by Julie HaleJuly 2011
Best paperbacks for reading groups
There's a lot to chew on in this month's selection of top paperback releases. From the world of medicine to hidden family secrets, these titles make terrific book club fodder.
FAMILY IN CRISIS
A compelling drama that takes the unpredictable world of medicine as its backdrop, Carol Cassella’s Healer has an authenticity that comes, in part, from the author’s own experience. Cassella is an anesthesiologist, and in her intense, imaginative second novel she examines of-the-moment issues in health care and drug research. Claire Boehning is reaping the rewards of her husband Addison’s flourishing career in biochemistry. But when Addison’s effort to develop a new cancer drug derails, the Boehnings lose everything. Claire, once an aspiring doctor, is forced to take a job at a health clinic, where she befriends Miguela, a Nicaraguan who’s in the United States searching for her family. The new friendship takes Claire down an unexpected—and ominous—road, one that could mean the undoing of her family. Cassella demonstrates great range when it comes to characterization, and her finely calibrated plot keeps the reader turning pages. This is a fascinating and rewarding novel.
A CASTLE’S SECRETS
Readers who like a little history with their fiction will be enthralled by Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. Drawing on the events of World War II, Morton mixes romance and suspense in an old-fashioned tale that spans five decades. Edie Burchill, a London book editor, is asked to pen the introduction to a children’s story written by the late Raymond Blythe, a popular author and the former proprietor of Milderhurst Castle. After Edie’s mother, Meredith, receives a disturbing letter posted decades ago from Milderhurst, Edie pays a visit to the now-dilapidated manse, which serves as home to Blythe’s slightly daffy elderly daughters. Edie soon discovers that Milderhurst holds secrets for her mother, who was lodged there during the war. Mysteries, past and present, involving matters of the heart abound in this richly atmospheric novel. Moving smoothly through time, the story flashes back to earlier eras that Morton conjures up in vivid detail. Her inventive plot and cast of unforgettable characters make this an irresistible read
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
The Widower’s Tale, the fourth novel from National Book Award winner Julia Glass, is an intricately structured family saga with a gruff yet appealing protagonist. Percy Darling, a retired Harvard librarian, savors the solitude of his rural Massachusetts home. A longtime widower at 70, he has settled into a quiet life. But Percy’s peaceful existence is shattered when a preschool moves into a barn that’s on his property. The intrusion forces Percy to rethink the course his life is taking and to re-evaluate old relationships, including those with his daughters, Trudy, a successful doctor, and Clover, an unhappy wife and mother. Once Clover takes a job at the new preschool, Percy finds himself entangled in the institution’s affairs—and falling for the mother of one of its students. This beautifully executed novel is full of twists and turns, as Percy comes to terms with his past and engages more fully with the present. It’s an insightful work from a writer at the top of her game.