A Dinner of Onions 2: New Book Discussion Titles Just Ordered

July 28, 2011

1. Isaacs, Susan.  As Husbands Go

Astonished when her seemingly devoted husband is found murdered in a prostitute’s apartment, Susie, a mother of 4-year-old triplets, bristles at her neighbors’ mixed reactions and tackles everyone from her husband’s partners to the DA to restore her family’s honor. By the author of Past Perfect.

2. Jacobson, Howard.  The Finkler Question

Julian Treslove, a radio producer, and Samuel Finkler, a Jewish philosopher, have been friends since childhood and, as they enter middle age, they reminisce over their struggles with self-identity, anti-Semitism, women, love, and the past.

Note: The narration in this book is intellectually reflective with lots of insecurity, character development, and wit.  The themes and tone remind me a lot of Philip Roth. It’s also heavy on identity politics and the Israeli-Palestinian “question.”

3.  Morton, Kate.  Forgotten Garden.

 Abandoned on a 1913 voyage to Australia, Nell is raised by a dock master and his wife who do not tell her until she grows up that she is not their child, a situation that causes her to return to England and eventually hand down her quest for answers to her granddaughter.

4.  Karp, Brianna.  The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness

The author, surviving a childhood of violence and abuse, shares her journey as a homeless person, ashamed and terrified at first, but then awestruck by the extraordinary people she connected with whose stories inspired her to become an activist for the homeless community.

Note: The first third of this book delves intensely into Karp’s early memories of being sexually abused by her biological father and her stormily dysfunctional relationship with her religious mother and stepfather.  If that doesn’t appeal to your club readers, they might still want to soldier through it.  Karp’s experience as a young, independent, professionally groomed, educated homeless person is really revealing and may alter readers’ views of homelessness, the people it affects, and perhaps some of the policy implications.

5.  Smiley, Jane.  Private Life

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres: the powerful and deeply affecting story of one woman’s life, from post Civil-War Missouri to California in the midst of World War II.

6.  Donoghue, Emma.  Room.  [Two kits]

A 5-year-old narrates a riveting story about his life growing up in a single room where his mother aims to protect him from the man who has held her prisoner for seven years since she was a teenager. Includes reading-group guide.

7. De Rosnay, Tatiana.  Sarah’s Key.  [Two kits]

On the anniversary of the roundup of Jews by the French police in Paris, Julia is asked to write an article on this dark episode and embarks on an investigation that leads her to long-hidden family secrets and to the ordeal of Sarah.

8.  Glass, Julia.  Widower’s Tale.

Enjoying an active but lonely rural life, 70-year-old Percy haplessly allows a progressive preschool to move into his barn and transform his quiet home into a lively, youthful community that compels him to reexamine the choices he made in the decades after his wife’s death.

Note:  I found this book wry and affecting with clever satire of contemporary society as a backdrop to family struggles between different generations over the decades. If your book group likes someone like Jonathan Franzen they might go for it.

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