This is a book of short stories by Louisiana author Tim Gautreaux. The stories are about ordinary people facing extraordinary decisions in their lives. The characters have a remarkable amount of depth and humanity. Gautreaux is an incredible writer and I highly recommend this collection of his work.
This is a “truth is stranger than fiction” memoir about a five year old Indian boy who got lost on a train, winding up alone on the mean streets of Calcutta. He survived by eating garbage and sleeping under a bridge, while trying to find a train that would take him back home to his family. After a few weeks a teenager took him to the police station and he was placed in a children’s home. After a fruitless search for his family, he was adopted by a loving family in Australia. Saroo never forgot his Indian family and as an adult he used Google Earth to eventually find his village. His birth mother was still living there, she had stayed in the hope that her son would some day return. I read this book after viewing the movie “Lion”, which was based on Saroo’s story. Both the book and the movie are very good (and available at the library).
This is a fascinating account of the events that lead up to the worst man made ecological disaster in the United States. The story weaves together first person survivor narratives and news stories to illustrate the horror of living through “black blizzards” of dirt. I highly recommend this book. The library also has the excellent Ken Burns video “The Dust Bowl”, with lots of film taken during this time.
The niece of Florence Nightingale is mysteriously murdered on a train (the real life murder was never solved). Sixteen year old Nancy Mitford and her nanny/friend get involved in solving the murder. The story is set in early 1920’s England and includes a lot of interesting details about life in that time. This is the being of a new series featuring the Mitford family. The audio version includes an author interview at the end.
Matt Prior quits his job as a financial journalist to start a website that combines financial news and poetry. Not surprisingly, this is not a success and Matt and his family are on the verge of losing their home. A late night trip to the 7-11 presents a solution to Matt’s financial difficulties. This is very well written, and laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended.
Upon the death of their father, teenage brothers Kyle and Klint face the unhappy prospect of living with a mother who abandoned them years earlier, or staying with Candace Jack, an eccentric elderly woman who breeds bulls for bull fighting. Miss Jack is a stranger, but the boys distrust their mother and they want to stay in their hometown, so they move into the Jack mansion. Miss Jack and her farm hand Luis are steeped in the culture of Spain and the art of bull fighting. This unlikely group of people come to love one another and form a family of sorts. This book is written with a great deal of humor and heart. The audio version is especially enjoyable. It is the best work of fiction I read this summer.
Chester Nez was a Navajo high school student at the outbreak of WWII. He enlisted in the Marines and was soon interviewed to be a part of the top secret development of a military communication code in the Pacific. The government and the education system tried to wipe out the native tongue of the Navajo, then found that this unique language was ideal for the creation of a code that could not be broken by the Japanese. This is a fascinating story of the culture and history of the Navajo people and their service to this country, a country that had oftentimes treated them very unfairly. Bonus: the audio CD includes an interview with Chester and a sample of “code talking.”
During the 1920’s the Osage Indians of Oklahoma became very wealthy because of oil discovered on their land. The drove expensive cars, lived in mansions, and employed maids. They were the envy of their white neighbors, and this envy lead to murder on a shocking scale. The members of one family were systematically killed until only one woman survived. After 4 years of this J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI began investigating the crimes, finally bringing some measure of justice to the region. This is a very compelling investigation into some really ugly events in American history.
Carl Turnage is a bachelor who is looking after his favorite aunt after a fall sends her to a convalescent home. Aunt Lil desperately wants to return to her apartment and get back to driving her car, but it is no longer safe for her to do either. This stage of life is explored with gentle humor and a great deal of compassion.
City boy William Alexander and his family move from Yonkers, New York to a small northeastern town, where they find their dream home, a dilapidated fixer upper on a three acre piece of land. The family renovates the house and proceeds to build 22 raised beds for their garden. Alexander battles the yellow clay soil, deer, insects, the weather, and a giant groundhog named “Superchuck” while trying to grow his heirloom tomatoes and other produce. The stories are very funny, and any one who gardens will relate to the author’s trials.