by Julie HaleFebruary 2013
New paperback releases for reading groups
BACK TO HER ROOTS
Aimee Phan’s stirring debut novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong, is the story of a brave daughter’s efforts to heal her broken family. The Truongs came to America after the Vietnam War, settling in Southern California and struggling to assimilate. Cherry, who is 21, is caught between the past and the present as she watches her formerly formidable grandmother grapple with daily existence in Little Saigon. Her grandfather, meanwhile, suffers from dementia. To make matters worse, Cherry’s parents have decided to ship her rebellious older brother back to Vietnam to stay with relatives. When Cherry goes after him, she finds herself on the quest of a lifetime—a trip that teaches her about her native land, its dramatic past and the history of her own family, which has secrets that she never suspected. Phan writes with empathy and authenticity about the immigrant experience, and she moves through historical eras and exotic locales with ease. This enthralling tale about loyalty, selfhood and the importance of home impresses from start to finish.
FIGHTING TO BE FREE
Set in South Africa in the 1830s, Philida, by Booker Prize nominee André Brink, is a powerful account of one woman’s fight for freedom. Philida, a young slave in Cape Town, is the mother of four children, all fathered by Francois, the son of her master. Francois loves Philida but is being forced by his father to marry the daughter of an important Cape Town family—a union that results in Philida’s being sold to new owners and transferred to a farm in a more dangerous region. There, she allies herself with a Muslim slave named Labyn. Against all odds, they embark on a perilous journey in search of a better life. This heartrending novel—Brink’s 21st book—was inspired by the story of an actual slave whose story Brink researched. One of South Africa’s most acclaimed novelists, he’s a writer of remarkable compassion and insight. His deeply emotional, complex mix of history and fiction will haunt readers long after the final page is turned.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
In his sweeping, multi-generational saga, A Good American, Alex George tells the unforgettable story of a young immigrant couple and the life that unfolds for them in America. In the early 1900s, Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer leave Germany and settle in Beatrice, Missouri, putting down roots that will endure for years to come. When World War I arrives, Frederick signs up to do his part. Jette misses Germany but has the duties of motherhood to distract her, as she looks after their son, Joseph, and daughter, Rosa. Together, the Meisenheimers weather the Great Depression and World War II and bear witness to other landmark moments in our country’s history. Their own development as immigrants takes on extra poignance against the backdrop of these larger-than-life events. Narrated by Frederick’s grandson, James, this big-hearted book is a tribute to the fortitude of family and tradition. George, an Englishman who moved to Missouri a decade ago, has imbued the story with wonderful detail, bringing America’s past to life in a way that feels fresh while delivering an intimate, deeply human portrait of the ties that bind us all.