A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the FamilyAgee (pronounced Age-ee)’s exquisitely detailed tale of the dynamics and subtle emotions at a time of crisis was an eye-opening view for me into nonconformists of the early 20th century, and into how such people might interact with the mainstream religious people they love. There are no surprises, given the title, and the ending feels inadequate. I also felt that the preacher’s visit was an odd and out of place low-comic punch. But it is one of those classics I had to gobble down.

Reviewed by Teresa

“Can’t We Talk About Something More PLEASANT?” by Roz Chast

Roz ChastThis is quite a book. It is the illustrated account of the author’s parents final years of life, complete with pictures of their belongings and descriptions of their physical complaints. She had no siblings and did not live with her parents. They were older. They had lived in the same apartment in Brooklyn for many, many years.

This is Chast’s wonderful, slightly askance view of her parents’ lives and idiosyncrasies, full of detail and humor and a feeling of an overwhelming world. It is very intimate, with examples from her mother’s dementia and many pictures (including some photos) of the various objects that were “saved” by her thrifty parents. It ends with drawings Chast made of her mother as she was dying.

This is a wonderful book.

Reviewed by Sue D.

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

claire of the sea lightWhat could be more different from US culture and family life than the world of Haiti? Poverty and love, class systems and secrets characterize this story of a little girl and her father and the impossible choices they have to make. With French and Haitian Creole woven beautifully into the dialogue and narrative, this is a book for the ages, for the heart and soul and mind.

Reviewed by Margaret

The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences by P.M.H. Atwater

The Big Book of Near-Death ExperiencesA 400+ page book, near-death and other similar physical-spiritual experiences are detailed quite thoroughly with enough anecdotal summaries to satisfy any person interested in this subject. Discussion is fairly allotted to differing interpretations of such experiences, although it is evident the author has definite positive opinions and conclusions drawn from years of study.I found it pretty engaging, and I think it is impressive that people around the world consistently relate similar categories of sensations and visions.

Reviewed by Laura R.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefIf I was told I could read only one other book for the rest of my life, I would choose The Book Thief – and I would hardly be upset. The language is masterful: poignantly beautiful, elegantly simple, and searingly powerful. The premise for the book is unique and tragic and achingly human. Ironic, considering the novel is narrated by Death. The Book Thief chronicles the life of a young girl growing up in Nazi, Germany, from the perspective of Death. This book is one of those everyone of every age, should be sure to read in their lifetime. More than once, if possible. While reading, you will find yourself slowing and even stopping, wanting to savor the perfection of the words, or digest the magnitude of emotion and implication captured in a single, misleadingly simple sentence.

Reviewed by Maddy