Saturday, January 26, 2019

Books for February

The choices this month have both received a lot of praise although these are both debut novels.

At the moment I am having difficulty accessing the Barnes and Noble accounts, but I will continue trying to purchase the books aver the weekend. 

Edit: The access problem has been resolved and the books are now available on the Nooks.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.

One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Books for January

After all the intense emotion of our reads last month I sincerely hope that these titles are a little lighter and more relaxing!

The Bear and the Nightingale is Katherine Arden’s debut novel and the first volume of a trilogy set in a fairy tale version of historical Russia. Once Upon a River is the latest offering from Diane Setterfield, who wrote The Thirteenth Tale, which we read a couple of years ago.

They are now available on the Nooks.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind - she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed--this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Meeting Dates for Spring

Here are the dates for the meetings next spring.

They will be held 6 to 8pm in the Lecture Hall.

24 January

21 February

21 March

18 April

16 May

13 June (subject to the change to summer hours)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Books for December

The Light Between Oceans has been on my ‘To Read’ list for some time and has recently been made into a film. I was looking for titles with a stormy feel that would be good to read tucked up warm at home, and this one won the vote.

Fredrik Backman is fast become a popular author. The group was a little divided over his title A Man Called Ove, but unanimous in its enjoyment of Beartown. Us Against You is a sequel to Beartown and we anticipate another wonderful read.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Books for October

It was good to meet up again after the summer and we mostly remembered what we had read!

For the next meeting we will be reading Redshirts by John Scalzi and Uprooted by Naomi Novik. They are both now available on the Nooks.

Please note: I do not normally suggest music to accompany your reading, but this month I feel that this song would be very appropriate whilst reading Redshirts.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Books for September

As we head into the summer break, we have again chosen 3 titles to read over the summer. It was a difficult decision, requiring a lot of discussion, but we finally chose 2 fairly short titles: Borne by Jeff VanderMeer and The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy.
Our third choice is about twice the length: Mistborn (The Final Empire) by Brandon Sanderson.

They are all now available on the Nooks.

Have a great summer!

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear created and tortured by the Company. At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. It somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, selling tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind. But what is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company? And why does he have a journal titled ‘Mord’?

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Local librarian Hanna Casey is wondering where it all went wrong ... Driving her mobile library van through Finfarran's farms and villages, she tries not to think of the sophisticated London life she abandoned when she left her cheating husband. Or that she's now stuck in her crotchety mum's spare bedroom.

With her daughter Jazz travelling the world and her relationship with her mother growing increasingly fraught, Hanna decides to reclaim her independence. Then, when the threatened closure of her library puts her plans in jeopardy, she finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the fragmented community. Will she also find the new life she's been searching for?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Once, a hero rose to save the world. He failed. For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and defeating the Lord Ruler. A new kind of uprising is being planned—one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine: a teenage street urchin named Vin. Once, a hero rose to save the world and failed. This time, can a young heroine succeed?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Books for June

Here we have our final choices courtesy of the patrons who voted for their Favorite Read of 2017. The One-in-a-Million Boy is written by a Maine author and is set in Portland, which makes it doubly interesting.

They are both available for download onto the Nooks.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

For years, guitarist Quinn Porter has been on the road, chasing gig after gig, largely absent to his twice-ex-wife Belle and their odd, Guinness records–obsessed son. When the boy dies suddenly, Quinn seeks forgiveness for his paternal shortcomings by completing the requirements for his son's unfinished Boy Scout badge.

For seven Saturdays, Quinn does yard work for Ona Vitkus, the wily 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant the boy had visited weekly. Quinn soon discovers that the boy had talked Ona into gunning for the world record for Oldest Licensed Driver — and that's the least of her secrets. Despite himself, Quinn picks up where the boy left off, forging a friendship with Ona that allows him to know the son he never understood, a boy who was always listening, always learning.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Two orphaned brothers, Prosper and Bo, have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. Leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy with a dark history of his own: He calls himself the Thief Lord.

Propser and Bo relish their new "family" and life of petty crime. But their cruel aunt and a bumbling detective are on their trail. And posing an even greater threat to the boys' freedom is something from a forgotten past: a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

* * *

A few years ago we read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, which follows the story of a young girl sent from New York to the Midwest on one of the infamous trains. It was hard hitting, revealing some very unpleasant truths about the experiences of the orphans being shipped to supposedly better lives. If anything, Before We Were Yours was even more shocking, because of the motivations of the person responsible for the Foss children’s plight: Georgia Tann. In Orphan Train, the basic reason for the relocation of the children was to provide them with homes and families when overcrowded cities were overwhelmed by poverty and disease. Whilst this was also Georgia Tann’s stated motivation, she was much more interested in profit and self-aggrandizement.  

Looking at the cover, it seems that the Foss children will be a little sad to pack up their things and leave home. This could not be further from the truth. Their mother is struggling to deliver twins and their father rushes her away to a hospital, leaving Rill in charge of her younger siblings. Next morning they are forcibly removed from their home by a group of policemen and placed in a children’s home that is run with all the care and attention of a Nazi concentration camp. They are given new names and told that they will be returned to their parents in a few days. However, it soon becomes clear that they will never go home and that they are to be sold to whomever wants them, assuming that they even survive their time in the home.

Rill desperately tries to keep her family together and safe, whilst planning a way for them to escape. Unfortunately, although Rill and three of her siblings are blonde, blue-eyed and fairly placid, Camellia is dark-haired, dark-eyed and violently uncooperative. In Georgia Tann’s eyes, this makes Camellia virtually impossible to place and it is little surprise that she is not shown to prospective parents. It may also be the reason why she is targeted by the grounds man, who repeatedly tries to bribe the children with candy and attempts to get into their locked room at night. Rill is warned to keep away from him, but Camellia refuses to be cautious and one day she is assaulted by him. The trauma causes her to become violent when bath time comes around and she is sent to be tied up in the ‘closet’ for punishment. We never see or hear from her again. As Rill’s other siblings are sold off one by one, she despairs of ever seeing any of them again. Eventually, she is homed with one of her younger sisters, who creates too much trouble for her new parents and refuses to cooperate until reunited with Rill. She is handed over to the father in a hotel room, where he is assured that she is a virgin and biddable and that he can now do whatever he wants with her.

Yes, that is correct: the children’s home turns a blind eye to a pedophile grounds man and uses extreme physical punishment on children that have been stolen from their parents. Some of the children even die in their custody with no consequences. The children routinely have their names changed, are separated from their siblings and may be sold to pedophiles, no questions asked. One might think that the author is doing a massive disservice to the people at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society by portraying them as such uncaring and abusive guardians. However, it is clear from reading The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond that Ms Wingate actually toned down some of the abuse reported by Georgia Tann’s victims.

It seems that Georgia Tann saw an opportunity to create a new business supplying children, particularly babies, to couples seeking to adopt. At the time, this was done on a local level, with most unwanted or orphaned children being raised by friends, family members or church organizations. However, increasing urbanization brought massive epidemics and such ad hoc welfare provision was quickly overwhelmed, providing a source of potential adoptees. At the same time it became more acceptable for childless couples to adopt unrelated children, thus providing a demand. Unfortunately, Ms Tann’s actions did not match her stated aims. She used threats, blackmail and ‘gifts’ of children to buy influence with city and state officials, even earning the protection of the local crime leaders. Thus she could operate without fear of interference.

Ms Tann employed a large group of ‘spotters’ amongst the city’s police, teaching and medical professions. They would identify possible adoptees and she would move swiftly to take them to one of the numerous homes that kept her ‘stock’ before sale. Children were stolen from their homes or the streets, parents were tricked or coerced into signing away their rights and healthy babies were declared dead by corrupt nurses. Once in her ‘care’ these children were routinely given new identities, complete with different birth dates to make them appear younger and, therefore, more advanced for their supposed age. They were often given false histories, making them the illegitimate children of wealthy, highly educated parents or unfortunate orphans from good families that had no family remaining to raise them.

But, I hear you say; surely she was doing a good thing in providing good homes for underprivileged children. If only that was true. She had no interest in vetting prospective parents as long as they could pay her fees. Children were regularly placed with abusive families or used as child slaves on farms and many were sent out of state. Once adopted, Ms Tann’s only interest in the adoptees would be if she thought that she could extort extra cash from the parents, some of whom were very rich and famous.

Of course, as we see in this book, some of the adoptees were lucky enough to find wonderful parents who were loving and supportive. However, even these children suffered at the hands of Georgia Tann because she stole their pasts from them. Even if they were not stolen or given up by unwilling parents, her habits of changing identities and then destroying her records meant that many of the children could never uncover their true identities. Some, like the stolen babies, had no memory of their previous lives, but others could remember parents and siblings lost because of Ms Tann. Many have spent their whole lives trying to reconnect with that past or have been driven to depression and suicide by the trauma of what was done to them.

There is no doubt that adoption has serious implications for the psychological well-being of the adoptee, but to make it almost impossible for them to gather important information about their family’s identity or medical history must make it even worse. The families destroyed for Georgia Tann’s greed are rightfully furious about her actions. She did suffer a little for her behavior before she died, as she was being investigated for tax evasion at the time of her death, but her victims never saw her brought to justice. It is also very sad that, as a founder of the adoption ‘business’, her practices influenced the way in which adoptions were conducted for the next fifty years or more, and it is only now that adoptee-rights groups are forcing the states to open their records to adult adoptees.

As you can see, this book is a sad and depressing read in some ways, but in others it is massively life affirming. Whilst not all of Rill’s siblings have known or happy endings, some of them do and we see them trying to reestablish the connections that they lost at the hands of a greedy person who treated them like commodities. We enjoyed this exploration of a subject that needs to be aired much more publicly and thoroughly recommend it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Meeting Dates Updated!

Due to our increasing numbers, we have been moved out of the Business Center! 

The last 2 meetings before the summer break will be held in the Crofutt Community Room

May 10th

June 7th

The fall meetings will take place in the Board Room:

September 20th

October 18th

November 15th

December 13th

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beartown by Fredrick Backman

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

* * *

We almost unanimously loved A Man Called Ove, so it seemed likely that Mr Backman’s next offering would be just as good. Dare I say that I think it is better? Certainly, the group members had a much higher opinion of this book, although that could have been because we found the central theme, of a small town obsessed with hockey, a little bit more relatable than the struggles of a depressed widower.

Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.”

It is a clichĂ© of episodic television to show a shocking event and then go back and show the steps leading up to it. While this is a familiar structure, it is also a good way of imposing a sense of tension and doom over events that could otherwise seem relatively innocuous. It also creates not only a ‘why done it?’ but also a ‘who done it?’ that constantly undermines our ability to trust the characters that we encounter. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to talk about the book without revealing the exact nature of the event that precipitates the ‘shotgun to the head’ scenario, so please note:

*** Spoilers below ***

We are introduced to Beartown, which is actually in Sweden, but could easily be in Maine. The local forestry industry is dying and taking the town with it. The only thing left for the townspeople to rally around are their hockey teams. There is a ‘professional’ team, although it seems to be of a very low standard, and the promising junior team, which is having a particularly good year. It should be noted that nobody has any interest at all in ladies hockey, which seems to be an attitude that also mirrors the situation here in Maine. The town has a shared delusion that if the kids’ team wins their championship then everything will be fine again: the town will attract investment and jobs, regaining its sense of pride. Whilst this could be a good focal point for local activities, it has become more of a blind obsession, which is placing unbearable amounts of pressure on the team, especially its star player: Kevin.

This has its benefits, such as unwavering support that the team receives from their fan base. We also see that players with financial problems are helped by the wealthy in the town, but often in a sensitive, anonymous way that does not damage their pride. However, placing so much responsibility on the shoulders of teenage boys creates an awful lot of anxiety, which threatens to overwhelm some of them. It also leads to them being held to very different standards than the other students. They have come to believe themselves above the normal rules of society because they are allowed to be insolent, rude and inconsiderate of other people without rebuke: as long as they play well, they can do no wrong. We see this in an appalling incident told from the perspective of a class teacher at the school, where the team is sexist and disrespectful to her and the head teacher refuses to ‘upset’ them before the big game. This has been happening for a long time for Kevin: we are told that he spends endless hours shooting goals in his backyard, which produces a noise that can be heard by all his neighbors, but none of them complain about it, even when he does it at night or in the early morning.

I can understand that the boys’ parents and supporters see this laxity as a way of compensating the teenagers for the huge amounts of time and energy they spend on their hockey: they give their all to the game from a very early age and seem to have very little other than it in their lives.  However, such a lack of accountability is a dangerous thing and can lead to highly entitled behavior. So, when the team wins their semi-final game and have a party afterwards to celebrate, it is not much of a surprise that they choose to blow off steam with the help of lots alcohol and zero adult supervision. Riding on a high of achievement and unrestrained by self-discipline, Kevin takes advantage of the situation to ply a younger girl, Maya, with alcohol and then invites her to his bedroom. They begin kissing, but when he tries to take it further she tries to make him stop. Even though she repeatedly screams “No!” and fights with him, he holds her down and rapes her. A younger teammate hears her shouts and walks in on them, so she does have a witness to the event and her lack of consent.

Whilst I find this behavior totally abhorrent, I am sad to report that I was not surprised that it occurred. Not one tiny bit. Nor was I surprised that the overwhelming response is to excuse the boy’s behavior and blame the victim, mainly because she did not report the crime straight away.

This reminded me very much of the conviction of Brock Turner for sexual assault and the appallingly lenient sentence that he received and the pleas of his family that the incident “shouldn’t ruin his life”. We see exactly the same victim-blaming and attempts to excuse or condone the attacker’s actions in Beartown. “She must have wanted it because she went to his room.” “She shouldn’t have got drunk.” “She waited until the day of the final to tell the police because she wanted to ruin his chance to play.” Whilst some people are willing to believe Maya’s ‘version’ of events, many more want to persecute her because she ‘ruined’ their chance at winning the title and that is the only important thing to consider.

Needless to say: this made me very, very angry. Also, it made me unutterably depressed because this happens all the time and it seems like we should be better than this. Why is this sexist behavior still alive and kicking in our modern, ‘enlightened’ society?

Fortunately, Mr Backman gives us a little catharsis in a happyish ending. The male witness steps forward to do the right thing even though he risks losing his place on the team and ostracizing the entire community. He bravely stands in front of everyone and speaks the truth. Ultimately, this has no impact on the legal outcome of the accusations leveled at Kevin, but it shows us that not all people will blame the victim: there are still some decent people out there who will hold people to account for their transgressions, regardless of the consequences.

I will not reveal who the characters are in the ‘shotgun scene’, but I will say that the incident is massively powerful and brings a sense of justice to the end of the book. This is supposed to be the first installment of a trilogy, but we are given brief glimpse into the futures of some of the characters. However, some of these are far from the happy ending that we would like to see for all of them, retaining the more realistic tone of the novel. At no point does Mr Backman give us a syrupy, fairy tale resolution to the conflicts that litter Beartown.

I should add that there are plenty of other themes explored in this marvelous book and often by looking at their effects on different age groups. We see grief at the loss of a child, but also of a long term spouse; we follow the struggles of people coming to the end of their careers and near the beginning. Obviously, many of the themes are related to the adolescent experience, especially those of parenting styles, gender identity and peer acceptance. However, we also explore the immigrant experience, both for an adult and a teen, and the diverse experiences afforded by the different social classes in the town. This is a book with a lot in it and it is a most satisfying read. I recommend it very highly.