In the 1950’s in Gilead Iowa, a 76 year old preacher, John Ames, sits down to write a letter to his six-year-old son. Knowing he doesn’t have long to live, he takes it upon himself to tell this boy all the things that normally would take a lifetime to share. This is the premise of Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gilead. Much of the book deals with the Ames family history. John’s father and grandfather, both preachers themselves, struggled with many of the same issues that all fathers deal with – issues of loyalty and independence. Robinson writes the book from the perspective of someone acutely aware of the sanctity and preciousness of each moment of life. Gilead is a slow, thoughtful summer tale, rich with history and a warm insight into the intensity of family relationships.
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The noted author Lisa See grew up in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. She began her career writing the national bestseller On Golden Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. See focused the book on the story of her great-grandfather who had a fascinating life and became the “100-year godfather” of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Always fascinated by her Chinese heritage, Lisa began writing a series of books based on a fictional team of detectives who solve crimes in the United States and China. See’s 2005 best-selling novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the complex and emotional story of the friendship between two women growing up in 19th century China, when foot binding was the norm and women were seen to be useful only for bearing sons. Lisa See is an active member of the Chinese community in Los Angeles and in addition to writing novels, is also a freelance journalist. Her next book, Peony in Love, will be released this summer.
When Mohsin Hamid starting writing The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the year 2000, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 hadn’t yet happened. The story was originally that of Changez, a successful Pakistani businessman living in New York, who was deciding if he was comfortable with his life as it was or if he wanted to return to his homeland. After September 11, 2001, things changed in the United States and so too did the crux of Moshin’s novel. The story then developed into one in which his Pakistani character confronts his own complicated feelings toward the attacks and his now-changed place in American society. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a perceptive exploration of the misconceptions, fear and unease that exist between the West and Muslim society.
Born in Kenya in 1954, Philippa Gregory moved to England with her family, was educated in Bristol and studied with the National Council for the Training of Journalists in Cardiff. She received her PhD in 18th-century literature at Edinburgh University. She is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers with short stories, features and reviews, and is also a regular contestant on Round Britain Quiz for BBC Radio 4 and the Tudor expert for Channel 4’s Time Team. Ms. Gregory lives in the North of England with her husband and two children. Her latest book is The Boleyn Inheritance.
The 2003 Sony Pictures film Good Bye Lenin focuses on East Berlin in 1989 and a young man named Alexander Kerner. Much to the chagrin of his mother, Alexander protests the government just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact when she sees him arrested in the protest she suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. Eight months later she comes out of the coma, but knows nothing about the major changes that have taken place in Germany. Fearful that learning such shocking news will cause his mother to suffer another heart attack, Alexander decides to pretend that nothing has happened. He pastes old labels over western food bottles and goes so far as to make fake news programs for his mother to watch. But the trickery becomes increasing difficult to continue as a plethora of products and shows from the west inundate East Berlin. One afternoon, Alexander’s mother watches as a huge advertisement for Coca-Cola is assembled on the side of a building outside her window. Certainly something is going on. Good Bye Lenin is a humorous and touching look at a world in flux.
Set in Los Angeles, The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett is the complex tale of a magician’s assistant named Sabine and her relationship with a successful illusionist named Parsifal. Not only was Sabine Parsifal’s assistant, but she was also his wife. After his death she is drawn to his childhood home in Nebraska and the family she never knew he had. As she learns more about Parsifal’s childhood, other aspects of his life become clearer to her, and her grief slowly begins to lessen, yet unresolved conflicts and bizarre family secrets cause Sabine to question both the nature and the value of love.
In Anna Quindlen’s newest book, Rise and Shine, Meghan Fitzmaurice is a feisty, self-assured host of morning TV’s Rise and Shine. Thinking her microphone is muted after interviewing a high profile politician, she spews out her real opinion of him. A firestorm of bad press ensues, forcing her to a respite via the Caribbean. Her sister Bridget, a Bronx social worker and the story’s narrator, becomes the peacemaker/caregiver to those left behind. Impacted by the fallout of Meghan’s misstep is her college age son Leo, whose circumstances lead to more devastating events.
Quindlen’s pre-novelist career as a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist serves her well as a storyteller. She shows us that the human spirit is resilient when challenged. Her novels are consistent in that they provide glimpses into the fragility of familial bonds and opportunities to ponder our own relationships. The finely tuned, evocative language in Rise and Shine is no exception.
Janet Evanovich was born on April 22, 1943 in South River, New Jersey. After compiling a large box of rejection letters, she had almost completely given up on the idea of writing and began working as an office temp. But the best-selling mystery writer, who famously declared she spent most of her childhood in “LaLa Land,” finally got a call from an editor who wanted to buy one of her romance books for $2000. After writing twelve romances under the pen name Steffie Hall, Evanovich shifted gears and started writing a light mystery series based on her bounty-hunter character Stephanie Plum. Evanovich now lives in New Hampshire with her husband Pete. Her husband, son and daughter run her business, Evanovich, Inc.
Michael Connelly’s 2005 thriller The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around defense lawyer Mickey Haller and his experiences with a menagerie of accused criminals who look to him to keep them out of jail. Mickey finds that the law isn’t always black and white, and knows that as a defense attorney the question isn’t one of guilt or innocence, but rather one of guilty or not guilty. In fact it’s the idea of having a truly innocent client that really worries Mickey, because he fears he might not recognize innocence if he sees it. When a wealthy and respected realtor from Beverly Hills chooses Mickey to represent him against attempted murder charges, Mickey is more than happy to take the case knowing full well he will make a great deal of money in doing so. And on top of that Mickey is pretty sure the case will be a snap to defend. But when someone close to him is murdered and troubling information arises about a past client, Mickey must act fast to protect himself and determine who’s truly innocent and who’s truly evil.
Warner Brother’s pictures released Ocean’s Twelve in 2005 as the sequel to their successful remake of the classic rat pack film Ocean’s Eleven. In Twelve the gang’s back, including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Don Cheadle. This time Danny Ocean and his team of con men are off around the globe looking for new heists to pull off, and hot on their trail is Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia, who is demanding they repay him the money they stole from his casino. A rival thief wants to sabotage their plans, and a Europol detective, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, tries to catch the whole clan before they walk away with some of Europe’s most priceless antiques.