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March Book Club choice
Joe is a 13-year old Ojibwe Indian boy living on a reservation in North Dakota. On the cusp of adolescence, he is immediately thrown into the adult world as his mom is sexually assaulted, the perpetrator a mystery. The site of the crime is thought to be near his tribe’s ceremonial fireplace known as the Round House. Falling into the abyss of depression, Mom slides into a severe form of withdrawal, closing off her bedroom to her family, refusing to eat, or even cooperate with the law.
The curiosity of youth fueled with the anger of retribution, Joe uses his friends to look on his own for clues. He searches the Round House, the surrounding land, and the adjoining lake, picking up answers. His father, a tribal judge, involves Joe as he, too, searches by reviewing his personal court files. Father and son pass on their findings but some information is held back on both sides.
Reading between the lines, there is an opportunity for the reader to learn about the Ojibwe tribal reservation life: the lack of decent heating, housing, and the rampant use of alcohol and broken families. Interestingly enough, the tribe is especially pleased to have their very own grocery store giving them the chance to shop on the reservation, white stores nearby clearly biased toward the Indian customer. By contrast, Joe’s family is close-knit and willing to help with food and love throughout their crisis, to be there for Joe and his dad.
Over the course of a summer’s vacation, Joe makes life and death decisions. He uses his creativity to solve the mystery to find the man who abused his mom and to seek justice, putting childhood behind him forever. The results will surprise the reader considering the planning and potential danger involved.
This is a story that needs told and who better than a 13-year old boy on a reservation? Sadly, the findings are hampered by Indian laws. Tribal Law has no authority to prosecute white people while on Indian land, this making resolution of their case difficult. The author says that one out of three women are assaulted by white men and that 86% are not even prosecuted!!
I enjoyed Joe’s first person account, the ramblings of a teenager, but found the initial portion of the book a bit boring and hard to connect at times
Written by Joy B., patron
Other Books You Might Enjoy
Hig is a pilot somehow still around after disease wiped out most of humanity. Although he survived physically, he lost most of his emotional life along with everyone else. His wife is gone, along with everything he knew. His life has shrunk down to his dog, his militantly survivalist neighbor, his patrol flights, and his garden. Strangers are automatically treated like threats because that’s what they usually turn out to be. Hig can find moments of peace and beauty in nature, but overall, he has more of an existence than a life.
When he decides to go find the person behind a radio transmission, it’s a risk as well as a huge change. Flying off beyond the literal point of no return leaves his neighbor and his home vulnerable. Hig has no way of knowing who he’ll find or where to look for them. But leaving the safety of his routine turns out to be both more dangerous and more rewarding that Hig had ever imagined.
This dystopian look at how people might live if society crumbled is bleak and pessimistic at times. Hig has to make hard, ugly decisions in the name of his own survival. There’s little room for mercy, which is hard for Hig to handle. Hig does make relationships with people, despite the odds. These relationships are the strong points of the book. They are Hig’s motivation to keep going. As I read the book, they were also my motivation to power on through the hard parts. The ending is more rewarding because of the suffering that lead to it.
If you read this book and want to talk about it, come to the next meeting of the Southwest Morning Reading Group! The group meets at 11 am on the second Wednesday of the month, in the Southwest Branch Community Room. The next meeting is March 12 at 11 am. The Dog Stars is March’s book. Come discuss!
Other Items You Might Enjoy
Ah late winter, that delightful time of year where the weather goes from one extreme to another. It’s tricky enough to deal with by itself, but when you’re planning a garden, I imagine the weather seems even more frustrating. Here are some books to help you figure out what to plant, how to plant it, or how to cook it. There’s some gardening fiction, too, if you’re more interested in reading about gardens than in creating your own.
If you’re looking for more information on gardening, come to the Learn and Grow Fair this Saturday, March 1 at the Southwest Branch Library. Dustan Compton, the Conservation Program Coordinator of Arlington Water Utilities will present Landscape for Life from 9 am to 12 pm. This program focuses on the importance of sustainability through landscape design, building healthy soil, composting, watering practices, and recommended plants. There will also be booths, children’s activities, storytimes, and more. Come get ready for spring!
Black History Month has been observed in the U.S. and Canada every February since 1976. In honor of Black History Month, we created a list of eBooks and online audiobooks that spotlights some great African-American literature.
I’m working on a snow day today (Feb. 6) and the school that was supposed to visit today, with 3 and 4 year olds, cancelled, so I have the chance to catch up on our last Good Grounds meeting. I hope you’re doing well today and don’t have to get on the roads. They’re not too bad but it is always best to avoid going out in hazardous conditions. So…here’s the report…
I put off reading my personal copy of The Cold Sassy Tree/Olive Ann Burns to read the new Pearl S. Buck novel (the manuscript was found in a storage locker in Fort Worth, Texas) The Eternal Wonder. This novel was probably written in the last year of Buck’s life (1973.) It reflects her concern for Amerasian children and their place in the world. The main character is a genius, who slowly comes of age, always trying to find his place in the world and taught by his father to pursue his curiosity and wonder. This is a quick read and a little “preachy” at the end but worthwhile. I got the Hallmark DVD version of “Sarah Plain and Tall” for Christmas and realized I had never read the juvenile (Newbery award) book that the movie was based on. I then proceeded to read to read the tiny novel, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, and the 4 other short novels in the series that further developed the characters and story. I must say, the Children’s Librarian in me really enjoyed these books. The movie version was quite different from the novel, despite the author’s consultation. As of the meeting, I was reading Blood, Bones & Butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef/Gabrielle Hamilton. It is an autobiography written by Hamilton. I admit to having a hard time getting through it because of the author’s behavior as she grew up and matured. Basically, this woman’s family fell apart when she was a young teen and she was very much on her own to get through school and start her own life. She strayed from the path often, as she tried to find her career and purpose in life.
Joyce mentioned that she also read Blood, Bones & Butter but she enjoyed it more than me. That is one of the reasons I like our group so well. We can agree to disagree and include all viewpoints of literature. On Joyce’s reading list, she included a book In My Defense: an unlikely romance, a deadly gunshot, and a young widow’s road to redemption by Leigh Ann Bryant. The main character in this fiction novel is a psychiatric clinic worker who marries a patient but then is badly abused by him. She eventually kills the husband to protect herself and her child and is then taken to trial for murder. The work is written from the widow’s viewpoint. Next up on Joyce’s list was The Dressmaker/Kate Alcott, which is a historical novel that follows a Titanic survivor and the media frenzy that followed the sea disaster. The story follows the mindset of the survivors. In the Garden of Beasts: love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin/Erik Larson was the last book Joyce presented. This author of non-fiction books is a favorite of our group and has been reviewed before. In the book, William Dodd and his family had to withstand the group think and frenzy of Nazi Germany from 1933-1937.
The new gripping novel by John Grisham, Sycamore Row, was Ron’s first reported read. He loved the novel and couldn’t put it down. The plot concerns a will from a man who gave the majority of his money to his maid and nothing to his children. The novel is set in Mississippi in a time of racial tension, so that is a large part of the story. Ron also mentioned getting 3 books on Iran, from his children for Christmas. It is rather “heavy” reading but he promises to get to them in the future. The one title Laureen caught was Our Man in Tehran: the true story behind the secret mission to save six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the foreign ambassador who worked with the CIA to bring them home/Robert A. Wright. Enough said. The last book that Ron talked about was Flight of the Eagle: the grand strategies that brought America from colonial dependence to world leadership/Conrad Black. APL owns two biographies of FDR and Richard Nixon by Mr. Black but not this title. It is a non-fiction study of the historical evolution of U. S. Society.
Barbara mentioned that she thoroughly enjoyed and finished reading Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, My Beloved World. Our group reports also caused Barbara to read some previously reviewed books and do some armchair travel along the way. She read Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail/Cheryl Strayed and Walk in the Woods: rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail/Bill Bryson. Two other “older” books were mentioned also. Barbara read Rise and Shine: a novel/Anna Quindlen (2006.) She thought this book was just in the okay category, although she said it was a good character study. Last on the list was the 1999 Scott Turow novel, Personal Injuries. It is, of course, “lawyerly” and Barbara likened it to the movie “American Hustle.” Reviewers called it a suspense novel about corruption, deceit and love.
At this Good Grounds meeting, Sandy reported finishing the Juvenile/Young Adult novel by Cynthhia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck. You may recall hearing about the plot last month-a Japanese-American girl and her brother have to temporarily stay with elderly grandparents and malaria complicates her life, along with a big change in lifestyle. Sandy also read The Wishing Tree/Marybeth Whalen, which is only owned by the Woodland West Branch Library. It is a relationship and love triangle story, published by Zondervan, which is known for Christian publishing. For a nice change of pace, Sandy read The Welcoming House/Jane Schwab and Cindy Smith. It is an interior decorating book with the 2 professional decoraters showing the indoor and outdoor spaces around 8 different homes in North Carolina. Sand said it was beautiful to look at and fun to read. It was written by Judith Nasitir. Last on Sandy’s list was the book My Age of Anxiety: fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind/Scott Stossel. I’m not sure if this is in the Now Reading category or a finished read. Stossel is a well-known writer and editor who has endured in a battle with Anxiety. This book examines such a life and what that entails.
A lot has been going on in Ronnie’s life, so this fabulous reader only reported on one book but it is a book on the bestseller list and currently praised by reviewers. It is The Goldfinch/Donna Tartt. This book requires quite a time investment at 771 pages. According to reviewers, it is a haunted odyssey and a story of loss and obsession, as well as the power of art. In some ways, Ronnie felt it was “all over the place” but I think she enjoyed it overall.
This first book is not classified as a mystery but the plot certainly contains a dilemma to solve. Linda reported on Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close/Jonathan Safran Foer. The fiction story involves a young precocious boy who is left with a mysterious key, after his dad dies in 9/11. Linda also read 3 solid mysteries in the Murder 101 series by Maggie Barbieri. The heroine problem-solver in these books is a professor in a New York university, who is married to an NYPD detective. There are at least 8 titles in the APL catalog under the Murder 101 series. Linda also read two mysteries set in Florence, Italy. We have heard about both these authors before. The books Linda brought to our attention are Death at LaFenice: a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery/Donna Leon and A Darkness Descending/Christobal Kent.
Pete finished what he wanted to read in the short story book, Selected Stories by Andre Dubus. Dubus’ lifetime was 1936-1999 and he was a noted short story writer and essayist. His personal life was marked by tragedies and he was deeply religious. In the book Pete read, many of the fiction stories centered on betrayal in personal relationships. As of the meeting, Pete was waiting for a reserve on the book Amsterdam: a history of the world’s most liberal city/Russell Shorto. Pete’s parents were Dutch, so he has an interest in “the old country.” Previously, Pete read another book by Shorto called The Island at the Center of the World: the epic story of Dutch Manhattan, the forgotten colony that shaped America which describes the Dutch role in the establishment of Manhattan in Colonial times.
Elizabeth, as usual, presented us with an eclectic collection of read books. The first was Zealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth/Reza Aslan. This book is a biography of Jesus in 1st Century Palestine. Elizabeth did not agree with some of Aslan’s conclusions. Second up was Writing on the Wall: social media, the first 2,000 years/Tom Standage. It is this author’s contention that social media is nothing new. You can trace it back to gossip after oral language developed. Standage says that blogs are the new pamphlets and modern communication behavior echoes prior centuries. Interesting! The 3rd title Elizabeth gave us, at this meeting, was discussed previously. It is The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. It is the true story of a son and his dying mother who shared many books together, before his mother’s death. An anthology of the books read is included at the end of the text. The last book, and it is a tome at 834 pages, is The Luminaries: a novel by Eleanor Catton. This book was up for the Booker Prize but I’m not sure if it was a winner. Reviewers call is a historical suspense novel and it is written in 19th Century writing style. The subject headings for this book include Gold Rush, New Zealand and Astrology. Elizabeth thought it a slog and the Astrology “lost” her, so it was hard to follow this story.
Dave was fighting flu for much of the holiday season, so his reading list is shorter than normal this month. He brought The Pluto Flies: the rise and fall of America’s Favorite Planet/Neil De Grasse Tyson to share with us. This author/scientist helped instigate the de-listing of Pluto from the list of planets. This title is probably meant for the Young Adult reading audience and David thinks Tyson makes a good case for why to eliminate Pluto from the planet family. He thought the book interesting and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
How about that for variety, everyone? I’ll just add that I read, in an American Library Association newsletter that President Teddy Roosevelt was a prolific reader. I mean prolific—supposedly he read a book before breakfast and then read 2 or 3 books before bed. Wow, imagine how many he read in his lifetime-mind boggling. The next meeting is Feb. 19 at Woodland West. Hope to see you there-11 a.m. Happy reading. Laureen
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