The descendants: a novel

From Catherine Given
Author:  Kaui Hart  Hemmings
The descendants: a novel
By now you’ve probably seen either The Descendants’ promos or the movie featuring George Clooney and Beau Bridges. In the novel it’s based on, Hemmings provides a sensitive account of the dealings of a comfortably numb man. Matthew, the mostly emotionally absent father of a  wacky,disconnected family, along with daughters Alex, a scornful young adult, and Scottie, who’s ten going on 30, have  just suffered a great shock.  His wife, Joanie, has had a boat-racing accident, leaving the threesome in limbo, for the first time totally dependent on each other.

Matthew hasn’t spent any time with the girls as they were too young to relate to. He’s been so busy preserving his founding Hawaiian family’s legacy that he and his kids are strangers to each other.  “I come from the school of thought where a dad’s absence is something to be counted on,” he says.  . . . “I remember the girls sort of bothered me as babies, the way everyone raced around to accommodate them. . . .It felt like I was living with royalty.”

These characters are beautifully delineated, realistically flawed and out of necessity, it seems, eventually nurturing to one another. You’ll feel you know them well by the time a few plot twists have churned and settled to momentary stillness, like a surge of Hawaiian surf. Their newly-reconstituted family’s warm but bumpy ride has just begun.

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The Night Circus

From  Ellen  Druda
Author:  Erin Morgenstern
The Night circus [sound recording CD]
This is the story of the romance between a man and woman destined as children to become opponents in a magical game in which only the winner will survive.  We follow them through their studies and formative years as they develop their skills as illusionists, able to manipulate the physical world around them.  Their stars cross and uncross and cross again working in the Cirque De Reves as the story draws to its fantastic conclusion.  Told in lush descriptive passages, the images are vivid of this turn-of-the-century steam punk night extravaganza, filled with eccentric characters, arcane magic spells, and dramatic love.  Narrator Jim Dale weaves the dialog around the plot points with a talent that enhances the richness of the text.

Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris

From Eileen Effrat
Author:  David King
Death in the City of Light:    The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
If you were mesmerized by Eric Larson’s  Devil in the White City,  try this meticulously researched and  very readable account of Marcel Petiot, a Parisian doctor accused and convicted of brutally murdering  at least  twenty-seven people between 1941- 1944. War time Paris was in pandemonium, as the German Gestapo, French Gestapo, gangsters and   resistance fighters vied for power and indiscriminately killed.   For Commissaire George-Victor Massau, the  investigating police  officer  for the case, this was a political minefield.  Anyone of those factions could be involved. The trial in 1946 was a circus as it attempted to try all 27 cases at once.   Although convicted and sentenced to death, many questions were never answered   and still remain a mystery. Was Petiot allied with the Gestapo or the French resistance?  Or  neither?  How did he initially kill his victims?  This is a true crime story that vividly describes Paris in the Second World War.

The Necklace

From Michelle Lauer-Bader
Author:  Cheryl  Jarvis
The Necklace
This is a fascinating story. The first question most people will ask is how can 13 women share anything? But it quickly becomes apparent that the necklace is only the means to get us to think about what do we really need and how can we make others happy. Most of us cannot afford a necklace like this, even if we share the cost.  But we can think about the rampant consumerism that exists in America and what we can do about it.  This would be a good book discussion selection.

We bought a zoo

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Benjamin Mee
We bought a zoo
This is the remarkable true story of a successful journalist and married father of two who buys the dilapidated Dartmoor Zoo in southwest England. The book was made into a movie, in theatres now, starring Matt Damon. Benjamin is joined in this venture with his siblings and widowed mother, who sinks her inheritance into the purchase.  Ever media-savvy, Ben lands a TV deal to film the park being prepared to be reopened for the public. This book has it all: a love story, exotic animals, impatient creditors, indifferent bankers, demanding government officials, and a ragtag crew of zookeepers. The most exciting parts are when the most dangerous animals (such as Sovereign the jaguar) escape or almost escape their enclosures.   A fascinating section, which became known as the Day of the Dentist, was when a renowned animal dentist checked the teeth of all the animals in a marathon, costly session. The threat of danger always lurks, which makes the narrative so suspenseful. Will the park pass the inspection? Will it ever open to the public again? Will his family give up on his dream?