by Julie HaleMay 2012
New paperback releases for reading groups
Caleb’s Crossing is another expertly wrought work of historical fiction from Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. Set in the 1600s on Martha’s Vineyard, the novel is based on the true story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. The book’s narrator, Bethia Mayfield, is the daughter of a Calvinist preacher. Smart and curious, Bethia is thirsty for a good education—the kind that only boys get. When she meets a Wampanoag Indian named Caleb who shares her love of learning, the two strike up a secret friendship. Bethia’s father—eager to help the Wampanoag people—recognizes Caleb’s intellectual potential and steers him toward Harvard. The story of Caleb’s remarkable journey from the wilderness to the classroom is nothing less than epic thanks to Brooks’ skillful use of detail, dialogue and dramatic incident. Readers who enjoyed her best-selling novels Year of Wonders and March will relish this mesmerizing mix of fact and fiction.
Chad Harbach’s home run of a debut, The Art of Fielding, is a compelling tale about the culture of sports—and so much more. Baseball whiz Henry Skrimshander has hopes of making it to the big leagues. At Westish College, the school he attends in Michigan, he’s the star of the baseball team. But when Henry makes an error during a game, injuring his teammate, Owen, he begins having difficulties on the field, and his future suddenly looks less than bright. Meanwhile, Owen, who is also Henry’s roommate—and gay—engages in a risky affair, while Guert Affenlight, president of the college and a resigned bachelor, falls deeply in love. Harbach deftly fleshes out multiple storylines while focusing on Henry’s plight, as he struggles to get back in the game. This compassionate, beautifully conceived novel earned Harbach well-deserved critical acclaim. It’s a book that fans of literary fiction—and baseball—will savor.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Ann Patchett, the best-selling author of the acclaimed Bel Canto and four other novels, returns with a darkly fascinating story about the nature of scientific inquiry. In State of Wonder, pharmaceutical researcher Marina Singh is tasked with finding out what happened to her co-worker, Anders Eckman, who died in the Amazon jungle after joining a research team. Contending with snakes, heat and mosquitoes, Marina connects with the field team, which is led by Annick Swenson, an ambitious gynecologist researching a tribe whose females have remarkable childbearing abilities. Annick was once Marina’s mentor, and encountering her brings back a past Marina is trying hard to escape. Giving readers access to the recondite world of drug research while exploring the impulses that motivate us all, Patchett has crafted an intriguing novel, filled with complex issues that will generate lively book club discussion.