Neshama’s Choices for November 7th

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City of A Thousand Gates

That’s benighted Jerusalem where the barriers to free travel hamper many who must enter or traverse it. Constant tensions constellate around two murders, a Palestinian boy attacked at random in response to the killing of an Israeli girl. A large cast of characters reflect different facets of the conflict, including a German journalist, an Arab who plays in an Israeli soccer league, enlisted and reservist members of the army, an Israeli married to an American woman and more.  All these lives intersect, often with tragic results. A rich and graphic depiction of the mess in the Middle East. 

  

The Sea Gate

Rebecca’s life in London isn’t happy. When her mother dies, she finds old letters that bring her to an elderly relative in Cornwall who really needs help. Olivia is in hospital, very grumpy and contrarian.  Her house is in terrible shape and her foul-mouthed parrot is a messy chip off the old block. Rebecca sees a spark in the old lady and also realizes her artist lover back home has been exploiting her terribly. Many secrets from WWII are uncovered as we toggle between present day and 1943. A link with men from Morocco is significant in both the women’s lives. Enchanting scenery, family secrets and a good yarn—what else can you ask for? 

  

The Ministry for the Future

“It was getting hotter.” That first stark line says it all, starting with the drought in India that killed multitudes.  Frank, an American aid worker, survives with severe PTSD. In Zurich Mary, said Minister, is trying to combat climate change against all odds. She’s a red-headed widowed woman from Ireland, very committed and strategically canny.  But the powers that be who control the engines of progress and prosperity are obdurately oppositional. Demonstrations, “dark wing” actions, manipulations of the Internet and currency, and science (primarily in the polar regions) turn things around, though the first half of the book is unrelentingly grim. When Robinson got into detailed aspects of economics and technology, he sometimes left me in the dust, but I just powered through because the book was so compelling—all 563 pages of it. Amazing!  

  

Assume the Worst

Subtitled The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear. When I spied Roz Chast’s cover (an anvil hurtling down towards a hapless person) I knew this book would speak to me loud and clear. Hiassen debunks every cliche in the book, starting with “live every day like it’s your last” with mordant wit.  Chast’s illustrations provide a perfect fit. Of course, a glimmer of good advice at the end. As he puts it, “wary optimism.”  A big treat in a small package. 

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