Neshama’s Choices for May 17th

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How to Be A Good Creature

Subtitled A Memoir in Thirteen Animals.  The author, who wrote a wonderful book about her relationship with an octopus, tells of other critters in her life which have delighted, intrigued, and healed her.  From her childhood Scottie to a series of Border Collies. From her charming pig, Christopher Hogwood (music lovers will catch the reference) to exotic species like echidnas and huge spiders in far-off places. She manages to find a deep connection with each and also bares her own soul in the process. Charming illustrations, too.

If You Knew Her

I’ve been reading a bunch of psychological thrillers lately.  They seem to be peculiarly satisfying in these weird times. In this one, we have a prospective witness in a locked-down state in the hospital.  Only one nurse senses there’s swift cognition inside this man in a coma. Cassie joins him in the room, also in a coma and pregnant. She’d been found in a creek, almost dead.  Her husband and his mother appear to be heartbroken and devoted. But…Lots of suspense—yes!

The Library at the Edge of the World

Hannah returns to the rural Irish town she sprang from after her marriage implodes. Living with her opinionated mother doesn’t help. Her job as a librarian is a saving grace but her persona initially comes off as almost stereo-typically strict and joyless.  When the library is threatened with closure, canny citizens hatch a surreptitious strategy to rally community support.  By then she’s fully aboard but continues to appear intransigent so the manipulative politicians and developers don’t realize what’s happening until plans are in place.  She also moves into a tumble-down cottage, legacy of her eccentric great aunt, to get away from mum. I thought this might fall into the genre of cozy romance but Hannah is her own woman, the descriptions of this narrow coastal peninsula and its colorful denizens are vivid, and it proved to be a rich, well-rounded read.

Love After Love

When Betty is widowed, she invites her fellow teacher, Mr. Chetan, to share her home. A harmonious household develops, especially for her 17-year-old son Solo who could use a benign father figure, until the circumstances of Betty’s husband’s death reach Solo’s ears by happenstance. He goes into a tailspin, flees to London to live with his father’s brother, and undergoes immigrant struggles. Mr. Chetan has his own secrets; he moves out and Betty is left alone and bitter. The book starts with lilting, colorful Trinidadian cadences but turns surprisingly dark. Homophobia is just one of the culprits. A shocking ending with the seeds of reconciliation, but still much pain.  I found this book very rewarding, especially after a long spell of unsatisfying reads.

Sadness Is A White Bird

Jonathan, a 17-year-old American, is ready to embrace Israel where his grandfather lives.  That means army service, and herein lies the rub: he meets Palestinian twins, Nimreen and Leith, and falls in love with both of them. Their village is about to be obliterated by settlers. He hears historical horror stories of atrocities on both sides from his grandfather and the twins’ grandmother.  After he participates in an army action against a “peaceful” demonstration, he breaks down. Teenage emotions bring all the tangled strands of the story to a conclusion that demonstrates what seems like the impossible bind of the mess in the Middle East. I listened on CD and appreciated the Arabic and Hebrew phrases in the ear.

Back next week.