Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thursday Night Book Group: 2010 Bibliography

See what we've been reading!

Thursday Night Book Group
Annotated 2010 Selections

All titles are in chronological order of selection, beginning with January 2010.

Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Publication Date: 2006
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Publication Date: 2005
During a blizzard in Lexington, KY, in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, yet his daughter is born with Down’s syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect his wife, he asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But his nurse has other plans – she escapes with the baby to another city, to raise the child as her own. The story unfolds over a quarter of a century in which these two families, practically ignorant of each other, must cope with Dr. Henry’s decision.

Confessions of a Shopaholic
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publication Date: 2001
Becky is a London gal with a fabulous flat in a trendy neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous friends who are the stars of the social scene, and a closet full of in-season must-haves. What’s the problem? Becky cannot afford this – any of this. Her low-paying job as a writer for Successful Saving magazine is not fulfilling on any level, and her spend-thrift ways are starting to catch up with her in the form of dismal letters from banks and creditors. She tries to cut back; she even tries to make more money, but none of her efforts are successful. As Becky starts to return to retail therapy, her professional life begins to improve – so much so that her life and the lives of those around her will be transformed forever.

Author: Gore Vidal
Publication Date: 1973
Burr is a portrait of perhaps the most complex and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers. In 1804, while serving as vice president, Aaron Burr fought a duel with his political nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, and killed him. In 1807, he was arrested, tried, and acquitted of treason. In 1833, Burr is newly married, an aging statesman considered a monster by many. Burr retains much of his political influence if not the respect of all. And he is determined to tell his own story. As his amanuensis, he chooses Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler, a young New York City journalist, and together they explore both Burr's past and the continuing political intrigues of the still young United States.

Snow Falling on Cedars
Author: David Guterson
Publication Date: 1994
San Piedro Island, a small community north of the Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954, a local fisherman is found dead, and a Japanese American man is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes apparent that there is more at stake than a man’s guilt. On San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees – especially memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become the wife of the accused murderer. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.

Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Publication Date: 2005
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. In Walls’s early life, her family lived as nomads, moving around the Southwest and camping out in the mountains. Later they settled in a dismal West Virginia mining town where her father did everything he could to escape both the town and his family. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Walls, her brother and her sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals, and searched for the resources and will to leave home.

Loving Frank
Author: Nancy Horan
Publication Date: 2007
In 1903, Mamah Borthwick Cheney and her husband, Edwin, commissioned renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank; in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives. Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place and her own creative calling in the world. Her unforgettable journey, marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leads inexorably to this novel's stunning conclusion.

Digging to America
Author: Anne Tyler
Publication Date: 2006
Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport – the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam Yazdan’s fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the babies are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate: an “arrival party” that from then on is repeated every year as the two families become more and more deeply intertwined. Even Maryam is drawn in – up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by Bitsy Donaldson’s recently widowed father, all the values she cherishes – her traditions, her privacy, her otherness–are suddenly threatened.

Little Bee
Author: Chris Cleave
Publication Date: 2009
Little Bee is a Nigerian asylum-seeker who flees to Britain in search of the O’Rourkes, a couple she met on a fateful day at a Nigerian beach two years earlier. When she knocks on Andrew O’Rourke’s door after being erroneously released from an immigration detention center, she is told by Sarah O’Rourke that Andrew has committed suicide: a direct consequence of their meeting on the Nigerian beach. When Sarah invites Little Bee to live with her and her young son, Charlie, she must confront the reality of Little Bee's life and deal with their own impotence in the face of great injustice.

Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
Publication Date: 1997
Speaking with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house in Gion--the geisha district of Kyoto. Sayuri transforms as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: primarily competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it. But as World War II erupts and the geisha houses are forced to close, Sayuri, with little money and even less food, must reinvent herself all over again to find a rare kind of freedom on her own terms.

The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publication Date: 2010
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed

Year of Pleasures
Author: Elizabeth Berg
Publication Date: 2005
Bette Nolan moves to a small town after the death of her husband to try to begin anew. Pursuing a dream of a different kind of life, she is determined to fine pleasure in her simple daily routines. Among those who help her in both expected and unexpected ways are the ten-year-old boy next door, three wild women friends from her college days, a twenty-year-old who is struggling to find his place in the world, and a handsome man who is ready for love.