “mixed connective tissue disease.” In 1964, after a stressful trip to Russia, Cousins came down with extreme pain and fatigue.  He was told by doctors that his disease was essentially un-curable and would result in an excruciatingly painful death.  Cousins decided to take his medical care into his own hands, and with the cooperation of his MD, developed his own recovery program consisting of large amounts of intravenous Vitamin C and hours of humorous films and TV programs.  Our reader really liked this book, and found it to be a very thought provoking look at the connection between mind and body.


Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry edited by Joy Harjo, the current U.S. Poet Laureate and first Native American to hold the position.  Our reader was enthralled by this collection of prose and poetry by First Peoples authors.  Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, our reader was deeply touched by the stories of displacement, visibility, resilience and persistence in this anthology.  Our reader HIGHLY recommends this look at the world through the eyes of the descendants of the first humans to set foot on this continent.


The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton is a historical novel is based on the story of the real-life Cuban woman, Evangelina Cisneros, whose jailing and escape from Cuba was covered by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers.  In this novel, reporter Grace Harrington lands the story of Evangelina’s imprisonment on the sketchiest of charges, and travels to Havana to try to free her.  This swashbuckling beach-read captivated our reader with the strong story and well defined, powerful characters.



Also mentioned:


The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

The World in a Grain:  The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser

Imperial Woman:  The Story of the Last Empress of China by Pearl S. Buck

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

A Lab of One’s Own:  One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science by Rita Colwell

The Premonition by Michael Lewis

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

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Awakening by Nora Roberts

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – a newly illustrated version.

Forces of Nature:  The Women Who Changed Science by Anna Reser and Leila McNeill

My Remarkable Journey by Katherine Johnson

The Crown:  The Official Companion, Volume 1:  Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen (1947 – 1955) by Robert Lacey

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