by Julie HaleJune, 2002
June paperback releases offer good choices for reading groups
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
When seven-year-old Edgar is run over by a mailman on an Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, his head is crushed, but he survives. So begins this wonderfully original coming-of-age novel, a book by turns heartbreaking and hilarious. Abandoned by his family, Edgar is taken to a nearby hospital after the accident, where he meets some of the seediest characters ever sown in contemporary fiction, including Barry Pinkley, the drug-dealing doctor who saves him. Set in the late 1960s, the narrative follows the trajectory of Edgar's unforgettable life, from the brutal world of a Native American boarding school to the suburbs of Utah, where a troubled Mormon family takes him in. Along the way, Edgar escapes from reality by pecking away on an old typewriter, dreaming of a permanent home. His struggle to find a place in the world is a triumph of storytelling.
A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.vintagebooks.com/read.
Set in 1890s San Francisco, this historical novel, centered around well-to-do spinster Lizzie Hayes, examines the manners and mores of turn-of-the-century America. As treasurer of the Ladies' Relief and Protection Society Home, straitlaced Lizzie works hard to improve the situations of the orphans who flock to her establishment. But when the notorious Mrs. Mary Ellen Pleasant arrives, she brings with her a mystery that could change Lizzie's life forever. Fowler conjures a memorable cast of females characters including Teresa Bell, a former prostitute now married to a millionaire and, of course, Mrs. Pleasant herself, a wealthy, worldly woman who may or may not be a witch. Each has her own fascinating story; each is emblematic of an era in which women's roles were rigidly defined. Satirical and suspenseful, the novel brims with details of the Gilded Age and is sure to appeal to fans of E. L. Doctorow.
A reading group guide is available at www.penguinputnam.com.
Taking readers on an extraordinary quest marked by murder, intrigue and betrayal, this sophisticated thriller from the award-winning author of Brunelleschi's Dome is a book about a book. When a valuable volume called The Labyrinth of the World is stolen from the library of Lady Marchamont, a 17th century noblewoman, she enlists London bookseller Isaac Inchbold to retrieve it, setting Ross' brilliantly conceived plot in motion. Following a confounding trail of clues, the quiet-natured Inchbold embarks on what turns out to be a very dangerous mission indeed, crossing paths with smugglers, spies and other unsavory characters, and ending up in Prague. With his command of politics, history, literature and art, Ross brings 17th century Europe to vivid life in this challenging and rewarding work.
All the Finest Girls
In this accomplished debut novel, Addy Abraham travels to the Caribbean island of St. Clair to attend the funeral of her childhood nanny, Louise Alfred. It's an emotionally charged trip that takes Addy back into her past-a disturbed adolescence during which her parents' marriage came apart. Although the Alfreds put her up during her stay, their disdain for Addy as the privileged, Connecticut-bred charge who took Louise away is thinly veiled. Tense encounters with the family, including Louise's resentful son Derek, are intermingled with incidents from Addy's childhood and memories of Louise. Examining race, politics and the nature of family, this insightful and revealing novel from the daughter of William Styron marks the arrival of a promising writer.
A reading group guide is included in the book.