Tragedy, Connection, and Hope

the-memory-of-thingsBook Club Advisor welcomes author, Gae Polisner, for a video interview on the power of literature, how The Memory of Things was created, and the impact of a national tragedy on a generation. (Scroll down for vlog clips with the author.)

It is the morning of September 11, 2001. Kyle is sixteen years old and his world is crumbling in front of him. From his high school in downtown Manhattan, Kyle watches the first Twin Tower fall and runs back home to Brooklyn as chaos descends. On the way, he finds a beautiful girl covered in ash and wearing costume wings, a girl who appears ready to jump from the bridge. He convinces her to come home with him to safety. Kyle feels lost and frightened, responsible for his uncle who needs medical care with the nurse unable to come due to the city being at a standstill. Kyle’s father is a first-responder at the scene and Kyle’s worry for him is palpable. When the story begins, Kyle only knows that his mother and sister are on a plane back from California. He cannot remember which flight or what time and fears for their lives. Kyle and the girl are both lost in grief and fear. Continue reading “Tragedy, Connection, and Hope”

If you get to come home…

afterwardIt may not be what you expect. Ethan was kidnapped four years ago on a bike ride. But then his kidnapper wanted another child. This kidnapping goes wrong and Ethan and the little boy are found. Coming home is not the relief Ethan thought. Instead, it is rocky and full of unexpected challenges for both boys. The little boy has a sister, just Ethan’s age, named Caroline. Caroline is determined to help her brother (who has special needs and can’t communicate) by finding out what is triggering his heartbreaking outbursts. She knows Ethan from school and through music the two find each other, the truth about what really happened to her brother, and strength to keep on going. Afterward is a beautiful, gripping story of the trauma of real life and the power of human connection to heal. Jennifer Mathieu graciously answered some questions about this gripping novel for me: Continue reading “If you get to come home…”

Life in Four Directions

crazybraveJoy Harjo’s Crazy Brave is part history, part memoir, and part poetry. A recounting of a life from inside the soul that encompasses the way history impacts our lives at every turn.

Joy Harjo barely survived a rough childhood by running. Not running away, but finding a place where she was known. At an arts boarding high school she learned ways to express what her stepfather and life had told to be quiet and to bury. Turned on to the arts, her soul began to fly again. But even the sky has storms. Continue reading “Life in Four Directions”

My Family is Ruining My Life!

great-wall-of-lucy-wuAt least that’s what Lucy Wu thinks when her family springs the news on her, days from the beginning of sixth grade. Sixth grade was going to be perfect. Her older sister was leaving for college, meaning Lucy was going to get her own room! Basketball on weekends and a great best friend meant a great year-until her parents dropped the news. She would not be getting her own room, yet. Her grandmother had a sister in China who no one knew about. Now that sister is coming to stay with her family, in her room! Lucy uses her furniture to build a wall between her and her great-aunt’s side of the room. They can let her come visit, but Lucy isn’t going to make it easy. To make it worse, she may have to quit basketball so she can go to Chinese School on the weekends with the most annoying girl in school. Laugh and cry along with Lucy as she discovers that sometimes everything going wrong can lead to everything turning out right. A funny, lovely, candid take on life as a sixth grader, when nothing is in your control, and everything is a big deal.

Study Guide from Scholastic

Catch up with author Wendy Shang on her website

If you love Lucy, check out Wendy’s other great middle grade novel:

thewayhomelooksnow

Balancing on the Edge

eowyn-iveyEowyn Ivey’s new novel is a journey and adventure into the wilderness of Alaska and the depths of the human heart. When Sophie Forrester agrees to marry an army man in the 1800s she thinks she is going on his mapping expedition to Alaska with him. When she is told she will have to stay behind they are both devastated. Wife and husband will take separate journeys in an effort to explore the unknown while trying to find their way back to each other.

Sophie and Allen are introduced to us through their own journals and letters of descendants who want to make sure their story is preserved for history. The relationship between the relative and the museum curator, husband and wife, army captain and team, and Alaskan explorers and First Peoples are mixed together with historical excerpts from books, photographs, and artifact descriptions. This novel is a museum within two covers of a particular time and place, and the heartaches and struggles that transcend both. Continue reading “Balancing on the Edge”

Avalanche

avalancheWhen people say they had trouble conceiving, or having a baby, or things were difficult, those are both euphemisms and over-simplifications. The trouble is never just trying to have a baby. The trouble becomes the fracturing of a relationship strained to cracking as two people try everything to create something together. It is the explosion of promises little girls are fed, the certainty of motherhood-now just a dream wrapped up in a nightmare. The broken dream of family, the arrow of jealousy between friends-one who can get pregnant on a whim, one who cannot for literal love or money.

Julia Leigh bares all in this tale of a woman struggling to have a baby, struggling with connection, struggling with career, struggling with her very soul. A searing look into the world of infertility and the heart of a woman. Continue reading “Avalanche”

Appalachia Noir

wherealllighttendstogo

David Joy’s novel, Where All Light Tends to Go, is a journey into the heart of America. A heart that is tunneled through with poverty, drugs, and disenfranchisement and barely held up with hope and dreams for something better. Jacob McNeely is barely an adult and born into a family where crime is the only business. Wanting something better for himself, and to help his high school sweetheart escape, Jacob struggles to disentangle himself from the most difficult of webs, family obligation. When those obligations include murder, Jacob has to decide if he will continue to fight to get out, or be pulled under by his father and family reputation.

A beautiful novel set in rural Appalachia, Where All Light Tends to Go is a deep dive into the heart of a young man. Noir meets character study in this lyric, heart-pounding, page-turner.

David spoke with me via email about his novel: Continue reading “Appalachia Noir”