Neshama’s Choices for April 18th

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Catch the Sparrow

Subtitled A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder. My daughter and many others are addicted to true-crime podcasts but I only venture into the 364s when there’s a psychological slant. The author never knew her slain stepsister, Stephanie, but was always haunted by her story.  Uncannily, she and Stephanie looked alike. Rear’s relationship with her angry stepfather was difficult. With fierce determination, she tracks down every clue of this unsolved crime and uncovers corruption and gross mishandling of the case. Eventually she identifies the perpetrator and can finally lay Stephanie to rest.   

Sleepless Nights

I returned to this some four decades after I first read it because a recent biography of Hardwick (A Splendid Intelligence) referred to it constantly. What a strange yet captivating book. All over the map, moving between the many places she lived and her complex relationships in fluid, impressionistic fashion. What makes it so powerful is how she can pinpoint the details that make whatever she’s describing spring to life. In Boston, in Kentucky where she grew up, in exile in Holland, and much in New York City (around the corner from where I grew up). And what amazing characters enter her world. Still so original-- and splendid-- after all these years. 

A Life in Stitches

Subtitled Knitting My Way Through Love, Loss, and Laughter.  My mother was the knitter in the family—prolific and indefatigable; her afghans still keep me warm me years after her death. Herron is a delightful writer and even if discussions of the intricacies of the craft don’t speak to me directly, the stories of love and loss are rich and boy, do we all need laughter. Like the scene in which she tries to get through a security check at the airport with highly compressed wool. She warned them not to unwrap the bundle or it would “explode.” You can imagine how that went over.  Herron has a blog, a community of friends and followers, a sweet life in Oakland with her wife and many pets. Heartwarming and cozy,  

The Fortune Men

It took me awhile to get into this book because I couldn’t quite reconcile the protagonist, who’s Somali, with the setting, Cardiff.  But it turns out Somali seamen have a long-established presence there since at least the 1890s. Mahmoud was a sailor but now is patching together a frayed existence. He can’t find a suitable job, keeps hoping his bets will come through, and is separated from his white wife and their two young sons. After a murder, he’s fingered as the assailant even though very little evidence adds up.  Based on a true story from the ‘50s, it’s a chilling example of racism and the perversions of “justice."

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