Print Friendly and PDF With Strings Attached: B is for Book Review

Sunday, March 24, 2013

B is for Book Review

This spring I'm presenting three book review programs within a month's time.  Fortunately for me there is no overlap among the members, so I can talk about the same books to all of them -- and I'm sharing them here as well.   

Fever, by Mary Beth Keane.  (Fiction)
We use the term “Typhoid Mary” to describe a person who spreads something undesirable, whether knowingly or not.  Indeed, there really was a Typhoid Mary – an asymptomatic carrier of the typhoid bacillus.  Mary Mallon emigrated to New York from Ireland. From 1900 to 1907 she was a cook for wealthy New York families. When the people in those households fell ill (and some died), she simply resigned, left no forwarding address, and moved on to another house.  Eventually the public health authorities found her and quarantined her.   Mary Beth Keane presents Mary as a person, not as a textbook case, adding a love story and a picture of the exciting metropolis that was pre-WWI New York.   

The Kashmir Shawl, by Rosie Thomas. (Fiction)
                Two locations, Wales and Kashmir, and two decades, WWII and the present, are intricately interwoven – like fine fabric.   When Mair Ellis cleans out her parents’ house in Wales she finds  an exquisite pashmina shawl left by her grandmother.  Wrapped in the shawl is an envelope with a lock of child’s hair.  There is no note, no explanation.  Mair knows that in late 1930’s and through the war years her grandparents were missionaries in northwest India (now Pakistan). She goes to Pakistan to see what she can find out about her Grandmother Nerys.

Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver. (Fiction)
Do you look at portraits (photos or paintings) and wonder about the subjects?  Marisa Silver does, too, and created Mary Coin to tell the story of the woman in the iconic “Migrant Mother” portrait by WPA photographer Dorothea Lange. 
In the early 1930’s Mary and her family left Oklahoma for the promise of better work in California. Her husband died, leaving her and their six children. She was a farm worker when photographer Vera Dare (=Lange) took Mary’s picture.  It was published on the cover of Life magazine. Decades later: historian Walker Dodge teaches college students how to interpret the historic evidence in photographs.  Yet he is too close to his own family history to be able to see the clues to so much of his past. 

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen. (Biography)
             Occasioned by her 60th birthday, novelist/columnist Quindlen presents wry musings – alternating between aging gracefully and wondering how the heck that happened so fast.   I had many ah-ha’s of sympathetic recognition all the way through the book.    

The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harmon. (Fiction_
Rural West Virginia, 1930’s.    Patience Murphy is the new midwife, willing to care for those most in need which means she is often paid in firewood or eggs.  The road she has taken to her profession is as rough as the actual roads she travels to get to her clients.   Her previous life has given her a heavy burden which she strives to keep secret from her assistant, the young black woman Bitsy, and her neighbor and friend, veterinarian Daniel.  Patricia Harmon is a nurse midwife who lives in West Virginia, so she writes with knowledge and experience.    

The Secret Daughter, by Silpi Somaya Gouda. (Fiction)
                Who is “family”?  What is the value of a daughter and a mother in a society that places greater importance on sons?
                Kavita lives in rural India. When she finds out that her baby is  girl she walks to town to give the baby up for adoption. Her husband wants a son.  (The next baby is  boy who grows up as a spoiled only child.)
                Somer is an American pediatrician married to Krishnan, a neurosurgeon born in Bombay and educated in the U.S.  Unable to have children, they adopt a baby girl from India. They name her Asha, which means hope.  They raise her with full disclosure about her adoption, but they have difficulty accepting that she wants to return to India to find her birth parents and learn why she was given up for adoption.  
                The story is told from the points of view of Kavita, Somer, and Asha.  Each woman sees  a different India and appreciates the county in different ways, but they bear out the saying that “Mother India does not love all her children equally.” 


1 comment:

  1. All those sound good. Putting on my TO Read List
    Thanks for sharing


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