by Julie HaleJune 2010
New paperback releases for reading groups
In her acclaimed debut novel, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True, Brigid Pasulka deftly mixes history and romance to tell the tale of two lovers living in Poland during World War II. The novel’s protagonist, a young man named the Pigeon, falls for the beautiful Anielica and, to demonstrate his adoration, builds a home for her family. He sides with the resistance during the war, harboring his Jewish relatives and protecting his village. After the war, he becomes engaged to Anielica, and they move to Krakow in hopes of a better life. But their dreams soon wither in the face of the new Communist regime. The story of their granddaughter, Beata, brings the novel full circle. Beata, who hasn’t inherited Anielica’s beauty, has no prospects for marriage in modern-day Krakow. When family secrets come to light, she realizes that she must build her own future, and—empowered by the past—she does just that. Rich with detail, Pasulka’s novel is a profound exploration of politics, history and the role of the individual within both. A reading guide is available.
BACK TO THE CAPE
In his poignant seventh novel, That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo explores middle age and family life in ways that feel fresh and perceptive. An English professor stuck in a mediocre marriage, 57-year-old Jack Griffin finds himself at odds with his life. Thirty years ago, he gave up a career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles to marry his wife, Joy, and settle in New England. But now Jack is tired of academia and longs to return to his old vocation. As he tries to cope with the memory of his dead father, he must contend with his feisty 85-year-old mother, who hounds him by phone from her nursing home. Past and present collide when Jack travels to Cape Cod—the scene of many childhood vacations and his own honeymoon—for a friend’s wedding, an event that stirs up trouble and sends his life spinning in an unexpected direction. Bringing his trademark wit and emotional sensitivity to Jack’s story, Russo writes about matters close to every reader’s heart, and his delivery, as always, is impeccable. A reading guide is available.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Suspenseful, compelling and ultimately unforgettable, Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply follows the stories of three very different characters who share a common desire—to escape from the dead-end circumstances that confine them. Anxious to make an exit from her insular hometown, Lucy Lattimore takes off with a dynamic teacher from her high school, who tempts her with promises of money and travel. Lucy’s narrative is paralleled by that of Ryan Schuyler, a college dropout who looks up his long-lost father—a crook living in the Michigan woods—and becomes involved in the identity theft business. Rounding out the novel is the story of Miles Cheshire and his search for his schizophrenic twin brother, who may be the culprit behind the death of their mother. Richly rewarding, Chaon’s newest novel is a standout thanks to rich characterization, innovative plotting and prose that’s poetic yet edgy. A reading guide and excerpt are available on the author's website.