This installment: the Civil War and music (f); a journey exploring faith (nf); the true story of those famous quints (nf); back to India where an unknown sister awaits (f); and bitter humor about addiction (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.
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
The Civil War is just about over, and the eponymous conscript wants out. He bands together with a penny whistle player, Irish, who often breaks into melancholy poetic utterances, a very young drummer, and a guitarist with Mexican roots. They embark on an epic, fraught journey throughout Texas to evade the authorities and make money. Simon has a goal: a piece of land and the hand of Doris. An Irish immigrant, she’s locked into three years of servitude with a mean, lascivious officer who was the bane of Simon’s existence. Many adventures, many close calls, Yellow Fever takes its toll, and it doesn’t help that Simon has a considerable temper. An exciting yarn, full of local color and history.
A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan
Subtitled From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith. Egan embarks on the Via Francigena, a shorter, more obscure version of the Camino that takes him through France into Italy. He’s a lapsed Catholic (with good reason as we find out through his personal story) and is full of skepticism, also for good reason as he outlines all the horrors done in the name of religion at every site.The braided narrative really worked for me—historical material tempered with tales of the trail (often miserable, sometimes transcendent, and well-deserved outrage. He’s joined at times by his grown children and in the last stretch, by his wife, who’s Jewish. Stimulating, thought-provoking.
The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller
I’m always fascinated by anomalies and this new book gave me much fodder. It’s one crazy story: born to a poor rural couple in Canada who already had many children. The local doctor and midwife managed to save them but soon after things morphed into a circus. They needed a safer environment then the farmhouse so a “hospital” bearing the doctor’s name was built. Th government stepped in, the parents lost control of the quints, a flood of tourists observed them—like a zoo. With “scientific” child-rearing practices, the girls had a loveless, highly structured upbringing that left them woefully unprepared for real life. Not much improvement when they were reunited with their family and problematic outcomes when they finally gained independence. Note: This is classified as a teen book which surprised me and there was no author’s bio. A haunting tale.
Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi
When Grace’s mother dies in India, she leaves a moribund marriage in America to return “home.” There she finds Lucy, an older sister she never knew existed, as well as a small, charming house on the coast. She removes Lucy from the institution where she’s been living all these years and tries to make a life with her. Their father now lives in Venice—he’s Italian. Their mother had been living a “spiritual” life as a guru’s devotee. Many dogs join the household. It’s very challenging: Lucy has her charms but is often intransigent and there is a sense of peril and conflict despite the atmosphere of tucked-away paradise. Doesn’t help that Grace decamps to the city bimonthly to connect with grownup friends including a lover. I found Grace unappealing because she seemed so emotionally removed but the story kept me reading and wouldn’t let go after I’d closed the covers. Very atmospheric.
Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter
Poor Greg can’t follow this dietary advice; instead he stuffs his already overstuffed self with all manner of junk food. A retired accountant, he’s very worried about his 30-year-old son, GJ, a junkie who’s never been out of touch so long. He sets out in a compact, rented RV—a terrible fit— to try to find him. All the way to Florida where his ex Marie lives, and they prowl the Orange Blossom Trail where scuzzy life-forms proliferate. All manner of grotesque situations emerge. Addiction—food, alcohol, drugs—is no laughing matter but Hunter manages to extract bitter humor amid the discouraging rubble of addicts’ lives.
See you next week.