The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Wroblewski, David
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Edgar Sawtelle grows up in a family whose life is centered around  raising and training dogs. Edgar is born mute (this was never explained) and learns to sign to communicate with his parents and with  the dogs. While the book is long and moves very slowly I was totally  involved in the story and in Edgar’s life. I especially loved learning  about the dog training. All seems idyllic until Claude, Edgar’s uncle,  returns to the family and everything starts to fall apart. This is a  great book for discussion. The fact that it is modeled after Hamlet  adds another dimension to the discussion. A must read.

The Help

From Shelley Lauer-Bader
author: Stockett, Kathryn
The Help
This very readable account of the lives of the “colored” maids who took care of whites in the South around the time of the Civil Rights movement rings true. Character development is well done and while the dialect is difficult at first, it is just right for the story. While not of the caliber of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it evokes the times and the gross inequality of the American system as it really was.

Shanghai Girls

From Shelley Lauer-Bader
author: See, Lisa
Shanghai Girls
This story of Shanghai during the Japanese invasion and immigration to the US has great period detail. May and Pearl escape China in 1937 and arrive in the United States, although not without great pain and suffering. They finally connect with the men they married through an arranged marriage. The Louie family could be the story of any family immigrating to the United States with the racism, poverty, family tension.

Especially pertinent is the focus on the “paper sons;” we would call them
illegal immigrants today.

Great for a book group discussion.

A Trace of Smoke

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Cantrell, Rebecca
titl: A Trace of Smoke
While a work of fiction, “A Trace of Smoke” documents the gay culture in 1931 Berlin, between the two world wars. Hannah Vogel’s brother, openly gay and a lounge singer, is murdered. Hannah, a crime reporter,  is determined to discover who murdered him. The story is rich in detail and at the same time, a page turner. Highly recommended with excellent character development.

The mapping of love and death

From Michele Lauer-Bader
author: Winspear, Jacqueline
titl: The mapping of love and death
Maisie Dobbs, a nurse during World War I returns home to London after the war to start a detective agency. She is both psychologist and investigator. This series has all the elements of a good mystery in addition to educating the reader about the terrible times that soldiers endured during the ‘war to end all wars.’ In this story Maisie is hired to find out what happened to Michael Clifton, an American surveyor who served as a soldier under the British flag and went missing in action.