Neshama’s Choices for September 26th

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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American Baby

Subtitled A Mother, A Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption.  Margaret, a naive Jewish girl, falls in love, falls pregnant, and is whisked off to a home for unwed mothers.  She desperately wants to keep the baby but it’s out of her 16-year-old hands. Glaser, who met David towards the end of his life, wants to help him find his birth mother but records are sealed or lost, and the trail is tortuous. A bittersweet ending and along the way, a scathing exposition on the industry of adoption.  This is journalism at its finest and I was grabbed by the personal story and the blistering expose in equal measure.  

Tracy Flick Can't Win

Tracy is Assistant Principal though she really runs the show and expects to take over when her boss retires.  But her trajectory is derailed when an ego-driven donor proposes a hall of fame for their mediocre high school. The honoree is a sports figure and that’s not Tracy’s bailiwick.  Doesn’t help that her personality is cool and somewhat prickly.  Many biases and covert relationships come into play. The book’s title seems prophetic until tragedy strikes and…I’ll let you find out. We get the story from various characters’ point of view and this was especially effective in the well-directed audible version.   

Vigil Harbor

On a cliff above the Massachusetts coastline, this little town feels protected from the ills of our time. Hah! Set in the near future, it turns out no one’s really safe from social unrest, climate change, immigration, terrorism etc.  We see this through a lens of domestic upheaval—divorces galore. A large, riveting cast of characters including an architect who thinks he can build harmonious houses safe from depredations (more Hah!) and an undocumented gardener who is really in tune with plants. A fascinating wrinkle: the mythological selkie figure plays a role. Entertaining neologisms like Vext—video-texting. A workout of a read, and worth it. 

Giving up the Ghost

Growing up, Mantel never quite fit. Catholics vs Protestants—constant strife. Didn’t help that the domestic scene was scandalous: her mother lived with her lover and her husband in the same house in an English village. Mantel retreated to fantasy, including wanting to be a boy. This memoir takes us through the complexities of law school, her love life, her mysterious and debilitating health challenges, and finally her writing life.  (She’s known primarily for her historical novels.) Incredible sense-memories of childhood and analysis of what went wrong and why. Deeply insightful.