Books and Potato Peels?

Ever heard of an epistolary novel?  Hint:  epistolary comes from the Latin word epistola, which means letter.  That’s why we call Paul’s letters in the New Testament epistles!  (See, I’m a total word nerd.)   So, with an epistolary novel, we only have letters to give us information about a character’s personality, motivation, and flaws.  We must appreciate subtle hints and humor and determine whether we can trust the information a character gives us through his or her letters.  These books are fun and great if, like many other busy people out there, you only have time to read in short bursts.  I’m going to splurge this week and recommend two of my favorites!

In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, we meet Juliet Ashton, a writer who wants to pen a story of substance and significance at the close of World War II.  By chance, she receives a letter from a reader who lives on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between England and France that the Germans occupied during the war.  Juliet begins regular correspondence with the island’s “literary society,” and the letters, as well as the characters who write them, are witty, quirky, and endearing.  I especially love that the story highlights how literature can bring people together and inspire hope.  

My second recommendation is The Last Days of Summer, by Steve Kluger.  Although one of its main characters plays third base for the New York Giants, this book covers much more than baseball.   Joey, the frequent target of bullies in his Brooklyn neighborhood, decides to make baseball star Charlie Banks his new best friend, and he sends the athlete letters requesting proof of this friendship.  Initially, Banks does not appreciate his young fan’s attention, but the two end up exchanging many hilarious letters.  We also get to see report cards, newspaper articles, and psychiatrist transcripts.  Intrigued?  You should be!  I know several of my book club buddies have given this book as a birthday or Christmas present, and with December just around the corner…

Calling All Book Lovers!

I’m a word nerd.  I love pouring over words in a book, or stringing them together into humorous phrases, or dissecting them into their Latin roots to discover their meanings.   During my lifetime, I have spent countless hours curled up reading, because I learned at an early age that books offer escape and entertainment way better than anything on T.V.   And a mother of four children under the age of 12 needs some escape time, don’t you agree?

Fortunately, I have friends who share my love of the written word and are willing to meet once a month to discuss anything from The Red Tent¸ by Anita Diamant, to Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer.  (Honestly, I hesitated before picking up Twilight; vampires give me the willies.  Glad I got over that.)  We have no method to our choices, but we embrace variety, and so I read books I NEVER would have otherwise, like Atlas Shrugged, or Outliers.  And even though I don’t always like our selections, I usually leave our meetings with new insights and a better appreciation for a book that I have spent my precious free time reading.

I’m approaching this new blog as an online book club, a resource for other literary lovers who want suggestions for worthy reading.  Unfortunately, I can’t offer you snacks over cyber space, (yummy treats are one of the best benefits of “in-person” meetings), but I can post weekly reading recommendations from all genres, including kid lit, because my children have inherited my book loving genes and have discovered some beauties.   However, I don’t do horror.  (See note above about vampires.)   I welcome and encourage suggestions and comments from all of you other book worms out there!  Just click on the “comments” link below and share your thoughts!
First tip:  If you haven’t yet read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, please find a copy! Today!  The novel explores the relationships between white women and the black women who work for them in 1960’s Mississippi.   Stockett’s characters challenge the boundaries built by society and their own expectations; they will also make you laugh.  I’ve heard the movie is good, but as my nine year old daughter has already determined, “The book is always better than the movie, Mommy.”