By Judy Garrison
When you’re living alone, and not going to crowded places, there is lots more time to read. And that can be a good thing. As has been said and repeated through the ages, books are great company, and can introduce the reader to new worlds. They can also bring you up close and comfortable—sometimes uncomfortable—with the challenges and consciousnesses of people seemingly very unlike yourself. Until you realize your common humanity and that we all bump up against defeat and loss, even hopelessness, at one time or another. Yes, the human condition we all share in contains a lot of pain. Also redemption. Also love.
Some of the books I’ve read lately put me further in touch with all those experiences. I’d like to recommend the following:
- The Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. This is a multi-generational novel that follows a young woman, Zarite, known as Tete, born into slavery and her master, Toulouse Valmorain, a young Frenchman who has moved to Haiti to manage his father’s sugar plantation. After the beginning of the slave revolt that would lead to the Haitian Revolution they move to New Orleans where she pines for her promised freedom. I forgave the florid writing by this master storyteller, told against a supremely well-researched backdrop, as she dramatizes a relationship that, despite its brutality, is difficult to sever.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This engrossing story follows Sunya through the vicissitudes of her life when she leaves Korea for Imperial-Colonial Japan, where the Korean main characters are treated with atrocious discrimination by the Japanese, no matter how well they try to integrate. This multi-generational novel, starting in the 1930s and continuing into the 1990s, is peopled by vividly drawn and varied characters. The pinball gambling machine can be seen as, like life, a game partly of skill, partly of chance, and partly rigged by those wielding the control.
- The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, whose earlier books, Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow, I also highly recommend. This one, spanning just ten days, and told from multiple points of view, is set in 1950s America. It involves a road trip starting in Nebraska headed west, which somehow takes the young characters, some riding a boxcar, in the opposite direction, all ending up in Manhattan. Towles’ writing is so good that even when the plot, early on, didn’t sufficiently grab me, I kept reading. I’m so glad I did.
Everyone has a favorite or 2 in the crime and mystery genres. My go-to author when I want a well-written, compassionate page-turner is Michael Connelly.
If you are not a current patron of the Andes Public Library, you are missing out on easy access to a wonderful selection of books, including well-reviewed recent bestsellers: fiction, nonfiction and literary nonfiction. If a book you want is out, it’s easy to be put on a short wait list. You’ll get a call when the book is back, just like you will when your 4CLS request has arrived.
The Gazette encourages our readers to submit some of their favorite recently read books, favorite authors. Maybe with reasons for your preferences. You can leave your short article with the librarian. Or just shoot an email to email@example.com.~