Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 through October 15

“Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the contributions Americans tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South American and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean have made to American society and culture” – United States Census Bureau

Whether you are in the mood for quiet and thoughtful, tense and unnerving, heartfelt and sweet, or sincere and compelling, exciting reads by Hispanic American authors are yours for the taking. The contributions from writers of Hispanic descent are monumental, and one of the ways we are honoring Hispanic Heritage Month is to share suggestions that celebrate the authentic experience in great storytelling.

Check out a fresh list of rich reads for Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 or browse a sample below. For information on national events and much more, visit the Library of Congress website.

Mexican Gothic book cover

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia  

A reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion.

Gothic Fiction; Horror

You Had Me at Hola book cover

You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

Rendered the subject of tabloid gossip by a messy public breakup, soap star Jasmine takes a part in a new bilingual comedy at the side of a telenovela costar who would revitalize his career.

Romantic Comedy

A Long Petal of the Sea book cover

A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende  

Sponsored by the poet Pablo Neruda to flee the violence of the Spanish Civil War, a pregnant widow and an army doctor unite in an arranged marriage, only to be swept up by the early days of World War II.

Historical Fiction

Once I Was You book cover

Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa is an award-winning journalist who has collaborated with the most respected networks and is known for bringing humanity to her reporting. In this beautifully-rendered memoir, she relates the history of US immigration policy that has brought us to where we are today, as she shares her deeply personal story. Once I Was You is an urgent call to fellow Americans to open their eyes to the immigration crisis and understand that it affects us all. 

Memoir; Global Affairs

Afterlife book cover

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Reeling from her beloved husband’s sudden death in the wake of her retirement, an immigrant writer is further derailed by the reappearance of her unstable sister and an entreaty for help by a pregnant undocumented teen.

Domestic Fiction

Everything Inside: Stories book cover

Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat

A single-volume collection of short stories by the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author is set in such locales as Miami, Port-au-Prince and the Caribbean and poignantly explores the forces that unite and divide.

Authentic Short Stories

Cantoras book cover

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

Enduring the rampant violence against women and the LGBTQ community in the decades of the Uruguayan dictatorship, five women heartbreakingly unite as lovers, friends and family.

Historical Fiction

What Mount Prospect Is Reading

What You've Been Reading image

Mount Prospect, you’ve been reading, and we’ve been talking! Every week we have been extending an open invitation for readers to gather and share the books keeping them company in these odd times. We’ve chatted romance, dark fantasy, nonfiction, mysteries, feel-good, horror, and elegant prose. Check out the titles brought by our attendees, and please consider joining us for this week’s conversation: Let’s Talk Books!

Stay Sweet book cover

Stay Sweet
Siobhan Vivian

Age of Witches book cover

The Age of Witches
Louisa Morgan

Mockingbirds book cover

The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney

Dutch House book cover

The Dutch House
Ann Patchett

Tenant book cover

The Tenant
Katrine Engberg

Headliners book cover

Headliners
Lucy Parker

Wow, No Thank You book cover

Wow, No Thank You
Samantha Irby

Beautiful Ones book cover

The Beautiful Ones
Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Writers and Lovers book cover

Writers & Lovers
Lily King

Monster of Elendhaven book cover

The Monster of Elendhaven
Jennifer Giesbrecht

Foul Is Fair book cover

Foul Is Fair
Hannah Capin

Honey-Don't List book cover

The Honey-Don’t List
Christina Lauren

Year of the Witching book cover

The Year of the Witching
Alexis Henderson

Mornings with Rosemary book cover

Mornings with Rosemary
(also published as The Lido)
Libby Page

Vanishing Half book cover

The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett

All Adults Here book cover

All Adults Here
Emma Straub

Book Discussion Questions: The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

The Obituary Writer book cover

Title:  The Obituary Writer
Author:  Ann Hood
Page Count:  292 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Reflective, Melancholy, Character-driven

Summary:
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, a young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless but secure marriage or to follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The surprising connection between these two women will change Claire’s life in unexpected and extraordinary ways.

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:  2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. The book is entitled THE OBITUARY WRITER, which might imply this is primarily Vivien’s story. Is that intentional? Is it true?

2. What was Vivien’s approach to writing obituaries?

  • What is appealing about this?
  • Were you surprised we weren’t shown any of the obituaries she wrote?
  • How does her role in helping family members to find peace with loss contrast to her own situation?
  • When was this difficult for her, and did this make sense to you?
  • Would you want someone like Vivien to write your story? Why?

3. In an interview Hood references the challenge of using alternating point of views, “that the reader has to reach the end of each section wanting to stay in that time and place every time…I needed the reader to not want to leave Vivien when her section ended, then not want to leave Claire. Every time.”

  • In your opinion, was she successful?
  • Were you equally invested in Claire’s and Vivien’s stories?

4. Were there other characters you were interested to see make additional appearances? Lotte? Kay Pendleton (librarian)? Sebastian? What did each add to the overall narrative?

5. What about the male characters in general?

  • What roles did they play in the story?
  • Is there messaging that can be read into how they were depicted, either individually or collectively?
  • Would you have been interested in learning more about any?

6. How is the topic of infidelity portrayed in the book?

7. Did you suspect that David might indeed be alive? Were you disappointed to learn he was not?

8. The novel is bookended with news of Dougie Daniels.

  • What happened in the beginning of the book? What impact did that have on Claire?
  • When and how does his story re-enter the narrative near the end? What were the ramifications there?

9. In your opinion, do Claire and Vivien bear responsibility for the lives they have? Do you think they own their choices or blame circumstances? Do they take responsibility for the consequences? Should they?

10. In 2002, author Ann Hood lost her 5-year-old daughter unexpectedly to a virulent form of strep throat, an experience she later shared in Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (2008). In what ways might this insight illuminate events or characters in The Obituary Writer (2013)?

11. What difference does it make to different characters that the baby Claire loses was Peter’s? How might the story have been different if it weren’t?

12. Did you guess the connection between the stories of Claire and Vivien?

  • At what point did you suspect and/or become certain?
  • In what ways did the revelation cause you to reflect back on the character of Birdy (or, for that matter, Vivien)?
  • Was this an earned ‘twist’ or did it feel at all contrived?

13. Did Vivien have a hopeful/happy ending to her story? Do you think Claire will?

14. What significance, if any, might there be in the names chosen for the characters? An analysis of story tropes points out interpretations of Vivien, Sebastian, and David.  Are these stretches, or do you see validity?  Any others?

15. In a letter from the author included in the Reading Group Guide, Hood explains how the premise for this novel came about. She’d been in the midst of writing what was intended to be a short story about a young wife during the Kennedy era who was questioning her role as a woman during that time. She talks of always associating the Kennedy inauguration with hopefulness, but then she was confronted with details of a long previous April and the tragedy of the San Francisco earthquake. “I wondered what would happen if I told two stories: one about the hope of January 21, 1961, and the other about the grief of April 18, 1906. In that moment, THE OBITUARY WRITER was born.”

  • How might this ‘origin story’ be surprising?
  • Do you think the effect of juxtaposing these two stories was what the author intended?

16. Why do you think so much of modern writing/publishing, especially in the realm of what might be termed ‘women’s fiction’, uses the structure of dual storylines set in different eras, often in which two seemingly separate characters must be connected somehow?

  • What’s the appeal?
  • Do you enjoy reading stories told in this way?
  • Are there any downsides?

17. The publisher describes THE OBITUARY WRITER as part literary mystery, part love story. How well does the story fit that depiction?

18. Is this a story you will remember? What do you think will stay with you?

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

OTHER RESOURCES:

READALIKES:

The Perfume Collector book cover

The Perfume Collector
by Kathleen Tessaro

The Address book cover

The Address
by Fiona Davis

Andrea’s Pick: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Andrea Staff Pick photo

The Civil War… with zombies? Dread Nation by Justina Ireland combines fantasy storytelling and the dark history of racial oppression in the U.S. in this genre-blending YA novel that’s a little bit historical fiction, a little bit steampunk, and only sort of about zombies.

When the dead walked at Gettysburg, all thoughts of rebuilding the nation fell away. A new law declared that young people of color must attend combat school to learn how to defeat the dead. Fresh from combat school, Jane finds herself in the clutches of powerful enemies who see her as less than human. In the war against the dead, she never expected that the living might turn out to be her biggest danger.

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? Enjoy this book for either of the following categories:

Q. Read a book of fantasy or magical realism.
Y. Read a book from the Young Adult collections.