Friday, March 14, 2008

Here are the books to choose from for our April selection.  Thanks to every one who made a suggestion!  The poll will close Monday at 5:00 PM.

Eat, Pray, Love
At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for "balancing." These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert's exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, "It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, 'I've always been a big fan of your work.'" 

Gods in Alabama
Arlene Fleet, the refreshingly imperfect heroine of Jackson's frank, appealing debut, launches her story with a list of the title's deities: "high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." The first god, also a date rapist by the name of Jim Beverly, she left dead in her hometown of Possett, Ala., but the last she embraces wholeheartedly when high school graduation allows her to flee the South, the murder and her slutty reputation for a new life in Chicago. Upon leaving home, Arlene makes a bargain with God, promising to forgo sex, lies and a return home if he keeps Jim's body hidden. After nine years in Chicago as a truth-telling celibate, an unexpected visitor from home (in search of Jim Beverly) leads her to believe that God is slipping on his end of the deal. As Arlene heads for the Deep South with her African-American boyfriend, Burr, in tow, her secrets unfold in unsurprising but satisfying flashbacks. Jackson brings levity to familiar themes with a spirited take on the clichés of redneck Southern living: the Wal-Mart culture, the subtle and overt racism and the indignant religion. The novel concludes with a final, dramatic disclosure, though the payoff isn't the plot twist but rather Jackson's genuine affection for the people and places of Dixie.

Meg Powell and Carson McKay grew were raised side by side on their families’ farms, bonded by a love that only deepened. Everyone in their small rural community in northern Florida thought that Meg and Carson would always be together. But at twenty-one, Meg was presented with a marriage proposal she could not refuse, forever changing the course of her life.  Seventeen years later, Meg’s marriage has become routine, and she spends her time juggling the demands of her medical practice, the needs of her widowed father, and the whims of her rebellious teenage daughter, Savannah, who is confronting her burgeoning sexuality in a dangerous manner, and pushing her mother away just when she needs her most. Then, after a long absence, Carson returns home to prepare for his wedding to a younger woman. As Carson struggles to determine where his heart and future lie, Meg makes a shocking discovery that will upset the balance of everyone around her.  Unfolding with warmth and passion, Therese Fowler’s vibrant and moving debut illuminates the possibility of second chances, the naïve choices of youth, the tensions within families, and the wondrous designs of fate. A searing yet redemptive novel, Souvenir is an unforgettable tale about the transforming power of love.

Summer People
Nothing goes right for Nathan--at least not during his summer in old-money Maine. An aspiring graphic novelist, Nathan takes the job of caretaker for Ellen Broderick, a resplendent, delicate widow. Stationed at her vacation estate, Nathan discovers that Ellen's family failed to warn him about her actual situation (dementia?). The cold-shouldering by acquaintances at the local tennis club (Ellen had affairs with at least two prominent men) compounds the fact that no one knows quite how to act toward Nathan: Is he a driver? A nephew? A companion? Throw in a love interest--the Episcopalian priest's nanny--plus a set of local rich kids, and watch the classic tension between the wealthy and the hired help unfold. There is a chill wafting through the floorboards as Nathan realizes that he is the scapegoat of various gaffes. Groh's novel is strong, in spite of verging on inauthenticity, and Nathan's character, like the lead in High Fidelity (1995), ultimately charms.

Tending Roses
Christmas is going to be difficult for Kate Bowman this year. Traveling with her husband and infant to the family farm in Missouri, she has the unpleasant task of convincing her 89-year-old Grandma Rose to move to a nursing home. Kate hasn't been back for six years and is dreading the confrontation with Grandma as well as the first family reunion since the death of her mother. But Grandma Rose makes things easier by leaving her journal out for Kate to read, enabling her granddaughter to realize just how much more there is to Rose than she thought and how very important the farm is to her. This helps Kate find her way through her financial and emotional problems and cues her to what's truly really important in life. Wingate's touching story of love and faith proves the old adage that we should take time to smell the roses and try to put our modern problems in perspective.

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