by Julie HaleJanuary, 2002
Selections for reading groups in new paperback releases
By Brad Barkley
In this coming-of-age comedy, shy 16-year-old Gabe Strickland is torn between his quirky parents Gladys, a would-be poet, and Roman, a good-hearted salesman who has hawked everything from lawn chairs to Girl Scout cookies. The king of get-rich-quick schemes, Roman dreams of the perfect sale. But it's an ideal that consistently eludes him. Fed up with her husband, Gladys moves in with Dutch, a rich, reliable car dealer who just happens to be Roman's brother. To win her back, Roman enlists Gabe in a series of crazy capers that culminates in a madcap tour of Southern fairs and carnivals. On the festival circuit, they sell tickets to the Death Cars of Celebrities exhibit, a display that (supposedly) includes the crumpled autos of James Dean and Jayne Mansfield. It's during this unforgettable excursion that Gabe comes to terms with himself and his parents, discovering the one thing that's truly priceless: love. A reading group guide is included in the book.
True History of the Kelly Gang
By Peter Carey
A brisk, suspenseful narrative, Kelly Gang, which won the 2001 Booker Prize, is presented as a series of letters written by 19th-century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly to his daughter. Born into a poor Irish family in Northeast Victoria, Ned is lied to and manipulated by the adults in his life, including his mother Ellen. When he is accused of murder, Ned takes to the bush with a gang of allies, eluding the law for nearly two years and using some of the money to aid the impoverished inhabitants of the surrounding countryside, earning himself a name as a Robin Hood of sorts. In a novel full of nineteenth-century slang and high good humor, the ill-educated Ned narrates his version of events, telling his tale in a torrent of language unchecked by proper punctuation and unbridled by the rules of grammar. Broad in scope, full of Byzantine plot twists, the book mixes shoot-'em-up action with profound themes, and it's all couched in Carey's beautiful, breathless prose. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.vintagebooks.com.
The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
In this collection of nine stories set in India and the United States, best-selling author Divakaruni explores the cultural dichotomy experienced by women who are torn between their heritage and the customs of America. Intense, imagistic and revelatory, narratives like "What the Body Knows," in which a mother gives birth to her first baby and nearly loses the will to live, and "The Intelligence of Wild Things," the tale of a young California-transplant who struggles with the death of her mother in Calcutta, focus on the plight of female immigrants. Probing the generation gap, "Mrs. Dutta Writes a Letter" tells the story of a widow who makes the painful discovery that her carefully cultivated traditions embarrass her daughter-in-law. In these elegant examinations of cultural adaptation and the power of memory, of permanence and change, Divakaruni never fails to illuminate. A reading group guide is available in print and online at www.anchorbooks.com.
The World at Night
By Alan Furst
Graham Greene-fashion, Furst crafts classy, suspenseful mysteries, and he writes about occupied Paris with style and authority in his fourth novel The World at Night, now available for the first time in paperback. Jean Casson, a rakish film producer with a few successful pictures to his credit, enjoys the finer things in life until the Germans arrive in the City of Light, spoiling his plans for a big movie project and turning his bourgeois existence upside-down. Though worldly, Casson remains something of a dreamer. When he's asked to participate in a mission coordinated by the British Secret Service, he agrees and is soon entangled in a complex plot that involves a lineup of suspicious undesirables. Thrust into the role of spy, he stumbles his way through war-ravaged Europe with little more than personal charm and good fortune to aid him, and with the memory of Citrine the beautiful actress who was to star in his next film on his mind. All the necessary ingredients of a first-class spy thriller are here, and Furst, a master of detail and gesture, doesn't disappoint.
A reading group guide is included in the book.