BARKSKINS/ANNIE PROULK

The cast in Annie Proulx’s new novel, Barkskins, is enormous. It rapidly grows as each chapter follows generations of fur traders, adventurers and would be entrepreneurs  from the old world to the new. The family tree ( no pun intended) expands and the blood line grows to encompasses Native Americans and Native Canadians.  The story landscape ranges from Europe to the Canadian Maritimes, China, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest.

Barkskins  makes a profound environmental statement as the perceived good folks along with lots of bad guys begin their devastation of the American colonial landscape long before mechanization and 19th Century greed. It is the era of wood,  white pine,  New England ship building ,the axe, logging, spring river runs and hard men who live harder lives in the deep woods.

“A thousand men could not cut all this in a thousand years.”  But they did.  ” He hated the American clear-cut despoliation, the insane waste of sound valuable wood, the destruction of the soil, the gullying and erosion, the ruin of the forest world, with no thought for the future.”   A strong woman  inherits a modest lumber enterprise  and converts it into a family fortune by developing a mechanized deforestation machine.

The book is not just about the forests but of the devastation brought upon the native people of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine.  It is the sad saga so often heard of American expansion, this time telling the story of the Mi’Kmaq.

“Now when the forest were gone there had never been so few Mi’Kmaq since the beginning of time, less than fifteen hundred, the remains of a people who had numbered more than one hundred thousand in the time before the white-man came.”

A fortune created by destroying the forests and an entire Indian culture. In the end a desperate search for an heir to the ill-gotten gains, and it comes full circle. Who is the family?

You may work at this read in the beginning but you will quickly be captured. Such  brilliant writing.

Annie Proulx is famous for The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain.

 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN/FAST TRACK/FAST READ

I agree with the NYT review.  Think Gone Girl when you get on board Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train.  Good writing  here but a map would help sort through the fast-moving scenes. A thriller for sure. A who done it? Absolutely. Find this book in your local library’s ” New Releases, Read and Return In Seven Days,” section.

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I have not seen the movie. Some have told me it was ” OK.”

 

Homegoing/ Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi details the beginnings of the slave trade as African  tribes  raid one another’s villages to gain riches by kidnapping  young men and women at the behest of  British slave traders. The Gold Coast of Africa became Ghana where to this day stands the Cape Coast Castle and the  “Door of No Return ” leading to the beach where the slave ships waited to sail to the Caribbean and America.

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Homegoing is a story of Africa and the havoc wrought  by British colonization.  The book tells a parallel  story of Africans chained together and cast upon the shores of America. Gyasi writes  in Homegoing of generation after generation of her people searching for identity in frightening and ever-changing worlds in Africa, the American South and the streets of present day Harlem. Listen to Gyasi’s  voice:

White men get a choice. They get to choose they job, choose they house. They get to make black babies, then disappear into thin air, like they wasn’t never there to begin with, like these black women they slept with or raped done laid on top of themselves and got pregnant. White men get to choose for black men too. Used to sell ’em; now they just send ’em to prison like they did my daddy, so they can’t be with their kids.

Homegoing is compelling, engaging, insightful and beautifully written The novel follows  generations of descendants seeking answers and understanding as to how their past became the present. Through it all, Gyasi never loses the thread, weaving back and forth taking the reader along on an emotional journey. There will be much more to come from this brilliant first time novelist.

 

 

 

 

MILLER’S VALLEY/ ANNA QUINDLEN

” But no one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, even if they go.”  In those key strokes Anna Quindlen, through the voice of  Mimi, Miller’s Valley protagonist, speaks for everyone who hails from small town rural America.

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Miller’s Valley reads with an easy cadence.  ” Oh, I get that, I know him he’s just like… she reminds me of…. ” I said to myself over and over, as Miller’s Valley unfolded  on pages that turned easily and eagerly.

In every small town there exists a mystery behind every doorway and in Miller’s Valley the secrets play out at kitchen tables, barns and where else but at the local diner. The book reads like a memoir. It is both predictable and unpredictable in a perfect blend.

Anna Quindlen was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist while at the New York Times. Her memoir Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake published in 2012 was a  number one New York Times bestseller.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER TOO LATE TO FIND A GREAT SUMMER READ

Summer is fleeting but this flashback to the 1950s will be a great ending to your summer reading.  Edna Ferber’s Giant is my recommendation for a last-minute wrap on summer.

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A great novelist, a wonderful story with unforgettable characters that can only be found in West Texas. Even if you’ve seen the movie a dozen times, read the book.

THE NIGHTINGALE/KRISTIN HANNAH

There is little wonder why The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah has received acclaim.  The  novel  is a great read, indeed a page turner, reminding me of Doerr’s All The Light We Can Not See.

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The Nightingale translates the horror of German occupied France during WW II.  It is a hero’s worship of the French Resistance, of brave women and men fighting their occupiers against all odds. There are victories,  losses, triumphs and tragedies but throughout the pages evolves a love story, and a reconciliation between sisters, a father and daughter.  The war brings people together and simultaneously tears them apart. A tale of survival, brilliant  storytelling, riveting to the end.

As is my want  on this blog I will give no more detail about this story other  than to encourage you to enjoy.  The Nightingale is very much  another of  Gordon’s Good Reads.

A selection of additional books by Kristin Hannah include Fly Away, The Things We Do For Love, Once in Every Life, and A Handful of Heaven.

ROGUE LAWYER/PURE ENJOYMENT/CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

It took only three sittings to race through John Grisham’s latest novel Rogue Lawyer.  I wasn’t in a particular rush but like so much of his work it was hard to put down. I especially liked Rogue Lawyer because it added a few edgy contemporary issues.

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” A lawyer like me is forced to work in the shadows. My opponents are protected by badges, uniforms, and all the myriad trappings of government power. They are a sworn and duty-bound to uphold the law, but since they cheat like hell it forces me to cheat even more.”

The story of the middle of the night police invasion of a private home is frightening and carries a familiar ring of cable news.   Your mind may chill with images of  surplus Army tanks, Kevlar and night vision goggles on the streets of local communities. The book has a menu other cases, characters and  clients.

John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer is indeed a good read. For other great Grisham novels search gordonsgoodreads.com