Neshama’s Choices for January 15th

The titles and links below will direct you to print copies when available.  Click on the title to see all available formats, including recorded versions and eBooks.

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The Other Side of Mrs. Wood by Lucy Barker  

In the 1870s in London, mediums were the rage in high society.  One of the best, our Mrs. Wood, takes on an apprentice, a strange girl who seems to have the gift but also turns out to have ulterior motives.  Mrs. Wood’s hidden history might just bring her down if revealed. True, the scenes are shows that rely on illusion and tricks, but our protagonist has an intuitive aptitude and a deep desire to be of help and comfort. She also needs the money. A smarmy journalist who chronicles the field fuels gossip and takes delight in manipulating popularity; reputations soar or plummet with his reports. Atmospheric and intriguing.  


What You Are Looking for Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama  

In this charming Japanese book, a series of characters at discouraging junctures in their lives come upon said library which is part of a community center. Mrs. Komachi, the reference librarian, is a huge woman with a calm, seemingly impassive affect. She first asks what each benighted patron is looking for but when she finds out more about what’s behind the inquiry, she produces a printed list of titles and gives them a special gift—a little felted talisman that is related to the one book on the list that seems like a ringer. Of course, that’s the book that delivers the perspective that will help them make the needed shift. Like the felting that Mrs. Komachi does between patrons, poking and pulling at the strands of yarn creates shapes that just seem to emerge but then come together into a very satisfying weave. 

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See  

It’s 1469 in China—not a good time to be a woman, even one of high rank. Foot-binding, rigid behaviors, demands to produce a son or else. Our protagonist Yuxian is brought up by her grandmother who transmits her knowledge of medicine.  Her best friend Meiling is learning to be a midwife.  When Yuxian is wed at 16 she must join her wealthy husband’s extensive household, perform the severely restricted wifely role, and is forbidden to use her skills though there’s great need. Frustration, confusion, and isolation plague her, followed by heartbreak when miscarriages occur. After many dramatic twists and turns, she finally comes into her own, even writing a book of practices and formulas that exists to this day. It’s hard to read about such a stratified society but fascinating. Based on extensive research.  

Everything / Nothing / Someone by Alice Carriere  

Bohemian life in the mid-’80s in NYC was a heady time for this fractured family. Alice’s mother was an extremely eccentric artist, her father a French filmmaker, and their weird house in Greenwich Village was a locus for wild gatherings that often attracted famous people. Various nannies looked after little Alice, kind of.  The toll: mental illness and concomitant treatments that did more harm than good.  In and out of institutions, overloaded with cocktails of drugs, in and out of college.  But she managed to graduate from Columbia, met a good man who stuck with her, and has produced this well-wrought, riveting memoir. Quite a feat, and quite a journey.