by Julie HaleApril, 2002
April paperback releases offer good choices for reading groups
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
By Louise Erdrich
No other contemporary author has illuminated and celebrated Native America quite as powerfully Erdrich. Nominated for the 2001 National Book Award, her latest novel continues the story of the North Dakota Ojibwe community she began five books ago. At the center of the narrative is Father Damien Modeste, whose surprising secret he is, in fact, a woman in disguise leads the reader into a rich exploration of his life on Erdrich's fictional reservation. Spanning more than half a century, the novel flashes back to his past, bringing back members of the Kashpaw, Nanapush and Morrisey families that readers have come to love. This novel of interwoven lives mixes mysticism, history and traditional story-spinning, and it's all presented in the luminous prose for which Erdrich is so well-known. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.harpercollins.com.
Provinces of Night
By William Gay
Gay's second novel is a haunting, Faulkneresque family drama set in rural Tennessee during the 1950s. When Boyd Bloodworth leaves home to find and kill his wife's lover, he abandons his son Fleming, a sensitive 17-year-old who, with wit and irony, narrates this unforgettable, undeniably Southern story. After a 20-year absence, Fleming's grandfather E. F. Bloodworth, a crotchety banjo picker, returns to the family home to find that Boyd has gone, and his other sons, Warren (a womanizer) and Brady (who likes to put hexes on his foes), have fallen under the dubious influences of alcohol and religion. Only Fleming appreciates the old man's presence, and soon a remarkable relationship develops between the two. It is his grandfather's music that brings Fleming together with the beautiful, blithe Raven Lee a meeting that offers him the chance to transcend his family's dark legacy.
Seabiscuit: An American Legend
By Laura Hillenbrand
This New York Times bestseller tells the unforgettable true story of the little horse that could: Seabiscuit, a thoroughbred with hopelessly crooked knees who was coached to championship status by trainer Tom Smith during the 1930s. Following the trail of this unlikely winner, journalist Hillenbrand reconstructs the events of Seabiscuit's career, bringing to vivid life figures like Charles Howard, the automobile tycoon who owned him, and Red Pollard, his jockey. Through their collective efforts, Seabiscuit began breaking records and stealing the national spotlight, beguiling countless Americans in a time when the country was down on its luck. Offering an inside look at the rigors of training and the competitiveness among both thoroughbreds and men that characterize the horse world, Hillenbrand has crafted a captivating historical narrative that captures the drama of racing, as well as the spirit of Depression-era America. A reading group guide is included in the book.
Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table
By Ruth Reichl
The latest installment in the memoirs of this beloved cuisine critic tells the story of her fascinating, food-based career. Continuing where the best-selling Tender at the Bone left off, Reichl's newest follows her on a journey of self-discovery. Opening in 1970s Berkeley, where she lives in a commune, Reichl tries her hand at novel-writing, marriage and motherhood, finally finding her niche as a food critic a vocation that takes her from positions at the Los Angeles Times and New York Times to her current status as editor of Gourmet magazine. Along the way, Reichl learns some hard lessons about life and love, breaks bread with world-renowned chefs and travels the globe. Her bittersweet experiences two marriages, the death of her father, the decision to adopt a daughter make this a wonderfully human book. Filled with drama, romance and wisdom, Reichl writes with the passion and sensuality that have made her culinary columns so popular. A reading group guide is included in the book.