All of these books were waiting for me when I got home last Friday, courtesy of one very good friend who figures if I'm going to be stuck at home, I'm going to have plenty of books to read. So excited! Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to meet my Goodreads 2011 Reading Challenge now.
From top to bottom:
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, has been offered the job of a lifetime: analysis & conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless & beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding - an insect wing fragment, whine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - she begins to unlock the book's mysteries, ushering in its exquisite & atmospheric past, from its salvation back to its creations through centuries of exile & war.
March by Geraldine Brooks
As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the Civil War, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage & challenge his most ardently held beliefs. From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, Mr. March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife & daughters to make do in mean times. From vibrant New England to the sensuous antebellum South. March adds adult resonance to Alcott's optimistic children's novel. A lushly written, wholly original take steeped in the details of another time. March secures Geraldine Brooks's place as a renowned author of historical fiction.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years, she's taken care of her mother, Camille, the town's tiara-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock, a woman who is trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, CeeCee's long-lost great-aunt, comes to the rescue & whisks her away to Savannah. There, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity & Southern eccentricity - one that appears to be run entirely by strong, wacky women. Both hilarious & heartbreaking, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt charts the journey of an unforgettable girl who loses one mother, but finds many others in the storybook city of Savannah.
EVERYTHING MATTERS! by Ron Currie, Jr.
In this novel rich in character, Junior Thibodeau grows up in rural Maine in a time of Atari, baseball cards, pop Catholicism, & cocaine. He also knows something no one else knows - neither his exalted parents nor his baseball-savant brother nor the love of his life (she doesn't believe him anyway): the world will end when he is thirty-six. While Junior searches for meaning in a doomed world, his loved ones tell an all-American family saga of fathers & sons, blinding romance, lost love, & reconciliation - culminating in one final triumph that reconfigures the universe. A tour de force of storytelling, EVERYTHING MATTERS! is a genre-bending potpourri of alternative history, sci-fi, & the great American tale in the tradition of John Irving & Margaret Atwood.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more abut the townspeople than she will every say - for example, that Emma Trask has come to marry the town's doctor, & that Harry Vale watches the ocean for U-boats. Iris believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, & doesn't deliver it. Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can't touch them. But Iris & Emma & Frankie know better.... The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds - one shattered by violence, the other willfully naive - & of two women whose jobs are to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so. Through their eyes, & the eyes of everyday people caught in history's tide, it examines how we tell each other stories, & how we bear the fact of war as we live ordinary lives.
Petropolis by Anya Ulinich
After losing her father, her boyfriend & her baby, Sasha Goldberg decides that getting herself to the United States is the surest path to deliverance. She grits her teeth & signs up for a mail-order bridal service. But she finds that life in suburban Phoenix with her Red Lobster-loving fiance isn't much better than life in Siberia. So she takes off across America on a misadventure-filled search for her long-lost father. Petropolis is a hilarious & moving story about the unexpected connections that create a family & the faraway places that we end up calling home.
Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams
In Williams' debut, he offers a memoir that focuses on his upbringing, primarily credited to a father who instilled in him a value of education and mature study habits over sports and recreation. Williams recalls that he spent many summer days growing up pouring over flash cards or his seemingly never-ending stack of books, while his peers swam and played outside. What little free time he had he spent at a local park playing basketball and idolizing the older boys, one in particular who loved Hip-Hop and had gained the street cred that came from violence when defending one's honor. Williams credits Hip-Hop and its legends for his ever-growing curiosity of what it means to be black, and initially considered popular rappers to be historians of African American culture. As Williams enters adulthood and begins his first semester at Georgetown, he meets people of many different ethnicities and cultures and his opinions of the black identity begin to change . Williams' innate respect for knowledge and analysis emerges, and he discovers the value of the people around him and real experience over image.
Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok
A resolute yet naïve Chinese girl confronts poverty and culture shock with equal zeal when she and her mother immigrate to Brooklyn in Kwok's affecting coming-of-age debut. Ah-Kim Chang, or Kimberly as she is known in the U.S., had been a promising student in Hong Kong when her father died. Now she and her mother are indebted to Kimberly's Aunt Paula, who funded their trip from Hong Kong, so they dutifully work for her in a Chinatown clothing factory where they earn barely enough to keep them alive. Despite this, and living in a condemned apartment that is without heat and full of roaches, Kimberly excels at school, perfects her English, and is eventually admitted to an elite, private high school. An obvious outsider, without money for new clothes or undergarments, she deals with added social pressures, only to be comforted by an understanding best friend, Annette, who lends her makeup and hands out American advice. A love interest at the factory leads to a surprising plot line, but it is the portrayal of Kimberly's relationship with her mother that makes this more than just another immigrant story.
Readers have followed Jen Lancaster through job loss, sucky city living, weight loss attempts, and 1980s nostalgia. Now Jen chronicles her efforts to achieve cultural enlightenment, with some hilarious missteps and genuine moments of inspiration along the way. And she does so by any means necessary: reading canonical literature, viewing classic films, attending the opera, researching artisan cheeses, and even enrolling in etiquette classes to improve her social graces. In Jen's corner is a crack team of experts, including Page Six socialites, gourmet chefs, an opera aficionado, and a master sommelier. She may discover that well-regarded, high-priced stinky cheese tastes exactly as bad as it smells, and that her love for Kraft American Singles is forever. But one thing's for certain: Eliza Doolittle's got nothing on Jen Lancaster-and failure is an option.
I just started reading Freedom, but as soon as I'm done with that, I'm tackling this pile!