Posts Tagged ‘lyrical’

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

November 28, 2012

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse book coverTitle: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Author: Erdrich, Louise

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 361

Geographical Setting: Ojibwe Reservation, North Dakota

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  In the last days of his life, Father Damien Modeste sets out to make a final confession to the Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.  The least of these confessions is that Father Damien is actually Agnes DeWitt, a woman.  When a young priest comes to the remote Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse to interview him about the possible sainthood of a nun from the reservation convent, Fr. Damien sees an opportunity to lay bare the truth about his past, the woman in question, and the people whom he has shepherded and loved for the better part of eighty years.  Told through multiple perspectives and dipping into different moments in time, the story unfolds slowly and poetically, the first pages building links to the later scenes of Fr. Damien’s life.  The people of Little No Horse may be familiar to readers of Erdrich’s other works, as this novel is one in a sequence of tales about the Kashpaws, Nanpushes, Pillagers, Morrisseys, and Lazarres who make up this Ojibwe tribe.  But the perspective of Agnes/Fr. Damien, the outsider who layers Catholic dogma with the old spirituality, pushes this story beyond the reservation and across cultural barriers.

Appeal Characteristics: Intricately plotted, moving, stylistically complex, lyrical, mystical, leisurely paced, haunting, spiritual, details of Catholicism, details of reservation life, elegantly written, poignant, reflective, reverent, elegiac, vivid characterization, poetic

Subject Headings: Ojibwe Indians, North Dakota, Indians of North America, Reservations, Priests, Male Impersonators, Miracles, Women Saints

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Moving, lyrical, spiritual

Similar Non-fiction:

Rez Life by David Treuer

Written by a member of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe, this book offers a part memoir, part cultural history look at life on a reservation.  Treuer explores the life of present-day Native Americans as it has been shaped by decisions made long ago.  Politics, alcoholism, casinos, and tragedy are balanced by lesser known facets of Native American culture—walleye fishing, wild rice harvesting, Ojibwe language lessons—creating a narrative of sadness and beauty that characterizes contemporary rez life.

The American Jesuits: A History by Raymond A. Schroth

Schroth offers a comprehensive historical account of the order of priests who, more than anyone else, have brought America to Christ.  Beginning with the first, unfortunately murdered, Jesuit to touch the New World, Schroth details a 450 year history of serving the disenfranchised and the poor, building schools and universities, and making very public stands for social justice.  They are not always perfect, but for those who admire Father Damien in spite of his flaws may find more of the same here.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Agnes’s transformation to Father Damien is an integral part of Erdrich’s novel.  The reservation’s remoteness and the acceptance of the Native people made this easier.  In this book Norah Vincent makes her transformation in the thick of society.  In the guise of Ned, a somewhat nerdy salesman complete with crewcut and ever-present five o’clock shadow, Vincent lived for more than a year as a man, infiltrating and living every aspect of male-ness from the sacred to the profane providing an in-depth look at what is expected of male behavior and how women and men are truly different.

Similar Fiction:

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Similar to Erdrich, Allende writes a generational saga of a family and a people who suffer from the decisions made far in the past.  The Trueba family live in an unnamed Latin American country crippled by political upheaval.  Though less overtly spiritual than Erdrich, readers will find mystical undercurrents and cultural conflicts that color the portrait of this family.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Another sweeping family portrait, this time of a Mexican American family, Caramelo is the story of Lala Reyes as she grows through the revelations of family stories and histories.  The interconnectedness of seemingly different narratives is reminiscent of Erdrich’s storytelling, as are the shared tragedies and raptures that have brought the family, and specifically Lala, to the place they are today.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A set of short stories told from the inhabitants of the Spokane Indian Reservation, this is a complex picture of contemporary Native American life that juxtaposes the trappings of modern culture with the traditions of a proud, ancient, and crumbling people.

Name: Jessica

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Her Fearful Symmetry

October 17, 2012

her fearful symmetry book cover
Author: Audrey Neffenegger

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry

Genre: Literary Fiction, Ghost stories

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 401

Geographical Setting: Lake Forest, IL and London, England

Plot Summary: Twin sisters Julia and Valentina Poole reside in the suburbs of Chicago, where they lead rather unexciting lives and have little interest in anything aside from their extremely close attachment to each other. One day, the girls find out that their mother’s twin sister in London has passed away and left her apartment to the twins. Julia and Valentina take up residence in their deceased aunt Elspeth’s London flat, where they are introduced to the other residents in the building. Among them are Elspeth’s lover Robert, who works at the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, and Martin, who suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Tension mounts as the twins develop new relationships and begin to find separate identities, and an unexpected family member shows up that could tear them apart forever.

Subject Headings: Sisters — Fiction. London (England) — Fiction. Spiritual life – Fiction. Psychological fiction. Ghost stories.

Appeal: Chilling, builds in intensity, compelling, atmospheric, plot twists, descriptive, literary, haunting, character-centered, lyrical, multiple points of view, detailed setting, psychological

Three appeal terms: Haunting, lyrical, atmospheric

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping shares many of the same appeal terms as Her Fearful Symmetry, including an intricate plot centered on characters and family relationships. It is leisurely paced, lyrical, and includes the haunting ghost story element. The book focuses on two sisters Ruth and Lucille and their relationship with each other and other family members. The girls struggle to grow up amidst memories of a family past that they can’t escape in their small hometown.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Readers who enjoyed the storyline revolving around twins in Her Fearful Symmetry, as well as the London setting, might enjoy A Dark Dividing, another character driven, atmospheric read with an intricate plot. A Dark Dividing features a girl named Simone Anderson, whose twin sister disappeared long ago. Simone has a connection to another pair of twins that were born almost a century earlier, but what is that connection? Journalist Harry Flitzglen is in love with Simone and is determined to solve these mysteries. Curiosity leads him to a ruined mansion known as Mortmain House, where he finds himself immersed in a series of even greater mysteries and a disturbing history he could never have imagined.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Those who are in the mood for a fun ghost story interwoven with suspense and romance would like Ghost Walk by Heather Graham. Nikki DuMonde is having a great time running a New Orleans haunted-tour company when a ghost begins reaching out to her for help. Nikki pairs up with paranormal investigator Brent Blackhawk to find out what this ghost wants…before it’s too late.

Coastliners by Joanne Harris
Like Her Fearful Symmetry, Coastliners also deals with women uncovering family secrets and developing their own identity. Mado returns home to her small island hometown after 10 years in Paris to reconcile with her estranged father. When she comes home, however, she is met with family secrets, village feuds, and the urgent need to save the town’s quickly eroding beach. This book has a strong focus on family relationships with a haunting feel and some paranormal elements thrown into the mix.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by Felix Barker
In Her Fearful Symmetry, readers are exposed to some of the history of London’s Highgate Cemetery, which may leave them wanting to learn more about this fascinating landmark. Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla is a great resource for information as it provides a rare, illustrated history of the cemetery.

Identical strangers: a memoir of twins separated and reunited by Elyse Schein
Readers who liked the twin storyline in Her Fearful Symmetry may like this true story about a woman named Elyse who goes on a search for her biological mother and ends up discovering that she has an identical twin sister. When she finally connects with her twin, Paula, the two investigate their past and fill in the missing pieces of their lives. The story is interwoven with details on twin studies and statistics to make for both an informative and touching read.

Ghosts among us: uncovering the truth about the other side by James Van Praagh
Those who dig the paranormal ghost elements in Her Fearful Symmetry can find more information about ghosts in this non-fiction book. The author includes true ghost stories and evidence that ghosts are active in our everyday lives. Believers in ghosts will enjoy uncovering the truth about perceptions of spiritual life and how to have a better understanding of what happens on the other side.

In the Woods

October 17, 2012

Author: Tana French

Title: In the Woods

Genre: Psychological  Suspense

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 429

Geographical Setting: Dublin, Ireland and Knocknaree, Ireland

Time Period: Modern times; 2007, also flashbacks to mid-1980s

Plot Summary: On a beautiful summer day in 1984, three young children mysteriously disappear into the woods near their home. While initially unalarmed, their parents eventually head out to search for the three kids. One is found, clutching a tree, covered in blood and unable to speak. The other two are never found. In modern times, detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a terrible case of a young girl who is murdered and left on an ancient ceremonial stone in the same area where the two youngsters disappeared back in 1984. As the two detectives work tirelessly to uncover the young girl’s killer, detective Ryan must grapple with his own demons and try to make sense of a murder that seems unsolvable, and an old, haunting case that seems more and more to be connected. Will the two detectives be able to solve the case, and the old case, before they go cold?

Subject Headings: Murder victims, child murder, detectives, cold cases, criminal investigations, murder investigations, crimes against children, police, Dublin, Ireland, detective and mystery stories

Appeal: Character driven, Disturbing, Compelling, Lyrical, Moody, Detailed, Investigative, Builds in intensity, Suspenseful, Creepy, Series (Characters), Engrossing, Flashbacks,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Investigative, Creepy, Moody

Similar fiction authors and works:

Abbott, Megan E. The End of Everything

 

Evie and Lizzie are neighbors and best friends; they spend all of their time together and could never imagine being apart or keeping a secret. When Evie suddenly disappears, Lizzie is bombarded with questions about her best friend and her whereabouts. As she searches for the truth, Lizzie comes across a series of secrets that make her question how well she really knew her best friend.

Roy, Lori. Bent Road

When Arthur Scott moves his family back to his small hometown in Kansas, his wife and children struggle to adjust to their new life. To make matters worse, a young girl disappears in the town, drudging up old memories of Arthur’s sister, who also mysteriously disappeared never to be found. This richly detailed, creepy novel will delight readers who enjoyed the tone and atmosphere, as well as the suspense aspects, of In The Woods.

Eriksson, Kjell. The Princess of Burundi

When a jogger stumbles onto the body of a local small town crook, the homicide detective team works to uncover the multiple angles of who might have killed him. Though eventually discovered, this psychological mystery is a compelling and gritty read.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Cohen, Lisa R. After Etan: the missing child case that held America captive

While often when children go missing, they are eventually found, this is the true tale of a young boy who disappeared 30 years ago and is still missing. Filled with disturbing details, this will be an enjoyable read for anyone who liked the aspect of a cold case of missing children and the gritty details surrounding that.

Kottler, Jeffrey A. Lust for Blood

This book examines the ongoing fascination with crime, murder, and violence in the world. Filled with interviews of both consumers of the morbid, and those who perpetrate these crimes, this book is an interesting look into the public’s twisted fascination with the macabre.

Stern, Jessica. Denial: A Memoir of Terror

This story discusses the trauma of post traumatic stress as a result of sexual abuse and other forms of physical and mental abuse. Written from the viewpoint of a scientist and former abuse victim, this haunting investigation will entice readers who were interested in the sexual abuse and psychological trauma angles of In the Woods.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

October 17, 2012

Author: Sylvia Plath

Title: The Bell Jar

Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives and Relationships, Bestsellers

Publication Date: 1963 (England), 1971 (USA)

Number of Pages: 216

Geographical Setting: New York, Massachusetts

Time Period: Six months in 1953

Plot Summary:  This is a semi-autobiographical novel related to the author’s life. She killed herself shortly after it was published. This is a coming-of-age story of a 20-year-old woman as she discovers herself and her desires, just as any college student does. Esther Greenwood was going to college on a scholarship when she got accepted for a special internship with a fashion magazine in New York for the summer. The book describes her relationships with her family, friends, colleagues, and psychologists in a descriptive manner. As this melancholic story progresses, Esther slowly loses her mind to mental illness and eventually attempts to commit suicide. The lyrical and poetic writing is a must read for fans of literary fiction. It is an excellent book to recommend for those interested in studying psychology or going through their own quarter life crisis.

Subject Headings: Depression, Suicidal Behavior, Psychological Fiction, College Students

Appeal terms:  leisurely-paced, introspective, psychological, emotionally charged, melancholy, detailed, realistic, character-centered, timeless, classic, lyrical, literary

Three appeal terms: character-centered, psychological, and literary

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction-

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger- A reviewer has compared Sylvia Plath’s book to Salinger’s Franny. Both books are about the experiences of female college students during the same time period.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen- This book is about an 18 year old that spent two years living in a psychiatric hospital, in 1967, that Sylvia Plath may have spent time in.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender- This book is a young adult fantasy. It is about a girl that can taste the true emotions of the person who made her food.

Non-Fiction-

Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived by Alexandra Robbins- This is a guide for those that are lost and confused as they become adults in order to help them get through their quarter life crisis.

No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine- This book offers advice for those who have lost family members due to suicide. The author’s husband was a doctor who committed suicide.

Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir by Lauren Slater- This is the memoir of a woman that had a psychological problem in which she was a compulsive liar. The character, Esther Greenwood, regularly lies in The Bell Jar.

Name: Rachel Fischer

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author: Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and war-torn Europe

Time Period: Fall 1940 – Summer 1941

Plot Summary: Set in the early 1940s when World War II was raging in Europe, The Postmistress interweaves the stories of three women as their lives are touched by the war. Iris James, the single, 40-year-old postmistress in the coastal town of Franklin, Massachusetts, prides herself in delivering the mail (what she considers delivering secrets). That is, until one day when she reads a letter that she slips into her pocket, where it remains undelivered. Meanwhile, Iris quietly observes the town doctor’s new wife, Emma Trask, as she desperately waits for word from her new husband who ran off to London to offer his services to victims of the war. Both Iris and Emma tune into the radio to listen to American radio girl Frankie Bard as she reports from the London Blitz and other areas in Europe and shares her dramatic personal accounts of the terrors she witnesses. On the eve of America’s entrance into the war, the stories of Iris, Emma, and Frankie collide when Frankie returns to the Cape Cod town with a vow to deliver a secret letter…

Subject Headings: Postmasters – Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Massachusetts—Franklin—Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Radio broadcasting and the war—Fiction; London (England)—History—Bombardment, 1940-1941—Fiction.

Appeal: Character-centered, historical details, unsettling, descriptive, small-town, detailed setting, lyrical, dramatic, engrossing, tragic, romantic, leisurely-paced, well-developed characters

Three appeal terms:  Character-centered, historical details and setting, dramatic

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Another historical fiction novel set during the time period of World War II, Sarah’s Key will appeal to fans of The Postmistress because of its similar historical context, character-driven storyline, and lyrical style. In Sarah’s Key, a family history full of secrets is unraveled as American journalist Julia Jarmond investigates the 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, and learns about the ordeal of a young girl named Sarah who was arrested with her family during this raid by the French police during the war.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

The book 22 Britannia Road is another historical fiction read that takes place during World War II. Similar to The Postmistress, this book is character-centered, and tells the stories of different characters whose lives are connected in some way. It allows the readers to connect with these characters and understand the impact of the war on each of their lives.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A suggested readalike for Sarah Blake, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in London at the end of the Second World War, and focuses on writer Juliet Ashton as she seeks a subject for her next book. When she begins correspondence with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a book club formed when Guernsey was under German occupation) Juliet is drawn into the world of the society’s members and ends up making connections that change her life forever. This is another title with a set of well-developed characters whose stories are told through a series of letters. Through the letters Juliet exchanges with the members, the reader learns details about each member and how the German occupation impacted their lives.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

World War II London Blitz Diary by Ruby Side Thompson

This diary is the personal account of Ruby Side Thompson’s experiences during the World War Two London Blitz. Ruby’s detailed entries chronicle her struggles to cope in a war-torn city where bombs were being dropped nightly while still having to deal with the issues of everyday life. This book offers readers a unique look at this horrific time in history through the eyes of someone who fought to survive through it.  I chose this title because it provides a non-fiction account of World War II, but has appeal for readers of The Postmistress because of its focus on a person and the connection of viewing the war from her point of view. I felt it would have a more lyrical style and be more enticing than just a dry, factual account of events.

Letters from the lost: a memoir of discovery by Helen Waldstein Wilkes

Author Helen Waldstein Wilkes’ parents were among the few Jews who were able to leave Europe in 1938. In this emotional memoir, Wilkes reveals the letters that were written between her parents and the family they had to leave behind. This book provides a compelling glimpse into this tragic time in history through the personal letters of those who witnessed the horrors firsthand, and I feel would be relevant to readers of The Postmistress for the connection to the characters (in this case actual people witnessing the war), and for the historical elements of World War II.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

Erik Larson, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City, writes this compelling narrative about the city of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign. The story focuses on William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his daughter, Martha, who becomes mesmerized by the glamorous lifestyles of Berlin’s salon society.  This relates to The Postmistress with its subject of World War II, and the character-centered appeal. Also, because it is written by a best-selling author, this fact alone might intrigue readers who are interested in this time in history.

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author:  Sarah Blake

Title:  The Postmistress

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  384

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts and London, England

Time Period:  1940-41:  War-torn London/Pre-WWII America

Series: N/A

Plot summary:  After leaving a letter with the local Postmistress to be given to his young wife should he not return, a doctor departs his small, Massachusetts town for London in 1940 to volunteer his services to care for those injured in the Blitz.  A gritty, female war correspondent, devastated by all she has witnessed in war-torn Europe, travels to Massachusetts in 1941 to deliver news of the doctor to his wife.  She soon suspects that the Postmistress may be keeping a devastating secret similar to her own.  The novel offers an engrossing portrait of a small American town’s growing understanding of the issues at stake in the war, and is heartbreaking in its depiction of the impact war can have on those not caught in actual battle.

Subject Headings:  World War II; London Blitz; Radio; War Correspondents; American Home Front; Small-town Life; Postmasters; Secrets

Appeal: compelling, atmospheric, emotionally-charged, romantic, dramatic, foreboding, heartbreaking, well-developed characters, multiple plot lines, character-driven, thought-provoking, historical details (World War II), small-town, descriptive, lyrical

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book:  emotionally-charged; small-town, historical details (WWII)

Fiction Read-alikes:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

A British author strikes up correspondence with the members of a literary society on the German-occupied island of Guernsey during WWII, and quickly becomes invested in their lives.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the impact of WWII on a small community not caught in the midst of battle.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald.

BBC radio staff struggle to report the news and maintain morale during the chaos of WWII London.  Like The Postmistress in its depiction of the impact of war on the personal lives of civilians, and the quest to get information out to the public.

Coventry by Helen Humphries.

The lives of a widow, a single-mother and her son intertwine as they struggle to escape the chaos and carnage of Coventry, England after it is destroyed by German bombs in 1940.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the devastating impact of war on civilians and the strength of women in dealing with the realities of war.

Related Non-fiction:

WWII on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation by Mark Bernstein.

The story of Edward R. Murrow and his fellow radio broadcasters who brought news of WWII to Americans at home.  Includes recordings of historic broadcasts.  In The Postmistress, the fictional character of Frankie Bard worked for Murrow.

Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940  by Margaret Gaskin.

An historical account of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, the event that drives the story of The Postmistress from afar.

Women of the Homefront: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans by Pauline E. Parker.

A collection of personal stories that illustrate the impact of WWII on American women at home, a perspective shared by The Postmistress.

Becky King

A Single Man

August 13, 2012

Author: Isherwood, Christopher

Title: A Single Man

Genre:  Literary Fiction, GLBTQ Fiction

Publication Date: 1964

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting:  Los Angeles, California

Time Period: Late 1950’s/Early 1960’s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary: Before the book begins, George has lost his partner, Jim, in a car crash, but he has told everyone that Jim has moved home to live with his parents for a while.  The story follows one day in the life of George, a late/middle-aged British man who teaches at a university in LA.  The book is comprised almost entirely of George’s thoughts and dialogue is very sparse.  In an almost stream-of-consciousness style, the reader learns about George’s opinions on almost every aspect of his day.  As a gay man in the 1960’s, his thoughts are often tinged with wariness over what people think about him—who knows he’s gay, who knows about Jim, what they would think if they knew, etc.  George has interactions with a variety of characters, some of whom know about his sexual orientation, and some who do not.    As the day goes on, he begins to reach some fascinating conclusions about his life without Jim.

Subject Headings:  Homosexuality, Middle-aged Men, Grief

Appeal: Builds In Intensity, Measured, Bittersweet, Contemplative, Emotionally-Charged, Stark, Insightful, Introspective, Melancholy, Layered, Character-Centered, Lyrical

3 terms that best describe this book:  Bittersweet, Character-Centered, Introspective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

This book is the autobiography of Paul Monette.  It follows him from childhood to adulthood as he attempts to keep hide the fact that he is gay from himself and from his family.  Monette’s story is similar to A Single Man because both characters feel the need to hide their sexual orientation from the outside world.

Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin

Photographs of the city from a variety of time periods give readers the opportunity to look at both George’s Los Angeles and the Los Angeles of modern times.  Because the book describes the city in such detail, it would be helpful to see what the city really looks like (for those who have not visited).

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Spanning 500 years of American History, this book looks at how homosexuality has evolved.  This book will give readers a greater understanding of the viewpoints of Americans during George’s era.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Maurice by E. M. Forester

Set in Edwardian England, this book follows Maurice, a brilliant young boy, as he grows up, attends university, and works in his father’s firm.  In many ways, he seems like a stereotypical young man, but he is also gay.  Forester’s book will give readers insight into homosexuality in a different time period.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal

A young man, Jim, “experiments” with his male friend, Bob, and finds his life turned upside down.  When he finds himself separated from Bob, he ignores the wishes of his family and decides to find Bob no matter how long it takes.  Jim’s journey takes him all over the country and expands his ideas of homosexuality and how he fits in.  This breakthrough novel in gay literature will help readers see the evolution of the literary genre.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Also following a day in the life of a single character, Mrs. Dalloway focuses on a woman preparing for a party later in the evening. In stream of consciousness, the reader learns about her past, her present, and her thoughts on the future.  With subtle homosexual themes, this book provides readers with a look at the female side of the GLBTQ genre.

Name: Erin Sloan

The Alchemist

August 13, 2012

Author: Paulo Coehlo; audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational; Spiritual Fiction; Literary Fiction; Fables

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 177

Geographical Setting: Spain; Egypt

Time Period: Not specified

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Santiago’s reoccurring dream leads him on a quest to Egypt to find treasure and to also discover his personal legend or destiny. Along his journey, Santiago’s commitment to his personal legend is tested on multiple occasions, but he continues to keep choosing his quest. The Alchemist becomes Santiago’s guide through the dessert and his teacher about how to follow his heart and his dreams in the hope that, unlike so many people, Santiago will fulfill his destiny. This is a philosophical and spiritual journey for Santiago and his readers. The Alchemist is a thought-provoking and powerful novel that will cause you to question how your life and actions can impact and change yours and other peoples lives. This book will draw literary fiction, inspirational, and folk tale readers and undoubtedly, will cause all who read it to feel inspired to seek out their own personal legends.

Subject Headings: Alchemists — Fiction. Shepherds — Spain — Andalusia — Fiction. Andalusia (Spain) — Fiction. Fables.

Appeal: mystical, character-centered, gentle, thought-provoking, exotic, detailed setting, literary, thoughtful, lyrical

3 terms that best describes this book: relaxed, philosophical, inspiring

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.

Don Miguel Ruiz discusses and explicates the paths and steps to take to personal freedom, peace, and unconditional love. A great read-a-like for readers who were inspired by themes in The Alchemist of filling your life with love and peace that will help readers know spiritual enlightenment.

The Awakening Course: the Secret to Solving All Problems, Joe Vitale

This book offers a step-by-step approach to changing your personal and professional transcendence. A thought-provoking, spiritual transformation that will help readers of The Alchemist be able to take their own inspirational journey to help achieve their lives goals.

Andalusia, Eliane Faure

 Andalusia is an illustrated guide to this part of Spain. This book offers a visual understanding to one of the exotic landscape of The Alchemist. You can explore Andalusia customs, the landscape, the major regions, and more.

 3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

Brahmin or Siddhartha abandons his aristocratic life to embark on a spiritual journey to better understand Indian spirituality. Siddhartha is another inspirational, mystical, though-provoking piece of literary fiction for the reader who enjoys spiritual journeys like in The Alchemist.

The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

After Eddie dies in a tragic accident, Eddie reflects upon his life in heaven feeling that his life was uninspired, but five people he knew in life explains the meaning of his life.  The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven is an inspiring, philosophical tale about appreciating and realizing ones purpose in life.

The Tale of the Unknown Island, Jose Saramago

A philosophical fable about a man who knocks on a king’s petitioner’s door to ask him for a boat to use on his voyage. Like the king, the man sparks curiosity and desire in the reader to find out where it is he is journeying too. The Tale of the Unknown Island is a spiritual journey similar to The Alchemist in the sense that both stories are character centered, literary, and inspires readers to explore their relationship to the world.

Name: Alison Kulczak

Swamplandia!

August 8, 2012

Author:  Karen Russell

Title:  Swamplandia!

Genre:  Literary Fiction/Best sellers

Publication Date:  2011

Number of Pages:  416

Geographical Setting:  Florida Everglades

Time Period:  late 20th century (1980’s)

Plot Summary:  Thirteen-year-old Ava loves the alligator-wrestling life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades.  When her mom—the theme park’s main attraction– dies, the family’s way of life is threatened.  The father goes to the mainland on a business venture; her sister falls in love with a ghost and disappears; and her big brother, Kiwi, gets a job at a rival park called The World of Darkness.  Ava sets out with the eccentric bird-man on a mission through the magical swamps to save her sister, but then she has to save herself.

Subject Headings:  Girls-fiction; Motherless families-fiction; Amusement parks-fiction; Alligators-fiction; Everglades (Florida)-fiction.

Appeal: offbeat, witty, mystical, lyrical, quirky characters, vivid, imaginative, detailed setting, strong sense of place, compassionate, uneasy, changing points of view (two).

3 terms that best describe this book:  imaginative, lyrical, strong sense of place.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Florida Everglades by Connie M. Toops

History of the Florida Everglades, which is where Swamplandia takes place.

Crocodiles and Alligators of the World by David Alderton

Information on origins, evolution and distribution, courtship, reproduction, and many individual species paint a thorough portrait, with maps of their habitats.  References and pictures.  Besides wrestling them, Ava has a pet alligator baby.

The Enduring Seminoles:  From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism by Patsy West

Seminole Indians (mentioned in Swamplandia) and economic culture; Florida history, culture and tourism.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

A young postal worker in a small Indian town, Sampath, climbs into a guava tree and becomes unintentionally famous as a holy man, setting off a series of events that spin increasingly out of control.  Humorous, offbeat and strong sense of place.

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Similar to Swamplandia, because the teen girl is surviving without help of adults, there are descriptions of nature, and a similar writing style.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

A zookeeper’s son, Pi Patel, sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.  It’s a journey with animals and literary.

Name:  Sonia Reppe