This installment: inside dope about tech (f); Orthodox Jewish women in England (f); the challenges of creativity and love in Boston (f); a depressed Montana mining town (f); and magical realism in Oklahoma (f).
Editor’s Note: Much of our print collection is now available for holds again. The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with special notes made of digital ebook and eAudiobook availability.
New Waves by Kevin Nguyen
Lucas does customer service for a tech firm; he’s Asian-American. He and fellow employee Margo become friends. She’s Black, very smart, and her attitude gets her fired. For revenge they steal the company’s database with no specific plans for it— yet. She gets a job with a competitor, insists they hire Lucas too, and it goes pretty well until Margo is killed in an unlikely accident. Lucas wants to find out more about her, uses the database to get into her computer, and discovers she’s been writing, mostly science fiction. He also has access to her online friends and connects with Jill, another writer. Lots of inside dope about tech, including the struggle to monitor posts for appropriateness. The title refers in part to Margo and Lucas’s initial bond: pop music from other cultures, primarily obscure. Clever and revelatory; tech pervades our entire life these days but much about it remains mysterious to me.
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
Chani, one of 7 daughters, is a free spirit at heart. That doesn’t go down well in her Orthodox Jewish community, but marriage is a given. Baruch, gangly and awkward, is her intended and it’s not exactly a match made in heaven. She looks to the rabbi’s wife, Rivka, for guidance but Rivka’s personal conflicts make her unavailable when Chani most needs her. This book, sprinkled with Yiddish (don’t worry—there’s a glossary), paints a very vivid picture of those societal strictures, especially hard on women. The author taught an ultra-Orthodox school in London.
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
At first Casey’s life seems so miserable I felt dragged down with her. Her mother died abruptly six months ago, she’s stalled on her novel in process, she’s drowning in student debt, her lovers have been faithless and self absorbed, she works many shifts at a restaurant in Boston, and her living quarters are tiny and dank. But au fond Casey has pluck and a way with words. Two suitors come along, she gets fired but it frees her for better things—whew! I especially enjoyed those backstage glimpses into the food trade and the business of writing. A delightful book.
Also available instantly as an ebook and an e-audiobook on Hoopla.
Eden Mine by S.M. Hulse
Eden it’s not; the nearby town of Prospect, Montana, bears an ironic name. The other local mine, Gesthemane, crushed Jo and Samuel’s father. Later an ex-lover slew their mother and left Jo in a wheelchair. Bitter Samuel turns toward crackpot ideologies and when their family farm is doomed by a new road, that’s it! His bomb, meant for the courthouse, brings a girl close to death. Jo is a self-taught artist who also works at a gas station convenience store and rides her mule into the mountains. The girl’s father, a preacher whose faith is sorely challenged, befriends Jo. The writing is spare and serious, sometimes a little heavily laden with symbolism. One fascinating aspect: Jo turns to mud as her medium; it brings home the essence of her landscapes.
Prairie Fever by Michael Parker
Magical realism starting in Oklahoma in the old days with two sisters, Elise and Lorena. The former with a huge imagination, the latter more practical, the both very close. Elise sets off in a blizzard, following a harebrained notion. Their teacher, Gus (only 17 to Lorena’s 16) and Lorena rescue her and fall in love. Elise loses digits to frostbite. Lorena goes off to teacher’s college. But guess what? Turns out it’s Elise and Gus who have the real connection. You should also know that Elise has a mystical connection with her horse, Sandy, who had to be put down after the rescue. She still writes letters to him. Everyone moves on but 20 years later the sisters reconnect. The book uses 19th century dialog which sometimes sounds high-flown but the descriptions of the natural world are lyrical and powerful. Full of surprises, including the magic of the prairies, a landscape I’d envisioned as flat and boring.
See you next week.