There's a lot to chew on in this month's selection of top paperback releases. From the world of medicine to hidden family secrets, these titles make terrific book club fodder.
FAMILY IN CRISIS
A compelling drama that takes the unpredictable world of medicine as its backdrop, Carol Cassella’s Healer has an authenticity that comes, in part, from the author’s own experience. Cassella is an anesthesiologist, and in her intense, imaginative second novel she examines of-the-moment issues in health care and drug research. Claire Boehning is reaping the rewards of her husband Addison’s flourishing career in biochemistry. But when Addison’s effort to develop a new cancer drug derails, the Boehnings lose everything. Claire, once an aspiring doctor, is forced to take a job at a health clinic, where she befriends Miguela, a Nicaraguan who’s in the United States searching for her family. The new friendship takes Claire down an unexpected—and ominous—road, one that could mean the undoing of her family. Cassella demonstrates great range when it comes to characterization, and her finely calibrated plot keeps the reader turning pages. This is a fascinating and rewarding novel.
A CASTLE’S SECRETS
Readers who like a little history with their fiction will be enthralled by Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. Drawing on the events of World War II, Morton mixes romance and suspense in an old-fashioned tale that spans five decades. Edie Burchill, a London book editor, is asked to pen the introduction to a children’s story written by the late Raymond Blythe, a popular author and the former proprietor of Milderhurst Castle. After Edie’s mother, Meredith, receives a disturbing letter posted decades ago from Milderhurst, Edie pays a visit to the now-dilapidated manse, which se[Sat Aug 30 02:15:14 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. rves as home to Blythe’s slightly daffy elderly daughters. Edie soon discovers that Milderhurst holds secrets for her mother, who was lodged there during the war. Mysteries, past and present, involving matters of the heart abound in this richly atmospheric novel. Moving smoothly through time, the story flashes back to earlier eras that Morton conjures up in vivid detail. Her inventive plot and cast of unforgettable characters make this an irresistible read
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
The Widower’s Tale, the fourth novel from National Book Award winner Julia Glass, is an intricately structured family saga with a gruff yet appealing protagonist. Percy Darling, a retired Harvard librarian, savors the solitude of his rural Massachusetts home. A longtime widower at 70, he has settled into a quiet life. But Percy’s peaceful existence is shattered when a preschool moves into a barn that’s on his property. The intrusion forces Percy to rethink the course his life is taking and to re-evaluate old relationships, including those with his daughters, Trudy, a successful doctor, and Clover, an unhappy wife and mother. Once Clover takes a job at the new preschool, Percy finds himself entangled in the institution’s affairs—and falling for the mother of one of its students. This beautifully executed novel is full of twists and turns, as Percy comes to terms with his past and engages more fully with the present. It’s an insightful work from a writer at the top of her game.
Another heartwarming winner from the NBA-anointed Massachusetts author.
Glass (I See You Everywhere, 2008, etc.) observes and gently mocks her charmingly self-absorbed characters in an unmannered manner reminiscent of her popular contemporary Allegra Goodman and their accomplished forerunner Anne Tyler. This time around, age and youth, urban and small-town life, straight and gay relationships, and aesthetic and political priorities are examined with a beguiling mixture of gusto and delicacy. Focal character Percy Darling is a 70-year-old widower living in retirement (from his longtime employment at Harvard's Widener Library) not far from Boston, where he has donated to a trendy preschool use of the barn on his expansive property. The busy activities at "Elves & Fairies" stimulate bittersweet memories of Percy's late wife Poppy, who had housed a dance studio in that very barn, before perishing in a senseless accident 30 years earlier. As the novel ambles deceptively along, gathering momentum and complexity, Percy—really more of a curmudgeon than a "darling"—discovers that his life is much more than the shell of its former self he'd been prepared to accept. Glass moves the viewpoint skillfully, showing how Percy's late-life learning curve intersects with those of such variously involved characters as his elder daughter Clover, whose shaky grasp of the responsibilities of adulthood contrasts cruelly with her younger sister's career as a prominent oncologist; her nephew (and Percy's pride and joy) Robert, a Harvard pre-med student who plunges into the darkest waters of environmental activism; gay preschool teacher Ira, an unlikely source of more lessons for Percy; and "illegal" Guatemalan handyman Celestino, an optimist who just may become the man Percy has always believed himself to be. Reversals of fortune and chastening surprises are in store for them all.
Glass's perfect plot gives each character his or her due, in an irresistible pastoral tragicomedy that showcases the warmth and wisdom of one of America's finest novelists, approaching if not already arrived at her peak.Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
At 70, retired Harvard librarian Percy Darling has turned into a bit of a crank. The gentrification of his quaint New England village and the technological shift in libraries are among his many gripes. The latest assault on Percy's peace and contentment is the presence of a day care he has allowed his daughter to build on his historic property. Multistranded plotlines intersect and connect the others who orbit Percy's world: single mother Sarah, with whom Percy forms an attachment after years of self-imposed monkhood; Percy's daughters Trudy, a renowned breast cancer consultant, and Clover, suffering through a messy custody dispute; his grandson, Robert, whose friends are involved in underground environmental activism; Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener with immigration problems; and Ira, a gay day care worker who had been falsely accused of improper conduct at his previous school. VERDICT As she has done so compellingly in earlier novels (e.g., Three Junes), Glass brings together familiar themes, sympathetic characters, and multiple story lines in a harmonious mashup that is sure to enchant her many fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]--Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.[Page 99]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Percy Darling, 70, the narrator of Glass's fourth novel, takes comfort in certitudes: he will never leave his historic suburban Boston house, he is done with love (still guilty about his wife's death 30 years ago), and his beloved grandson Robert, a Harvard senior, will do credit to the family name. But Glass (Three Junes) spins a beautifully paced, keenly observed story in which certainties give way to surprising reversals of fortune. Percy is an opinionated, cantankerous, newly retired Harvard librarian and nobody's "darling," who decides to lease his barn to a local preschool, mainly to give his daughter Clover, who has abandoned her husband and children in New York, a job. Percy's other daughter is a workaholic oncologist in Boston who becomes important to a young mother at the school with whom Percy, to his vast surprise, establishes a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Percy's grandson, Robert, falls in with an ecoterrorist group. Glass handles the coalescing plot elements with astute insights into the complexity of family relationships, the gulf between social classes, and our modern culture of excess to create a dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.