Check It Out Category: Fiction

Andrea’s Pick: City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Andrea's staff pick photoNahri knows better than anyone that there’s no such thing as magic. She uses sleight-of-hand and misdirection, not real magic, to con her customers.

What Nahri knows, however, is called into question when she accidentally summons an ancient djinn warrior. The djinn tells her of Daevabad, the legendary city of brass that holds the key to Nahri’s past. City of Brass will sweep you away with Nahri and her djinn companion, across scorching deserts and dangerous mountains, to the mystical city and the secrets within its walls.

Cathleen’s Pick: Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Cathleen staff picks photoIt’s a hard fall from corporate mogul to sanitorium resident, but Henry Dunbar brought this on himself. In a play for adoration, he gave up control of his company, and now those he rewarded have left him with nothing. Both clever re-imagining of King Lear and contemporary morality tale, Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar exposes the heart of a once-heartless man.

Staff Pick: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Patty from Administration suggests Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova:

Inside the OBriens book coverAre you looking for an easy read that you won’t be able to put down? My recommendation for you is Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova.

It’s a beautifully written story about what it is like to be diagnosed with a fatal degenerative disease: how you react, how you move forward, how the medical costs are crippling, and how the disease impacts everyone around you. It’s an emotional read that takes you from despair to hope and humor as you consider your own immortality.

Joe O’Brien, our main character, is a Boston Police Officer: he’s funny and he’s “real”! His view of a cop’s world in the years since the Boston Marathon bombing is enlightening to the struggles of all of those who serve. You’ll also see the internal turmoil of Joe’s friends, his wife, and his four adult children, all of whom may face the same fate as their father.

Hollywood is going to be releasing the movie of this beautiful story later this year, but I strongly encourage you to read the book first! You will cry, but you’ll laugh too, and gain a true understanding of Huntington’s Disease and others illnesses like it.

For more heartfelt, thoughtful stories of characters confronting life-altering challenges…

Partial History of Lost Causes book coverA Partial History of Lost Causes
by Jennifer DuBois
 
When her father succumbs to Huntington’s disease, Irina discovers a letter he wrote to an internationally renowned chess champion and political dissident, whom she decides to visit in Russia.
Sweetest Hallelujah book coverThe Sweetest Hallelujah
by Elaine Hussey
 
In 1955 Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and struggling to find someone to care for her daughter. With no other solution available, she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother to take her place when she’s gone.

 

Mimi Malloy at Last book coverMimi Malloy, At Last!
by Julia MacDonnell
 
When Mimi’s MRI reveals her brain is filled with black spots, the prospect of living out her days in an “Old Timer’s facility” starts to look like more than just an idea at the top of her eldest daughter’s to-do list.
Did You Ever Have a Family book coverDid You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg
 
In a devastatingly beautiful debut, survivor June struggles to accept unthinkable loss, and the entire community reels from the threads that extend both before and after the tragedy.
My Sisters Keeper book coverMy Sister’s Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
 
Conceived to provide bone marrow for her leukemia-stricken sister, teenage Anna begins to question her moral obligations and decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body.

 

 

Black History Month Spotlight: Yaa Gyasi

February is here, and with it comes our celebration of Black History Month. This year we will be casting a spotlight on various African American authors you might not yet be familiar with, though their literary contributions are important to recognize.

Yaa Gyasi author photo

Our first author spotlight is on Yaa Gyasi, who won the 2017 PEN/Hemingway award for her book Homegoing. Born in Ghana and raised in the United States (where she lived for a time in Illinois before moving to Alabama), Ms. Gyasi holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Univeristy of Iowa’s Iowa Writer’s Workshop. According to her publisher, Penguin Random House, the five books that inspired Ms. Gyasi are Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Homegoing book coverGhana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing  follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. (Penguin Random House)

Staff Pick: The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore

Edward Kelsey Moore’sPicture of Donna C. new book, The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues, picks up with the Supremes still persevering through the reappearance of an absent father, the scars of infidelity, and an unexpected wedding, all while laughing and keeping each other (mostly) sane. The literal and figurative ghosts of the past stay with these best friends as they meet every Sunday in Earl’s cozy diner.

Fiction: Mysteries with Indian Detectives

In addition to their love for the whodunit, mystery fans appreciate both a fascinating investigator and a strong sense of place. Most often this may manifest in stories of British detectives or in Scandinavian thrillers, but crime narratives set in all parts of the globe deserve attention. One quieter trend to discover is that of mysteries set in the complex lands of contemporary Southeast Asia. If you have yet to explore the delights of puzzling through a case set in India, use your deductive skills to identify the most likely suspect to spark new curiosity.

Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra book coverThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
     by Vaseem Khan
Baby Ganesh Agency Investigations series

A young man found drowned in a puddle of water, an eight-month-old elephant, and the last day before forced retirement all compete for full attention of a longtime police officer. With offbeat charm and obvious affection for Mumbai, this first in a series establishes a winning premise to engage mystery fans.

 

 

Case of the Missing Servant book coverThe Case of the Missing Servant
     by Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri Mysteries series

If Agatha Christie’s iconic Hercule Poirot were Indian rather than Belgian, he would look a lot like Vish Puri, a careful investigator with amazing deductive skills and keen powers of observation. The search for a missing woman, a suspected victim of foul play, provides introduction both to the vibrancy of Delhi and to a celebrated series.

 

 

Six Suspects book coverSix Suspects
     by Vikas Swarup

When playboy Vicky Rai was acquitted of a senseless murder committed in front of 50 witnesses, riots broke out. So it is no surprise that he himself is murdered at the very party he throws to celebrate his release. However, when six different guests are found to have guns in their possession, stories need to be heard. Presented in alternating points of view, this satirical yet tightly constructed mystery invites the reader to play the role of detective against the backdrop of modern India.

 

Perfect Murder book coverThe Perfect Murder
     by H.R.F. Keating
Inspector Ghote Mysteries series

Not quite as contemporary but with the time-tested credibility of a long-running series, the first case in the classic Inspector Ghote series presents a perplexing death in Bombay complicated by misinformation, incompetence, and corruption.

 

 

Book Discussion Questions: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies book coverTitle: Necessary Lies
Author:  Diane Chamberlain
Page Count: 343 pages
Genre:  Domestic Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Haunting

Summary:
Set in the 1960s, the little-known North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program is brought to light as twenty-two year old Jane Forrester defies societal pressure and begins work as a social worker. Although they seem worlds apart, she becomes linked with fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart as both are haunted by tragedy and are confronted with the question, “How can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?”

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. In the first chapter, a woman named finds “Ivy & Mary was here” carved in the wall. Where did you think this book was going?

2. Initially we are introduced to Jane, a young woman who is getting married and is applying for a job as a social worker. What did you think about her? Did you find her character relatable?

3. What were your initial thoughts of Robert? Did you feel the same way about him throughout the book?

4. Robert desperately wants Jane to fit in, why do you think that is?

5. Out of Ivy, Nonni, Mary Ella, and baby William, who did you find to be the most sympathetic? The most interesting?

6. If you believe that Mary Ella was mentally challenged, do you think it was in Mary Ella’s best interest to have the procedure?

7. What did you think of Nonni’s ability to raise the family?

8. What did you think of Baby Williams care?

9. Did you think that Baby William should be taken away?

10. Mr. Gardiner did not want the police coming out to look for baby William (he said this was “private farm business”). Why?

11. Initially we did not know who Baby William’s father was, although fingers pointed to Eli. Did you believe that or did you have other theories?

12. Were you surprise Eli was Mary Ella’s brother?

13. How could you compare the Jordan family to the Harts? Which family was better off?

14. Lita had 4 sons and a daughter. People said all her children had a different daddy. Did that line in the book leave you with preconceived notions of her?

15. Why did you think Lita sent Sheena away?

16. What did you initially think of Henry Allen’s relationship with Ivy? Did your perspective change?

17. Jane did not love the idea of eugenics and she definitely didn’t want to do it behind her clients back.  In response to this, the director said “your self-righteousness is getting in the way of your duty to your clients.” What did you think of his comment?

18. Mary Ella wanted more children. She had no idea she had been sterilized. Jane decided to tell Mary Ella that she had been sterilized. Should she have? Why/Why not?

19. Why did Mary walk in front of Mr. Gardiner’s truck?

20. Do you think Ivy would be a legitimate candidate for the procedure?

21. When Ivy is told that she is pregnant she is please by this news after the shock. She says, “thank God for this little baby”. What did you think of her reaction?

22. What did you think of Henry Allen’s reaction to the pregnancy?

23. It seems the only real difference between Henry Allen and Ivy was a class distinction. Do you think things would have worked out differently if they were both of the same socioeconomic background?

24. There was a lot that come out at Mary Ella’s funeral. What did you think when Eli disclosed that Mr. Gardiner was Baby William’s and Rodney’s father?

25. What did you think of Jane taking Ivy to her home?

26. Why was the social worker, Paula, so insistent on finding Ivy and prosecuting Jane?

27. A side story was Jane’s relationship with Lois Parker. What drew her to Lois? What did you think about their relationship?

28. How did you like the ending?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Readers’ Guide for Necessary Lies.
Discussion Questions written by Tosa Book Club
Discussion experience by Whitney Book Bistroy
Book Reporter’s compilation of readers’ comments
Victims of State Sterilization Tell Their Story” (video)
Interview with Diane Chamberlain
“Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States”

READALIKES:

Before We Were Yours book coverBefore We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate

Plain Truth book coverPlain Truth
by Jodi Picoult

The House Girl book coverThe House Girl
by Tara Conklin

This Is Us: Fiction about Families

Holidays often mean time spent with family, and that can be joyous or…complicated.  The oft-quoted Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” might apply, but even the happiest have their moments. If you are looking for solidarity or reassurance through other family dynamics, your options run from the hilarious to the heartbreaking. Choose from one of these groupings, or contact us for your own personalized flavor.

Squabbling Siblings

Bread and Butter book coverBread and Butter
Michelle Wildgen
Ellen Meister

 

Home for the Holidays

Winter Street book coverWinter Street
Elin Hilderbrand
Green Road book coverThe Green Road
Anne Enright
Mary Carter

 

Modern Family

Color of Family book coverThe Color of Family
Patricia Jones
Run book coverRun
Ann Patchett
Zadie Smith

 

Delightfully Dysfunctional

Family Fang book coverThe Family Fang
Kevin Wilson
One Plus One book coverOne Plus One
Jojo Moyes
Jade Chang

 

We Are Our Past

Wally Lamb

Book Discussion Questions: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest book coverTitle:  The Nest
Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Page Count: 353 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Lit, Dysfunctional Family Fiction
Tone:  Sardonic, Moving

Summary:
Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point after an ensuing accident endangers the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, which they are months away from finally receiving. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2017 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Is this book funny? Is it romantic (in world-view)? One review compared it to Nancy Meyers movies – (e.g., Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated); would you agree?

2. Multiple reviews compared the opening chapter in some way to a movie-ready hook with action, sex, and drama. Was this an effective way to set the story in motion? Did you find it irresistible or off-putting?

3. In an interview with BookPage, Sweeney says she’s always described the book as being about family and that it surprised her to hear it described by other people as a book about money. Does it surprise you that she didn’t predict others’ perception?

4. In that same conversation, Sweeney points out the book has given people the opportunity to talk about something that is important in everyone’s life but rarely discussed in public. In your opinion, is this true?

5. Did you happen to learn the idea that sparked this book?

… she got the idea for the book while walking through Manhattan one day, on her way to meet her own family for brunch. “I was noticing all of these people sitting in the window with their drinks, on every street corner,” she says. “And I just had an image in my head of family members who are about to get together, but they’re having a separate drink …and the image really stuck with me. And I just started thinking about who the people would be and why they needed courage to see one another, and why they couldn’t drink in front of one of another, and what was difficult about this meeting they were about to have. And once I started started answering those questions, that’s how the story started to take shape. (NPR: All Things Considered)

   What did the moments in the story prior to the lunch meeting reveal about each character?

6. Did you like spending time with the characters? Does that matter? Were there those you were more excited to read about or with whom you could better identify?

7. Were the siblings wrong to make plans for the anticipated money? Do you blame them?

From The Washington Post: An organization called Wealth-X (world’s leading ultra-high net worth intelligence firm) issued report about what it calls “looming wave of wealth transfers”.  Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath some $16 trillion to their children over the next three decades…For rich, this holds little suspense, but for upper-mid-class Americans balancing mortgage payments, tuition bills, and retirement plans on a brittle tower of monthly paychecks, this bounty looms with the promise of salvation.

      Does this frame change your answer at all?

8. Is Leo believable as a character? Do you have any sympathy for him?

9. Are the Plumb characters well-rounded?

10. What about the siblings’ partners? Are the non-Plumb characters too idyllic?

11. Many readers express an affinity for Stephanie. Why do you think that is? Were you rooting for her and Leo to be together? Would you have wanted to read even more about her?

12. What about the subplots with Miranda, Vinnie, and Tommy? Were you invested in these stories as much as those of the Plumbs?

13. The New York Times Book Review piece on The Nest opens with this line: “’The Nest’ is a novel in the Squabbling Sibling genre.” Do you think of this as a genre?

14. Another behind-the-scenes tidbit:

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s agent sent her novel to publishers the Monday after Thanksgiving. As readers who had likely spent long weekends with their own dysfunctional families, he told her, they would be especially receptive to her book’s dysfunctional Plumb clan. The plan worked, and the 55-year-old’s debut landed a seven-figure advance. (The Atlantic)

      Do you admire the calculated timing, or does it seem coincidental?  In your opinion would the book have been just as well received without the proximity to the holidays?

15. The Nest is about a group of privileged group of people – upper-middle-class white siblings – yet would you say that it is successful in touching on issues more universal? How so?

16. It’s also been described as a “New York novel”, a category that though lauded in literary circles is criticized for being too navel-gazing (esp. with authors and agents included!). Would you place it in this category? What makes it so? What transcends those boundaries?

17. The Nest is about inheritance, and upon hearing that word we immediately think of money, objects, or property. What about the intangibles we inherit from family? Consider the siblings and what is illustrated about how we inherit a place in a family and all that entails. What do you think?

18. Walker is fascinated that a group of adults could use the term ‘the Nest’ in all “earnestness and never even casually contemplate the twisted metaphor of the thing, and how it related to their dysfunctional behavior as individuals and a group.”(260) What did he mean?

19. Walker also observes that the issue with Leo and the money sparked a different dynamic between the siblings, that they were “making casual forays into one another’s lives”…and held out hope that they might ”…move on, try to forge relationships with one another that weren’t about the inheritance.”(261) Did you notice this, too?  Do you think this would have happened without the situation with Leo?

20. Late in the book, Melody asks, “when did Leo start hating us?…How was it so easy for him to leave?…Was it really just about money? Was it about us?”(291)  We’ve seen things from Leo’s perspective; can we answer those questions?

21. How did the scenes with Louisa and Nora add to the overall story? What, if anything, do the sisters – both individually and together (esp. as twins!) illuminate regarding family and individual dynamics?  Did you see these forays into the ‘next’ generation as distraction or complements?

22. Melody has an epiphany about herself (with Walt’s help) at the Chinese restaurant outing (300). Do you remember what she realized?  Do you think her life will be different going forward?

23. How did you feel about the final scenes of looking for Leo? About the scene from Leo’s perspective?  Should Paul or Bea or Leo have acted differently?  Did you understand their actions?

24. Were you hoping that Leo would redeem himself? Does the author’s choice seem believable?

25. Did the epilogue resolve everything a little too neatly, or did you find it satisfying?

26. NYT Critic “Janet Maslin argued that the primary flaw of the novel was that it was unable to break out of the tropes of dysfunctional family literature.” Would you agree? Whether or not you agree, did this affect your experience of the book?

27. One book podcast recommended this title for a woman who doesn’t read but who loves reality TV such as the Real Housewives franchise. In your opinion, is this a good fit?

28. To whom might you recommend this book?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

website of author Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
LitLovers discussion guide of The Nest
MPPL-created character map (contains mild spoilers)
from NPR: “Humor and Heart Fill The Nest
In The Nest, a Family Pot to Split Sets Sibling Relations to a Slow Boil” via The New York Times
The Nest: A Tale of Family, Fortune, and Dysfunction” via The Atlantic

READALIKES:

Seven Days of Us book coverSeven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak

This Is Where I Leave You book coverThis Is Where I Leave You
by Jonathan Tropper

Vacationers book coverThe Vacationers
by Emma Straub

More to Read for National Reading Group Month

Reading Group Month logoWe’re now deep into National Reading Group Month, and there’s still so much to discuss! Perhaps your group has already tackled all fifteen books suggested in Part One, and you are eager for a different take. Allow us to introduce five additional categories with titles guaranteed to bring out your opinionated side.
 
 
 

Contending with the Unimaginable

Room
Emma Donoghue
Andy Weir

 

Solve the Mystery

Likeness book coverThe Likeness
Tana French
Cuckoos Calling book coverThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith
Zoë Ferraris

 

Challenge the Norm

Quiet book coverQuiet
Susan Cain
Half the Sky book coverHalf the Sky
Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Bryan Stevenson

 

Discussions in Translation

Elegance of the Hedgehog book coverThe Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
tr. Alison Anderson
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
tr. Lucia Graves
Fredrik Backman
tr. Henning Koch

 

And the Award Goes To…

Salvage the Bones book coverSalvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
Colum McCann

 

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor or ask online to visit our virtual desk. Also, check out titles in our book discussion collection, shop those available as Books-to-Go discussion kits, and help yourself to original questions and resources available through our website.