Pat Head Summit has been in the news many times as the all time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. As head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vol’s her abilitiy to create amazing teams of winning girls is unsurpassed. Most recently she has been in the news for the announcement of her devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sum It Up is Pat Summit’s memoirs of a life with incredible accomplishments and difficult challenges. As the only girl in a very hard working farming family, her only past time activity was trying to keep up with her brothers in their nightly games of hayloft basketball. Her demanding father pushed her to her limits and as a coach she demanded the same in the girls she coached. The many quotes throughout the book from her family and friends verify what a strong challenger she was no matter whom or what she was up against. Pat battled back from a terrible knee injury after her journey to Russia with the Olympic team. Her drive to rehabilitate was not enough to be able to play to the level of where she had been so she was able to put her abilities into coaching. She coached an undefeated season, co-captained the first women’s Olympic team, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. She always saw that her fame was of little importance in this world of ever changing victories.
Pat Summit is a courageous woman facing a difficult future with optimism, hope and a zest for life even though most others with that diagnosis feel the opposite. She recognizes that nothing is certain with Alzheimer’s and everything is possible. There are people in the best medical institutions working on a cure and her faith and their science together can work miracles.
The first novel of Irish journalist, Kathleen MacMahon is a compelling love story that hints at a tragic end almost from the start. Addie is an unemployed architect that designs dream swimming pools, takes daily swims with her dog, and cares for her recently injured father, a self-important surgeon. An American banker, Bruno, who is divorced and just finding himeself unemployed after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, travels to Ireland to research his family tree and locate Irish cousins. The two second cousins meet and begin a romance in 2008 against the backdrop of the presidential elections. (Bruno vows that he won’t return if Obama doesn’t win). As they spend their time traveling around Ireland, adjusting to each other’s cultural differences and meeting family and friends, Addie is ignoring a pain that her sister keeps nagging her about. In This is How It Ends, lighthearted banter, interesting characters, challenging times all unite to create a memorable story that keeps begging to be read.
Charles Lindbergh’s achievements are fairly well known, but his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is portrayed in The Aviator’s Wife as a woman to be remembered for many reasons. Melanie Benjamin tells the story of Anne Morrow, the first American woman to earn a first-class glider pilot’s license, first woman to win the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal for exploration, and a National Book Award-winning novelist. Her marriage to Charles was difficult as his fame caused their life to be in the public’s eye. The terrible loss of their first little boy in a kidnapping added to their notoriety and heartache. Charles extremely disciplined manner and driven nature caused relationship issues with Anne and their children. Anne’s life comes alive for reader’s as we see her devotion to this celebrity husband and the problems that result.
Garden expert, Joel Karsten has experimented for years with the unique method of gardening right in straw bales. Need a raised bed to save your back? Try straw bales. Joel has discovered that straw bales allow you to raise wonderful vegetables in record time with few weeds. He has experimented and perfected this innovative method of conditioning straw bales with water and fertilizer for twelve days prior to planting directly into straw bales. Less expensive, small transplants can be directly placed into the extra warmth of these “cooked” bales with quick growing results. Seeds can be planted into a shallow layer of planting mix to germinate quickly. Discover how to use vertical gardening tricks with straw bales and how to keep pests away.This highly detailed and illustrated garden book answers every question, and has plenty of how-to’s so you will succeed with straw bales.
Lifelong family secrets are revealed through a series of letters which arrive along with condolence notes in this novel written by French novelist Helene Gremillon. Camille, a single woman in her thirties has just lost her mother and has recently found herself to be pregnant. She begins receiving long, unsigned letters telling a story that she knows nothing about. As they continue to arrive she learns of a previous war time love triangle. Wealthy Monsieur and Madame M cannot conceive a child. Madame M is deperate to have a baby, and the wartime efforts are pushing all women to have children. She befriends a teenage girl of lower class and helps provide the necessary art supplies that Annie needs to encourage her creativity. Annie becomes so close to Madame M that she empathizes with her to the point of offering to have her child.
This dark tale of love gone wrong jumps between the present and the past with many twists and involved secrets. Camille begins to guess that these letters may involve her much more deeply than she wants to know in The Confidant.
Julie Kibler has written a debut novel that won my heart. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the south during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods as years later now ninty year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelles secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by Julie Kibler!
Manhattan had the privilege of a visit by Kent Haruf in 2006 for our first One Book/ One Community Read. His novel Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award and was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie in 2004. Many in Manhattan delighted in meeting the author and reveled in his engaging talks. Fast forward to this year and find Kent’s newest novel destined for a prestigious award. Benediction is set once again on the eastern high plains of Colorado in the small town of Holt. Dad Lewis has just been given the death sentence of a cancer diagnosis. His daughter comes home to help her mother, Mary, care for him, but his distant son is no longer a part of their lives. The secondary characters in the story all have issues and lives that are familiar to all of us. I found his latest book to be captivating and poignant as it drew me into a story that came so close to my personal experiences with my mother’s recent death. We all can feel the pathos of loss as none of us escape life’s sad transitions. Read Benediction also for the love shown to a small girl being raised by her grandmother and the hilarious skinny dipping scene.
The Summer Olympics seem in the distant past, but we haven’t forgotten the amazing, star gymnast Gabby Douglas who won the gold along with all our hearts. She has co-authored an autobiography about her rise to the pinnacle of Olympic history which is enjoyable and inspiring. Particularly recommended for young adults as encouragement to keep on pursueing their dreams, Gabby tells her story of sacrifice with little negativity. She shares her families history of struggle when they lived in their car and had nothing, the endless practice,the sacrifice of her sisters who gave up their own loves of ballroom dancing and ice skating, and the neglect of her father- her biggest hurt. She gives credit to her families faith in God and their love as the biggest factors in her successful rise to stardom.
For all Austen enthusiasts Syrie James has written a novel in the essence and style of Jane. It begins with a contemporary story of American librarian, Samantha McDonough, discovering a hidden letter written by Jane Austen in the back of a book of poetry while vacationing in London She gains enough insight from the letter to begin to believe that Jane has written and lost another manuscript while visiting friends at Greenbrier in Devonshire. Pursuing this exciting possibility, Samantha meets handsome owner of Greenbrier, Anthony Whtaker and begins the search within his home. Now the story within the story begins when the manuscript is found and the two begin reading it to each other. We walk the streets of Bath with Austen characters in a story with all the atmosphere, romance and charm found in a Jane Austen novel.
The wonderful books of Maeve Binchy have come to an end with her death last July in Ireland. This last delightful book, A Week in Winter was finished just a few weeks prior to her becoming ill. Those of us who are her fans will miss her common sense and creative approach to life’s obstacles and trauma. Maeve has written about every kind of personality imaginable in her Irish tales. Her stories unite characters bringing support to each other and finding answers to difficulties. Whether it be divorce, unwanted pregnancy, lover’s who run off, death, senility, Maeve’s characters learn to journey on.
In her last novel we are experiencing the windswept coast of western Ireland where Chicky is turning an old estate into a bed and breakfast. She has returned to her home town after many years in New York hiding the fact that her love deserted her after convincing her to leave home. The following chapters each tell the story of a person who finds themselves at Stone House that first week.
Maeve was a journalist for the Irish Times for many years. When interviewed about her books she shared this bit of philosophy that was evident in her wonderful books, “I don’t think you’re happier if you’re thin or beautiful or rich or married. You have to make your own happiness,” Binchy told Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper in 2000. “My heroines do not become beautiful elegant swans, they become confident ducks and get on with life.”
Chris Honeysett, artist and private investigator from Bath, is tired of the cold, snowy weather of England. When offered the opportunity to investigate a missing woman in the sunny, Greek island of Corfu he borrows an old motorhome and starts driving south. Chris stays with an old friend from the past who lives on a remote part of Corfu where she struggles to make a living boarding tourists and giving painting lessons. Her warm welcome doesn’t compensate for the barren, austere, backward living arrangements. Soon Chris is feeling the hostility of the locals as he snoops around for the missing business woman. Strange things begin happening such as snakes appearing in bedrooms and turtles turned into walking incindiaries with lit candles on their backs. As Peter continues to investigate the danger increases and he wonders if he has taken on something he will regret. An Inch of Time is Peter Helton’s fourth Chris Honeycutt novel.
Who remembers Girl with a Pearl Earring? Tracy Chevalier wrote that international bestseller in 1999 which was adapted into a movie in 2003 with three Academy Award nominations. Her newest novel is again historical fiction but for the first time has ventured into pioneer America. A major focus of the abolitionist movement, Oberlin, Ohio is the setting for Honor Bright’s story of arriving in America from England after a very difficult ocean crossing. Knowing she can never survive the incapacitating seasickness again, Honor must make the best of life in the harsh landscape of this backward land. Grace, her restless sister, corresponded with and agreed to marry an older man who had started a new life in America. Honor decided to accompany her after suffering the heartache of being released from her engagement to a local Quaker man who found another to love. Grace dies suddenly from yellow fever and Honor must find her way among the Friends believers in Ohio. Much of the story deals with the Underground Railroad and how it affected families. We feel compassion for the runaway slaves and how lives were put in jeopardy for helping to move them to safety in Canada. The austere life of a rough existence in this new land with few friends is felt by the reader as Honor remembers the comforts of home. The Last Runaway is an experience of heartache and hope as we live life through the mind of a Quaker looking for the Light in all, even the slave catchers.
Adriana Trigiani has authored the Big Stone Gap series, a delightful character-rich, witty story of a spinster living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Walking through the young adult section, I found Triginani had authored two books for teens. The Viola Chesterton books begin as quick peeks into boarding school life in South Bend, Indiana for a 9th grader whose parents must relinquish that year as they travel to Afghanistan to film a documentary. Again, these books are character driven with teen foibles, fears and funny situations. Viola must figure out how to extend herself to a new environment with peers very different from herself, and find where her talents as a filmmaker can be used. Definitely teen material, but good for adults to see into a stage of life that may have been long- forgotten.
Tuberculous is a dreadful diagnosis any time but especially before antibiotics existed during the first half of the twentieth century. Queen of Hearts is a realistic and heartwrenching story of how this disease touched lives in a Canadian sanitarium at the beginning of World War II. This young adult book hooked me and kept me emotionally charged as I followed the story of Marie Claire and her family as they battled this disease. People of all ages and all stations in life spent months to years in TB sanitariums. This historical novel does what I love in any good novel set in a prior time; it made me want to find out more about the history of tuberculosis. In the nineteenth century it was named the romantic disease because people suffering from tuberculosis were thought to have been bestowed with heightened sensitivity. The slow progress of the disease allowed for a “good death” as sufferers could arrange their affairs. It wasn’t until the development of streptomycin in 1944 that cures became the norm. Now with multidrug resistant strains there has been a resurgence of the disease. Every year, nearly half a million new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are estimated to occur worldwide.
Christmas in January? Well, I’m just catching up from an overly busy holiday season so that means that I’m just finishing my books that were intended to put me in the holiday mood. Marcia Willett’s Christmas in Cornwall easily can be enjoyed at any time of year. Her charcter-oriented novel overflows with interesting people, including a young widowed father, his endearing five year-old son, Jakey, a cast of nuns (some with halos and some without), and a widowed caterer who is always looking for love in the wrong places. The picturesque English countryside, descriiptions of quaint homes and decades old architecture add to the charm of this sweet story. There is a side story of unscrupulous real estate dealings that add a bit of mystery to this engaging cozy.